1. The Bible, Genesis. King James
Genesis I, Chapters 20-25
God said, Let the
bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl
fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
God created great
and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth
abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and
that [it was] good.
God blessed them,
fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl
in the earth.
the evening and the
were the fifth day.
God said, Let the
bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping
beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
God made the beast
earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that
creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
Genesis II, Chapters 1-5; 13-15
the serpent was more
than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said
woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
the woman said unto
serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of
the fruit of the
which [is] in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat
neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
the serpent said
woman, Ye shall not surely die:
God doth know that
in the day
ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as
knowing good and evil.
the LORD God said
woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said, The
beguiled me, and I did eat.
the LORD God said
serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all
above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust
thou eat all the days of thy life:
15 And I
will put enmity
thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise
head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The Farmer and the Snake
One winter a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had
on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly
by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor,
inflicting on him a mortal wound. "Oh," cried the Farmer with his
last breath, "I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel."
The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.
The Laborer and the Snake
A Snake, having made his hole close to the porch of a cottage,
mortal bite on the Cottager's infant son. Grieving over his loss, the
resolved to kill the Snake. The next day, when it came out of its hole
food, he took up his axe, but by swinging too hastily, missed its head
off only the end of its tail. After some time the Cottager, afraid that
Snake would bite him also, endeavored to make peace, and placed some
salt in the hole. The Snake, slightly hissing, said: "There can
be no peace between us; for whenever I see you I shall remember the
loss of my
tail, and whenever you see me you will be thinking of the death of your
The Wasp and the Snake
A Wasp seated himself upon the head of a Snake and, striking him
with his stings, wounded him to death. The Snake, being in great
not knowing how to rid himself of his enemy, saw a wagon heavily laden
wood, and went and purposely placed his head under the wheels, saying,
least my enemy and I shall perish together."
The Fowler and the Viper
A Fowler, taking his bird-lime and his twigs, went out to catch birds.
thrush sitting upon a tree, he wished to take it, and fitting his twigs
proper length, watched intently, having his whole thoughts directed
sky. While thus looking upwards, he unknowingly trod upon a Viper
before his feet. The Viper, turning about, stung him, and falling into
the man said to himself, "Woe is me! that while I purposed to hunt
another, I am myself fallen unawares into the snares of death."
the Elder [1st century CE]
(Natural History, Book 8, 35):
snakes have scales and others colored markings, but all have a deadly
Snakes usually travel in mated pairs, and if one of the pair is killed
other will go to great lengths to take revenge on the killer, finding
in crowds, traversing great distances and overcoming all obstacles,
stopped only by rivers. Snakes are more quickly excited by sound than
because they have poor eyesight and their eyes are on the side of the
Snakes fight to the death with their enemy the ichneumon. (Book 8,
snake can shed its excess winter skin through the use of fennel sap;
process starts at the head and takes 24 hours to complete, as the snake
the skin backward so that what was inside becomes the outside. When its
is dimmed by hibernation it restores its eyes by rubbing against a
To cure numbness in its skin, a snake will scratch itself on a juniper.
snakes cure their spring nausea with juice from the wild lettuce. (Book
A certain large serpent fights with eagles; it tries to
eagle's eggs, and in the fight wraps itself around the eagle's wings so
falls. (Book 10, 82): Snakes embrace when they mate, twining around
so closely that the appear to be one animal with two heads. (Book
Snakes are driven away by the smell of burnt stag's horn, and by
of styrax-tree gum.
Of monstrous great Serpents, and namely of those
there be serpents among the Indians grown to that bignesse, that they
to swallow stags or buls all whole. Metrodorus saith, That
river Rhyndacus in Pontus, there be Serpents that catch and devour the
of the aire, bee they never so good and flight of wings, and sore they
high. Well knowne it is, that Attilius Regulus, Generall under
Romanes, during the warres against the Carthaginians, assailed a
the river Bagrada, which caried in length 120 foot: and before he could
him, was driven to discharge upon him arrowes, quarrels, stones,
such like shot, out of brakes, slings, and other engines of artillerie,
he had given the assault to some strong towne of warre. And the proofe
was to be seene by the markes remaining in his skin and chaws, which,
the warre of Numantia remained in a temple or conspicuous place
And this is the more credible, for that wee see in Italie other
Boæ, so big and huge, that in the daies of the Emperour Claudius
was one of them killed in the Vaticane, within the bellie whereof there
found an infant all whole. This Serpent liveth at the first of kines
thereupon taketh the name of Boæ. As for other beasts, which
ordinarily of late
are brought from all parts into Italie, and oftentimes have there been
needlesse it is for mee to describe their formes in parrticular
Medieval Bestiary, entry
The snake does not move by stepping, but crawls with small
scales. All snakes are coiled and twisted, never straight. It is said
there are as many poisons, deaths and griefs as there are kinds of
When a snake grows old, it begins to lose its sight, which it can
eating fennel. To renew its youth, it fasts until its skin becomes
it crawls through a narrow crack and sheds its old skin. When a snake
goes to a
river to drink, it spits its venom into a hole and retrieves it later.
attack clothed men but flee from naked men. If a snake is attacked, it
protect its head. A snake that tastes the spit of a fasting man dies.
The snake is the enemy of the stag and the stork. The smoke
stag antlers is deadly to snakes.
Emily Dickinson (American poet, c. 1860)
A narrow fellow in the grass
You may have met him,--did you not,
His notice sudden is.
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,
Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,--
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.
Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.