The snake can be found in mythologies worldwide, it has come to symbolise power and benevolence but also evil and betrayal.
Some snakes we all know about, such as the snake from the garden of Eden, or the gorgon Medusa whose hair was made of snakes. And as fascinating as those snakes are, there are quite a few underrated snakes in mythology and religion.
Ladon was a dragon-like serpent, who guarded the Golden Apples in the Garden of the Hesperides. He is the son of Typhon and Echidna.
During Heracles' Labours, one of the tasks assigned to the demigod was to steal the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides.
Heracles arrived at the Garden of the Hesperides after travelling through the Libyan desert and receiving assistance from the sun god Helios.
Once there he killed Ladon, recovered the golden apples, and returned to Tiryns, successfully completing his mission.
Jormungand, also known as the "Midgard Serpent," is a snake or dragon who lives in the ocean that surrounds the visible world of Midgard. He is so massive that his body forms a circle around all of Midgard. He, along with Hel and Fenrir, is one of Loki and the giantess Angrboda's three children.
Thor, the god of thunder, is his main foe. The Eddas describe two battles between them.
In one, Thor goes fishing for Jormungand and fails in bringing him up when the giant Hymir, terrified that this will bring about Ragnarok, cuts the line, sending the snake back down into the depths.
When Ragnarok (the end of the world) arrives, Thor and the Midgard Serpent are doomed to kill each other.
Quetzalcóatl also called the 'Plumed Serpent,' was a powerful god in ancient Mesoamerica. Quetzalcóatl, a cross between a bird and a rattlesnake, was the god of winds and rain, as well as the creator of the world and humanity.
The feathered serpent god was considered the patron god of priests and merchants, as well as the god of learning, science, agriculture, crafts, and the arts.
He also created the calendar and was associated with the Morning Star Venus. He was even credited with discovering corn (maize) with the assistance of a giant red ant.
The Nagas are mythical semi divine beings that are half-human and half cobra. They are a powerful, attractive species that can take on entirely human or entirely serpentine forms. They are potentially dangerous but often beneficial to humans. They live in Naga-Loka, an underground kingdom filled with resplendent palaces adorned with precious gems.
When the nagas became too numerous on Earth, the creator deity Brahma exiled them to the netherworld and commanded them to bite only the truly evil or those doomed to die prematurely.
The immortal White Snake
This story begins with Xu Xian, and his wife Bai Su Zhen. A monk named Fa Hai approached him one day and warned him that he had a demon in his house. He claimed that the demon was Bai Su Zhen. Xu Xian laughed, how could his loving wife be a demon?
Fa Hai gave him wine and told him to serve it to her. Xu Xian dismissed him and returned home. But he grew curious and finally decided to serve her the wine. As soon as it touched her lips she ran, claiming she was feeling unwell. Xu Xian followed her but instead of his wife, he found a giant white snake. The shock killed him instantly and when Bai Su Zhen woke she was overcome with grief.
Bai Su Zhen travelled to the Kun Lun Mountains where there was a magical herb that could bring people back from the dead. When she reached the summit she encountered the disciples of the guardian of the herb, The Old Man of the South Pole. She tricked them into leaving their posts and stole the herb. The disciples, having realised their mistake, chased her down the mountain until they were stopped by The Old Man of the South Pole himself who, moved by Bai Su Zhen’s love for her husband, allowed her to return to save him.
Bai Su Zhen returned home and fed her husband the magical herb, bringing him back to life once more. She expected him to flee now that he knew her true form but Xu Xien was just happy to see his wife.
And that brings us to the end, these were just a few of the serpentine characters found in mythology but this list could go on and on...
Perhaps next there’s a need for a Part 2?