Sunday, October 9, 2011
Snake Handling: Seeking God Amongst the Serpents
Snake handling (or serpent handling), is a religious ritual practiced today in a small number of Pentecostal churches of the US (predominantly but not limited to Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Ohio) and a few areas of Canada, that first became popularized in the early 20th century in remote areas of the Appalachian Mountain region, which then spread to regional coal mining towns. (Practitioners, or self-described “sign-followers,” prefer the term “serpent-handling” to “snake-handling” noting that they incorporate poisonous reptiles, not common snakes, into religious worship.) Though snake handling plays only a small part in the religious services of such churches, the fact that followers routinely handle rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins and other highly venomous snakes, has come to define them and their religion. And while always controversial, and in many areas illegal, the practice of snake handling shows no signs of disappearing from the traditional Appalachian landscape. Read more . . .