The Green Snake By Brenda Weinberg (from a case presented at the C.AS.T. conference in 1996) One of the most powerful and widely represented animal images in mythology and art is the serpent. As early as 30-or 40,000 years ago, a winged serpent goddess supported by mammoths was painted on the walls of a cave in France. This primitive image depicts an earth-sky, spiritual connection that was intuited even then. Archaeological evidence reveals an ancient relationship of the serpent to the mystic spiral. Doubled, with its winding and unwinding form, the spiral suggests death and rebirth. The involutions and evolutions, and zig-zag patterns found in such designs, symbolize a serpentine path to consciousness. Representations of the ouroborus, or image of a snake biting its own tail, have appeared throughout history in different cultures. Emphasizing the theme of polarities that occur within a contained process, this ouroborus circling a young sun god symbolizes the circular nature of time. An early Greek creation myth involves a great serpent coiled around the Cosmic Egg. The creation theme is reflected also in imagery of a 700-foot initiatory Serpent Mound constructed in Ohio about 2,500 years ago. Creation, nurturance, and protection of new life are themes represented in artifacts from around the world. This serpent-headed Madonna figure (below right) was created in Ur 6,000 years ago. The snake-holding deity (a protector of women in childbirth), is a relic from 5th century Sweden. Over 3,000 years ago, the Minoans viewed serpents as guardians of the household and healers of the sick. This relationship of serpent to healing is manifested also in 20th century sandpainting rituals of the Navajo and in the cauduceus symbol used by the medical profession. This image depicts a union of two opposing forces with a third harmonizing element. The union of opposing forces is an essential feature of the serpentine path to wholeness and consciousness. This path with its cycles of progressions and regressions (life and death) moves between the opposites within a circle of wholeness (as depicted in this Yin-Yang symbol). Opposing solar and lunar energy channels in the body, and the potential for awakening to an experience of pure consciousness and wisdom is represented in Tantric imagery of Kundalini yoga. On the war helmets of Egyptian pharoahs, the fire-spitting cobra in the third eye region signified that the warrior's energy was flowing freely and that understanding had been gained. The serpent's relationship to consciousness and wisdom is evident also in Christian imagery. For example, in Blake's painting, Fall of Man, the serpent coils around the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Walking from between that tree and the Tree of Life, Christ accompanies Adam and Eve from the Garden of Innocence to the World of Experience. In another medieval image where the Trees of Life and of Knowledge are pictured as one, the serpent (like the tree) connects the underworld, the earth, and the sky: the unconscious, consciousness in matter, and the spirit. Snakes appear frequently in people's dreams. Joseph Henderson and Maude Oakes, in The Wisdom of the Serpent, describe a healing dream of a despairing woman threatened by engulfment by the dark waters of the unconscious. In the dream, a raft of interlaced green and yellow serpents provided a supportive and secure container where she could repose. What does the green colour of the snake represent? Based on many years of analytical experience, Henderson posits that green is a colour representing the fruitfulness of nature and life-enhancement. Hildegard of Bingen has written eloquently about viriditis, or greening power. She speaks of healing in spiritual terms as the return of greening power that implies moistness and a quenching of thirst that wisdom herself promises. The Green Tara of Tibetan Buddhism. a Goddess of Divine Wisdom, brings life-giving rain, healing protection, and illumination. In a wonderful fairy tale, The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, Goethe shows how the primitive, natural, polarized forces in the soul especially masculine and feminine energies can be united through a development in consciousness. Some people react to snakes with fear and disgust. Other people respond to them with a sense of awe and a fascination with their beauty and difference from our own human species. Many people in Sandplay Therapy are drawn to the snake figures on the shelves. In my practice, children especially seem to enter into relationships with a very large green one. Sensing the power represented by this serpent, and seeming to claim that power as their own, they frequently drape the snake around their necks. Sometimes, as they sit and talk, they easily and gently stroke the snake, or wrap it in another turn around their necks. And sometimes they drape. the snake over my shoulders, seeming to hand that power over to me until they are ready to claim it as their own. . .. The theme of the snake as a source of great power-the power of life, death, rebirth, protection, nurturance, healing, development of consciousness, and knowledge of the opposites-can be found in the sand pictures of children and adults.