Chapter

The Serpent

Ralph W. Hood Jr. and W. Paul Williamson

in Them That Believe

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780520231474
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942714 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520231474.003.0005
The Serpent

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This chapter discusses the biology of the species of snake handled by believers as well as snake symbolism. Snake symbolism relies heavily on analyses of cult sects, folktales, and mythologies. Perhaps La Barre, who was Freudian-oriented, gave the most detailed account of snake symbolism related to religious serpent handling. La Barre traced the origin of snake cults to Egypt and observed that the common role of snakes emerged within diverse cultural mythologies that generally centered on themes of creation, death, and immortality—a blended motif undeniably linked with sexuality. La Barre pointed to various associations in the Bible of the serpent with life and death that ranged over time from the symbolism of a high god to that of an archdemon. The symbolic interpretation converges with the sign value of the handlers' choice of vipers—serpents that can maim and kill.

Keywords: serpent; snake symbolism; mythologies; La Barre; sexuality

Chapter.  9487 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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