Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" We believe in the right to life, therefore we try to steer clear of critters we would have to kill if they threatened us. Poisonous snakes rank high on the list.
This past week the History Channel ran a documentary called Hillbilly: The Real Story. As if you could tell anyone's real story in two hours, let alone a whole region of people. And true to form, the documentary hits all the stereotypes, beginning with moonshine and ending with country music.
(Of the latter, the documentarians probably did not know that in a survey of professors at the Peabody Conservatory, bluegrass was ranked the most difficult form of music to master in the world.)
Most interesting to us at "The Gods Are Bored" was a segment on evangelical Christian snake handlers. Apparently there's a passage somewhere in Judeo-Christian Myths and Legends (better known as the Holy Bible) in which Christians are told that if they have enough faith they can handle snakes and drink poison, and they will not be harmed.
Appalachia has its share of poisonous snakes, most notably rattlesnakes and copperheads. Dewey Chafin, a West Viginian pictured above, is one of the best-known snake handlers.
People have died doing this (surprise, surprise), and so certain states in Appalachia have outlawed the practice. West Virginia has not.
We at "The Gods Are Bored" feel most emphatically that state legislatures do not have the Constitutional power to outlaw snake handling as part of a religious ritual. That's a violation of the First Amendment. Seems to me that the snake handlers have a sweet lawsuit on their hands if anyone of them gets busted for rippin around in a religious frenzy with a handful of rattlers.
We at "The Gods Are Bored" will not allow our daughters to handle any snake. This past summer, when their friends at St. Michaels caught one and handed it to The Spare, I quashed that immediately even though it was a black snake. When snake fangs enter skin, nasty things happen. Please keep that in mind if your deity asks you to do it.
Most deities don't make such requests, and even more of them wouldn't put it into writing. So please feel free to search for a new deity if yours asks you to do something you know to be harmful to yourself or others. Plenty of nice Goddesses would have no part of that.
But if you must boogie with a rattler to prove your faith, you should have that right.