On the Path

Photo: Theresa Jasinski

As printed in the San Francisco Bay Area magazine “Common Ground” Spring 1998 issue, “On The Path” section.

Gazing up at an alabaster statue of the Virgin Mary as a young Catholic school girl was how my training with the Goddess began. Fascinated with the serpent at Her feet, it seemed friendly, rather than the foe the Church said it represented. The Virgin was supposed to be stamping out evil, but the serpent was alive and looked happy. Frequent warnings about the hazards of rattlesnakes in the desert outside my home increased my curiosity. I never developed the fear of snakes or their association with evil that the Church and my parents tried to instill. Instead, I became intrigued with this much maligned creature of the reptile kingdom.

Several years into a career as a classical dancer, snakes began to permeate my consciousness again. I became a snake keeper and a snake dancer with my spiritual focus on the Great Mother Goddess. My first snake dance was when I was nine months pregnant with my son, who was born in the year of the snake. Although I had never seen a snake dancer before, it was as if something ancient was calling to be reborn in me.

Today I still have that same mysterious inner prompting, and have choreographed several dances with my two royal pythons. Each dance becomes a shamanic journey for me, and indeed snake is my totem animal, as it is the universal totem creature for all women. My dancing partners are sentient beings, so I work with them in a caring way.

Audiences always respond with great enthusiasm, and often I give a lesson in snake medicine allowing people to hold the snakes afterward. Some tell me stories about their fear of snakes and how seeing my dance shifted that energy.

Snakes have a great healing power, which is why we still see them in the caduceus symbol on pharmacies today. The caduceus, Hermes’ staff with two serpents intertwined around it, came from ancient Egypt where it was used to help women in childbirth. The undulating movements of snakes are similar to labor contractions. The usual mythological association of the serpent is with physical and spiritual health and wisdom. Snakes have taught me the power of deep meditation. Snakes breathe with their whole body, every vertebra in their spine reverberates with the healing power of the breath. As a snake priestess, yogini and sacred dancer, I have learned that to be fully present in the moment is to be in the breath. Breath is the key to higher states and good health.

At this time I am being called to initiate women into their snake priestess self. I am especially concerned with women’s health. The breast cancer epidemic in our culture is a cry for women to return to their primal instincts. It is time for us to live more authentic lives with acute awareness of the relationship between the environment and our bodies. Finding our inner snake can help us do this. We now need a return to the esoteric wisdom of the Wise Serpent.