Son of a Snake

One odd Biblical interpretation that I’ve come across occasionally is the Serpent-Seed Doctrine, which basically says that Eve had sex with the snake. While this idea is first known to have shown up in the ninth century, it’s been said to have been orally transmitted by rabbis long before that, and is sometimes associated with the Kabbalah. The basis for it is in Genesis 3:14-15: ” And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” I would imagine that “enmity…between thy seed and her seed” is usually interpreted as meaning that humans and snakes would be enemies, but some have suggested it means they totally did it, although I’m not entirely sure how.

Snakes are frequently viewed as phallic symbols, and the Fall of Man is associated with sexual awakening. Actually, since Adam and Eve didn’t start wearing clothes until AFTER eating the fruit, it seems like that made them ashamed of their sexuality. Makes sense in a way, as animals never appear to be ashamed of sex the way people are, but it doesn’t really fit with the idea that original sin is sexual in nature. But anyway, according to the doctrine, the murderer Cain was the son of Eve and the serpent. This has been used to defend racism, with whatever ethnicity someone doesn’t like being defined as the descendants of Cain and the snake, hence not fully human. It’s frequently employed by anti-Semites, even though it’s a Jewish idea in the first place. Some early Christian groups read racism into the Cain and Abel story by stating that the mark of Cain was black skin, and the Mormons adapted this as well. This isn’t actually serpent-seed doctrine, I suppose, but it’s similar in that it uses Cain’s not-quite-human status as an excuse for bigotry. I’ve seen scholars say that the original writers of Genesis likely intended the descendants of Cain to be the Kenites, a largely nomadic tribe in the Levant. They included many metal-workers, and Genesis identifies the first metal-worker as Cain’s descendant Tubal-Cain. A totally literal reading of Genesis suggests that all the descendants of Cain died in the Flood, as Noah was descended from Cain’s brother Seth. The important thing to take away from all this, however, is that someone apparently thought snakes could impregnate human women. Come to think of it, Alexander the Great was known to have claimed his real father was a snake. Well, a god in snake form, but since it’s a frequent interpretation that the serpent in Eden was actually Satan, so it’s not all that different.

Olympias, mother of Alexander, was part of a cult that handled snakes, and some people (probably those who don’t like her very much) think she had sex with them. I guess having a snake as an ancestor wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing, especially if you’ve inherited the ability to unhinge your jaw.

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3 Responses to Son of a Snake

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