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The Serpent Symbolism in the Yezidi Religious Tradition and the Snake in Yerevan

In: Iran and the Caucasus
Author:
Peter Nicolaus United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Kabul

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Abstract

The serpent, its veneration and related symbolism, constitute one of the enigmas and mysteries of Yezidism. Many present-day Yezidi myths concerning the serpent are most probably of a secondary nature, which when attempting to explain this ancient symbol, actually place it in a much more recent mythological setting. The first part of this paper tries to reconstruct the myth and the symbolism of the (black) snake in light of its ancient cultural heritage and Gnostic doctrine. However, since this approach would entail far more in-depth and substantial research, the author has, within the context of the present paper, only pinpointed a few elements, which could be of Gnostic, or even older, origin.The second part of the article focuses on the brass image of a serpent and a branch of a wish-tree, which were discovered in Yerevan by the author. It describes theses artefacts (a sacred serpent, which resembles a dragon more than a snake, and a bamboo stick), as well as the cult, which has formed around these objects. Despite several interviews with the owner of the relics and other Yezidi dignitaries, the origin of the objects could not be fully ascertained.

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