The Handling of Snakes

“The arising and elimination of illusion are both illusory.”

-Huang Po; d. 840 CE

"Silver Plaque From the Gundestrup Bowl"- Belzeaux Zodiaque

"Silver Plaque From the Gundestrup Bowl"- Belzeaux Zodiaque

“The god Cernunnos.  He holds in one hand a torc (collar) and in the other a ram-headed serpent; he is surrounded by various animals.” 

A friend brought it to my attention yesterday that I had been behaving like a snake handler.  I had approached a venemous energy in good will and faith, that if I was kind enough, loving enough, true enough, I would earn vaulted status as one who was beyond the reach of the venom itself; and that feeling the sting of the poison proved to me deep within that I deserved such retribution.  My faith, my love had failed me because I failed to magically prevent being bitten.  The hissing, the forked tongue, were never reasons to face the danger as it was; rather, I saw them as tests of devotion, reasons to try to hold onto the serpent, to draw it close to me.

And so surely it was my fault that I was bitten; the snake knew no better, and no amount of any emotion could morph what is into what it would be if things were different.  In this crisis of faith, I had brought ruin upon myself. And through engaging with my more human companions, I can no longer ignore the lack of venom, the lack of a forked tongue, that they conspicuously possessed.

But this personal tragedy has a surpirse ending- the bite did not turn out to be lethal or untreatable.  The illusion that my faith had nurtured for so long was dispelled in the open sunlight and the perspective that it has given me; no longer seeing the outcome as a personal failure exhibits a new understanding, and greater freedom from the doubts that have plagued my heart for so long.

But despite the venom, I find I would still hold the snake.  Despite the forked tongue, I would still hear its song and listen to its disclosures.  Because not only was the faith & hope I’d had of being immune eventually relinquished, so was the way I saw this sentient being.  I saw it before as something bound by its identity, its tendencies and habits, its potential for lethal harm.  But these fetters themselves are also illusory, along with the reptilian identity.  And so, laying these two illusions to rest, I continue on with my life, what I enjoy and what is important to me.  And I also love this sentient being for what it is, not what it is labeled.  For both snakes and their handlers bear subtle rights to rise above their conventional identities, and reach a place safe from venom that poisons both parties- one with venom, the other with the inner conviction that they are safe.  With appreciation and respect, a new discourse can emerge where we are no longer identified by our traditional roles…and these roles no longer have to be actualized in their traditional way.  Like Cernunnos, I can befriend all beings that surround me, and drop the illusion that there is anything essentially wrong with beings existing as they are, in their forms and contexts.  I see a place of no venom on the horizon, a place where the new interaction can take place- giving room to the beings  capable of such power, still with the faith that love reaches past how beings treat one another, past the wounds, to some uncharted but unmistakably beautiful territory.

May everyone eventually get past their own identities, and take steps to clearly acknowledge that there is suffering; that there is a quiet place where what to do about the suffering may well be deeply understood; and that this place is bigger than two mere beings, past its own light into a true reflection from a place of reverence and appreciation without fear, the ball long since rolling away on its own.  Identity and acute loss no longer have the power to design such maps.



One Response to “The Handling of Snakes”

  1. Loyd Dillon Says:

    Acceptance of others as they are and will continue to be, can indeed lead to acceptance of who WE are and will continue to be. Some of the others will still be venomous but we will have shed some of our illusions about them. I once heard playwright Edward Albee speak. He told the small group of us gathered to hear him that the point of his play “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf” was that we should all shed our illusions. I raised my hand. “Mr. Albee, hae YOU shed YOUR illusions?” He blushed, stammered a bit and then answered with his eyes downcast, “No, I haven’t.” Illusions stay around sometimes. But we can work on seeing te REAL world (which can be pretty darn amazing).

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