I’m very fond of snakes, so one of my favorite YouTube channels at the moment is ‘Snake Discovery,’ which is all about snake and reptile care, with lots and lots of gorgeous different kinds of snakes. But they’re almost all colubrids (which are ‘standard,’ mostly non-venomous snakes such as garter snakes, rat snakes, racers, hognoses, and so on), with one or two pythons (and one very interesting little alligator, but that’s another story).
Today, however, the hostess travels to a reptile zoo to learn about venomous species: the vipers and elapids, and we get lots of footage of the kinds of snakes you don’t normally see in someone’s home, along with advice of when and why to have a venomous pet. We also get a sense of just how big a King Cobra really is (it’s pretty huge).
Now, obviously a lot of people don’t like snakes, and often when I share my liking of them, I get a slightly confused reaction. People tend to think they’re nasty, scary, ugly creatures, and they certainly can be scary; some of them (like many of the ones on display here) are extremely dangerous animals with a very limited set of responses.
As this video displays, however, ‘ugly’ is something that is less true than you might think. There are lots of beautiful snakes out there (watch out for that Urutu Viper, and the two varieties of Green Mambas, not to mention a cameo by the Chinese King Ratsnake). For my part I find the fact that these limbless, ground-dwelling creatures are yet dangerous enough to intimidate some of the most powerful animals on Earth (even elephants are wary of snakes, since the larger venomous species – the Black Mamba and King Cobra – can kill them if they bite in a vulnerable place) to be inspiring. Snakes, as a rule, just want to be left alone; they’re solitary, shy creatures as a rule, minding their own business and keeping themselves to themselves, but they can and will defend themselves if they feel threatened.
Snakes, therefore, to my mind symbolize the desire for individual freedom; to be left alone to manage your own affairs and pursue your own interests without being badgered and bothered by rules or other people, and the willingness to fight for that right. And, on the other side, the danger inherent in the things (and people) you regard with contempt, the ones who are despised and ‘trodden on.’ There’s a reason a snake is on the Gadsden Flag.
Also, don’t forget the story in Exodus; when God announced Himself before the mightiest king on earth, the Pharaoh of Egypt, He used a snake as His first miracle. His serpent swallowed up the serpents of the Egyptian priests, and likewise the despised and trodden-on Hebrews would prove more dangerous than Pharaoh expected, and their descendants would live to swallow up the remnants of Egyptian culture and dig Pharaoh’s tomb out of the sand.
In short, snakes are a reminder that despising the humble, the simple, and the solitary is not as easy or as safe as it might appear.