THE GNOSTIC SERPENTS : The Ophites and Naaseni ?
The Serpent Gnostic sects of Egypt included known as the Ophites and Naaseni. Both names are Greek and denote “Serpents.” The Fourth Century historian Philaster maintained that these sects, along with the Sethians and Cainites, were specially united by having descended directly from the First Instructor and Serpent on the Tree. Of these sects the Ophites (from Ophidian, “snake”) and Nasseni (from Hebrew Naas or Nachash, “snake”) were unique in being the pre-eminent worshipers of live snakes. Like Serpent Gnostics worldwide, they were also renown for having “knowledge of the deepest things.”
The Naaseni are believed to have descended from the original gnostics in the west, and to have existed well before the birth of Christ. They are related to the Nasurai, the enlightened gnostics of the Mandeans, who blended with the Essenes to form the sect of Nasoreans or “Nazarenes.” The Mandaean Nasurai Jesus was born into this Essene Serpent sect and known by his peers as the Nasorean (or the Nazarene). Long after his Ascension, his Apostles continued the Serpent tradition of Jesus and named their little group Nasoreans. Jesus’s brother, James, oversaw this small group and continued to tradition of remaining in contact with other Serpent Gnostics in the Middle East. According to historical record, James sent “Mariam” with some very secretive “Serpent” teachings to transmit to the Nasseni of Alexandria. This Nasorean Mariam is believed to be none other than Mary Magadalene, who was apparently in association with the Apostles and their Nasorean sect long after the departure of Jesus.
According to the historian Epiphanius, the most important live snake of the Nasseni and Ophites was venerated as the First Instructor and commonly kept in a special chest known as the Cista Mystica, which was only opened during the most sacred of rituals. At mealtimes the favored snake, which the Serpent Gnostics addressed as their Savior, was coaxed out of its box and let loose to consecrate their food by slithering over and around it. Afterwards, the Ophites would take turns kissing the sacred snake upon the mouth and then sinking to their knees in humble worship of the reptile. These and other more secretive rites of the Ophites were timed with the ascension of the Celestial Serpent, the constellation of Draco the Dragon, which was acknowledged by them to be the eternal heavenly manifestation of the First Instructor.
The Ophites and Nasseni employed various Greek and Hebrew names for their Serpent Savior, including Nachash, Kneph, Chnouphis, and the Agathodeamon. For protection they carried coins, talismans and gems with images of their serpent deity carved deeply into them. The gems and talismans were often bright red in color, thus reflecting the fiery nature of the serpent engraved upon them, and covered with Greek mantras and symbols. The red gems also activated the Kundalini, which was a form of the Serpent Savior in the human body. Ophite initiate’s were known to spend long periods of time in the caves of the Egyptian desert while propitiating their Serpent Savior and his transformative power.
For their academic contemplation the Gnostic Nasseni studied The Gospel According to Thomas and they were known to have been great fans of The Gospel According to the Egyptians. They were also inveterate devotees of the Goddess and adopted many of Her rites that had been observed in the Eleusinian Mysteries and other Left Hand Path schools.
From: “World Gnosis: The Coming Gnostic Civilization” ? by Mark Amaru Pinkham