This evening in my meditation I found myself gently rolling my head. Clockwise, then counter clockwise. My mind was clear. The movement felt good for my tense neck and shoulders. There were a few moments that as I moved, my movements reminded me of a snake. In fact, when it first occurred to me, the word, “serpent” popped into my head. Creepy right?? But, what if its not creepy at all?
I began to journal. Honestly, I wanted to push the notion of identification with a serpent out of my head and focus on other things. I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of dualistic thinking. This box so many of us operate in. It’s a framework that says life is “us vs them” with comfort coming from feeling like one is a part of an inner circle. Once that is sensed their is a deceptive reassurance that one’s thoughts are all correct and that person feels justified and vindicated in thinking those outside are wrong.
My context: I am a white, middle-aged, southeastern American woman born in a small town and into a southern American Christian world. So, the value I ascribe to certain symbols are different than say a middle-eastern man or south African woman. If you share my context you will likely have already picked up on and experienced a sense of discomfort or unease or morbid curiosity when you saw the title of this blog and the reference of identifying with a serpent. Why? Because in my culture that is colored by the Christian Bible and the fact that we claim a savior who was Jewish our minds immediately refer to the negative connotations of the serpent in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation the snake is given a bad rap. Really bad. In fact its image often represents Satan. The ultimate adversary of God and tormentor of humankind. In Genesis there is a prophecy that the offspring of Eve will bruise or crush the head of the serpent. We understand that offspring to be Jesus Christ and the serpent the devil. Only twice in scripture is the serpent presented in positive light. In Genesis the serpent is called, “more crafty, intelligent, cunning than any beast” and again while the children of Israel were wandering in the desert looking for the promised land there is an instance where “fiery serpents” entered the camps and killed and made sick many people. In order for them to be healed from this attack they were instructed to look upon the image of a serpent that had been crafted from brass. Needless to say I grabbed onto the positive symbology. More importantly…I allowed my mind to explore the biological characteristics of snakes. I’m very blessed to have done so and here’s why:
- Growth-when it comes to growth in humans or animals the visual of that is so subtle you really can’t see it happening. Except when it comes snakes. The growth of a snake involves shedding it’s skin and that is something everyone can see. Can you imagine your skin coming off every time you have a revelation, make a good choice, learn something new or celebrate another birthday? Awkward. Scary looking. Startling. Right? Additionally, it puts the snake in a very vulnerable position. But growth spurts do that to us too right? It usually isn’t pretty when we shed old ideals, behaviors, patterns, etc.
- Right before the serpent enters it’s first scene in the Bible where it is cursed for cajoling the woman into eating forbidden fruit that her eyes may be opened to the reality of evil as well as good, it receives a rave review. It is said to be the most crafty and intelligent and cunning animal elevating it’s intelligence above all other beasts. To me this is very moving. My childhood and adolescence held a running theme where my intelligence was constantly questioned. When I got in trouble the first words I heard from my grandfather was, “stupid, silly damn thing.” My grandmother’s words were a little less harsh. She would immediately say something to the effect of, “well you should have KNOWN better.” Because, all kids come automatically knowing right? And finally during the times when my mother orbited my life and we fought she would always say, “you’re not even old enough to have an opinion. You have no idea.” Now as an adult I find myself in a pursuit to be one of the greatest minds in history. Yeah, I know. My ability to “correctly” perceive and righteously act has hijacked the relaxation and fun and ignorant bliss I could have experienced thus far. I developed this obsessive umpire in my mind. Every moment of everyday I have discovered that I am judging each moment as either good or bad and I’ve robbed myself of simply being.
- Had I never known this context I have found myself in, a white, southern Christian woman, I may have been conditioned and introduced to the imagery of the snake as the epitome of wisdom, a master of growth, a symbol of success, a representation of healthy sexuality, an expert hunter.
- As I allowed my mind to open to these truths and additional meanings I began to feel a sense of pride rather than unease. I am…wise. I am one who is always growing and requiring more of myself and determined to stretch. I aspire to be a symbol of success, one with healthy sexuality and an expert hunter or provider for myself. I am serpent-like. My nimble movement inspires.
As a psychology student, an empathic person and aspiring professional counselor it is important to me to be relatable. I want people to feel open to me. And, I feel like one of the greatest medicines or gifts I can offer to myself…is healing my symbology. I want to take all the disowned and shamed symbols and revive them. I want to give them new meaning and the place of honor they deserve. On a practical level I want to not immediately have a negative connotation of someone who perhaps loves snakes or brings up dreams about morphing into a snake in their dreams during a counseling session. Healing my “seeing” better ensures my ability to be an agent of healing in the lives of others.
This year I have plans of shedding life-long patterns. And, I’m going to be honest and warn you. If you know me well, if you follow me on social media there are going to be times my shedding is visible. And, that may look weird or make you uncomfortable. But, I am determined to stretch. I am determined to enjoy the feel of a new skin. One that is more pliable and more suited to the joys of experiencing growth.
So, starting off 2020 I’ve healed at least one symbol and made new room in my mind and heart to better understand the world around me.
I am serpent. And, I’m healing my symbology.