There are many weird things in the wild west town of Temperance: undead ranch hands, the Alchemical Tree of Life, and forgotten alchemical experiments wandering desolate roads. One of those experiments is a basilisk – a magical serpentine creature that’s awakened in the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park. She’s a formidable creature, full of venom and the power of eternal life. She’s left a trail of dead campers, burned brush, and a whole lot of questions in her wake.
Captured on film by accident, hordes of onlookers and hunters descend into the park to catch a glimpse of the marvel. But there’s one group that doesn’t seek to make the basilisk a curiosity or a trophy. The Sisters of Serpens are a gang of women bikers, led by the sorceress Bel. At turns murderous and devout, they seek to worship the basilisk. In their eyes, the basilisk is the embodiment of the Mother Goddess on earth.
There’s a good deal of historical precedence for snake goddesses and the special relationship between snakes and powerful women. Over time, snake goddesses have gone by many names: Medusa, Ariadne, Lamia, Wadjet, Renenutet, Melusine, Manasa, and many others.
Most of us know Medusa, the snake-haired Gorgon slain by Perseus. She and her sisters had the power to turn men to stone, beautiful and terrifying at the same time. The basilisk Bel’s chasing was borne of the blood of Medusa.
Ariadne was the Mistress of the Labyrinth at Crete that the Minotaur patrolled, and images of the Minoan Snake Goddess that have survived are often thought to represent her. She’s not a motherly figure, but is depicted holding a snake in each hand with a cobra-like headdress. [Author note: I haven’t yet seen a good explanation about why the most famous Minoan snake goddess sculpture depicts her with a cat perched on her head, but knowing cats…I find this image to be entirely believable.]
Lamia was a woman driven mad and cursed by a jealous Hera to devour children and wear half the body of a snake. She might be related to other Greek Drakaina, female serpents and dragons with human features. As with many mortal dealings with the gods, Lamia didn’t fare particularly well.
The snake goddess Wadjet was the benign protector of an Egyptian city, and is often seen as the cobra in the headdresses of other Egyptian gods and royalty. The Milky Way itself was viewed as her starry body stretching from one horizon to the other. Renenutet was another cobra-headed goddess of ancient Egypt, a harvest goddess who brought bounty to the land.
In Europe, Melusine was an elemental spirit of water, a woman with the lower body of a snake. She’d taken revenge on her deadbeat dad for leaving her mother, but was punished with taking the form of a snake. She’s a tragic figure, like Lamia, a reptile mermaid that grew into her own power.
Manasa, as a Hindu deity, is often depicted as a woman seated on a throne, covered in snakes. Her mother is the Queen of Nagas, and she’s a fertility deity who protects against poison.
The Sisters of Serpens know the many faces of snake goddesses…but which one will they find when they finally catch up to the basilisk? Will they find a benevolent protector to serve or a murderous monster to flee … assuming the basilisk doesn’t devour them first?
Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology - Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016. More information about Laura’s work can be found at www.laurabickle.com. Follow her @Laura_Bickle and on Facebook.
Harper Voyager Impulse | Oct 27, 2015 | Dark Alchemy Book 2
Geologist Petra Dee and the citizens of Temperance, Wyoming come up against a venomous enemy, not to mention a biker gang that’s hell on wheels, in the second book in Laura Bickle’s Dark Alchemy series.Something venomous has come to Temperance…It’s been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance’s resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the backcountry of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels - the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don’t want to kill the basilisk - they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters’ own murderous skills.Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival.With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.
- "Mask of Gorgon Medusa" by Christoph Wagener - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mask_of_Gorgon_Medusa.jpg#/media/File:Mask_of_Gorgon_Medusa.jpg
- By C messier (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons