Notes: Resources for studying the timing of the spread of the Naga-culture from India to the rest of Asia

Ved Kumari writes, “The difficulty is about the identification of the Nagas as they are still behind the veil of myth and legend, peeping out at one time as reptile snakes and at another as human beings.”14 There are many [a s-i-c] scholars who do not believe the Nagas were humans; they consider them as serpents. Hiuen Tsang, like other Chiense pilgrims, calls the Nagasby the term of ‘dragon,’ no doubt because the popular conception represents them under the form of snakes living in the water of the springs or lakes they protect.15
There is a general agreement among scholars, Indologists and historians, about Nagas being the original inhabitants of Kashmir, on the basis of the information given in Nilamat Purana. Nila, a Naga was the ruler of the valley at the time, when due to natural calamity or due to a Raksha’s attack te land was devasted and the people suffered. Besides the rule, the Purana records a long list of 603 Naga chiefs and personalities from verse no. 915-980…Some of the prominent names mentioned are the Mahapadma Naga, Sudangula, Shesh Naga, Naga-Arjuna, and Naga-Bodhi and so on.
Presumably the ancestors of these Nagas were the carvers of the stone implements and there only, they could protest against the intrusiono f outsiders into their land, as revealed in the Nilamata Purana. We can also argue that the Naga king, Nila, by virtue of being the descendent of the original inhabitants of the valley, could impress upon Chandra Dva about the efficiacy of the Naga rituals. He even was authorized by this right to allow the people, from the plains of River Saraswati (Saraswat, the fore fathers of present Kashur) to come nad settle in the valley on the condition that they would uphold the traditions and rituals of the Nagas.
… nature has, indeed, endowed the valley and the neighbouring mountains with an abundance of fine springs. Each one of these springs has its tutelary deity’ in the form of a Naga, and popular tradition looks upon Kashmir as the favourite residence of these deities. Besides these evidences chroniclers like Kalhana, and Hsuen Tsiang ascribed the superiority of Kashmir over other countries to the protection it received from a Naga.
“The earliest written recorded history of civilized Kashur that is the Saraswat Brahman, available to us is through Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, which he has compiled, after studying some previous eleven works of scholars containing the chronicles of kings, and the Nilamata Purana, besides the ancient coins and seals. He also has referred kashrmira as the dwelling place of Nila, the king of Nagas, and many others of his tribe. He frequently refers to sacred springs and Tirthas of Papsudana and Tri-Sandhya, Sarasvati’s lake on the Bheda hill, the ‘self created Fire’ (Svayambhu), and the holy sites of Nandikesetra, S’arada, Cakradhara and Vijayesha whose origin in associated with the dwelling places/springs protected by the Nagas. The Nagas are suposed to have come to Kashmir when Kashyapa, their father, had drained ‘the lake of Sati’, and to have found there a refuge from Garuda.
This further adds to the validity of the argument that the primitive ancestors of the Nagas were the aboriginal inhabitants and in turn, ancestors of Kashur who settled in the valley after the dessication of the waters of the lake second time. …”
These troublesome tribes were Pisachas and Yakshas, who used to migrate upnorth in summer and return to the valley in winter. In course of time they finally settled in the nnorth. [yakshas … Jomon, Mongols? East Asians Austronesians? Yayoi]
Ved Kumari writes, “The difficulty is about the identification of the Nagas as they are still behind the veil of myth and legend, peeping out at one time as reptile snaes and at another as human beings.”14 There are many [a s-i-c] scholars who do not believe the Nagas were humans; they consider them as serpents. Hiuen Tsang, like other Chiense pilgrims, calls the Nagasby the term of ‘dragon,’ no doubt because the popular conception represents them under the form of snakes living in the water of the springs or lakes they protect.15
Professor Herman Oldenburg reckons, “the Nagas belong to the class of demonical beings which is best represented by ware[were] wolves”. Hendricks Kern believes, “the Nagas to be water spirits. They are personified as the five elements.”16
Dr C. F. Oldham, however, states that the Nagas of Kashmir were human beings like the present Naga ribes of nagaland. They were no serpents or demonical beings, even though there are references in R.T. to a particular king being cursed and reduced to a mere serpent. In Oldham’s opinion the Nagas were people who claimed descent from the sun and had the hooded serpent for a totem.17
“The most plausible suggestion, therefore is that the Nagas were the aborigines inhabiting Kashmira and other parts of North India prior to the advent of Vedic Aryans.”18
The Nagas of Kashmir were no serpents but were a predominant element in the population of Kashmiris when Buddhism entered the valley and an old legend exists to the effect that the Nagas were the ones who first accepted Buddhism. There is no doubt about the significance of the legend, despite the miraculous element in it for in early Buddhist literature there are other references
 to the Nagas as paying homage to the Buddha’s? Naga-Arjuna is is always referred to as a Siddha and so is Naga-Bodhi. Indeed, the nagas and the Siddhas are often associated together in the ancient Indian tradition. This undoubtedly means that, besides Naga-Arjuna and Naga-Bodhi, there were many other Siddhas among the Naga people. One of them was Kapila, the reputed founder of the Sankhya system and he was in all likelihood, a Naga by race as is evident from Kapila’s close association with Patanjali, who was unquestionably a Naga and also assured by the legend that Patanjali was the Shesha-naga incarnated.
Why were the Nagas deemed to be serpents?
The Nagas of Kashmir should not be treated in isolation, in an era, when almost every other aboriginal tribal legend has some sort of importantspace reserved for the serpents. Maybe it was a psychological impact of their not being able to tame a serpentine creature with fire or any other stone implements, that made these aboriginals to assign the serpent a place of importance. For example, the Nors[e] in their mythology divide the universe in three regions, Asgard, Midgard and Utgard. Asgard is the abode of Gods and Midgard is the abode of men which is surrounded by the ocean, while in Utgard lays a huge serpent. This serpent is suposed to have come out of the ocean and spread over the word and thus sunk the earth into the sea. Like wise the Moweri tribes assign the serpent with super human strength. No wonder the Naga suffix was adopted by the earliest humans in the valley, who in turn are accepted as the aboriginal peope of the valley, hence the earliest Kashur. Yet there is a discrepancy for the letter ‘Naag ‘in Kashmiri language denotes, a spring and not a serpent, as in Sanskrit. May be the dwelling place of a serpent, would be the right origin of the letter ‘Naag’ in Kashmiri. There is a distinct possibility that the valley prior to dessication being a lake with numerous swamps around was inhabited by snakes. Hence the people who were living in the valley were referred as Nagas and for all practical purposes they were the aboriginal ancestors of the Kashur. (Source)
p. 33

Cambodian: Cambodian Naga at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.
According to Cambodian legend, the nāga were a race of reptilian beings who possessed a large empire in the Pacific Ocean region. The Nāga King’s daughter married an Indian Brahmin named Kaundinya, and from their union sprang the Cambodian people; accordingly, Cambodians today claim that they are “Born from the Nāga.” The Seven-Headed Nāga serpents depicted as statues on Cambodian temples, such as those at Angkor Wat, apparently represent the seven races within Nāga society which has a symbolic association with the Cambodian concept of “the seven colors of the rainbow.” Furthermore, the number of heads on the Cambodian Nāga possess numerological symbolism: Nāgas depicted with an odd number of heads symbolise the infinite, timeless and immortal male energy, because numerologically, all odd numbers are said to rely on the number one. Nāgas depicted with an even number of heads are said to be female, representing the opposite characteristics of physicality, mortality, temporality, and the Earth.

Malaysia and Orang Asli: Naga in Lake Chinni
In the Malaysian and Orang Asli traditions, nāgas are a variation of the dragon which is distinguishable by its many heads. Sailors are particularly wary when traveling the lake Chinni located in Pahang, which is said to be home to a nāgī called Sri Gumum. According to certain variations of this legend, her predecessor Sri Pahang or else her son left the lake and later fought a naga by the name of Sri Kemboja. Interestingly enough, Kemboja is the former name of what is now Cambodia.

Thai: Nāgas in the Mekong
The legend of the Nāga is a belief strongly held by the Lao and Thai people living along the Mekong River. In Thailand, the nāga is a wealthy underworld deity. In Laos, by contrast, nagas are beaked water serpents. Many members of all three cultures pay their respects to the river because they believe the Nāga or nāgas still rule over it, and river folk hold annual sacrifices for its benefit. Local residents believe that the Nāga can protect them from danger, so it is not uncommon for them to make a sacrifice to Nāga before taking a boat trip along the Mekong River.
In addition, every year on the night of 15th day of the 11th month in the Lao lunar calendar, an extraordinary phenomenon occurs in the area of the Mekong River stretching over 20 kilometers between Pak-Ngeum district, about 80 kilometers south of the Lao capital Vientiane, and Phonephisai district in Nong Khai province; that is, hundreds of red, pink and orange fireballs spew up from the river. While scientists attribute this occurrence to the emission of natural gasses from the plant and animal life decomposing at the bottom of the river, villagers on both sides of the river have their own ideas as to the origin of the fireballs. They refer to this phenomenon “Nāga’s Fireball,” and believe the Nāga under Mekong River shoot fireballs into the air to celebrate the end of the annual retreat known in Thai as “Phansa” (Buddhist Lent), since the Nāga also meditate during this period of time. A two-day celebration involving a boat race as well as light and sound shows now accompanies the yearly spectacle.[4]

Source:  New World Encyclopedia http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Naga#N.C4.81gas_in_Cambodia

 

Serpents and Buddhas

The record as we have it shows no naga-enthroned Buddha for several centuries. By the 8th century in Sri Lanka the heterodox Abhayagiri monastery had risen to pre  eeminence  thanks to a change in royal patronage which for a period left Buddhaghosa’s Theravada lineage in the shade.  Abhayagiri became a major regional centre for the study of Mahayana and Vajrayana texts. The importance of Sri Lanka at this time for
for the international  tantric Buddhist community can be gauged from the  fact that Amoghavajra, the patriarch of  Chinese tantric Buddhism,  returned to the island in 741 on the death of his master the Vajrabodhi and collected 500 tantric texts for the Chinese emperor. It is in this period that stone of the icons of the naga-enthroned Buddha reemerge at Seruvila  on the east coast and elsewhere. Von Shroeder dates them to the 7th and 8th centuries.
Cosmic spaces sumeru motif

In the Place of Origins Modernity and Its Mediums in Northern Thailand

By Rosalind C. Morris o 117
Crossed beams kalae in Thai buildings are said to represent buffalo horns (fertility)
Naang Gaiya (Gaia?) creation myth p. 128
In the Place of Origins: Modernity and Its Mediums in Northern Thailand

 By Rosalind C. Morris p 117

 
also lintel father and threshhold mother symoblism
Thai art with Indian influences by Promsak Jermsawatd
p. 81 Pala school of art spread from Upper Burma to Thailand, and also to Japan
p 124~ on the naga and Khmer influences as well as Pala period

Kashur, the Kashmiri speaking people at p. 32 on Saraswati – primitive ancestors were the aboriginal peoples, but they are supposed to have come to Kashur, when their father Kashyapa drained the lake Sarasvat

General readings on serpent cults and cultures:

Secrets of the Serpent: In Search of the Sacred Past
By Philip Gardiner

The Cult of the Serpent: An Interdisciplinary Survey of Its Manifestations By Balaji Mundkurb….p. 160 77a Pal/Mesolithic Zealand, Denmark elk, fish ad serpent motifs in northern European art

p 162 – The serpent has an important place in the tribal mythology of the Finno-Ugric Cheremis, the Yenisei Ostyak and the Ainu, to name only three. Animal style art is widespread across northern Eurasia. The small carved bone or wooden or metal objects of magical portent, the talismans or ongons of Siberian shamanism, comprise a special class. They were used chiefly in the shaman’s healing rituals among hte Goldi, the Tungus, the Mansi, and the Ul’chi. “The serpent-figure,” writes Dmitrii Zelenine in one of the earliest sections of hisbook on cultiv ovservances of diverse Siberian tribes, #is the most widespread of the Siberian ongons”–an assertion that is complemented by K.F.Karjalainen’s remark that among creeping nad crawling animals the second place also belongs to a reptile, the lizard.216
Ivanov’s extesve analyssis of the different animal motifs crowded together on the Siberian shaman’s painted drums reveals that the serpent motif often persists even in those drums which include only a v ery few other animlas species. Thus only a bear, elek, lizard, or bird may be depicted along side a serpent. Thus, only a bear, elk, lizard, or bird may be depicted alongside a serpent. 217 The drum, the shaman’s ceremonial hallmark , was customarily suspended from the midde of his yurt, as among the Tuva (Soite), with effigues of serpents attached to it. His robes were notable for the naturalistic or fantastic orphidian symbols drawn or embroidered and the ribbons with cleft ends, indicating the serpent’s tonge, stictched on them. This was true among ethnic groups as widely separated as the Ob-YeneiseiOstyaks, the Altai, and the Tunguso-Manchurian Goldi tribes of the Lower Sungari Basin.218There is no room for doubt in a b ear ongon of the Gilyak (or Nivkhi)-a Palaeosiberian ethnic roup whose direct descents live today on the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk and in the Lower Amur Baisn–for a serpent is quite distinctly engraved in its belt” together with a lizard and toad(fig 78a). C… An ongon from the Irtysh River baisn, in western Siberia, is in the form of an erect man with a human face depicted on his stomach …flanked on one side by an upright bear, its forepaws on his shoulders and its mouth pressing against his head, and on the other by a serpent, verical, also pressing its mouth against his head.

p 170 Lapps stylized symbols too inclde an the shaman’s powerful spirit-assistant serpent. Artefacts with serpent representations are not common in far-away northerly Eurasia, but what is extraordinary is that several of the region’s varied ethcni groups still nurse cultural tradition s in which this typically tropical and temperate-zone animal is inov\voked. Indubitable serpent effigies in carved antler are know from the Neolithic ecemetery at Olenii, an island in Lake Onega, USSR

In the Kola Peninsula USSR within the Arctic Cricle, inship and guardianship over wild animals is personified by the antler-headed yndash – with an elongated stylized form at his feet is an eeel, a serpent

In the Nootkan klukwana sacred ritual dance, the Ha-et’lik (literally, the “lightning serpent”) is a favorite character participating inthe mythical “belt of the thunderbird”. Symbolizing the tongue of a serpent, the Ha-et’lik always dances next to the thunderbird. The Haida shaman’s batons are decorated with serpent motifs and sometimes with the thunderbird. In the the NW coast tribes, particularly the southern ones, embody the serpent in a marine, riverine, and as occasion demands it, terrestrial creature they call sisiutl. … on shaman’ staffs it often has a stylized, nondescript zoomorphic head at eaech end nad a human head in the middle.

“Snakes are regarded with aversion and disgust…The Bella Coola believe that snakes are the offspring of a supernatural “Mother of Snakes” … a mythical being of dread powers [ a title precisely like that employed by the Siberian Selkup]… The sisiutl is a doubled-headed salmon or snake that can travel on land … many Rivers Inlet shamans have received their powers from [sisiutl] which is accordingly well known to the Bela Coola in this connection. [A shaman sings of the sisiutl duing his dance] since it had told him to employ his power b eneficially and had further instruted him in the useo fh te rod[wand or staff] in which it lay … To attain purity or cleanliness, on the way to b ecoming a shaman, one must …eat small portions of the tails of snakes and heads of frogs.

Franz Boas226 and Audrey Hawthorn leave little room for doubt abou the identify of the archetypal animla when they refer to the sisiutl as a “double-headed-sesrpent [with a ] serpent head at each end and a human head in the middle or whose body is a face/Fig 80 see p 167 for thunderbird vs whale motif or dbheaded serpent
The painted drum of the Nootka tribe depicts a whale being carried off by the thunderbird, above wom is Hahektoyek, the mythic serpent that represents lightning, whose head in this painting is more lie a wolf’s than a serpent’s. The traditional Haida gabled painted housefront often bore the fearsome sisiutl sign ..two sutffed cloth bifid tongues hang from each corner of the mouth with a human face in the middle, thus fully conforming to the essential features of the dbheaded ophidian sisiutl evidence in the shaman’s wands of figure 32. Symbolically, these bifid and drum motifs fig 80a are inspealarable, for iconographic studes show that sisiutl assumes thunderbird as well as whale aspects (Upper nad Lower Worlds, respectively) and isi multaneously the symbol of both.
So in Eurasia, the serpent vs thunderbird opposition ie serpent vs lightning/storm deity Susanoo variations are serpent/whale vs thunderbird or fish vs thunderbird ( in Kashima it’s catfish )
Eskimos have giant naturalistic serpents dominating their icons. However “dragon-like” creatures were placed in a special category – other first group of giant birds and fish wer able to fly, but the dragons dwelt in freezing lakses and were seldom a threat because they were few and everyone knew where they wer and so avoided encounters – tey draw a band of Eskimos slashing them with knives – the inland Inuit of the Baker Lake region dwell only 250 km to the south of the Arctiv Circle in harsh terrain in which serpents are virtually never seen.

dominant motif on the pottery of the mid-Jomon period of Neolithic japan 4th MM BC consists of serpents in stark relief. Easka Teruya authority on ceramics of the period believes that all its clay vessels focus on ophidian decor in one way or another. (But not sexual portrayals – no genetial symbols) Some of these idols surely presded over agricultural bounty and do carry naturalistic serpent effigies appliqued over the head;

Ophidian themes in divine contexts noted in Jp traditions. Mid-Jomon peirod relics attest to a phallic cult–but the phallus-like objecs in rites are quite plain and devoid of serpent symbolism. Coiled serpent on the rim of of clay vessel of the period suggests guardianship over bounty?

Ophidian symbols of genetials and pregnancy – sexual and fertility theme:

Northeastern India (wide-hipped woman cobra), Greek painted ceramic idol portraying a pregnant woman from a cemetery for children 8th c BC – notion of rebirth of the dead as serpents was well entrenched in the Hellenic world – omon Middle period mid 3rd MM BC – stone engraved with serpent on its side Celtic stone – Elamite Iran showing three pairs of serpents in kissing postures connoting the vagina. – Canaanite cult object in the form of a vagina (plus phallus) consituted by a serpent – Beth-Shan Israel. 1402-1364 BC

China’s Neolithic painted pottery patterns are alleged in the older lit to be derived from those of the Near Eastern and or eastern European cultures. The Near Eastern civiliations provide the most lluminating evidences of htese symbols of childbirth.
In Sumerian cuneiform texts the word mus-satur, “womb-serpent” has the specific connotation of a venomous speciies as contrasted with the imaginary attributes of the dragon mus-hus common in Mesopotamian art. The underlying sentiments of terror of this “womb-serpent” and veneraion of the goddess of childbirth, Nintu (or Ninmah), the mother g oddess, other of all living creatures are evident in a temple hymn. It concers one of the oldest Sumerian settlements, Kesh where the cult of this goddess seems to have prevailed even in teh protoliteratre period: “Might yKesh … causes terror to reign like a large womb-serpent.” Another text , in a reference to birth defomities pseakso f demons coiked up lie a serpent in the huan womb and another says May the tooth-edged arrow be to all it strikes a womb-serpent.”
Where Nintu was primevally conveied as serpent – bodied is unknown. in the art of later Semitic religons, indubitably ophidian mother -gdoddesses were but variants of another Sumerian human fertility deity, Inanna. It is noteworthy however, that the SUmerians conveiced Nintu as a woman from whose left and right shoulders emerge two fetal heads just like the serpents that characterize Ningishizida, god of agricultrual fertility. A creation myth that focuses on Nintu’s role mentions how she creates deformed and inferior types of man, and in addition, there is a sinisterCultural
A slim-bodied simver figurine of Astrate has a head strikingly like a serpent’s large sockets inplace of eyes, no nose … This silver image is of special interest because it was foun beneath the lowest floor of a Canaaanite temple dedicated to Astarte, which speaks for its chthonic, ophidian identity lal the more. Horned altars were part of the cult. Builtof ashlar masonry, these otherwise bare altars sometimes had their lowest blocks engraved with the figure of a twistiing nserpent. ifelike effigies of copper or bronzeserpents (including one with a gilded head)found in Israel are considered very significant. They are generally small … but “they provide the only clue to the rites of the temple” and , like the silver figurine of Astarte were excavated from the most important parts of the temples. –the Area H temple at Hazor. In the Canaanite temples at Beth-Shan,a serpent-cult center of great importance, the deity assumed fully ophidian form. One of the idols even has human breast with a cup beneath to catch their milk.
Solomon is said to have built a tmeple to Astarte ..
The purpose of the baked clay object in figure 87a is not clear but it seems to be a mini portable shrine. Shaped like a lidless box, it has a pair of entwined serpents in applique all around its outer sides except at the rear. Three sinuous serpents are dipsoed in parallel on its floor, their heads resting on inclined planes set before a stepped chair or throne whose back is now damaged. The three sinuous serpents seem to resemble his or her numinous attributes. it may have been the god Dumuzi, one of whose epithets was Ama-usum-gal-anna, “the mother is the greater of heaven,” or more likely his consort Inanna ro her Assyryo-Babylonina equivalent Ishtar, the best known of the goddesses of love and fertility, or perhaps Nintu. That this shrine may have represented a fertility cult is suggested by stwo simple terracotta models of votice thrones or hairs epitmoizing feminity through the motif of the public trainle. The zigzags inside them strike as more than decorative devices (figs 87b, c) Tge fribt kegs if ie if te gse caurs are suytabeiys the deities’.
In Cyprus, the symbols of a serpent cult occur in burials that attest to sacrificial infanticide. … at Vounous ca 2200 is a mini circular model of a sacred walled enclosure open to the sky BC) … with a group of human figures representing what is obviously a ceremony involving the bull and the serpent. In this model, three individuals face the entrance, serpents hanging from their arms. The red polished pottery of Vounous is noteworthy for its serpent (also bull and stag) motifs rendered naturalistically and as sinuosities, sigsags, and stacked chevrons. Many …The bare-breasted snake gddesses of Crete are famous fig 94a.
……………..
SNAKE PATTERNS IN EURASIA/JAPAN AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS

In the Eurasian steppe and in Eastern Eurasia the snakes are auxiliary beings and friendly spirits. Hungarian folk art preserved many old traditions from this art: pillow-ornament from Kalotaszeg, called “snaked” pattern, two small s-shaped mirror-symmetric snakes like as in life-tree scene. On the Mishka-kancsó bottles of vine we also find snakes (with m1 symmetry).

Sinusoid surface of weave motion gave the feeling of the serpent motion deep in the water for sailors. Also the motion of whirls in streams makes people remember the “serpenting” animal motions. We can find them in rich variants in the Viking and Celtic art (with 12, 1g and mg frieze symmetries).

Planet-motions along the zodiacal belt of constellations (path of the Sun) also exhibit serpent-like motions. Such Calendars were sculptured on church gates in the 9. – 13. centuries A.D. There the serpents represented the celestial pathway of cycloid planet motions. On the zodiacal pathway serpent’s knots were the animations of months, and the important celestial event points of eclipses along this line, at two dragonic points, the “serpents had eaten” the Sun. (Aleppo, Lund).

 

Howey, M. Oldfield
Title The encircled serpent : a study of serpent symbolism in all countries and ages
Imprint New York : Arthur Richmond, c1955


Snake patterns in Eurasia/Japan Szaniszlo BÉRCZI1 , Osamu SANO2 and Ryuji TAKAKI3

Snake Patterns in Japan and Its Implications

There are five families of snake or serpent (called hebi) found in Japan, Typhlopidae, Colubridae, Elapidae, Hydrophiidae and Viperidae. The most common species are the shimahebi (snake with stripes), aodaisho (blue snake) and yamakagashi (grass snake) of the family Colubridae. They are distributed widely in paddy fields, dry fields, grasslands and woods. The former two are not poisonous and mostly prey on rats and mice.
Yamakagashi and the two species mamushi (found throughout Japan Islands) and habu (inhabiting in southern islands of Amami and Okinawa) are poisonous. The former two seldom harms humans, while the last one is aggressive and dangerous.
3.1. Snake pattern of prehistoric age of Japan

In ancient times snakes seems to be worshiped as beings possessing an eternal life, because of their ability to shed an old skin and grow a new one, which was regarded as a process of death and rebirth. In addition, the spiral shape of a snake of a vine or swirl of fluid have an implication of endless motion once it started outward or inward, probably led
to a concept of eternity. The earthenware from middle JOMON period (ca. 2000 B.C.) have top grips or sides which are ornamented with snakes, as is shown in Fig. 3, which is likely to be used in anticipation of keeping the contents from harm. A clay figure of the same period, in which snakes are wound on their heads, is also found.
3.2. Snakes as gods in ancient times of Japan
Snakes were regarded as gods of mountain because they return to the mountains in autumn for hibernation. Sometimes the object of worship enshrined in a Shinto shrine is the snake-shaped mountain, and was believed to appear in the form of a snake. That explains why blue snakes living in shrines are protected as a messenger of gods. Because they appear in damp areas and were believed to control the water, which guarantee the good harvest,
they were worshiped by farmers as gods of water as well as gods of agriculture. A trace of worship remains at the time of harvest festival, in which snakes made of straw are dedicated. Moreover they were regarded as guardians of houses because they eat rats and other vermin. After the introduction of Chinese calendar in 6th century, snakes came into daily life as sixth animal of the twelve horary signs (i.e., rats, oxen, tigers, hares, dragons, serpents, horses, sheep, monkeys, cocks, dogs, and boars). People counted the days and years by using the name of these animals. This tradition is still alive today; the year 2001 is the year of snake, so that most of people exchange new-year cards with designs of snake on them.

Snake Patterns in Eurasia/Japan and Their Implications 283

On the other hand snakes were considered to be regeneration of dead persons, which originate in the idea of never-ending cycle of reincarnation in Buddhism. They were believed to reflect spirits of a dead person, and were objects of fear and adoration. There are many folk tales in which a snake, that had an appearance of a man, made a woman
pregnant and gave birth to a new family. Sometimes a revengeful ghost was believed to appear as a shape of snake. One of the dramas called DOUJOJI, for example, deals with Princess KIYO, who takes the shape of a monster serpent and burns with jealousy.

3.3. Snakes in family crests

There are variety of symbols called KAMON (family crests, or coats of arms), which characterizes family line or history. In earlier days ornamental symbols seemed to be used for aesthetic reason, so that everyone could use any symbol at any time. But once a particular symbol was repeatedly used by a particular person, it was personalized until something on which that symbol was attached implied the possession of him. Later at the Age of Civil Wars, it was necessary to distinguish easily whether a warrior (samurai) in front of him belonged to his side or not, so that possession of his master’s symbol had significance. In addition to show the belonging, for example, a samurai flew his KAMON on his flag to show off his distinguished service in the war, which might bring honor for his family. This practical use enhanced the establishment of the family crest, and the designs were refined little by little.
The designs of crests usually come from natural affairs (sun, moon, stars, clouds, water, waves, etc.), plants, animals (including imaginary ones like dragons and phoenixes), tools, buildings, geometric figures, and letters. Starting with basic patterns, the number of them increased in accordance with the following rules. They are (i) addition of something, e.g., circles and squares of different numbers and different line thickness that surround the Fig. 3. Earthenware of middle JOMON period with designs of spiral snakes.284 S. BÉRCZI et al
.
Fig. 4. Two groups of Japanese family crests, “JANOME” (left) and “TOMOE” (right) (from Kamon Dai Zukan
(Handbook of Japanese Family Crest), Akita-Shoten, 1971).

Snake Patterns in Eurasia/Japan and Their Implications 285
original designs, arrows wishing for military exploits, and so on, (ii) modification of the shape like shading, sharpening, rotation, twisting, folding, break of symmetry or change of view points (e.g. upside-down, mirror image, view from window, view from the other side, etc), (iii) synthesis like pairing, nesting, superposition, run-after-arrangement, etc., (iv) division of complex pictures, as in the case of branching of the original group, and (v)
omission of some part from the original pattern, either paying a respect for his head family or removing inappropriate part, e.g. removal of swords and arrows for a woman getting married.
One class of KAMON is called “JANOME”, which means eye(s) of the snake, as is shown in Fig. 4 (left). The number of “Me” (symbolized by circle) ranges from one to a desirable number. These figures show how the original design is deformed. Another class of KAMON is “TOMOE” (a kind of a protector in archery). The shape, which resembles
a comma, developed into a spiral, or a coil of snake, or a swirl. Basic shape of TOMOE has bigger round head and curved tail. This figure resembles a comma-shaped bead or an embryo, which shows a yearn for the prosperity of descendant. Pair of TOMOE (Fig. 4(b)), with either one being black, is sometimes interpreted as the interacting principles of Yin and Yang (which means the origin of the universe).There are varieties on the number and
size of the head as well as the thickness of the tail, with clockwise or anti-clockwise sense of rotation (reminding a vortex which is a charm against fire). Family of TOMOE (Figs. 4(p) and (q)), and those with attachment like sword, scales, and so on are also found.
In feudal period, social classes were fixed. But as far as the KAMON was concerned, no severe restriction seemed to be imposed, which gave good chance for creating a new design keeping basic part in common. These contradicting requirements naturally result in limited number of patterns. In this respect KAMON is not the same as a trademark nor a brand, the latter being simply a design. Today the significance of family, and hence the meaning of “KAMON”, seems to disappear together with the old system that brought Japan to the World War II. These beautiful and unique symbols, however, will probably be succeeded from parents to children as one of the identity of a new family, just as the family name does.

 

SZANISZLÓ BÉRCZI, OSAMU SANO and RYUJI TAKAKI

1. INTRODUCTION

People in both western and eastern worlds have been conscious about the snake (or the serpent) from the ancient ages, and also created an imaginary animal “dragon”. These animals, however, seem to be considered as symbols with different implications in both worlds. For example, in the West the dragon has been an evil existence, while in East it has been a god of thunder or tempest and helped emperors to have majesty. On the other hand, there are common features of snakes on both worlds. The snake is often combined with waves or rivers owing to geometrical simulation.

The major factors of difference would be those of climates and the ways to build houses or to get foods. It is an interesting problem how these differences in cultures has produced different ideas about snake and dragon. This paper is a trial to study this kind of problems through a cooperation of scientists from both worlds. It is expected to trigger a closer cooperation in future.

2. SNAKE PATTERNS IN EURASIA AND IMPLICATIONS

Two main sources for snakes in the Western Eurasian arts are: mythology and the natural phenomena. Old arts expressed the understanding of the world in mythic compositions. Natural phenomena were related to human stories according their real and symbolic correspondences. In folk tales for example in symbolic zodiacal meaning snakes appeared as like as in the whirling sinuous-waving in the water.

Their sacral mythic appearance is in the Bible, where after Creation God places the first couple of Adam and Eve in the Paradise, the Garden of Eden. The devil – in the form of a snake – turns away the attention of the ancient couple from the right way to sin. In Christianity the snakes represented the world beneath us, and were the representatives of the bad forces of the darkness and death.

In Greek mythology the god of medicine is Asklepios, a God-pair of Apollon. The snake rolling on a rod was the symbolic attribute of Asklepios. His genera and medical traditions goes back to the island of Kos. Recently the snake around a calyx as symbol of healing on the portals of pharmacies is the heritage of Asklepios.

In the Eurasian steppe and in Eastern Eurasia the snakes are auxiliary beings and friendly spirits. Hungarian folk art preserved many old traditions from this art: pillow-ornament from Kalotaszeg, called “snaked” pattern, two small s-shaped mirror-symmetric snakes like as in life-tree scene. On the Mishka-kancsó bottles of vine we also find snakes (with m1 symmetry).

Sinusoid surface of weave motion gave the feeling of the serpent motion deep in the water for sailors. Also the motion of whirls in streams makes people remember the “serpenting” animal motions. We can find them in rich variants in the Viking and Celtic art (with 12, 1g and mg frieze symmetries).

Planet-motions along the zodiacal belt of constellations (path of the Sun) also exhibit serpent-like motions. Such Calendars were sculptured on church gates in the 9. – 13. centuries A.D. There the serpents represented the celestial pathway of cycloid planet motions. On the zodiacal pathway serpent’s knots were the animations of months, and the important celestial event points of eclipses along this line, at two dragonic points, the “serpents had eaten” the Sun. (Aleppo, Lund).

3. SNAKE PATTERNS IN JAPAN AND IMPLICATIONS

In ancient times snakes seems to be worshiped as beings possessing an eternal life, because of their ability to shed an old skin and grow a new one, which was regarded as a process of death and rebirth. In addition, the spiral shape of a snake of a vine or swirl of fluid have an implication of endless motion once it started outward or inward, probably led to a concept of eternity. The earthenware from middle JOMON period (ca. 2000 BC) has top grips or sides which are ornamented with snakes. Clay figures of the same period, in which snakes are wound on her heads, are also found.

Snakes were regarded as gods of mountain. Sometimes the object of worship enshrined in a Shinto shrine is the snake-shaped mountain, and was believed to appear in the form of a snake. That explains why blue snakes living in shrines are protected as a messenger of gods. Because they appear in damp areas and were believed to control the water, which guarantee the good harvest, they were worshiped by farmers as gods of water as well as gods of agriculture. Moreover they were regarded as guardians of houses because they eat rats and other vermin. After the introduction of Chinese calendar in 6th century, snakes came into daily life as sixth animal of the twelve horary signs. People counted the days and years by using the name of these animals. This tradition is still alive today; this year (2001) is the year of snake.

On the other hand snakes were considered to be regeneration of dead persons, which originate in the idea of never-ending cycle of reincarnation in Buddhism. They were believed to reflect spirits of a dead person, and were objects of fear and adoration. There are many folk tales in which a snake, that had an appearance of a man, made a woman pregnant and gave birth to a new family. Sometimes a revengeful ghost was believed to appear as a shape of snake.

There are variety of symbols called KAMON (family crests, or coats of arms), which characterizes family line or history. One class of Kamon is called “TOMOE” (a kind of a protector in archery). The shape, which resembles a comma, developed into a spiral, or a coil of snake, or a swirl. Basic shape of TOMOE has bigger round head and curved tail. This figure resembles a comma-shaped bead or an embryo, which shows a yearn for the prosperity of descendant. There are varieties on the number and size of the head as well as the thickness of the tail, with clockwise or anti-clockwise sense of rotation (reminding a vortex which is a charm against fire). In feudal period, social classes were fixed. But as far as the KAMON was concerned, no severe restriction seemed to be imposed, which gave good chance for creating a new design keeping basic part in common. These contradicting requirements naturally result in limited number of patterns. In this respect KAMON is not the same as a trademark nor a brand, the latter being simply a design. Today the significance of family, and hence the meaning of “KAMON”, seems to disappear together with the old system. These beautiful and unique symbols, however, will probably be succeeded from parents to children as one of the identity of a new family, just as the family name does.

4. CHINESE CHARACTERS FOR SNAKE / DRAGON

There are several Chinese characters for snake, or more generally creeping animals. They were established about 3000 years ago by simplifying pictographs of these animals. Their meanings later changed and were confirmed by combination with other elements. In fact, the character for “snake” is a combination of “worm” and “snake”, the latter being used for another purpose.

The character for dragon originates in a snake with a crown (king snake). The lower part of the character is similar to another element with meaning “extend” or “thunder light”. Therefore, the character for dragon is considered to have a relation to the thunder and the storm. In eastern Asia storms bring water form the ocean and contribute much to agriculture. Therefore, the dragon has been accompanied with the ideas of both “strength” and “benefit”. Hence, the emperors in Chinese dynasties used a design of dragon as their symbol.

After all, this paper has elucidated that the snake patterns have variety of implications, which are partly common and partly different according to respective cultures. However, this kind of research will not be complete until information from other important regions is included, such as India and middle-eastern countries.

References

Bérczi Sz., (2000) Katachi U Symmetry in the Ornamental Art of the Last Thousands Years of Eurasia, Forma, 15/1. 11-28.

Nagy D. (1979) Symmetry and Order Aspects in Art. System Theory Conf., NJSZT. 92-118. Sopron

Prince Mikasa Takahito, (1996) Development and Modification of the “Holy Symmetrical Design” West and East of the “Silk Road”. In: Katachi U Symmetry, T. Ogawa,etal. Eds. 81-94. Springer, Tokyo

Kamon Dai Zukan, (1971) Handbook of Japanese Family Crests M.Niwa, ed. K.Higuchi; Akita-Shoten

Elk and zigzag symbols Gullrum Sweden

Tribal peoples in Siberia and N. America esp/ Ojibwa NW coast groups, and many more Andean Ai Apec doubleheaded serpent deity, found on Mesoamerican and Andean scupture pottery and textiles.

The , have bear and serpent cult carried by waves of nomads migrating across Beringia.

Arctic Norwegian and Danish sites showed slate blade with handle in the form of a bear’s head and two distinct pairs of zigzag lines which has been given the interpretation of emblems of the bear and serpent association which schoars (Balaji and ?) say are enduring emblems echoed millennia by the ongons amulets of Eurasian shamanism.

Palaeolithic art of the northern circumpolar region, include incised fish and serpents and cervids. A piece of deer antler (presumed amulet) carries obvious fish and serpent motifs and a comblike implement (possiby a fish scraper) in the form of an elk wiht a human head ofr a tail has zigzag, possible orphidian symbol. The objects are from Scandinavian where clearer serpent-elk combined symbols also occur.

Eastern Siberian Amurr and Ussuri River valleys have figure 4b representation of bear face. Serpent, deer and waterfowl motifs are prominent, thought to be related to the modern Nanai of the region who venerate bears and whose amulets have prominent serpent motifs associated with those of bears and tigers.

 

Sumerian annu-Naga?: The_legend_of_Annu-Nagi_Mythology_and_History_of_Naga_People_and_Queen_Gaidinliu_of_Naga

 

Serpents of the Deep

Land of Rivers and God of the DeepDeluge Legends, Island of the Blessed, Hades

 

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