ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Winged serpents
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Winged serpents

Amulet, with winged snake at centre; Source: Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London
Faience amulet, Late Period
with winged snake at centre
Source: Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London
    Some snake goddesses, above all Meretseger, were at times depicted sporting one or even two pairs of wings. In the Amduat the winged serpent is referred to as great god and guards the image of Sokar.[1]
    Foreigners reported seeing winged serpents. The Assyrian Esarhaddon claimed to have seen reptiles that flapped their wings when crossing Arabia in 671 BCE on his way to conquer Egypt.[2] Herodotus was impressed by the indirect evidence, though he did not claim to have seen the ibises killing the flying snakes with his own eyes:
There is a region moreover in Arabia, situated nearly over against the city of Buto, to which place I came to inquire about the winged serpents: and when I came thither I saw bones of serpents and spines in quantity so great that it is impossible to make report of the number, and there were heaps of spines, some heaps large and others less large and others smaller still than these, and these heaps were many in number. This region in which the spines are scattered upon the ground is of the nature of an entrance from a narrow mountain pass to a great plain, which plain adjoins the plain in Egypt; and the story goes that at the beginning of spring winged serpents from Arabia fly towards Egypt, and the birds called ibises meet them at the entrance to this country and do not suffer the serpents to go by but kill them.

Herodotus, Histories II
Project Gutenberg


Footnotes:
[1] Apuleius, The Isis-book: (Metamorphoses, Book 11 Volume 39 of Etudes préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'Empire romain , translated and annotated by John Gwyn Griffiths, Brill Archive, 1975, p.311
[2] Balaji Mundkur, The cult of the serpent: an interdisciplinary survey of its manifestations and origins, SUNY Press, 1983, p.80
 

 
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Updates:
October 2009

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