Icons of the Theotokos: Panagia Fidousa (Virgin of the Snakes)

Panagia Fidousa (Virgin of the Snakes)

Panagia Fidousa (Virgin of the Snakes)

Today’s icon coincides with the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God–and with a specific miracle that concludes on the same day (August 15).

Every year, between the feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) and the Falling Asleep of our Lady on the 15th, the small chapel in the village of Markopoulo in Kefallonia is overrun by snakes. As alarming as this might sound at first glance, it is in fact part of a very unique historical moment, and now, an annual miracle.

The current chapel sits on the space that was once a convent, and in 18th century, the nuns’ home was under attack by marauding pirates. After fervent prayers to the All Holy Theotokos, the chapel was suddenly filled with hundreds of snakes. Though snakes of these kind rarely bite humans, they are still venomous, and rather fearsome in appearance. The sudden infestation was enough to stop the pirates who fled the convent in terror.

In recognition of this miraculous intercession, the snakes return every year to the chapel, resting atop icons, and leaving after the Dormition. In fact, the snakes have failed to appear only twice in recent history, in 1940 and 1953. Given that these years represented Greece’s entry into the Second World War  and a devastating earthquake in Kefallonia respectively, many see the absence of the snakes as prophesying future misfortune.

Snakes on the Dormition Icon

Snakes on the Dormition Icon

Given the status of snakes as markers of evil (as in the Garden of Eden) many are puzzled that God and His All-Holy Mother would choose to work a miracle through such a creature. However, it is worth noting, that in the eyes of many learned fathers that as part of God’s creation, snakes could not inherently be evil; in fact, it stands to reason that serpents had a special relationship with Adam and Eve prior to the Fall–and it was for this reason Satan used the serpent as a tool.

Furthermore, if our fallen state was precipitated by the serpent’s temptation and Eve’s subsequent disobedience, it would stand to reason that snakes have regained harmony with nature through Mary, the second Eve’s, obidience to God.

May our Lord’s Mother intercede on behalf of all us, Her spiritual children!

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