The Egg and the Serpent: Part two of three The philosophical or cosmic egg is another nearly universal symbol. Alchemically, the egg is a symbol of the cosmos, as it is in a multitude of folk legends. In Hindu cosmology, it is the source of the universe. The egg as a container of the universe is found in many ancient religions. The egg symbolizes birth and potential. It contains within a miniature sun, and it features prominently in solar mythology. The gods Vishnu, Phanes, and Mithras, are all “egg born” solar deities. Another solar entity, the rooster, is also born of an egg.
The serpent plays an important role in every culture. It is a dual role, as a symbol of wisdom and of evil. A snake is a lowly creature who cannot leave the ground, making it an obvious symbol of base desires and material entrapment. As a sexual symbol, the snake can represent the energies of the universe, or base human desires and lust- traditional pictures of dragon slayers are allegories to conquered material desires such as these, as are many human/monster hybrids. However,as even the lowest serpent sheds its skin and renews itself, it is a token of resurrection. As a symbol of spiritual power, the serpent represents the awakened self.
The serpent is most often related to sexual energies, which can be harnessed for spiritual purposes, or when abused, can overwhelm the spirit. Serpents depicted symbolically on a vertical axis nearly always represent sexual energy- the twin serpents of the caduceus, the kundalini serpents, the alchemical crucified serpent, and the serpent of Genesis are all symbols of the sexual nature of man. In the Judeo-Christian allegorical story of Adam and Eve, the serpent represents the dual nature of sexual energy, which can either entrap or release the spirit. It is this serpent who guards the mythical tree of life and immortality featured in mythology the world over, where it serves as both a protector of the aspirant and an obstacle to the uninitiated.
One of the most recognizable serpent symbols is the Ouroboros. The ouroboros is found in alchemy, in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Gnostic texts, in Norse mythology, and even Aztec icons. The ouroboros is a serpent swallowing its own tail, and usually describes a circle, although a lemniscate shape is also common. It is a symbol of eternity, rebirth, and resurrection. It is often colored dark and light to illustrate the victory of the spiritual nature over the material.
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