The Serpent throughout all ages has appealed to the imagination of man, to whom its various characteristics afforded opportunities for symbolic expression; from its length of life it has been used as the symbol of Eternity, and as a Talisman for Longevity, Health, and Vitality, and when depicted with its tail in its mouth (this form being particularly noticeable in ancient rings) it indicates perpetual union, whilst to the Aztecs, who used it in this way as a symbol of the Sun, it signified unending Time, ever beginning, ever creating, and ever destroying, and was considered to have great protective and enduring virtues.

When shown coiled, its folds signify succession of ages, and if the tail is hidden, unfathomable antiquity (see Illustration No. 22, Plate I, which is taken from an ancient Japanese example in the British Museum).

In primeval days, serpents of the Python family attained huge dimensions, and would naturally be held in dread and awe by early man; and in all primitive religions we find the belief held that the soul of man passed at death into a serpent to undergo regeneration and renewal, so symbolised because the serpent casts its skin once a year and becomes a new serpent.

To the Eastern mind the Sun in its passage through the heavens formed a curve similar to that of the Snake, and by its progression spirally, with great quickness at will, though without feet and hands or organs by which other animals perform their movements, it was supposed to symbolise lightning or fire, the vitalising principle of life in its good aspect, and, when antagonistic, it became typical of evil and misfortune.

In Egypt the Serpent in the form of the Uraeus was worn round the head as a mark of Royalty, and to symbolise Divine Power, Wisdom, and Energy, every tomb of the Kings yet opened has the Serpent sculptured erect on each side of the doorway to guard and protect the body within.

It first became a type of the Evil One when this form was assumed by Sut (after killing Osiris) in his endeavour to escape from the vengeance of Horus.

In Indian religions the Serpent is known as Ananta, or endless, a symbol of infinite duration and Eternity; Vishnu, the Creator, is represented sleeping on this serpent whose numerous heads form a canopy over the God, each giving constant attention to his expected awakening, when new creations and a new order of things will be established, and was valued as a talisman for Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding.

Serpents were sacred to the Great God of Medicine because of the idea that they have the power of renewing their youth by casting their skins, hence the wand of Aesculapius is represented as entwined by two serpents, the emblem of Medical Science, and in the temple of Epidaurus, the most important sanatorium of the Metropolis, a large serpent was kept, typical of Health and Vitality. As a symbol, it was used in connection with Ceres, Mercury, and Diana in their most beneficent qualities; whilst Python in monstrous form represented all that was evil.