There are a lot of god-descriptions (and others) in Hinduism, a lot of which are said to be metaphorical.
For example, the snake around Lord Shiva's neck, is in some stories said to be a metaphor for the rise in Kundalini, and the three coils around his neck are said to symbolize his control over the past, present, and future. But in other stories, there's the story of the Samudra Manthan, where Lord Shiva granted the snakes a place around his neck as a reward for drinking some of the Halahal, and the snakes also supposedly help him stop the poison from going deeper into his body.
For another example, the conch in Lord Vishnu's hand is said to symbolize victory, and his color as blue is often claimed to be symbolic, like here.
My question is, is/was there a being actually sitting in a yogi pose with a snake around his neck, and another one with a conch in his hand resting on a giant snake in an ocean of milk (Ksheersagar), or are all these descriptions supposed to represent something? How do I differentiate between what is real and what is metaphorical, because even some gods, like Kaam-dev seem to be largely symbolical because lust originates within the mind?
TL;DR: Are gods(and their descriptions) real, or are they supposed to be metaphors to represent certain things or teach us something? And how do I differentiate between the two?