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Symbolic Representation of the Snake

Spirals and 'hearts' or 'Ivy leaves' and 'pears', horizontal parallel lines and undulating 'rivers' symbolize the snake for keeping evil away.

The Santorini Wall Paintings

The walls of public buildings and rich private houses at Akrotiri were decorated with multi-colored frescos. Above them and close to the ceiling always at the same height there was a freize which most probably symbolized the snake and secured protection for the tenants. This freize is the forerunner of the continuous Ionic style and of the 'channels' (alternated metopes and triglyph) above Doric style temples.

'Hearts' or 'Ivy Leaves' and 'Pears'

It seems that the so-called 'heart' or 'ivy leaf' pattern, originally symbolized the triangular head of snakes. Two Japanese clay statuettes of the Jomom period (about 1000 BC) have the heart-shaped head and face and even now Buddhas have heart-like faces. In Mythology there were beings half man and half snake from the waist down like the Athenian Kecrops and the Chinese Fuxi, humans with snake heads like on a 14th century codex in Mexico, and snakes with a human head like a representation of Fuxi with a woman's head whose tail on the back has a lotus flower in the Byzantine Museum in Athens.

'Ivy Leaves' or Snakes

My feeling that the above patterns symbolize the snake proved to be true when I saw the black figured vase, today in Paris, with Dionysos and Mainads holding snakes whose bodies were formed by 'ivy leaves'. Also, 'ivy leaves' come out of the forehead of Selinus, that forged Pandora, and on so many Inca vessels with snakes coming out of the head of people and animals and on a mythological Chinese figure with snakes coming out to the left and the right of his head. Maenads, Shamans and Shamanesses were holding snakes in China, Thailand, Crete, Mycenae, Cyprus, Peru and Africa.

The Oval Patterns

The 'ivy leaves' of the Akrotiri frieze grow below and above the horizontal stem going in and out at regular intervals. This 'oval' pattern, surrounded by dots that usually symbolize the snake, also decorates vertically, a Mycenaean idol in the Museum of Naphlion in which the head of the snake is depicted like a stylized flower, and a red figured cup that is in Berlin, which has stylized lotus flowers between the leaves. The head and body of the snake was decorated by lotus flowers. It is surprising that the exact same design is depicted on a Neolithic Chinese clay vessel in Henen and that the same pattern is found on a vase in the museum of the island of Paros.

Spirals end in snake heads depicted naturally or in a symbolic way. 'Hearts' decorate the doors and windows of houses so that evil will remain outside. Certain 'hearts' have the pointed end not straight, like the symbol of the Medical center of Athens and necklaces of the American Indians. Gospels have painted 'metopes' and 'triglyphs' and 'hearts'. The 'heart' is the emblem of St. Catherine's monastery in Sinai

Tattoo Marks and Jewelry with Snake Symbolism

'Ivy leaves' painted and appliqué on the face of individuals will provide a protective shield, it is believed. Snake symbolic decoration on jewelry, belts, fans, purses and locks will keep evil and thieves at a distance.

Today similar patterns are painted with lime on the roads and courtyards in Greece and as well in distant India, to prevent evil from entering the house.

Symbolic Representation of the Snake

Santorini-Akrotiri. Upper frieze symbolizing the snake between the ceiling and the wall paintings

Running Spirals without fins in two rows

Ivy leaves and Hearts above antelopes

House of the Ladies:
The Papyrus Fresco with horizontal lines above symbolizing the snake.

The River-dragon fresco above the ship procession.

Spirals with fins above the
fresco of the blue monkey

The 'Ivy Leaf' and the 'Snake'

Upper frieze above 'the boxing children' and the antelopes fresco. Above and below a central horizontal stem 'hearts' and 'ivy leaves'. The stem widens and narrows like the spine of a snake. The ivy leaves symbolize it's head and tail. The widening and narrowing pattern is also found on a vase in the museum in Paros, on a diadem from Alexandria and on a Neolithic Chinese vessel.

Mycenaean idol in the Museum of Nafplion. The widening and narrowing pattern as stem of a stylized flower and the dots symbolizing the snake.

Fragment of a gold diadem from Alexandria now in the Benaki Museum in Athens.

Clay Neolithic vessel in the museum of Henan in China

Neolithic clay vase from Saliagos(tiny island near Paros). 4th Millennium.
Paros Museum

The Propelea of the Acropolis of Athens. A band of snake skin (metopes and triglyphs) above the columns for keeping out evil.

Detail of a 500 BC red figure Attic cup in Berlin's Antiken Museum
with snake (undulating line and ivy leaves) and lotus

Spirals with Snake Head:
Hearts on Doors and Windows for Keeping Away Evil

Mochicha Art from northern Peru with spirals ending in snake heads

Sculptured door of the Paiwan aborigines of Taiwan

On the girl's t-shirt is a spiral and inside a heart-head of a snake

A blue door and spiral hearts symbols in Mykonos, Greece

Little hearts on a blue door in Cascais, Portugal

Hearts made of pebbles on the sill of a window to keep evil from entering this house in Tholaria, Amorgos

'Ivy Leaf' or the Head of a Cobra

Gold 'ivy leaf' from 2000 BC in the Mitsotakis collection

Gold gilt silver 'ivy leaf' 350 BC from Macedonia in the Aiani Museum

1500 BC Gold ornaments with holes for attachments on robes from the tholos tomb of Kapakli in nea Ionia near Volos now in the Athens Archaeological Museum

North American Indian with snake heads painted on his cheeks.

Mask of the Peking Opera with leaves on the cheeks from the Berlin Volkerskunde Museum

Kataragama festival in Sri Lanka. On his cheeks are silver ivy leaves

Bronze Chinese wine vessel of the Warring States Period with ivy leaf design

Porcelain Ming Dynasty 'pillow' from the Cernuschi Museum in Paris

Clay Mycenaean cup with an ivy leaf with a double stem, in fact a snake from the Museum of Thebes

The Snake (Heart) on Gospels and on Fer forge

The hand of Jesus holding a gospel decorated with hearts. Detail of a wooden icon from about 1380, from the church of St. Nicholas at Kastoria, now in the Byzantine Museum of Kastoria

Christ is holding snake symbol (metopes, triglyphs and hearts). The emblem of St. Catherine's monastery in Sinai is the heart.

Achilles and the queen of the Amazons. On his shield are hearts on each side of a wavy line which signifies the snake. Circa 500 BC now in the British Museum.

Ploymiste tourist shop on the island of Skopelos near the harbor. The fer forge of the balcony is from the original building built in the early 1900's. The metal work over the door came from the old OTE building before it was destroyed. Metopes with triglyphs (two vertical lines) and 'ivy leaves' or heart-snake heads

The snake of Aesculapius

The snake-ancestor of the aborigines of Taiwan

Maenads and Snakes
Is the Ivy Leaf or Heart Symbolizing the Snake?

Maenads are often depicted with snakes on their heads or holding them. The two maenads of the vase from Paris (below left) are holding the snakes from around the neck so that they won't be bitten. The body of the snake is formed on both sides by a wavy line which is it's spine and the hearts or 'ivy leaves'.

Dionysos and Maenads on a black figured vase from Cabinet des Medailles in Paris

Kylix from Vulci. The Maenad has a snake on her head and her strysos (staff) consists of 'ivy leaves' with dots.

A 6th Century BC representation of Pandora. The Selinus that forged her are usually shown with snakes on their heads and snakes come out of the head of Pandora.

Dionysos and the Maenads. Detail of a red figured vase. The god wears a wreath with 'ivy leaves'. One Maenad is holding a snake and the other has a thyrsos formed by 'ivy leaves'. The shaft is not straight but waves like a snake.

Huari vase from Peru. Snakes coming out of the mouth and foreheads of wild cats.

Was 'The prince of the Lilies' a Shaman Holding a Snake?

Fresco from Mycenae of a dancer with her hair in the air holding a snake with her right hand from the Athens Archaeological museum.

'Prince of the Lilies'. Detail of a wall painting from the Palace of Knossos with his left hand and fingers closed in the same way as if he were also holding a snake. Fragments resembling a snake can be seen. From the Heraklion Museum in Crete.

"The Goddess of the Snakes" holding snakes from the middle of the body. Ivory statuette from Knossos in the Heraklion Museum

Chinese Mythological figure with snakes coming out of his head and holding them from the middle of their body like the Cretan Goddess.

Prow decoration of an African canoe from Duala. The shaman holds the snakes from the neck as in most cases.

Clay vase from Cyprus from around 500 BC. The figure is holding a snake while getting ready to hit it with a double axe in his right hand.

"Garouda' from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (1782) Bangkok, the old Palace.

Art Mochicha from Northern Peru.
A snake comes out of the forehead of the figure
with a snake tail. As usual he is holding two snakes by the neck

Rings, Fans and Diamonds in Heart and Pear Shapes

Double headed cobra decorated with lotus from a Chinese children's book. Cobras are kissing while making love.

Ring from India with 'pears' or heads of kissing cobras.

Ring of Saint Catherine's monastery in Sinai.

Indian ring

Algida Ice-cream logo

Diamond in 'pear' shape

Korean 'heart' shaped faces and hairdos

The emblem of the Medical center of Athens

Drawing of the design of American ring with twin hearts with snakes on each heart.

India. 'Hearts' on the fabric which covers the elephant

Myceneaen gold necklace similar to those of American Indians. From the Archaeological Museum of Thebes.

For protection against thieves, wallets, purses and locks had snake symbolism.

The Heart-Triangular (Snake) Face

Heart shaped face. Japan. First Melinium BC. Typical of prehistoric Japanese sculpture

Clay statuette from Japan with heart shaped face.

Mycenaean clay head from Kozani, Macedonia, second half of the second millennium BC. Aeni Museum

Head with pointed chin from 3000 BC Cyprus. The eyes and nose for a T which is the symbolic representation of the snake.

Clay Vessel from Chihuahua New Mexico from between 850-1335 AD. The traditional pattern is the head of the snake protector.

Human head with snake body painted on clay from Han Dynasty China

Sleeping Buddha from Borubudur from about 800 AD.

Snake with woman's head from Mytilini,(Lesvos) in the Athens Byzantine Museum. On the back of the tail is a lotus flower.

Lime Painted Symbolic Patterns of Protection Outside Houses in the Cyclades and India

In Rajastan, northern India, women decorate their yards with traditional symbolic patterns of the original man.

In Kynidaros on the island of Naxos (the mountainous village of my grandmother). The big spiral outside the door, the zig-zag of the surrounding wall and the blue color will keep evil away

Langada on the island of Amorgos. Every year on the festival day of the village, the roads are painted with the old symbolic patterns.

Island of Paros

Hearts from Amorgos

Flowers and leaves in the shapes of hearts from Amorgos

Hotel Attalos, Athens

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