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Folklore Friday - Snakes

It is still a little cold. There is snow falling today, however Imbolc 1/2 Feb ushers the start of spring in many ways. It is the birds wedding day where in folklore they pair up for the year and agree to raise a family. It is also the day that traditionally snakes wake from their hibernation and go forth to assess the state of the world and put of weight before breeding.

Snakes are often seen as an evil or malevolent force, mostly due to bad press in the Bible. However it was not always thus and they have long been associated with healing and wisdom as well as fertility, rebirth, renewal and even immortality. For example there are many stories associated with the rainbow serpent within Aboriginal mythology. It is viewed as a giver of life, due to its association with water. It can also be a destructive force if angry. It is one of the most common and well-known Aboriginal stories and is one of the oldest continuing religious beliefs in the world and continues to be a cultural influence today.

In Scotland St Brides day was marked in many places.

‘The serpent is supposed to emerge from its hollow among the hills on St Bride’s Day, and a propitiatory hymn was sung to it. Only one verse of this hymn has been obtained, apparently the first. It differs in different localities:

Moch madainn Bhrìde,

Thig an nimhir às an toll,

Cha bhoin mise ris an nimhir,

Cha bhoin an nimhir rium.

[Early on Bride’s morn

The serpent shall come from the hole,

I shall not molest the serpent,

Nor will the serpent molest me.’

"The snake is a powerful element in mythology and religion and a creature to be respected as the ‘hymn’ makes clear. Familiar in the snake coiled round the rod, it is a symbol of medicine and healing, and the appearance of the adder or snake on Saint Bride’s Day offers a feeling of hope and transformation, and of turning the corner with the lengthening of the days.

St. Patrick supposedly chased the snakes into the sea after they began attacking him during a 40-day fast he undertook on top of a hill. An unlikely tale —yet Ireland is unusual for its absence of native snakes. It's one of only a handful of places worldwide—including New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica—where Indiana Jones and other snake-averse humans can visit without fear."

In Irelands case as the last ice age retreated, having vanquished any reptiles with the cold, the island was cut off by seas meaning none could return naturally.

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