Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ll be using manicules (those pointing finger symbols) to direct your attention to something I’m pondering that delights or interests me. Each entry is somehow related to an unusual, obscure, or simply charming to me word.
C is for…
colubrine – (adj) of, or resembling a snake; snakelike. Derived from Latin, first recored usage in English in the 1520s.
Lots of people find snakes creepy, and serpents are certainly vilified by many, but let’s take a more positive approach. They’re associated with wisdom, flexibility, growth and transformation (shed that old skin – you’ve outgrown it!). And of course there is the association with kundalini.
I’ve always been fascinated by the flicking of snakes tongues, since being told this is how they smell. That’s not exactly the truth, at least not in the way we smell using our noses. Rather, they’re collecting chemicals from the air, and then touching the receptors on the roof of their mouth. Different chemicals evoke different electrical signals which are sent to the snake’s brain.
There are a number snake goddesses including the Minoan goddesses holding snakes dating from 1600 BCE; and the Egyptian goddess Wadjet who is sometimes pictured as a serpent with a women’s head or a woman wearing a cobra crown/headpiece.
And we can’t forget the serpent, the apple, and Eve. Which is a whole other story you probably don’t want to get me started on. But let me say, I was so delighted when I stumbled upon this admonition from Ronna Detrick suggesting we may want to remember our sovereignty, “or eat apples boldly, talk to snakes and tell a different story.” Isn’t that wonderful? Makes me laugh and shout YES every time I read it.
Back in 2020, after months of navigating pandemic sequestering, I created a limited edition zine/artist book entitled “Snakes and Ladders.” Given how unpredictable everything felt, I somehow started thinking about the children’s game Chutes and Ladders. Researching the game’s history, I was amazed to discover a 2nd century game from India called Maska Patum, which translated to Snakes and Ladders. It was a way of teaching morality – that spiritual liberation was attainable through good deeds (virtues), while doing evil (vices) would lead one to being reborn into lower life forms. The snake paths of the game outnumbered the ladders, indicating the path of good is harder one to walk.
Any colubrine ponderings on my part definitely include a couple of books I must recommend.
The Little Snake is a really special book by A. L. Kennedy, in which the snake, a minor character in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s much-loved The Little Prince becomes the central character. The snake’s name is Lanmo, which in Haitian means death. It’s a beautiful and sad and powerful fable about many things all packed in a small volume, and I confess I still feel the imprint of reading on my heart. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to check it out.
SSSS Snake Art & Allegory, published by Tara Books is another beauty. I’ve mentioned many times my love for Tara Books, and this beautiful little snake book is silkscreen-printed by hand on lovely thick handmade paper and contains Hindu and Buddhist tales. I’m happy to point you in that direction as well.
So tell me, how do you feel about snakes? What do you need to slither away from? Wht do you need to be more flexible about? Have a snake tale to share? Do tell – you know I love to hear.