The first archetype we work with on the medicine wheel is Serpent.
We know that serpent teaches us to shed our past, connect with the earth, and start to use other senses to explore the world. Serpent shows us how to clear our wounds, traumas, imprints, and programming by taking us deep into ourselves.
But there is more to serpent energy than that. How does serpent energy work on a practical level in your daily lives?
The physical world is the world of Serpent. Associated with the South direction of the wheel.
Snakes are very instinctual creature with highly developed senses that can tell it where there’s food or where there’s danger. We as humans also rely on our senses to give us a picture of ourselves and the world around us.
Level of serpent is very solid and we perceive the world as tangible and difficult to change; where everything is 99% matter and 1% Spirit.
The perceptual state of serpent is connected to the root chakra
Located at the base of the spine, near the tailbone, the root chakra connects us to Mother Earth, and it is here that our primitive instincts are energetically located.
The properties of the first chakra are:
• Element: Earth
• Colour: Red
• Body Aspects: Physical foundation; elimination of wastes; rectum, legs, feet; testosterone and oestrogen
• Instinct: Survival, procreation
• Psychological Aspects: Feeding, shelter, safety, ability to provide for oneself
• Glands: Ovaries and testes
• Seeds: Kundalini, abundance
• Negative Expression: Hoarding, predatory behaviour, mindless violence, chronic fatigue, birth trauma, abandonment issues
First-chakra drives are primary and instinctual. They drive us to look after the immediate needs - shelter, food, survival, procreation. These are fundamental instincts hard-wired into us. We can hold our breath but we cannot tell our body to stop breathing, we cannot override our instinct to survive.
The wounding and traumas we experienced in the first 7 years of our lives, including any birth and prenatal trauma, are stored in our root chakra. This causes problems that will affect our development and creates an imbalance in the root chakra.
When the root chakra is out of balance it creates feelings of scarcity and lack. It may manifest in those that have a lot that they start to live in fear of losing everything they own, and go to extreme measures to protect their property. The need to over-indulge, to collect money or gadgets, is a sign of an unbalanced root chakra. We can never get enough to satisfy us and what we have we protect at all costs.
When we live purely from our root chakra we become absorbed by senses and we only connect with the material world. We become convinced that the world owes us something because we are special. We become very self-absorbed, selfish, and narcissistic. It prevents us from feeling and experiencing real love and compassion because we are unable to place ourselves in an other's position.
The two main hormones in our body, testosterone and oestrogen, are connected to the root chakra.
Testosterone causes two primary responses in men: sex and aggression. When women are given testosterone they cannot stop thinking about sex.
When the root chakra is out of balance it increases the effects of testosterone, causing a man to confuse the two main impulses of this hormone. He then begins to hurt the woman he loves destroying the relationship.
Oestrogen induces powerful feelings of nurturing, desire for relationship, and mating. When the root chakra is out of balance it can result in a woman’s overwhelming concern for security in her relationship at the cost of her autonomy.
Tribal cultures perform rites of passage to mark a youth’s coming into manhood or womanhood. These rites are connected to the root chakra. During the ceremony the youth is encouraged to let go of the energetic bonds to his or her biological mother and father. The youth then takes on the Earth as the mother who will never leave him and the Sky as the strong, reliable, enduring father.
In our western society we are in essence spiritual orphans and loners. We never went through those rites of passage when we entered puberty and went through life feeling parentless and doubting in our ability to be parents ourselves.
Without these rites of passage into puberty we are spiritual orphans. We struggle through life feeling motherless and fatherless, and later find that we do not know how to be good parents.
In Sanskrit the root chakra is called muladhara, which means “foundation.” Our energetic house must be built on a strong foundation. It is where the Kundalini energy sits which is represented by a coiled serpent at the base of the spine.
For the shaman, this is the primordial serpent who swallows its own tail, the Ouroboros, and portrays an unconscious state of self-absorption. As we clear the imprints within the root chakra the serpent uncoils, and energy moves up through the chakras awakening the kundalini, the energy of the feminine. Shamans around the world believe that it is through the power of the feminine that all creatures move, live, procreate, and flourish. Its energy, which lies dormant within each of us, is the energy of Pachamama, the heartbeat of our mother.
Seeing through the eyes of serpent
When we look at a situation or problem purely from the perspective of Serpent, we try to come up with physical solutions. It’s all about changing jobs, trading in your car, finding a partner, or even having a fling. When we get a headache we take some paracetamol, if we see someone acting up we judge them or even punish them.
These solutions can work but in reality they are very simplistic.
At the level of serpent we rely purely on our instincts and don’t delve deeply into our problems. We connect with the part of our brain we share with reptiles and dinosaurs. We know we have a physical body but we haven’t got the awareness of our mental, spiritual, and emotional bodies. We can only see the outer form and have no feelings for ourselves and others. We can only act and react, we haven’t got the ability for complex thinking.
This is a very good state to enable you to operate in the ordinary world. Bills need paying, shopping needs to be done. There is no need to look for any deeper meaning.
We have to be effective and practical in the ordinary world so it’s really important to master the level of serpent. When we take that to the extreme and let our need to survive dominate our lives we become quite unpleasant to be around. We want the most literal signs of security like a large bank account or lots of toys. We become greedy, stingy, suspicious, and paranoid. We build fences, collect weapons to protect ourselves from being attacked, or pre-emptively attack first.
A huge part of humanity has been living at the level of serpent for millennia. You can see it in politics, international relations, Christianity vs Islam, even in how the coronavirus has been dealt with as an enemy that must be destroyed.
Operating from Serpent level is especially helpful for getting us through immediate crises. Our reptilian brain is in charge, working from survival instincts, and we simply do what has to be done without wasting valuable energy thinking about it, analysing it, or getting emotionally distraught about it.
The instincts of Serpent can alert us to danger before we consciously perceive it — we get a “bad vibe” about a person or place, and avoid it without knowing why, or we sense that a police officer with a radar gun is up the road, so we take our foot off the gas pedal.
Alberto Villoldo - The Four Winds April 2011
Alberto Villoldo - The Four Winds August 2017