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Snake Charmers: Healers or Hypnotists?

Snake Charmers: Healers or Hypnotists?

Snake-handling dating back to ancient Egypt has slowly evolved into the dangerous art of snake charming, which began in India and is now also practiced in Asia and North Africa.

Serpents impact societies and regularly appear in mystical texts, architecture, jewelry and artwork from before the Common Era until today. A universal symbol, which can evoke many emotions, the snake was and is feared and respected, shudder-worthy and mystifying.

These slithering, cold-blooded reptiles glide along, eerily silent through dense forest grounds, nary snapping a twig. Furthermore, snakes are not only soundless and stealthy in nature, but they are also extremely quick to strike and bite when hunting for food or when feeling threatened.

With fangs, which curve like hooks, latching deeper the more, the struggle ensues, and jaws, which unhinge into four independently moving pieces, snakes are tough to shake off. The epitome of efficiency, they eat their prey in its entirety and require no further sustenance until it has been thoroughly digested, meaning it can be up to a few months at a time between meals.

Similar to other reptiles, snakes are most prone to bite before shedding their skin, at which time their protective eye covering becomes cloudy, much like a human cataract, and they are unable to use their sense of vision sufficiently. Snakes are least likely to bite when they are sluggish, like when they are cold or when their stomach is extremely full.

Lean, massively powerful muscle groups allow snakes to grasp onto nearly any shape, angle or texture. This means they can attack from above or below using their highly developed muscle groups to strangle their prey or predators after they strike.

Some snakes also have an additional weapon for self-defense and offensive attacks- poisonous venom. Certain species of snakes produce a toxic, instantly paralyzing and fatal liquid, which is injected into or sprayed on the prey through punctures on the skin by their hollow, needle-like fangs.

Specialized serpent handlers carefully milk this venom from captive snakes held in serpentariums. After they take the sample, they use this venom to create an injectable serum. Over time, the dose is increased little by little into the human system which then acts as immunity against poisonous snakebites. These shots save human lives.

One of the most infamous venom-producing snakes in the world is the king cobra. With such quick striking speeds and recovery times that a famous line of sports cars is named after this snake, cobras have all the deluxe features and are just as showy as any loud and flashy automobile.

Traditionally, modern snake charmers live a nomadic lifestyle and perform their spectacles on the street. They sit on a rug, keep close a woven basket with a lid and play an instrument.

The shrill melodic roller coaster of woodwind or brass notes draws an attack-ready, venomous cobra ever upwards. A hooded head with two spots resembling eyes confuses and startles unsuspecting onlookers.

Charmer and snake swaying to and fro, back and forth in unison as the hypnotic music plays. The audience gasps in anticipation, but the cobra, hood stretched, is immediately mesmerized by the motion of the snake charmer's flute and does not strike, hypnotized.

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