Athena's Web
Week of October 1st - October 7th,  1999

Hopi Serpents

Columns Archive

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   Myths are the crystallized manifestations of the dreams of society. They speak to us in a secret language that is mysterious, elusive, emotional and subjective, especially if they're your own dreams.

   Throughout 1997, we explored the trail of the Dragon around the world, showing how an awareness of the pole star pervaded the myths of most cultures at that time. There was a bond of understanding which existed among people, which embodied three basic principles. First, we are all subject to the influences of heaven in the form of the Sun, Moon and stars. Second, we are all children of the Earth; and third, the constellation of the Serpent stood at the crown of creation, hugging the North Celestial Pole. Whether this image was perceived as Dragon, Serpent in the Garden, Winged Serpent, Imperial Dragon, Thor Fishing for the World Serpent, or as a Serpent Mound in Ohio marking the seasonal changes, it was a variation on the same theme, one which fluctuated from culture to culture. The Egyptians called Thuban (the Heart of the Dragon and the pole star around 2750 BC), the 'highest judge', because this was the single point in heaven which remained constant over time. No matter what season or time of day, it could always be found in precisely the same position, day in, and day out. The vacillations of normal life did not exist there. This single star stood for the unwavering will of the divine.

   The Hopi believe that we now stand at the end of the Fourth Cycle. In 1921, Yukiuma, chief of a Hopi village, was in prison for the eighth time in fourteen years for his refusal to sign a document which said that the government could take the village children from their homes and educate them in distant boarding schools. Even after hard labor, poor conditions, and psychological torture, Yukiuma and others refused to sign.

   The Hopi had never intended to keep their prophecies a secret, and indeed, they had initially welcomed the first Spanish explorers into the region. But when they saw how first the Spanish, and later the Anglos treated them, they decided to hold onto the information because the white man did not listen. But the scrawny chief had hinted at his reasoning one day when he said to the Agent,

   "You see, I am doing this as much for you as for my own people. Suppose I should not protest your orders. Suppose I should willingly accept the way of the Bahannas (whites). Immediately, the great snake would turn over, and the sea would rush in, and we would all be drowned. You too. I am therefore protecting you."

   But the agent did not understand. He could not possibly understand. He did not know that the Greeks, too, believed that the Dragon could vomit great rivers and floods from out of his mouth. Even the Dragon of the Book of Revelation (12:15)

   "...vomited water from its mouth, like a river, after the woman, to sweep her away in the current..."

   This notion of the Dragon having power over the water can be found in many ancient traditions the world over. Like Revelation, the Hopis believe that there will be a period of great cleansing at the end of this cycle of time, but they do not call it Ragnarok, like the Norse, or Armageddon as the Christians do. They call it the time of the "Purification."

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Two Dragons Guarding the Earth

The Two Dragons

Draconic Mysteries

   While studying the mysteries of the Dragon, what stands out most is when a particular attribute, quality, or power seems to reappear in different mythologies, geographical locations, across centuries. For instance, one that we long ago unraveled was the Dragon wrapped around a central axis, whether it be a tree, pillar, arrow, sword, or spear. This theme runs from Gilgamesh to St George; another is the dragon's crown, found today on the colorful wooden hanging Thailand Dragons, or from the Book of Revelation (12:3),

   "Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet."

   Another of these repeating images was the double dragon. The Mayan Dragon of the Yucatan is a double-headed plumed serpent, located not far from the Hopi in the Southwest. The Hopi helped me to understand this riddle (obvious enough upon reflection, but one which had eluded me all these years) as a great snake stands at each of the Earth's two celestial poles. Because the poles are central to the circle, the Dragon eventually became synonymous with not only these, but the seasonal ingresses as well, as witnessed by the Plumed Serpent's descent down the stairs of the pyramid at Chitchen Itza on the equinox.

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