Merriam Webster wrote:Pronunciation: O-'fi-dE-&n
Etymology: ultimately from Greek ophis
: of, relating to, or resembling snakes
- ophidian noun
etymonline wrote:"pertaining to snakes," 1883, from Gk. ophidion, dim. of ophis "serpent," of unknown origin. Hence, ophiolatry "serpent-worship" (1862), and the 2c. sect of the Ophitæ, who revered the serpent as the symbol of divine wisdom. Also ophiomancy (1683), the ancient art of divination by the movements of snakes.
Natural symbols for death and rebirth, snakes have had a love-hate relationship with people throughout history. They got off on the wrong...foot...in Genesis but are redeemed (although only if "brazen") in Numbers. Things rapidly go downhill for them again in the NT, and end somewhat wildly in Revelation.
The Minoans cranked out votive figures of serene, snake-wielding females. The Greeks immortalized Medusa's really bad hair day, Hercules' labor with the Hydra, and gave us the tattoo-friendly eternity symbol Ouroboros.
The Norse envisioned the world snake as Jormangund, a sort of living equator which will bite back at Ragnorak. Nidhogg was a lesser menace, threatening Yggdrasill, the world tree, although he did not have apple issues.
My personal faves, the classical Egyptian myths, show the serpent Apophis menacing Ra's boat of millions of years (although he's getting better hours these days as a stock villain on SciFi's SG1, which only seems like it's run for millions of years).
In parts of Asia the serpent was associated with rains; many first nations people associated them with rainbows and fertility. Quetzalcoatl was a redeemer figure for the Aztecs. The Buddhist and Hindu nagas could be either good or evil; Muchalinda is remembered as the living umbrella over the meditating Buddha.
Ophidian came to mind when I saw the ten-zillionth commercial for Snakes on a Plane. I can't help but notice the similarity of the movie icon to the caduceus. Amazing coincidence or subliminal warning/ophiomancy that these passengers are about to shuffle off the mortal coil?
whose rose-colored glasses conceal her ophidian gaze...