The Earth was born of the egg of the serpent. After the egg had formed within Her, She released it into the sky. The egg split open, releasing many more eggs, among them, earth, moon and sun. Snake roamed upon the earth, shedding her skin. From Her skin, people were formed. Since we are of snakeskin, Snake has much to teach us, one bite at a time. Snake is all-knowing. She planted trees. She filled the seas. She gave the earth beauty. She is our Mother, always beckoning us back into Her Egg, into the dark mysteries that are life.
After I wrote two novels about the Snake Goddess and Snake Priestess diviners in Minoan Crete, I visited my ancestral village in the Abruzzi region of Italy and found that the nearby village of Cocullo is famous for its snake charmers!
I had not considered a connection between the Minoans in the Bronze Age and the Italians in the 20th century, but here it was staring me in the face. I was aware that the Neolithic world of the Goddess existed in Italy and that Italian witchcraft and the Strega Tradition is a direct remnant of that. However, this direct snake worship connection, I found surprising.
In Ode to Minoa, the Snake Goddess is a potent force that humans interact with. The priestesses engage in trance journeys brought on by controlled ingestion of snake venom. Through trance they gather prophetic information for the community. In Stories They Told Me, a different form of Serpent Power is accessed for purposes of teleportation and time travel.
Angitia or Angizia is the Snake Goddess of the Marsi people who lived in the Apennine Mountains in the Abruzzi over 2000 years ago. She is a goddess of herbs, witchcraft and snake medicine. She is associated with Greek Medea and the ancient and powerful Gorgon.
While the Snake Goddess is a universal archetype, Angitia is local to the Abruzzi. There is even a town named after her. There was a temple to her on Lake Fucino near Aquila. In Roman times she was well known. The Abruzzi had a reputation for being a place where many magical people came from and where this kind of medicine was strong. Surely this Cocullo tradition is related to her.
Angitia image from a Roman Temple in Lebanon
Many resources state that there was an actual embodied woman who was a much-revered sorceress/healer who became this goddess in later times when such energies and powers became concretized into god and goddess forms.
The snake worshipping tradition, as it exists today in Cocullo is one that honors a Catholic Saint. Most feast days for Saints cover up or reveal a more ancient custom. In Cocullo, Saint Dominic is believed to have the power to heal snakebites and bites from rabid dogs as well as toothaches. In the spring when the snakes first appear from their caves, the snake catchers — as they are now called — gather them and keep them in wooden boxes until the first Thursday of May. On this feast day the statue of St. Dominic is removed from the church and carried in procession through the town with snakes all over him. Many ‘snake catchers’ parade with snakes on their bodies as well. Currently the snakes used are non venomous and are returned to the wild after the ritual. Villagers and tourists can come for healing on this day: from illness, toothaches, or to ask for certain blessings. There is also the opportunity to gather consecrated soil from a cave behind Saint Dominic’s shrine. This potent earth has been blessed and is taken to homes for protective purposes.
In the books Ode to Minoa and Stories They Told Me, the snake temple customs were far more esoteric and integral to the culture than modern day rituals in Cocullo.
The Snake is the Creatrix of the universe. A woman skilled in snake medicine understands how to collaborate with the creative powers of the universe. The serpent power is life force. Having direct access to this energy and using it for the benefit of healing and community wellness is magic of the highest form. The Streghe carry this lineage forward.
~Theresa C. Dintino