Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake…
–The End (The Doors)
Anyone interested in the work of C. G. Jung is bound to encounter a great deal of serpent symbolism.
Jung was fascinated with alchemy, among other things, and the old alchemists are often depicted in drawings and woodcuts as somehow transformed into almost freakish, hybridized creatures.
This is all imagery, of course. The alchemists didn’t undergo strange physical changes, not observable ones at any rate.
But they did, so many believe, endure and ultimately overcome sometimes trying and bizarre experiences on an inner pilgrimage toward wholeness.
The hermaphrodite stands upon a mound below which is a triple-headed serpent, each head of which is mutually feeding upon the others. This symbolizes that the Spirit, Soul and Body are becoming united and penetrate each other, though this being still polarized in the form of the serpent (the head and tail polarity), indicates that final harmonization of these realms is yet to be achieved (Source: The Alchemy Web Site).
Enter author and film director Philip Gardiner, whose Legend of the Serpent: The Biggest Religious Cover Up in History looks at orthodox and esoteric serpent symbolism with a decidedly gnostic bent.
Gardiner’s impressive historical and anthropological studies and on-site travels take the viewer back through time and around the globe as he explores the ubiquitous presence of archetypal serpent symbols.
From belief systems including the Gnostics, Sufis and Jews; the religious art of India, Egypt, China, Greece and Rome; right through to the precolonial Americas and many other cultures and places too numerous to mention here, this video is a fantastic ride for serpent motif enthusiasts.
One could pay thousands of dollars traveling to the dusty archives and remote temple locations that this film brings to light. The DVD also comes with bonus features on snake etymology, symbolism, a colorful snake handbook and an outtake with material not mentioned in the main program.
Thankfully, Legend of the Serpent isn’t one of those reckless, trippy videos suggesting we drug ourselves silly with hallucinogenic mushrooms to conjure up altered states, self-administer pure snake venom for healing or ceremonially dance with poisonous snakes like the old American folk hero, Billy Jack.
Legend of the Serpent is stone cold sober, and that’s what makes this innovative documentary unique and effective.
While watching Legend of the Serpent I couldn’t help but get the impression that this movie, itself, is something of an archetype for even greater things to come. Not only does the DVD take us on a journey through the past. Quite possibly it points to something even more important.
Where we’re headed.