Published on March 24, 2013 by Amy
Native American Indians were a deeply spiritual people and they communicated their history, thoughts, ideas and dreams from generation to generation through Symbols and Signs such as the Great Serpent symbol. The origin of the Great Serpent symbol derives from the ancient Mississippian culture of North America, the culture of the Mound Builders. The Mound Builders associated great mystical value to the serpent. Some Indian tribes including the Creek, Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Chickasaw still retain some elements of the Mississippi culture. Their sacred rites, myths and symbols and are presumed to descend from the Mississippians. The Great Serpent symbol represented a malevolent creature but a similar symbol, the Horned Serpent, was usually viewed as a benign or benevolent although fearful creature such as the Avanyu. For additional information also refer to the Snake Symbol and Mythical Creatures.
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The Great Serpent symbol is one of the many Winged or Feathered snake-like deities that figure in the mythology of most Native American tribes. The mythology of the Abenaki tribe told of a great serpent called the Kita-skog meaning “Big Snake” or Pita-skog meaning “Grand Snake”. The meaning of the Great Serpent symbol are chaos, corruption and darkness. The Great Serpent is seen as a malevolent being or monster who devours his enemies. The names of the malevolent serpents included Utkena and Mishipizheu.
There is a legend that in the beginning of the world winged serpents reigned upon the earth and great serpent symbols depict this events. There is a symbolic relationship between the sun and the serpent because life remains in the serpent. or snake, until sunset even though it might be cut into a dozen parts. The Hopi Indians consider the serpent to be in close communication with the Earth Spirit. Therefore, at the time of their annual snake dance they send their prayers to the Earth Spirit by first specially sanctifying large numbers of snakes and then liberating them to return to the earth with the prayers of the tribe.
The Great Serpent, resided in the Underworld and was described as a powerful being who was in constant conflict with the forces of the Upper World who were represented by the Thunderers who were Birdmen or Falcon beings. Spiral symbols mimic the coiled serpent representing the underlying mystery that people have felt towards the snake and the Great serpent and their place in the mythology of the Underworld and death and as their role as a messenger to and from the world of the dead.
The most ancient Native American Indian symbols, like the Great Serpent symbol, came from the Mississippian culture which was established in 1000AD and continued to 1550AD onward. The Mississippian Native Americans were the last of the mound-building cultures of North America in the Midwestern, Eastern, and Southeastern United States. The Mississippian culture was based on warfare, which was represented by an array of emblems, motifs and symbols. The Mississippian culture warrior icons like the Great Serpent symbol provides interesting history and ideas for tattoos that include cosmic imagery depicting animals, humans and mythical beasts. The Mississippian Native Americans practiced body painting, tattooing and piercing.