A New Reading of the Serpent Myth in the Ancient and Modern Arab Culture

Hend T. Al-Sudairy


Starting from Babylon to Greece, India and other parts of the old world, the symbol of the serpent occurred constantly in the myth, culture and religion of man. Mediterranean deities are represented carrying a snake in one or both hands. In addition, the serpent’s knowledge was associated with the wisdom of the gods. The serpent is one of the oldest symbols of female power. Woman and serpent together were considered holy in ancient Arabia, since both seemed to embody the power of life. Serpents were considered immortal because of their ability to renew themselves by shedding their old skins, while woman’s procreative attributes made her seem immortal.

Raja Alem’s novel Fatima: A Story of Arabia (2002) is concerned with this mystic relationship. The heroin is a semi-illiterate woman who has the ability to cross over the human domain into the reptile world. She is a woman-serpent. This paper will use the cultural approach to explore the mysterious relationship between woman and serpent as presented in the novel. The focus will be on how the image of woman-serpent has developed and metamorphosed from ancient Arabian age into modern times, shedding lights onto historical facts and cultural innuendoes.

Key words: Serpent; Goddess; Arabian woman; Pre-Islamic religion; Arabian Peninsula


Serpent; Goddess; Arabian woman; Pre-Islamic religion; Arabian Peninsula


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Arabic Reference:

ابن منظور الافريقي. لسان العرب. المجلد 12. بيروت: دار صاد

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/n


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