Ophiolatreia: The Serpent Path

By Harry Wendrich

Ophiolatreia, considered to be the worship of serpents, was spread around the ancient world, evidence of which can still be found in caves, earth mounds, temples, jewellery and pottery.  Yet, such evidence points not to the worship of serpents, whether in stone, wood or in Nature, but rather a unique understanding of consciousness and energy, infused in the human body and the land itself.

Energy moves in a similar way to the movement of a serpent and so the active imagination creates the image of a serpent, which connects to the sexually active force, also linking the serpent to the phallus and to sexuality.  The kundalini, serpent power, or that which is coiled, is a Divine Cosmic Energy found in all living things.  Today, to mention that one might be on the Path of the Serpent might raise the crucifixes and pentagrams of Christians and many Pagans alike.  The Genesis account of the tempting serpent is so ingrained in the Western psyche that it has almost stopped any exploration in this occult field. 

The understanding of this Serpent Force by our ancestors can still be seen in old writings,  an example of which in the Bible is the brazen serpent that Moses had built to heal the people from snake-bites; also the account in Welsh mythology where Merlin pointed out the white and red dragons to the King Vortigern (Gwrtheyrn).  In both these accounts there was an understanding that serpents/dragons had an affect upon our physical realm and on the consciousness of the people, for healing or war.  In modern day psychology, the dragon is considered to be the realm of the subconscious.  If this dragon or subconscious is not checked it can cause grandiosia, which generates addictions and compulsions.  Thus to enter your subconscious and face your dragon is a scary, dangerous, and difficult task.

The Great Earth Dragon is the subconscious, or an aspect of it, which has a magnetic force that crystallizes Divine Light into our material universe, and within this conscious magnetic field/force, there are many serpents, all acting upon our reality and crystallizing our universe around our soul’s desire to experience.

The Serpent Force is not evil, nor is it good:  it is neutral in its pure act of crystallizing light into matter.  It is our personal conscious point which manipulates the serpent force and therefore creates the concepts of good and evil.  It is this magnetic serpent force which enables magic to work, whether it is in prayer, meditation, ritual or talismans – the act of concentrating the mind, which manipulates the serpent magnetic force, crystallizes the desired result.  The problem a magician has when working with the serpent force/field is that as long as the conscious point of the magician is fixed to the outer world or the flesh THE SERPENT IS IN CONTROL.   If, through meditation or ritual, the magician’s conscious point is adjusted and focussed into Spirit, the magician regains control.

The serpent is very much associated with polarity, and aims for the mystical union of the masculine and feminine.  If the magician does not work to create this union, the serpent fire directs the conscious point outwards into the world, and uses the magnetic frequencies we call archetypes to bring about these unions in our outer world.

The influence of Ophiolatreia can still be found within the Western Mystery system and schools in the form of symbols.  There are no masters to be found on this path, except the Master held within.  Inner Guides are a necessary requirement to treading the Serpent Path.  The raising of a serpent under the guidance of a spiritual Inner Guide is essential in breaking the magnetic pull of the Earth upon our souls. 

Here are a few important symbols that are associated with Ophiolatreia:

  1. The Tree and the Serpent.  The tree is locked into the earth.  Its trunk is phallic, its branches represent many serpents from the one.  The leaves represent the magnetic frequency we call archetypes, which need to be balanced before the serpent rises, and this has to be done on seven levels.
  2. Serpent Fire.  The Serpent Fire rises as the archetypal energies are balanced.  It purifies the chakras as it slowly rises and as it gathers ferocity it eventually collapses into a silver line from the top of the head to the bottom of the spine, creating the Nehushtan – the path for the rising serpents.
  3. The Egg and the Serpent.  The first serpents that are met are very lethargic, and need to be fed to awaken them.  The egg is what is fed to the serpent, in preparation to rise. 
  4. The Great Dragon.  The Great Dragon is a large serpent and is associated with the Earth herslf.  It is the ultimate quest of the Serpent Path.
  5. The Throne and the Serpent.  This symbol is very important because over every serpent rules a Throne which directs and uses the crystalline force of the serpent for renewal, healing, and to create.  It is particularly important when working with the elements.
  6. The Seven Rays and the Serpent.  The Seven Rays are associated with the Seven Planets, to each of which a serpent is connected.  These Planetary Serpents are volatile and should not be approached without first obtaining permission from the Olympic Spirits, whose Thrones rule over the Planetary Serpents.
  7. The Grail and the Serpent.  The Grail is associated with sacrifice and rebirth.  There is a strong connection between sacrifice and Ophiolatreia, as can be seen with our earlier examples with Moses and Vortigern.  But on the Path of the Serpent there is a need to sacrifice oneself to the Divine Will.

Ophiolatreia has a deep understanding of working with Earth energies.  Jeremy Narby (in his book The Cosmic Serpent) postulated that our ancestors knew of the existence of the DNA and portrayed it as a form of twinned serpents.  Indeed, there is a serpent consciousness associated with the crystallizing of the DNA, holding within it karmic residue.  Once the serpent has been located and risen, it opens up the possibility for transmutation of the DNA for specific purposes aligned by the Divine Will.

The serpent was considered phallic and yet the serpent is feminine, as it is closely associated with the Goddess.  This polarity is symbolised by the serpent’s need to be understood through the mystical union of both the God and the Goddess of our universe.   It is only once this occurs that a possibility arises for the Great Earth Dragon to rise.  To put it very simply, the Great Earth Dragon is subconsciousness itself, symbolised by a great ocean, and we have our own consciousness within her.  To raise such a vast and powerful form within the human gestalt is not possible, as a human body cannot sustain such a power.  Yet, if along the path the soul has learnt its lesson and has detached itself from the world/flesh, it is possible for the soul to detach itself from the body and be risen up with the force of the Dragon, allowing the full descent of the Neshamah to manifest on Earth. 

“ … be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

                                                                       (Matt. 10:16)