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The Chnoubis Symbol – Origin and Meaning

Chnoubis, or Xnoubis, is an Egyptian Gnostic solar icon, most often found inscribed on gems, talismans, and amulets as a protective symbol. The image features a composite figure of a lion-headed serpent, with either seven or twelve rays of sunshine emanating from its head. Sometimes, the symbol also incorporates the twelve zodiac signs.

This symbol represents health and enlightenment as well as the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Let’s take a closer look.

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Lion Headed Snake Chnoubis
Lion headed snake chnoubis. Buy it here.

The Origin of the Chnoubis

Gnosticism was a belief system that featured a collection of ancient religious ideas and systems. It emerged in the 1st century AD among early Christians and Jewish groups.

In Gnosticism, the Chnoubis was associated with the Demiurge, the supreme creator of the material world and humanity. Demiurge went by many names, such as Ialdabaoth, Samael, Saklas, and Nebro, and was identified by Gnostics as the wrathful god of the Old Testament.

Gnostics inherited their astral theology from the ancient Egyptians. Demiurge was in the 13th heaven – the realm of the unique sets of star constellations called the decans. It was believed that these stars existed above the planets and beyond the Zodiac constellation. The ancient Egyptians used the decans to divide time into hours and associated them with the most powerful gods because they stood on their own, not in constellations.

They singled out the favorite one, a decan who was imagined to be a lion-headed snake with sun rays radiating from its head. They named this decan Chnoubis.

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The Gnostics took over this image to depict Demiurge. Therefore, the origin of Chnoubis can be traced back to the Egyptian decan, linked to the house of Leo.

Chnoubis was also associated with Abraxas, a creature with the head of a chicken and a serpent body. Before his demotion, he had a position in heaven dealing with the processes of life, death, and resurrection.

abraxas statue
Abraxas, wooden statue. Buy it here.

The Origins of the Name Chnoubis

Gnostics were fond of wordplay. In the etymology of the word Chnoubis (also spelled as Khnoubis, Kanobis, and Cannabis, among others), we can find the words “ch (ka or khan),” “noub,” and “is.”

  • The word ch or khan is a Hebrew word for ‘prince.’ The Persian word “khan” means ‘king or a ruler of a monarchy.’ Likewise, in many parts of Europe and Asia, the terms “chan, khan, or kain” indicate ‘a prince, king, head, or a chief.’
  • The word noub means spirit or soul
  • The word is stands for am or to be present. T

Therefore, we could say that Chnoubis can be interpreted as meaning ‘being the Ruler of Spirits’ or ‘the Soul of the World.’

The Symbolic Meaning of Chnoubis

The image of Chnoubis is commonly found engraved on Gnostic gems and talismans made from semi-precious stone, dating back to the 1st century. It’s composed of three parts: the body of a serpent, the lion’s head, and the crown of rays.

  • The Serpent

The Chnoubis’s serpent represents the Earth and lower impulses. It’s one of the oldest and most complex of all animal symbols. Because of its portrayal in many ancient legends, folk tales, and songs, the serpent provokes both fear and respect.

Serpents are seen as a symbol of Earth because they crawl on the ground. Due to their natural habitat among weeds and plants, and the phallic shape, they represent the natural impulses and life-creating force, and are symbols of fertility, prosperity, and fruitfulness.

Since ancient times, they were also regarded as a sacred symbol of healing. Their venom was thought to be remedial, and their skin-shedding ability symbolized rebirth, renewal, and transformation.

  • The Lion

The lion’s head crowned with sun rays represents solar forces, enlightenment, and protection. Many ancient cultures chose the symbol of a lion as a cosmic gatekeeper and guardian. Due to their colors and mane, lions resembled the sun and were often associated with the solar or godly force.

  • The Sun Rays

The crown of seven sun rays is said to symbolize the seven planets, the seven Greek vowels, and the seven colors of the visible spectrum.

The esoteric aspect of the seven planets can represent spiritual feelings and embody the seven chakras. When they are in a perfect balance, they create a feeling of love, compassion, and generosity.

The rays are said to represent the seven Greek vowels, which in itself was a talisman often carried in ancient times. The Ancient Greeks believed there was a link between the seven vowels and the seven planets. It denotes our deep connection to nature and the endless loop of birth, death, and rebirth.

Finally, the third concept of the sun rays belongs to the colors of the visible spectrum – the rainbow. As rainbows are often seen after rain, when the sun brakes through the clouds, they symbolize peace, serenity, and unity. Each color refers to a different idea, including violet as a symbol for spirit, blue for harmony, green for nature, yellow for sun, orange for healing, and red for life.

Chnoubis As a Good Luck Charm

The Chnoubis symbol is often found on talismans and amulets – small pieces of jewelry that protect against disease and negative energy, and promote longevity, health, and vitality.

Some of the many healing and protective roles assigned to this lion-headed deity are:

– to heal the pains and diseases of the stomach

– to promote fertility, and protect pregnancy and childbirth

– to enhance the ability to recover both physically and spiritually

– to ensure well-being, and bring good fortune

– to invoke divine powers, such as longevity, vitality, and strength

– to attract peace, knowledge, wisdom, and nirvana

– to cure its ailments, by absorbing negative energy, and bringing love into the wearer’s life

Chnoubis isn’t just a symbol of healing and enlightenment. It’s also connected to the processes of life – birth, death, and resurrection. Since it’s associated with Abraxas, it’s linked to creation and dissolution, powers that belong only to the divine. In a way, these are the powers that we exercise daily, through healing and enlightenment.

To Sum It Up

The lion-headed serpent is a symbolic figure found in Egyptian, Greek, and Gnostic traditions. It’s believed that the creature holds divine wisdom and unites physical and spiritual powers. As such, Chnoubis is an emblem of healing and enlightenment. It’s the symbol of the invisible energy that connects us to the natural and spiritual world.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.