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Carl Jung: The relation to the snake is a chthonic mystery.


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Visions : Notes of the seminar given in 1930-1934 (2 Volume Set) (Bollingen)

[Carl Jung on the “Black Snake.”]

Dr. Jung:

Last time we were talking about the black snake.

Today we are going to look into its further fate.

After our patient had swallowed the snake, she emerged from the cave, which means that she came up from the darkness of the unconscious where that happened.

The relation to the snake is a chthonic mystery.

I told you a similar rite was celebrated at Eleusis where the initiate had to kiss the snake, and in the antique mysteries of Sabazios the snake was passed through the garment at the neck and pulled out below, symbolizing the same procedure-swallowing the snake, the descent of the snake through the body.

Now we are not sure what should happen to that snake, whether it should remain in the body, or whether it should be digested, pass through the body and come out again.

It would then be a sort of rebirth mystery such as is celebrated in India to cure a sick man: a cow is made of leather, and the man is pushed into the mouth of the cow and pulled through the belly and out again, so he is reborn.

It is like that sort of rebirth clinic which still exists in Cornwall: there are two menhirs standing about as far apart as the length of this room, and in between is a huge slab of rock with a manhole in it, big enough for me to just squeeze myself through.

And it still happens that in the night of the new moon, farmers draw their sick babies through the hole in order to cure them.

That is a rite of rebirth which is used as a cure, as sick people were given new names for that purpose.

And there was a case in north Germany where two trees had grown together in such a way that a Yoni-shaped space was in between them, through which a sick person was pulled.

Or he was pulled through a hole made in the wall at the head of his bed.

And to cure cattle disease, they drove the cattle between two oak poles that were on fire.

So the human individual might in this case be called the birthplace of the snake.

That black snake is the earth factor in man, and we might assume that it is seeking rebirth, or perhaps it penetrates the body as a sort of phallic demon in order to impregnate it, or to transform it.

There are several possibilities-we do not know how the thing will develop.

We cannot find out from Zarathustra because the shepherd did not digest the serpent.

But now we shall see what happened to the serpent in this vision.

She says: “I emerged from the cave, the goat and the white snake accompanying me. We came upon a brilliant disk of gold lying on the ground.”

You remember we said that the disk or the pool of gold was presumably below the roots of the tree, sowe could assume that we are here somewhere near the tree.

You also remember that descent from the image of the deity down into the golden pool in the ground symbolizing the sun above.

This is the same golden disk and she says: “The black snake which I had swallowed leapt from my throat and fell upon the golden disk.”

The snake comes out all by itself. She does not say that she intentionally vomited the serpent; it simply leapt out ofher and fell upon the golden disk
where, she says: “Instantly it was transformed into a handful ofashes.”

Now what can we conclude from that concerning the nature of the golden disk?

~Carl Jung, Visions Seminar, Page 290