Hygeia, daughter of Asclepius, 17th century, Basel- Germany
In creation myths and legends told around the world, we encounter the snake as the guardian of treasures or secrets. According to folklore, snakes carry the key to the treasure in their mouths. The belief behind this is the healing power of snake venom, which has been accepted as the elixir of life since ancient medical cultures. Since Constantin Hering, polycrests (translator’s note: a drug medicine of value as a remedy in several diseases) such as Lachesis (t.n. a homeopathic remedy containing snake venom) have also enriched the medicinal treasure of homeopathy. In short: The snake and the art of healing have been inseparable from ancient times. So let’s go after this legendary symbol animal.
The Serpent and the Mystery of Eternal Life
Long time ago, the gods sent a messenger to share the secret of an immortal life with the humans. The messenger was thirsty from the journey and wanted to freshen up at a spring guarded by a snake. The snake, clever as it was, promised him that he can drink from the water as soon as he shared the secret he was carrying with him. This is how the snake learned about how to be immortal by just shedding its skin.
The fact that the skin shedding snake represents immortality in various folk superstitions stems from the view that the life force is renewed in the skinning process. This is why Lonicerus (t.n. German botanist, 16th century) wrote: “When it wants to change its skin / it goes through a narrow hole in the rock / thus throwing its age off”.
Its representation as Ouroboros is based on a similar idea: The snake biting its own tail eats itself and gives birth to itself. It symbolizes the transition from death to a new life and represents rebirth in the Hermetic teaching.
The secret of shedding the skin was revealed a long time ago: Unlike humans, whose skin cells are constantly developing, but also constantly shed, snake skin experiences massive growth spurts that affect all epidermal cells at the same time. Thus, the horny layer is shed as a whole. However, this process refers to the activity of the moon for those who are familiar with the doctrine of signatures, showing that drugs made from snakes have extraordinary regenerative powers.
Eternal Life (Immortality): According to Hygeia’s contemplation, ‘immortality’ is related to the soul. As long as we are in the physical body, we must proceed on the path of finding ourselves and separate the opinions, ideas, feelings and behaviors that do not belong to us (skin removal). Only in doing this can we attain our essence and serve the evolution of our soul.