Between Holy and Profane: Folk Beliefs and Cultural Images of the Snake in China

LEI CAI (Wuhan University)

As an important type of clan totems in ancient China, snake totems usually intermingled with dragon totems which to a certain extent strengthened their holiness. However, the sacredness had been lessened during their transformation from totems to folk reliefs closely connected to daily life in the early modern period. Snakes were worshiped as multiple deities, such as rain god, water god, local patron saint, snake spirit, and so on, reflecting the vitality and vernacular of folk religion, and became a widespread cultural image with the feature of combining goodness and evilness as well as sanctity and secularity, especially in folktales, folk arts, and proverbs.

Part of V3-02 From Uprooting to Re-rooting: Modern and Contemporary Discourses and Practices of Popular Religions in China, Wednesday, October 11, 7:30 pm–9:30 pm