Thoughts on snakes - by Trish Ward
get such a bad press. And is it really fair? Well of course it is! Look what
they’ve been up to. Who was it in the Garden of Eden that suggested to Eve that
she should eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil? It was a serpent no less. It wasn’t a lion, a tiger or a Persian cat. It
was a snake. And right at the beginning of time.
through time snakes have been causing havoc. Cleopatra wanted to kill herself.
She could have swallowed poison, stabbed herself or slit her wrists in a hot
bath and drained quietly away but no, she picked on the asp. Far more dramatic
to clasp a snake to your breast and let it kill you while adding to its
burgeoning reputation as an evil creature.
Greek mythology, Medusa was one of three monstrous Gorgon sisters, the one with
venomous snakes in place of hair. To look on her was to be turned to stone. Who
doesn’t shrink back in horror as the throw of the dice decides which player
will land on the snake and have their counter slither to the bottom of the
board? But with that I am almost running out of ‘bad’ snakes. Certainly the
venomous ones have a weapon that can be used to kill, but there are not many of
them that are aggressive. Snakes, generally, would rather rely on their natural
camouflage to avoid contact if at all possible.
is a quote from Wikipedia: Historically, serpents and snakes represent
fertility or creative life force. ‘Snakes shed their skin through sloughing and
they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality and healing.’ How
about that. The well known symbol of medicine is the rod of Asclepios – a staff
with two serpents wrapped around it. There can hardly be a more positive image.
positive attitude to snakes comes from growing up in England, on a farm, where
my father kept grass snakes as pets. He loved his snakes and so did I. the
Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 put an end to that but long before, in
1947, we had emigrated to South Africa leaving the pet snakes behind. There are
something like 170 different snakes in South Africa fortunately, however, only
a small percentage of them are poisonous. I had no fear of snakes, but I
certainly had to learn to respect them. The most deadly of the resident snakes
is the Black Mamba and its reputation is justified as its venom can kill a
grown man in just 30 minutes.
have met snakes socially all over the place. On a visit to Langkawi in Malaysia
we heard that there was a gigantic cobra kept as a pet and tourist attraction.
He was reputed to be over 27 feet long. He was situated at the top of a cable
car ride overlooking the harbour. The view was spectacular and so was the
snake. In the mountains of Abruzzo in central Italy, the small village of
Cocullo has an annual snake festival to honour their patron saint, St. Dominic.
The story is that the villagers fields were over run by snakes, making them
impossible to farm until St. Dominic came to their rescue. He gathered all the
snakes up and took them back to the forest. It was fascinating to see the
precession of hundreds of harmless snakes being handled by the villagers and
paraded through the streets. I was handed a couple of friendly snakes and
couldn’t resist joining in the celebration. So on the whole I don’t think
snakes deserve their bad reputation. ‘Snake in the grass’ yes dangerous if
disturbed but leave him alone and he will leave you alone. However, on doing
‘snake’ research and looking at pictures of aggressive, venomous snakes, mouths
open and tongues flicking, I’m no longer quite so confident.
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