A rationalistic explanation might be found in the connexion between the chthonic serpent and subterranean sources of wealth.3 Moreover, the serpent is often associated with metallurgy, and to serpent deities have been ascribed the working of metals, gem-cutting and indeed culture in general.
In the gloomy rites of of the Diasia, the Olympian Zeus, as Zeus Meilichios god of wealth, has been imposed upon a chthonic snake-deity who is propitiated by holocausts of pigs and by a ritual of purgation (Harrison, Prol.
They were the guardianspirits of men and families, and stories are told of the way in which human life depended upon the safety of the reptile.'2 As a chthonic animal the serpent has often been regarded as an embodiment of the soul of the dead.
The Minoan goddess is sometimes seen in her chthonic form with serpents, sometimes in a more celestial aspect with doves, at times with lions.
The assignment of genii to buildings and gates is connected with an important class of sacrifices; in order to provide a tutelary spirit, or to appease chthonic deities, it was often the custom to sacrifice a human being or an animal at the foundation of a building; sometimes we find a similar guardian provided for the frontier of a country or of a tribe.