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Snakes and Magic

Since the moment I stumbled across my first snake in a garden, I’ve thought them creepy. Unfairly, I know. Because in the magical world, they can represent good or evil.

Time travelling back to the Neolithic era, snakes symbolized hope. They shed their skin, hibernating in the winter to be “reborn” in the spring, just as the world is reborn each spring.

Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas theorized that the snake’s coiling, spiraling energy corresponded to critical, life giving functions like sex, growth, and fertilization (Joy Reichard, The Neolithic Goddess). When I was in Latvia, I found a silver, coil-shaped wedding ring with abstract symbols on it, symbols I later learned were Neolithic snake symbols.

I love that ring.

The Renaissance got into the magical snake act as well. The ouroboros, or snake eating its tail, is an alchemical symbol representing re-creation and eternal return. Sometimes you see the creature depicted as a dragon biting its tail, but the most common ouroboros is a snake.

In shamanism, snakes represent wisdom, transformation, and healing. As a protector and guardian, this makes the snake a good totem animal to have around.

In hoodoo, practitioners sometimes say they work with “both hands,” using magic for good or evil. On the dark side, snakes can be used for hoodoo jinxing or crossing spells, and are a key ingredient in Goofer Dust (a mix of graveyard dirt and various nasties, also used for such spells). Dr. Buzzard (1885 – 1947), a famous hoodoo practitioner, was known for magically implanting snakes in his enemies through his mental and/or magical powers.

Not good.

But let’s get back to the light side of hoodoo. Rattlesnakes are powerful hoodoo talismans for good. Their shed skins can be used to reverse bad luck and/or create good luck (especially for gamblers). Snakeskin can also be used as an ingredient to reverse dark hoodoo spells causing madness.

So what do you think? Are snakes good or ill-omened?

About the Author

Kirsten Weiss writes genre-blending steampunk suspense, urban fantasy, and mystery, mixing her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.

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