My kingdom for a dead snake

Dawg Days are upon us. Go on…draw that syllable out just like the heat and humidity that threatens to stretch clear to Halloween. It’s too hot to talk fast. Too hot to think fast. Too hot to do much besides indolently stand in the yard dribbling precious cool water on flowers as parched as you are.

This annual late summer conflagration and the contemplation thereof is some serious and Sirius business dating all the way back to ancient Rome when is was believed that the appearance of the Dog Star was a precursor to the hottest, most sultry days of summer. Back then, a brown dog would be sacrificed to appease the god in hopes that his wrath would be assuaged and the crops would not wither and die in the fields.

Now, I’d be hard-pressed to kill a dog no matter how hot it gets, but a snake is another matter entirely. According to Leroy, who Granny employed to help her tend her enormous yard, gardens, and hothouse and who was a veritable font of valuable information regarding all manner of superstition, all it takes to break the dark spell of Dawg Days is a snake. A dead one. Hung carefully over a tree branch.

Now, I am unclear as to whether species of snake matters, and there seems to be a debate about whether the snake should be hung belly up or belly down, in a tree or on a fence. But about one thing I am completely certain – this is some powerful mojo and it works. Fast. Without fail.

In fact, Leroy made it his common practice during the summer months to kill every snake he ran across and hang their carcasses up in the trees. Consequently, we always had plenty of rain, but not too much, Granny’s flower beds thrived to her delight, and two little tow-headed kids thought he was a mystical rainmaker capable of performing miracles.

I warn you in advance, if you go hanging dead snakes in the far reaches of your yard – in the far reaches because you don’t want company to come and there be a big, dead rattler right by the driveway scaring your guests, not because it works better if there is a distance – anyway, if you go hanging up some dead snakes, forget where you put them, and go strolling about, you might be in for a nasty surprise. But, should you decide you wish to pursue this line of defense against the most torrid, sweltering days of the year, you will be rewarded for your efforts.

Leroy and I guarantee it.

6 thoughts on “My kingdom for a dead snake

  1. The origins of this tradition is apart of the Tuscarora natives of North Carolina. Legend has it giant lizards beast roamed the area killing off warriors. And the thunder beings sent their own warriors to destroy the giant lizards. Thus whenever there is a need for rain the Tuscarora would kill a snake and throw it in a tree in an attempt to appease the thunder beings, if they accept it, they will bring rain. Belly up is preferred as to make them more visible.

  2. I remember being little and growing up in GA and having a bad drought one year that was completely killing the vegetable garden no matter how much we watered it, it just wasn’t enough. Normally my dad would let a black snake go on about it’s business considering they are good to have around, but this one particular day he killed one (it was really close to the house, my mother hates snakes and she demanded that it die since it didn’t want to leave). Anyways, he hung it from as high up in an old oak tree as he could. We had rain the next day. I thought it was the neatest thing that my daddy made it rain lol.

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