A couple of days ago I spent some time breathing through the third session of a tattoo that covers a good portion of my body. I was getting a snake added to the scene – a huge viper writhing around my right thigh and buttock.
Yup, another snake! The third tattooed on me. And since it was number 3 I wasn’t thinking about it much, I had been through the initiation of this energy/symbol twice before. No biggie, right? Ha! I should know better by now.
I believe that symbols have intrinsic, seeping power. Spend time with one and it will leave its mark on you the way spending time around a fire leaves you smelling of smoke.
And so the next evening I was up until the blue hours of the night, blind sided by a conversation which was digging up the most fetid memories and an overwhelming feeling of shame related to being a woman.
Remember the Garden of Eden? Snake medicine is visiting again.
I got my first snake tattoo a decade ago after participating in a woman’s initiatory ritual that involved a group of us building and walking a labyrinth. At the labyrinth’s center was a woman holding a large, live python. As I took my turn walking the labyrinth I wondered what I should do when I reached the goddess in the center – should I kneel? Should I say something important? What do you do when you have the chance to meet god? Not something we are generally taught protocol on!
Well, I kept taking the path and getting closer and still didn’t know. But when I arrived in the center I stood strait spined and I looked her in the eyes with that huge snake twisting around her neck and shoulders and I knew in that instant that there was no other choice but that – to meet her dead on as an equal.
Meeting the snake priestess was my first experience of knowing my own divinity. And as cliche as that might sound, it clicked in on a cellular level and changed who I was. And so my first snake tattoo, to remember myself as divine through wearing the symbol of that experience in my skin.
But what a tricky totem! Ever meet a poisonous snake face to face? I had the terrifying pleasure of getting far too close to a rattlesnake while harvesting blue vervain in the hills of South Dakota a few years ago. I got to feel the awe of being one false move away from a painful death. What has great power to transform often brings us to this place.
Cue me feeling like my heart is being torn open the day after my last tattoo. Cue Eve leaving the garden.
I believe that symbols are alive. Just like us they have different moods and manners depending on what they are in relation to. And just like us they are evolving and changing. As we develop a relationship with a symbol we write our own personal story with it.
When I am Eve, the story goes like this:
Snake: You know that itchy feeling you have that there are walls to this Garden? Well I’ve come to tell you your hunch is correct.
Eve: Seriously? I fucking knew it. Adam keeps saying to chill but I keep feeling like something is off.
Snake: Oh no, you are certainly on to something, darling. See that tree with the red fruit? Pick one and take a bite and you will know what you want to know.
Eve: Ok, I’ll try anything once… (Picks fruit. Takes bite. All of a sudden the Garden is transformed. Eve looks around and feels kinda screwed. She had a feeling that the Garden wasn’t the whole world but damn, this tiny lot is joke!) … What the! Snake, where did my Garden go!!!
Snake: You said you wanted to know the Whole Truth. Well, here is another version of it.
Eve: Well this is terrible! I can’t live here, I’ll die! There isn’t even anything left to eat except more fruit from that tree!
Snake: Yessss, you are correct. Now that you ate the fruit and see with different eyes, you have to leave. (Snake points to a keyhole shaped opening in the center of Eve’s chest) The key is in your hand.
Eve looks down and sees that there is in fact a key in her hand. She places it into the lock and turns and finds herself transported from the Garden. A new journey begins…
A decade into working with this symbol and it continues to change my vision of things and transport me to new places, layer upon layer of skin shed. I am grateful for the lessons of Snake as they are particular to what I desire to unlock in this lifetime.
What are your personal symbols and totems? How are you incorporating them into your life so that they can share their teachings with you? Consider having a painting created for you that reflects your symbols!
And, if tattooing as a way to carry your medicine appeals to you, I highly recommend you go to this artist. I know of no one else who has the same impeccable combination of technical skill, esoteric knowledge and heart filled dedication.