At 1348′ long, Serpent Mound is the largest surviving effigy mound on the planet. (Effigy means it’s in the shape of something.) I’d been wanting to go there for several years. This year was the year it finally happened!
I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful it was. It’s beautifully maintained and very green. It’s difficult to see the whole length of it from ground level, but one can walk around it.
I decided to start at the tail. I love the tail as it was a spiral, which I know to be a sacred symbol. But after walking past several loops and arriving at the other end, I know that the egg the snake is ready to ingest is also a very sacred symbol of new life.
It was interesting to find out how frequently a giant snake was present in the sacred narrative of several local tribes, including the people originally from my homeland, the Lenape (called the Delaware by some.)
But it shouldn’t have been surprising because both snakes and dragons hold a prominent place in many of the world’s mythologies. Of course there is the snake in the creation story of Genesis. And there are dragons and sea serpents in both Celtic lore and in Asia. Consider the red dragon on the Welsh flag and the enduring legend of the Loch Ness monster.
In Aztec lore, we have the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl. In ancient Mesopotamia, we have Tiamat, a dragonlike creatrix and primordial goddess of the sea. She was also associated with chaos.
I was fascinated to see the reference to the Underwater Panther in the sign pictured here. About a week prior to visiting Serpent Mound, I had gone to see Alligator Mound. In Ohio.
You may be thinking Alligator? In Ohio? Exactly. When you see the shape of the mound, you will again be puzzled by the name, because the shape of the mound includes a round head and a curvilinear tail. As we all know, an alligator’s head is not round and its tail is broad and long, not curved. So why the name?
The theory goes that one of the first archaeologists consulted with a local Native American, as is appropriate. But not knowing the language, he employed a translator and the translator must have said something about a large underwater monster. An alligator was probably all the archaeologist could conjure up.
Interestingly, just now I looked up “Lenape snake” to see if I could find an image. I found out that Maxa’xâk is translated as “Great Serpent” but that it’s actually an “underwater horned serpent” said to lurk in lakes and eat humans!
I believe that most of the effigy mounds are meant to honor a local spirit. And apparently this one is no exception.