Beast

Snake


Latin name: Serpens
Other names: Anguis

The snake crawls with hidden steps

General Attributes

The snake does not move by stepping, but crawls with small movements of its scales. All snakes are coiled and twisted, never straight. It is said that there are as many poisons, deaths and griefs as there are kinds of snakes.

When a snake grows old, it begins to lose its sight, which it can regain by eating fennel. To renew its youth, it fasts until its skin becomes loose, then it crawls through a narrow crack and sheds its old skin. When a snake goes to a river to drink, it spits its venom into a hole and retrieves it later. Snakes attack clothed men but flee from naked men. If a snake is attacked, it will protect its head. A snake that tastes the spit of a fasting man dies.

The snake is the enemy of the stag and the stork. The smoke from burning stag antlers is deadly to snakes.

Allegory/Moral

The snake shedding its skin reminds us that we must shed the old self by going the crack (the "narrow way to salvation") in the rock (Christ). The snake spitting out its venom shows that before going to church one should get rid of evil desires. The snake fleeing the naked man represents the way the devil will flee from a man who has thrown off his wicked ways, but will attack one still clothed in worldly affairs.

The idea of the snake fleeing a naked man may also contain an allusion to the biblical creation story in Genesis. After Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked and clothed themselves; the "naked man" could therefore represent the "pure" state of humanity, before sin, and the "clothed man" the corrupted state of humanity, subject to sin.