Personal & Archetypal Symbolism of Snakes & Serpents

Serpents, Snakes and Archetypal Symbols

by, Terra Wise

We let go in order to grow into the next phase 

A snake sheds its skin when its insides grow bigger than its outside. Some snakes shed more than once a year as new skin is formed beneath the old layer. Shedding is necessary because it allows for growth and is crucial for survival.

During its shedding cycle, a snake is vulnerable to injury and disease. Often it must rub its body against a hard rough rock to create a rip in the old skin to help begin the shedding process. The snake continues to work on the tear until it can shed the layer cleanly and completely. The eyes of a snake shed too, they become2snakes cloudy with a layer of old skin, a time when the snake is vulnerable to attack until they are clear again. 

Experts who work with snakes say that the sloughing of old skin, though natural and needed, is not an easy process for a snake, especially with the risk of wounds and disease if old fragments of skin become stuck. But despite the discomfort and danger, the process of shedding the old is necessary for growth and a healthy life. The snake has no choice but to let go of the old form or it will die.

Photo, Two Snakes. 1996 © Terra Wise

The symbolism of a snake’s shedding, the sloughing of the old as a necessity for interior growth, reminds us that the same type of process can occur for humans. We grow, we need to let go. Releasing what is no longer needed is not an easy task but it is an important part growth and development. The insights discovered and feelings of renewal are well worth it. 

Humans are capable of so much more than just surface sloughing of skin cells, hair shedding, and nail clippings. If we are to evolve we need to let go of what no longer works in our lives including old beliefs and patterns, attachments, closed-minded  biases and opinions and so on.

Most of us experience the ups and downs of life. We encounter struggles and cycles of development that create a type of friction urging us to respond. Some situations push us to transform, to cross a life threshold. These cycles help to shape who we are and who we can become. We look back on our lives and reflect on the many ways we have been challenged by events and emotions and how we are have changed over the years. We have grown and outgrown the old ways of life and living, we outgrow our former ways of perceiving to become who we are meant to be, for a time, in the current moment.


When we grow on the inside we need room to expand. Despite the discomfort, the process of shedding the old self is encouraged as a necessity for new growth and a healthy life to unfold.

By releasing what does not nourish us, including our thoughts and actions – those things that no longer support inner growth and well-being, we create an improved environment for a new refreshed self to emerge and thrive


Most people change as the years go by, one way or another we transform many times during a lifetime. No matter how hard the process, no matter how wounded we feel at the time of self-inquiry, eventually something shifts and the old way of being, the old skin, sloughs away in its entirety and we are freed.

Letting go of outdated and distressful patterns of behavior allows for the inner growth to move outward into the world. In this way we are similar to a snake in that as we grow bigger on the inside we must release all that is unhealthy so we make room to thrive.


 Snakes and Serpents: Archetypal & Mythic Symbolism

Serpents are the name given to a snake-like creature as described in religious and mythological stories. In the Judeo-Christian tradition of the West, the snake in the Garden story is associated with manipulation and sin for Adam and Eve, whereas in  many other cultures, snakes and serpents are aligned with healing, mystical and psychic powers, and regeneration.

Serpent themes are visible in architecture, in myth, and initiation rites from certain cultures. Healing power and mysticism are ascribed to snakes due to their ability to shed skin. The snake represents youthful vitality, an archetypal power of transmutation and immortality. Images of snakes appear in alchemical symbols representing vitality, healing and transformation, and the death/rebirth cycle of renewal. This similar symbolism is also seen in-depth psychology.

 Ancient and Esoteric Symbols

The alchemical image of the Ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail, is a symbol of wisdom. It is a symbol of the conjunctio, the union and wholeness of the divine marriage of the female and male principles.

The Ouroboros is associated with Alchemy. It represents the cyclical nature of things, eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end.

In some representations the serpent is shown as half-light and half-dark, echoing symbols such as the Yin Yang, which illustrates the dual nature of all things, but more importantly, that these opposites are not in conflict.

The Ouroboros can represent self-reflection, or something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as one ends Something like the Phoenix who rises from the ashes.

It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished. The ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations, where it symbolizes the circular nature of the alchemist’s opus.


The uraeus is the royal headdress of the Egyptian pharaohs with the cobra image worn at the brow. It signifies a connection with divine power and protection.

Naga is Sanskrit word for a deity or a group of beings that take the form of ‘the Great Snake’ the King Cobra. These entities are found in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Hindu iconography includes the cobra as a symbol of awakened consciousness surrounding the head of many deities. The yogic concept of Kundalini Shakti, sexuality, power, elevation of consciousness, the serpent energy rising up the spinal centers emerging from the crown chakra in divine union with pure Shiva consciousness.

Tibetan and Chinese traditions, including feng shui theory and the wisdom of the snake, serpent and dragon as symbols of protection, good fortune and health.

The ritual rattlesnake dance of the Hopi Snake Clan people is done as an invocation to bring the rains.

We also have stories of the Dragon (a relative of the snake/serpent) in Merlin Lore we have the dragon, medieval stories and around the world.


The feathered winged serpent-god of Central America, a supernatural deity. It is said the feathered aspect represents its ability to fly as a sign of its divine nature and the serpent aspect represents its human aspect, the ability to move on the ground.


Asclepius, the ancient Greek god of medicine, healing, and dreams,  known for his staff, the single snake coiled around it. It was believed that a dream of a snake signaled healing and a union with god. Python was sacred to his cult.


 The caduceus is a symbol of modern Western medicine. Two snakes entwined around the winged wand of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, implying healing, harmony, and symmetry.


A Snake Charmer





Family Stories of Survival


Have you ever discovered something unexpected about a family member, a secret, a talent, a mystery uncovered?

When my mother was 3-months pregnant with me her grandmother, my great-grandmother passed away. Sadly, I never got to meet her but as the years passed I heard stories about her personal strength, courage, and ingenuity during hard times. I learned as a new-comer to a foreign country she managed to make ends meet through a creative endeavor.

My great-grandmother left Europe when she was a teen to come to Canada. After a few years she began to develop a reputation as a very talented baker. Everyone loved her cakes, pies, and cookies, all the baked goodies were a hit with the entire neighborhood.

Prohibition: From 1916 until 1927 the prohibition of alcohol was enacted and enforced in Toronto, Canada.  


During those early years, when she was still fairly new to Canada she and her husband struggled financially. And so to make ends meet Great-granny had a plan. 

She baked pies, cakes, cookies, breads, rolls, fruit danish, and more.  She invited the neighbors and their friends to her kitchen and offered the goodies for free––as long as they paid for shots of her home-made Bathtub Gin! Brilliant solution!

Because of this was she was able to pay the rent and buy groceries. Her little “business” thrived and the community had a happy glow about them as a result.

There is strength and fortitude that some people carry within their bones and if/when hit by hard times or misfortune they find a way to carry on and make the necessary adjustments to ease through the challenge. 

Do you have stories?

What are the gems told about family, ancestral stories that stand out as something special? What have you learned about your family that gives you pride, brings a smile to your face, or makes you blush?


Over Reaction: Blood Letting (leg shaving) Mishap!


Do you have a story about overreacting?


the scream



Recently my friends told me a story about their teen daughter — who as it turned out has *a bit* of a blood phobia. Her phobia made itself quite clear while shaving her legs in the shower. 




 Monty Python And The Holy Grail


While shaving her legs in the shower she nicked herself and noticed some blood. Being highly sensitive to the sight of blood she jumped out of the shower, wrapped a tourniquet around her leg, and screamed for help… and fainted! (And yes, I did say tourniquet).

Her parents jumped into action, racing to the bathroom to help her. They immediately saw her passed out on the floor, tourniquet and all. —  Fearing the worst they slowly and carefully unwrapped the cloth, wondering if they would need to call an ambulance.

Nothing. They could see nothing wrong at all.



 Only a flesh wound!



Just the thought of adding an image here of the thing that causes me to over-react gave me a shudder.


I overreact to seeing spiders, even worse if one touches me. I usually avoid touch by using a vacuum to do away with them. But even still I have a creepy crawly feeling that lingers with me for some time after an encounter. So much so that I find myself flicking away imaginary creatures after a spider sighting.

Your turn. What are the things that cause you to overreact? Do you have a funny overreaction story?


Mini-trampoline for Health


Over the years I have experienced the fun and health benefits  of rebounding, jumping and bouncing on a mini-trampoline. The bouncing can be done barefoot or in shoes, you can also hold light weights in your hands to add a little more challenge if desired. The movement is great for cardio, circulation, balance and more. The movements can be very gentle, you don’t even have to lift your feet to get benefits, and you can move with more intensity once you are comfortable with the motion.  Jumping-jacks, high knees, kicking one leg at a time out in front or behind are some of the options. The lymphatic system is supported by motion, helpful for cleansing and great for health. The information below gives more detail regarding the benefits of jumping on a trampoline.

The information below is  from:

What is Rebounding?

Rebounding is a unique exercise in that you achieve a weightless state at the top of each jump then land with twice the force of gravity on each bounce. This twice-gravity bounce affects every muscle and cell of the body. Researchers at the University of Kentucky, in conjunction with NASA, concluded that “the magnitude of the biomechanical stimuli is greater with jumping on a trampoline than with running.” No other brand can compare to JumpSport’s patent pending Stage Bounce™ technology. It provides the safest, most forgiving impact available on a Jogging/Rebounding trampoline.

Rebounding offers an exercise that can be adjusted to your fitness level, is easy on your joints and back, and can be done in your home at your convenience while providing a safe, gentle low-impact workout. Studies show that jogging or rebounding on a trampoline will burn more calories than traditional jogging. Exercising on a trampoline can also strengthen your heart, improve your circulation, stimulate the flow in your lymphatic system, revitalize vision, help slow the effects of aging, reduce stress, and benefit children with learning disabilities and cystic fibrosis.


[Rebounding/Jogging on a Stage Bounce Jogging trampoline Vs Traditional Jogging]

31 Ways Trampoline Jogging/Rebounding can improve your Well Being

  1. Rebounding strengthens the heart and other muscles in the body so that they work more efficiently.
  2. Rebounding provides an increased G-force (gravitational load), which strengthens the musculoskeletal systems.
  3. Rebounding protects the joints from the chronic fatigue and impact delivered by exercising on hard surfaces.
  4. Rebounding helps manage body composition and improves muscle-to-fat ratio.
  5. Rebounding aids lymphatic circulation by stimulating the millions of one-way valves in the lymphatic system.
  6. Rebounding establishes a better equilibrium between the oxygen required by the tissues and the oxygen made available.
  7. Rebounding increases capacity for breathing.
  8. Rebounding circulates more oxygen to the tissues.
  9. Rebounding results in better mental performance, with keener learning processes.
  10. Rebounding tends to reduce the level to which the arterial pressures rise during exertion.
  11. Rebounding can lessen the time during which blood pressure remains abnormal after severe activity.
  12. Rebounding increases the functional activity of the red bone marrow in the production of red blood cells.
  13. Rebounding decreases the volume of blood pooling in the veins of the cardiovascular system preventing chronic edema.
  14. Rebounding improves resting metabolic rate; therefore more calories are burned for hours after exercise.
  15. Rebounding causes muscles to perform work in circulating fluids through the body to lighten the heart’s load.
  16. Rebounding encourages collateral circulation by increasing the capillary count in the muscles and decreasing the distance between the capillaries and the target cells.
  17. Rebounding lowers circulating cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  18. Rebounding lowers low-density lipoprotein (bad) in the blood and increases high-density lipoprotein (good) holding off the incidence of coronary artery disease.
  19. Rebounding promotes tissue repair.
  20. Rebounding for longer than 20 minutes at a moderate intensity increases the mitochondria count within the muscle cells, essential for endurance.
  21. Rebounding adds to the alkaline reserve of the body, which may be of significance in an emergency requiring prolonged effort.
  22. Rebounding improves coordination between the proprioceptors in the joints, the transmission of nerve impulses to and from the brain, transmission of nerve impulses and responsiveness of the muscle fibers.
  23. Rebounding improves the brain’s responsiveness to the vestibular apparatus within the inner ear, thus improving balance.
  24. Rebounding offers relief from neck and back pains, headaches, and other pain caused by lack of exercise.
  25. Rebounding enhances digestion and elimination processes.
  26. Rebounding allows for deeper and easier relaxation and sleep.
  27. Rebounding can curtail fatigue and menstrual discomfort for women.
  28. Rebounding minimizes the number of colds, allergies, digestive disturbances, and abdominal problems.
  29. Rebounding tends to slow down atrophy in the aging process.
  30. Rebounding is an effective form of exercise by which the user gains a sense of control and an improved self image.
  31. Rebounding is Fun!


Compassion: Kiss Saves Suicidal Teen


When A Kiss Is Not Just A Kiss


More Than A Simple Kiss

Compassion is a precious gift, both the receiving and giving of it. For some it comes naturally, as seen in the video below. For others compassion requires practice and courage, especially as we are bombarded with images of cruelty in the daily news.

When we learn of compassionate acts between strangers we are moved by it, in our modern era it seems particularly special. When expressions of care and kindness to another we feel uplifted. We can’t help but feel the healing power that infuses both the giver and receiver.

To listen deeply when another is in crisis can change a life — it can save a life.

Imagine having the intuitive reflex to help soothe someone in distress with the simple act of being fully present and not judging. Imagine how meaningful it can be to be kind to a stranger when the other is most vulnerable.



Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.


A young woman made a choice, to help another she lied to the police in order to get close enough to help save the life of a suicidal teen boy who was about to jump. She asked the police to let her pass, to let her get close to him she could talk with him. She said she was his girlfriend.

As soon as she was next to him she asked him to tell her his story.

She listened with an open heart, she also revealed her own past, a secret about a suicide attempt.

They were vulnerable and open with each other.

And then she kissed him — at that moment the police were able to pull him to safety.

The story inspired me, I found it touching and wanted to share it, even though it is not recent news it is a poignant and compassionate expression of humanity. It is a story about taking a risk and making a connection.









Listening Shells: A Story within A Story


Listening: A Story within Story

In 1983 I was on retreat in the Canadian wilderness on 500 beautiful acres of land, part of a small group of people doing yoga, enjoying meditative walks, and participating in a variety of workshops.  A sweat-lodge  had also been arranged by two First Nations men, Native elders who would run the ceremony. I was interested in attending, it would be my first. I was a little nervous, and also unsure because of an injury.

I hesitated was because my arm was in a cast. I’d broken my elbow after a fall from my bike just days prior to the retreat. I expressed my concern, wondering if it would be better to wait until a time when my arm was fully healed and out of the cast. — I was assured I would be safe in the sweat-lodge. I was told the ceremony might even help speed the healing process. I gathered my courage and decided to enter when it was time to begin.


While preparations were underway our group gathered together for discussion and story-telling. I noticed that one of the facilitators was an earring made from seashells and that he had also placed a large shell on the ground by the sweat-lodge door. I asked about the shells. He told us this story. 


Listening Specialist

There once was a time when the counselor-healers of a tribe would hang a seashell outside their lodge door. The shell served as an invitation in the same way the Open for Business sign indicates when a store is open. The seashell signaled that the ‘listening doctor’ was available. Anyone with a concern could speak in private with the listener day or night, as long as the shell was visible.


I loved the story and the way it represents a symbol of listening, a compassionate way for people to express themselves. In my own work I witness the transformative power of deep listening many time. 







The seashell is an archetypal symbol for listening. Think about the familiar image of holding a seashell close to the ear to hear the sounds of the ocean.


If held just slightly above the ear the shell captures noise, the size and shape of the shell has some effect on the sound heard with different shells amplifying different frequencies. The large spiral conch shells are the best for producing the sound called the ocean sound. These same shells have also been used as a horn to produce a trumpet sound, a call to alert people when there is a need, and used in ceremony too..





To speak about personal problems in a safe atmosphere, without fear of judgment from the listener, is a form of medicine that can ease distress and support healing.

For example military vets who talk about war trauma and combat experiences in groups report that it is helpful to them. When a person is allowed to safely share their story with a receptive listener, whatever their experience might be — of shame, trauma, sorrow, or regret — healing can occur.


Heart-to-heart listening is medicine for the soul.


Broken Arm in a Sweat-lodge

 I did participate in the sweat lodge. My experience in the ceremony was memorable to this day. Inside the lodge with its intense heat and utter darkness I felt something powerful around me and inside of me. Despite the darkness I felt as if I had encounters with images, sounds, and sensations. I came out of the experience with greater clarity and direction about what to do with my life.

It was the beginning of a long cycle of remarkable experiences. More ceremonies followed, years of study, cross-cultural teachings, travel adventures, and integral developments that enhanced my personal and professional life.


As far as my broken arm, an interesting happened. It had only been about 10-days since my initial emergency visit to the hospital when I returned to see the doctor to check on my arm. The doctor needed to remove the cast to examine my elbow he said. While removing the coverings he was saying I would need a few more weeks in a cast and he was sorry to say I would never be able to open my arm fully…  

The expression on his face was priceless when my arm floated out into full extension. “This is a curious mystery, I don’t understand how this can be possible.”  He said.  I don’t for sure what did it, but I do know I had just come from the healing retreat and the sweat-lodge and they seemed to have helped. Plus, I had worked with natural remedies, nutrients known to speed bone and tissue repair.


Healing is all too often a mystery. Why is it that for some people results come quickly, while for others it is more of a challenge?

No matter the speed or success of healing, what remains constant is the power of compassionate listening as a foundational source of soothing comfort.







An Idea that Saves Premature Babies

 Source of article here:






Highlights from the Article:


New low cost innovative methods save premature babies.

Babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy are called pre-term and have lower survival rate.

It is estimated that 20 million babies are born prematurely or with a low birth weight every year.
More than one million of these babies die on their first day of life, and nearly three million die within the first month of life according to Save the Children.
An estimated 450 premature babies die each hour.
Those babies who survive often suffer from serious ailments including diabetes and heart disease.
Premature babies have very little body fat and are unable to regulate body temperature.

Reading A Rock


Rock Reading

In some ancient traditions, rocks are appreciated for more than just their minerals, they are thought to contain stories, ancient wisdom–a wisdom of the ages.



Grand Canyon


Rocks have been used in a number of setting and rituals cross-culturally for years.
In a sauna or sweatlodge rocks are heated and added to the fire-pit to create warmth and steam to heat the dome where the ceremony occurs.
Rocks are used to build a medicine wheel, a circle used for prayer. Rocks are placed to indicate the directions or the compass, cardinal and non-cardinal placements. The powers associated with the directions can be called forth and held in the rocks. 
It is said that rocks are a member of the oldest family on earth and contain a great deal of wisdom.
Rock Reading
To do a divination/meditation look for a big rock that you are drawn to, one that resonate with you. It is best if it has three or more faces or sides to it.
Ask a question of the rock (asking spirit, the universe, or your inner mind).
Look at one side at a time, looking for images or symbols; it is like tea leaf or coffee grind reading, or the images you seen in clouds –just let your imagination be open to “seeing” the images.
Interpret the meaning of the images seen in relation to the questions asked.
 If you asked, when should I move to this place, or where should I move you are looking for hints to the question within the rock faces.
Let’s say you are wondering about moving to a new city or country, if the images look like snow to you––glaciers, skating, cold, winds––you might interpret that to mean it would be good to move during the winter months.
The different images seen on the various faces of the rock add detail and layers to the question and its answers. The images may look different and yet they interconnect in ways that may seem to open doors of potential.

Ovulation Twice a Month?!


 cracked egg shells

Ovulating More Than Once A Month

Terra Wise, originally written March 2011


Some women ovulate more than once a month. This is not a commonly known fact, although now there is research that can confirm this.

The findings may explain why the rhythm method of contraception has often proved to be unreliable and why many pregnancies are an unexpected surprise. Being aware of this information could lead to improved fertility treatments as well.


Ten percent of the women studied released two eggs in the same month.

All the women examined by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada showed at least two waves of maturing eggs in their ovaries in the same month.

I personally discovered this two egg per month reality decades ago, long before this research. I am one of the ten percent who (used to) ovulate twice per month. Perhaps this reproductive/hormonal quirk can help explain why the ‘egg basket’ empties quite early for certain women.

 This research has implications for women and couples trying to get pregnant, as well as for those trying hard to prevent pregnancy.








© Terra Wise, OrangeRose, 2006


Many women, upon discovering they are pregnant, have wondered how could this have happened with all the contraception and precautions taken.

If birth control protection beliefs are based on the one egg per month fertility cycle, that’s how the pregnancy happened, the two timing egg-drop snafu explains a lot!

The science now affirms what many medical staff at abortion clinics and their patients have come to know. Sometimes women find themselves pregnant despite their most diligent birth control efforts.

I have worked with women who have experienced twice a month ovulation. For example, one woman was particularly conscientious about birth control because she was quite certain she did not want a child and worked hard to avoid pregnancy, and yet she found herself pregnant and having to make the difficult choice to terminate.

The majority of women and couples who find themselves dealing with an unexpected pregnancy are fully aware of the complexity of their situation. A decision to terminate does not come easily, it comes after deep reflection — and the experience continues to stay with many people for quite some time afterward.

My point is we know that unplanned pregnancies occur despite the barriers, lotions, potions, caps, and temperature taking.

Be extra careful if you don’t want to become pregnant, you just might be a two-time per month ovulater. And if you do want to get pregnant, keep at it, you might be more fertile than you think you are.


Details  of the research: