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The figure of the serpent carries symbolic significance in many religions and cultures, from the protective uraeus serpent depicted on the Egyptian pharoah's double crown, to the serpent who achieved and came to represent immortality in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, to the crafty serpent in the Garden of Eden. While some cultures revere the serpent as an emblem of life, healing, or even immortality, others revile it as a symbol of temptation, evil, or the devil himself. Thus the serpent is a ubiquitous and ambivalent symbol.

In Thelema, the serpent is linked to Baphomet in the Gnostic Creed: "And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name Baphomet."

The Thoth Tarot depicts the serpent in Key XI, Lust, in which Babalon rides on the back of the Beast. In the Book of Thoth, Crowley writes, "At the top of the card is shown an emblem of the new light, with ten horns of the Beast, which are serpents, sent forth in every direction to destroy and re-create the world" (p. 95). In Key XVI, The Tower, the serpent is depicted as the lion-headed, crowned serpent familiar from Key XI, who shares the top of the card with a dove bearing an olive branch. According to Crowley, "[t]hese represent the two forms of desire; what Schopenhauer would have called the Will to Live and the Will to Die" (pp. 108-109).

The Book of the Law contains numerous references to the serpent or snake:


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