Snakes and human beings have a long history of complicated relationships and each community views snakes differently. From ugly crawlers that caused all of man’s problems by convincing the woman to eat the forbidden fruit to a blessed gift from the gods that bring peace to humanity, the definition of a snake depends on who you hear it from. With so many differing opinions, different communities have developed different ways of dealing with snakes with many introducing them into religious rituals. From communities where people can get married to snakes to places where kissing a cobra is the answer to long droughts, here are 10 of the craziest snake rituals in the world.
The Kiss Of Death: Myanmar
Myanmar is a country rich in culture and when it comes to snakes, different beliefs abound. Some people see the cobra as a blessing because some legends state that it protected Buddha from the sun. Others believe that the cobra represents evil that destroys the harvest in the fields and to break the curse of the cobra, a ritual named the dance of the cobra must be performed and the purest of girls has to kiss it on the head three times in a row. It is very dangerous because the venomous snakes are not defanged before the ritual and a bite could kill you in minutes. The only hope for the poor girls is the snake master who cools off the snake by allowing it to crawl or dripping it with cold water when it becomes aggressive.
The Snake Dance Of The Zigua Tribe: Tanzania
If you have never seen a man put a live black mamba into his mouth and take it out as if nothing happened, then you should visit the Wanonguli clan of the Zigua tribe in Tanzania. The clan believes in making traditional snake-based medicines and befriending venomous snakes to an extent of being able to play around with them. Most of the snake handlers are now paid performers who do some shocking stands including inserting green and black mambas in the mouth without getting bit.
The Snake Church: Kentucky
Jamie Coots was a famous person in the early to mid-2010s who became famous for using snakes for prayer in his church in Middlesboro, Kentucky. He disagreed with popular opinion that snakes represent the devil and used snakes to allegedly perform miracles and even made headline news. In 2014, he was bitten by a rattlesnake and died within minutes of the bite. The church continued through his son Cody though and the believers still look to the snake-handling pastors to solve their problems.
The Snake Handling Pastors Of Appalachia: USA
According to these believers, Jesus said in the bible that believers will take up serpents in their hands and they will not be harmed. To prove their faith, the snake-handling pastors of Appalachia call on their believers to handle venomous snakes whenever they need God to help them with something and it allegedly works. There are more than 100 snake-handling pastors in the US and although the law prohibits the use of venomous snakes in services, their churches still flock with believers hoping for a miracle.
The Snake Belly Dance: Singapore
Belly dancing is a spectacle on its own but when a Burmese python is involved, it becomes a ritual. There isn’t much religiosity involved here, just lots of dancing and fun. There are many people that belly dance with Burmese pythons in Singapore, Thailand and other countries. Some daredevils go as far as dancing with venomous snakes but that is not legal so it is rarely done in public.
The Snake Bride: Kenya
A white snake is rare and lots of myths surround the sight of one, especially in remote Africa. In 2011, such a spectacle happened in a village in Western Kenya where a man found a white snake in his house after the death of his wife. He had since married his wife’s younger sister but the appearance of the snake was interpreted as disapproval of the second marriage by the first wife and therefore the groom had to marry the snake to appease his deceased wife. It is not clear how the three-day ceremony ended but it must have been something.
Appeasing The Snake God: India
In India, cobras are respected and revered and it is believed that killing one is a sin. When you get a dead cobra in the vicinity of your home, then you will have to go to the temple and perform pujas (Prayers) to appease the snake god. A dead snake also has to be cremated in a special ceremony called Sarpa Samskara where fruits and flowers are offered. It is such a serious thing that entire road construction projects can stall until a priest is found and money paid to perform these rituals.
The Snake Groom: India
“Though snakes cannot speak nor understand, we communicate in a peculiar way,” Bimbala Das told the media in 2006 as her grand wedding to a cobra. She had fallen in love with the serpent that lived close to her home and used to take milk next to the hole it lived in and it would come out and drink. The occasion was graced by 2,000 guests and priests who chanted although it failed to show up on the wedding day forcing the bride to kiss a bronze statue instead.
The Snake Massage: The Philippines
At the Cebu City Zoo in the Philippines, guests can lay down and get massaged by four large pythons which slither and press against the guests for up to 15 minutes. The snakes are not venomous but if they become aggressive, they could bite and choke the clients so you have to hope they are well fed and in a good mood before they give you a massage. Python massages are also common in other countries but few people warm up to them.
The Temple Of The Python
The city of Ouidah in Benin is believed to have been the birth of Voodoo and despite the encroachment of Christianity in the country, many people still practise Voodoo. Snakes are also revered in Benin as gods of sorts and an entire temple was built where the pythons are the gods and they deliver the blessings. People flock to the temple to be blessed by the many pythons housed there. The snakes are believed to be able to take away bad luck and help people succeed in life.