Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pictures and history of snake people, nagas, lamia, yuan ti, etc.

Stomping the SnakeImage by elycefeliz via Flickr
As part of my long and serious effort to know everything about everything, I've been interested in snake people.  In reality there is no snake men or women.  But there is a lot of snake human interactions, symbols, and cultural and religious beliefs regarding them.  One that just came to mind that I hadn't thought of until now is the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis in the bible. 

In the LDS beliefs, the serpent is mostly a symbol, and Satan, or Lucifer, actually did participate in tempting Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit, which, to our beliefs, is not some archaic symbol for sexual sin, but... an archaic symbol... well not really a symbol, but the actual first disobedience of Adam and Eve. 

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagoni...Image via Wikipedia

For Mormons, this was a necessary event so that Adam and Eve, and all of us their descendants, could know right from wrong, and choose whether to follow God or not.  We feel that the phrase "in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" means that Adam and Eve became separated from God, spiritually dead, when they disobeyed him.  Anyway, I'm way off topic...

King James Bible: Genesis 2:16-17  From: 
16 And the Lord God acommanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest bfreely eat:
17 But of the atree of the bknowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the cday that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely ddie.

The rest of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have somewhat similar ideas of the creation, though of course many minor variations of the story exist.

In the Buddhist and Hindu cultures snake people are called Nagas or something similar.  In these cases they tend to be somewhere between gods and people, with human heads and snake bodies, or sometimes with multiple human heads on a single snake torso and tail.    While nagas are often used in modern fiction, they have a root in the beliefs of many peoples in Asia.

Yuan-Ti, on the other hand, appear to be a completely fictional group created by Dungeons and Dragons.  They are an evil underground race of snake people.  As far as I can tell the AD&D Yuan-Ti have two legged females and snake tailed males.  This is totally sexist.  Females have two legs because having two legs allows for more hotness... whereas for males they don't care about hotness, and can focus on ferocity, for which the one tail allows the impression of possible speed or constricting power etc.  Lame!

And then there's Lamia.  Lamia was a Libyan queen in Greek mythology that was seduced by Zeus, and for one reason or another, often involving the deaths of her own children, she started eating her own.  She is sometimes considered to have a snake's tail below the waist.
A yuan-ti abomination and malison

Snakes play a role in the lives of many peoples, for example, there are many taboos about snakes among the traditional Navajo:

The Hopi believed that there was a tribe that descended from snakes: 

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, Yuan-ti in D&D come in three varieties with varying strength of snake features. Each of these varieties have both male and female members. The picture of them in the monster book showed a female of the humanoid variety with one of the fully naga-like ones of an indeterminate gender. The only thing "sexist" about them is your attempt to vilify their creation based on something you heard.