THE ancient Egyptians worshipped snakes, as did the Minoans, early inhabitants of Crete. Some ancient Israelites offered sacrifices to a copper serpent. Others from the same nation took up burning incense before images of “creeping things.”—Ezekiel 8:10-12; 2 Kings 18:4.
Worship of snake-gods also engrossed peoples of ancient Mexico. The supreme deity of the Maya—Itzamná—was at times represented by a serpent. Quetzalcoatl, the “feathered serpent,” was the Toltec god of learning, culture, and philosophy. The Aztecs also viewed it as the god of learning and even revered it as the creator of humans. Regarding that god’s many roles and talents, the magazine Arqueología Mexicana (Mexican Archaeology) states: “The feathered serpent accumulated multiple meanings, more perhaps than any other deity.”
For many centuries the inhabitants of Mesoamerica worshipped the feathered serpent. Today, belief in that god survives among the Cora and Huichol people of Mexico. On certain fiesta days, dances are performed in which the participants adorn themselves with feathers and simulate the movements of a snake. The Quiche perform a fertility rite in which they dance using live snakes. The Chorti, a Maya group in Guatemala, venerate a feathered serpent that they associate with certain Catholic saints.
The question is, How does the Creator of man and animals—including snakes—view the worship of serpent-gods?
Jehovah God gave this command to the ancient nation of Israel: “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them.”—Exodus 20:4, 5.
Jehovah prohibited his people from worshipping images of animals, such as snakes. Thus, should it not be clear that those desirous of his favor must avoid the worship of snakes? Why does God reject idolatry, including snake worship? The reason is simple: He gives life to humans, to snakes, and to all other living things. They are all the works of his hands, so worship is due him, not the things he has created.
To illustrate: Suppose that an architect constructed houses and gave them to families to live in and enjoy. What if those families thanked and praised the houses rather than the architect? Would that not be foolish, as well as offensive to the generous architect? Similarly, worshipping animals rather than their Creator is offensive to God.
Clearly, those who wish to have God’s approval should heed the warning of the apostle John: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”—1 John 5:21.