Sunday February 10, 2013
Snakes in other cultures
ONE of the best known depictions of snakes in Greek mythology features Medusa and her Gorgon sisters, who had a head of snakes instead of hair, and could turn people into stone if you looked them in the eye.
> The nine-headed Lernaean Hydra was a monstrous creature that Hercules defeated as part of his 12 labours. Legend has it that if you cut off one of its heads, the Hydra would grow two heads in place of the missing one.
> Asclepius, the Greek god of healing and medicine, wielded the Rod of Asclepius, which had a serpent-entwined around it. It is now used worldwide as a symbol of healing and medicine.
> Bowl of Hygieia (the Greek goddess of hygiene, and Asclepius’s daughter) is a chalice with a snake entwined around the stem, and is one of the symbols of pharmacy.
> Often mistaken for the Rod of Asclepius, the caduceus, or staff of Hermes (the Greek messenger of the gods), features two snakes around a winged staff, and is associated with commerce, trading and trickery.
> Snakes play a prominent role in Hinduism. Lord Shiva, for instance, wears a cobra prominently around his neck as a symbol of his power over the most dangerous creatures in the world.
> With a name that means “feathered serpent”, Quetzalcoatl is the Aztec spirit of the wind and intelligence. In one of the many myths about the deity, he is one of four gods who presided over the world, the other three being Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli and Xipe Totec, who were the sons of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, creators of the world and all humanity.
> The Rainbow Serpent is a common element in the mythologies of Australian Aborigines. Supposedly the creator of human beings, it is also a personification of fertility and rain, and an inhabitant of waterholes.
> In Nordic mythology, the Midgard Serpent, Jörmungandr, is a child of Loki and the giantess Angrboða, and is so large that he can encircle the entire world and grasp his own tail. The legend goes that if the “World Serpent” ever lets go of his tail, the world will end.
> The Ouroboros symbol depicts a snake eating its own tail, and is supposed to represent the circle of life, death and rebirth. – Compiled by Michael Cheang