Drugs and Religion -- Snakebite Trips?
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
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.
Next: Wishing Well (I.O.T.)