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World Snake Day

"🎶 He's a cold-hearted snake
Look into his eyes
Oh, oh he's been telling lies ..."

~ Cold-Hearted, Elliot Wolff, 1989


Apologies to those with Ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes. An important part of the ecosystem, World Snake Day celebrates the over 3500 species of snakes in the world, including the colouful Coral Snake whose bright hues are represented in this tartan designed to reference just one of the dangers faced by generations of Blackburns, living in and migrating through green wilderness of the New World. Some researchers believe phobias related to reptiles (and snakes specifically) may be evolutionary, developed by our ancestors as a survival mechanism. Other research suggests that while the tendency to pay close attention to snakes may be evolutionary, the actual fear is learned rather than innate. Regardless, the slithery kind have taken a bad rap in the literary world beginning with the unnamed but persuasive serpent in the Bible and continuing with other infamous snakes such as Kaa in Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" and Nag and Nagaina from his other story "Rikki Tikki Tavi". The question is, what wag chose the same calendar day to revere the snake AND the guinea pig? Tsk. Tsk. Still, these forked-tongued charmers deserve their due. Slither and hiss! 🐍

For those who appreciate the sinuous and slithery, today is World Snake Day!

 

Jean-Louis Blackburn designed this tartan for his extended Blackburn relatives spread throughout the Appalachian region of the United States. The colours black, yellow and scarlet represent the coral snake, one of the dangers faced by generations of Blackburns, living in and migrating through green wilderness in the New World.

 

The snake motif also alludes to the "Don't tread on me," motto, taken from the historical Gadsden flag, designed in 1775 during the American Revolution, showing a coiled snake, ready to strike, and refers to the overcoming of dangers faced in both nature and war.


Children (and adults) are often taught one of several versions of a snake poem to determine if a snake is venomous or not. “Yellow touching red: You’re dead”, “Red against yellow can kill a fellow”, or “Red touching black: Safe for Jack” are the most common versions of the chant, though others exist. While this is often a reliable way to determine if a snake is venomous or not, it is not a fail-safe. 

A good example of where this rhyme fails is with the coral snake versus the shovel-nose snake. Both snakes have yellow bands that touch red bands. Only a bite from the coral snake will be life-threatening. Though this mix up is harmless—the shovel-nose snake is seen as poisonous when it is really not—it still shows the old adages can be incorrect. This rhyme becomes deadly when the eastern coral snake, which holds true to the rhyme, is compared to the South American coral snake, which has black bands touching red bands.   Best to learn only regional rhymes.


If you are a serpent enthusiast, you may enjoy these special snake portraits by Joel Sartore from the National Geographic website which are actually quite stunning.