This will be the quickest of sketches, a gestural pointing toward some interesting bits. This is only loosely correlated here, as a step toward thinking about the Garden and Ophites again. The first is this loose body of images that Tumblr brought to my attention, all of them serpentine figures. I think all of these originate in the first few centuries of the Common Era, though I could be wrong.
For some reason, this time round seeing Glycon’s name (Γλύκων), I was reminded of glycose (γλυκύς) which originally referred to sweet wines. Agathodaemon? Its early roots seems to be as the daemon of the vineyard. I wouldn’t push too hard on the linguistic dimensions of this, but there is some link going on here in the present regarding the connection of serpents and orchards.
Which puts me in mind of Tamar, whose name means ‘date palm.’ Date palms were early cultivars and there is a connection between them and palm wine. Serpents. vineyards, women-trees, intoxication. There are some sweeping cultural ties that join myths across different cultural and linguistic milieus over this. There is Odin become serpent to acquire the mead of Inspiration in the far north of Europe and figures like Gbadu and Legba in West Africa (a story rich in snakes and palms). If you are looking in the right places, you’ll note that both Legba and Odin have ties to gender variance, suggesting that deeper biological complex of sexual-symbolic responsiveness mentioned earlier.
Regionally, Glycon’s cultus flourished along the coast of the Black Sea, opening us to the Slavonic Jewish material. It also puts us into proximity with Georgia, with their goddess Tamar who rides a serpent and dominates the Morning Star (remember Asteroth who, in more masculine form, appears in the Verum as a beautiful figure astride a serpent carrying a viper?). Also, Georgia is home to some of the most ancient traditions of viticulture. At one point under the direct control of the Assyrian Empire, they form one of the margins of the greater of Mesopotamian world (and we know how things mingle along the edges, right?). Heck, having just mentioned the Khazars, it should be noted that Georgia formed part of their empire, too.
On the other side of the Black Sea, we’re staring at the Thracians and a religious complex bound up with a female figure and two (rival) gods….hmmm.
I know, this stuff is all over the place in terms of establishing a timeline. Part of what interests me here is that we seem to see a number of ‘burned over districts,’ sites where mythemes (and their animating spirits) have passed through again and again, taking novel dress while often retaining some core traits and an outward movement that carries them in all directions.
Rider–St. George, Magna Mater-Eve-Tamar, Dragon-Serpent?
Which suggests that there may be another dimension of syncretism that is not often addressed: syncretism based in a recognition, dimly, of the common roots of myths and rituals that have evolved partially or fully independently from each other. As Gordon’s exploration of the dragon suggests, approaching this with an eye toward discrete strata of meaning and associations might be the way to go, establishing specific dates and comparing them from region to region.
To follow a bit of that line of thought, it would take some effort to differentiate blocks of time and trace their relationship to each other. I’m not doing that here, but rather noting the scope of such a task.
I would also like to observe that we don’t have to take up that task in order to participate in the life of the spirits and their myths. To live with, we need to turn toward the future even more than to the past. Though it is awfully fun to think about and it provides some of the conceptual fabric for spirits to communicate with us.