November/December 2005 Featured Stories
The Serpent Code
The Tale of Serpent Worship in Ireland and Christianity's Role in its Destruction

by Philip Gardiner

Ireland was once infested with snakes. It was, if you believe the Christian stories of St. Patrick, who supposedly expelled them with his Baculum Jesu or Staff of Jesus (according to Giraldus Cambrensis or Gerald of Wales.) Of course Ireland has no indigenous snakes at all and so we must be speaking here of a symbolic representation - but, symbolic of what?

For years, scholars, Christians and even alternative historians have been arguing over what exactly St Patrick was eradicating. Of course, there is precious little evidence that even St Patrick came to Ireland, just as there is no evidence St Paul went to Malta and kicked out the snakes there too! In fact, this wonderfully symbolic tale can be found in many places and always in association with the serpent. So what's the truth?

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 we have just mentioned - although here the snakes are found upon ancient megalithic monuments. These are remnants of a pre-existent serpent-worshipping cult that we discovered existed across the known world in ancient times. In fact, the very reason that Ireland was said to be infested with serpents, was in reality a Christian code word for serpent worshippers. And Ireland has not been the only place infested and eradicated of serpent worshippers. Malta, Rhodes, India, Greece and many more have all at one time or another been laid waste of the serpent cult, so often misread as solar worshippers. The truth of the solar worship becomes obvious once one understands the beliefs of the serpent cults. They worshipped the esoteric or inner light of themselves or wisdom which was manifested in the sky as the sun and this light came about via methods pertaining to the inner serpent energies, [1] as they perceived them. These inner serpentine and solar linked visions were then manifested or physically represented in megalithic monuments, oral folktales and art.

The existence of this universal cult can also be discovered in other elements of the Irish and Celtic tradition. It is my view that Celtic Knotwork is entirely derived from the image of the serpent and this is prevalent across the Celtic world and especially Ireland. We can see influences of this in the spirals and other serpent shapes seen upon many of the world’s ancient monuments. In Scandinavian literature and stone art we can also see how the serpent appears, looking remarkably like Celtic Knotwork. In Roman and Greek wall paintings there are running spirals thought to be symbolic of the protective snake and emerging later on as Ivy or Vine, the symbols of the serpentine Bacchus and Dionysus.

A Neolithic vessel, now in the museum of Henan in China, shows a distinct correlation between the idea of the snake and the Knotwork. The idea of the Knotwork coming from the snake was probably discontinued due to Christian influence. The proof is simple; there is scarcely a design or ornament in Ireland from ages past that does not show the serpent or the dragon. There is scarcely a myth, a folk tale or a legend, which does not include the serpent. And these are not just pagan ornaments or myths - they also bled into the Christian world, or more simply, the Christians could not keep them out. So deep was the culture of the snake in the mind of the people and so entangled within the folds of the snake was the story of Christianity itself that no amount of tinkering could tear them apart.

There are serpents on Irish Christian crosses such as those of Killamery in Kilkenny County. And the font of Cashel, amongst others, has similar designs. Indeed, even the Crozier (priests staff) of Cashel has a serpent emerging from a vagina – which itself is covered in serpents – therefore symbolising ‘new life’ via the born-again serpent. It basically resembles the staff of Moses or Aaron, or even that of an Etruscan or Babylonian priest – all cultures definitely linked to serpent worship. Unfortunately literal fundamentalists and Protestant preachers removed many of these serpents found to be adorning crosses, and so the Christian church yet again destroyed our true history.

Like the Babylonian serpent, which encircles the Zodiac there, have been found serpents with twelve markings and encircling orbs, showing an astronomical link again to the serpent. 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 I uncovered in The Serpent Grail [2] pointed to the fact that the two – the serpent cult and the head cult – are one.

In Irish tales these great serpents of "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 linkage between the snake-serpent and the fabled dragon in many cultures. The likening of the great serpents to huge size and even to mountains gives the game away.

In Ohio, USA, 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".

In truth then, these large serpents, still seen in the land today were nothing more than the ancient burial mounds and earthworks of the ancient serpent worshipping cults. The great mane upon the mound, being grass or trees. Let's just test the theory:

The evidences of serpent worship in the Americas can largely be shown via the many serpent mounds that appear across the continent. The most famous and already mentioned is the ‘Serpent Mound’ of Ohio, Adams County. However, most people are not aware that similar mounds also appear elsewhere.

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 similar mound, "several hundred feet long, fifteen feet high and thirty feet broad."

The tail tapered away, while a circular cairn, which he presumed to be the solar disk above the head of the "Egyptian uraeus", surmounted the head. 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.’

Depicted as a ‘rearing cobra,’ a ‘winged cobra,’ a lion (symbol of bloody sacrifice) headed woman or a woman wearing a red crown. She is the protector of Pharaoh. Shown together with Nekhbet who was seen as a woman, a snake or a vulture – bringing to mind the bird-serpent image of Quetzalcoatl or Kukulcan from South America.

Wadjet is seen as the fiery Uraeus, anointing the head with flames, like the apostles in Acts 2 of the Bible. In the Pyramid Texts she is linked strongly with nature. The papyrus plant is said to emerge from her and she is connected to the forces of growth. She is also closely connected to Isis in the form of Wadjet-Isis in Dep. This Ureaus then is an indication of the divine wisdom and solar-force, emerging from the brow, in the case of the above-mentioned mound, from the brow of a hill.

Indeed this is not a "one off," In the Zend Avesta one of the heroes takes a rest on what he thinks is a bank – only to find out that it was a green snake. Iphicrates related that in Mauritania "there were dragons of such extent that grass grew up on their backs." Thus showing the highly likely chance that tales of massive dragons in far-off lands could easily be Serpent Mounds. Again, the Egg becomes important in these mounds as a symbol of ‘new life.’

Other instances of Serpent Mounds are found mentioned by Strabo (Lib xv. P.1022) where two dragons are said to have resided in the mountains of India, one eighty cubits long and the other one hundred and forty.

Posidonius also tells of one in Syria, 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." Bryant concurs with the belief that these must be ruins of Ophite (serpent worshippers) temples. In Syria these were equated with Hivites (also serpent worshippers and linked with the root hivvah which gives us Eve or "female serpent") and India with the Naga serpent deities. And what were these Temples used for?

In ancient Egyptian papyri and in the Mesoamerican, codex borgia there are instances of the King entering the serpent and going through it in-order to be resurrected. This is much like those we find in the myth of Osiris, whereby he enters the tale of the snake and emerges from the mouth, reborn.

A book said to have been written by Votan (Quetzalcoatl), in the language of the Quiches and thought to have been in the possession of Nunez de la Vega, the Bishop of Chiapas, has some revealing elements – so revealing that the Bishop tried to burn it. Votan says he left Valum Chivim (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 perspective) and came to the New World to apportion land among seven families who came with him and were said to be culebra or of serpent origin. 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. Votan is said to have made four trips to the east and even to have visited Solomon.

Interesting to Serpent Mounds however is the description of a subterranean passage, which is said to terminate at the root of "heaven." This was called a "snake’s hole" and Votan was only allowed in because he was the son of a snake. Surely this can only mean that Votan was an initiate in the serpent cult and that there was a ritualised Serpent Mound or pyramid which led to snake heaven or Patala.

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."

It seems that the serpent worshippers had come to Ireland, believed to be from Greece, and had fought the ancient inhabitants, leaving behind such terror of them that they became symbolised 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 built in with ritualistic truth in this legend. Emerging from the side of the dragon, as in other myths, gives new life. The truth of this is stark and answers many issues we have with ancient monuments. These serpentine monuments were in fact places of initiation and rebirth and the imaged the life-giving powers of the light of the serpent wisdom.

And that was the truth behind the worship of the serpent that the truth of the snake was its life-giving properties and the associations with wisdom. Mankind was from time immemorial and still today, searching for longer life and divine wisdom. It is a sacred and often, secret code, hidden in the landscape, locked away in ancient texts and deep within our own self. It is a secret code of the divine and wise serpent that the Christian Church twisted and turned so that we could no longer comprehend. It is time now to once again discover that we need no intercessor between ourselves and ourselves.


1. Today, the inner traditions of the serpent energy are most prominent in the Kundalini and Chakra based systems practised by Eastern adepts and many New Age societies in the West.

The Serpent Grail by Philip Gardiner with Gary Osborn, Watkins, 2005.

Philip Gardiner is the best selling author of The Shining Ones: The world's most powerful secret society revealed, The Serpent Grail: The Truth Behind the Holy Grail, Elixir of Life and Philosopher's Stone and Gnosis: The Secret of Solomon's Temple Revealed. He is a prolific writer, radio presenter, speaker and does tours through www.powerplaces.com. He is hosting the Philip Gardiner's Forbidden Knowledge Conference UK in July 2006, in England. His websites are www.philipgardiner.net, www.serpentgrail.com, www.theshiningones.com and www.gardinerosborn.com.

Printed by permission of Philip Gardiner, Sept 2005.

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