Customs, Medicinals, Travel

The Divine Serpent and Natural Medicine

A Serpent Clings to a Person (Photo: Walter Coraza morveli)

From the early mists of civilization the serpent has been connected with the earth, water, and fertility. It is a source of life.

In ancient cultures, like those of the Egyptians and the Persians, the serpent was considered as a symbol of power, wisdom, and sexuality.

In the Andean world it is called Amaru and was a much respected and worshipped animal. Often it was considered a divinity. It is part of the Andean trilogy and symbolizes the ukhu pacha, the world within. It is connected with fertility, water, rain and wisdom.

We take tourists often to the Temple of the Moon, which is a ceremonial center that was very important. It is fascinating. It is said that in the times of the Inca there were places where Andean priests would come, such as to the paqarinas or to places by the snow-clad peaks. In those places they could renew their energies, since they were intermediaries between men and gods. When they would do a ceremony and it would not produce the desired results, the priests worried they might be losing their powers. In order to renew them they had to visit these sacred places, such as the Temple of the Moon in Cuzco.

Snakes Carved on the Doorway of an Inca Wall (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)
Snakes Carved on the Doorway of an Inca Wall (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

This temple is a cave in a rocky formation. At its entrance you will find worked into stone the three sacred animals, the condor, the puma (though this has had it head knocked off by the extirpators of idolatry in colonial times), and the serpent. In reality there are two snakes; one that is very thin and whose head points in the direction of the entrance while the other is very large and thick. Its head indicates the exit from the cave.

The location of these two serpents is interpreted in the following way. The Andean priests would enter this holy place without power, wisdom, or energy. They would be like the thin and emaciated snake. After their visit they would emerge with power, wisdom and much energy just like the large serpent in order to continue their work, renewed and refreshed.

The serpent is also an animal that is used in traditional medicine, in a rustic form. People use its fat to cure problems of the bones and to reduce pain. It is known that since ancestral times Andeans have relied on the resources given by nature, such as plants and animals, as forms of natural healing.

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