Snake Dreaming

January 17, 2014

Greek healing goddess Hygeia with her snake. Photo by Sailko.
Greek healing goddess Hygeia with her snake. Photo by Sailko.

Wednesday’s teleseminar on Snake Dreaming with Susun Weed was a lot of fun. We talked about how snakes have historically been used in trance work and how you can bring snake energy into your healing and trance work today.

One topic that came up was snake phobias. There was speculation on the role of the Genesis story of Eve and the snake in the widespread prevalence of snake phobias.

We could put out a lot of theories about the origin of snake phobias, and the Christian vilification of snakes may indeed be a significant source, but when treating snake phobia – or practically any phobia – the origin is unimportant. Snake phobia is treated with a technique called Systematic Desensitization or Graduated Exposure. Basically this means starting out with a snake interaction that causes only minimal discomfort and building up to more significant interactions slowly over time. This could mean starting by looking at pictures of snakes, then videos of snakes, then going to a place where you can observe snakes behind glass (perhaps with a friend) until eventually you can tolerate handling nonpoisonous snakes or observing them in the wild. (If you can’t tolerate seeing a picture of a snake, you’ll have to start at an even more basic level, perhaps with the help of a therapist.) Listening to the audio of snakes slithering from my website Invoking Animal Magic may be helpful in the process of deflating a snake phobia, but be sure that you can tolerate pictures first. If you move quickly to a level of interaction that produces a great amount of anxiety, this ends up reinforcing the phobia.

The link to a replay of the teleseminar is here.

Aine at Summer’s End

October 26, 2012

European goddesses often have both an animal and a bird form. Can you guess why Aine’s bird form would be a swan?

Cold and flu season is upon us, and herbalists are writing about garlic, echinacea, mullein, honey, and a host of other beneficial plants. Irish herbalists saw the blessing of the goddess Aine (pronounced ON-ya) as a necessary catalyst in these herbal concoctions. Aine is a fire goddess whose spark makes its circuit throughout the body commencing with every sunrise. Aine often takes the form of a red mare, as in Celtic lore horses are equated with the sun. At Midsummer Aine’s protection for livestock would be invoked by waving torches over animals.

Probably due to her fiery nature, Aine appears in stories as a lustful woman with many lovers. She bore many children, and Irish rulers often traced their family lineage to her. She is said to have a stone birthing chair cut into the side of a mountain. Those who sit in this chair become insane, and the insanity is permanent if they repeat this procedure three times. But insanity can also be cured by sitting on Aine’s chair, so perhaps no lapse of sanity is incurable.

Like many healing goddesses, Aine has a wrathful side. In one legend she curses her rapist by sucking the skin off his ear and depriving him of his possessions. My guess would be that this is based on an older story related to a broken taboo at Samhain (Halloween). Aine also had a legendary father who was cruel to her. After her escape she became a spinner of sunbeams in the forest (another allusion to her origin as sun goddess) where she tutored wives in the art of slowly debilitating their husbands through herbal interventions. I’m guessing that the debilitated husband story refers to the aging process measured by the movement of the sun, as well as Aine’s role as teacher of herbology.

Aine is believed to be the same goddess as Anu, about which little is known aside from her prehistoric monument of twin hills capped with cairns to look like nipples. She has also been equated with Danu, the legendary mother of the Irish gods, which would explain why so many rulers sought to legitimize their reign by claiming to be her descendents.


Sources

Celtic Mythology. New Lanark, Scotland: Geddes and Grosset, 1999.

Matthews, Caitlin and John Matthews. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom. Shaftesbury, UK: Element Books, 1994.

Matthews, John and Caitlin Matthews. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Myth and Legend. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2004.

Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. New York: Checkmark Books, 2008.