by Philip Gardiner
Serpent worship was once common in Ireland until Christianity’s
dominance systematic wiped it out. Yet according to Philip Gardiner
the signs of this ancient wisdom lore can still be found today
throughout the world.
Ireland, St Patrick and the Pests
Ireland was once infested with snakes. So say the Christian stories
of St. Patrick, who supposedly expelled them with his Baculum Jesu
or Staff of Jesus . Of course Ireland has no indigenous snakes at
all and so he must have been speaking of a symbolically. But to what
was he referring?
For years, scholars, Christians and even alternative historians have
been arguing over what exactly St Patrick was eradicating. There is
precious little evidence of St Patrick even coming to Ireland, just
as there is no evidence that St Paul went to Malta and kicked out
the snakes there too! So what's the truth? And is there any
spiritual relevance for us today?
Across Ireland there are hundreds of crosses, many of which can be
proven to have pre-Christian origins, and many are entwined with
images of serpents. The same is true of other locations, such as
Malta as I’ve just mentioned, Rhodes, India, Greece and many more.
In all these places snakes are found on ancient megalithic monuments
and Christian buildings.
These are remnants of a pre-existent
serpent-worshipping cult. The serpent cult, is so often misread as
consisting of solar worshippers. They worshipped the esoteric or
inner sun. For us today this inner light is the realization of our
own connection to the greater universe, of our own inner balance and
our own growth towards a more ‘in-tune’ attitude to the world around
us. It is also the part of ourselves and our outer world, which
gives life, sustains and gives growth.
The sun, found in the sky and as an inner light found within via
methods pertaining to the inner serpent energies,  as they were
perceived. These inner serpentine and solar linked visions were
physically represented in megalithic monuments, oral folktales and
The existence of this universal cult can also be discovered in other
elements of the Irish and Celtic tradition. There is scarcely a
design or ornament in Ireland from ancient times that do not show
the serpent or dragon image. There is scarcely a myth, a folk tale
or a legend, which does not include the serpent. These are not just
pagan ornaments or myths - they also bled into the Christian world,
or more accurately, the Christians could not keep them out it was so
deep in the Irish culture.
The Church had spent many years trying desperately to demonize the
serpent, making it the evil snake in the Garden of Eden or even
picturing Lucifer, the angel of light, as the serpent. The reason is
simple. Knowledge is powerful, but knowledge of yourself is much
more powerful - the Church, as the intermediaries between us and
knowledge of the Divine could not allow this. But the snake
maintained its position steadfastly within the Church, clinging on
like limpet. It was in fact the only animal in the Bible to speak
using it's own voice; it was used by Moses in the wilderness to heal
the Israelites and it was used by the first Christians as the symbol
for the Christ himself.
Serpents can be found on Irish Christian crosses such as those of
Killamery in Kilkenny County and the font of Cashel, amongst others.
Indeed, even the Crosier (priests staff) of Cashel has a serpent
emerging from a vagina – which itself is covered in serpents –
therefore symbolizing ‘new life’ via the born-again serpent.
The crosier itself basically resembles the staff of Moses or Aaron,
or even that of an Etruscan or Babylonian priest – all cultures
linked to serpent worship. Unfortunately fundamentalists and strict
Protestants removed many of these serpents found adorning such
crosses, in an attempt to hide the true history.
Also seen on Irish crosses are strange figures, which have extra
large heads in relation to their body. Some have said that this is
due to the predominance of a “Celtic Head Cult”, but the evidence we
uncovered in The Serpent Grail  pointed to the fact that both the
serpent cult and the head cult are one and the same. We found that
this was due to the internal psychological and spiritual process
brought on by the serpent energies.
In Irish tales these great serpents or "piests" (pests), were said
to be “as big as a horse, and have a great mane upon it, so it has.”
(Legend of the Lakes, Croker, relating to Lough Kittane of
Killarney). This has baffled many and has given rise to the link
between the snake-serpent and the fabled dragon in many cultures.
The tales of the great serpents of huge size and even compared to
mountains reveals much. Many of these serpent tales refer to actual
locations whereby ancient man created great centers of healing,
initiation and ritual – all linked to the universal worship of the
The Fenian heroes of ancient Ireland are recorded orally in song and
one of them, Fionn, was their ‘dragon slayer.’ One of the legends
tells us that:
“It resembles a great mound, its jaws were yawning wide;
There might lie concealed, though great its fury,
A hundred champions in its eye-pits.
Taller in height than eight men,
Was its tail, which was erect above its back;
Thicker was the most slender part of its tail,
Than the forest oak which was sunk by the flood.”
Fionn asked where this great monster had come from and was told,
“From Greece, to demand battle from the Fenians.” Perhaps serpent
worshippers had come to Ireland from Greece, and had fought the
ancient inhabitants, leaving behind such terror that they became
symbolized by this great ‘dragon mound.’ Fionn, it is said, opened
the side of the dragon and released the men, going on to kill it. It
may be that there is a mixture of wartime fact entwined with the
symbolism of this legend. Emerging from the side of the dragon,
according to all the myths, gives new life, leaving us no doubt that
these serpentine monuments were places of initiation and rebirth.
Evidence of ancient serpent worship in the Americas can be verified
from the many serpent mounds that appear across the continent. In
Ohio, there is a large serpentine mound with a large head of the
snake swallowing (or throwing up) a large egg. Similar snake mounds
can be found across the world. Some are man-made, others natural and
adapted - such as Hackpens Hill near Avebury in England, where Hack
means snake and pen means head - thereby giving us "snakes head
hill". These large serpents, still seen in the land today were
ancient burial mounds, earthworks and places of ritual for the
serpent worshipping cults of our ancestors. The great mane upon the
mound, being grass or trees.
In 1871 at the meeting of the British Association in Edinburgh, a
certain Mr. Phene gave an account of his discovery in Argyllshire,
Scotland, of a mound, “several hundred feet long, fifteen feet high
and thirty feet broad.” The tail tapers away from a circular cairn,
which he presumed to be a solar disk above the head of the “Egyptian
uraeus”.  This fiery Uraeus serpent, or more properly Wadjet,
anoints the head with flames, as referred to in the Bible in
Apostles, Acts 2, where the Apostles are filled with the holy
spirit, and flames lick above their heads. Here we have a clue to
the serpents connection to spirituality.
the Pyramid Texts the Wadjet is linked strongly with nature. The
papyrus plant is said to emerge from her and she is connected to the
forces of growth, fertility and creative power. The Uraeus is an
indication of the divine wisdom and solar-force, emerging from the
brow of the head, symbolically represented in the serpent mounds
appearing on the brow of a hill. The brow is known as the ‘temple’.
Within the Temple is the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place in a
human’s body. In Native American traditions many underground caverns
within landscaped mounds are where known to be places where
initiation rites occurred. From our research, it appears these
places were ritualistic re-birthing portals as if from the womb of
the creative serpentine mother.
In Egyptian history Osiris entered
the serpent and emerged reborn and invigorated, and our European and
American ancestors mimicked this belief. In all cases it was the
wisdom of the serpent, which gave the strength to empower the
individual to move on in life, as if born again.
Serpent mounds – a worldwide phenomenon
Further references to serpent mounds can be found across the world.
In the Persian holy book Zend Avesta one of the story’s heroes takes
a rest on what he thinks is a bank – only to find out that it was a
green snake. In Mauritania, Iphicrates says that “there were dragons
of such extent that grass grew up on their backs.” In Strabo (Lib
xv. P.1022) two dragons are said to have resided in the mountains of
India, one eighty cubits long and the other one hundred and forty.
From Syria Posidonius tells of a dragon which was so large that
horse riders on either side could not see each other. Each ‘scale’
was as big as a shield, so that a man “might ride into his mouth.”
It is thought that these must be ruins of Ophite (serpent
worshiping) temples. In some parts of Syria serpent worshippers were
known as Hivites (linked with the root word hivvah which from which
came the biblical name of Eve which could then be equated with
"female serpent"). In India serpent deities are known as the Naga.
From South America text said to have been written by Votan
(Quetzalcoatl), in the language of the Quiches says he left
Chivim  and came to the New World to apportion land among seven
families who came with him and were said to be of serpent origin or
culebra. Passing the “land of thirteen snakes” he arrived in Valum
Votan, founding the city of Nachan (City of Snakes), thought to be
Palenque, possibly around 15 BC or even earlier.
In reference to
Serpent Mounds there is the description of a subterranean passage,
that terminated at the ‘root of heaven’ – referred to as a ‘snake’s
hole’ while snake heaven was Patala. Votan was only allowed entry
because he was ‘the son of a snake’ from which we can infer he was
an initiate in the serpent cult.
There are two distinct elements of practical wisdom originating in
the serpent tales, fables and folklore. Firstly that the physical
snake itself not only sloughs off its skin and appears to be re-born
from within a cave or under a rock, but that the very elements of
the physical snake could actually prevent disease and cures ill
health. The knowledge of amazing regenerative properties of the
various parts of the snake have been discovered in hundreds of
ancient medica materia, alchemical texts and hidden within folklore.
The venom of the snake was used as an Elixir to help prevent disease
through boosting the immune system with high levels of protein. And
secondly mixing the neurotoxic venom with the blood of the snake or
mammalian host such as a horse brings on altered states of
consciousness much akin to certain drugs used by shaman across the
world from ancient times. Visions of ‘otherworlds’ seen in such
trances are often depicted as tombs, wombs or caves, within which
sometimes benevolent, sometimes terrible, serpents are encountered.
In any discussion of serpent wisdom we cannot fail to also mention
the ancient Hindu Kundalini practice. Kundalini means simply "coiled
serpent" and in the Indian system the ida and pingala energy
(through serpent channels) are raised up and down the spine to raise
the consciousness of the adept. There are six chakra energy vortices
aligning the spine, with a seventh emerging from the top of the
head, which is called the bindu. Each chakra location must be
traversed upwardly, and in balance, before one can achieve the bindu
enlightenment reminiscent of the reference in Apostles, Acts 2 where
enlightenment is reached and described as fire licking at the head
in the bindu position.
I recently met up with the dowser Hamish Miller who has followed the
Michael and Mary lines of telluric energy across Europe finding many
examples of Kundalini images and the dual serpentine caduceus known
to all health practitioners the world over. We shared our amazement
at the widespread frequency of the serpent in myth and folklore
Mankind has from time immemorial searched for longer life and divine
wisdom. The result is a sacred and often, secret code, hidden in the
landscape, locked away in ancient texts and deep within our own
inner energy system. It is a secret code of the divine and wise
serpent that has survived the attempts of the Christian Church to
If you hear its call, there is a wellspring of
knowledge out there for you to discover.
1 According to Giraldus Cambrensis or Gerald of Wales.
2 Today, the inner traditions of the serpent energy are most
prominent in the Kundalini and Chakra based systems practiced by
Eastern adepts and many New Age societies in the West.
3 The Serpent Grail by Philip Gardiner with Gary Osborn, Watkins,
4 The Ureaus, also known as Wadjyt, Wadjit, Uto, Uatchet and Edjo
was a pre-dynastic ‘cobra goddess’ of Lower Egypt (approximately
4,000 BC) who took the title ‘The Eye of Ra.’
5 Chivim is a Hebrew word, meaning “sons of the female serpent” (or
Eve) and may imply a greater knowledge of this journey from a Judaic