The ancient symbol of the serpent coiled around an egg was originally attributed to the mythical founder of the Orphic mysteries, Orpheus. It was a religion centered on the teachings of the origins of life, procreation, immortality, mortality, creativity, and wisdom.
It is the emblem of the Logoi, or self-born, the Gnostic Christian who are reborn again into the immortal light of their own Gnosis.
The first emanation from this egg, described in an ancient hymn, was Phanes-Dionysus, the personification of light. In Greek myth, particularly Orphic thought, Phanes is the golden-winged hermaphroditic primordial being who was hatched from the silver shining cosmic Orphic Egg. Called Protogonos (First-Born) and Eros (Love) — being the seed of gods and men — Phanes means manifestor or revealer, and is related to the Greek words “light” and “to shine forth.”
An ancient Orphic hymn addresses the serpent thus: “Ineffable, hidden, brilliant scion, whose motion is whirring, you scattered the dark mist that lay before your eyes and, flapping your wings, you whirled about, and through this world, you brought pure light.”
The Derveni Papyrus refers to Phanes:”Πρωτογόνου βασιλέως αἰδοίου∙ τῶι δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἀθάνατοι προσέφυν μάκαρες θεοὶ ἠδ̣ὲ θέαιναι καὶ ποταμοὶ καὶ κρῆναι ἐπήρατιο ἄλλα τε πάντα , ἅ̣σσα τότ’ ἦγγεγαῶτ ’ , αὐτὸς δ’ ἄρα μοῦνος ἔγεντο.” “Of the First-born king, the reverend one; and upon him all the immortals grew, blessed gods and goddesses and rivers and lovely springs and everything else that had then been born; and he himself became the sole one”.
Dionysus of the Orphic tradition is intimately connected to Protogonos. In the Orphic Hymn 30, he is given a list of epithets that also allude to Protogonos: “πρωτόγονον, διφυῆ, τρίγονον, Βακχεῖον ἄνακτα,ἄγριον, ἄρρητον, κρύφιον, δικέρωτα, δίμορφον” “Primeval, two-natured, thrice-born, Bacchic lord, savage, ineffable, secretive, two-horned, and two-shaped”
Manly P. Hall had said about the serpent and egg, “The ancient symbol of the Orphic Mysteries was the serpent-entwined egg, which signified Cosmos as encircled by the fiery Creative Spirit. The egg also represents the soul of the philosopher; the serpent, the Mysteries. At the time of initiation, the shell is broke and man emerges from the embryonic state of physical existence wherein he had remained through the fetal period of philosophic regeneration.”
In the Ancient Egyptian mysteries, we find the god Ra shown in the Ritual (Book of the Dead, xvii., 50) beaming in his egg (the Sun), and he starts off as soon as the god Shoo (the Solar energy) awakens and gives him the impulse. “He is in the Solar egg, the egg to which is given life among the gods” (Ibid., xlii., 13). The Solar god exclaims: “I am the creative soul of the celestial abyss. None sees my nest, none can break my egg, I am the Lord!” (Ibid., lxxxv.).
Albert Pike had said – “Among the Egyptians, the serpent was a symbol of Divine Wisdom; and, with its tail in its mouth (Ouroboros), of Eternity. In the ritual of Zoroaster, it was a symbol of the Universe.”
We can find the modern meaning of the ancient esoteric symbology of the serpent (worm) to be both the enlightened creator in the form of the sperm (worm) as it enters the women’s Ovula (egg) to create life. Please notice the light surrounding this event. As it is said in the Christian secret Gnostic mysteries of generation and genealogy in the aptly named Genesis 3:13; “And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”
Genesis 1:3, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
In China, the ring between two Serpents was the symbol of the world governed by the power and wisdom of the Creator. Hence the Serpent entwined round an [Orphic] Egg referred to the creation of the Universe.”
As I have written before, the mythical Orpheus I have found to be a real Cretan (Phoenician) man named Epimenides Gnosis (Greek: Ἐπιμενίδης) from the City of Knossos (Gnosis) who was considered a Messiah and Christ to both the Athenians and the Cretans.
This is where I believe he developed these serpentine mysteries of the true initiation into the secrets of Gnosis on Mount Ida in the cave of their God Zeus which was located on the ancient Holy island of Crete.
The symbology of the serpent and egg of the Orphic Mysteries was most likely developed first from the Solar Egg of the Egyptians and passed to their Brethren, the Phoenicians (Sea Peoples) of Crete. The symbol would later give rise to other Gnostic Symbols and Gods found all around the globe such as Abraxas, Yaldabaoth, Ouroborus, Phanes, the Mundane Egg, Brahman Golden Egg, Druid’s Egg, the Midgard Snake of the Nordic Eddas, and in the Christian mysteries, the Easter Egg, to name a few.
The painting by Salvador Dali (1943) below reminds me of the Orphic Egg. It is known as the Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man.
Moe is the founder of GnosticWarrior.com. A website dedicated to both the ancient and modern teachings of Gnosticism.