zondag 17 november 2013



Some Gnostic Christians worshipped the serpent hung on a cross,
rod, or Tree of Life, calling it Christ the Savior, also a title of Hermes
the Wise Serpent represented by his own holy caduceus, the scepter
of two serpents. This was one of the oldest and most revered holy
symbols. "The usual mythological association of the serpent is not, as
in the Bible, with corruption, but with physical and spiritual health, as in
the Greek caduceus." To Sumerians it was an emblem of life,
appearing on art works like the Libation Cup of Gudea, ca. 2000 B.C.
In pre-Hellenic Greece the caduceus was displayed on healing temples
like those of Asclepius, Hygeia, and Panacea, which is why it is still an
international symbol of the medical profession. The caduceus is
found also in Aztec sacred art, enthroned like a serpent-deity on an
altar. North American Indians knew it too. A Navaho medicine man
said his people's sacred cave once featured "a stone carving of two
snakes intertwined, the heads facing east and west." 1
Hindu symbolism equated the caduceus with the central spirit of
the human body, the spinal column, with two mystic serpents twined
around it like the genetic double helix: ida-nadi to the left, pingala-nadi
to the right.

 Moses's brazen serpent on a pole, the mere sight of which cured
the Israelites, was probably a prophylactic caduceus (Numbers 21:9).
It was named Nehushtan, and worshipped in the tabernacle up to the
reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4). See Hermes.

Greek god of magic, letters, medicine, and occult wisdom, identified
with Thoth in Egypt, Mercury in Rome. He was really older than
Greece, one of the Aegean Great Mother's primal serpent-consorts,
partaking of her wisdom because he was once a part of her. Like India's
Ardhanarisvara-Kali and Shiva united in one body- Hermes was
the original "hermaphrodite" united in one body with Aphrodite.
Priests of Hermes wore artificial breasts and female garments to
preside over Aphrodite's Cyprian temple in the guise of the god
Hermes was a universal Indo-European god. An Enlightened One
born of the virgin Maia, he was the same as the Enlightened One
(Buddha) born of the same virgin Maya in India. The Mahanirvanatantra
said Buddha was the same as Mercury (Hermes), the son of the
Moon (Maya).2
Greeks called Hermes the Psychopomp, Conductor of Souls, the
same title everywhere given to the Lord of Death in his union with
the Lady of Life. Hermes had greater power over rebirth and reincarnation
than the heavenly father Zeus. It was Hermes who transferred
Dionysus from the womb of the Moon-goddess to Zeus's "thigh"
(penis) so he could be born from a male; apparently Zeus couldn't
accomplish this miracle for himself.3
His feminine wisdom credited Hermes with the invention of
civilized arts usually attributed to the Goddess: measuring and weighing,
astronomy and astrology, music, divination by knucklebones. He
helped the three Fates compose the alphabet.4 He could control the
elements. His caduceus could transform whatever it touched into gold,
which is why Hermes became the patron of alchemists.5
Ovid said Hermes was married to the lunar priestess of a sacred
fountain in Caria, the Land of the Goddess Car. He was also part of a
trinity with Mother Earth and Father Hades, and a phallic god of the
orgiastic Cabiri who worshipped Demeter Cabiria in the Mysteries of
Phrygia and Samothrace.6 ·
Hermes's phallic spirit protected crossroads throughout the GrecoRoman
world, in the form of herms, which were either stone phalli or
short pillars with Hermes's head at the top and an erect penis on the
front. During the Christian era, the herms were replaced by roadside
crosses, but the idea of setting these votive erections at crossroads was
pagan rather than Christian.
Saxons worshipped Hermes as the phallic spirit of the Hermeseul,
or lrminsul, planted in the earth at the Mother-mount of Heresburg
(Hera's Mount). It is now known as Eresburg, and a church of St. Peter
stands where Hermes's ancient sanctuary united the phallic principle
with Mother Earth. Other Germanic tribes worshipped Hermes under
the name of Thot or Teutatis, "Father of Teutons." 7 Hermes-
Mercury was the same as the Germanic father-god Woden, which is
why the Hermetic day, Wednesday, is Woden's Day in English but
Mercury's Day in Latin languages.
The Cross of Woden also represented Hermes as "the only
fourfold god." The sign of the cross traced by Christians on their
heads and breasts originated as one of the crosses of Hermes, the Arabic
numeral 4, often appearing upside down or backward as the Christians'
gesture drew it. 8 The medieval legend that witches made the sign
of the cross upside down or backward may have begun with worshippers
of Hermes; actually, Christians had reversed the cross-sign made by
the pagans instead of vice versa.
The cross marked Hermes a god of four-way crossroads, the four
quarters of the earth, the four elements, the four divisions of the
sacred year, the four winds, and the solstices and equinoxes represented
by their zodiacal totems Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius-the
bull, lion, serpent, and man-angel symbols adopted by Christians to
represent the four evangelists. 9 Sometimes, the cross of Hermes was
an ankh, standing on a crescent that signified his mother the moon.
evolved into the conventional sign of Mercury, a circle with a cross
Sign of Mercury (Hermes) below and a crescent above. 10
Hermes was also represented by the Gnostic "world" sign, a
Maltese cross with a circle at the end of each arm.11 This seems to
have referred to the four solstitial and equinoctial suns. Gnostics viewed
Hermes as a personification of the World Serpent, ruler of time, who
coiled around the terrestrial egg. 12 According to Gnostic Gospels, Jesus
told Mary that the serpent surrounded the world, with his tail in his
mouth, his body containing the twelve zodiacal halls-that is, he was
identified with the Egyptian Tuat (Thoth) and the druidic ouroboros,
also known as the Wise Serpent Hermes.13
Neoplatonic philosophers called Hermes the Logos, or Word of
God made flesh. 14 Christian images of Jesus as the Logos were
borrowed from the older deity, whose hymns addressed him in terms
similar to those used in the Gospels:
Lord of Creation, the All and One .... He is the light of my spirit; his be
the blessing of my powers . ... Hymn, 0 Truth, the Truth, 0 Goodness,
the Good, Life, and Light, from you comes as to you returns our
thanksgiving. I give thee thanks 0 Father, thou potency of my powers;
I give thee thanks 0 God, the power of my potencies. Thine own Word
through me hymns thee .... Thou pleroma in us, 0 Life, save us; 0
Light, enlighten us; 0 God, make us spiritual. The Spirit guards thy
Word. . .. From the Eternal I received blessing and what I seek. By thy
will have I found rest. 15
Naturally, Hermes became the "god within" sought by all
religious philosophers of the Gnostic period. (See Antinomianism.)
His traditional bisexuality was interpreted as self-love; some said he
invented the ritual of self-love, that is, masturbation. His caduceus was
called a masturbatory symbol, a rod massaged by the serpents that
embraced it. 16 Masturbation was said to be the hermit's typical act of
self-contemplation, which some claimed would lead to comprehension
of the God, just as sexual intercourse led to comprehension of the
Goddess. A "herm-et" was literally a little Hermes, with a divine
spirit dwelling in the phallus.

 Hermes lived on through the Middle Ages in a new disguise as
Hermes Trismegistus, Hermes the Thrice-Great One, founder of
systems of Hermetic magic, astrology, alchemy, and other blends of
mysticism with natural science. Lazzarelli' s Calix Christi et Crater
Hermetis (Chalice of Christ and Cup of Hermes) said all learning came
from Hermes, who gave it to Moses in Egypt. Agrippa von Nettesheim
often cited the authority of Hermes, whom he took for a
grandson of Abraham. Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy listed Hermes
as one of the great philosophers, along with Socrates, Plato,
Plotinus, Seneca, Epictetus, the Magi, and the druidsY A 16thcentury
treatise said the Hermetic vessel was "a uterus for the spiritual
renewal or rebirth of the individual . .. more to be sought than
scripture." 18
Hermetic magic was extensively cultivated by the Arabs, who
based much of their numerical and alchemical systems on Hermetic
lore. 19 Sufi mystics and eastern alchemists both claimed Hermes as an
initiate of their craft.20 After the crusades, Europeans developed a new
interest in what they regarded as the ancient wisdom of the east, and
became greatly impressed by any philosophy attributable to classical

About 1460 a Greek manuscript of the eastern Corpus Hermeticum
was presented to Cosimo de' Medici by a monk named
Leonardo da Pistoia. Other texts were added later to the grov.ing ~of
semi-secret "devilish arts" which commanded more and more of
the attention of European intellectuals. Sir Thomas Browne called
Hermetism "the mystical method of Moses bred up in the Hieroglyphical
Schools of the Egyptians," stating that the Egyptians
worshipped Hermes as Mercurius or Anubis, "the Scribe of Saturn,
and Counsellor of Osiris, the great inventor of their religious rites, and
Promoter of good unto Egypt." Hermes ascended to heaven in the
form of Sirius, the Great Dog. He was so revered in Italy that the
mosaics of Siena Cathedral portrayed him with the inscription,
"Hermes Mercury Trismegistus, Contemporary of Moses." 21
The Christian mythological figure most often assimilated to Hermes
was the archangel Michael, Angel of Death, with a function
resembling that of the ancient Psychopomp. "On the ruins of ancient
temples of Mercury, built generally on a hill, rose chapels dedicated
to St. Michael." A hill formerly sacred to Hermes-Mercury in France
still bears the name of Saint Michael-Mont-Mercure. It lies opposite
another "Michael's Mount" located across the channel in England.22
Spirits of the two mounts were both called Mercuri us in preChristian
times, perhaps representing the twin serpents that expressed
Hermes's dual function as lord of death and rebirth. The twin serpents
had many incarnations in alchemy and magic. Of them Flame!
wrote: "These are snakes and dragons, which the ancient Egyptians
painted in the form of a circle, each biting the other's tail, in order to
teach that they spring of and from one thing. These are dragons that the
old poets represent as guarding sleeplessly the golden apples of the
Hesperian maidens .... These are the two serpents that are fastened
around the herald's staff and the rod of Mercury." 23
Hermetic mysticism usually called the serpents male and female,
for the real secret of Hermetic power was androgyny. Like that of
Oriental gods, Hermes's efficacy depended on his union with the
female soul of the world, like the Aphrodite of his archaic duality. In
medieval texts she was called the Anima Mercury, a naked woman
surrounded by oval mandorla designs like the World card of the
Tarot pack.24 This card was the last of the Tarot trumps, and the
Magician, identified with Hermes, was the first numbered trump. A
Mantegna Tarot showed the Magician as a classic Mercury with
serpent-twined caduceus, winged helmet, and flute, stepping over a
severed head-symbol of oracles-toward a cock, the symbol of
annunciation. 25


Egyptian god of magic words and writing, which he acquired from his
consort Seshat, or Maat. He was identified with the Greek Hermes. His
holy city was known as Hermopolis, "City of Hermes." Priests of
Hermopolis pretended that Thoth had created the world, either by
hatching the World Egg (which he encircled in the form of the
Gnostic Serpent), or by speaking the words of creation, after the
manner of the biblical God. (See Logos; Ur-Text.) The Book of
Thoth was a famous legendary work supposed to reveal the secrets of
manipulating matter by verbal charms.
Like Hermes and other manifestations of the Wise Serpent, Thoth
owed his powers to his former close association with the Great
Mother. He was lunar in nature, rather than solar. When he ascended
to heaven, he became the guardian of the Moon gates.1


"Shepherd of Men," a title of Hermes Trismegistus as psychopomp
or Conductor of Souls. According to the Hermetic scriptures called
Poimandres, the enlightened soul under the benevolent direction of
Hermes could ascend to heaven by giving up its sins to each of the
planetary spheres in turn, becoming one with the Heavenly Powers,
then entering the essential being of God. "This is the good end of those
who have attained gnosis: to become God." 1 See Antinomianism.
A medieval prophet named Giovanni Mercurio da Correggio
assimilated himself to Poimandres who seems to have been, in this
context, a reincarnation ofJesus. He arrived in Rome one Palm
Sunday, riding a white ass and leading a procession. He wore a crown
of thorns, topped by a crescent bearing the legend: "This is my son
Pimander, [sic] whom I have chosen .... Thus speaks the Lord God
and the Father of every talisman in the world, Jesus of Nazareth." This
Hermetic hero marched to the Vatican to lay his magic tools on the
altar, declaring that he had come down from heaven with power to
judge the quick and the dead. He wandered about Italy for years,
preaching and working magic. He was suspected of heresy but as he was
sponsored by Lorenzo de' Medici and other influential patrons, the
Inquisition let him alone.2


Germanic version of the priapic Hermes, worshipped as a giant
phallus at Eresburg, the Mount of Mother Earth (Hera). Teutatis was
also called a Lord of Death, and a father of "Teutons." 1

Often dismissed as a "Greek goddess of love," Aphrodite was really
much more than that. Like Kali, she was a Virgin-Mother-Crone
trinity. She was once indistinguishable from the Fates (Moirai); her
old name was Moira, and she was said to be older than Time. She governed
the world by ius naturale, the natural law of the maternal clan.1
She was not only Greek. She was the Dea Syria, also known as
Asherah or Astarte, Goddess of the oldest continuously-occupied
temple in the world.2 She was the ancestral mother of the Romans, for
she gave birth to their founding father, Aeneas.3 Under the name of
Venus, she was the mother of the Venetii, whose capital city became
Venice, called "Queen of the Sea" after the Goddess herself.
One of Aphrodite's major centers of worship was the city of
Paphos on Cyprus, the island named for its copper mines. Thus, she
was called "the Cyprian" or "the Paphian," and her sacred metal was
copper. She was also called Mari, the Sea. Egyptians referred to her
island as Ay-Mari.4
During the Christian era, Aphrodite's temple on Cyprus was
converted into a sanctuary of the virgin Mary, another name of the
same Goddess, but in this sanctuary the virgin Mary is hailed to this day
as Panaghia Aphroditessa, "All-holy Aphrodite." 5
Continued worship of the goddess on Cyprus probably contributed
to the Christian belief that the whole population of Cyprus descended
from demons.6 In reality, Cyprian Aphrodite was like all other
manifestations of the Great Goddess: ruling birth, life, love, death,
time, and fate, reconciling man to all of them through sensual and
sexual mysticism. The Cyprian sage Zenon taught Aphrodite's philosophy:
"mankind and the universe were bound tqgether in the system
of fate .... Diogenes Laertios tells us that Zenon was the first to
define the end of human existence as 'life in accordance with nature.' " 7
Aphrodite had almost as many "emanations" as Thousand-Named
Kali. She was not only Mari and Moira and Marina and Pelagia and
Stella Maris, all titles related to her control of the sea; she was also
Ilithyia, Goddess of childbirth; Hymen, Goddess of marriage; Venus,
Goddess of sexuality and the hunt; Urania, Queen of Heaven; Androphonos,
the Destroyer of Men; and many others. She was often
identified with Isis. Anchises, her lover who begot Aeneas and then was
castrated, had a name meaning "he who mates with lsis." 8 Under
several of her names, Aphrodite mated with Semitic gods. Her cult
occupied the main temple in Jerusalem after 70 A.D. In the 4th
century it was said that Constantine's mother found the true cross of
Christ buried in Aphrodite's Jerusalem temple. (See Cross.)
One of Aphrodite's greatest shrines in Asia Minor was the city of
Aphrodisias, once dedicated to Ishtar. Up to the 12th century A.D.,
when the city was taken by Seljuk Turks, the Goddess was worshipped
there as the patron of arts and letters, crafts, and culture.9 Recent
excavations have uncovered exquisite artifacts and statuary, bespeaking
a cultivated and sophisticated lifestyle under the Goddess's rule. 10
The calendar still keeps the name of Aphrodite on the month
dedicated to her, April (Aphrilis). The ancient Kalendar of Romulus
said this was the month of Venus. 11

Aphrodite, Pan & Eros

Aphrodite's totem, the bird of sexual passion, symbolically equivalent
to the yoni.1 In India, too, the dove was paravata, the symbol of lust.2
Joined to her consort the phallic serpent, the Dove-goddess stood for
sexual union and "Life."
The phrase attributed to Jesus, "Be ye therefore wise as serpents,
and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16), was no random metaphor
but a traditional invocation of the Syrian God and Goddess.3 The
Oriental meaning was remembered by the gypsies, whose folk tales
said the souls of ancestors lived inside magic hollow mountains, the men
having been changed into serpents and the women into doves.4
Christians adopted the feminine dove as a symbol of the Holy
Ghost, originally the Goddess Sophia, representing God's "Wisdom"
as the Goddess Metis represented the "Wisdom" of Zeus. Gnostic
Christians said Sophia was incarnate in the dove that impregnated the
virgin Mary, the same dove that descended on Jesus at his baptism to
impregnate his mind (Matthew 3:16). Pious admirers of Pope Gregory
the Great made him even more saintly than Jesus by reporting that
the Holy Ghost in dove shape descended on him not once but many
times.5 All this was copied from Roman iconography which showed the
human soul as a dove that descended from the Dove-goddess's
oversoul to animate the body.6
Aphrodite as a bringer of death, or "peace," sometimes bore the
name of Irene, Dove of Peace. Another of her death-goddess names
was Epitymbria, "She of the Tombs." 7 Romans called her Venus
Columba, Venus-the-Dove. Her catacombs, mausoleums, and necropoli
were known as columbaria, "dovecotes." 8 Thus the soul
returning to the Goddess after death was again envisioned as a dove.
From this image, Christians copied their belief that the souls of saints
became white doves that flew out of their mouths at the moment of
death. In the Catholic ceremony of canonization, white doves are
released from cages at the crucial moment of the ritual.9
Christian iconography showed seven rays emanating from the
dove of the Holy Ghost: an image that went back to some of the most
primitive manifestations of the Goddess.10 In the Orient, the mystic
seven were the Pleiades or "Seven Sisters," whose Greek name
meant "a flock of doves." They were daughters or "rays" of Aphrodite
under her title of Pleione, Queen of the Sea.11 Hemdotus said seven
holy women known as Doves founded the oracles of Dodona, Epirus,
and Theban Amon.12 They were worshipped in the Middle East as
Seven Sages or Seven Pillars of Wisdom: the seven woman-shaped
pillars that had been upholding temples of the Goddess since the
third millenium B.C.13 See Caryatid. Arabs still revere the Seven Sages,
and some remember that they were women, or "doves." 14 The
Semitic word for "dove," ione, was a cognate of "yoni" and related to
the Goddess Uni, who later became Iune, or Juno.
The cult of the Doves used to incorporate primitive rites of
castration and its modification, circumcision. India called the seven
Sisters "razors" or "cutters" who judged and "critically" wounded men,
the Krittikas, "Seven Mothers of the World," root of the Greek
kritikos, "judge." They killed and gave rebirth to gods who were
castrated to make them fertile, like women. The name of Queen
Semiramis, legendary founder of Babylon, also meant "Dove" in the
Syrian tongue. She was said to have castrated all her consorts.15
When circumcision replaced castration, the doves were involved in
that too. Even Christian symbolism made the connection. The
official symbol of the Festival of the Circumcision of Christ was a dove,
holding in its beak a ring representing the Holy Prepuce. "Christ's
fructifying blood" was linked with the similar emblem of Pentecost,
which showed the descending dove on a background of blood red,
officially described as a representation of the church fertilized by the
blood of Christ and the martyrs.16
A certain "maiden ma~tyr" called St. Columba (Holy Dove) was
widely revered, especially in France, although she never existed as a
human being.17 Another curious survival of pagan dove-lore was the
surname given to St. Peter: Bar-Iona, "Son of the Dove." 18 Some
survivals may have been invented to explain the doves appearing on
ancient coins as symbols of Aphrodite and Astarte.19

Columba, Saint

"Holy Dove," a spurious canonization of Aphrodite as a "maiden
martyr" Columba of Sens.1 Celtic myth called her Colombe, the yoni
maiden mated to Lancelot as a lightning bolt, the Phallus of Heaven.2
See Lightning.


 Literally "Virgin of the Sea," the mermaid was an image of fish-tailed
Aphrodite, the medieval Minne, Maerin, Mari, Marina, mereminne,
mare-mynd, mareminde, marraminde, or maraeman.1 Her Death-
goddess aspect, sometimes named Ran, received the souls of those put
to sea in funeral boats; or, she might trap living men in her fish net.
Teutons said drowned men went to dwell in the house of Ran.2
An English law, still on the books in the 19th century, officially
claimed for the Crown "all mermaids found in British waters." 3


"Celestial One," title of Aphrodite as Queen of Heaven. Her former
consort Uranus was transformed into her castrated "father" in classical
myth; Uranus's patricidal son threw his severed genitals into the sea,
and the sea-womb brought forth Aphrodite. Actually, Celestial Aphrodite
and the sea-womb were one and the same: manifestations of the
Triple Goddess. The castrated dying god was her ubiquitous son-lover
who died, fertilized her by his death, and begot himself again.
Uranus was a western form of Varuna, a deity of indeterminate
sex, sometimes a male-turned-female like Hermes or Teiresias. To
the Persians he was varan a spirit of sexual intercourse like the Hindu
Kama. His name came from vr, to envelop-a female function-and
he performed female-imitative miracles, such as turning water into
blood, giving birth to the sun, and measuring the earth.1 From the
Asian precedents it may be assumed that Urania and Uranus were the
same primal androgyne as Jana-Janus, Diana-Dianus, etc.


"Health," title of Mother Rhea Coronis at her healing shrine of
Titane. The name was applied to one of the Goddess's milk-giving
breasts. The other was Panacea. Later worshippers of the doctor-god
Asclepius made Hygeia and Panacea his "daughters."


"All-healer," one of the divine daughters of MotheJ Rhea Coronis at
her Pelasgian sanctuary ofTitane. Another daughter was Hygeia,
"Health." To this day, both Goddesses are invoked in the medical
Hippocratic Oath.1 The two seem to have been personifications of the
Great Mother's breasts, source of the Milk of Kindness and the balm
of healing.
Egyptians said the remedy for almost every ill was "the milk of a
woman who has given birth to a child: such is the sweet perfume"
that could expel demons of sickness.2 Panacea and Hygeia were
comparable to Egypt's Two Mistresses, Buto and Nekhbet, whose
milk bestowed divinity on pharaohs and health on everyone.3 Buto was
the same nursing-mother Goddess called Latona, Lada, Leto or
Leda, the Babylonians' Allatu, the Arabs' Al-Lat (who later became
Allah). Etruscans called her Lat, mother of Latium and giver of
moon-milk. Latopolis, "Milk-City," was the Greek name for Buto's
oracular shrine, the oldest in Egypt.4
Medieval Europe continued to believe in the curative virtues of
mother's milk. It was said that any mother could cure her infant's sore
eyes by squirting her milk into them.5 Male doctors often recommended
woman-milk for the sick.
Ironically, one of the last superstitious believers in Panacea was
Pope Innocent VIII, author of the infamous bull Summis Desiderantes,
which laid the legal foundations for persecution of witches and
caused the torture and death of millions of women. In his last illness,
Pope Innocent tried to fend off his own death by living on a woman's
breast milk.6 The magic didn't work; he died.

Eugenia, Saint

"Healer" or "Health," a title of the Goddess converted into a
fictitious "virgin martyr." Her legend claimed she was one of the
women who entered a Christian sect by "turning herself into a man,"
for some sects would not admit women unless they did this.1 St.
Eugenia accordingly became a monk and called herself Brother
Eugenius. The same story told of all she-monks was told of her: she was
falsely accused of rape and condemned to a life of expiation, which
she patiently endured. Still, the healing miracles attributed to her shrines
were older than her Christian legend, showing that she was really the
Goddess whose "eugenic" springs were even more popular in the 1st
century than Lourdes or Compostela in the 20th.2

Angel of Healing, Muir, Sedona

It was a general belief in the ancient world that snakes don't die of old
age like other animals, but periodically shed their skins and emerge
renewed or reborn into another life. Greeks called the snake's cast
skin geras, "old age." The Chinese envisioned resurrection of the dead
as a man splitting his old skin and coming out of it as a youth again,
like a snake. Melanesians say "to slough one's skin" means eternal life.
A basic serpent-myth said the dual Moon-goddess of life and death
made the first man. Her bright aspect suggested making him immortal
like a snake, able to shed his skin; but her dark aspect insisted that he
should die and be buried in the earth.1 Eternal life and serpenthood are
still equated in the Italian expression aver piu anni d'un serpente"
being older than a serpent."
The ageless serpent was originally identified with the Great
Goddess herself. Hinduism's Ananta the Infinite was the serpentmother
who embraced Vishnu and other gods during their "dead"
phase.2 She was also Kundalini, the inner female soul of man in serpent
shape, coiled in the pelvis, induced through proper practice of yoga to
uncoil and mount through the spinal chakras toward the head, bringing
infinite wisdom. The Serpent-goddess occupied the famous Khmer
temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia where she embraced the king every
night. If one night the Goddess did not appear, it was a sign that the
king must be killed and a new king chosen.3
The Negritos said the divine people called Chinoi (Chinese) were
descended from a mighty Serpent-goddess named Mat Chinoi,
Mother of the Chinese. In her belly lived beautiful angels who received
the souls of the dead. Since her womb was Paradise, shamans
underwent their death-and-rebirth initiations by entering the serpent's
The ancient Aegean world worshipped primarily women and
serpents. Men didn't participate in religious ceremonies until late in
the Bronze Age, when Cretan kings were allowed to become priests of
the bull-god. Even then, the priest's role was subordinate to that of
the priestess, until the priest himself took the title of "serpent." 5 The
word for "priest" among ancient Akkadian peoples literally meant
"snake charmer."6
The Indian Serpent-goddess Kadru gave birth to all the Nagas or
cobra people, and made them immortal by feeding them her divine
lunar blood.7 She had a Babylonian counterpart, the Goddess Kadi of
Der, worshipped as a serpent with a woman's head and breasts.8 Her
children like the Nagas were depicted as water-serpents, human from
the waist up, like mermaids and mermen. The Nagas guarded "great
treasures of wealth and precious stones, and sometimes books of secret
teachings in underwater palaces."9
A similar serpent guarded the wonderful Book of Thoth, which
was hidden in an underwater palace. 10 Like his Greek twin Hermes,
Thoth was often incarnate in a snake, signifying his magical wisdom.
Egypt agreed with India in depicting the first serpent as a totemic
form of the Great Mother herself. Egypt's archaic Mother of Creation
was a serpent, Per-Uatchet or Buto. The Egyptian uraeus-snake was
a hieroglyphic sign for "Goddess." 11 Incongruously, "Uraeus" later
became one of the most popular "secret names of God" listed in
Magic Papyri and medieval texts of sorcery.
Egypt's Serpent-goddess also had the title of Mehen the Enveloper,
similar to Kundalini or Ananta. Each night, Mehen enfolded
the ram-headed god Auf-Ra (Phallus of Ra) during his sojourn in the
uterine underworld. This was a mythic image of the king' s sexual
union with his Goddess, reminiscent of the custom of Angkor Wat. 12 At
Philae, the Serpent-goddess received the title of Anqet, from anq, to
surround, to embrace. 13 "Serpent of the Nile" was the title, not only of
Cleopatra, but of all Egyptian queens who represented the nation and
the Goddess embracing the king.
The birth-and-death Goddesses Isis and Nephthys became identified
with the dual Serpent-mother of life and after-life. Only they
could help the soul through the section of the underworld inhabited by
serpent deities, Egypt's version of the Nagas. 14 The Mahabharata
depicts a hero seeking immortality in a similar underworld called "city of
serpents," where the dual Mother of Life and Death wove the web of
nights and days with black and white thread, binding them with the red
thread of life. 15
The Akkadian Goddess Ninhursag, "She Who Gives Life to the
Dead," was also called "Mistress of Serpents" as yet another form of
Kadru or Kadi. 16 Babylon's version of her made her a dark twin of the
Heaven-goddess Ishtar, calling her Lamia or Lamashtu, "Great
Lady, Daughter of Heaven." Cylinder seals showed her squatting, Kali-like,
over her mate, the god Pazuzu, he of the serpent penis. 17 As
another Lord of Death, he gave himself up to be devoured by the
Goddess. The image of the male snake deity enclosed or devoured by
the female gave rise to a superstitious notion about the sex life of snakes,
reported by Pliny and solemnly believed in Europe even up to the
20th century: that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting
his head in her mouth and letting her eat him. 18
The male serpent deity became the phallic consort of the Great
Mother, sometimes a "father" of races, because he was the Mother's
original mate. In some myths, he was no more than a living phallus she
created for her own sexual pleasure. In other myths, she allowed him
to take part in the work of creation or to fertilize her world-producing
womb. When the serpent-creator turned arrogant and tried to pre-
tend that he alone made the universe, the Goddess punished him,
bruising his head with her heel and banishing him to the underworld.
19 On this version of the creation myth the Jews based their
notion of Eve's progeny bruising the serpent's head, and the rabbinical
opinion that the serpent was Eve's first lover and the true father of
Actually, the serpent was worshipped in Palestine long before
Yahweh's cult arose. Early Hebrews adopted the serpent-god all their
contemporaries revered, and the Jewish priestly clan of Levites were
"sons of the Great Serpent," i.e., of Leviathan, "the wriggly one." 21
He was worshipped in combination with his Goddess, the moon. 22 The
Bible shows that Yahweh was a hostile rival of the serpent Leviathan,
for the two gods battled each other (Psalms 74: 14; 89: l 0, Isaiah 51 :9).
They would engage in another final battle at doomsday (Isaiah 27:1;
Revelation 12).
Another Jewish name for the Great Serpent was Nehushtan,
described as the god of Moses. Hebrew nahash, "serpent," descended
from an ancient Vedic serpent-king, Nahusha, once "the supreme ruler
of heaven," until he was cast down to the underworld by a rival. 23
Nehushtan was the same god whose image Moses made: a "fiery
serpent" according to Numbers 21:8. The Israelites worshipped him
until the reign of Hezekiah, when the new priesthood "cut down the
groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made"
(2 Kings 18:4).
Yet serpent worship continued in Israel. Seraph, the Hebrew word
for the divine fiery serpent, used to mean an earth-fertilizing lightning-
snake, and later became an angel.24 The seraphim were originally
serpent-spirits, like those of the caduceus created by Hermes the
Great Serpent and copied by Mosaic tradition. Jewish medallions of the
lst and 2nd centuries B.C. represented Jehovah as a serpent god, like
the "snake-tailed winds" of the Greeks.25 Jews of Asia Minor said their
Jehovah was the same as Zeus Sabazius the serpent god of Phrygia.26
Some Jewish Gnostics early in the Christian era maintained that the
post-exilic Jehovah was no god, but a devil, the usurper of the original
Kingdom of the Wise Serpent. 27
Much Gnostic literature praised the serpent of Eden for bringing
the "light" of knowledge to humanity, against the will of a tyrannical
God who wanted to keep humans ignorant.28 This view of the Eden
myth dated back to Sumero-Babylonian sources that said man was made
by the Earth Mother out of mud and placed in the garden "to dress it
and to keep it" (Genesis 2:15) for the gods, because the gods were too
lazy to do their own farming and wanted slaves to plant, harvest, and
give them offerings. 29 The gods agreed that their slaves should never
learn the godlike secret of immortality, lest they get above themselves
and be ruined for work. Therefore, as the Epic of Gilgamesh reports,
the gods gave death to humanity, and "Life they kept in their own
hands." 30
In one of the interwoven Genesis stories, God was not one but
many, the elohim or "gods-and-goddesses." 31 The God of Eden
remarked to his divine colleagues, "Behold, the man is become as one
of us, to know good and evil"; therefore he must be ejected from the
garden at once, lest he "take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for
ever" (Genesis 3:22). The serpent's teachings would have led man to
conquer death and become godlike, against the will of the elohim.
The Hypostasis of the Archons showed that the serpent was a
totemic form of the Goddess, apparently taking pity on her doomed
creature and seeking to instruct him in the attainment of eternal life:
"The Female Spiritual Principle came in the Snake, the Instructor,
and it taught them, saying, 'you shall not die; for it was out of jealousy
that he said this to you. Rather, your eyes shall open, and you shall
become like gods, recognizing evil and good.' " Then "the arrogant
Ruler" (God) cursed the serpent and the woman.32 Some Gnostic
sects honored both Eve and the serpent for their efforts on behalf of
The present form of the biblical story is obviously a much-revised
version of the original tales of the Great Mother and her serpent.
Babylonian icons showed the Goddess attended by her snake, offering
man the food of immortality. The Pyramid Texts said it was the
serpent who offered the food of eternal life. 34 As Ophion, or Ophi, he
was the ancestor of the African serpent god Obi, whose name is still
preserved in the voodoo-magic system, Obeah. 35 The Bible uses a
Hebrew version of the name, obh, for the familiar spirit of the Witch
of Endor, and the Vulgate renders this word "python." 36 In Dahomey,
the primal Mother-Creatress Mawu was supported by a Great
Gnostic accounts of the Eden myth used the Aramaic pun
identifying Eve, the Teacher, and the Serpent: Hawah, Mother of
All Living; hawa, to instruct; and hewya, Serpent.38 Eve's name in
Arabic still combines the idea of "life" (hayyat) with the name of the
serpent (Hayyat). 39 Hippolytus viewed the serpent as a feminine Logos,
"the wise Word of Eve. This is the mystery of Eden: this is the river
that flows out of Eden. This is also the mark that was set on Cain, whose
sacrifice the God of this world did not accept whereas he accepted
the bloody sacrifice of Abel: for the lord of this world delights in blood.
This Serpent is he who appeared in the latter days in human form at
the time of Herod."40
Arabian tradition identified the food of immortality with the female
uterine blood, colored "royal purple"; and the Mother's uterine
garden with the moon temple at Marib in Sheba. Legend said the
serpents of Sheba were purple with the divine essence, and lived in
trees; the people were serpentlike, with forked tongues, great wisdom,
and longevity.41 From Sheba might have come the mysterious lifegiving
substance called shiba in the Epic of Gilgamesh, dispensed by the
wife of Uta-Napishtim (Noah), who had become the only immortal
 man; his wife therefore was a Goddess. When this holy matriarch gave
shiba to Gilgamesh, he shed his old, diseased skin like a snake, and
emerged from it reborn.42
Persians also maintained the symbolic connections between menstrual
blood and the serpent's secret of longevity. Mithraists claimed
immortality was conferred by the blood of the sacrificial bull, but a
serpent was there to collect the blood as it flowed from the hull's
body; and this blood was imitation-menstrual blood in that it was
"delivered by the moon."43
Immortality was the special province of the skin-shedding Serpent
and the blood-bestowing Goddess from earliest times. Some of the
very oldest traditions of the Great Serpent identified him with the
Earth's intestines. Archaic serpent gods like Egyptian A pep and
Sumerian Khumbaba were said to "resemble intestines." 44 In this
connection, the biblical phrase for birth or rebirth was "separation
from the bowels." Serpents understood how to restore life to the dead,
according to the myths of Crete, where the sorcerer Polyidos learned
the serpents' secret and won great honor at the Minoan court by
bringing the dead prince Glaucus back to life.45
Many Gnostic traditions identified the Serpent with Jesus. In the
Pistis Sophia, Jesus was the serpent who spoke to Eve "from the tree
of knowledge and the tree of life, which were in the paradise of Adam."
Jewish Naassians (Serpent-worshippers) said the serpent was the
Messiah. Magic Papyri called him "World Ruler, the Great Serpent,
leader of gods ... the god of gods." 46 Some Christians held that the
serpent was the father of Jesus, having "overshadowed" the bed of the
virgin Mary and begotten the human form of the Savior.
These traditions were still extant, though hidden, in Renaissance
times. Bartel Bruyn's Gnostic-symbolic painting of the Annunciation
showed an unmistakably Hermetic serpent-caduceus as the rod extended
toward Mary by the impregnating angel Gabriel. The Dove
poised in a halo in its tip, making a sign like a cross between a fairy-wand
and the emblem of Venus.47 This made a combined symbol of the
male-and-female mystery of the Serpent and Dove, which was inserted
into the mouth of Jesus according to Matthew 10:16. Many theologians
claimed the crucified serpent Nehushtan was a prophecy of Jesus:
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must
the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3: 15). In the 16th century, German
smiths made golden thalers with a crucified Christ on one side and a
crucified serpent on the other, hinting that they were two faces of the
same redeemer.48
Every mythology had some form of the World Serpent. Like the
Hermetic or Gnostic serpent encircling the World Egg, he was a
basic Indo-European religious symbol. Norse myth called him the
Midgard-Worm, who encircled the whole round of Middle-Earth
(Midgard), his tail in his mouth.49 Russians called him Koshchei the
Deathless, encircler of the underworld. 50 This seems to have been a
variation of the Japanese dragon of sea-tides, Koshi. 51 Egyptians called
him Sata (Satan), or the Tuat, on whose back the sun god rode
through the underworld each night. Greeks called him Okeanos, the
sea-serpent of the outermost ocean.
Often the Heavenly Father assumed this serpent form, like Zeus
Meilichios, worshipped as a gigantic serpent in the 4th century B.C. 52
In the shape of a serpent he became the consort of chthonian Persephone.
53 He also begot heroes on mortal women. Alexander the Great
was allegedly fathered by God who in the form of a serpent impregnated
his mother, Queen Olympias.54
The Pyramid Texts spoke of the serpent as both subterranean and
celestial. In his heavenly aspect, he was a dispenser of immortality. 55
As the divine phallus in perpetual erection he was the Tree of Life, or
axis mundi, a Pole passing through the center of heaven and earth that
is, Father Heaven coupled to the Goddess's "hub." His eye was
seen as the pole star. In 3000 B.C., the pole star was Alpha Draconis,
the Serpent's Eye. 56
The Mahabharata said the pole star to which the yoke of the world
was fixed was "the supreme snake, Vasuki." The same snake was the
phallic god who stirred the uterine Abyss at creation, according to the
Vedas. 57 Like the God of Genesis, the Vedic deity lndra claimed to
have cast down the Great Serpent from heaven into the worldencircling
abyss of the outer ocean. 58 Like the Bible story, this myth
re-interpreted the original meaning of the serpent as a descending,
fertilizing phallus.
The sexual image of the phallic serpent's head as the Jewel in the
Lotus ramified into many versions of the myth of menarche: the
belief that menstruation was initiated by copulation with a supernatural
snake (see Menstrual Blood). According to this imagery, the divine
male serpent acquired a "blood-red jewel" in his head. Hindus said all
the great snakes carried blood-red rubies of immortality in their
heads. 59
Germans remembered this Aryan lore, and said a serpent with a
magic stone in its head would be found at the root of a hazel tree-witchwood-
near mistletoe. The serpent's stone was sacred to the
moon, and was identified with the Philosopher's Stone, which could
bring eternal life.60 Remnants of the serpent's phallic symbolism
appeared in medieval magic charms, such as the conviction that "female
diseases" could be cured by applying to the sufferer a staff with which
a snake had been beaten.61
In 13th-century France, a snake on a pole like the Ophites' image
of Christ was carried in triumphal procession during Easter Week to
the baptismal font of the church.62 Sometimes the fetish was an
enormous stuffed serpent, like a Chinese carnival dragon. Churchmen
tried to assimilate the custom by saying' the serpent was the devil
"driven from his kingdom by the Passion of Christ"; but this was but
a lame explanation for a rite that was already old when Christianity was
Early Ophite Christians adopted serpent worship and claimed
Moses as the founder of their sect, alleging that Moses taught the
Jews to worship the serpent in the wilderness.64 Besides, the serpent had
certainly given knowledge to Adam and Eve, and therefore was a
savior of humanity, an earlier incarnation of Christ who also suffered at
God's hands for the enlightenment he brought. The Ophites' holy
serpents were made to twine around the bread of the Eucharist, and
were adored hanging on crosses. Ophite "colleges" still existed in
Bithynia in the 5th century A.D., when bishops began leading mobs to
wreck the Ophite churches.65
Medieval Hermetists worshipped the serpent as Ouroboros, king of
magic, a syncretic mixture of the Ophites' Christ-Ophion, the
Greeks' Hermes, the Phoenicians' Taaut, the Egyptians' Tuat, and
other ancient snake-tailed gods including the underground oracle
Python.66 Ouroboros was linked with the Chinese pi-dragon, symbol of
the universe, carved on jade discs as a dragon or serpent eating its
own tail.67 This may have been the prototype of the serpent Python and
the Pythagoreans' worship of pi as the mystic numerical principle of
the circle. Two serpents eating each other's tails combined the yangand-
yin mandala with the caduceus, expressing the bisexual nature of
Hermes and all cyclic alternations: birth/death, summer/winter, light/
dark, etc. The Ouroboros was still pictured under the earth in certain
European areas, and some people claimed to be able to feel his slow
movements through their feet when they stood in the ancient shrines.
Book of Thoth
Legendary Egyptian
magical text supposed
to have been
written by the god
Thoth, found in the necropolis
at Memphis
by a young prince
named Satni-
Magic Papyri
of exorcisms,
invocations, charms,
and spells widely circulated
during the early
Christian era, used as
bases for later grimoires
and Hermetic
epic poem,
consisting of historical
and legendary
material gathered between
the 4th and lOth
centuries A.D., including
the famous


"The Infinite," a great serpent in whose coils Hindu gods spent their
periods of sleep or death between periods of activity.1 The serpent
might be compared to the ancient Egyptian goddess Mehen the
Enveloper, a serpent who enfolded Ra every night when he was "dead"
in the underworld. The sex of the eternal serpent was indeterminate.
Earlier myths tended to see it as female, a cosmic Kundalini. Later
Vedic traditions tended to view Ananta as male.


Egyptian serpent symbol, a hieroglyphic sign for "Goddess," suggesting
that in pre-dynastic times it was thought all serpents were female
and divine. The serpent-mother was one of Egypt's oldest divinities,
and her uraeus-snake idol signified healing. Moses copied this Egyptian
magic with his "brazen serpent" (Numbers 21:9). Egyptian rulers
wore the uraeus-snake in the form of a rearing cobra on the forehead,
representing the "third eye" of mystical insight. Despite patriarchal
opposition to the symbol of the she-serpent Uraeus, among later
Gnostic Christians her name became one of the "secret names of
God." See Serpent.


Greek name of the Hermetic World Serpent, sometimes the Seaserpent
Oceanus encircling the earth; sometimes the underground
Python coiled in the earth's womb; otherwise known as Sata, Leviathan,
Taaut, Tuat, Thoth, Ophion, etc. See Serpent.


Greco-Roman water-serpent deity supposed to surround the earth
with his vast body, holding his tail in his mouth to form a continuous
barrier of water at the outer limits of the world. Oceanus was often
confused with Neptune, Poseidon, Ouroboros, Taaut, or Python.
Oceanus was married to the primal Sea-goddess Tethys, or Thetis.
His name meant "He who belongs to the Swift Queen." 1


Semitic serpent god whose idol was made by Moses (2 Kings 18:4).
Hebrew Nehushtan or Nahash, "serpent," descended from the Vedic
serpent-king Nahusha, once ruler of all the gods, later cast down to
the underworld by Indra.1 Gnostic Jews worshipped Nehushtan in the
first few centuries A.D. and were known as Naassians, "snake-worshippers,"
counterparts of the Ophites (see Serpent).


"Wriggly One," Hebrew title of the Great Serpent Nehushtan,
whose worship was established by Moses (2 Kings 18:4 ).1 The priestly
name Levi meant a son of Leviathan, who was once another form of
Yahweh even though later centuries converted him into a demon. The
bishop's miter evolved from the headdress of Levite priests. 2 See


Roman name for the god of erotic love, Greek Eros, Hindu Kama.
Cupid was the son of Venus and Mercury (Aphrodite and Hermes),
and was therefore a "Herm-Aphrodite," signifying sexual union.
In Christian usage, the ancient significance of sexual desire was
confused with desire for money, hence the modern "cupidity," which
used to mean "lust" but now means greed. In the same way, Latin
caritas was altered from sensual or sexual giving to the modern
"charity," giving of money.
Renaissance art made emanations of Cupid into amoretti, "little
loves," shown as winged babies. But ancient talismans of Cupid were
not babies; they were winged phalli of bronze, ivory, or wood, which
gave rise to an Italian slang term for the penis, uccello, "little bird." 1


"Erotic-desire" plus "Fear-of-death," a dual spirit who tempted
Buddha during his solitary meditation. The Upanishads said Kama-Mara
was the Self, source of both desire and fear. 1 But Mara was
once the mother of the Maruts or nature-spirits; Kama was the Vedic
equivalent of Eros; it seems likely that they were combined in an
archaic period as a sexual androgyne. The "demonic" combination
expressed the ascetics' belief that eroticism drew the flesh of men
toward destruction.
A Buddhist legend said the Blessed One met the challenge of
Kama-Mara by touching the earth with his fingers, thus invoking the
irresistible power of the universal Mother, who protected him. 2


Many Indo-European religions tried to combine male and female in the
Primal Androgyne, both sexes in one body, often with two heads
and four arms. The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad said the Primal Androgyne
was "of the same size and kind as man and woman closely
embracing." I Some said the male and female elements lived together in
one skin, experiencing constant sexual bliss and spiritual
Shiva and Shakti-Kali appeared as the androgyne Ardhanarisvara,
the right side male, the left side female.2 Rudra, the older form of
Shiva, was known as "the Lord Who is Half Woman.'' 3 Brahma
and Vishnu also appeared as bisexual beings united with their Shaktis.
Chinese Taoists held the mandala of Yang and Yin to represent the
Western myths also assigned androgyny to the elder gods or the
first human beings. The Orphic creation myth said the firstborn deity
was a double-sexed Phanes or Eros, "Carnal Love," whose female half
was Psyche, the soul, Greek equivalent of Shakti. 4 Hermes owed his
phenomenal wisdom to his former androgynous ex:stence with Mother
Aphrodite, as double-sexed Hermaphroditus. 5
Often, the androgyne appeared in myth as male-female twins born
simultaneously, e.g. Isis-Osiris, Jana-Janus, Diana-Dianus, FaunaFaunus,
Helen-Helenus, or Artemis-Apollo, the "moon and sun"
united in their Mother's womb. Probably an androgynous image on
Apollo's altar at Delos gave rise to the story that he copulated with his
sister Artemis on that altar. Several forms of the sun god were
represented as requiring close physical union with the moon goddess, as
even Brahma was useless without his female counterpart Bhavani,
"Being."6 Egypt's "supreme" sun god was often an androgyne; the sun
was his right eye, the moon his left.7 The same androgynous being is
still worshipped in Dahomey as Nana-Buluku, Moon-Sun, who created
the world and gave birth to the first pair of human beings.8
Many myths model the first human beings on the androgyne.
Persians said the first pair in the garden of Heden (Eden) lived
together in one body, until Ahura Mazda separated them. Jewish
imitators of the Persians also said Adam and Eve were united in a
bisexual body. Some rabbinical sources said Eve was not "taken out
of" Adam; they were parted from one another by a jealous God who
resented their sexual bliss, which was too Godlike for human beings,
and should be reserved for deities. Casting man out of the "garden"
meant detaching him from the female body, often symbolized by the
Hebrew pardes, "garden."9 This was another way of saying the
original sin that angered God was not disobedience but sex. 10
Greek myths of the Golden Age told the same tale of a jealous
God: Zeus, who punished humanity's friend Prometheus with
eternal torture because he tricked the Heavenly Father for humanity's
advantage (see Sacrifice). The people of the Golden Age had been
created androgynous by Prometheus, who made their bodies of clay,
and Athene, who gave them life. Father Zeus took out his anger on
them by tearing them apart. A piece of clay was torn out of the
female part and stuck to the male part. That is why women have an
orifice that bleeds, and men have a loose dangling appendage that
seems not to belong to them but always craves to return to the female
body it came from.
Cruel Zeus permitted human beings to return the male appendage
to its female home sometimes, to sense for a brief moment the bliss of
their former bisexual existence. Some Gnostic mystery cults of the first
centuries A.D. taught Tantric techniques to prolong the moment of
bliss, which angered most forms of the Heavenly Father including the
Christian one, whose bishops denounced this training as schooling
in wickedness. 11 Church fathers especially deplored making-or remaking-
the Beast with Two Backs, another term for the Primal
Though orthodox Christianity renounced both sexuality and androgyny
in religious images, Gnostic Christians used them. As Kali
was the female half of Shiva, so the Gnostic Great Mother Sophia was
the female half of Christ. This was revealed "in a great light": the
Savior was shown as an androgyne coupled with "Sophia, Mother of
All." 12
Gnostic Christians said those who received the true revelation of
the Father-Mother spirit were the only ones prepared for the secret
sacrament called apolytrosis, "release," a concept identical with Tantric
moksha or "liberation." 13 Obviously influenced by Tantrism or its
prototype, western Gnostics had made a direct translation of the Hindu
Yab-Yum, "Father-Mother," the sexual union of a sage and his
Shakti at the crucial moment of death. 14 Sexual sacraments were in
effect practicing for that moment, when the enlightened one would
be restored to the condition of primordial bliss as an androgynous
The Naassenes said no enlightenment was possible without the
Father-Mother spirit, an androgyne sometimes called Heavenly
Horn of the Moon.15 In the 5th century A.D., Orphic initiations sought
to awaken a female spirit within man, to render him sensitive to the
message of the Mysteries. After meeting the deities in a death-and rebirth
experience, he carried a bowl, emblem of the womb, and
touched his belly like a gravid woman, signifying "a spiritual experience
uniting the opposed ways of knowledge of the male and female, and
fused with this idea is that of a new life conceived within." 16
Such Gnostic subtleties were disliked by the orthodox, who viewed
all mergings of the sexes as unequivocally sinful. After Gnostic sects
were crushed, the androgyne was consigned to hell and gave birth to
many curious devils with both male and female attributes. A 16thcentury
book showed Satan himself seated on a throne, wearing a papal
tiara, with bird feet, a female face in his genital area, and pendulous
female breasts. 17 The Devil of the Tarot pack was usually androgynous,
as were many of the devils represented in cathedral carvings.
Marginal notes:
Naassenes, or
Naassians; from
Hebrew nahash, "serpent."
Jewish or
Christian Gnostic sects
of the early Christian
era, who worshipped
the serpent god
Ophis (Hermes) as a
form of the Savior.
Mysteries General
term for religious rites
of the "secret
initiation" type, which
included early


Hindu Lord of Death, male counterpart of the Lady of Life, whose
name was his own in reversal: Ma-Ya. In classic Hindu myth, however,
Yama's consort was his twin sister Yami, a feminine form of himself.
The Fates ordained that he should mate with her, in the manner of the
Primal Androgyne (see Androgyne). But Yama refused, saying he
intended to keep himself pure. Because he detached himself from his
feminine half and renounced the life-supporting power of the female,
he became the first man to die.1 He went into the underworld and
became its king.
This myth presents an interesting reversal of the Judea-Christian
notion that the sin of woman and sex brought death into the world.
Here death came about through the sin of male asceticism; Yama
"died" because he refused to be a sexual being. His followers revered
him as a psychopomp, like Hermes after his detachment from Aphrodite:
"Yama chose death, and he found out the path for many, and he
gives the souls of the dead a resting place." 2
As Lord of Death he took the title Samana, "the Leveller," and at
times he wore the fearsome aspect of a blue-skinned, bull-headed
demon, the same as Sammael, the Angel of Death in the Book of
Enoch.3 Persians worshipped him as Yima the Splendid, the Good
Shepherd who gave men immortality.4  In the ancient land of Canaan,
he became Yamm, Lord of the Abyss, annually cast down by Baal in
their eternal contest for the favors of Astarte.


Greatest legendary treasure of medieval Hermetic magic, after the
Elixir of Life and the Philosopher's Stone. The Ur-text was supposed to
be a magical grammar of the primordial tongue, whose words God
pronounced at creation in order to bring forth the things themselves;
that is, the words could create, just by being spoken. The idea was
based on eastern notions of the creative power of Sanskrit, the Motherlanguage.
1 Another development of the idea was the Neoplatonic
Logos or "Seminal Word," which was adopted as a Christian dogma.
(See Logos.)
Presumably the Ur-text emanated from Abraham's "Ur of the
Chaldees," famous as the home of magic and astrology. The medieval
theory was that all words and names exerted some influence over
their objects, hence the efficacy of both magic spells and liturgies. But
in all known languages, the power of the word was slightly displaced
from the true essence of the thing, as the calendar was slightly
displaced from the sidereal year. In the Ur-text, words were precisely
aligned with essences or "souls," so the words could control things
and events absolutely.
The implications were the same as in the Hindu idea of the "holy
language" of Sanskrit. Knowledge of the Ur-text would give a man
absolute power over the universe; whatever he said would come true at
Many magicians identified the Ur-text with the equally wonderful
Book of Thoth, named after the Egyptian god of magic and mentioned
in very old Egyptian folk tales as a written version of Thoth's
technique for creating by the power of the Word. One story claimed
the book was found by a sage named Satni-Khamois in a Memphite
tomb. It contained only two formulae but they were great hekau
(words of power):
The two formulae that are written there, if thou recitest the first of them,
thou shalt charm the heaven, the earth, the world of the night, the
mountains, the waters; thou shalt understand what all the birds of he;wen
and the reptiles say, as many as there are. Thou shalt behold the fish,
for a divine power will bring them to the surface of the water. If thou
readest the second formula, even when thou art in the tomb, thou shalt
resume the form thou hadst on earth; thou shalt also behold the sun rising
in the heavens, and his cycle of gods, also the moon in the form that
she has when she appears. 2
The first beneficiaries of this wondrous magic became immortal,
not by reading the book but by eating the papyrus it was written on-although
the book continued to exist, hidden in underwater vessels
guarded by the Great Serpent.3 Eating instead of reading a piece of
magical literature was a common Oriental method of absorbing the
virtue of magic words even when one is unable to read. In Tibet,
Madagascar, China, and Japan it was customary to cure diseases by
writing the curative charm on paper and eating the paper, or its ashes.4
Tartar lamas wrote the names of medicines on paper and made the
patient swallow the prescription; for they believed "To swallow the
name of a remedy, or the remedy itself ... comes to precisely the
same thing." 5
The same notion was often found in the west. The modern
pharmacist's Rx began as a curative symbol of Saturn, written on
paper and eaten by the patient.6 A common medieval prescription for
toothache was a paper bearing the magic words by which Jesus
removed a worm from St. Peter's tooth. 7 The Venerable Bede declared
that scrapings from the pages of "books that were brought out of
Ireland," when drunk in water, instantly cured snakebite.8
With so many different kinds of credulity in regard to the written
words-especially among the majority to whom all writing was a
mysterious, unknown magic-it is hardly surprising that belief in the
Book of Books, the Ur-text, survived. Some of the beliefs concerning
the Ur-text became attached to the Latin Bible, which the medieval
church would not allow to be translated into any other language,
even though the readings from the pulpit were quite incomprehensible
to most congregations. The theory was that Latin was the language of
St. Peter's Roman see, and God intended the Bible to be written in that
language and no other; for the magic efficacy of the words lay in their
sound, which would be lost if they were rendered in another tongue.
Thus, out of superstitious belief in the power of the Word, the
church kept the "dead" language of Latin alive within its own in-group
for over 1500 years.


Double-sexed seer of Thebes. The Goddess miraculously made him
a woman, and he lived as a temple harlot for seven years, acquiring great
powers of insight and divination. His myth may date back to the
transvestism or ritual castration required of men who entered the
Goddess's priesthood. Hermes also became a god of magic insight by
turning himself into the pseudo-female Hermaphroditus and presiding
over the temple of his consort Aphrodite, wearing female robes and
artificial breasts.1
Teiresias had a Hindu counterpart, Trisiras, god of magic, whose
powers were based on his ability to change from male to female at
Teiresias's "daughter" was Mante, whose name means Seeress,
and was really a title of the Theban priestesses before men managed
to take over their functions.


Orphic double-sexed deity, firstborn of the World Egg. He-she
helped the Triple Goddess arrange the universe. Phanes was also
known as Eros, Ericipaius, or Phaethon Protogenus (Shining Firstborn).
1 Phanes means "Revealer."

From Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

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