I had been wanting to clean up my rock garden and finally got around to it a few days ago – weeding, cutting overgrown grasses from hidden crevices, removing dried stalks from early spring flowers who now dream of another performance next year. When I moved a heavy garden ornament away from a tree trunk to clean up behind it, I caught my breath – a snake! But it wasn’t moving and I quickly realized that it was only the skin the snake left behind. I could just see it now wriggling itself out of an overly tight suit by rubbing against the rough texture of tree bark. I carefully pulled the paper-thin skin out from in between bark and grass. It broke into 3 pieces.
While gathering the skin, I had the odd experience of being watched. What if the snake was hiding nearby and saw me collect its skin? I almost felt as if I was doing something illegal, taking property that belonged to someone else.
Surely, the snake didn’t need it anymore, and was not going to squeeze back into her old suit!
Shedding one’s skin to move forward into a larger self – isn’t that what learning and growing is all about….
How many skins have I shed already and how have they been re-absorbed into the universal field, just like this fragile layer of skin cells would soon melt back into the soil and add its nutrients to the grasses and flowers growing nearby.
Ted Andrews, in his book Animal-Speak, describes how different cultures viewed snakes as powerful agents of transformation. In ancient Greece, the snake symbolized alchemy and healing. In Hinduism, the god Vishnu sleeps on the serpent Ananta, symbol of eternity, while Shiva adorns himself with snake bracelets and necklaces, symbols of sexuality. Kundalini, or serpent energy, gets released from the base of the spine, fuels our creative fires and opens up greater levels of awareness. In Chinese astrology, the snake holds qualities of compassion, clairvoyance and charm and teaches lessons of forgiveness.
Snakes are symbols of spiritual death and rebirth, holding the promise of growth, creativity and greater wisdom.
When I found the snake skin, I held it and examined it, sensing that it could tell me something about my own layering, my own need to shed what is no longer necessary, no longer fruitful in my life. There are resentments hiding in some dark corner, old grudges laying around, getting rusty; they contribute to emotional clutter, take energy away from the full focus I want in my current life.
I can see the snake’s face, even the eyes. It’s eerie, ghost-like, the empty shell of a former life, like an abandoned house that is beginning to crumble back into the earth. Maybe that’s what these old resentments are – ghosts that have no real life to inhabit anymore; time to get rid of them.
The snake shows the way.
This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge: On the Way.