When Snakes Could Fly

Eve's Bible the Book

“I didn’t understand your Sphinx reference,” said Mojo  referring to Who was the Sphinx? .

Walker’s Encyclopedia’s cover  reminded me of who could rectify my error.   I turn to a real expert, Dr. Sarah Forth author of “Eve’s Bible: A Woman’s Guide to the Old Testament.”   She is a theologian whose specialty is the Old Testament.  (note: I added the images for the post.  If they are a bit incorrect blame me, not her.)

In her chapter When Snakes Could Fly, she writes “theacentric” (goddess-centered) civilizations throughout the Eastern Europe, the Near East and India portrayed the goddesses as snake and with snakes as well as bird women.”  These were more than mere fertility figures but “Goddesses of regeneration who were responsible for the entire cycle of life.”

Sumer’s religion “more than forty-five hundred years ago is among the oldest we know much about,” she writes.   But it was Egypt, “the Land Beyond the Rivers” that more directly influenced Israelite beliefs.”

Egypt had a PRE-history, before the dynastic pharaohs.  During this period, Wadjet represented by the cobra was the patron goddess of Buto an important “city” during the Neolithic period.  Her sister Nekhbet was a vulture.

Together they were called the Two Ladies.

Lower and Upper Egypt were combined and the two started to merge into one.

The Narmer Palette is thought to represent the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.  Notice the intertwined serpent heads of the lions.  Wadjet was also associated with Bastet represented by a cat/lion.

3100BC Narmer Palette thought to depict unification of Upper and Lower Egypt

“Egyptian Snake Goddess Uatchet (I think Wadjet is the more common spelling) was both a woman and a large winged serpent.”

Human Headed Winged Cobra from King Tut's Tomb

Uraeus, a spitting snake, denoted both a goddess and a serpent.  “The Uraeus adorned the headdress of pharaohs for thousands of years.”

Uraeus On King Tut's Death Mask approx 1333BC

Over millennia societies changed from earth based religions and “serpents were demoted to servants of the gods, or worse, their enemies,” says Dr. Forth.

Slowly Wadjet became Isis.  Isis merged with the Great Goddess Hathor and became Horus’ mother instead of his sister.

Isis

In Christianity the most famous serpent enemy was the one in the Garden of Eden who tempted Eve to eat from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” that Yhwh (God) had made off limits.  Because of this snake incident, the entire human history was changed.

According to Dr. Forth this story “remains the best example of the Israelite campaign against the snake-goddess.  Yhwh (God) reacted by cursing the serpent.”

Because you did this/More cursed shall you be/

Then all cattle/and all the wild beasts

On your belly shall you crawl / And dirt shall you eat/

All the days of your life. (Gen 3:14 JPS)

Dr. Forth writes “Assigning the serpent to crawl on its belly suggests that it had a previous mode of transport.  Wings perhaps?”

Gustav Moreau's Oedipus and the Sphinx located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

By the time we get to Moreau’s 1864 Oedipus and the Sphinx we see the traces of the ancient goddess: Wadjet  the cat/lion, Nekhbet’s wings, and the female head all rolled into the Sphinx the “winged monster” Oedipus confronts.

Eve and the Serpent demonstrates the power of a good story.  In western civilization, Genesis chapter 3 chopped off the Goddess’ wings and completely changed her-story.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. arabianprophets
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 15:58:25

    Hwh (Eve) (Gen 3:20): Snake goddess referred to in the snake spells written by Western Semites and located in the Pharaoh Unas’ pyramid. The Pharaoh Unas ruled from 2375 to 2345 BCE. The snake spells were translated and transliterated by Prof. Richard Steiner a Semitist and a scholar of Northwest Semitic languages, Jewish Studies and Near Eastern texts. His work has focused on texts from as early as the Egyptian Pyramid texts to as late as medieval biblical interpretation. He is a professor of Semitics at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University in New York City. Professor Steiner transliterated and translated these hieroglyphics as im im xw (xw is the phonetic spelling of Hawa) or mother, mother snake. Hwy (pronounced Hawa) is an Arabic word which means to coil.

    Asherah/Athirat as Eve/Hwh: Asherah, the goddess mentioned throughout the Old Testament, was also incorporated into the character of Eve/Hwh. Her name, Asherah, is often translated as ’groves’ in the King James Bible (see Ex 34:13, Deut 7:5, 12:3, Jdg 3:7, 1 K 14:15 etc., etc.,) The tree of knowledge of good and evil (tree of wisdom), the serpent and Hwh (meaning serpent) represent the goddess Athirat/Ashera, wife of El/Baal/YHWH. Hawa or Chawa was an alternate name for Athirat/Asherah and she was represented by the sacred tree (date palm) or Asherah pole beside the altars of both Baal and El. Her alternate name was Tanith which means serpent lady. Her Phoenician title was Rabat Chawa Elat or Great Lady Snake Goddess. She was identified with the Egyptian goddess Hathor by the Kenite/Midianite miners at Timna. Asherah/Athirat as the goddess of Wisdom and consort of El/YHWH is described in Proverbs 8:22-31 and 9:1-6. Athirat, as a co-creator or demiurge, would have been equal to El/YHWH since she was uncreated and with him in the beginning (see Proverbs 8). As Hwh, she shared the same name as YHWH (het & chet are interchangeable in Semitic languages) which was a confirmation of her equal status. YHWH was also represented by a serpent (nehushtan) which indicates that both gods began as serpent cults associated with trees. So, there was rivalry between the patriarchal serpent cult of YHWH and the corresponding matriarchal serpent cult of Athirat/Hwh. Yahwists were rigid proponents of ‘patriarchism’. Hwh/Athirat had to go, so the authors of Genesis had YHWH cripple her ophidic icon and expel her from the Garden of Eden to live in pain and die a mortal death. That left YHWH, the patriarchal serpent creator god, who still shared her name, in control of both her icon snake and her tree. Asherah/Athirat had her own priestly cult called the Qadeshot meaning the ‘holy ones’. YHWH’s priestly cult was the Lawiat (Levites) meaning the ‘coiling ones’. During the reign of the Judean King, Manasseh (687-642 BCE), the goddess (2 Kings 21:7) shared the Jerusalem temple with her husband, YHWH. The Judean King, Josiah (641-609 BCE) later expelled the goddess’ icon pole from the temple (2 Kings 23:6) just as King Hezekiah (715-686 BCE) had earlier ejected YHWH’s icon pole, the nehushtan, from the Jerusalem temple (2 Kings 18:4).

    Reply

    • Eva the Dragon
      Jul 10, 2012 @ 05:24:50

      WOW. Thanks for all of this info. I will read through it and study it.

      I will have to look at your site and see why you know about all this. Thanks for reading and writing.

      Reply

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