Serpent Worship

Serpent worship The extent to which this species of idolatry has prevailed is very remarkable. From the fact that Satan assumed the form of a serpent, in his temptation of our first parents, it has been adopted as the symbol of Typhon, or the evil deity of the ancient Egyptians; of Ahriman among the Persians; and of the spirit of evil in the hieroglyphics of the Chinese and Mexicans. The serpent whose head the Messiah was to crush was transformed, in heathen fable, into the hydra which Hercules vanquished, and in India into that over which Krishna triumphed; into Horus in Egypt, Siegfried among the Germans, and Crac in Poland. We have also the serpent Python slain by Apollo, and the hundred-headed snake destroyed by Jupiter. The serpent was anciently worshipped in Chaldaea and in several other nations of the East. Servius tells us that the ancient Egyptians called serpents good daemons. The asp was the emblem of the goddess Ranno, and was supposed to protect the houses, or the gardens, of individuals, as well as the infancy of a royal child. This serpent was called Thermuthis, and with it the statues of Isis were crowned as with a diadem. The snake Bai also appears to have figured as a goddess; and another snake-headed goddess had the name of Hoh or Hih. The Typhon of the Egyptians had the upper part of his person decorated with a hundred heads like those of a serpent or dragon.

In the religions of all the Asiatic nations the serpent is regarded as a wicked being who brought evil into the world. As such it became, in course of time, an object of religious worship in almost every part of heathendom, the worship being, inspired rather by the desire to avert evil than to express reverence or gratitude. The Hindu serpent is the type and emblem of the evil principle in nature; and as such we see it wrestling with the goddess Parvati, or writhing under the victorious foot of Krishna, when he saves from its corrupting breath the herds that pasture near the waters of the Yamuna. "As a further illustration of this view, it is contended that many Hindus, who feel themselves constrained to pay religious worship to the serpent, regard it, notwithstanding, as a hideous reptile, whose approach inspires them with a secret awe and insurmountable horror." In the symbolic language of antiquity the serpent occupies a conspicuous place. . In Ge 3:1 we are told that "the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made." In consonance with this view the Chinese regard Long, or the winged dragon, as the being who excels in intelligence. The supreme god of the Chaldaeans, Bel, was adored under the form of a serpent or dragon; hence the Apocryphal book. Bel and the Dragon. To represent the Almighty upholding the world by his powerful Word, the Hindus describe it as resting upon a serpent which bites its own tail; and the Phoenicians entwine the folds of a serpent around the cosmic egg. On the Egyptian monuments Kneph is seen as a serpent carried upon two legs of a man, or a serpent with a lion's head. The Siamese, while they are afraid of venomous serpents, never dare to injure them; but, on the contrary, they consider it a lucky omen to have them in or near their houses. Among the Chinese the serpent is a symbolic monster, dwelling in spring above the clouds to give rain, and in autumn under the waters.

Among the North American Indians the serpent was formerly held in great veneration; the Mohicans paying the highest respect to the rattlesnake, which they called their grandfather. Many primitive nations, however, looked upon the serpent as the personification of the evil principle. Among the idolatrous nations who descended from Ham this species of idolatry was universally practiced, and has sometimes been alleged to have been the most prevalent kind of worship in the antediluvian world. See Fergusson, Tree and Serpent Worship (Lond. 1869, 4to). SEE SERPENT.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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