Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Defense of Serpents

In spite of the approaching date, this meditation only tangentially involves St. Patrick himself, the Roman church official best known for his enthusiastic persecution of the native peoples of Ireland for practicing their ancestral faiths and whose death is celebrated annually by getting piss drunk and wearing particularly unflattering shades of green. His feast day is celebrated most enthusiastically in the United States, often by those who share neither the Saint's faith nor heritage and who seem to have conflated him with the leprechaun from the Lucky Charms cereal box.

As the serpent was one of the symbols considered sacred by these uncooperative, non-converting pagans that St. Patrick and his cohorts found so troubling, he is credited with having “driven the snakes out of Ireland.” In truth, these ancient ophiophilists were less “driven out” than “beaten down,” subjugated and killed.* We considered writing a meditation on this and the serpent as a power symbol in the ancient world,** but decided it was more fun to write about reptiles than genocide and religious extremism.

Thus, a few words in praise of the amazing Snake:

    Snakes taste air, feel sound and “see” temperature. They range in size from the diameter of a coin to the length of a killer whale and thrive on six of seven continents.

    Snakes are ectothermic, which is just a fancy way of saying “solar powered.”

    Snakes eat mosquitoes, rats, mice, moles and just about everything else you wouldn't want to see invade your home or yard.

    Though limbless, snakes can crawl, climb, swim, jump and even glide from tree to tree.

    While they are masterful predators, snakes are also extremely metabolically efficient and are able to go days and even months between meals. (Where as we Yummish can barely go an hour without stuffing something tasty into our craw.)

    Because of their extremely flexible lower jaws, snakes can eat things larger in diameter than themselves. (We Yummish are particularly envious of this skill. Imagine being able to eat an entire hot fudge cake in one colossal bite! Yum!)

Today's exercise: Get your slither on!   

Next: Uncertain, though we suspect the answer may be at the bottom of a bottle of Bushmills. Sláinte!

*For a nicely fictionalized account of this story featuring a lot of kick-ass red-haired women, please see “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley. (I <3 Morgause.)

**For more information on symbolism in the ancient world, see Joseph Campbell's “Primitive Mythology.”


  1. LOL! I love how St. Patrick's Day is really all about the drinking. I'll bet old St. P is rolling in his grave.

  2. If you'd like, I'd be happy to pick up the slack for you in that department this year. (The sacrifices I'm willing to make for friendship!)