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Adam and Eve: Sistene Chapel detail; Michelangelo [1508-12] (public domain image)

The Worship of the Serpent

by John Bathurst Deane


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This is an early 19th century study of Ophiolatreia, or snake-worship. Deane's primary thesis here is that ancient serpent worship was based on memories of the Garden of Eden. He has a monomaniacal devotion to the subject of snake worship and sees evidence of it everywhere. Deane reviews a massive amount of data from antiquity, travelers tales, and legend and folklore. A particularly compelling portion of the book describes ancient megalithic temples such as the Avebury and Carnac complexes as giant representations of snakes. One wonders what he would have made of the ancient American mound builders, who made huge sinuous earth sculptures in the Ohio valley.

Because he wrote before such advances such as the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics, excavations in Mesopotamia, detailed knowledge of eastern religions in the west, and the systematic study of folklore and anthropology, much of this information is outdated or incorrect. For instance, many of his etymologies can't be supported by modern historical linguistics. On the other hand, many later discoveries added to our understanding of the special role that snakes and other reptiles play in religion and mythology.

Modern writers from Carl Sagan to David Icke have taken the same themes and derived interesting, if controversial theses of their own. Sagan (in The Dragons of Eden) wrote about the ancient relationship between mammals and reptiles which goes back to the time of the dinosaurs. Sagan pointed out that there is a section of our brain, which is morphologically and functionally similar to a reptile brain, embedded in our brain stem, called the "Reptilian Complex". He also discussed the fear of snakes which seems to be hard-wired into our brains, and inferred that it began in the primordial struggle for survival between reptiles and mammals. At the other end of the spectrum, Icke believes that a shapeshifting race of reptilians have dominated history and even today are the secret rulers of our planet. Certainly, the full account of this topic has yet to be written.

Title Page
Table of Contents
Preliminary Observations on the Fall of Man
Chapter I. Serpent-Worship in Asia
Chapter II. Serpent-Worship In Africa
Chapter III. Serpent-Worship in Europe
Chapter IV. Serpent-Worship in America
Chapter V. Heathen Fables Illustrative of the Fall of Man
Chapter VI. Serpent Temples
Chapter VII. The Decline of Serpent Worship
Chapter VIII. Summary.
Chapter IX. Concluding Remarks on the Redemption of Man.