Posted by: smstrouse | August 1, 2015

Snakes Alive!

images-1For someone who doesn’t have a great affection for snakes, they’ve been appearing pretty often in my life recently. Earlier this year, during Lent, we read: As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Chosen One must be lifted up  . . .  (John 3:14, from The Inclusive Bible)

In the course of sermon preparation, I became intrigued with the symbolism of the serpent in ancient mythology and how it was incorporated into the biblical stories (the Internet has made it so easy to go down this kind of “rabbit hole!) I got so fascinated by it that I even went to the library at the Graduate Theological Union and found  a few tomes on the subject.

But practicality intervened. I wrote the sermon, and as is the way of pastors who preach every week, I moved on to preparation for the next week. The books were returned unread.

However – in the midst of this serpentine meandering, I had coffee with my friend Sridevi Ramanathan. I don’t remember why the subject even came up, but we started talking about snakes. Maybe I’d mentioned that I’d been reading about Nag Panchami, a Hindu snake festival.

UnknownAnd I probably went on about how the snake in the Garden of Eden had gotten a bad rap by becoming equated with Satan. And how we’d lost the multivalent meanings of the serpent – even within Judaism and Christianity. After all, John 3:14 compares Jesus to a snake – that is, as a symbol of healing from Number 21: Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then whenever the people were bitten by a snake, they looked at the bronze snake and lived. 

And then, snakes alive! Sridevi announced that she was going to hold an event in Berkeley on August 15. It’s called Serpentine Celebration Circle for Women and here’s some information about it:


Around the world and throughout time, the Divine Feminine in her Serpentine form was revered and worshipped. The Snake can move on Mother Earth and within Her, undulating between darkness and light. But attitudes have changed. Today, in many cultures, darkness is dreaded and snakes are demonized. Yet the Snake endures.

On the 5th day after the new moon of August, certain communities in India hold Nag Panchami, a Celebration of the Snake. On the other side of the world, we also celebrate the Snake in a different way. Calling women to reclaim darkness and the healing Serpentine energy of the Divine Feminine!

You can find all about it on Facebook at

But now I have to go back to the library and take out those books again, because I’ve been asked to make a presentation about how the snake came to be demonized. And this time I have to read them! I guess I’ll have to rely on the snake as my symbol of wisdom.

After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Be as wise as serpents”?!

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