For all of you enjoying a celebration of St. Patrick's Day!
St. Patrick is purported to have banished all snakes from Ireland. It doesn't matter that Ireland has never had any snakes (something that is bizarre in itself), the point is, St. Patrick is the one blamed for driving them out.
|St. Patrick driving out snakes|
Meretseger, "Lover of Silence" Renenutet, a goddess associated with the harvest and even Weret-Hekau "Great of Magic." Often depicted in the form of a cobra or a cobra with a woman's head, or a woman with a cobra's head, unless specifically named, the specific identity is not known. Often they are depicted with an offering table in front, such as this unnamed example:
|The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology UCL|
The rearing cobra became such an icon of the concept of a powerful goddess, that it became the generic determinative for the word goddess as well as names of goddesses.
And of course, the uraeus was one of the most powerful of all protective symbols. There was however, a darker side to snakes as well, one that might have been more familiar to St. Patrick... Here is a spell that was meant to protect a dead person from snakes in the afterlife.
Coffin Text 436
TO DRIVE OFF A SNAKE AND DESTROY ITS VENOM:While this one was to protect the living (featuring the elusive wife of Horus, an expert in snake and scorpion killing):
O you who cut off the heads and sever the necks of the foes of Osiris;
O you HnbAA-snake which has neither arms nor legs, are you proud because of this which is on your mouth, which your mother has given you? Your mother goes up to you; go off to her who regards you as weak!
Come, you Ennead, come forth at my voice! May you slay this miserable snake, the enemy of Horus, who causes a fighter to sit down exhausted, his eyes filled with water, his heart sinking low. Come you to me! I have called to her, the wife of Horus—I am the physician who soothes the god!Thus were snakes in Ancient Egypt defeated, though thankfully never banished for good!
(Translations are from Faulkner, R. O. (1973), The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, 3 vols. (Warminster: Aris & Phillips Ltd). and Borghouts, J. F. (1978), Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts, (NISABA, 9; Leiden: E.J. Brill), 92.)