As a child, I was handed a creation narrative with an in-built fear of shadow work. A tree, complete with medicine imbued with the discernment between Light and Darkness, was placed at the centre of my garden. Oh, the perfection of innocence! Naivety. Like Peter Pan, it was tempting to remain a child forever. But adventure was calling. Manhood was calling. Truth was calling. I ate the fruit. I met the snake.
And I've begun to wonder... who is this snake? What is her intention?
Many of us fear Serpent Energy. We would rather keep the umbilical cord connected to the safe and familiar. We would rather crush the head of the snake under our heel than to take on Her wisdom and embark on the journey away from naiveté.
The Serpent within
I seem to have a fair dose of serpent energy in me. The serpent is constantly challenging authority and cutting away the constructs that most conform to so comfortably. If there’s a metaphorical scab I will pick it until it bleeds, open up the wound and have a look inside, I can’t leave it alone.
The late, great, Leonard Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything. It’s where the light gets in”.
So I will tear it open, let the light pour in. I have a strong sense that I’m here to heal. When we are brave enough to go inside the psyche and do the work, we bring waves of healing to the collective.
The snake represents transmutation of poisons, healing and transformation in almost all cultures. It is feared and also revered. Even the religious cult of rationalistic/reductionist Science that dominates Western culture has adopted the symbol of the snake wrapped around the pole as a symbol for medicine. This image appears again and again across many traditions, including the Exodus story where we see Moses lifting a snake on a pole, for the healing of those with the courage to engage with Snake Medicine. Perhaps Jesus Christ had a fair dose of serpent energy in him, too.
An inevitable engagement
In the Genesis myth, a Benevolent Being breathes breath into the Dream Space. Creation emerges. The Creator calls his Creation ‘good’. Apparently, the Creator creates a crack in the whole thing. The Creator plants a tree right in the middle of the garden, embodying the Knowledge of Good and Evil. From the Dao (One), Yin & Yang are born and we have the Tension of Opposites.
The Serpent Energy enters the woman first. Women are more ready to bleed, to know pain, to go down to ashes to one day rise with the wisdom of the earth embodied and powerfully radiating forth. They are stronger in this way. Men have their heads in the heavens and the necessary fall can be brutal.
So when Eve sees that serpent sensually wrapping its form around the tree, giving a nod to the low hanging fruit, she instinctively knows that it’s time to enter the underworld and engage the tension of opposites and duality.
We have to eat the fruit. We are born into Paradise. In the first year of life, our sense of personal identity is unformed. We feel at One with Mother and the world around. At some point, we begin to notice the fruit. We feel the allure of the snake. Calling us into the underworld and onto the stage of life. We eat, and become a separate self. We experience suffering and enter into humanity. We start generating meaning and pasting it on to reality. Mum says “Not now honey, I’m busy” and we generate “I’m not worthy”. God says “Why are you hiding” and we say “I’m naked and ashamed”. We perceive work and birthing as suffering. We resist the Serpent Energy and it hurts. We long for the womb, for Mother, for Oneness or the Afterlife. And it hurts.
The Snake Medicine gives us a portal into the underworld, to see things as they are and as they are not. To teach us how to be brave, to sit up straight and breathe deeply while the terror passes and we remember our connection to the Garden and to Love.
Our lives are a series of initiations that never stop. Our squeaky clean illusions of grandeur dissipate. Parents divorce. Faith communities fracture. Friends leave. Relationships end. The serpent calls you out of naiveté into the underground. Those who take on Snake Medicine breathe in the pain of the world. The breath retention engages the Tension of Opposites. They breathe out love. This is what we’re here to do. This is where our power lies.
We are powerful beings
There is a dark sea just below the surface. To leave the Knowledge of Good and Evil on the tree is to stay in naivety. It gives rise to the archetypes of Hitler and possibly Trump. In Stephen Harris Buhner’s book Plant Intelligence And The Imaginal Realm, Holocaust survivor Golda Meir is quoted: “There is a Hitler inside each of us and if we do not heal the Hitler inside of ourselves, then the violence, it will never stop”.
Do you hear the call? For how long have you been resisting? To recognise the Tension of Opposites is to learn to love both. The ‘Them’ and the ‘Us’ that resides internally, individually as well as collectively. Could a deep love of the Light and the Dark within each of us lead us home?
Daniel is a wanderer. Sometimes globally, always internally. His wandering has lead him to two questions - what are the obstacles to the flow of love and how can we transcend them? Daniel is a yoga teacher, a love healer and one who thinks too deeply. He is the one who puts the pen to the paper. Daniel lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
See all previous articles by Daniel Strelan