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The Myth & Magic of Snakes

Snakes are a tricky, slippery creature to pin down. To some, an ally of the devil, sent to coerce us into sin, to others a symbol of rebirth and transformation, and...

Snakes are a tricky, slippery creature to pin down. To some, an ally of the devil, sent to coerce us into sin, to others a symbol of rebirth and transformation, and to Freud... Well, we all know what Freud thought.

Bernini's Medusa in marble won display in San Francisco

Snakes have probably featured in more myths, legends and religious tales than any other animal. They fascinate and frighten us. Medusa's hissing serpents, the ouroboros (a serpent devouring its own tail - an ancient symbol of eternity depicted on Tutankhamen's tomb), the semi-divine human-snake creature that guarded the Buddha and the snakes that St Patrick drove out of Ireland. Although that one probably wasn't about actual snakes. The myth of St Patrick makes more sense if read through the lens of allegory: Snakes were a symbol of paganism and St Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, thus driving out the pagans. I'm inclined to think the Irish Celts would have been better off had he not.

"In mythology and religion the snake is a dual power signifying both positive and negative symbolism. It is guardian and destroyer, light and dark, good and evil." - from Signs & Symbols: An illustrated guide to their origins and meanings

Natural Phantom Quartz point pendant with a silver snake on the setting

No wonder we witches find them kindred souls, we share a common mistrust from others. We are feared and misunderstood. Most snakes (and witches) don't want to harm anyone, we're very happy minding our own business, but if you test us, we will bite, and some with venom.

Tracy, one of my long-time customers confesses to mostly owning jewellery with snakes or eyeballs. When I asked her why she was drawn to those pieces so much she said, "I like the symbolism of snakes and try to embody their healing, creative energy in my own life, or at least try to call upon that power to reinforce it in myself."

Jewellery can be powerful...

We can take courage and strength from the jewellery we own that symbolise those qualities for us. My new collection, The Armoury explores just this. The heavyweight chains, made of many interlinked snakes, feels like armour when I put it on. I feel protected and reassured. Perhaps that is how the Gorgon's felt with their snake-hair, each one a defence, a guardian. Add to that a few protective crystals, each with their own lore and legend of healing, energy-defending and warding magic and you've got a potent mix of mystical armour.

Armed with our most beloved jewellery, we somehow feel more prepared to go to battle with the day.

Liva, Bonearrow's workshop assistant and talented artist, paints snakes in her work repeatedly. 

Artist Live Vilemsone in her studio holding up an oil painting of a snake

What is it about snakes that makes you want to paint them over and over again?

"I very much admire their skin patterns and beautiful colours; I think snakes are beautiful creatures. Once I’m in the flow state, painting snakes is like meditation.  I like to take my time and enjoy the process, so lately I’ve been drawn back to this subject because I find it very satisfying.  Perhaps subconsciously, I love painting snakes as it makes me think that I am facing my fears; staring at them for many hours and multiple sessions until the painting is finished."

gothic style oil painting of a vivid pink snake

"What may come as a surprise to many is that I am actually afraid of snakes when I come across them in real life. This actually happened to me once, when I came across a viper while I was gathering flowers in the meadow for midsummer celebration as a child in Latvia.  I do remember screaming however, which was probably the wrong thing to do in this situation. I’ve also been having dreams about snakes, which I understand symbolise rebirth, shedding of skin and new beginnings, which definitely seems to correlate with my waking life."

What do you think your snake paintings evoke in people’s feelings?

"I think just like me, a lot of people are afraid of snakes, but my intention is not to evoke fear in people, but rather to portray their beauty, along with florals and nature’s elements, in the hope that it makes them appear more friendly and show these misunderstood reptiles in a different light. I think it is the allure of the danger of snakes which captivates people."

The Armoury - chains, bracelets and charms launches on Thursday March 28th at 8pm.

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