An Iconic Part Of Human History
No animal plays a role comparable to that of the snake in human history, culture, and religion. Some powerful association echoes from our tree-dwelling, primate ancestors, making the serpent a potent symbol even today. This detailed, curving pendant celebrates mankind’s long and mysterious relationship with this most magical of real-world animals.
Snakes, Dragons, And The Foundation Of Myth
Mary Condren in her book, The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland points out that the serpent’s association with regeneration and fertility, combined with the eternal image of the snake coiled, tail in mouth representing omnipotence may be one part of why it has remained a potent symbol in every culture since the Babylonian and Sumerian mythologies. In biblical and earlier epics, snakes are often depicted as having the ability to bestow immortality on humans or cheat them in devious ways. The Gilgamesh Epic and Adapa tales from the near east are both examples of this, as is the tale of Adam and Eve. Celebrate millennia of mystery and mythology with this silver snake pendant.
Animal-Inspired – The Silver Snake Pendant
Across every culture’s depictions of dragons are recognisable features from snakes, birds of prey and large cats. And while there are cases of historical societies discovering fossils and attributing them to the existence of dragons, it’s thought that dragon myths in those societies predate such discoveries. Fossils are too rare to explain the proliferation of dragon myths among human cultures and it’s thought snakes are more than likely the primary influence for this terrifying creature.
Silver Snake Pendant – Tree-Dwelling Roots
Many anthropologists have suggested man’s innate fear of snakes may be due to our tree-dwelling origins. Even infants with no previous experience of snakes know to fear them – something mirrored in the animal world. Rats, even those who have never experienced the presence of cats before, know their smell and upon detecting it, will stand alert at the mouth of their nest and make a warning call for 48 hours – which relative to the life of a rat, is a very long time. Deep in the DNA of many animals is a fear of certain primaeval enemies that can’t be explained by first-hand experience. The most common depictions of dragons certainly share many essential features with our major sources of fear as a tree-dwelling species and may explain the proliferation of such myths and humanity’s innate fear of, and fascination with, serpents. The silver Snake Pendant celebrates the long and complex history between man and serpent.
One of three children of the shape-shifting god, Loki and giantess, Angrboda, Jormungand was an enormous and powerful sea serpent who was tossed into the sea by the all-father, Odin. The serpent grew until it encircled all of Midgard and could bite its own tail. Ragnarok was believed to begin when Jormungand left the sea, wreaking havoc across the landscape as he went. Mythology tells us that during the last battle Thor would slay Jormungand with his hammer, Mjolnir but not before the serpent delivers a venomous bite, dropping Thor after several paces. It’s important to remember that shape-shifting was one of Loki’s abilities when thinking about the logistics of him mating with a giantess. Why the offspring of these two would turn out to be a giant sea serpent is less clear (to this lowly scholar) from the sources. Whatever the reason behind its creation, the image of a behemoth Jormungand slithering across the land destroying everything in its wake is arguably at least as terrifying a vision as anything the Christian mythos ever created.
There may be no better example illustrating how dragon myths are born out of our forgotten, tree-dwelling roots than that of Quetzacoatl, one of the most common Mesoamerican deities. A mix of bird and rattlesnake, Quetzacoatl’s sphere of influence is equally varied for he is the god of rain, wind, learning, science, and agriculture. In one creation story, Quetzacoatl and the god, Tezcatlipoca created existence as we know it by tearing a giant sea monster in half, using one part to create the sky, and the other the land. Quetzalcoatl makes an appearance in Terry Pratchett’s “Mort”, and despite some comedic touches, retains a lot of the characteristics attributed to him in mythology.
More than simply the band that followed Deep Purple, the Chinese legend of the female white snake has evolved from a simple good vs evil story into something more complex over time and many tellings. At the core of the legend is Bai Suzhen, a snake demon who dwells underwater and can take the form of a beautiful woman. She falls in love with and then marries a human Buddhist monk named Xu Xian. The telling of the tale varies greatly from here with some tales focussing on the genuine love between the demon and man and the birth of their son. Other stories take a more traditional line, opting to tell a story about the good monk overcoming the evil demon. This beautifully made pendant can be seen as an interpretation of both forms of this story.
There is perhaps no more influential snake myth in the fantasy genre than that of the Naga, a common mythological creature in Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain traditions. Naga were semi-divine half-human, half-snake creatures that reside in the underworld but can take on fully-human form at will. The number of variations on this idea is staggering throughout east and southeast Asia. Some naga have multiple heads, some are immortal, some cause thunder, rain, and wind. There are a myriad of naga-like creatures in video games, comic books, anime, and RPGs too – some of them even using the original word.
Snakes, Dragons, And St Patrick
One of the most enduring snake stories in European history inspiring this snake pendant is St Patrick’s banishing snakes from the island of Ireland. And while St Patrick was a real, historical figure who played an important role in the spread of Christianity, some of the details of his life are better considered allegorical. For if, in fact, St Patrick did drive the snakes from the island, they took with them all the archaeological evidence of there ever have been snakes. The more reasonable conclusion is that by the time the retreating Ice Age made Northern Europe habitable for snakes, the land bridge between Ireland and Britain was already underwater.
Tall Snake Story?
As early as the 13th Century Gerald of Wales cast doubt upon the veracity of the then several hundred-year-old tale. The most commonly held legend is that recounted by Jocelyn of Furness and tells of Patrick being attacked by snakes as he undertakes a 40-day fast, resulting in him driving them all into the sea. This isn’t the first recorded version of the story, however, just the one most commonly told. The first references to the event come from The Life of St Columba in the late 7th or early 8th Century. This would be a more contemporary account as the real St Patrick is believed to have been born in the late 4th Century or early 5th Century. Some have drawn hagiographic parallels to the Biblical account of the staff of the prophet Moses. In Exodus, Moses and Aaron use their staffs to struggle with the sorcerers of the Pharaoh. The staffs of both parties turn into snakes with Aaron’s snake devouring those of the enemy and winning the day. Either way, soil and fossil records indicate that there were never any snakes in post-glacial Ireland.
Conduit To The Underworld
Snakes are cold-blooded creatures capable of slipping into cracks and disappearing into the dark inhospitable underworld. This snake pendant depicts a messenger between the underworld and human society in several mythologies. To many cultures of the American continent, this idea of snakes inhabiting an unknown space below the earth was common.
In Greek mythology, the Gorgons feature in the earliest examples of Greek literature and were snake-women hybrids who could turn people to stone with their gaze. Some believe the famous Medusa myth to be a kind of echo of a true historical event that caused such trauma as to burn itself into memory as a legend. The Medusa legend has enjoyed extraordinary popularity across time. Greek sculptors contemporary to the time depicted Medusa and the Gorgons as monstrous in every capacity – not simply the snakes for hair. The idea of the otherwise beautiful woman with the venomous snakes for hair concept didn’t appear until the 5th century BC. From what we know of Greek mythology, the Gorgons were the daughters of Phorcys and his sister, Ceto. These were ancient marine deities predating the order of the Greek pantheon of gods.
Snakes In D&D
In its current, 5th edition, D&D lists 17 snake creatures as potential monsters, two snake-related subclasses, and a playable race in the form of sentient snake. It’s safe to say that a preoccupation with snakes and an interest in fantasy seems common to a lot of people. Films like 1982’s Conan the Barbarian which featured a snake worshipping cult led by the evil wizard, Thulsa Doom may have triggered more interest in an already fascinating creature for fantasy storytelling purposes. As it currently stands, DMs can create snake-themed settings and adventures with the amount of supporting material available for the current edition of the game.
For an excellent article on some of D&D’s best snake spells, check out the link below:
Are you a pendant collector? Then we recommend checking out the Triskelion Pendant!
Material: Snake Pendant is made of Sterling Silver