THE DIVINE SERPENT IN MYTH AND LEGEND
[AS OF JUNE 1999] Robert T. Mason, Ph.D., D.D.
The Mythic Beginnings
Since the very beginnings of time, on every continent of this earth where humanity hasworshipped divinity the serpent has been recognized and accepted as a god. FromAfrica's steaming jungle to the icy wastes of northern Europe; from the fertile crescent tothe deserted outback of Australia the serpent has been worshipped, feared and adored.Serpent mythology is arguably the most widespread mythology known to mankind.We will be dealing with language that is found in myth and legend any discussion of adivine serpent, so we should take time to explain the use of the myth in religious andlegendary arenas before we begin. When we examine the history of truth or knowledge inthe history of mankind we are faced with the fact that the 0origin of myth lies in theGreek concept of muthos [ muthos] , which as the definition of truth or knowledgepredates the use of the Greek word Logos [lpgos], from which we derive our word logic.Myth for the early human usually referred to those realities which were known byexperience, be it archetypal , unconscious, or based upon the cultural and ritual beliefs of human civilization. An esteemed 'egg-head' mathematical scientist , Albert Einstein oncesaid; " Knowledge is experience; anything else is just information".In this article the word "myth" will be defined as a story of forgotten or vague origin,basically religious since we are dealing with the concept of divinity, which seeks toexplain or rationalize an important aspect of the world or a society.Furthermore, in the context of this article, all myths used are, or have been at some stage,actually believed to be true by the peoples of the societies that used or originated themyth. This definition is thus clearly distinguished from the use of the word myth ineveryday speech which basically refers to an unreal or imaginary story. Myth, as usedherein, is also distinctly different from an allegory or parable which is a story deliberatelymade up to illustrate some moral point but which has never been assumed to be true.Originally myths were not expressed in verbal or written form because language wasdeemed inadequate to convey the truth expressed in the story. The myths were enacted,chanted, painted, costumed, danced, sung and imagined, sometimes in hypnotic orhallucinatory states. In this manner the creative energies and relationships behind andbeneath the natural world were brought into the conscious realm The myth was believedto not only to tell about but to create a chain from the metaphysical world to the physicalone.Later in historical time myth becomes connected to and often identified with anotherGreek concept, that of legend, which stems from the Greek Legion or Logos[logos] which meant word or language. Myth then became a written form. And