Snakes. Serpents. What do the symbolize?
For most people, these slithery beasts symbolize evil, death, the devil, and all things scary and dark. While that may be true, snake symbolism carries way more meaning for many different cultures than simply being evil.
In fact, snakes are one of the most commonly symbolized creatures throughout human history; and also across various cultures.
In many cases, serpents are viewed as symbol of healing, medicine, and even power. In others, they are the symbol of death, evil, and all of the dark assumptions one would likely make regarding snakes representing things in human life.
It can be hard to believe snakes can symbolize anything else but darkness. Especially since snakes are the 2nd most feared animal in the world, according to Animal Planet.
So, just what do snakes symbolize. Well, depending on who you ask, there is a virtually endless list of what serpents mean in human culture.
In this article, we will cover about as much as we could find when it comes to what these long skinny creatures mean in our lives. From The Bible, to Greek Mythology; snakes symbolism is found just about everywhere.
Heck, there’s even a “Year of the Snake” in the Chinese Zodiac. We’ll cover that, too!
Table of Contents
Serpent Symbolism in The Bible
The Bible. It’s the best selling book of all time. So, just what do all these Bibles have in common? Snakes.
Yes, that’s right. Snakes a huge symbol throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testament alike. And often times, serpents are a symbol of trickery, the underworld, temptation and evilness in both Testaments.
Adam and Eve
One of the most well known portions of The Bible that likely a lot of people know about is Adam and Eve. It’s the age old story about people originating from a common ancestor.
Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden, and a serpent coaxes Eve into eating forbidden fruit.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”Genesis 3:1-24
Eve shares the apple with Adam, and God banished them from the Garden of Eden and says there will be consequences for this sin.
This is one of the first symbols of a snake in The Bible. Generally, the snake represents temptation and sin here. It can also represent evil, sin, etc. depending on the interpretation.
Other Examples of Snakes in the Bible
When it comes to the Bible, snakes aren’t always depicted as evil and fiery creatures.
In fact, serpents are sometimes have different analogies of medicine and wisdom throughout The Bible.
Here are some examples:
“They will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”Mark 16:18
In the above verse, snakes are referenced as a form of medicine and healing.
Snakes represent a form of immunity. Thus, this verse doesn’t deduce snakes as evil or sinful.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”Matthew 10:16
This is the most directly positive quote about snakes in The Bible. Here, serpents are symbolized as a metaphor for intelligent.
“Be wise as serpents” implies that snakes are very smart creatures. This verse is basically saying that we are all at risk of “wolves” in the world, so we need to be innocent yet on our toes, smart like a snake. How interesting! Really, who knew that snakes have a parallel to being wise and having smarts?
Lastly, if you want to learn more about the different snake references throughout The Bible, here is a great resource.
Snake Symbolism in Greek Mythology
In contrast to how Snakes are referenced in Bible, Greek Mythology portrays snake symbolism many different ways.
For example, in Ancient Greece, snakes were mostly a symbol of good luck. Additionally, our Greek ancestors would often craft various artifacts as snakes as a way to ward off evil.
Funny, most people would think snakes represent evil, but the ancient Greeks viewed them as a way to fend it off.
But then, there’s Medusa. Medusa is one of the most infamously wicked mythological creatures, and has a bad rap in historical Greek Mythology.
She literally has snakes coming out of her head, and if you look her in the eyes, you will turn to stone.
It’s not all Medusa’s fault, though. She wasn’t always evil — in fact, legend has it that she was quite beautiful. Athena had it out for Medusa; so much that Athena turned all of Medusa’s hair into snakes, and also made her hideous to look at.
So, while the Greek’s may have revered snakes as good luck charms, they also portrayed snakes as demonic, fiendish symbols.
Snakes as a Symbol of Medicine
Snakes don’t just represent things in ancient civilization. If you start to look closely, you may start to notice snakes in the fine details of current day medicine.
Live in the US? If so, you are likely familiar with BlueCross BlueShield. It’s one of the largest health insurance companies in the country.
Have a closer look at their logo…
The cross looks to have a little blue person in the middle. But, if you look closely at the shield…
There’s a snake!
So, serpents have long symbolized medicine in both ancient history and in current day times.
Actually, the snake image in the BCBS logo has a name. It’s called the Caduceus, and it’s been right under your nose for most of your life. So much so, that you probably don’t even realize it’s there.
Caduceus, The Infamous Medical Snake Logo
The Caduceus is a very common logo that tends to symbolize medicine, wellness, etc. Consequently, the symbol can often be found as a logo for hospitals and various medical facilities.
This serpent-like logo wasn’t always a symbol of medicine, though.
The above illustration dates back to ancient Greek mythology, and used to symbolize commerce, protection of wealth, merchants, and even gamblers.
So, how did this snake logo end up symbolizing medicine?
It was actually thanks to the U.S. Army Medical Corps. For the longest time, the symbol represented what is now seen as the free market.
But, in 1902, The U.S. Army Medical Corps adopted the logo. From there, the logo skyrocketed as a near universal snake symbol of healthcare.
Here’s the logo:
In essence, throughout most of history the Caduceus snake staff was a symbol of wealth, commerce, and protection of economics. Not until recently, was it transformed into a whole new meaning.
Ancient Egyptian Snake Symbolism
There is serpent symbolism referenced throughout Egyptian History. Like other references, you may not realize just how prominent snakes were in ancient Egypt.
If you look closely, you’ll notice the crown on this Egyptian artifact is fashioned with none other than a Cobra.
The cobra isn’t just a fashion statement, either. It is mean to embody protection over the realm.
It’s call a Uraeus. This symbol was commonly placed on the crown of both Egypt men and women of the highest authority.
The Uraeus is a sign of supreme power. Plus, the headress was only worn by those who were viewed as gods on earth.
So, why the cobra?
Well, there was an Egyptian God called Wadjet, and she was supposedly the daughter of the Sun God.
She was seen as the protector of Egypt; the spirit that would ward off all evil and preserve the health of the empire.
No wonder she is symbolized as a Cobra and was meant to be a power symbol of authority in ancient times. But what does a Cobra have to do with warding off evil?
The ancient Egyptians viewed the cobra as being part of their tribe. Meaning, the Cobra would protect their people and ward off any harmful things.
I mean, who would want to go up against a Cobra?
That’s the mindset the Ancient Egyptian overlords had.
Hence, why they believed that the symbolized Cobra would prevent anything bad from happening to their domains.
Manasa Devi: The Hindu Snake Goddess
There are over 33 million gods in Hinduism.
So of course, there is a goddess of snakes. Her name is Manasa Devi, or simply just Manasa. When it comes to snake symbolism, this Hindu Goddess pretty much embodies everything about these slithery creatures.
Manasa Devi is worshiped mostly in Bengal and in parts of Northern India.
Not only does she have four arms, Manasa also boasts a crown full of what seem to be Cobras. Are you starting to see the similarities now?
Snakes have long been a symbol of medicine, power, and protection across many different cultures.
Manasa The Snake Goddess is worshiped for several different reasons.
Many Hindu Gods and Goddesses fulfill and symbolize specific purposes. People pray to Manasa Devi for prosperity, fertility, and to heal snake bites.
The last one might seem a tad surprising.
Why so literal? Well, with 33 million Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu beliefs, they tend to get a little specific.
Snake Symbolism: The Year of the Snake
The Chinese Zodiac goes in cycles of 12 years. The year of the snake is the 6th animal in the Chinese Zodiac, and happened during these years:
So, the next year of the Snake is about 5 years away.
What do these Zodiac signs symbolize? There’s a lot of snake symbolism when it comes to the Zodiac year, and you’re going to learn all about it below.
Each animal has a different meaning, including when it comes to the Year of the Snake. There are many rumors, myths, and folklore surrounding what it means to be born in the year of the snake.
Plus, there are even lucky numbers, colors, etc. that all come along with being born in the year that is supposed to symbolize snakes.
Chinese Zodiac animals not only represent years, they represent the hours of the day as well.
The Snake hour is between 9-11 am. It’s in the morning because it was thought that when the sun rises, the snakes will come out of hibernation and start to hunt and go about their daily routines.
Too add, Snakes also symbolize a certain period of the year, too.
Apparently, May 5th to June 5th is the “month” of the snake.
But wait, there’s more.
People born in the Snake year have lucky numbers and lucky colors:
Lucky numbers: 2, 8, 9
Lucky Colors: Light Yellow, Black, RedSnake Symbolism in Present Day
Who knew that snakes represented so much in our lives, history, and society? They don’t symbolize evil, death, the devil… well, at least not entirely. For the most part, snakes have symbolized health, wealth, good luck and protection throughout various cultures in history.
Who would have guessed?!