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Title:  Sacred Snakes: Orthodox Images of Indian Snake Worship Author:  Laurie Cozad Series:  Contexts and Consequences Imprint:  The Davies Group, Publishers 202 pp. USD 24.00 ISBN 9781888570724 May  2004 Snakes possess the capacity to provoke in most of us an instantaneous apprehension of what Rudolph Otto called “the Wholly Other.” Given their capacity to produce such a response, it is not surprising that snakes have been worshipped in India for more than two millennia. While snake worshippers did not document their own practices, their rich tradition is manifest within the pages of an unexpected source: sacred texts of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, including the Rig Veda, the late Vedas, the Ādi Parvan of the Mahabhārata, the Mahāvagga, the Jātaka Tales, and the Mahāvastu. What the author has found in examining these orthodox texts is that some of the mythic/ritual elements used to construct the Hindu and Buddhist traditions derive from snake worship. The redactors of these texts, over the centuries, collected, edited and amended the myths, rituals and hymns that comprise the building blocks of these traditions, sometimes borrowing and at other times stealing the figure of the sacred snake, along with its powers, sites and rituals, from a preestablished tradition of snake worship in order to promote their own respective traditions. As a result, these Hindu and Buddhist texts provide us with a tremendous resource for viewing the development of snake worship over the centuries. Contents Textual Timeline Chapter 1  Introduction: Snake Worshippers, Orthodox Redactors and Their      Contextual Tug-of-War Chapter 2 The Rig Veda and the Threat of the Sovereign Snake Chapter 3 The Late Vedas: Revering the Snake’s Power and Preserving Snake-Centered Rituals Chapter 4 The Ādi Parvan of the Mahābhārata: The Epic Redactors Take On the Snake Chapter 5 The Pāli Texts: The Buddhist Redactors [c]Harm the Snake Chapter 6 The Mahāvastu: The Buddha Shares in the Snake’s Largess Chapter 7 Conclusion: It is Hard to Keep a Good Snake Down Bibliography Notes Index Reviews “Laurie Cozad follows the serpent trail in south Asia, and scrutinizes orthodox Hindu and Buddhist texts with the eagle eyes of one searching the earth for subterranean activity; in the process, she gives us a fine example of the comparative method executed with precision and flair.” Liz Wilson — Comparative Religion, Miami University “A worthwhile exploration of…established sources, a contribution to Indology and of interest to groups in anthropology, Buddhist studies, and Hinduism.” Todd Lewis — Religious Studies, College of the Holy Cross About the Author Laurie Cozad received her Ph.D. in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she specialized in Hinduism and Buddhism. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Mississippi and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Philosophy and the Croft Institute for International Studies
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