It's not that I even like snakes. In fact, I won't post a photo of one here because they creep me out. But for whatever reason, I'm curious about the practice of snake handling. (Like any good Jewish girl, right?)
Okay I'll admit that's getting really mutty*, snake handling and Judaism. (Also, don't forget that I'm always interested in reading about Buddhism. Then there's the college course I took in Baptist preaching. Who says we can't have a wide range of contradictory interests?)
Could my fascinations with snake handling stem from my birth roots in the Appalachia Mountain region, where snake handling still exists? I doubt that's why, but I get to imagine anything I want about what happened behind those prison walls where I was born.
For as long as I can recall -- from the time I learned to drive in high school -- I'd scout different places of worship. All that people do to seek salvation, to alleviate suffering, intrigues me.
Some weekends in high school, I'd walk alone into a church, temple, or hole-in-the-wall house of worship. As a total stranger, I'd sit anywhere, read and sing with others, participate in whatever I chose, and feel and observe the rest. I'm sure, like everything else back then, I did this on the sly and never told my parents, especially my Orthodox-raised mother.
One time in high school I rounded up a girlfriend and we ended up in the basement of a building somewhere. I sat in the front row, and when people started to speak in tongues, they almost startled me out of my metal folding chair. At first it terrified me, the body gyrations and the shouts and mysterious word chants, which I first thought tried to decipher, thinking I was supposed to understand.
Even today, I still don't know what I witnessed there for sure. It wasn't until I left that my friend told me this was a language all its own. I can't forget the passion in those that spoke. That stayed with me. At the time I figured it was all a secret code to their salvation.
I didn't need any, I figured.
Snake handling is the outcast of religious practices, from what I can tell. Judgments tossed about their class, lack of education, more which I can't seem to pin down. Outcast, though -- that's something most mutts understand, the outsider feeling. Really, who hasn't felt this at one time or another?
What intrigues me about snake handling is the power of belief. In the practice of snake handling, if you aren't bitten, it's said to be the sign of a miracle. And if you are bitten, and survive, wow, that really is a miracle. Since snakes make me a little squirmy, especially three-foot yellow timber rattlesnakes, I'd say the miracle is best left in its two-foot wooden box, behind its sliding wire-screen top.
They say rattlers have a dry feel. Sandpapery. They say a rattler can find a snake handler in the dark, that they seek the body heat. Don't we all, though.
If the spirit's in you, believers say, you aren't bitten. And if you're empty, spiritless, well, I guess the snake knows. It'll bite you. Simple as that.
If I were a snake handler, I'd tell you, "Watch out. Fill yourself up." You decide what to pour into yourself to "fill." If I were you, though, I'd stay away from filling up with excesses of alcohol, meth or other pleasure drugs, fatty foods, all the things we consume in excess to feed an emptiness inside. There are better pursuits, more fun, like curiosity, creativity, play, humor, exercise, work where you find a passion, a private spiritual path.
Speaking of miracles on the path of spiritual seeking, take Punkin Brown, the top snake handler in modern times. He believed in his miracle, snakebite after snakebite after snakebite. Then one day, he didn't even flinch when a rattler sunk its fang into the base of his left middle finger. He died from that bite, so we can't ask him what happened to his miracles.
We can, however, believe in the power of miracles for ourselves. Snakeless ones. Think of all the coincidences in your life. Or synchronicity, which pretty much plagues me these days. What about when the unforeseen happens? Destiny. Fate. Karma. Miracle. Call it what you will, it's better than snakebites.
I bet the odds are better, too, for miracles versus snakebites, and from my experience beating the odds, it's often possible.
Look at these odds. Outside the practice of snake handling for religious purposes, the chances of receiving a venomous snakebite are very low. Worldwide, there are between one and two million snakebite incidents per year, and those numbers result in less than 100,000 snakebite fatalities -- and remember, that's on the entire planet.
See what I mean? I'm sure the world holds more miracles, or acts of destiny, fate, karma or synchronicity, than snakebites.
Thought for the day: Be kind to animals, even snakes, and yes, mutts, too. Be kind to everybody. In doing so, remain curious, and explore what intrigues you. Believe that good things can happen, unexpected and with no apparent reason. Kindness, curiosity, belief. They all work for me.
*About mutts: Although I use this as a positive descriptive and reference to my multi-racial status, in truth, everyone is multi-ingrediented. In my view, we're all mutts, meaning a fusion of contrasts and contradictions. If you don't think you are, then dig deeper.
If you're wondering about Mutt Mediations #1 - 18, they're scattered on my Mutts blog.
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