Well, bear in mind that in Chinese tradition (and Ueshiba, Kano, and any educated Japanese would have read Chinese classics as part of their education) the snake is considered the embodiment of qi strength in the sense of full-body coordination. If you feel someone whose power is well-developed, it's easy to understand why the feel/coiling of a snake is chosen for that role.
I was born in the Year of the Snake.
And yes, it is. The bees image too, for that matter, may well come through China from India in this context. Vishnu (preserver) is shown as a blue bee, and Kama, the god of Love, bears as his signature weapon, a bow -- whose string is made of bees. Sounds a bit too coincidental to me, in our specific context Aiki, love, snake, bees and all that .
The Orochi (Demon-serpent referred to in the Doka) was a multi-headed serpent -- coincident with the seven-headed naga of India, protectors of the shrine of Shiva (destroyer). Varuna, king of the nagas, was lord of the storm. Compare Ueshiba:
Aikido is the work of Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara Ryu-ou
:- cloud-cutter -- kuki
: double-edged sword -- samuhara
: praise for deeds of merit -- Ryu-Ou refers to the Dragon King of the East Sea (Ueshiba had himself painted as the embodiment of this entity) -- who has control of storms and rain, and who bequeathed to the Monkey King an iron rod, a weapon of infinitely variable size, that controlled ebb and flow of tides, among other things, (compare the same function of the red and white jewels in the Doka). Ryu-Ou, while serving as a mediator between the heavenely and earthly realm ( comapre the "floating bridge" Ukihashi
) and is nearly beaten to death by Nezha
-- the trickster -- compare Susanou's similar misbehaviors.)
Say what you like, Ueshiba's imagery is dense, deep, overlaid and incessantly suggestive of the "feel" of the subject matter. So we have all these rather suggestive "double-edged" oppositions -- buzzing bees/undulating snake, love/protection, preserver/destroyer, mediator/trickster, severing-sword/connecting-bridge, ebb/flow ... etc.
But mythic elements in Chinese thought are terribly difficult to trace historically, because of the extreme multiplicity of ethnic traditions (often unknown to Westerners until relatively late) which have all begged, borrowed and stolen from one another with great freedom (never mind the Indian imports). The systematizing impulse in Chinese culture is partly a result of this.
But that is not necessarily important to sort out. All of this essentially tantric take on Shinto mythic imagery would have come to Ueshiba in any event from his early Shingon teaching. Tantra views myth as an operative form of knowledge -- placed in use by contemplation in the context of a series of revelatory initiations. Or, as Prof. Goldsbury and others would have it -- IHTBF. One could just as easily fit Aikido into that tantric model of training as anything else. But just IHBTF is not enough standing alone if we are dealing with a tantric type of understanding, because the how or what that one is feeling has no easy comparisons or one-off reductions to simpler terms.
James Hillman's approach to myth (direct student of Jung) is from that perspective. Myth is an image or a set of relations between contemporaneous images whose power appears spontaneously in a particular history (or circumstnatial context) , and disappears just as easily in the same way. Ancient Hebrews knew what image "cherubim" referred to so presumptively that we have only the vaguest possible description of how these unique and highly significant mythological creatures were depicted. Myth has a face but has "no back," no history, i.e. -- not just timeless and ahistorical in its representation of the reality it describes, but that there is no "there" behind the overt history of the representation. It cannot be reduced, even with initiatory experience of it or IHTBF.
If you perceive its face in concrete terms you have it, but if you examine what you presume to be behind the development of that image, in other than concrete comparison to immediate practice, you lose it. This is an aspect of why Tantra is "esoteric." Not secret -- just not obvious, and difficult to be any less involved in attempting to communicate it. (Other, non-aesthetic tools are needed to do that more systematic examination of the concrete things the image points to -- not detracting from the aesthetic, intuitive perception).