© 2000 Patricia Jane St. John Danko





  WORKSHOP PROPOSAL:

LOOKING AT OLD THINGS WITH NEW EYES
DID THE SERPENT GET A BAD RAP?



     One of the most fascinating things we can do for ourselves is discover that something has been in front of our eyes all our lives and has remained unseen. Ms. St. John Danko proposes to give workshops designed to consider the serpent: the big, bad serpent, the cause of the downfall of humankind in the Judeo-Christian traditions, the subject of vituperation and vilification by artists since the Renaissance, the subject of condemnation by the ancient Hebrew patriarchs, and probably the most reviled animal in our contemporary society. Yet, if that is so, why then does the serpent appear throughout Western civilization as the symbol for healing? The international emblem of the medical profession, the caduceus, two entwined snakes on a rod, is familiar to all of us. Have we ever questioned why the reviled serpent is our symbol for healing? The serpent also appears as the insignia of the U.S. Army medical corps. Throughout Europe, the image of a serpent coiled around a cup denotes the presence of a pharmacy. The very first American flag had a serpent on it. Why? What vestige of our primordial memory causes us to accept the serpent in the context of a symbol for healing at the same time we revile it as the cause of our expulsion from Eden?


     These very entertaining questions will be accompanied by slides of the serpent as perpetrator of evil in works of art by the Old Masters through the Symbolists and into contemporary art. Also presented will be slides of ancient works of art depicting the serpent as healer, comforter, and the most venerated and worshipped of animals, such as Babylonian icons in which the serpent attends the Goddess and offers the food of immortality to Her people. Ancient historical data will be incorporated, such as the worship of the serpent by the Hebrew tribes before Yahweh arose as the One God, and the story of the ancient Hebrew priestly clan, the Levites, sons of Leviathan, the great wriggly one. The Hebrew word for the divine serpent was "Seraph," which today is colored to mean one of the choirs of Angels. Finally, the serpent will be investigated as a powerful symbol that existed at the time of the Babylonian captivity of the Hebrew people, a symbol that epitomized, for the writers of Genesis, all their rival religions. Could it be that the writers of Genesis, in choosing their symbol for evil, deliberately attempted to strike the serpent from its lofty position and make it culpable for all the woes and tribulations of their people? Could the serpent actually be the Great Scapegoat, then and now?


     We will never know why this most reviled of creatures appears today in our most venerated emblems. Nonetheless, something exists in our primordial memory, for we look at the caduceus throughout our lives with acceptance of this creature as a symbol for the healing profession. Contradiction inherent in the dual symbology of the serpent is surprising to many. Although familiar with the caduceus, we look at it without thinking about it. We look at it but do not see it, do not consider or wonder about its origins. And, if we are capable of such a lapse with regard to this ubiquitous image, what are the implications in our daily lives? How much in life do we accept without thinking? How many contradictions, meriting thought and consideration, are inherent in our society and in our personal lives? How much of our heritage have we lost without realizing it? How much of life do we loose because we do not see and ponder the everyday things that continually touch us but are somehow lost to us? How much awareness of ourselves have we lost? How many new doors could we open to ourselves by simple reflection on the things that are already familiar to us? How much do we look at without ever seeing?


© 2000


Workshop Proposal

Propuesta de Trabajo

Proposta de Traballo

 

Aesthetic Intent

Proyecto Estético

Proxecto Estético

Lilith's Song To Adam

Canción de Lilith a Adán

Cantiga de Lilith a Adán

     

© 2000 Patricia Jane St. John Danko

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