In an old book on Indian gardening, there was a brief reference to leaving
a bowl of milk out for cobras. It seem to be partially religious,
partially blackmail. Has anyone (in areas where there are snakes) done
this or heard anything about this?
Can all snakes drink milk?
Snakes are carnivores that eat by swallowing their prey whole. They are
unable to drink by suction. The milk probably attracts snakes indirectly by
attracting their prey.
BTW, there are no vegetarian snakes either.
Most snakes drink fairly often, and some can drink quickly. Suction
appears to be involved in the initial stages of the process. I wouldn't
put it past the average dehydrated snake to drink fresh milk if that was
all that was available. And I wouldn't be surprised if some acquired a
taste for it.
Mark Herbert said:
<< > BTW, there are no vegetarian snakes either.
Yep. Some eat eggs. >>
Don't know where you learned about gardening, and I hate to break it
too you, but eggs are not vegetables. At least I have never been able to grow
<< The question is whether snakes will eat the fruit of the egg plant? >>
Well. if they ate both eggs and egg plant, they might be considered to be ova
vegetarian, provided there was no live prey in their diet. But if they really
don't eat any form of vegetation we can consider them to be carnivores.
To tell the truth, I have had almost as much difficulty growing egg plants as I
had with those eggs.
Come to think of it further, perhaps this is why Moses led his people to the
land of "Milk and Honey". He could encourage all the snakes to come to
drink the milk and turn them to brass; tell people to look at the brass
snakes and cure their illness(s). As for the Honey - well, they could make
mead from this and if looking at the brass snakes did not cure them - they
could drink the mead and not care - ha ha ha.
Nehushtan, "Brazen Serpentess," was a Serpent-goddess established by
Moses. In the autumn of the last year in the wilderness, the Israelites
suffered from a plague of "fiery serpents" whose bite was deadly. Moses
made a serpent of brass, mounted it on a pole, and all who gazed upon
Nehushtan were cured of snake-poison [Nm 21:6-9].
Although initially the adoration of Nehushtan was to obtain protection
from deadly serpents sent by Yahweh, in later times it was said that
serpents were sent to slay those who worshipped serpents [Wisdom of
Solomon 11:15; 15:18; 16:3-5; Sirach 12:13]. This belated explanation was
required because otherwise one had to admit there were more gods than
Yahweh among the Israelites. Nevertheless many continued to praise the
Serpentess as a token of salvation [Wis Sol 16:6, 10] whose healing
capacity was an oracle of god [16:11].
Philo of Alexandria finds a happy medium in suggesting that Nehushtan the
serpent of temperateness was an enemy of the Serpent of Eden who
encouraged hedonism [Legum Allegoriae II:19, 25]. This supposes a female
serpent who takes precedence over the male serpent. "There is no poison
worse than snake's poison, and no wrath worse than a woman's wrath"
[Sirach 25:15] means that the male serpent of Eden is subdued by the
wrathfulness of the female serpent of Moses.
Healing Serpent-goddesses were common among Mediterranean races, and are
still worshipped in modern Bengal, encountered repeatedly in the Vedas.
She or her type is known by many names, including: Anantasira, "Head of
Eternity," queen of the Nagas (Cobras) who dwelt in a jeweled palace
surrounded by pleasure gardens; Madhavi, "Honey-like," an incarnation of
Laksmi having been born with pubis like a cobra's hood; Sarpamukhi the
Mother of Serpent Illumination; Ulupi the Nagini (Cobra-princess) who came
from the netherworld to become the bride of the mortal prince Arjuna,
because of whom cobras are to this day generous with humanity; Vasukuki a
form of Laksmi who forms the cobra-headed throne of Vishnu; Neta, Who Sees
the Path, a nagini who travels as the constant companion to the goddess
Manasa; & many similar.
As the Mother of Serpents, Nehushtan's children who plagued the Hebrews
were called muppim, "poisonous serpents" or "children of Mup"; only by
propitiating the Mother were the muppim rendered harmless. In Jewish myth,
they are also called the ivvim, the snake-children of the Daughters of
Cain, but whose name by a close pun means "Children of Eve." Muppim
continued long to be worshipped by the Benjamites, descended as they were
from the divining & teraphim-worshipping Rachel, & who were especially
influenced by methods of worship encountered in Egypt where long dwelt
Joseph & so many of his sons (including one named Muppim).
Nahash is the name Genesis uses for Eve's serpent [Gn 3:1], and Nahash may
be considered the consort of Nehushtan, equivalent of the two Leviathans
or of Samael and Lilith. Nahash in addition to "serpent" means
"divination," or anything learned by experience. In zoharic legend, the
demon Nahash is the consort of the demoness Epheh (Adder), who must be
regarded a form of Nehushtan or another name for the same demoness [Zohar
The serpent-entwined pole or caduceus was a symbol of the Maenads or
Bacchantes, as well as of numerous healing gods and goddesses, including
Maia's son Hermes and Mary's son Jesus [Jn 3:14]. It is even today used as
a symbol of the medical profession, despite having become intertwined with
the mythology of the serpent in the tree of Eden.
Worship of this Serpent-goddess was not suppressed until the time of King
Hezekiah and his queenmother Abi, for Moses had personally directed the
reverence of this Goddess so that it took many generations to undermine
Her worship. Hezekiah associated Nehushtan with the worship of Asherah [2
Ki 18:4]. Centuries later, though the worship of Nehusthan would never
have been admitted, it was nevertheless considered permissible to perform
snake-charming on the Sabbath, to render serpents tame and harmless, and
to ward against leprosy [Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 101a].
-paghat the ratgirl loves the benificent Serpent-mother
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
A North American myth is that the milksnake is so-named because it
attaches itself to cows' udders & suckles milk. Dairymen would leave milk
out for the milksnakes to keep them from bothering the cattle, & to
encourage them to stick around & eat the mice in the barn. In reality of
course snakes would become ill if they had no access to water & were
forced to resort to drinking bowls of milk. I've never seen a satisfactory
explanation for how this more-idiotic-than-average myth got started, but
it's a very old belief.
It's a remarkable coincidence that this absurd belief exists also in India
and Bengal. Because the cobra is sacred to the goddesses Sitala, Mariamme,
and Kali, & to the god Vishnu, offerings of milk, bananas, & flowers
(including giant Jack-in-the-Pulpits because they look like cobras) are
left at shrines or in back yards for cobras. Milk is left out in bowls or
poured down holes thought to be inhabited by snakes around temples & in
private gardens, hoping snakes will drink it & bring the devottee good
luck. On the festival of Nag Panchmai, cobras are captured & deprived of
water so that they are forced to drink milk & this is supposed to be to be
so pleasing to the snakes that they won't bite people, or if they do the
venom won't kill, & the snakes will even intervene with the Goddess to
keep anyone form getting diseases or the plague.
As with religion in the west, religion is often at least 90% a business
scam, & many small-time business crooks provide dehydrated snakes to
willing buyers who want to give them milk. The majority of these cobras
never recover because so abused before milk is even offered, then they get
sick for having nothing to drink but milk. If Vishnu or Sitala happen
actually to exist, I'd think they'd smite such worshippers with all manner
of plagues for being so gawadamn stupid, since the ill health of these
snakes is not difficult to see. But there are a few activists in India
trying to stop this widespread practice, because they believe the snakes
really are sacred & such well-intended but ultimately murderous treatment
of cobras should stop. Superstition, alas, is impervious to education, &
so deeply incorporated into the daily life & regional economy that it will
Here's a page about the Nag Panchami festival:
(Funny that this page about the Cobra Festival gets saddled with badly
targetted instant-ads at the bottom of the page, which on my visit just
now consisted of two ads for the same phoney snake-repellant, exactly the
opposite of what worshippers at the Nag Panchami festival would be
seeking. Happily the products are 100% bogus anyway so no snake would ever
(Snake-Away's active ingredients are napthalene (same as mothballs, but at
delute levels supposedly not so toxic for pets, kids, & other animals) &
suphur. The manufacturer makes all sorts of crazy claims for this useless
crap including that it is "university tested and proven" with ability to
repell 100% of garter snakes, 83% of rattlesnakes, & varying percentages
of other snakes -- the percentages come right out of the manufacturer's
ass. The apparently imaginary "univerisity" citation is always unspecific
so cannot be tracked down & by "university tested" they apparently mean
the "inventor" of the useless product proving his own invention worked,
though no independent study has been able to come to the same manifestly
irreproducible results. The inventor of the completely disproven product
is herpetologist Harvey Lillywhite who of course did not publish this
so-called study in any peer-reviewed journal nor even in one of the
dubious non-peer-reviewed journals which will occasionally accept faux
research on a vanity-press basis.
(No one at the University of Florida is aware of any this alleged "ten
year study" being conducted there, though if the manufacturer is
believable at all he may have trumped up a non-scientific report for the
EPA of unpublished, un-peer-reviewed, unsubstatiated "findings" later
shown in published & authentically independent data to have been false.
Yet the manufacturer has managed to get ad-hype published in amateur
herpetological bulletins & reprinted by vendor clients all over the web.
(The manufacturer very carefully avoids promoting any of the several
independent studies of their product because ACTUAL independent research
conducted by Marsh, 1993; McCoid et al, 1991 & 1993; & Ferraro 1995
across-the-board concluded "Dr T's Snake-Away was not successful in
repelling snakes" & was "totally ineffective in repelling brown tree
snakes" It was tested on garter snakes, gopher snakes, & rattlesnakes &
had no repellant value, neither did the active ingredients used separately
effect snake behavior.
(If Lillywhite's unpublished & unavailable article were available we could
probably see what was wrong with the protocol that resulted in
irreproducible results, or we might even find that the rephrasing
manufacturer just lied, but from multiple studies since Lillywhite's
alleged findings Snake-a-way has been very definitivelyh proven to be
worthless. Yet Dr T representatives frequently show up wherever they are
condemned to post all their usual enormous fat lies & misrepresentations &
pseudoscientific jabberings about mucking up snakes' sense of smell in the
Jacobson organ, all contrary to reality.)
-paghat the ratgirl
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
But it becomes interesting to me because now we have reports from 3
continents that there is a benefit to putting out bowls of milk.
What might be the real [or imagined?] reason that some ancients
thought would be an easier sell as a way to appease Cobras, Pixies, or
Is there any truth to this remedy or is it another way to get folks
to waste milk? I never had an luck with it myself, but a mid-19th
century almanac suggested leaving a bowl of milk with pepper in it on
the kitchen counter as a way to kill houseflies.
I would guess it stems from some archaic animist belief ... if you take
the snake as deity of death, then what better way to neutralize it than
to appease it with some token of life?
Of course there could also be some practical applications as well. Some
site said that the Nag Panchami occurs sometime in August (seems to be a
solar calendar although I don't know why they mean by 'bright half of
Shravan'), which right would be smack in the middle of the rainy season.
I would have thought if you wanted to drug a snake with milk, you'd do it
in the dry season when they should be thirsty, but perhaps they are
estivating during that time. Also, nobody said what kind of milk ... cow
milk, goat milk ... colostrum or what. Such differentiation should have
been common knowledge to practitioners, and not so obvious to observers,
but it may not make a difference at all, esp. if the effect is merely
In related news, they are now using grape extracts to keep away birds at
some major airports.
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