In southwestern Ohio, near a little town called Peebles, is an ancient site called Serpent Mound, estimated to have been built over 2000 years ago. The serpent is nearly a quarter-mile in length (1,3480 feet); its body rises one to five feet above the ground, and the seven curves of the body are some 20 to 25 feet across. Its head is ambiguous: Is it an eye or the serpent’s mouth opening around an egg or the sun; the head aligns with sunset on Summer Solstice. The tail is a triple-coil; it aligns with sunrise one Winter Solstice. The Serpent effigy is covered in lush grass; it is a beautiful and peaceful monument. The ancient people who built this left no written account of its purpose or meaning.
While researching the Nazca Lines (animal forms in southern Peru) during the writing of the Labyrinth of Birth (2009), I read about the ancient Serpent Mound in Ohio but assumed I’d never see it. I would have forgotten about it save my Cincinnati friend Cindy announcing, “Tomorrow we’re going to Serpent Mound.” But it was more than just seeing it. What remains with me is the power it imbued to induce a meditative state of mind that allowed me to journey in imagination for brief moments. I sketched the serpent’s head, not as it really looks, but as I imagined it in an ecstatic vision: Within its eye was an open door which led into the serpent’s undulating body; in my drawing of its mouth is the symbol of a world egg or womb from which extended Fallopian arms, on the upper one’s hand rested an egg, the lower one grasped a heart with a small opening that allowed Spirit to move through; hands in gassho expressed my state of gratitude for the ancient people who built Serpent Mound so well that it has endured two thousand years.
Serpents are widespread in the mythology, symbolism, and ceremony of ancient and traditional cultures. Walking by the great loops of its undulating body brought to mind ceremonial teachings during my Power Journey to Teotihuacan (2004). On the first day, we participated in a ceremony at the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, releasing into the Feathered Serpent’s mouth whatever it was were unwilling to believe or live anymore. On the second day, we entered and slowly traversed the two-mile-long Avenue of the Dead, which represented the belly of Quetzalcoatl, where our limiting beliefs and old agreements were being “digested” through ceremony, meditation. On the third day, we would be spat out and “reborn.”
We can only wonder what the tail in a triple-coil represented to the ancients. Was it just the coil of a snake, or did the ancient peoples also tune into Kundalini’s divine feminine energy, the coiled energy at the spine’s base?
On my driveAbout, I am absorbing countless rippling impressions of landscapes, places, weather, and people. Like the sacred pyramids of Teotihuacan, New Grange, or Macchu Picchu, Serpent Mount has left in me a indelible reminder of the state of no-mind, of infinite peace, of feeling my small place in an infinite, timeless, unknowable Universe. We owe a respectful gratitude to our ancestors who followed their vision, brought to this herculean effort their knowledge of mysteries most of us are unaware so that we might pause and wonder. All of this undulates in me even now when I close my eyes and stand again by the great Serpent.