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                           Drugs and Religion -- Snakebite Trips? 
                                       Loren Petrich  
                   In Merlin Stone's book "When God Was a Woman", about early 
           goddesses, there is a strange hypothesis about the importance of 
           snakes in the early Middle East. MS notes that snakes are associated 
           with prophecy and wisdom -- and goddesses -- in several places, such 
           as Egypt, Sumer, Crete, and Greece. In Egypt, the female deity of 
           predynastic northern (Lower) Egypt was the cobra goddess Ua Zit. 
           Egyptian deities  and royalty has a _uraeus_ emblem -- a head and hood
           of a cobra. Some Sumerian goddesses, such as Inanna, were associated 
           with snakes. In Minoan-era Crete, we find some statuettes of goddesses
           or priestesses with snakes. In one case, the snakes are cobras. In 
           Greece, in what is most likely a Minoan legacy, Hera and Athena were 
           associated with snakes, and the shrines of Delphi, Olympia, and Dodona
           were originally associated with goddesses. However, they were taken 
           over by the followers of the male gods Zeus and Apollo, who were 
           depicted as snake-killers. Even then, the greatest wisdom was 
           associated with priestesses. Serpenticidal male gods also include 
           Marduk, who killed Tiamat, and Yahweh himself, who killed Leviathan. 
                   MS suggests a connection to the Adam and Eve legend. The 
           Philistines had "snake tubes" nearly identical to some found on Crete,
           which is consistent with them being Cretan refugees. So some "snake 
           priestesses" may have set up shop in Palestine when the Israelites 
           showed up. The Adam and Eve legend may have been an effort to 
           discredit these women, for it suggests that snakes are wicked, and 
           women who listen to snakes are wicked. This is all in keeping with the
           Yahvist effort to discredit religions other than the worship of 
           Yahweh, which is a sordid story of religious persecution. This 
           persecution involved going so far as destroying a bronze snake kept in
           the Temple, the Nehushtan, which could supposedly cure snakebite. This
           snake was probably associated with an earlier acceptance of this snake
                           Buthow didthissnake cultactuallywork? Itisdifficult to
           say, but MS offers a strange hypothesis. She notes that we are told 
           that Cassandra  and Melampus had acquired prophetic powers from having
           their  ears licked with snakes. So is there some snakebite connection?
           MS suggests that there was, and tells of someone who had been 
           immunized against krait venom, but who had been bitten by a krait 
           [_Cobras in the Garden_, H. Kursh] 
                   He had developed a sense of enhanced awareness and he had 
           visions. He reported himself making up verses, and said "My mind had 
           extraordinary powers." 
                   This is evidently much like mescaline [from peyote] or 
           psilocybin [in certain mushrooms], used by some Native Americans for 
           similar purposes; those who take these two or LSD often feel as if 
           they are in touch with the basic forces of existence and a sensation 
           of perceiving the events and meaning of the past, present,  and future
           with great clarity and comprehension. It could well be that some snake
           venoms have components similar effects. 
                   So could it be that early snake prophetesses (and male 
           prophets) were going on snakebite trips? 
                   Oracles connected with snakes were consulted in Greece and 
           elsewhere for important decisions, which seems very trustworthy of 
           people with "highs". 
                   One does have to ask the question on how this type of 
           prophesying got associated with women instead of men or both sexes 
           equally in the ancient Middle East. 
                   This only adds to the riddle of Minoan Crete. Since the 
           priestesses there were important citizens, and since they are 
           associated with snakes, then could some of the leaders of Crete back 
           then have been snakebite-tripping priestesses? The possibility of a 
           "feminist theocracy", rule by a largely female priesthood, seems 
           awesome enough (no prominent "kings"), but this is truly wild. 
                   I confess I don't have much taste for theocracy, but I would 
           certainly prefer a Minoan-type theocracy (if that was what it was)  to
           the more familiar kinds -- Jewish, Christian, and Muslim -- which I 
           find absolutely disgusting. 

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