Some sundry snake superstitions of the Ozarks

I never much cared for snakes. I know some are good to have around, such as black snakes and king snakes, which help keep the rodent population down.

King snakes also supposedly kill venomous snakes. Still, I’m just not a fan of any kind of snake. I once had a green snake drop out of a walnut tree, right at my feet.

Startled the bejezus out of me. The slithery creature was harmless, of course. Still made me jump back with a shout, though. 

Folklorist Vance Randolph had some things to share about snakes. These were superstitions and beliefs he had picked up from Ozarkers in the first few decades of the 20th century. Fortunately, he jotted it all down.

Take, for instance, that green tree snake I mentioned. According to Randolph, a lot of folks in the Ozarks used to believe the green tree snake was actually a “doctor” of sorts in the snake world. Oh yeah.

He supposedly heals other snakes when they are sick or injured. This notion came around when the green tree snake was seemingly often found in the same vicinity as wounded snakes.

As to the aforementioned king snake, they are immune to venom. The Ozarker of yesteryear said that is because when they are doing battle with a copperhead or rattlesnake, they nibble on a plant called snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), which is in the daisy family. The leaves were thought to be an antidote to poisonous venom.

Randolph knew people who believed in “milk snakes.” These are serpents who feed by attaching themselves to a cow’s udder and sucking the milk. The same folks may have also believed in the mythical “hoop snake,” which tucks its tail into its mouth and rolls in a hoop toward its victim.

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