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Serpent

As a symbol, the serpent obtained a prominent place in all the ancient initiations and religions Among the Egyptians it was the symbol of Divine Wisdom when extended at length, and the serpent with his tail in his mouth was an emblem of eternity. The winged globe and serpent symbolized their triune deity. In the ritual of Zoroaster, the serpent was a symbol of the universe. In China, the ring between two serpents was the symbol of the world governed by the power and wisdom of the Creator. The same device is several times repeated on the Isiae Table. Godfrey Higgins (Anacalypsis i, pare 521) says that, from the faculty which the serpent possessed of renewing itself, without the process of generations as to outward appearance, by annually casting its skin, it became, like the Phenix, the emblem of eternity; but he denies that it ever represented, even in Genesis, the evil principle. Faber's theory of the symbolism of the serpent, as set forth in his work on the Origin of Pagan Idolatry, is ingenious. He says that the ancients in part derived their idea of the serpent from the first tempter, and hence it was a hieroglyphic of the evil principle. But as the deluge was thought to have emanated from the evil principle, the serpent thus became a symbol of the deluge.

He also represented the good principle; an idea borrowed from the winged Seraphim which was blended with the Cherubim who guarded the tree of life--the Seraphim and Cherubim being sometimes considered as identical; and besides, in Hebrew, lot means both a seraph and a serpent. But as the good principle was always male and female, the male serpent represented the Great Father, Adam or Noah, and the female serpent represented the ark or world, the microcosm and the macrocosm. Hence the serpent represented the perpetually renovated world, and as such was used in all the Mysteries.

Doctor Oliver brings his peculiar views to the interpretation, and says that in Christian Freemasonry the serpent is an emblem of the fall and the subsequent redemption of man. In Ancient Craft Masonry, however, the serpent does not occur as a symbol. In the Templar and in the Philosophy Degrees--such as the Knight of the Brazen Serpent, where the serpent is combined with the cross--it is evidently a symbol of Christ; and thus the symbolism of these Degrees is closely connected with that of the Rose Croix.

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