Wisdom is the coiled serpent.
“As a sacred figure, a Great Mother and owl of Minerva (symbol of knowledge and wisdom), the Minoan snake goddess is connected directly to the wisdom of the divine feminine. Even though no written accounts survive, she was clearly a powerful figure, and power can certainly be the product of wisdom. The snake itself comes to us from the East, and women and the snake are associated with wisdom throughout ancient history. The motif of the snake, curled upon itself tail in mouth, is symbolic of the eternal cycle. It is round, it is cyclical, and it is unending. Nature reflects this in the seasons and we may reflect it spiritually in the seasons of our lives on earth as we evolve through many lifetimes. The snake can also shed its skin, which we can imagine as a metaphor for the idea of the stages of life, or even the idea of successive lives. From the earliest times, even before the Minoans, the snake is present, right back to the Epic of Gilgamesh, our earliest recorded story, dating to the eighteenth century BCE.
The Gilgamesh story anticipates Eden, featuring man created by God from the soil, his temptation by a woman bearing food and his subsequent wandering quest. When he finds the fruit of immortality, a snake steals it from him. Snakes are associated with eternity, fertility, and knowledge. They are portrayed wrapped round the tree of life. They can also bite when least expected. Eve was tempted by the snake. When she accepted the apple, God condemned the snake to crawl upon its belly and eat the dirt for all time. Later the Virgin is depicted as the new Eve, with the snake beneath her feet. Christianity developed an association of the snake with evil, the devil, but eastern thought associates it with the kundalini, the life force that resides coiled in the sacral base.
When activated through yoga or meditation, the kundalini awakens, igniting the chakras and granting the initiate the wisdom of self- knowledge as well as the wider consciousness. At its most esoteric, the three and a half times coiled kundalini snake can imbue the adept with magic power. Three is the mystical number, the number of the trinity, and as the kundalini wakens and uncoils along the backbone, its path resembles the staff of Hermes or the Rod of Asclepius, now the symbols of medicine, or the triple helix of our DNA.”
This is an excerpt. Want to read more? Order Minerva’s Owls by Mary Petiet
When the Romans adopted Athena as the virgin goddess of wisdom, they renamed her Minerva and gave her Athena’s Attributes.
As the patroness of Athens, Athena’s bailiwick included the boons of civilization from the peaceful feminine aspect: The arts, including wisdom, inspiration, legal justice, music, poetry, crafts and weaving, the power to heal, and magic. Her connection to wisdom in symbolized by her familiar, the owl.
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