When Opportunity…Slithers?

“Let’s see what it means,” my friend Martha would have said before promptly pulling out her copy of Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak. But she wasn’t with me, and…

“Oh my!” was about all I could muster when I spotted this gorgeous three-foot black snake on the trail in front of me.

If my amateur snake identification is correct, this would be an Eastern Ratsnake, Elaphe alleghaniensis. Or, it may be an Eastern Racer, Coluber c. constrictor, but quite frankly I didn’t think to look too closely at its scales or underbelly.

That is not to say I was afraid. Surprisingly, I was amused, and immediately offered up a thank-you to the Universe. I’d been wanting to see a snake.

Scott, a kindred spirit over at Some Little Crum Creek, had earlier in the day spotted a Northern Water Snake, and I was envious. I’ve seen many a creature on my walks, but never a snake and never so close!

And then there one was — right in front of me! I quietly took a step (or two) backwards and said “hello.” It seemed unfazed, even as I continued to chat with it amicably and snap a few photos.

I tossed a pine cone gently but enough to land within striking distance — should it be the striking kind of snake — and was convinced it would be safe to pass by.

“Thank you,” I said to it quietly — for sitting still long enough for a photo, and for not devouring me in the middle of my walk.

– – – – –

Snakes, according to Ted Andrews, represent a great variety of things, including rebirth, resurrection, and wisdom. For the Native Americans, the snake is a symbol of transformation and healing. In Greece, it is a sign for alchemy and healing. For many cultures, the snake carries more mystical connotations — clairvoyance, inner sight, wisdom and understanding.

In Eastern traditions, the snake has long been a symbol of the kundalini — or creative life force — which activates energy centers in the body and mind, opening new dimensions of awareness, health, and creativity.

Like the butterfly, there is also an element of rebirth in the symbol of the snake, as it sheds its skin in a death and rebirth cycle. For that reason, there is an association with transmutation and shifting perspectives.

“Anytime a snake shows up as a totem…look for a change in conditions and a movement to new life,” writes Andrews. “Examine what is going on around you. Are you needing to make changes but aren’t for some reason?…What is needing to be healed? What new opportunities are surfacing that you need to strike out for and take advantage of?”

“It can also reflect that your own creative forces are awakening. The stimulation of the kundalini usually has physiological as well as spiritual consequences.…Spiritually it can stimulate greater perception of how to apply your insight and intuition….”

“Snakes are symbols of change and healing,” Andrews concludes. “When snake comes into your life you can look for a rebirth into new powers of creativity and wisdom.”

– – – – –

What would he and Martha have said, then, when I stumbled on this Common Gartersnake, Thamnophis s. sirtalis, just a few feet up the trail and mere moments later?

Perhaps the Universe is making sure I get the message?

• • •

Photos ©2011, Jen Payne

Click here to purchase a copy of Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak.

16 thoughts on “When Opportunity…Slithers?

  1. Good on you, Jen!
    This is all great stuff, but first step, you have to not panic, and keep your head, like you did.
    I don’t think I’d get to that step, not with a big black snake.

    Once I actually did with a small grass green garter snake, though, and it was an extraordinary experience.
    Is your kundalini activating? I hope so!

    1. Not panic and keep my head – with the snake or all that gosh darn change comin’ my way?

      Kundaliini – engaged! …I guess…How do you tell? : )

      I met up with a small gartersnake myself once. I though it was so “cute” until I got too close and it pulled itself up off the ground, let out a tiny tiny “tsssssss” and projected itself at my foot! But, yes, I think any up-close and personal meeting with nature is extraordinary!

  2. let’s hear it for snakes! i’ve seen many and touched a few (i worked in a pet store once and also have been lucky enough to touch someone’s pet snake on more than one occasion) not a huge fan of how they must swallow cute little critters whole, but that’s nature for ya – very nice photo of the garter snake, but your shot of that stunningly handsome black snake is unbelievable – glad you got the chance to interact with them peacefully!! happy rebirth into new powers of creativity and wisdom!!

    1. What fun to a) work in a pet shop, and b) get to touch pet snakes! Like you, ick about the eating little creatures whole…ah, but to be so close and person with creatures all day?

      So, whoo hoo for snakes and pets…and even more for rebirth and growth and change!

  3. While the rebirth and creativity of the snake is absolutely fascinating, two snakes in one day means you need to find a new place to walk. :-)

  4. Gorgeous snakes! I usually read these encounters as affirmations of changes already made … like walking more consciously, more gently, and even less expectantly (with less grasping). But totems of things to come, that gives me something new to consider.

    1. Affirmations of changes already made? Yes, that, too I think! I have come to see my walks as joyful meditations – just being there in the moment, as you said, more consciously, gently with less expectation.

      But! When something boldly presents itself – like the black snake? It feels like a loud message, something that demands my attention.

      Happy to see you here – I’ve been loving your blog!

    1. Yea, it was a wee bit large. But I watched for a while and it in no way seems aggressive or assertive. More nonchalant – oh, look, human, huh. I might have backtracked otherwise!

  5. So interesting, thank you for the information and your experiences with the snake.

    I have an interesting story with a snake too but am still reflecting and trying to gather the meaning.
    Me and my partner are walking back from the local shops and we come to a small part of the path that is surrounded by scrub (still suburbia) and as we approach this part I see a baby snake so I stop me and my partner.
    (I have lived here for years and it is not a common place to find or ever see snakes, as in never).
    The cute little snake finally makes it way under a part of a bush that is next to this path and me being confident with animals (I am australian after all hehe) pass the snake. After I have passEd it starts to slither out again, the poor thing doesn’t know where it’s going and looks scared so I give it its plenty of space and time(walk to end of the path and my boyfriend is still standing on the original spot on the other side)
    So we patiently wait, both separated by the snake and it finally wriggles of into the scrub far away and we join up and continue on our way.

    Now a month later my boyfriends mother is trying to pull us apart by making him make the toughest choice ever, his family or me!
    Cross cultural relationships will never be boring atleast :D

    I would be so interested on other peoples opinions on this as maybe someone can interpret something different than what I have. Life is so full of strange but interesting expereinces.

    1. Hi. Isn’t it wonderful how dreams communicate to us? I would do some reading on snake messages – snakes in dreams, snake totem. Those might give you some insight. Good luck with things!!

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