“Do alien visitors really desire the blood of humans in order to exert power and gain control over the earth?”
Funny, I thought that was vampires.
This week’s Ancient Aliens used its conceit as an excuse to rehash the most salacious aspects of ancient and modern cults, including Heaven’s Gate and the Thugees of India. Mostly the show talked about human sacrifice, murder, castration, mass suicide etc. and then threw in random moments of ancient astronaut theorists (AATs) claiming that the gods worshipped by the cults were actually aliens. But this is largely irrelevant, since the cults were comprised of human beings, and the aliens or the gods never showed up. Later, when the show said AATs believe that aliens were really in touch with modern cult leaders like Marshall Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate through brain implants and ordered them to commit mass suicide, the show crossed the line from irresponsible to perverse.
Much hay is made of the so-called “Brotherhood of the Snake,” a supposedly ancient secret society founded by extraterrestrials but perverted into a sinister force. The AATs attribute evidence of this society to unnamed “ancient legends,” but so far as I can tell the first mention of this supposed secret society didn’t come until the twentieth century, when William Bramley described them in 1989’s The Gods of Eden, which drew its “knowledge” of Mesopotamian (Sumerian and Babylonian) mythology from Zecharia Sitchin’s eccentric interpretations.
The closest pre-Bramley source appears to be the Ophites (from the Greek for “snake”), a Gnostic group who had taken the snake as their symbol, and were referred to as the Brotherhood of the Serpent in Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine (1888) and only in Blavatsky and those dependent upon her. Peter Tompkins says that a “Brotherhood of the Serpent” among the Maya were extraterrestrials in his 1987 Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids.There was also a “brotherhood of the Snake” mentioned in a 1929 Journal of American Folklore article, but this refers to a Native American group within one southwestern tribe. Another, fictional, Brotherhood of the Snake occurred in the 1916 novel The Boy Settler by Edwin Legrand Sabin.
Bramley does not provide “ancient legends” of the “Brotherhood” in his book. Instead, he conjures the existence of the Brotherhood out of two parts: First, world mythologies feature frequent allusions to serpent worship, which he takes a unified cult symbol. Second, he then imagines that the Sumerian gods are flesh-and-blood extraterrestrials, meaning that Sumerian myths are minutes taken at the meetings of the Brotherhood, whose members masqueraded as gods. But look at how Bramley first introduces his Brotherhood:
“The snake was the logo of a group which had become very influential in early human societies of both Hemispheres. That group was a disciplined Brotherhood dedicated to the dissemination of spiritual knowledge and the attainment of spiritual freedom. This Brotherhood of the Snake (also known as the ‘Brotherhood of the Serpent,’ but which I will often refer to as simply the "Brotherhood") opposed the enslavement of spiritual beings and, according to Egyptian writings, it sought to liberate the human race from Custodial bondage. The Brotherhood also imparted scientific knowledge and encouraged the high aesthetics that existed in many ancient societies. For these and other reasons, the snake had become a venerated symbol to humans and, according to Egyptian and biblical texts, an object of Custodial hatred.” (1990 paperback ed., pp. 53-4)
Note that there is no evidence whatsoever presented for the group’s existence. The group is presented as an assertion in the first sentence, given a name without a source in the third, and only then is evidence marshaled to support the supposition—but this evidence, the Bible and Egyptian texts, says nothing about any brotherhood of the snake. Instead, these are mere mentions of snakes that Bramley has chosen to interpret as evidence of a unified snake cult. In other words, this is nothing but circular reasoning.
For whatever reason, once Bramley proposed the Snake Brotherhood, other authors picked up on it, dozens in the five years following publication of the Gods of Eden. In 1993 Jan van Helsing discussed the cult as having been formed in early Mesopotamia c. 300,000 BCE. Van Helsing’s name is a pseudonym, chosen in honor of the famous vampire hunter, because van Helsing believed Jews were bloodsuckers who used the Brotherhood of the Snake to control the world. This was one of the more disturbing uses of Bramley’s imaginary brotherhood.
The cult was popularized by David Icke in 1999’s The Biggest Secret, and, unfortunately, through Ancient Aliens, which let Bramley assert without basis that his circular reasoning had some basis in fact outside of his own head.
But that describes all of Ancient Aliens—random facts marshaled with circular logic into self-referential “theories.”
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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