Serpents & Trees

Serpents and trees have been intertwined since the beginning of time. Almost every story of a tree incorporates a serpent.

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In many indigenous cultures when the “Rainbow Snake” or “Serpent in the Sky” appeared after a rainfall they saw it as spirit who blessed them with life giving water.

Serpents have been both revered and feared throughout history.

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A 1478 AC – drawing by Theodoros Pelecanos, of an alchemical tract attributed to Synesius.

Ourobouros – (Greek/Egyptian) – the Ouroboros is an ancient alchemical symbol of transformation and rebirth. It depicts a serpent swallowing its tail thus creating a circular and infinite world. By shedding its skin, it releases what no longer serves it and receives nourishment from the wisdom of what was shed over and over again.

Carl Jung saw the Ouroboros as the archetype for inner alchemy; transformation. rebirth, immortality, and healing. It is a symbol of eternity and the renewal of life.

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Statue of Asclepius – acropolis of Feneos, Greece 400 BCE.

Asclepius – (Greece 1200 BC) – God of medicine, son of Apollo is always seen holding a staff with a sacred single serpent coiled around a rough-hewn knotty tree limb. This is symbolic of renewal and immortality.

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Hermes with caduceus from a fresco by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770).

Mercury/Hermes – (Greco-Roman 300 BCE) – Mercury (Roman) and Hermes (Greek) held a Caduceus as carriers of the soul. The Caduceus is a wooden rod entwined by two serpents topped with a pair of wings.

The Caduceus symbolizes modern medicine with the central rod representing our spinal column as the Tree of Life and container of our infinite soul. The wings depict the ultimate healing of the soul as it awakens to infinity. Two intertwined serpents of light combine these energies into one, as they swirl up the spinal column igniting the life force energy within the soul body.  These dual serpents of light are symbolic of the double helix of the DNA holding our unique genetic code, plus the ancestral records of our mother and father.

Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526 in the Courtauld Gallery, London.

Adam & Eve with the Serpent in the tree of Knowledge – “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked;so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3: 1-7

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Anthony Van Dyck: Moses and the Brazen Serpent.

Moses – (Judiasm) – “And the Lord God said to Moses make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten by a serpent, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” – Numbers 21:8

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Uriel(Kabbalah) – Angel of light is associated with the “Seraphim” beings of pure light closest to source. Literally “burning ones”, the word is also a synonym for fiery snakes. Uriel is not one of the actual ten sefirot in the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life because Uriel is the serpent of light that travels through the tree itself.

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Quetzalcoatl as depicted in the Codex Borbonicus.

Quetzalcoatl – (Meso-American) is seen as the wise feathered serpent God of rebirth. Also seen as a Serpent of Light who lives in the Milky Way, Quetzalcoatl is a creator deity who connected the earth and sky to create mankind.