Editorial

Serpent Medicine​

by: Tristan Risk "Little Miss Risk"

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Snakes have gotten a bad rap in Western culture. Our scaly friends have been tarred with a brush describing them as slimy and attributed a tricky nature. Let’s face it, nobody ever called a shifty lawyer a ‘bunny in the grass’. But you can bet that more than a few ambulance chasers have been called something more in alignment that speaks of the detriment to the snakes. Ever since Genesis was penned and an offer of an apple was made (and let’s face it - humans could have owned up to their mythological responsibility and just said no) our reptile friends have gotten a shitty wrap for being the symbol of systematically caving to our baser urges.

 

However, let’s get away from the predominant Western Christian influence for a hot second, and focus instead on another interpretation of the snake in lore. The cobra was celebrated in Egypt, as her ability to flatten her neck out into a hood by spreading her ribs as a symbol of eternal life, and across the Red Sea to Israel where she was the symbol of mother earth, and played a role in fertility.

 

In fact, prior to the establishment of Judea-Christianity, most cultures had a place for the snake in their lore that celebrated attributes. Sadly, the problem with being a figure in popular culture is when puritanism comes to town, you find yourself with something of a target on your back. While the snake surely suffered a popularity setback, so did a number of other animals (sloths, for example, whereas the ant got a free pass) it even compounded into further negative press when all things evil in scripture - dragons, basilisks and the like - were all elaborate hyperbolic snake representations.

 

 It’s really hard to recover from bad press like that.

Snakes found themselves going from being celebrated to being public enemies. A far cry from the beloved eater of rodents and symbols of fertility, now they found themselves the poster children for Christian zealots to perform their cultural cleansing. The problem is, rather than work itself out in a number of generations, the bad rap for the legless ones still remains today. Every year, a large group of demented North Americans celebrate St.Patrick driving the serpents (not totally literal, but there those that don’t make that distinction) by getting in an advances state of cognative dysfunction, punctuated by vomiting green beer.

 

General consensus has tarnished the species’ reputation unfairly. Misrepresented and misunderstood, snakes have been unfairly tarnished with this brush that suggests that they are some kind of reptilian riff-raff. My own sweet legless ladies all are unique with their own temperaments and personalities. Victoria, a ball python, is always out in an boldness and curiosity uncharacteristic of her breed. Our albino boa, Lavender, has the sweetest face and could disappate anyone’s uneasiness about snakes. Amethyst, a red-tailed boa, is our largest serpent friend, and has a sweet and inquisitive nature. Indigo and Razor are night in day is size and breed (salmon boa vs carpet python) but both were the start of my current foray into the world of herpetology. I never visuallized myself at this stage in my life walking with a purse full of $100 worth of dead, frozen rats, I may not have believed you. However, I feel comfortable with the turn of events as they’ve unfolded.

 

Something that most people may not appreciate about them is the grounded feeling that closeness to them provides. Not too long ago, I got out of an abusive relationship with someone which has left me with PTSD. While I have made progress, I have found that, when I am at home, and the anxiety overcomes me, having one of the ladies around me or with me gives me focus and can help me get to where I need to be to deal with myself in that moment and move forward. No pharmaceuticals, just plain, ol’ fashioned comfort animal therapy, and the ability to draw strength from them.

 

In animal medicine, the snake is known as a healer. The symbol of transformation, and snake wisdom is expressed through healing. As a animal guide in shamanic lore, a snake entering your life is an awakening of creative forces, from an animal that moves silently, and absorbs sound throughout the vibrations at earth’s level and is a line of communication to the underworld and it’s secrets.

 

I feel safe, secure and happy surrounded by these creatures, who I feel are good omens. As well as being low maintenance pets who are quiet, easy to care for, and fascinating, they entice people to come over and enjoy their company, and are handy for keeping door-to-door marketers to a minimum when you answer the door with a shoulder heavy of serpent. A house becomes a home with a little hiss.

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