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Manichaean Scriptures

The Parable about the Two Snakes
A Manichaean text in Sogdian.

Here begins the story about the snakes "Heavy-to-carry" and "Light-to-carry".

Furthermore it was heard that there were once two snakes, and the first snake was called "Heavy-to-carry". Their bodies were equally large, and their tails were very long.

Being of one mind, they loved each other so much that one could not bear to be separated from the other. And lo, they went along a path together. After they had traversed much land, one snake glided into a depression. And the other snake proceeded along the way.

On one side of the path there were a very steep mountain, and on the other side a very deep body of water. And on the path, a trapper had set up a snare and a pitfall. Inside it was full of burning coals, and all kinds of fiery apparitions rose from it into the air.

The trapper was hiding nearby. And when the snake came to that place, it was pleased
and amazed at the fiery apparition in the air. But it was not possible for it to avoid the pitfall, for, ala , it had to go ahead along this path and there was no way back. And lo, it paused, and then darted ahead, thinking, "I want to jump over the pitfall with my whole body."

But, because the pitfall was very wide and the snake's body was long and very thin in the middle, and its tail was very long, it could not cross the pitfall. Its head came across, but the tail remained behind lying across the pit, and the snake could not pull it over to its neck. So it burned there and died.

And the trapper came quickly, stretched out his hand toward the pit, cut open the head neatly, took the stone, and went away very happy. 

The second snake came along and found its companion dead, its head mutilated. It cried out from the depths of its soul, "Alas! You were very dear to me."  And it wept and lamented bitterly, wailed pitifully and said, "O wonderful brother, how have you died without your brother and in shame?"

When it had stopped lamenting, it thought to itself, "My brother died because he had not thought of a remedy for the body. If I, too, do not find a remedy  for the body, I will also have to die." And it considered the matter carefully.

And the snake said, "Because he was a male, he could not bear the separation from his dear tail; he could not endure corruption and suffering in his body. But there is really no other way out. If  I endure separation from my dear tail and endure a little pain in my body for the sake of the soul, then I will be able to jump over the pitfall."

Then it returned to the depression and found the abandoned fire of the shepherd. And it burned off as much of its tail as could be harmful to its body. And, when it had become smaller, the tailless body jumped very lightly and crossed the pitfall safely.

Of these two snakes, one is the person who loves the body, for whom bearing [....] is troublesome, but who is unconcerned about the soul. And his [....] is long. The second snake is the person for whom  the soul is dearer than the body. There is very little poison in him and his attachment to the world is very weak, and the fetters binding his soul are very thin. And the pitfall, the high mountain and the deep body of water are the three trenches. The trapper is Ahriman, and the stone the soul.

Ultimately the Old Man, without good works, is the one who cannot jump over the three ditches with the tail of the body. But the chosen New Man has purged the three poisons from the body and has borne in his body the agony caused by observing the Law, and he can endure separation from his dear wife and children and from riches, and on the Final Day his soul will arise from the body and will attain the peace of Paradise ...