Symbolism of the Cobra

Written by danielle gream
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Symbolism of the Cobra
Cobras are revered as sacred protectors in India. (Cobra in Jaipur image by Cozminelu from

Throughout history, cobras and other serpents have played a major role in symbolism and mythology. When viewing a depiction of cobras, determine the image's context to interpret its meaning.

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Ancient Egypt

Referred to as "uraeus" ("she who rears up"), the rearing cobra with dilated hood was used to symbolise such things as the sun, Lower Egypt, various deities and the king. A cobra is often seen paired with a vulture, the symbol of Upper Egypt; together, they represented the unification of the lands. Cobras were also used in association with the afterlife in Egypt. Possibly due to their protective natures, two cobras spitting flames were said to guard the gates of the underworld.


In India, both Hindus and Buddhists have special reverence for the cobra. Hindus believe in the immortality of the snake due to the shedding of its skin, and a snake eating its tail is a Hindu symbol of eternity. The Indian deity Vishnu sits atop a thousand-headed serpent, which also represents eternity. Though snakes are worshipped throughout the year, the Nag-Panchami festival day is filled with cobra worshipping and attendees performing religious rites to seek the cobra's protection and good will.

Cobra Tattoos

Some of the most common tattoos are of cobras. Though a tattoo holds unique symbolism to each bearer, common meanings make a cobra tattoo desirable; it may represent protectiveness, intuitiveness, wisdom, strength, unpredictability, a defensive nature or even evil.

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