Not many people know that for Armenians, snakes have been an object of worship since ancient times. Legends say that each Armenian home had snakes as their invisible guardians. Snakes have brought happiness to Armenian families.
Images of snakes could be seen anywhere: on doors, furniture, pillars. Women wore snake-shaped adornments because snakes were symbols of fertility. The snake cult was also reflected in Armenian toponyms such as Odzun (Armenian: օձ (“odz”), snake), Odzaberd (“snake fortress”), Odzi Get (“snake’s river”), Odzi Kaghak (“snake’s city”), etc.
Apart from that, the Armenian word “kapa” had two meanings: “snakeskin” and “attire”. Moreover, Armenians worshipped the harmless Serpent and called him “hay” (corresponds to the endonym of Armenians).
After the adoption of Christianity, the snake cult was forgotten. Besides, many ancient people treated snakes equivocally: Sumerian god of wisdom Haya was portrayed as a snake. Bedouins also called snakes “haya”.
Do modern Bedouins know that “hay” means “Armenian”? They do not, however, their ancestors were perfectly aware of that. Back in the days, they feared Armenians more than snakes. One Ceres wrote: “Bedouins fear snakes as none other animal. They always kill them, loudly shouting ‘haya, haya’.”
Interestingly, Jews considered Armenians the descendants of Amalek, an Old Testament enemy of Jews. That’s probably why Jews hated snakes most of all. And that’s why in the Old Testament, the snake is presented as the antipode of God and the enemy of all humans.
According to a study done by Nvard Sureni by narinnamkn