Melusine and the Snake Princesses of Asia: a tale of love or warning against marrying ‘outsiders’?
Researching the serpent cult led me to examine the tales found in Europe, and Asia, beginning with the Assyrian Goddess Atargatis who, loving a mortal and accidentally killing him, jumped into a lake to take the form of a fish, instead becoming half-human, half fish. The Phoenicians worshipped Atargatis and her mother Derketo to such an extent that they would not eat fish.
In India we find the Nagas, or snake people and the women, the Nagin, strikingly beautiful women who can transform into half-snakes at will. They do marry human princes and many royal families throughout Asia claim lineage from these unions---from Burma, to Laos, to Cambodia, Vietnam and Java.
In China we find Nu-wa, who created humans and the tale of the White Snake whose story changed from a demonic being who tempted a scholar to a story of forbidden love between the White Snake and an immortal who are punished for their crime. The monk who drives the snake out (bringing to mind St Patrick) is first viewed as righteous and then as the tale has been retold, becomes the vengeful persecutor, intent on bringing a poor woman harm.
With all the tales of what is essentially inter-racial romance, there is more than just beauty, desire and lust. As with Melusine, Atargatis and others, the unions quite often end in misery. It may be because the snake woman has kept her identity a secret from her husband, extracting a promise from him which is eventually broken, or due to spite from other women because of her beauty, deformed children, or the hatred of the established religious order, suggesting, that like Jezebel and other hated queens of old, the snake princess has brought wealth, knowledge and a new religion with her.
At the base of these tales, there is an element of xenophobia—fear of outsiders and a warning to young men to not become enamoured with beautiful women who are from other cultures as such women hide secrets.
Next I’ll be looking at ‘perfect’ societies such as Shambala. Can a society ever truly be perfect? What happens when an outsider comes in, bringing new thoughts, ways and practices? If the foreign woman’s only acceptance in such a society is dependent on the protection of her powerful husband then it is truly not a welcoming culture and so cannot be ‘perfect’.