"Los amantes de Gulmenitza",
Rumania, la Gran Diosa y su "paredro". 2ª 1/2 V milenio,
Museo Arqueológico de Oltenita, Rumania.
to heaven: The snake and the indoeuropean religious change',
Transformation of European and Anatolian culture, 4500-2500 B.C.", organised
by the Indo-European Studies Program, University of California, Los Angeles in
conjunction with University College, Dublin. 15-21 Sep. 1989.
Dra, Ana Mª Vázquez Hoys. Departamento de Prehistoria e Hª
Antigua. Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia. Madrid. España
1ª Parte -2ª
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With this short communication I would like to contribute to this hommenage
with the expression of my warmest and very sincerely friendship to proffessor
Gimbutas, who has reached the hiqhest scientific level both as a researcher and
as a woman inside a society and a scienti field formed and directed by men.
We all know that Gimbutas has been able to get the best and definitive
archaeological evidences on the origin and specialization of the Indo-European
people, what before her were practically kept at almost speculative
For us and for our own research activities in the field of the old religions, it
is specially important the fact that her points of view have been used to
support the matriarchal landscape of the Old Europe.
As Brian Hayden said about Gimbutas in his communication on " Archaealogy and
fertility " to the First International Conference on Archaeology of the Ancient
Mediterranean, occasion in which we had the pleasure to meet her, Gimbutas
herself is somewhat ambivalent as to here exact position (HAYDEN,B.. 1985;
Gimbutas (1982: 237) realised that both, the male and the female divinities,
manifesting side by side, the sacred male force strengthening the female
creative force, without any kind of subordination of one another.
Snake-goddess, h. 14 cm. from Ur. Irak Museum, Bagdad (Irak).
In this sense, each of these two
powers complemented one another resulting of such addition a double power.
In social terms, from this statement it can be said that women were not
subordinatte to men and that all the human resources in the Old Europe societies
were used to the full.
Female figure seated on leopard throne Anatolia, c.
The Great Goddess of Animals, Kybele.
On the other hand , Gimbutas has presented another asseverations that stand in
contrast with this balance on the functional complementary role of the sexes,
both the sacred and profane f i e ld s.
She argues that the Old European pantheon shows a society "dominated by the
mother" and for her it is not very important the representation of the male
She also says that the
principal divinity, the Great Goddess, is androqynous and a
supreme creator that
fashions all the life to her own (as opposed to the Indo-European "Earth Mother"
who must be fecundated
by a male deity in order to
F i nally , she presents
the idea of a " matriarchal society in
the Old-Europe in the same
sense as it was in the past 19th. Century, (elsewhere as a
matrilinear society) and from there she
continúes to contrast it with
her idea of an extreme patriarchy
represented by the Indo-European
people. Gimbutas said that the
societies were savagely destroyed by the
It is on this idea of
the opposition among the cultures
and violent changes in all the ways, where we want to pay
attention and refer to the fact
that this fight is found in all
classical mythologies, mainly
in the combat of the heaven
divinities, typical on the new Indo-European pantheon, against
a monstruous and autoctone being who is usually represented
in a snake
being has been understood under
d ifferent forms by various authors.
In Durmèzil' s opinión
(1942: 126 ff.), the fight of the hero
against a three-headed
dragón is probably the
reminiscence of an
archaic initiation ceremony,
where the snake was a protector
qenius of the life's
Three snakegods from the Acropolis
But this initiation not always
belonqs to the heroic model
as it occurs in others hagiographic accounts, like de french accounts of
the Saint Samson , Saint
Joulian, Saint Margaret or
Saint Bié (SEBILLOT, P, 1904; I, 468;
III, 1906: 29S, 293) . Also,
as M. Eliade remembers, (ELIADE, M, 1972: 45),
the dragon , out
of its eventual role in the heroic
initiation ceremonies and
myths, is also included in many other
traditions of cosmological
symbolism (like the Hinduism and
some African cultures); it
symbolizes the involution, the pre-formal way of the Universe, the "One" not
-fragmented before the
Saint Margaret and the dragon
Also snakes and dragons are
identified in almost every
place as the "place owners",
as the "autoctonous", against to
whon the just arrived people have to fight, as
Autran has said
(1946,66 y s.).
Three snakegods from the Acropolis
Hecatompedon pediment, Athens, c. 570-550 B.C.
Herakles vs. Triton; Typhon (Athens: Acropolis Mus.)
Birth of Erichthonius
Athena receives the
infant Erichthonius from Gaea (Earth)
while Hephaestus looks
on from the right.
Codrus Painter (c. 450 BCE)
- Staatliche Museen zu
Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin. 70 Detail
of side A, ca. 440-430, Antikensammlung, inv. no. F
2537. For use only for educational, non-commercial
Athena and Gaia and
appears then as the latent, as the preformal
and the indiferentiated one (ELIADE, 1972: 69) ,
concepts against the indoEuropean form and organization of the
The snake is a
protector genius of the life´s beginning and the known
relation in between woman and snake
which means something more
than an erotic symbology.
the snake-king of Acrópolis od Athenes. Louvre Museum, Paris
representa the spirit of the deads; she ressambles the ancestor
founder of the house, as
the classical mythology shows : Sosipolis from Elis, Kycreo
Salamina and Erictonio and Kekrops from Athens appear
as snakes. (PAUSANIAS
I,24,7; I,36,1).Cecrops was
considered to be the founder of Greek civilization and the city of
He was also credited with introducing writing, the custom of burial, marriage,
monogamy, bloodless sacrifice and to have dedicated Athens to
Cecrops , the first
king of Attica who was half-man half-snake
, was worshipped by
side in the southwest corner of the
Erechteion on the
of Athens, and his tomb was believed to lay
under the same temple. The Acropolis was called Cecropia and some peoples were
named after him.
king of Attica who was half-man half-snake. He had no parents and was
believed to have been born out of the earth. He had three daughters, "the
dew sisters"; Aglauros, Pandrosos and Herse. Aglauros was worshipped on the
north side of the
Acropolis, and the young men, the ephebes,
would pledge allegiance there when they did their national service.
According to some versions she had thrown herself off this side of the
Acropolis so that the Athenians would win the war against Eleusis. Pandrosos
was worshipped on the Acropolis as well, west of the Erechteion, where the
olive tree of
Cecrops was considered to be the founder of Greek civilization and the city
Athens. He was also credited with
introducing writing, the custom of burial, marriage, monogamy, bloodless
sacrifice and to have dedicated Athens to
Cecrops was worshipped by
side in the southwest corner of the Erechteion on the
Athens, and his tomb was believed to lay under the same temple. The
Acropolis was called Cecropia and some peoples were named after him.
Three snakegods from the Acropolis
Krekops, mythical early king of Athens. He is normally
shown with snake legs, as some other indigenous Athenian deities and heroess .Detail
from Athenian red-figure clay vase about 400 BC. Adolphseck, Schloss Fasanerie
77. Phot. Mus. AV 345 © Schloss Fasanerie
Varvakeion Athena: copy of Athena Parthenos, 2nd
cent. A.D. (cf. serpent coiled in shield)
Altar of Zeus, Pergamum 180-159 B.C.: east frieze: Hekate
and Artemis vs. snake-bodied giants (East Berlin: Pergamum Mus.)
Metamorphoses Bk X: 1-10 Eurydice Bitten by Serpent,
The figures of women with
snakes seem to mean the relation of the female with the male procreation.
Some of the best known figures have been
found in Crete. In this ones , what Neumann considers the female part (NEUMANN p,.Í43 y
ss,, ) can take the form af a vessel, or of a correspondíng female symbol- cist, bowl and so on- or else it
may appears in human-form as goddess or priestess , bearing
the snake in her arms or twined round her body. In either cases, the snake treats the Feminine with
familiarity (Fig.s 1,4,8).
Clay Snake Goddess, Heraklion Museum.Crete
The relation between vessel and snahe plays an
important role in the Eleusinian
mysteries; it is also illustrated by a
Spartan coin, published by Neumann (NEUMANN, op. citn p. 144.) (Fig. ).
The connection between goddess and
snake appears in Greek and Rome
representations, and also in the Egyptianizing representations of Atargatis and the coin
showing Isis, with snakes (Figs.. 2 y 3 ).
Snake Goddess of fayence. Heraklion Museum. Crete
The snake is so universal and polyvalent as a
symbol that in this work we cannot go
into its areas of meaning.
In line with its uroboric hybrid nature , the snake symbol
may also appears as feminine.
Because the feminine vessel is creative , the womb is the sacred precinct, the truly numinous
feature e in body symbolism, and like everything that is numinous it is ambivalent and ambiguous.
Metamorphoses Bk IV: 576-603 Cadmus and
Harmonia Become Snakes, Solis
The snake is associated with it in a subordínate
role. Like the male and phallic element,
it appears as a part of the Feminine or
as its companion. Thus the snake in Crete and India is an attribute
of the female deity, and it
is at the same time her male -phallic companión.
As lower earth serpent of fertility, the snake is
part of the Earth Goddess and as
underground water it
womb; or else it may represent the upper and celestial water, the nous
spirit serpent that enters the feminine
soul and guides it( as Neumann sayss: in the
manner af the Holy Spirit,) or also
fecundates i t by seduction.
But let´s come back to the idea of the fight
between a primordial being, the snake, and
a heavens god.
In the vedic mithology, I n d r a ,
the most popular god , the heroe, the master of all humidity and of all genesic powers, fights against the Vritra dragón, the giant that retains the
waters in the mountain
This is the most important mith in the Rigveda.
Ceremonial beaker with
dedicated to Ningishzida,
god of healing.
of Ningizzida , snake-god of King Gudea of Lagash, 2025BCE.
Dragon of Marduk, fron the Ishtar gate , Babilon
Ningishzida with serpent dragon heads on his shoulder presenting King
Gudaea of Samaria. Note dragon later known as the god Marduk on the left.
of a god against
a marine or ophidic monster is known , a very spread mythical subject.
Let us to remember the fight of
Apofis, in Egipt;
tombe d'Anhourkhaou, le «Grand matou» tue le serpent Apophis sous l'arbre
d'Héliopolis, XXe dynastie, peinture sur stuc.
ob es sich um eine löwengestaltige Gottheit oder um eine
Frau mit einer Löwenmaske handelt; gefunden im Ramesseum
Heka, la magia
zeichnerische Darstellung des Gottes Heka mit
den zwei gekreuzten Schlangenstäben
oben: gewundener Schlangenstab, gefunden in in
einem Grab in Theben-West, wo er, in Haare eingeflochten, entdeckt
unten: Unheil abwehrender Stab aus Elfenbein, auf der Rückseite ist
ein Versprechen eingraviert, die Herrin des Hauses, Seneb, zu
the combat of the sumerian god Ninurta
against Asag ; the batle of Marduk against Tiamat ,
Marduk slaying Tiamat
The figth of the hittite thunder god
Tagainst the snake Illuyankas
Weather-god (Teshub) Neo-Hittite,
killing dragon Illuyanka, 1050-850 B.C. (Ankara Mus.)
Minoan Snake Goddess, Boston Museum
Herakles: as infant, strangling 2 serpents (Pompeii: House of the Vettii) 4th
style: 1st cent. A.D.
Herakles vs. Hydra, relief (Athens: Nat'l. Mus.)
Metamorphoses Bk XV: 665-696 Aesculapius Changed to a
Zeus prepares to strike Typhon with a thunderbolt.
Chalcidian Black-figure hydria, 540 - 530. Below: panthers and goats. Names
above figures. H. 46 cm. Simon, Erika. Die Griechischen Vasen. Hirmir Verlag,
Munich: 1981. Color Plate XVIII
of Zus against Typhon
, a fire breathing
giant with 100 serpentine heads, Typhon was taller than mountains
with serpentine legs and thighs and had a feathered and winged body.
He fathered on
vulture that ate Prometheus' liver, and the Nemean Lion