Goddesses Of Reptiles, Birds, And Amphibians

Like animals, reptiles and birds appear frequently as images of feminine divinity. 

While these creatures might seem opposites, many early statues show them united, as we find in the unnamed bird-headed snake goddesses of central Europe, whose image may represent the cosmic reach of a goddess who ruled both earth and sky. 

The imagery survives into historical times as the Greek Gorgons, winged snake haired sisters of the goddess Medusa. 

Snake goddesses often represent rebirth or renewal, for as the snake sheds its skin, so the soul is reborn into another life. 

Egyptian Mafdet and Mertseger were con nected with both burial and the promise of an afterlife. 

In India, black-faced Kalı, ruler of death and transformation, is bedecked in writhing snakes. 

Other Indian goddesses associated with snakes include Manasa, who guards against snakebite and brings prosperity, and the snake-women called Naginıs, associated with water and the mon soon season. 

This connection of snakes with water is also found in Australia, where the rainbow serpent Julunggul (see also Kunapipi) lived in deep pools, from which she stirred herself at times of creation and of initiation ceremonies. 

Snakes could appear maternal, for snakes protected stored grain from encroaching vermin and thus preserved the familys health. 

Lithuanian Aspelenie was such a protector, as was Greek Athena. 

Even in nonagricultural societies, we find snake pro tectors, such as Siberian Irt (see Circumpolar), who protected the fecundity of rivers. 

Snakes appear as images of reproductive sex in the image of Chinese Nu¨wa, entwined with her serpent mate, while Indian Kadru offers an image of reproductive abundance with her clutch of a thousand eggs. 

Conversely, snakes could be fearsome and threatening. 

Some terrifying snakes were connected with magic and shape-shifting, such as Greek Hecate, Roman Angitia, Celtic Morrıgan, and Aztec Coatlicue. 

Perhaps as an extension of this power, serpent goddesses ruled sexuality, as we find with Celtic Melusine and Ezili-Freda of the African disapora. 

The snake Kundalinı, in Hindu India, symbolizes sexual power that rises through the snakelike spinal column linking the groin and head. 

Finally, reptilian goddesses appear as cosmic creatrixes. 

In Africa, the snake Aido Hwedo was present at creation and provided the pattern for the sinuous shape of mountains and rivers. 

Some serpents provided the material for the world from their own body, as did Aztec Cipactonal and Babylonian Tiaˆmat. 

Polynesian Walu tahanga suffered dismemberment but, once made whole again, provided fresh water and food to humanity. 

The snake goddess can appear as a dragon, especially in Asia where these imagi nary hybrids were a common mythic motif. 

Typically, dragons were associated with the oceans power. 

Japanese Benten either took the form of a dragon or rode one on the ocean waves. 

In Egypt, the goddess Meretseger was a snake with human head, or a snake with three heads, a form that stressed her otherworldly aspects. 

Other rep tiles appear as goddess images in regions where they are common, as with African Nyakae, a crocodile. 

Birds also appear frequently as goddess images. 

Pedamma-Mariamma (see India) was one of several creatrixes who took bird form; she laid an egg that contained the universe and the gods. 

Polynesian Tuli flew across the primal ocean, creating island homes for people as she did. 

Finnish Luonotar was not herself a bird, but provided a place for the cosmic eggs to be laid by a duck in primeval times. 

Sometimes the bird is of a specific species: the owl accompanied and represented Greek Athena, while Irish E tain took the form of a swan (see Celtic). 

In such cases, the birds qualities were associated with the goddess (wisdom and loyalty, respec tively). 

Observation of bird behavior led to the connection of the Greek tragic heroine Aedon with the loud-crying nightingale; the Celtic war goddess Badb with the carrion-eating crow; the Saami spring goddess Barbmo-Akka (see Finno-Ugric) with migrating waterbirds; and the loyal Celtic heroine Fionnuala with the similarly loyal swan. 

Greek Aphrodite was associated with several kinds of birds, including the goose and the sparrow, which were imagined as sexually vigorous. 

Occasionally the bird was not the goddess but her mate. 

The goddess of sexuality in the African diaspora, Oshun, is associated with the peacock, the male of which preens its lavish tail to attract a mate. 

Eskimo Sedna (see Circumpolar) was mated to a sea bird, but grew tired of living on scraps of fish that he provided. 

In Greek mythology, the sky god Zeus turned himself into a bird in order to assault goddesses and Nymphs. 

Thus Hera was associated with the quail, for Zeus disguised himself as one in order to gain access to Heras lap, while Leda was associated with the swan, in which form Zeus raped her, as he did the goddess of vengeance, Nemesis. 

Frigg, the Scandinavian all-mother, lived in a sky palace to which she ascended on hawks wings. 

Birds provided a disguise for shape-shifted goddesses such as Russian Baba Yaga (see Slavic) and Irish Morrıgan (see Celtic). 

Nemain, a Celtic war goddess, flew over the battlefield like a crow to observe the slain, as did the Scandina vian Valkyries. 

Birdsong figures in goddess imagery both as a positive image of beauty (Thai Kinnarı, see Southeast Asia) and as a threatening one of loss of self (Greek Sirens). 

In addition to the earthbound serpent and the airy bird, we find goddesses in the form of amphibians, which live in water as juveniles and, after undergoing metamor phosis, breathe air as adults. 

The most common amphibian image of the goddess is the frog or toad, often used as an image of the birthing creatrix because its bent legged shape looks like a woman squatting in labor. 

This connection of frogs with birth was found in Egypt, where Hekt, a woman with a frogs head, was a midwife. 

Frogs and toads were also widely associated with weather. 

The Australian frog goddess Quork-Quork was the mother of rain, thunder, and lightning. 

Yang Sri, the toad goddess of Vietnam, controlled the weather, as did the Baltic weather witch Ragana. 

Scandinavian Holle hid in a deep well disguised as a frog. 

Finally, in a few instances, we find a connection between frogs and fire, notably in South America, where the frog goddess Nayobo made fire by vomiting, while another frog goddess of the region, Kibero, brought fire to humanity. 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.