The Serpent Knights of the Round Temple
Originally published under the title "Secrets of the Round Towers"
in Atlantis Rising magazine, Issue 46.
by Gary A. David
Copyright © 2002-2011 by Gary A. David
Round Towers Around the Globe
Like pyramids, circular towers of stone are found on both sides of the Atlantic. The common figure linking these structures, however, proves to be the serpent or snake. Cultures as diverse as the Celts of Ireland and the Hopi of Arizona associate this religiously and psychologically charged reptile with round temples reaching toward moisture-laden storm clouds.
Over 65 towers of exquisite masonry, many rising over 100 feet high, dot the green countryside of Ireland. The monasteries of Monasterboice, Domhnach, and Kilkenny were all built adjacent to earlier round towers. Some researchers claim these commanding structures were fire temples dedicated to sun worship. Why, then, are round towers frequently located next to healing springs or holy wells issuing from the subterranean realm over which the snake rules? (For some exquisite photos of Ireland’s round towers, see Martin Gray’s Places of Peace and Power web site.)
The round temple was a key architectural feature of the Knights Templar, which eventually gave rise to both the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons. In Sacred Geometry (1982), Nigel Pennick explains the symbolism of the circular form: “Like the Pagan temples, the round churches were microcosms of the world. In the late Middle Ages, they became the prerogative of an enigmatic and heretical sect, the Knights Templar. The round form of church became especially connected with the order...” Most of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals were constructed using designs uncovered by this fraternal organization in a 12th century excavation of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Some believe that a group of Knights Templar sailed to the New England coast in 1308 and erected a Romanesque round tower at Newport, Rhode Island.
Round tower at Newport, RI
Even earlier the Phoenicians may have spread this unique architectural feature globally in homage to Baal, the fertility deity of rain, thunder, and lightning. In Jesus, Last of the Pharaohs (1999), Ralph Ellis avers that round towers were modeled after the Egyptian Benben tower located in the Phoenix Temple at Heliopolis. (The Phoenicians were named after the mythical bird that rose from its ashes.) Morphologically similar to round towers, the djed pillar was known as the “backbone of Osiris.” This column symbolically channeled kundalini (serpent energy) up the vertebra.
Egyptian djed pillar, anthropomorphized
Over 7,000 circular towers called Nuraghi from the second millennium BC are found on the island of Sardinia north of the ancient Phoenician city of Carthage (modern-day Tunis). In addition, Graham Hancock (Underworld, 2002) reminds us that the Gigantija, or Giants’ Tower, was constructed on the Maltese island of Gozo a millennium before the Great Pyramid. Its elliptical chambers at one time possibly supported towers. A stone relief discovered at the site depicts a serpent.
Perhaps serving as a model for the minaret, the Radkan Tower in northeastern Iran is circular with a conical cap. Archeoastronomer Manochehr Arian (Zia) has found solstice and equinox alignments for this structure, suggesting a sophisticated observation of the sky going back 800 years or more.
Moving from the Near to the Far East, we can easily see how the Indian stupa or the Chinese pagoda is another form of the round tower. According to the principles of feng shui, the pagoda traps negative ch’i, or dragon energy located in the earth. This belief stems from the popular legend of the celestial Lady White Snake, who enchanted a mortal with her beauty and gave birth to his son. A monk eventually discovered her true nature and summoned the elemental powers to imprison her inside Thunder Pagoda for a thousand years.
Stupa with snake-like ornamentation on top
Brick pagoda, Kaiyuan, China
The Serpent and the Circle
In a Christian context the serpent signifies the Devil and his minions who were “...cast out into the earth...” (Revelation 12:9). Andrew Collins' book From the Ashes of Angels (2001) refers to the Testament of Amram, an apocalyptic fragment from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Amram, the father of Moses, perceives in a dream a Watcher called Belial. This creature is “terrifying in appearance, like a serpent...” and “his visage [is] like a viper...” As an appellation of Satan, the name Belial from II Corinthians 6:15 suggests a figure who is lawless, worthless, or reckless. The word “serpent,” Collins adds, is synonymous with both the Watchers found in the Book of Enoch and the Nephilim. The latter denotes the “giants in the earth” from Genesis 6:4.
Omphalos at Delphi in Greece
11th century AD
Contrary to the Latinate cross representing the body of Christ, a circular structure stands for the worldly or even the satanic domain. For instance, the omphalos, a Greek word meaning “navel,” is the oracular Stone of Splendor at Delphi. This sacred center where tellurian serpent forces would accumulate had the ability to directly communicate with the gods.
The figures of the serpent and the circle are united in a Gnostic and alchemical symbol called the Ouroboros. This serpent biting its tail designates world-creating spirit hidden within matter.
Round Towers in the Four Corners
Numerous round towers built by the Anasazi (or ancestral Hopi) can still be found in the American Southwest. At the Chetro Ketl pueblo ruin in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, a round “tower kiva” rises three stories high. Circular towers at Kin Kletso and Tsin Kletsin in the same canyon are also found. The outlying villages of Salmon Ruin 40 miles due north and Kin Ya’a Ruin 25 miles due south contain similar structures.
Tower kiva at Chetro Ketl, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
Round towers are located as well at the spectacular cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park of southwestern Colorado. These include Cliff Palace, Sun Temple, Cedar Tree Tower, and Far View Community. The Cajon Group at Hovenweep National Monument in southeastern Utah also exemplifies this type of ceremonial structure. Circular buildings are found at Mummy Cave Ruin in Canyon de Chelly National Monument and at Wukoki Ruin at Wupatki National Monument. Both of these sites located in Arizona are traditional homes of the Snake Clan.
Incidentally, the astronomical orientations of Wukoki Ruin are akin to those of the circular Caracol observatory at Chichén Itzá built three hundred years earlier by the Yucatan Maya, who worshipped the plumed serpent Kukulkan, and who share many cultural traits with the Hopi. Wukoki is also a former house of the Snake Clan.
Caracol observatory at Chichen Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico
The Hopi refer to round towers as “snake houses.” In a narrative describing the origin of the Snake Clan, the wife of the culture hero Tiyo gives birth to a brood of venomous snakes, which keeps getting loose. Masau’u (Hopi god of death, the earth, and the Underworld-- also spelled Masau or Masaw) explains to the snake mother why her children no longer can have a house in which to live.
“And Masau said, ‘No, the snakes have no houses; because they have bitten and killed Hopi they should never again have a house, but should live under rocks and in holes in the ground.’ But he also said the snakes houses (the round towers) which were built for them should never again be destroyed and that all coming generations of people should know the snake’s doom, never again to have a house.” (Alexander M. Stephen, “The Journal of American Folklore,” January/March 1929)
We are obviously talking not about rattlesnake pens but either the temples or domiciles of a dangerous, snake-like race. The same Hopi myth concludes with an offering to the recovered snakes:
“When the snakes were all collected and they were gathered together at night, they took the first snake they had found and washed its head and gave it the name Chüa (he of the earth) and decorated it with beads and ear rings. Then the Youth [Tiyo] opened a bag and gave the people cotton and beads and said as the snakes had brought rain the people should now be happy and content, and on every celebration of the Snake festival good things would be given to them.”
Chüa is the Hopi name of the worshipped snake that initiated their biennial rain ceremony still performed on the Arizona high desert. This name is similar to “Chna,” an English transliteration of the Greek word referring to the Phoenician land of Canaan. The biblical Anakim were known to have hailed from southern Canaan.
Andrew Collins also states that the Nephilim were called the sons of the Anakim, and that Jewish scholars translate the word Anak as “long-necked” or “the men with the necklaces.” The Hopi offerings of earrings and necklaces are particularly significant because the Hopi term naaqa means “turquoise necklace” or “ear pendant ” and anaaq means “ouch!”, an interjection used to express the extreme pain caused by snakebite.
In addition, Baal, the Phoenician rain god mentioned above, is similar in sound and sense to the Hopi word paal. (Because the Hopi have no “b’” sound, “p” is the closest approximation.) This word means “liquid,” “tree sap,” “juice,” or “broth.” Its root word pa (or paa) denotes “water,” but it also has the sense of “wonder.”
The Hopi legend previously cited may point to the Indo-European Nagas, those snake worshipping seafarers originating from the Indus River Valley. They are also known as the Long Ears, who stretched their lobes with earplugs. Coincidentally, archaeologists found an example of this artifact in an ancient pueblo ruin known as Snaketown near modern-day Phoenix.
Did the Phoenicians, who might have assisted the earliest Anasazi in building the round towers, come to the American Southwest and establish outposts in order to trade with the latter? Were the Knights Templar the recipients of this Naga/Phoenician legacy, carrying forth the ancient traditions bequeathed from Egypt? Do these structures form a global network centered around ophidian fertility symbols? To return to our starting point, were the Irish round towers also “snake houses,” or phallic temples used by a race of serpent people whom St. Patrick in the 5th century AD ultim
ately had to chase into the sea?
Perhaps we are uncovering more questions than answers. Nonetheless, round towers survive as a testament to the awesome spiritual power of the Knights of the Round Temple. Their serpentine eyes gaze across the centuries, now and then sending a shiver up the spine.
an excerpt from Eye of the Phoenix: Mysterious Visions and Secrets of the American Southwest
Copyright © 2002-2011 by Gary A. David. All rights reserved.
Any use of text or photos without the author's prior consent is expressly forbidden.
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