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                          Drugs and Religion -- Snakebite Trips? 

                                      Loren Petrich  

                  In Merlin Stone's book "When God Was a Woman", about early 

          goddesses, there is a strange hypothesis about the importance of 

          snakes in the early Middle East. MS notes that snakes are associated 

          with prophecy and wisdom -- and goddesses -- in several places, such 

          as Egypt, Sumer, Crete, and Greece. In Egypt, the female deity of 

          predynastic northern (Lower) Egypt was the cobra goddess Ua Zit. 

          Egyptian deities  and royalty has a _uraeus_ emblem -- a head and hood

          of a cobra. Some Sumerian goddesses, such as Inanna, were associated 

          with snakes. In Minoan-era Crete, we find some statuettes of goddesses

          or priestesses with snakes. In one case, the snakes are cobras. In 

          Greece, in what is most likely a Minoan legacy, Hera and Athena were 

          associated with snakes, and the shrines of Delphi, Olympia, and Dodona

          were originally associated with goddesses. However, they were taken 

          over by the followers of the male gods Zeus and Apollo, who were 

          depicted as snake-killers. Even then, the greatest wisdom was 

          associated with priestesses. Serpenticidal male gods also include 

          Marduk, who killed Tiamat, and Yahweh himself, who killed Leviathan. 

                  MS suggests a connection to the Adam and Eve legend. The 

          Philistines had "snake tubes" nearly identical to some found on Crete,

          which is consistent with them being Cretan refugees. So some "snake 

          priestesses" may have set up shop in Palestine when the Israelites 

          showed up. The Adam and Eve legend may have been an effort to 

          discredit these women, for it suggests that snakes are wicked, and 

          women who listen to snakes are wicked. This is all in keeping with the

          Yahvist effort to discredit religions other than the worship of 

          Yahweh, which is a sordid story of religious persecution. This 

          persecution involved going so far as destroying a bronze snake kept in


          the Temple, the Nehushtan, which could supposedly cure snakebite. This

          snake was probably associated with an earlier acceptance of this snake


                          Buthow didthissnake cultactuallywork? Itisdifficult to

          say, but MS offers a strange hypothesis. She notes that we are told 

          that Cassandra  and Melampus had acquired prophetic powers from having

          their  ears licked with snakes. So is there some snakebite connection?

          MS suggests that there was, and tells of someone who had been 

          immunized against krait venom, but who had been bitten by a krait 

          [_Cobras in the Garden_, H. Kursh] 

                  He had developed a sense of enhanced awareness and he had 

          visions. He reported himself making up verses, and said "My mind had 

          extraordinary powers." 

                  This is evidently much like mescaline [from peyote] or 

          psilocybin [in certain mushrooms], used by some Native Americans for 

          similar purposes; those who take these two or LSD often feel as if 

          they are in touch with the basic forces of existence and a sensation 

          of perceiving the events and meaning of the past, present,  and future

          with great clarity and comprehension. It could well be that some snake

          venoms have components similar effects. 

                  So could it be that early snake prophetesses (and male 

          prophets) were going on snakebite trips? 

                  Oracles connected with snakes were consulted in Greece and 

          elsewhere for important decisions, which seems very trustworthy of 

          people with "highs". 


                  One does have to ask the question on how this type of 

          prophesying got associated with women instead of men or both sexes 

          equally in the ancient Middle East. 

                  This only adds to the riddle of Minoan Crete. Since the 

          priestesses there were important citizens, and since they are 

          associated with snakes, then could some of the leaders of Crete back 

          then have been snakebite-tripping priestesses? The possibility of a 

          "feminist theocracy", rule by a largely female priesthood, seems 

          awesome enough (no prominent "kings"), but this is truly wild. 

                  I confess I don't have much taste for theocracy, but I would 

          certainly prefer a Minoan-type theocracy (if that was what it was)  to

          the more familiar kinds -- Jewish, Christian, and Muslim -- which I 

          find absolutely disgusting. 


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