Header: Western Whip Snake – Hierophis viridiflavus. Picture by Gert Jan Verspui. (This is the type of snake I encountered).
It had been a stressful morning. I had many things hanging over me, so the morning was filled with emails and tasks that needed to be done before noon. For almost 30 days at that point, I had re-started my morning meditation routine. But this day I skipt it in the morning because of the feeling of having much to do. (I know classic mistake, you always have 10 minutes to spare for meditation). Anyhow, I manage to do everything before noon. It was a lovely day, the sun was shining, with soft breeze and birds singing. My boyfriend and I ate our breakfast outside, at the same place we always do. The place being in our paradise-like garden. We used to bring the sofa cushions on the ground for breakfast, so we could enjoy some Vitamin D when the sun is at the highest point in the sky. This day was no exception. I felt some ease from the sun and fresh air, but the restlessness didn’t quite let go.
After breakfast we went to the local fish market. In our small Italian village they still operate with siesta, so the local fish market close at 1pm and does not open again before the afternoon. When we got back from the fish market, my boyfriend was getting ready for his work meeting in the other room. I sat down by the computer and tried to sort out what task I should start with, since I had just finished some critical tasks in the morning. My restlessness was still bothering me, so I decided the first thing I would do was my meditation routine. As I pointed out, this is something I use to do in the morning before anything else. So, faced with a mid-day meditation, on a lovely day, I decided to take the session in our garden. The sofa cushions were still lying on the ground where we had breakfast, and the sun was still giving the place warmth. That’s where I decided to do my meditation.
If you haven’t done meditation on an app before, this is the things you need to know. The sessions, or at least on the app I’m using, are around 10 minutes and the teacher are talking you through the whole session. Having an unease in my body from I woke up, I found the session this day quite hard. It was difficult to focus and concentrate. I opened my eyes a couple of times because I heard some rattling around my feet (which was our garden lizards), and even though this is absolutely normal with meditation in the beginning – something was off this day. I usually manage to find at least some alleviation in doing meditate work, even though on the days I feel restless.
At the very end of each meditation session, you are told that you are entering the last minute of the session. In the finally minute, I remember the teacher saying something about meditation giving you fulfillment and pleasure, even in moments when you are having a hard time. This was the first time during the session that I felt I was actually fully present. I opened my eyes, thinking that the session was finished, but when I looked down on my phone it was 21 seconds left. (This had never happened before in the last month that I’d practice meditation, I always listen out the session). I heard the teacher still talking, like I had somehow blocked out the voice after my feeling of fully presence. When I looked at my phone and saw the timer showing 21 seconds left, I felt something. A sense of something on my right side. I turned my head slightly to the right, and there it was. A black snake looking straight into my eyes, around 30 cm from me.
This black glistening snake was maybe 12-13 cm in diameter, with the head and upper body pointing towards me. The body was all coiled up behind the the large pot to my right. It took me a second to actually get that this was not an imaginary vision. These seconds involved starring straight into the snake’s eyes. I didn’t scream. But when I finally came to my senses, I jumped up using only my left hand as support. When I got on my feet, it felt like fear was pouring through me like a cascading river. It wasn’t before I jumped up, that the snake started to react. The head slithered over the coiled up body, heading back the same way it came. Behind the large pot and back against the back of the sofa. I felt every hair on my body erect, but I tried to take action and film the snake. But my hands were too shaky. I tried to move towards the sofa, from the other side of the large pot, to get a glimpse of the expanse of the snake. But it was like the fear that’s inhabited my body was holding me back. I didn’t manage to open the camera on my phone, but I got to see the full size of the snake. About 2 meter of a slithering, glistening black snake, clearly thicker in the abdomen area, and thinner at the head and tail. The snake increased the slithering considerably when I got around the large pot, and quickly disappeared into the bushes on the other side of the garden.
The shock after the snake had vanished was probably what scared me the most. This is no coincidence was my first thought.
You can find many sites trying to interpret the meaning and symbolism of snake encounters and snake image in dreams. Even though you say you don’t believe in such things (whatever that means), you act out the belief in it. What is up with the fact that everybody universally agrees that snakes give you a terrifying sense of awe? Nobody can rationally understand how someone invites a snake into the comfort of their own home, and tries to befriend it. You find many people who are more afraid than other, like people who say that: “I would faint or worst, die, if I ever encountered a snake”. But still, everybody, even people who are not afraid of predatory reptiles, are struck by a terrifying sense of awe whenever a snake decides to slither upon you.
I found myself in the category of not being hysterically afraid of predatory reptiles, (and I have encountered a few by now), but of course, I prefer them on a comfortable distance. And I would never invite them in voluntarily. The notion of my own fear was confirmed by my reaction in the moment of this encounter. I didn’t scream, I kept calm until I was at a distance where I had some control over the situation. (And for the record, I do scream in the face of terrible things). If you think the fact that I wasn’t hysterical, calms me down, you are wrong. I interpret the fear pouring through me like a cascading river (which by the way occupied my mind and body for the rest of the day), as a sign. And that is deeply disturbing to contemplate. I alluded to what I think above, saying that my first thought was that this was no coincidence.
I am fond of Carl Jung and his works, and I was reading one of his major works at the time of this snake encounter. In this book, he talks about snake symbolism in dreams:
This is exactly what my snake encounter felt like. It came as a surprise, slithering towards me, with a cold, glance stare (which I will never forget). The feeling can absolutely be described as extrahuman, as the feeling of awe often is. It shook me to the bone, and left me speechless. When I went inside and wrote down the encounter, about 15 minutes after it had happened, I constantly kept seeing the snake in my head. The walloping wave of fear and the intense goosebumps didn’t go away before many hours later.
Jung goes on further to say that:
In my case, a black snake slithered toward me, in a paradise-like garden, when I was trying to meditate. A paradise garden implies a safe, wonderful place were nothing bad can happen. Meditation suggests a higher form of attentiveness, trying to let go of the need for control of thoughts and things. A black snake slithering towards you proposes the importance of being awake to dangers lurking were ever, when ever.
These three factors coming together at that moment, is not a coincidence in my estimation. I felt a kind of unease throughout the day, and had postponed my daily meditation, which can all imply that I wasn’t fully awake. And maybe unconsciously I didn’t feel the need to be, since I found myself in a place where l felt completely safe (paradise garden), and were trying to be attentive (meditation). They say the devil is in the details. So, maybe this encounter was trying to remind me of being properly awake – also in situations were I feel safe. If not, you can become naive and ignorant, and then you are not properly prepare when the danger strikes.
Is that the symbolic meaning of my snake encounter? Who knows? You can easily dismiss the symbolic meaning of these kinds of experiences. But still, it lurks just beneath the surface, and threatens to pull you down at any moment. Otherwise the terrifying awe of snakes wouldn’t be universal. In my estimation, it is better to leave the door open for a symbolic meaning. You want to extract out the wisdom, not just the frightening element of an experience. Cause we all know, danger will strike again.