Snake Myths, Superstitions, & Old Wives Tales- Superstition has always regarded snakes with fear and respect and some cultures have even credited the serpent with various supernatural powers. There are more myths, old wives tales and superstitions about snakes than any other animal. Superstition has produced a number of popular misconceptions regarding snakes over the past few centuries, which have given way to numerous myths and old wives tales that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Popular Myths, Superstitions, & Old Wives Tales About Snakes
- Hang a snakeskin from the rafters to protect a house from fire.
- Killing the first snake sees each year will guarantee them victory over any foes.
- Rub crocodile blood into the bite to negate the effects of the poison.
- Tie the dead body of a snake around the wound.
- Snakes hypnotize their prey.
- Snakes inject their venom via their forked tongue.
- Snakes can all spit their venom.
- People have believed in the healing power of serpents for centuries. Today, the serpent coiled around a staff is the symbol of the medical profession.
- Still others cultures see the snake as a bad omen. Seeing a snake cross one’s path, or dreaming of serpents are both said to be bad luck.
- Pregnant women who are frightened by a snake will likely give birth to a child with a constricted neck. However, a conflicted superstition says snakes will never bite a pregnant woman. Some say that tying a snakeskin around the waist of a woman in labor will ease childbirth, while carrying a snakeskin is generally supposed to be beneficial to health, effective against headaches and in extracting thorns from the skin. Some believe that feeding women in labor a drink made from the powdered rattle of a rattlesnake will also ease childbirth.
- Carrying a snake’s tooth will ward off fever, and one may be carried for luck in gambling.
- To avoid getting bitten by a snake in the first place the simplest course is to wear an emerald.
- Some people believe that hairs taken from the mane or tail of a horse and placed in stagnant water will turn into slender snakes.
- Snakes elicit different emotions in different people. Unfortunately, the emotions they evoke in many people range from an uneasiness to a deep fear. Even for people who do not fear snakes, a surprise encounter may be a problem. Often this fear results in the killing of a snake.
- The presence of snakes in the landscape is an indication of a healthy environment. Snakes are a unique part of our wildlife and should not be harmed.
- When a snake’s head is severed it will not die until sunset.
- Milk snakes drink milk from cows and steal milk from dairies.
- A snake can sting with its tail or tongue.
- A Pilot Black Snake (Rat Snake) leads other snakes to safe hibernating places in winter.
- Black Snakes and Copperheads can cross breed producing a poisonous black snake.
- Why do snakes shed their skin? A snake is covered with scales, which are composed of a material similar to human fingernails and protected by a thin layer of skin. As a snake grows the skin stretches, becomes worn and needs to be renewed by a shedding process. The frequency of shedding depends on the rate of growth. Some snakes may shed every couple of weeks while others may only shed once a month. The shedding process takes several days. The first step is the formation of a new layer of skin beneath the old one. During this time snake’s will become grayish or bluish in color. Its eyes will turn very blue and the snake has difficulty seeing. Snakes often remain in hiding and refuse food until it has shed its skin. Snakes shed their old skin in one piece starting from the head, and turning the skin inside out as it crawls out of the skin. Many times a snake will soak itself in water just before shedding to assist with the shedding process. The shed skin stretches making it longer than the actual snake. After shedding a snake’s coloration is bright and it shines. It also hunts for food immediately after shedding.
- Why does a snake flicker its tongue? A snake’s tongue is a forked sensory structure used to explore its surroundings and help it find food. As the tongue flicks in and out it is picking up air-borne particles and ‘tasting’ them.
- Are snakes slimy? Snakes are not slimy but rather they are dry to the touch. They appear wet because of their smooth, highly polished scales.
- A healthy outdoor environment teams with a variety of animals. Each animal plays a role in the total picture, including snakes.
- Snakes do not usually travel very far. Most have specific habitat and range.
- In general, snakes like cool, damp, dark areas where they can hide out during the hottest time of day. During the early part of the day they may move into a sunny spot to warm up. Snakes are most active at dusk and early in the morning. During new construction, natural habitats are disturbed and snakes are forced to move into new areas. Snakes are especially attracted to fire wood stacked directly on the ground, old lumber piles, junk piles, flower beds with excessive mulch, weedy gardens and boards or other items lying on the ground.
There are several types of snake repellents, but none are consistently effective. The active ingredients in these products are sulfur and naphthalene. They are applied in a band around the area to be protected, some are even referred to as liquid fences. Repellents should be applied according to label directions.
Some people prefer to make their own snake repellent. Cloths soaked with household ammonia may be effective in enclosed spaces. Mixing equal parts of cat litter and mothballs, and spreading it in a thick band around a house or yard is said to deter snakes from entering. Snakes do not like the smell of moth balls, and the cat litter gets stuck in their scales. For a stronger repellent some suggest mixing powdered sulfur with moth crystals. Moth crystals have more surface area than moth balls, and sulfur is a common ingredient in over-the-counter snake repellents. Old timers also say snakes can be frightened away by spraying cinnamon oil and clove oil directly on the snake.
Snakes are an interesting and important part of East Texas wildlife. They are a part of the ‘balance of nature’ and are very useful in controlling many insect and rodent pests.