cobras hindiusm india pentecostal snake handling

Snakes and Religion Around the World

Where I live in Southern California it is now rattlesnake season. As the weather gets hotter, the snakes come down from the hills in search of water and inevitably encounter the human world. A few years ago, we found a rattlesnake coiled up in our garage one morning. And just a few days ago a neighbor killed a rattler in his yard. Rattle snakes are dangerous and where we live we have to be on constant alert for them. Unfortunately, when we do run into them either the human or the snake usually gets hurt or (in the snake’s case) killed.

This got me to thinking about snake/human interaction is other parts of the world and how snakes are often involved with religious activities. While snakes may be exploited in these religious ceremonies they fare better than the rattlers that make their way into our neighborhood.

Here are some reports on the Nag Pachami Hindu Snake Festival:

A Day of Revering Snakes in India

Festival of Snakes in Nepal

Three Die of Snake bites During Nag Pachami

Snake Temple in Kerala India

Here are some American examples including links to the 1967 documentary film Holy Ghost people which is well-worth watching:

Snake Handling Churches in America

Christians Disagree Regarding Snake Handling

It’s Better than Pot Smoking and Drinking!

Bob Jenkins and the Snake Handling Church Song

Snake Worship News Story

Holy Ghost People – Part 1

Holy Ghost People – Part 2

Holy Ghost People – Part 3

Holy Ghost People – Part 4

Holy Ghost People – Part 5

Holy Ghost People – Part 6

And in case you want to get closer to snakes…..

By Bizarre Behavior & Culture Bound Syndromes

Dr. Kevin Volkan is a psychologist, writer, and educator with over twenty years of clinical, corporate, and academic experience. He is Professor of Psychology at California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) and is on the graduate medical Faculty in the Community Memorial Health System. Dr. Volkan was one of the founding faculty at CSUCI which is the 23rd campus in California State University system where he teaches a course on atypical psychopathologies titled Bizarre Behaviors and Culture-Bound Syndromes. This course explores the outer range of extreme human behavior including paraphilias and was the inspiration for this blog. Consonant with his interest in deviant psychopathologies he also teaches clinical psychology and a course on the psychology of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Dr. Volkan has been a Silberman Seminar Fellow at The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC in 2010 and 2014. Before coming to CSUCI, Dr. Volkan was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School where he researched ways to measure medical student and physician performance, and the psychological origins of medical error. While at Harvard, Dr. Volkan also taught for the prestigious Harvard-Macy Institute, a joint program run by the Harvard Business, Education, and Medical schools. In this program he taught medical students and physicians from Harvard as well as from all over the world. Dr. Volkan’s background in psychology is varied and he maintains an active interest in several psychological approaches to understanding human nature – including socio-biological, psychoanalytic, psychometric, and cognitive-behavioral. He has had a long-standing interest in the psychology of compulsive drug use (which has similarities to the psychology of paraphilias), and has published a book on the subject. Dr. Volkan worked as a clinical psychologist for many years. This experience included serving as staff psychologist and Vice Chair of psychology at Agnews State Hospital in San Jose. During his tenure at Agnews, Dr. Volkan worked with patients who demonstrated many severe behavioral problems, including profoundly autistic, psychotic, self-injurious, and developmentally disabled individuals. Dr. Volkan was awarded the Sustained Superior Accomplishment Award from the State of California for his clinical work. In addition to his hospital work, Dr. Volkan also maintained a private practice in psychology in the San Francisco Bay Area. He served as a psychologist for the California Victim Witness program, seeing patients who were victims of crime and/or abuse. Dr. Volkan’s clients included a diverse population of people representing a wide variety of socioeconomic strata and psychological distress. Dr. Volkan received a BA in Biology from the University of California, an MA in Psychology from Sonoma State University, an EdD in Educational Psychology from Northern Illinois University, a PhD in Clinical Psychology from The Center for Psychological Studies, and a MPH in Public Health from Harvard University. In his spare time he practices martial arts and plays guitar in a rock band.

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