The Chaoskampf Serpent Myth

In this segment we discuss The Chaoskampf, in German meaning “struggle against chaos”. The Chaoskampf is the clash between a culture hero and a chthonic or ambivalent force, in particular the sea or sky. In this case, the sea or sky is not figured as antagonistic but only as that which must be conquered in order to assure peace, prosperity, and well-being of the community. The concept is often relevant to creation myths where it relates to crisis of birth depicted in terms of conflict between forces of order and chaos.

In the Chaoskampf, the Hero deity is often shown as fighting a giant serpent.

The Chaoskampf is a central motif in Germanic paganism, with the deity being depicted as fighting a giant serpent. The serpent is usually depicted as a dragon, though it could also be an anthropomorphic creature or even an abstract symbol of evil. The hero who fights this monster is often seen as a manifestation of the god Wotan (Odin), who undergoes several trials and tribulations before he can kill it.

Destruction of Leviathan 1865 engraving by Gustave Doré
The 1865 engraving by Gustave Doré titled Destruction of Leviathan is a depiction of the biblical story of the same name. In the story, God destroys the Leviathan, a giant sea monster, as a punishment for its wickedness.

Chaoskampf is ubiquitous in myth and legend.

The Chaoskampf has been described as a battle between light and dark, order and chaos, good and evil. The concept has appeared in mythologies from many cultures. It’s also been theorized that it’s a metaphor for the cycle of creation that occurs when the creator deity faces off against the chaotic monster that is his own creation. In other words: creation comes from chaos but also carries within itself seeds of destruction.