Snakes have symbolized many things throughout history across various mythologies and legends.
In Sir Thomas Malory’s ‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ snakes were depicted as omens of King Arthurs’ death.
Merlin had made the dire prediction that Arthur would die at the hands of his son Mordred. Days later Arthur and Mordred’s armies were massed on the Salisbury Plain readying for battle. The night before the battle, Arthur dreamed that he is tied to a wheel that plunges into black water full of serpents and horrible beasts. Shaken by this vision, Arthur offered Mordred a truce, to which he reluctantly agreed. Both armies swore that they would bear no arms during the treaty signing ceremony. The waiting armies were tense, and it was then that a snake made an appearance amongst Mordred’s ranks causing a soldier to draw his sword to kill the snake. This simple action was misunderstood by Arthur’s men to be a breaking of the no-arms oath, which caused both sides to immediately engage each other in battle.
The conflict ended with Arthur killing his son, but not before Mordred had time to plunge his own sword into Arthur’s head – a mortal wound for the king.
[ink, coloured pencil and and fineliner, on 300gsm smooth Arches paper]