Wild Iris Acupuncture – Asian Wellness
Vancouver, Washington – Portland, Oregon
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Serpent Symbolism in Dreams and Myth
By Christina Bjergo
Serpents in dreams, myth and art around the world reflect the cycles of Nature moving one forward in the evolution of consciousness. Pagans, Mystery schools of Greece and Egypt, indigenous cultures around the world as well as matriarchal societies throughout history view serpents as symbols of the divine feminine of the earth and the instinctual nature (dreambody) leading us towards enlightenment. These traditions find the joyful expression of the body through movement, music and embracing life provides a spiritual dimension for connecting with one’s Self through the Dreamtime. For as modern research reveals, the body is the subconscious mind.
Serpents come in dreams, visions and other intuitive messages to help our bodymind work through and clear our stuff. Through listening and acting on their guidance, we release our subconscious baggage and resolve the sense of separation within ourselves (that we habitually reflect outwardly onto the world around us in what Carl Jung calls projection of our shadow side). Ultimately, serpent symbolism shows us as we are and helps us integrate our subconscious and conscious separation so we can embrace our wholeness as well as gain wisdom into the underlying reality of existence.
I encourage you to explore the serpent/snake/dragon images and messages from your individual dreamscape whether in sleep or waking life. Their guidance both sacred and profound throughout the ages continues to move us step-by-step towards are highest potential and to living more authentic lives. Below are some specific examples of serpent symbolism from my individual experiences (though coming from the collective unconscious many are similar to serpent myth and art of many cultures) to assist you on your journey. Use as guidance only, taking time to assess what messages the serpent has specifically for you in your life. Hold on and enjoy the ride!
Snakes – androgynous nature having unified masculine and feminine aspects. Snakes move like water and have an internal fire as demonstrated by their lightening strike and fiery tongue movements. They also reflect the celestial cycles of the moon and the ability to shed their skin and emerge reborn. As such they are symbols of the divine feminine, movement through seasons of the soul and a means to work towards spiritual wisdom. Their sensitivity to vibration makes them a good symbol of the electromagnetic spectrum from cosmic rays to subsonic frequencies – the symphony of music found throughout Nature that unifies us with the Universe.
Dragons – highly respected in Asia as symbols of the Tao they represent the highest state of consciousness, enlightenment and the authentic self. Many deities have a dragon/winged serpent aspect and many cultures (China, Korea and Japon) believe they are descendents of the dragons – reflecting their human potential.
Strangulation by a serpent – important to note the area of the body. May represent an area cut off from source or electromagnetic energy (between heaven and earth) that if not taken care of may lead to physical symptoms. For example, I dreamed many years ago of a snake strangling me around my neck. A few years later they found a cyst on my thyroid and later again I developed TMD in the jaw. I have since clearing and resolved these physical symptoms mostly through work with vibration and sound healing. Had I worked on the dream guidance initially, however, I could have prevented these symptoms of dis-ease.
Medusa/serpent monsters/threatening serpents – those energies of ourselves we have hidden away in the depths of our subconscious. They may be fears, traumas, repressed emotions, experiences, etc. trapped within the bodymind, not having been processed or perhaps even acknowledged. Our subconscious will bring these shadow aspects of ourselves into awareness through the Dreamtime (sleep and waking life) in ways to get our attention. Particularly when it is time for our highest good to clear away and grow beyond our limitations so we can experience greater health, emotional wellness and peace of mind. Pay attention to any associated thoughts and feelings as can help one process the experiences out of the individual cells of the bodymind.
Devil serpent figures – cultural and religious fears and prejudices seeking acknowledgement that have been picked up consciously or subconsciously by the bodymind and need to be processed and released so the individual can move another step beyond dualistic thinking (separation into good or evil) and towards unification of the Self. Can also be a symbol of the ego trying to thwart our spiritual growth and development. Checking in with one’s intuitive center, the heart, can help in assessing. Note additional dreams for clues in what it reflects and how to proceed.
Chased by serpents – as hidden aspects of ourselves move into consciousness there is sometimes uncertainty or tentativeness until our psyche becomes comfortable with these newer energies awaiting expression.
Snakebite, swallowed or eaten by serpents – symbol of initiation. Many rituals and ceremonies of various cultures from different time eras reflect the initiations of the soul, which is ultimately an inward experience through connection with the collective unconscious. Serpents and dragons are frequently found at the entrances to temples and sacred sanctuaries throughout Asia and Egypt (nagas, dragons and cobras), places for spiritual enlightenment and awakening – in the dreamstate this could be reflected by the opening of windows and doors leading into Nature as we unlock hidden aspects of ourselves. The beginning of a kundalini awakening is also often marked by dreams of snakebites and/or the lighting of ceremonial fire in the dreamscape. Being bitten on our Achilles Tendon – reflecting a vulnerability or opportunity for growth.
Feeding/nourishing/caring for/gifts to serpents – we are moving towards acceptance of new energies of ourselves we are integrating. Could reflect our overall increased connection with our bodies and their innate wisdom through mindfulness, meditation, qigong, movement, dance, yoga, spontaneous expression, dreamwork, etc.
Serpents coming out vagina/head/flowers – vagina is a symbol for divine feminine/goddess energies and the womb/tomb cycles of life. It is also the lower aspect of the body connecting us with the earth energies and our subconscious/instinctive selves. This is the lower point where yin and yang of the microcosmic orbit unify and as is a potent place for transforming stuck energies in the bodymind. Can also represent new creative energies we are birthing (often following clearing of obstacles from the psyche). Serpents coming out the head may be symbolic of wisdom gained and the more refined heavenly energies and/or the masculine aspect of God. Head and flowers link us to heavenly energies and etheric spiritual dimensions or cosmic rays. The channel linking these locations is the Central Channel in Chinese Inner Traditions and the Spine in India Tantrism. See Blood and Serpents for more details.
Kissing/Sex/Marriage Serpents – kissing, sex and marriage all represent connection and unification of energies of the Self and often specifically symbolize our sensuous Nature. Kissing and sex are particularly linked to sexual creative energies we either embrace or wish to express. This energy is store in the pelvic area or lower dan tian in Chinese Medicine. Marriage represents balance of male and female aspects and is a union of the heart where energies of body/earth and mind/heavens unite to the oneness of Spirit.
Ascending Serpents – breakthrough, ascension of yang energy upward. This upward flow is often along the spine, tree, pole, stone, or caduceus. Sometimes there are two serpents ascending intertwined around empty space – can be anything from galaxies spinning to intercellular DNA. The spine in Chinese Medicine is the Governing Vessel or seat of the yang/masculine energy of the body. Sometimes reflects an individuals opening to higher vibrational frequencies. This often occurs for me during meditation or after some bodymind clearing has occurred. As a symbol for yang may alternatively reflect an outward, expressive aspect of the Self being symbolized.
Descending Serpents – energy moving into manifestation. In the body this might be represented as energy, water or serpents. Sometimes this descending serpent energy cascades down from the tongue. Images of Female Chinese Shamans, Hindu Kali Goddess and She Who Watches all emphasize the image of the tongue sticking out or the mouth itself as this is the beginning of the Conception Vessel of the body which governs the feminine/yin of the body. These powerful female figures bring down the rains as blessings from heaven. The Conception Vessel moves downward along the front centerline of the body to the perineum between the legs. This is also the downward half of the Taiji symbol and the microcosmic orbit of the body practiced in movement meditation of various qigong forms from China. Manifestation is movement down in frequency. As a symbol for yin, may also suggest the inward more reflective aspect of the Self being symbolized.
Serpent connection with the tongue – the tongue is also where the feminine/yin and masculine/yang energies unify. It is therefore a potent location for transformation with the voice helping clear lower vibrational energies or trapped energies previously unexpressed. I often have dreams of this sort when going through a death-rebirth clearing cycle of my own psyche. See Descending Serpents for additional information.
Spirals/Swirling mist – spirals are metaphors for serpents in dream symbology. The Chong qi in Chinese inner traditions is described as the whirling emptiness (reflective of the tao) uniting heaven and earth. The coiled serpent later became what known as the kundalini in India. As energies/cosnciousness awaken one might see them coming out of closed dark spaces such as drawers, garages and such – a symbolic coming out of the closet. Working to activate the Chong qi in the Chong Channel in qigong activates the Ascending and Descending energies or serpents of the microcosmic orbit of the body. See Ascending Serpents I upward, Descending Serpents if downward.
Serpent Tunnels – people with near death experiences and visions of higher frequency often report experiences of traveling in and through long tunnels. These tunnels are the mythical Amenti of the Underworld. Ultimately they lead us to Spirit or the integrated Psyche. Spirit/God is often represented as spirals in indigenous cultural artwork as well as in dreamtime. I often see as revolving spirals of energy or a womb like shape characterizing the timeless eternal oneness for those willing to do the inner alchemical work necessary to break down karma, ego, limited thought patterns and separation. The sepent tunnels can also be an individual experience of Jacob’s Ladder from the Bible, a means of uniting heaven and earth to experience the dimension of angels and other divine beings.
Ouroborus – serpent eating it’s own tail in shape of a circle. Movement along the cycles of life (spiral) and union of feminine/yin and masculine/yang leading to the eternal oneness or state of enlightenment. The serpent is an androgynous animal balancing both male/yang/conscious and female/yin/subconscious energies. Within is the whirling emptiness or oneness reflecting the Tao or the return to one’s authentic Nature. The inner aspect of the ouroborus circle reflects the holy spirit in early Christian traditions, the eye of Ra in some of the ancient Egyptian stories. This is the Superconscious and like the holy spirit is often depicted as a dove or other winged bird.
Serpents Underground – earth telluric energies called leylines or dragon lines that support the evolution of human consciousness and as such have been the building sites of sacred temples around the world. These sites commonly have unusual radiation and magnetic fluctuations. The building of pyramids and megaliths are believed to be a means to tap into and utilize these earth energies (comparable to energy channels or meridians of the body) for spiritual growth and spiritual messages. Dreams of serpents sleeping underground maybe dormant energies awaiting expression. Coming out of the earth would reflect their being newly wakened. Could also represent the emerging of the serpent within the individual such as in a kundalini awakening.
Winged Beings/Dragons/Serpents – just as birds were said to evolve from reptiles, there is a progression from activating the instinctual self of the lower body (lower frequency) to moving upward towards strengthening and clearing the upper dan tian located in the center of the head (higher frequency) and activating the spiritual energies often represented as birds and winged beings. As we clear our karma/issues from the body we open ourselves to accessing these higher vibrational energies related to air/wind. In qigong our main focus is to strengthen and clear the body through the lower dan tian so like a tree we have the root system to support tremendous upward growth. Note that while often appealing, pursuing spiritual growth without working on one’s stuff can potentially create a condition of imbalance and exacerbate physical and emotional health concerns. As Carl Jung said, you work down to go up. See Dragons.
Moving Water – represents serpents and life force energy in motion. Descending from above and collecting within a bowl, vase or cup represents our instinctual side, sexual/creative energies strengthening and storing in our bodies or more specifically within our pelvic area in the lower dan tian. The upward movement of water from a container usually reflective of the upward awakening potential energies also known as kundalini or chong qi.
Rainbows – The Rainbow Serpent is the primary deity of the Aboriginal Dreamtime of Australia. Rainbows connect heaven and earth, the shamanic three worlds and symbolically ourselves. They reflect the electromagnetic spectrum, including the visible spectrum of rainbow colors. Aboriginal artwork often shows rainbow serpent connecting heaven and earth particularly when demonstrating harmony between humans and Nature.
Music/Sound/Vibration – Human audible sound is another aspect of the electromagnetic scale. Snakes are very sensitive to sound and vibration. Sound and vibration are also powerful healing modalities (serpents are associated with healing) that can unlock and release discordant lower vibrational energies within the body. This has been a powerful way that I have personally cleared a lot of my own internal obstacles. I recently am dreaming about music and sound as a means to help other people with their healing as well.
Blood and Serpents- Blood, particularly menstrual blood is symbolic of the cycles of life and the vital life force energy associated with birth and rebirth after death/purification/letting go. In Chinese theory it is the Central Channel going through the middle of the body (from top of head to perineum) that is androgenous and between the yin and yang meridians (Conception Vessel and Governing Vessel respectively). The Central Channel or Chong Vessel is called the Sea Blood. It is considered the primary energy meridian of the body for healing as it goes through and nourishes the three internal treasures (dan tians in pelvis, chest and head) as well as the primary yin and yang vessels of the body. As such it can also be viewed as the central staff of the Greek and Egyptian caduceus. I have had dreams of red snakes coming out of and healing open wounds for example or of indigenous women purifying themselves through the flow of menstrual blood. Red ochre, as an artistic symbol for blood has been used in many sacred ceremonies in cultures around the globe to represent rebirth and eternal life. Dreams of spiritual indigenous body or sand painting could also be reflecting these kundalini energies as well as our innate ancestral connection.
Serpent Masters – spiritual masters such as Jesus, Shiva, Buddha, Kwon Yin and many others all have associations with serpents. Their mastery came from successfully connecting and integrating their bodymind to overcome separation and fears and be the ultimate reality of oneness beyond duality. I discovered this after a succession of dreams with Jesus telling me the serpent was an aspect of himself. Other cultural deities followed. Serpent Masters may present themselves in dreams to teach or offer guidance. They ultimately reflect the divine within each of us and support us on our journey around the cycle of life. Dreams of Yahweh, God, Allah, White Buffalo Woman, etc. are all a reflection of source yet from a different cultural perspective.
Serpent Colors – maybe reflective of chakra color or other archetypal color associations. Additional color association is as follows:
Black: coming from subconscious or the yin/feminine aspect of serpent wisdom
If you have a serpent dream you would like to share feel free to contact Christina directly.
My Journey to Sacred Serpent Spiral Qigong
By Christina Bjergo
In the dream My Maternal Grandmother came out of a hospital, handed me a red hair band and with earnest voice insisted, “It’s important you start with the Crane, you need to start with the Crane.” I had been contemplating two different Chinese Medicine Qigong Programs in Portland at the time. I did choose to follow the guidance, though, as it felt right and soon began learning Soaring Crane Qigong in addition to Acupuncture, Herbology and Shiatsu Japanese Bodywork at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. It was the beginning of my training into an ancient system of movement meditation for health and vitality originating from China. In addition to learning prescribed routines of the Soaring Crane form, I was also trained in Spontaneous Qigong, a powerful style whereby the mind is relaxed and the healing energies of Nature clean and strengthen the energy channels (meridians) of the body. Healing occurs as universal life force energy flows through and moves the body without conscious intent.
Near graduating four years later I sat in sweltering heat and solitude in the desert under a Ponderosa Pine on my first Vision Quest outside of Redmond, Oregon. There I connected with the Rainbow Serpent, the mythological Great Mother and creative energy of the Earth according to the Aboriginal people of Australia. After two days without food or water in 102 degree weather, and following a vision of seeing and feeling a huge black snake climbing up out of the water, my body started to move involuntarily and a snake like energy awoke within me. It rose upward into and throughout my body as I sat on the dusty ground and began to dance my body. With quick, winding serpentine stretches and sinuous sensuality I slithered around in a circle, my mind reeling in astonishment trying to make sense of what was happening. The experience culminated with my body coiling inward then with sudden and intense alacrity striking forward at an unknown and unseen prey. The experience was nothing short of profound yet I had no point of reference to understand what had occurred at the time. Later through dreams, inner promptings and much research I came to understand that I had been initiated into a system of transcendental healing referenced in the myths and archeological evidence of ancient civilizations around the world. Sacred Serpent Spiral Qigong had been birthed through me and with it I began a spiritual odyssey into the mysteries of the universe and a deeper understanding of God and the Divine within.
I am sincerely grateful for the kundalini awakening that has been the biggest catalyst for my physical, mental and spiritual growth so far in this lifetime. It has deepened my qigong practice and facilitated my connection to the Dreamtime and Source. An eternal timeless and transcendental space woven within Nature that is available to each of us for our individual and collective healing and journey back to our authentic ourselves. It is also a means of global service to help awaken and clear the Earth Kundalini energies to manifest the world of peace and higher consciousness living that we all envision.
I have also gleamed a deeper understanding about my aforementioned dream over the years. In the dream my maternal Grandmother is leaving behind the culturally accepted allopathic medicine institution symbolized by the hospital and choosing a different path which for me commenced with my study of Oriental Medicine. The hair band she was handing down to me represents the wisdom of the ages, the ancestral power of the divine feminine and the instinctive body. That by synchronizing with Nature through qigong and the cycles of the soul we connect, strengthen and heal ourselves. Awakening and integrating our subconscious potential energies stored in the body we enliven ourselves (the red color as a symbol of the kundalini energies) and return to our wholeness (represented as the circle shape of the red hair band). This is the path of ultimately attaining wisdom and power (archetypal symbol of head and hair) and enlightenment as the hair band holds a ponytail or energy at the top of the head. This is the place of the 7th chakra marking the completion of the kundalini ascension of the chakras and representing the point where we transcend duality and are One with God.
Christina Bjergo is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Shiatsu Japanese Massage Practitioner and founder/facilitator of Sacred Serpent Spiral Qigong. Christina has a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in International Affairs. Upon completing her M.A. in Environmental Management, she became an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard spending the majority of her 11 years of public service writing pollution response regulations in D.C. and managed pollution response/investigations throughout Oregon and Washington. A practitioner of Asian Wellness, Christina teaches Qigong to help others connect with Nature for physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. Her primary goal is to empower others to live with greater vitality, joy and authenticity and to help raise global consciousness through working with the kundalini energies of the earth. Christina incorporates dreamwork and shamanic techniques into her classes to help individuals raise their vibrational energies. She is currently writing a book on Sacred Serpent Spiral Qigong to guide others on their journey to wholeness and plans to open a sacred dreaming healing center in Goldendale, WA.
Music and Healing
I have been hearing a lot recently about the healing qualities of classical music. Apparently, water crystals form beautiful crystalline patterns when exposed to certain musical melodies from classical composers such as Beethoven and Mozart. I have not conducted any experiments myself, but I have seen the pretty snowflake like patterns that have been photographed to demonstrate this effect.
The water crystals, however, behave quite differently when they listen to more modern rap and/or rock music. I have not witnessed this myself or seen any pictures, just been told that the water crystal images under these circumstances are quite “disorganized” and even “ugly”. The implication is that our bodies, like these water crystals, are affected by the type of music we listen to and that music such as the gentle classics are better for our health and wellness than the edgier, rawer, and more modern works. Furthermore, that there could be a detrimental effect on our cells and to our physical bodies to long term exposure to the type of music we might listen to at rock concerts, dance clubs, alternative radio stations, or on the collective ipod’s of our youth.
As an individual who enjoys many different styles of music, dance, and self-expression I am not comfortable with what seems to me an unfair judgment and bias. Different music produces different effects. If we all go back into our ancestral past it was the wild beat of the drum (Europe, Asia, Africa & Americas) and didgeridoo (Australia) that was the healing instrument of our early doctors (aka shamans). A quick and earthy tempo (more Yin and feminine quality in nature) having the effect of breaking up stagnant, old energy and emotions as well as helping remove negative thoughts, patterns, perceptions and dis-ease held within the cellular memory of the client. Shamans danced and performed rituals to what might appear to be a more chaotic pattern of music to connect with universal energies of Nature and channel the needed vibrations to maintain the health and harmony of individuals in need as well as the community at large. As the strong beat and use of percussion instruments in some modern compositions has similarities to the rhythmic beat of shamanic sound healing perhaps there can also be positive benefits gained despite the disorganized effects on water crystals. It could be that the healing properties of different genres of music just work in different ways.
As a qigong teacher, I encourage my students to get into their bodies and to explore who they are through different styles of music and movement. Part of the journey involves working with the Metal element (think rocks and mountains) and Chinese Medicine Theory to facilitate releasing past limitations whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. Metal, associated with the season of autumn, is a time when trees let go of their leaves. They “fall” to the earth to transform into future nourishment for the roots of the tree. Similarly, modern, edgy (metal like), or rebellious tunes assist students in their process of letting go and transforming the traumas, tensions, and emotions in their bodies. Helping release old blocks stuck in their energy flow thereby allows additional vitality (jing qi) to nourish the roots or foundation of their own strength and vitality. In shamanic terms, it can facilitate the return of power and wholeness.
In closing, keep an open mind when it comes to music (and other things in life) and be mindful not to limit yourself or others. Listen and enjoy a variety of styles of music from different cultures and different periods be it relaxing, stirring, revitalizing, passionate, joyful, rebellious and/or playful. Discover and honor your own musical tastes appreciating different kinds of music when they work best for you (I like Green Day but prefer listening to Chopin during a massage for example). And as music is a metaphor for life – DANCE to the beat of your own drum with everything you do. J
Christina Bjergo, Licensed Acupuncturist, Shiatsu Practitioner & Qigong Instructor
Birds of a Feather
It’s so easy to connect with the element of air sitting up high among the evergreen trees on this quiet balcony during a meditation/writing workshop near Puget Sound. While writing I admire the beautiful surrounding gardens and watch the plethora of amazing bird life nearby that happily partake in the numerous bird feeders of the facility. Sitting silently among them I can observe and experience more of their realm in the sky. I watch as they glide by and stop to enjoy some tasty seeded snacks. One bird I haven’t seen this weekend, however, but came to mind suddenly as I looked upon a nearby rock is my friend Eagle.
Eagle first came into my spiritual life during a shamanic soul retrieval many years ago. A soul retrieval being the bringing back and integration of aspects of Self that have been cut off or dissociated in the past from prior traumas (physical, emotional or spiritual) or those parts of ourselves that we have rejected consciously or otherwise. It allows us to see ourselves through a filtered perception of who we should be. Sometimes it is the parts we shun that we reject but often times it is the gold within ourselves that we are afraid to let shine. It was the highly respected symbol of our county that came to me as my power animal that fateful day – Bald Eagle.
Strangely, having the Bald Eagle as my power animal did not sit well with me for a long time, many years in fact. There was something unresolved, some separation or gulf between us that kept me from accepting this animal in my heart. Six years later as I was preparing to graduate and embark on a new career as a licensed acupuncturist, shiatsu practitioner and qigong instructor I felt the call to do a vision quest. While studying Oriental Medicine I had simultaneously immersed myself in advanced shamanic studies so it only seemed appropriate as I approached graduation to mark this transition into a new phase of my life with a spiritual journey of solitude in nature.
Getting ready to go sit in the desert near Redmond, Oregon I listened to one of the supporters recount the story of Jumping Mouse. For those of you who do not know, Jumping Mouse is a story about a little mouse who heard the call of the sacred mountain and left the safety of home to begin a difficult journey – a journey otherwise known as the hero’s quest. His adventure had many perils but he also encountered unexpected helpers at opportune moments along the way. Reaching his destination, Jumping Mouse was blind, tired and loosing hope but as he reaches the mountain summit he underwent a spiritual and physical transformation. Transcending his former self his arms become wings and he soars upward high into the sky. He was given a new name and a new beginning – he was now Eagle.
This story, which I have read countless times to my own children, stirred something inside me that night. The next morning I cried silent tears as my shamanic teacher cleansed me with her Eagle feather before allowing me to step into my 9x9 foot sacred space where I would be sitting for the next 2.5 days without food or water. Were these tears of remembrance of something once loved and lost?
I anticipated my quest would be an experience of harmonious oneness with nature. Little did I know how much house cleaning I needed to accomplish first – and there sure were a lot of cobwebs. Day 1 was all about clearing my connection with the heavens, the masculine or yang aspect of Spirit. A lot of hurtful memories and sadness came up for me to process. Feelings and experiences of being alone, unloved, fearful, many of which I had stuffed and hidden away in a corner of my own dark closet, came into the light of consciousness to be released and healed. I thought about how Bald Eagles with their white headed plumage reminded me of my paternal grandfather’s beautiful white sweeping hair. He had been Moderator General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the top official of a structured religion I knew little about and felt little connection with having grown up in the US not attending church. So, I worked some of my misconceptions and found a space to accept my own sense of the divine and God. Come sundown I started to receive gifts, fruits of my labors and deep inner work. I finally had a sincere connection with and danced joyfully with Eagle. In a lucid dream my power animal brought a dead mouse to our nest – an appropriate symbol after hearing the story of jumping mouse and a good metaphor for my own letting go (or deathing) of who I had been. I was now able and willing to confidently embrace more of my own power and stepped (or as I like to say soared) into a more complete sense of Self.
I was most touched when falling asleep the last night I felt and saw the large wing of Eagle wrap around me where I lay in my sleeping bag not feeling alone anymore. This gesture was both protective and a sign of our newly found closeness. I do not push Eagle or the strong spiritual aspect of who I am away anymore and recognize that they are really one and the same. I feel great gratitude for the love, patience, healing and teachings that always have and always will be there for me. AHO!
Christina Bjergo, Licensed Acupuncturist, Shiatsu Practitioner & Qigong Instructor
Chinese Medicine and Serpent Symbolism: the element of Metal
The basis of health and wholeness from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective comes from our innate correspondence with Nature. Everything within us (microcosm) is reflected in the world around us (macrocosm). The universe and our bodies are synchronized from this holistic approach with everything composed of five elements. The elements of Wood (plants), Fire, Earth, Metal (stone and mountain) and Water make up our physical, psychological as well as spiritual aspects of who we are.
The element of Metal is associated with the West direction in Chinese Theory and is one of my favorites. It represents the time of sunset and the season of autumn and has an energy of lessening activity (yang) and growing introspection and quiet (yin). The color attributed to Metal is white. White is a symbol of death and purification in Chinese as well as Indian Hindu culture and is the color worn at funerals to symbolize the inherent link with this quality of Metal.
Metal in the body primarily governs the respiration of the lungs and the cycle of breathing. Moving in a continuous flow, the exhalation of the breath allows for the intake or receiving of fresh clean air necessary for the healthy oxygenation and operation of the body. The Large Intestine as the secondary organ system corresponding with the Metal element also helps maintain health through the elimination of waste and reinforces the letting go quality of this element. Inherent in our bodies, therefore, is the aspect of death leading to purification and wellness.
Similarly, the serpent has been a powerful archetypal symbol in dreams and meditations of many cultures around the world. Snakes will periodically eliminate the old by the shedding of their skin and emerge larger, stronger and healthier (the molting keeps the parasites off). Our ancestors who gained insight about life from observing animals in Nature believed there was great knowledge in the snake for here was an animal that knew the secrets of death that leads to rebirth. Nature was the link to the archetypal world of the Dreamtime explaining the spiritual significance of serpents in archeological artifacts found among diverse ancient cultures from as early as the Paleolithic period.
The spiral as a metaphor for the serpent is also found in many ancient sacred sites and is believed to have facilitated initiations and marked critical periods of growth and change in life (coming of age, spiritual awakening, etc.). As a ritual aid many labyrinths have been based on the spiral shape. The serpent spiral in the labyrinth represents the transformational quality of the cycle of life – the moving inward or returning aspect of the cycle allows one to let go of perceived challenges or limitations on the journey to the inner sanctuary or center of the Self. From this center comes the expressive movement of the spiral stretching itself outward. Having transcended the old it can expand it’s trajectory wider than ever before. This demonstrates the serpent and the spiral’s power as a symbol for evolutionary change. This highlights the ancient mysteries of past eras – one needs to allow death to have space to welcome new life and grow.
Spiritual traditions around the world have communicated this Metal and serpent/spiral symbolism through the language of myth placing significance on Metal and the aspect of death leading to rebirth. In Hindu mythology, the popular Shiva is known as the destroyer god. His skin is ash white and he is often depicted in sculpture and printed art with snakes around his neck meditating tranquilly up high on his sacred mountain. Other times he stands upon a dwarf of ignorance in his cosmic dance of purification. In one story, he helps purify the poisons of the world with the assistance of his female consort Parvati and in so doing helps create the elixir of life and immortality. Seeing through the veil of Maya Shiva is not disturbed by the illusions of evil/sin in the world as he has transcended duality and found serenity and calmness (his transcendence of suffering is comparable to the enlightenment of Buddhahood). Shrines where Shiva continues to be honored throughout India include the sacred lingam – a phallic shaped stone.
The Queen of the West in Chinese mythology (later linked with Kwon Yin as a compassionate deity or aspect of Buddha) was sometimes seen as a white tiger which is the corresponding celestial animal to the element of Metal. The Queen of the West is known for being the destroyer though she also demonstrates an aspect of creation weaving her manifestations among the stars. She sits atop her sacred mountain (sometimes called Snake Shaman Mountain) where the peach trees of immortality grow. The Queen of the West is talented at whistling demonstrating her knowledge of Metal and ability to work with the breath. She comes to earth on her dragon drawn chariot (dragons are the sacred serpents of China and much of Asia) to help humankind transcend mortality and ignorance. She used her powers and knowledge to guide the Emperors of ancient China (who have demonstrated worthiness and virtue) to the afterlife, welcoming them to a place of Paradise.
Comparatively, modern spiritual traditions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam express their own concept of Paradise as the spiritual destination for eternal life and bliss. Religious texts reference divine guidance of Yahweh/God/Allah communicated to prophets who climbed mountains or slept on stones. In Christianity, post-crucifixion, the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth is placed in a cave and emerges reborn as Jesus Christ the Savior, the Son of God. And through Jesus Christ humanity can have peace with God. The Hebrew word Saraph translated means “fiery serpent” and is the root of Seraphim, the highest and holiest of God’s angels. Furthermore, when God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden he sent them to the East placing the angelic Cherubims and a flaming sword (Metal) to keep the way of the tree of life. Symbolically, to take the journey of purification Westward and pass the spiritual test of the sword humankind can return to the Garden of Paradise and the blissful state of union with God.
Similarly, the ancient Egyptians refer to Westing as Deathing and link the god of Osiris who is Lord of the Duat or underworld to this direction. Osiris was the first to undergo mummification after being cut up (knife is a metal tool aiding elimination and purification) into 14 pieces by his brother and later returned to wholeness when resurrected with the aid of his sister Isis. Osiris is sometimes depicted elderly, stiff and dressed all white in his death-like state on hieroglyphs in Egyptian temples. Completing the cycle of rebirth, however, he can be found depicted in the stone masonry looking renewed and virile with green skin representing the fertility and new life that comes with the floods of the Nile. Furthermore, in physical death the ancient Egyptians believed an individual traveled to the Duat where Osiris sits on his throne overseeing the weighing or judging of the heart. If the heart of the deceased is light as a feather (having cleared away all heaviness) the individual can move onward to join the gods and goddesses as a star in the heavens, the ultimate destination of the soul.
Here in the Northwest one can visit Horsethief Lake and see the famous pictograph of She Who Watches. Her image painted on a natural stone cliff is an area of spiritual significance thought to have been used for vision questing by a number of local tribes of an ancient time. She Who Watches is painted with white representing death and red representing life. This correspondence with the colors red and white is also found among many indigenous tribes of Africa and Australia and in the artwork of early Europeans. She Who Watches has a visage marked by large owl like eyes (another symbol of death). Her swollen death-like tongue protrudes from her mouth and is a prominent feature to her countenance. She sits up high overseeing the Columbia Gorge below and is a sign of promise and protection, some believe, for those whom her gaze rests upon.
From a psychological perspective, Carl Jung would say the second part of our lives is a spiritual odyssey – a search for the holy grail within ultimately leading to the realization of the Higher Self of the integrated psyche. Carl Jung knew that by working with the unconscious through dreams and body instincts we could resolve and release our shadow side and access the unacknowledged parts of ourselves we have unknowingly delegated to the dark and hidden corners of the unconscious mind. Yet through work with the dreamtime and the body connection (keeper of unconscious influences) we can slowly let go of limitations and dualistic thinking and embrace more of ourselves on our journey to wholeness. And as we symbolically move from dark to light we literally experience greater joy, fulfillment and health in our lives.
Confronting the shadowy aspects of our past can be at times a daunting task. The deathing of old negative experiences, traumas, unhealthy thought patterns, limited beliefs and karma can be intimidating without support or a means of help with the process. Sacred Serpent Spiral Qigong is a tool I have found quite effective for myself and others as it helps individuals let go of many things they are looking to clear consciously (such as fears, pain, dissatisfaction, anger, fatigue, anxiety, etc.) as well as the unconscious roots of dis-ease in their lives. Sacred Serpent Spiral Qigong ultimately facilitates the integration of conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche into a state of oneness. Using ancient qigong theory with movement meditations individuals connect with the Dreamtime and can remove old stagnant energy or roadblocks from the energy channels or highways of the body. This stuck dense energy of the past that has become lodged, buried or encapsulated within the cells of the body can be freed up and cleared as higher vibrational energies of Nature are allowed to flow. And as more of our blocks are cleared out, we access greater quantities of our own heavenly and earthly energy as it flows though the body. This is how we experience a resurrection and reunification of our true Selves or a symbolic rebirth of our own.
Going through the cycle of death and rebirth builds and refines our subtle energies, offering the ready initiate what is termed in India a kundalini (cosmic energy compared to a coiled serpent) or in China a chongqi (whirling vortex reflecting harmony between heaven and earth) awakening with great physical, psychological and spiritual rewards. For as we reconnect with the rhythms of the universe we reconnect with ourselves and open to experiencing new depths of spiritual understanding. Through working with Metal we ultimately open ourselves to another aspect of serpent symbolism – Wisdom.
To learn more about Sacred Serpent Spiral Qigong or the possibilities of hosting a class, see www.wildirisasianwellness.com or contact Christina Bjergo, Qigong Grand Master of Sacred Serpent Spiral Qigong at firstname.lastname@example.org. Christina is also an acupuncturist, shiatsu therapist, shamanic practitioner and longtime dreamworker. She treats clients in Vancouver, WA.