The Shape of a Snake

What is the shape of a snake? I picture it something like a sine wave; I picture it coming up out of a hole in the ground and then going back down.

Traditionally, snake is sometimes seen as a psychopomp–a guide for souls traveling between different realms–a quality that is often assigned to animals with habits like that.

Snake is different than a lot of the shapes that I think about because, of course, it’s alive. It’s four-dimensional in the time sense (like all living things and maybe all objects in general, but few evoke the intersection of geometry and movement as much as a snake does).

Snake’s movement is also multi-dimensional. It undulates forward-ish, and simultaneously, at times, is sheds its skin. Snake is engaged in a process that is directional and also, maybe equally, evolutionary. The snake that arrives home at night is clearly not the same one that left in the morning; it is literally the shape of a process.

On a mystical level, snake has another important power. This is maybe the time to mention that my younger child is absolutely obsessed with snakes. We also share an interest in Greek mythology and were recently reading the story of Eurydice, who carelessly stepped on a poisonous snake while fleeing a suitor. This should not be a big deal, my child insists that you know, because stepping on a poisonous snake isn’t going to hurt anybody besides the snake.

Unfortunately for Eurydice, the snake was actually venomous, and fortunately for the snake, that’s a whole different situation. A big part of snake magic is the idea of pharmakon, the p̶o̶i̶s̶o̶n̶ venom that’s also a medicine, the way the shape of evolution gets inside of you.


2020 Hedge Notes

In 2020, a couple of my huge personal themes were metaphor and boundaries. This is a series of notes I wrote that seemed worth saving to revisit in the future:

1. Hedgerows. In England and probably other places, they used to separate everybody’s property from everybody else’s. But also, they were literally made of hedges and incredibly diverse ecosystems tend to exist in (h)edge environments. Due to the way that boundaries actually connect everything to everything else, they’re also crucial corridors for wildlife migration.

2. Boundaries, in general, interpersonal and otherwise, and their generative properties.

3. Limits, physical and creative, and the way that no one individual, unique thing can exist without them.

4. Learning that in qi gong/Chinese traditional medicine the viscera and fascia are considered, rather than just the stuff that happens to connect the organs, muscles and bones, to be the really important parts that conduct the life energy and must be healthy if anything else is going to work.

5. Learning that in the Chaldean oracles, Hekate was described as — as well as the Anima Mundi (world soul, uniting matter and spirit much like Psyche, the soul, unites mind and body) — *a membrane*. Meaning that her own being defined the boundaries of the created world, the distinction between the world of ideas and the world of form.

6. The letter X as a symbol of Hekate, representing the union of opposites but also, as it was used to mark boundaries, the idea of separation itself.

7. The critical faculty — the distinction between the conscious and subconscious minds which normally gives us the power as well as compulsion to judge whether ideas make sense before fully absorbing them. It can be sidestepped (though only partly) through dreams, hypnosis, metaphor and other hedge-walking arts.

8. The Via Negativa, path of what we can experience and conceive of only through absence and negation.

I can’t quite see what’s in the middle of that web, of course, but it still feels like kind of a big deal.