Snakes can be deadly. From cobras to rattlesnakes, poisonous snakes kill approximately 90, 000 people a year across the world. Such powerful animals were made into Gods in many cultures. Buddha slept under the protection of the seven-headed Naga God. Naga is a cobra (also referred to as Naja), who, in its divine form, has seven heads. Above: Naga serpents at Angkor Vat.
The seven-headed Naga God, also called Agni, at Angkor Thom. The legend has it that the Devas (Gods) and the Asuras (Demons) had been fighting for a thousand years. To stop the fight, Vishnu told both to hold the body of Naga to churn the Ocean of milk and produce “amrita” the nectar of immortality. Above: a Deva holding the body of Agni or Naga, the Serpent God. Angkor Thom.
Siddharta Gautama Buddha lived around the 5th century BC. The churning of the sea of milk is told in Bhagavata Purana, a Hindu text written around 800-1000 AD. Angkor Thom in Cambodia was built around the 12th century Ad. Meanwhile, across miles and miles of the “Cosmic ocean of milk”, the people of Mexico and Central America worshipped the Feathered serpent, Quetzlacoátl (In Nahuátl) or Kukulcán (In Maya).
Kukulcán, the feathered serpent. Chichén Itzá, Yucatán. (Photo c.1992) The site was built between 600 and 1200 AD, roughly at the same time as Angkor. Kukulcán or his Aztec namesake was the God of arts, crafts and knowledge.
The Asuras (Demons) at Angkor Thom, holding the body of the God Naga.
Kukulcán, the feathered serpent. Chichen Itzá.
Top left: the God Naga, Angkor Thom, Elephant terrace.
Two feathered serpents, Yucatán, Mexico.
Crossing the Cosmic Ocean back to Asia, please allow me to introduce Mr. Lung, the Dragon:
Dragon in Georgetown, Penang. 2017. Though it seems that the first mention of a feathered serpent in Meso-America dates back to the 1st century AD, the Chinese Dragon may go back much earlier. The dragon is a positive symbol of power, strength and good luck.
The feathered serpent, Chichen Itzá.
Dragon, in Penang. The sea has a Japanese, Hiroshige-like style.
Angkor. The Naga’s body swirls above and around the scene of human dignitaries.
Uxmal, Mexico (c.1992). Bottom right one can see the head and body of a rattlesnake, the body circling to the left and coming back to the right, ending with the rattlesnake’s bell-shaped tail.
Author’s private collection. Despite its origin (Hongkong, 1952) this is probably a Japanese dragon. First half of the 20th century.
Mr and Mrs Lung, Georgetown, Penang, 2017.
Kukulcán, the Feathered Serpent. Rubbing by Patric, c.1978. Author’s collection.
Naga, Agni, Mr Lung the Dragon, all come from Asia. From India to China and back, myths most likely influenced each other. But the Feathered Serpent? That question has always intrigued me. The first human settlers in the Americas came from Asia about 20,000 years ago. The last around 12,000 years ago. Then communication between Asia and the Americas was lost. Did the first human settlers bring the Dragon along? Did the Dragon later become the Feathered Serpent? Maybe.
If that is the case the Dragon myth is at least 12,000 years old, which would make it the oldest surviving human myth…
Thank you for flying on TSS (Time-Space Shuttle) Equinoxio. (Scotty? What happened to the dinosaur trip?)