I once kept a ribbon snake named Kali. She ate live goldfish. She would hover over the water bowl for some time as the fish swam around in there and then she would dive in a flurry of writhing, splashing and mayhem. And that would be the end of that.
I didn’t know Kali was female when I got her. The name just fit. But now I can confidently refer to her as “she” and not fall back on having named her after a romantic assumption. One morning, I came out to say hello and noticed a little head peeking out of the shadows of the greenery. Kali had given birth to seven babies. Once this might have been considered an auspicious omen. In any case, I was impressed.
Snakes are beautiful and fascinating. In traditional animal lore, the snake is a symbol of transformation and rebirth. They live underground, in dark places, and as they grow they shed their skins and are renewed. It’s like an initiation rite. During this time their eyes cloud over and they get aggressive, as they feel vulnerable in the in-between state. Now and then I’ll find a snakeskin in a woodpile or a stone wall. I like to keep them as a reminder that dark or restricting times herald the forces of change and that the sun is still shining up there somewhere.
© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.
I found a little snakeskin in my woodpile yesterday. Well, what was left of it, anyway. A woodpile is a rough place—which, of course, is why the snake went there to perform its sacred ritual. Like a wild-eyed crone in a fairy tale, I gingerly gathered up the papery skin and put it in a safe place. You know, in case I need it some day.
The timing of this discovery is worth noting. In traditional animal lore, the snake is revered as a creature of transformation and rebirth, symbolized by the periodic shedding of its skin. A passage through the Dark Night, the Void, this process is part of all life, from the tiniest seed to the universe itself. In the wheel of the seasons it is honored as All Hallows Eve, when the veils to the Otherworld are thin and the living mingle with the dead. This is a time to acknowledge Old Mother Void and to make friends with creatures that tread the ‘tween paths without fear.
The Old Mother has a tendency to cast a chill on the hearts of mortals. Hers is the prickle on one’s spine when wind whispers in the chimney; the cold, crushing tide of grief; the chasm a writer stares into while waiting for the words; or the visceral knowledge that it’s time to release something that no longer serves. And yet, while implacable, the Old Mother does have one’s best interests at heart. After all, the snake doesn’t fear as it slithers into a dark woodpile to shed its skin.
So I’ll keep my creepy little snakeskin, thank you, to remind me of that. Heh.
© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.