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Thoughts: Chess, a game. Movement of pieces. Black and white, good and bad. Two Knights.
The white picket fence is an old American dream from the 50s: to own, to have, home sweet home with a white picket fence.






































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Definitions are supplied to demystify symbolism (and the artwork in this studio).
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A potent and very old symbol, the snake seems to strike a deep and very basic chord in humanity. Take a peek below and you'll see what I mean! Interpretations cover everything from personifying an evil tempter to representing wisdom, healing and rejuvenation. The snake trying to swallow it's tail is a classic symbol for eternity. Popular slang terms/(American) culteral interpretation layer: "One-eyed snake" (male genitalia), "Snake eyes" (rolling a one on each of two dice), "Speaking with a forked tongue" (lying), "Holding a snake to your breast" (to hold a back stabbing sort of fiend too close) and more. Snakes, venom and slithering lead to interpretations of the somewhat nasty sort. And there is MORE, so much more... This one I'll leave to the experts (because they REALLY cover the subject better than I ever can). Honestly, I should have put Campbell at the bottom because he boils it all down into one nutshell. That would have been best, allowing you to enjoy all of the digressions and excursions around and through the symbol but I love Campbell's simple and direct approach and I would hate for anyone to miss it. The man was SO knowledgeable and SO succinct and boy could he could peel that onion! Anyway, I hope you enjoy, because it is REALLY interesting reading below :)
Posted: March 06, 2004.


Because these definitions are so long, shortcut links are provided:
Campbell: The Power of Myth
Jung: Man and His Symbols
Biedermann: Dictionary of Symbolism
Vollman: The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Dream Symbols


The Power of Myth, p. 45
...the snake is the symbol of life throwing off the past and continuing to live.

...The serpent sheds its skin to be born again, as the moon its shadow to be born again. They are equivalent symbols. Sometimes the serpent is represented as a circle eating its own tail. That's an image of life. Life sheds one generation after another, to be born again. The serpent represents immortal energy and consciousness engaged in the field of time, constantly throwing off death and being born again. There is something tremendously terrifying about life when you look at it that way. And so the serpent carries in itself the sense of both the fascination and the terror of life.

Furthermore, the serpent represents the primary function of life, mainly eating. Life consists in eating other creatures. You don't think about that very much when you make a nice-looking meal. And when you look at the beauty of nature, and you see the birds picking around--they're eating things. You see the cows grazing, they're eating things. The serpent is a traveling alimentary canal, that's about all it is. And it gives you that primary sense of shock, of life in its most primal quality. There is no arguing with that animal at all. Life lives by killing and eating itself, casting off death and being reborn, like the moon. This is one of the mysteries that these symbolic, paradoxical forms try to represent.
Posted: March 06, 2004.

Man and His Symbols, p. 153-155
This is the universal quality of the animal as a symbol of transcendence. These creatures, figuratively coming from the depths of the ancient Earth Mother, are symbolic denizens of the collective unconscious. They bring into the field of consciousness a special chthonic (underworld) message that is somewhat different from the spiritual aspirations symbolized by the birds...

Other transcendent symbols of the depths are rodents, lizards, snakes, and sometimes fish. These are intermediate creatures that combine underwater activity and the bird-flight with an intermediate terrestrial life. The wild duck or swan are cases in point. Perhaps the commonest dream symbol of transcendence is the snake, as represented by the therapeutic symbol of the Roman god of medicine Aesculapius, which has survived to modern times as a sign of the medical profession. This was originally a nonpoisonous tree snake; as we see it, coiled around the staff of the healing god, it seems to embody a kind of mediation between earth and heaven.

A still more important and widespread symbol of chthonic transcendence is the motif of the two entwined serpents. These are the famous Naga serpents of ancient India; and we also find them in Greece as the entwined serpents on the end of the staff belonging to the god Hermes. An early Grecian herm is a stone pillar with a bust of the god above. On one side are the entwined serpents and on the other an erect phallus. As the serpents are represented in the act of sexual union and the erect phallus is unequivocally sexual, we can draw certain conclusions about the function of the herm as a symbol of fertility.

But we are mistaken if we think this only refers to biological fertility. Hermes is Trickster in a different role as messenger, a god of the cross-roads, and finally the leader of souls to and from the underworld. His phallus therefore penetrates from the known into the unknown world, seeking a spiritual message of deliverance and healing.

Originally in Egypt Hermes was known as the ibis-headed god Thoth, and therefore was conceived as the bird form of the transcendent principle. Again, in the Olympian period of Greek mythology, Hermes recovered attributes of the bird life to add to his chthonic nature as serpent. His staff acquired wings above the serpents, becoming the caduceus or winged staff of Mercury, and the god himself became the "flying man" with his winged hat and sandals. Here we see his full power of transcendence, whereby the lower transcendence from underworld snake-consciousness, passing through the medium of earthly reality, finally attains transcendence to superhuman or transpersonal reality on its winged flight.
Posted: March 06, 2004.

Dictionary of Symbolism, p. 310-313
A symbolic animal with highly ambiguous associations. For many ancient civilizations, the snake symbolised the underworld and the realm of the dead, apparently because it spends much of its life in hiding and in pits below the surface of the earth, but also because of its apparent ability to be rejuvenated through the shedding of its skin. The snake moves effortlessly without the aid of feet, emerges from an EGG like a BIRD, and can often kill with its venomous bite.

The snake has such remarkable natural associations with life and death that it plays a significant role in most cultural traditions.

The Biblical serpent, the embodiment of Satan in the Garden of Eden, later becomes the "serpent of brass" "put upon a pole" by Moses [Numbers 21:8-9], interpreted as an archetype of Christ crucified [John 3:14-15]. Aaron's rod was transformed into a serpent capable of devouring those of Pharaoh's sorcerers [Exodus 7:9-12].

In Norse mythology a huge snake (Jormunjgandr) is wrapped around the earth, a symbol of the sea, not unlike its ancient Egyptian counterpart, the gigantic Apophis, which threatens to capsize the boat of the SUN god.

The early Christian text Physiologus offers curious versions of the snake's symbolic significance: because it sheds its skin, the snake is associated with rejuvenation (the Christian, too, should slough off the "old age of this world" and strive for the rejuvenation of eternal life); when the snake drinks from the SPRING it leaves its venom behind in its CAVE so as to keep the water pure (thus the Christian pursuit of the water of eternal life must leave behind the poison of sin); snakes bite only those who are clothed, shying away from the NAKED (thus we should cast off the "fig leaf of lust" and be "naked of sin," so the evil cannot have its way with us); finally, a snake in danger protects only its head, leaving the rest of its body open to attack (thus we are to protect only our head, i.e., Christ, never denying him, but sacrificing our bodies like the martyrs).

Of particular symbolic significance is the snake biting its own tail (Greek UROBORUS), which stands for the cycle of eternal return, or for eternity in general. In the alchemistic tradition it is associated with cyclical processes (evaporation and condensation, alternating successively), the state of "sublimation" often being represented by WINGS.

Symbolic traditions tend to stress the negative role of the snake (e.g., the danger of its venomous bite); thus the creatures thought of as killing snakes (EAGLE, STORK, FALCON) have come to have positive associations. Older systems of myth, however, include mysterious positive aspects of the snake, often because of its associations with the earth and the underworld. A house snake, for example, can represent the blessings of departed ancestors. (Crowned, milk-fed snakes appear in many popular legends.) The snake is also associated with healing and reincarnation (e.g., the sacred snakes of ASCLEPIUS; see also CADUCEUS). For the ancient Egyptians, the snake Uraeus (the bellicose cobra) stood for the CROWN, spitting venom at the Pharaoh's enemies; it was also represented as coiled around the solar disk associated with various sun gods.

In the pre-Columbian civilizations of Central America, the snake (Aztec coátl) appeared as the fifth day-sign of the calendar. The snake being thought of as poor and homeless, it mostly portended ill for those born under this sign, who were expected to become peddlers and warriors, forever wandering with no fixed abode. The plumed serpent Quetzalcóatl (adorned with the green feathers of the quetzal bird), however, was a divinity of great religious significance, apparently representing a harmonization of the duality bird/snake (and thus heaven/earth). (The Mayan name of the plumed serpent was Kukulcan.) The bird/snake polarity is represented, for example, in the arms of Mexico City (In Aztec, Tenochtitlán), which show an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its claws. Throughout the world such pairings are of great significance as symbols of the union of polar opposites. [See M. Lurker, Adler und Schlange, 1983.]

In Goethe's prose work entitled "Fairy Tale," the snake symbolizes the spread of pure humanity. Traditionally, however, snakes are thought of as fear-inducing. Such mythic creatures as BASILIKS and DRAGONS are exaggerated versions of the snake and its menace. In psychoanalysis snake phobia is interpreted as fear of a "phallic symbol."

In philosophy systems of Asiatic origin the kundalini snake, coiled at the base of the spinal column, symbolizes vital energy to be awakened and elevated through meditation. (See also CROCODILE.)

Snake-like creatures play an important role as "guardians of the TREASURES of the earth" in ancient Indian symbolic tradition. These benevolent demigods, called "Nagas," are often portrayed by sculptors as humans with snakes' bodies, standing guard at temples. Poisonous snakes, however, were seized by the GRIFFIN-like "golden-plumed sun bird Garuda" and destroyed, according to myth. Still, the snake was the most revered of animals after the COW and the APE, primarily because of....(and the definition for SNAKE/SERPENT goes on for another page and a half!!!! At this point I gotta just stop and say, "Get the book!" <laugh>).
Posted: March 06, 2004

The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Dream Symbols, p. 401-403
See Poisonous Snake. More than anything else, this is a symbol of fear. It is also often a sexual symbol, and a symbol of wholeness, transformation, and rebirth, as in Ouroboros. A symbol of the dark feminine and deception, it also represents wisdom and cunning. Almost every woman dreams about serpents at least once in her life, which could mean fear of a rival or of the male gender. The serpent stands for physical drives. If something is not right in that area, snake dreams appear. The image of the serpent may also refer to the "water of life," since it comes from inside the earth where the healing springs originate. The Caduceus, the staff of Aesculapius, a symbol of the healing arts, shows two serpents winding around it. In the sacred temple of Aesculapius, serpents crawled on the floor of the sleeping halls. They were said to induce healing dreams.

According to 2nd dream interpreter Artemidorus, dreaming about serpents indicates healing and the return of vitality. It is also a symbol of immortality (shedding the skin--rebirth). The "Midgard-serpent" and the "Ferris wolf" in Norse mythology threaten the gods as the world comes to an end.

The serpent is also the symbol for secret wisdom and the revelation of the hidden. Snakes are quick, attracted by fire and the birth of energy. A snake steals from Gilgamesh (hero of the Sumerian epic) the herb of immortality, while he is taking a bath in a pond. In Greece, Gaia, the goddess of the earth, produces two half-serpents called Titans, who do battle with Zeus. For the Gnostics of late antiquity, the serpent symbolized the dark, deep and unfathomable side of God. The serpent is also a symbol for Kundalini (the yogic life force). In ancient Greece, serpents were even honored publicly, because they were believed to be ghosts of the dead.

Snakes appear suddenly, out of the unknown, creating fear. It is impossible to have a meaningful communication with them; they are secretive and fear-inducing, as is the unconscious. Their poison is sin, their wisdom transformation and deliverance. According to Early Christian imagination, when a snake is attacked, it would only protect its head.

According to Freud, a phallic symbol. According to Jung, the image of the snake means that something important is taking place in our unconscious; it may be dangerous or healing. See Eel.
Posted: March 06, 2004.

Want to know more? Go out and pick up a copy of the book(s) quoted and expand your mind :) These are MY teachers, the people who teach me about symbolism :) I hope the supplied definitions help you understand the art found on this site.

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