Recently I was taking a walk along the train tracks, when a slithery movement caught the corner of my eye. I looked just in time to see a tiny cute garter snake disappear into a crack in the rocks. As a believer in synchronicity, I always feel that every animal that crosses my path can be interpreted as a message. This got me thinking about the symbolism of the serpent and what it means when one presents itself as an omen.
Few animals are so steeped in mystic lore as the snake or serpent. Simultaneously feared, revered, worshipped and shunned, the snake has an archetypal power over the human psyche that bridges cultures and tunnels back through time. The repulsive yet mesmerizing power of the snake exists in full force today, in people’s phobias of, and fascination with, these ancient reptiles. In the Garden of Eden, the snake was a symbol of evil and temptation, a mouthpiece for the devil himself, hissing encouragement of sin and carnal knowledge to Eve and Adam.
In ancient societies, long before the bible, the snake was considered a lunar animal, because like the moon, the snake is continuously reborn every time it sheds its skin. Mirroring the cycles of the moon, the snake performs an ongoing self generated dance of death and rebirth. In this way, the snake embodies one of life’s great mysteries, and holds within itself that which western civilization fears most: death. More specifically, what occurs in the darkness between death and rebirth.
Many snakes travel in underground tunnels and cracks, signifying their connection to the underworld. In shedding its skin, the snake symbolizes the ability to die and be reborn, to discard the old and become the new, whether that is in the death of the physical body or in other areas of life. The snake is a shape shifter who holds the answer of what lies between the worlds. Maybe that’s why people are so deeply and instinctively afraid of them (well, okay, and some of them are poisonous but that’s another topic).
A popular depiction of the mystic serpent is known as Ouroboros, a symbol in which the snake is shown in a circle eating its own tail. This symbol can be traced back to ancient Egypt, and from there to the Phoenicians and then the ancient Greeks, surviving all the way into pop culture today. Shown as Ouroboros, the snake devours its own tail to sustain itself, reminding us that new, continuous life is in fact created by destruction. Ouroboros represents life coming from death, and the never ending, constantly renewing cycle of nature and the cosmos. This cycle is present not only in large life events, but every single day of our existence as we’re called upon to grow and change, and thus renew our ideas and views.
The serpent signifies profound change, usually self generated. Snake energy can be invoked for meditation or magical workings for renewal, for letting go of the past, for banishing unwanted habits and traits, and for blessing a new beginning.
If you live in a rural area, finding husks of shed snake skin is commonplace if you keep your eyes open. There is of course no need to ever hurt or maim a snake to get it’s skin, you simply have to find it at the right time (I’ve noticed my whole entire life that animal charms do seem to pop up and present themselves exactly when I need them). If not, like everything, snake skin is available online. Just make sure you check that it’s collected naturally and ethically.
If you’re out for a walk and happen to see a snake slithering away through the grass, pay attention. Likewise if you keep seeing imagery of the serpent in your daily life, news feed, or on T.V. This snake, like most animal sightings, is a symbol sent by spirit (or nature, or the universe, or higher power etc.), to alert you that you are on the cusp of change. You are soon going to experience deep and profound transformation in your life or spiritual path. This can seem scary and dark, as change often is, but remember that the precursor to a new beginning is death and the shedding of something that no longer fits your life.
I wonder what that little snake was trying to tell me?