Snake handling in religion

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Snake handling is a religious rite observed in some historical and contemporary religious communities.


Snake handling, also called serpent handling, is a religious rite observed in a small number of isolated churches, mostly in the United States, usually characterized as rural and part of the Holiness movement. The practice began in the early 20th century in Appalachia and plays only a small part in the church service. Participants are Holiness, Pentecostals, Charismatics, or other evangelicals. The beliefs and practices of the movement have been documented in several films and have been the impetus for a number of state laws related to the handling of venomous animals.


In the 2nd century the Ophites reportedly handled snakes during their services,[1] and also worshipped the serpent.[2]

Hopi folk religion[edit]

The most widely publicised of Hopi kachina rites is the "Snake Dance", an annual event during which the performers danced while handling live snakes.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joseph Campbell & M. J. Abadie (1981). The Mythic Image. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, p. 296.
  2. ^ Tuomas Rasimus (2007). "The Serpent in Gnostic and Related Texts". In Painchaud, Louis; Poirier, Paul-Hubert (eds.). L'Évangile selon Thomas et les textes de Nag Hammadi: Colloque International. Presses Université Laval, p. 804.
  3. ^ "Hopi people". Encyclopedia Britannica. 28 March 2008.