Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Fistful of Rattlesnakes

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.


Thomas said...

I saw part of that documentary and though I missed the parts about snake handling and country music the lengthy section about the Union/Mine struggles at the turn of the last century was really fascinating.

You have to admire people that risk their lives for their rights as working people.

Luna said...

It is unwise to handle poisonous snakes, IMO. But, recently, I had the opportunity to practice bellydancing with boa constrictors, and it was an amazing experience. The species we were working with is characterized by a gentle, non-aggressive nature. None of the snakes were more than 20 lbs -- more like 6-12. I don't know, I kinda like snakes now.

Hecate said...

Agreed on all accounts.

Interrobang said...

The state already regulates a lot of religious practices besides snake-handling. I personally don't have a problem with it, if there's some sort of compelling reason why the state would want to get involved, although I think some of the cases are iffy at best.

(FWIW, I think that where I live, there's a compelling state interest in preventing people from doing potentially injurious things to themselves during religious rituals, since where I come from, the state picks up the tab for taking your delusional ass to the ER afterwards.)

Some of the other regulated practices include ingesting various controlled substances (like marijuana, bannisteria, and hallucinogens), and animal sacrifice. Mostly you don't hear about those laws, though, since they mostly affect brown people who practice small unpopular minority religions, and nobody really likes them anyway, so to speak.

Aquila ka Hecate said...

The State in my country has tried to regulate the practises of brown, black and white alike.
Recently they came up against us, and have lived to regret it.
I would say go, snake-handling christians.
Even though I personally think they're batshit crazy, who am I to judge the manner in which someone else accesses deity?
Terri in Joburg

Tennessee Jed said...

"But if you must boogie with a rattler to prove your faith, you should have that right."

Anne most people who get the laws started, do not realize they are encroaching on the very freedoms their great great grandfathers died getting for them. A government that allows freedom and personal choice will loose a few citizens to seeming silly deaths, but it is better than scalping the souls of all citizens with dictatorship.

Athana said...

"*Judeo-Christian Myths and Legends* (better known as the Holy Bible)..."

I love it! I hope you don't mind if I use this fab title on my blog. I might even pepper my personal conversations with it.

As for snakes, I'm with the rest of you. If a choice need be made, personal freedom over safety I say.

BBC said...

The last encounter I had with a rattle snake I had a tire iron in my hand. The snake lost.

Hey, send one to Mr. Bush with a copy of that passage. After all, it's his right to give it a shot.

Anne Johnson said...

I stole the name "Judeo-Christian Myths and Legends" from a book called "Celtic Myths and Legends." The latter ought to be called "Celtic Revealed Religion." Just trying to be fair.

yellowdog granny said...

dang...around here we have the heart of texas snake handlers club..they put on shows and lay in sleeping bags while some one puts 10-12 rattlers in with it up and then the guy slides out of the bag without being caught..they also walk through a pit with 22-30 snakes, barefooted..then let them pile snakes on them while they are sitting down...they are showing people what and what not to do if you get a snake in your sleeping bag, or one falls on you...they have round ups where they collect and weigh the snakes and then they kill and skin them..then we fry them up and eat them...taste like chicken...dry old and chewy chicken..but chicken none the less...
the goddess thinks they are dumb rednecks....but at least they don't dance with them...

Anne Johnson said...

Texas. The Lone Sane Person State. And that would be you, Granny.

Anonymous said...

I think we ought to give every Xian in the country a rattlesnake.