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Snake handling at Pentecostal Church of God, Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky September 15, 1946 (National Archives and Records Administration). Photo by Russell Lee.

Snake handling, also called serpent handling, is a religious ritual in a small number of Pentecostal churches in the U.S., usually characterized as rural and part of the Holiness movement. The practice began in the early 20th century in Appalachia, and plays only a small part in the church service. Practitioners believe serpent handling dates to antiquity and quote the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke to support the practice:

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

Another passage from the New Testament used to support snake handlers' belief is Acts 28:1-6, which relates that Paul was bitten by a venomous viper and suffered no harm:

And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

History[edit]

Many writers have attempted to designate one person, normally George Went Hensley (1880–1955), as both the progenitor and popularizer of Appalachian religious snake handling.[1][2] His role in initiating the practice has been disputed by academic studies. Kimbrough notes that claims that Hensley was the originator of snake handling are usually unsubstantiated by research, and the origins of the observance are unclear.[2] Hood and Williamson similarly argue that the beginnings of Pentecostal snake handling rites cannot be ascribed to a single person,[1] and that the observance arose independently on multiple occasions.[3]

There is no doubt among historians, however, that Hensley helped spread Pentecostal snake handling throughout the Southeast,[3] and that coverage of Hensley's ministry was influential in prompting various churches to include the practice in their services.[4] The media has focused on popular leaders, such as Hensley, and the deaths of ministers by snakebite have received particular attention.[5]

George Went Hensley[edit]

Main article: George Went Hensley

George Went Hensley (1880–1955) is often credited with introducing snake handling practices into the Church of God Holiness, an association of autonomous Christian Methodist congregations, founding the Dolly Pond Church of God in Birchwood, Tenn. around 1910.[6][7] He later traveled the Southeast promoting the practice, eventually resigning his ministry to start the first holiness movement church to require snake handling as evidence of salvation.[8][9] If believers truly had the Holy Spirit within them, Hensley argued, they should be able to handle rattlesnakes and any number of other venomous serpents. They should also be able to drink poison and suffer no harm whatsoever. Snake handling as a test or demonstration of faith became popular wherever Hensley traveled and preached in the small towns of Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. Sister-churches later sprang up throughout the Appalachian region.[10] In July 1955, Hensley died following a snakebite received during a service he was conducting in Altha, Florida.[11]

Hensley's life was unusual for a clergyman. He had four wives (the first three marriages ended in divorce) and was frequently drunk. Practitioners of snake handling continue to view him as a great man. Kimbrough recorded a discussion with an advocate of snake handling who dismissed Hensley's personal failings as slanderous fabrications.[12] His advocacy, leadership, and – in particular – his personal charisma were important factors in the advancement of the movement.[13]

Prevalence[edit]

Most religious snake handlers are still found in the Appalachian Mountains and other parts of the southeastern United States, especially in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and South Carolina. In 2001, about 40 small churches practiced snake handling, most of them considered to be holiness-Pentecostals or charismatics. In 2004, there were four snake handling congregations in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, Canada.[14]

Ralph Hood, professor of social psychology and the psychology of religion at the University of Tennessee, who has studied the snake handling movement, indicated in 2003 that the practice is "currently at a fairly low ebb of popularity" [15] A 2013 article by National Public Radio gave a figure of "about 125" churches where snakes are handled, but also indicated that "snake handlers are notoriously private".[16]

Beliefs and practices[edit]

As in the early days, worshipers are still encouraged to lay hands on the sick, speak in tongues, provide testimony of miracles, and occasionally consume poisons such as strychnine.[17] Snake handlers do not worship snakes, instead using the snakes to show non-Christians that God protects them from harm. In church services, when they feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit come upon them, these Christians reach into boxes, pick up venomous snakes and hold them up as they pray, sing, and dance. Gathering mainly in homes and converted buildings, snake handlers generally adhere to strict dress codes such as uncut hair, ankle-length dresses, and no cosmetics for women; and short hair and long-sleeved shirts for men. Most preach against any use of tobacco or alcohol.

Like their predecessors, today's snake handlers believe in a strict and literal interpretation of the Bible, and most Church of God with Signs Following churches are non-denominational, believing that denominations are human-made and carry the Mark of the Beast. Worshipers attend services several nights a week, where if the Holy Spirit "intervenes", services can last up to five hours; the minimum is usually ninety minutes. Those who die from snakebites are never criticized for lack of adequate faith; it is believed that it was simply the deceased’s time to die.[18]

Condition of the snakes[edit]

Kristen Wiley, curator of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo said that the risk of fatal bites is significantly reduced by the familiarity of the snakes with humans, and by the poor health of snakes that are insufficiently fed and watered and kept in crowded areas.[19] Snakes that are maltreated are less likely to strike and the deteriorated condition of the snake produces weaker venom, suggesting that deaths related to snake-handling are more likely to occur when someone is bitten while handling a newly captive snake, still in relatively good health, and then refuses medical treatment. Snakes living in the captivity of snake handlers live an average of three to four months, compared to a well-cared for snake in captivity which can live 10 – 20 years.

Legal issues[edit]

All Appalachian states except West Virginia outlawed the snake-handling ritual when it first emerged. The states of Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee have passed laws against the use of venomous snakes and/or other reptiles that endangers the lives of others, or without a permit. The Kentucky law specifically mentions religious services; in Kentucky snake handling is a misdemeanor and punishable by a $50 to $100 fine.[20] Most snake handling, therefore, takes place in the homes of worshipers,[citation needed] which circumvents the process of attempting to obtain a government permit for the practice. Law enforcement usually ignores it unless and until they are specifically called in,[citation needed] which does not usually happen unless a death has resulted.

Snake handling is legal in the state of West Virginia, as the current state constitution does not allow any law to impede upon nor promote a religious practice.[21] Snake handling was made a felony punishable by death under Georgia law in 1941, following the death of a seven-year-old of a rattlesnake bite. However, the punishment was so severe that juries would refuse to convict, and the law was repealed in 1968.[22] The American Civil Liberties Union has defended the religious freedom of snake handlers against various attempts to have the practice banned.[23]

In 1992, Glen Summerford, a serpent-handling preacher, was convicted of attempted murder of his wife with a rattlesnake.[24][25]

In July 2008, ten people were arrested and 125 venomous snakes were confiscated as part of an undercover sting operation titled "Twice Shy." Pastor Gregory James Coots of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus' Name (FGTJN) was arrested and 74 snakes seized from his home as part of the sting.[26]

Jamie Coots (son of Gregory Coots) was cited in 2013 for illegal possession and transportation of venomous snakes when three rattlesnakes and two copperheads were discovered in his vehicle during a vehicle check in Knoxville, Tennessee.[27] Later in 2013, Coots published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, making an argument for US Constitutional protection regarding religious freedom, especially freedom to practice the unique variety of religion found in snake-handling churches.[28] Coots died on 15 February 2014 from a snakebite.[29]

Andrew Hamblin, who appeared alongside Jamie Coots in Snake Salvation, was cited for having dangerous wildlife in 2014, but a grand jury declined to indict him.[30]

Risks[edit]

The handling of venomous snakes has significant risks. Ralph Hood observes, "If you go to any serpent-handling church, you'll see people with atrophied hands, and missing fingers. All the serpent-handling families have suffered such things".[15] Jamie Coots, a pastor who subsequently died from a snakebite, said, "Handlers get bitten all the time, and every few years someone dies".[19]

Various figures for the total number of deaths from snakebite during religious services have been proposed:

  • "over 100 documented deaths" (2003) by Ralph Hood[15]
  • "around 120" (2005) by Robert Winston.[7]
  • "about 100 deaths" (2013) by Julia Duin, a journalist who has covered snake handling churches and is writing a book on the subject.[31]
  • "91 documented snake bite deaths" (2015) by Paul Williamson, professor of psychology at Henderson State University and co-author of books with Ralph Hood.[32]

Another source indicates that 35 people died between 1936 and 1973.[33]

A number of non-fatal bites have been reported:

  • In September 1992, Roy Vestal was bitten by a timber rattlesnake during a service at the Hi-Way Holiness Church of God, Fort Wayne, Indiana.[34]
  • In 1996, Spencer Evans was bitten by a timber rattlesnake during a service in a tent at Ephesus, Georgia.[35]
  • In May 2014, Cody Coots, whose father Jamie died from a snakebite three months earlier, was bitten by a rattlesnake.[36][37][38]

Hood also notes that the practice does not present a danger to observers. There is no documented case of a non-handling member being bitten by a serpent handled by another believer.[39] Those who handle are consenting adults and as few as ten to fifteen percent of congregants handle the snakes in services. Children do not participate, and those not handling the serpents sit apart from the ritual as it proceeds.

Media coverage[edit]

A number of films and television programs have been made about religious snake handling.

Snake-handling churches[edit]

Alabama

  • Old Rock House Holiness Church in Section (sometimes "Old" is omitted and/or Rock House written as a single word)[24][42][43]

Georgia

Indiana

Kentucky

North Carolina

South Carolina

Tennessee

West Virginia

Deaths[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Non-fiction

  • In his 2005 book "Between Heaven and Earth" Robert Orsi uses snake handling churches as a way to talk about the study of religion, basing his argument on Dennis Covington's 1995 book "Salvation on Sand Mountain." [83]

Fiction

  • Robert Schenkkan's play The Handler deals with the apparent death of a first-time snake handler and the involvement of law enforcement; in this case, the sheriff also being a snake handler.
  • Ray Stevens's "Smoky Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat" comically portrays a couple going to a Bible camp where snakes are passed around. It ends with the singer's wife stomping the rattlesnakes to death. It appears on his Surely You Joust album.
  • Bob Jenkins's "The Snake Song" from his album Flying Sheep is also about a snake-handling church.
  • The second season of Saturday Night Live included a sitcom parody called The Snake-Handling O'Sheas.[84]
  • Religious snake handling was featured in The X-Files episode "Signs and Wonders".
  • In the 2012 movie The Campaign, Congressman Cam Brady (played by Will Ferrell) attempts to boost his campaign popularity by joining a church of snake handlers in their sermon, where he is bitten.
  • In 2013 during the fourth season of FX's Justified, actor Joseph Mazzello played Preacher Billy, a fearless snake handler, who hosted evangelical tent revivals in Harlan County, Kentucky.[85]
  • Moe Szyslak in The Simpsons claims to be a snake handler in the episode "Homer the Heretic."
  • Gospel singer Wendy Bagwell's song "Here Come the Rattlesnakes" describes his Gospel band, Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters, performing in a small, remote Kentucky church that practiced rattlesnake handling.[86][87]
  • Don Barnett’s 2010 novel They Shall Take Up Serpents, based on his Christian H. Moe Award-winning play To Handle the Serpent, is about a young preacher in 1955 who goes on trial in Harlan County, Kentucky, because someone dies of a snakebite in one of his services.[88]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hood and Williamson 2008, p. 37.
  2. ^ a b Kimbrough 2002, p. 191.
  3. ^ a b Hood and Williamson 2008, p. 38.
  4. ^ Hood and Williamson 2008, p. 41.
  5. ^ Hood and Williamson 2008, p. 39.
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of American Religions gives the year as 1909; the Encyclopedia of Religion in the South gives it as 1913.
  7. ^ a b c http://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/oct/13/religion.scienceandnature
  8. ^ Anderson, Robert Mapes (1979). Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism. New York, New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 263. 
  9. ^ Hood, Jr., Ralph W.; Williamson, W. Paul (2008). Them That Believe: The Power and the Meaning of the Christian Serpent-Handling Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. pp. xiv, 37, 38. ISBN 978-0-520-25587-6. 
  10. ^ David L. Kimbrough (February 2002). Taking up serpents: snake handlers of eastern Kentucky. Mercer University Press. pp. xiv, 37–51. ISBN 978-0-86554-798-8. 
  11. ^ See George Went Hensley#Death
  12. ^ Kimbrough 2002, p. 6.
  13. ^ Hill, Hood and Williamson 2005, p. 118.
  14. ^ https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=s4AP30k4IFwC&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=snake+handling+church+canada&source=bl&ots=-h-5WVAD3s&sig=3VJPjD2Je8DBruleAS5M3KZM8oo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjox4vo7arMAhWJC5oKHYuTAUk4ChDoAQhUMAw#v=onepage&q=snake%20handling%20church%20canada&f=false
  15. ^ a b c Handwerk, Brian (April 7, 2003). "Snake Handlers Hang On in Appalachian Churches". National Geographic News. 
  16. ^ http://www.npr.org/2013/10/04/226838383/snake-handling-preachers-open-up-about-takin-up-serpents
  17. ^ Dennis Covington, Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia (Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley, 1995).
  18. ^ Duin, Julia. "In WVA, Snake Handling is still considered a sign of faith". WashingtonPost.com. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  19. ^ a b John Burnett (2013-10-18). "Serpent Experts Try To Demystify Pentecostal Snake Handling". National Public Radio. 
  20. ^ http://www.lrc.ky.gov/Statutes/statute.aspx?id=19053
  21. ^ Bastress, Robert (1995). The West Virginia Constitution: A Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 102–103. ISBN 0313274096. 
  22. ^ Ruthven, Malise (1989). The Divine Supermarket. London: Chatto & Windus. p. 291. ISBN 0-7011-3151-9. 
  23. ^ Burton, Thomas (1993). Serpent-Handling Believers. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press. 
  24. ^ a b http://www.hiddenmysteries.org/religion/pentecostal/snakeskill-fool.shtml
  25. ^ "history of snake handling". Tennesseean.com. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 
  26. ^ a b Alford, Roger (2008-07-12). "Pastor among suspects in illegal snake bust". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  27. ^ a b "Kentucky Pastor Wants Snakes Confiscated in Knoxville Bust". Knoxville News Sentinel. 2013-02-13. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  28. ^ http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303796404579101831593270054
  29. ^ "Pastor Dies After Snake He Was Handling Bit Him," WBIR.com, 16 February 2014.
  30. ^ a b http://wate.com/2014/01/08/grand-jury-declines-to-indict-campbell-county-preacher-in-snake-handling-case/
  31. ^ "'Snake Salvation': Inside the World of Christian Serpent Handlers". The Wall Street Journal. 10 September 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  32. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/news/despite-pastors-death-followers-are-still-handling-snakes/
  33. ^ a b c http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/RA/k/831/Should-Christians-Handle-Snakes.htm
  34. ^ a b http://www.nytimes.com/1992/09/11/us/jolo-journal-when-the-faithful-tempt-the-serpent.html
  35. ^ a b Shelton, Steve (June 28, 1996). "Taking up serpents". Augusta Chronicle. 
  36. ^ http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2014/05/27/son-late-ky-snake-handler-jamie-coots-recovering-bite/9647005/
  37. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2641095/Son-late-Ky-snake-handler-recovering-bite.html
  38. ^ http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/05/28/316676540/son-of-late-snake-handling-pastor-is-bitten-by-rattlesnake
  39. ^ Hood, Ralph W. "Them that Believe: The Power and Meaning of the Serpent-Handling Tradition". religiousstudiesproject.com. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  40. ^ http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/snake-salvation/
  41. ^ http://www.kentucky.com/2014/02/16/3092068/jamie-coots-well-known-snake-handling.html
  42. ^ http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/m-6196
  43. ^ Mike Ford, "Should Christians Handle Snakes?." Forerunner, August 2003. Retrieved: 31 January 2008.
  44. ^ a b "Woman fatally bitten by snake in church". USA Today. Associated Press. 2006-11-08. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  45. ^ a b "Kentucky man dies after snake bite during church service". 
  46. ^ a b "Custody of 'snake-bite orphans' split between grandparents". CNN. 1999-02-12. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  47. ^ Pastor Jimmy Morrow (2005). Handling Serpents. Mercer University Press. p. 8. ISBN 0-86554-848-X. 
  48. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2153933/Revealed-The-secretive-deadly-church-services-Appalachias-serpent-handlers-lift-rattlesnakes-heads-drink-poison-God.html
  49. ^ http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303816504577309570173259662
  50. ^ Smietana, Bob (2012-06-03). "Snake-Handling Believers Find Joy in Test of Faith". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2012-06-03. 
  51. ^ a b https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/in-wva-snake-handling-is-still-considered-a-sign-of-faith/2011/10/18/gIQAmiqL9M_story.html
  52. ^ Dorgan, Howard. "Serpent Handling at Jolo, West Virginia and the Legitimacy of the Marcan Appendix". Appalachian State University. Archived from the original on 2006-09-08. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  53. ^ http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/01/death-of-snake-handling-preacher-shines-light-on-lethal-appalachian-tradition/
  54. ^ "history of snake handling". tennesseean.com. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 
  55. ^ Times–News staff (July 27, 1955). "Faith Remains Despite Fatal Bite of Chief". Times–News (Hendersonville, North Carolina). p. 3. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  56. ^ Brown, Joi. "Snake Handling in the Pentecostal Church: The Precedent Set by George Hensley". Virginia Tech. Archived from the original on 2005-07-18. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  57. ^ http://lubbockonline.com/stories/120698/LA0504.shtml
  58. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=85693400
  59. ^ a b c http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/kentucky/article44612514.html
  60. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1346&dat=19820825&id=37QwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=VfsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7034,2791294&hl=en
  61. ^ http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1982/08/25/page/26/article/minister-fatally-bitten-by-snake
  62. ^ a b "Web Extra: 1983 Daily Telegraph story detailing the death of Wolford's father, also from a snake bite". Bluefield Daily Telegraph. August 30, 1983. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  63. ^ Mathews, Garret (April 3, 1983). "'Praise-the-Lord-and-pass-the-snake' service is a trip, if you can handle it". The Chicago Tribune. p. J3. Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  64. ^ a b https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1899&dat=19830830&id=gY1GAAAAIBAJ&sjid=m_IMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4633,4143660&hl=en
  65. ^ "Snake Bite Proves Fatal". Daily Sitka Sentinel (Sitka, Alaska). 31 Aug 1983. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com. 
  66. ^ a b Duin, Julia (2012-05-30). "Serpent-handling pastor profiled earlier in Washington Post dies from rattlesnake bite". Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  67. ^ http://www.kentucky.com/news/hot-topics/article44490747.html
  68. ^ a b http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-26224452
  69. ^ https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/27-sincere-but-wrong-dead-wrong
  70. ^ http://www.sullivan-county.com/nf0/ep/snake_bite.htm
  71. ^ http://www.religionnewsblog.com/6852/for-snake-handlers-going-to-church-can-prove-deadly
  72. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1755&dat=20040415&id=0UIgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=r4QEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4663,6449700&hl=en
  73. ^ http://www.onpointnews.com/NEWS/nurse-sued-for-dissing-faith-of-bitten-snake-handler.html
  74. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/news/woman-dies-after-snakebite-in-church/
  75. ^ http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15616009/ns/us_news-life/t/woman-fatally-bitten-snake-church/#.Vx02Z8LSlpg
  76. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/why-i-watched-a-snake-handling-pastor-die-for-his-faith/2012/05/31/gJQA3fRP5U_story.html
  77. ^ http://www.kentucky.com/living/religion/article44471886.html
  78. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2560727/Kentucky-Pastor-famous-practicing-rare-Christian-snake-handling-tradition-KILLED-bitten-rattlesnake-refusing-treatment-Gods-plan.html
  79. ^ A google search reveals numerous reports.
  80. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3177631/Sheriffs-office-Man-dies-snake-bite-church-service.html
  81. ^ http://www.wkyt.com/home/headlines/Man-dies-in-Bell-County-after-he-was-bitten-by-snake-during-church-service-318868451.html
  82. ^ http://www.rawstory.com/2015/07/snake-handling-kentucky-christian-refuses-treatment-after-rattlesnake-bite-dies/
  83. ^ http://books.google.com/books/about/Between_Heaven_and_Earth.html?id=mzRypTpuHZAC
  84. ^ SNL Transcripts: September 25, 1976
  85. ^ http://tv.yahoo.com/news/the-new-preacher-man-on--justified--is-the-little-boy-from--jurassic-park--181246495.html
  86. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Laugh-Half-Wendy-Bagwell-Sunliters/dp/B00000315W/ref=ntt_mus_dp_dpt_1
  87. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_mgrSv79BI
  88. ^ https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-61663-966-2

Further reading[edit]

Books

  • Bultmann, Rudolf (1963). The History of the Synoptic Tradition. Oxford, England: Blackwell. 
  • Burton, Thomas G. (1993). Serpent-handling Believers. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 978-0-87049-788-9. 
  • Hill, Peter C.; Hood, Ralph W.; Williamson, William Paul (2005). The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism. New York, New York: Guilford Press. ISBN 978-1-59385-150-7. 
  • Hood, Ralph W.; Williamson, William Paul (2008). Them That Believe: The Power and Meaning of the Christian Serpent-handling Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25587-6. 
  • Kimbrough, David L. (2002). Taking Up Serpents: Snake Handlers of Eastern Kentucky. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. ISBN 978-0-86554-798-8. 
  • Leonard, Bill J. (1999). "The Bible and Serpent Handling". In Williams, Peter W. Perspectives on American Religion and Culture. Malden, Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-57718-118-7. 
  • Dennis Covington: Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Salvation in Southern Appalachia: New York: Penguin: 1996.
  • Fred Brown and Jeanne MacDonald: The Serpent Handlers: Three Families and Their Faith: Winston-Salem: J.F.Blair: 2000.
  • Weston La Barre: They shall take up serpents: The psychology of the Southern Snake Handling Cult: University of Minnesota Press: 1962.
  • Jim Morrow and Ralph Hood: Handling Serpents: Pastor Jimmy Morrow's Narrative History of his Appalachian Jesus' Name Tradition: Macon: Mercer University Press: 2005.

Articles

  • Hood, Ralph W.; Williamson, William Paul (December 2004). "Differential Maintenance and Growth of Religious Organizations Based upon High-Cost Behaviors: Serpent Handling within the Church of God". Review of Religious Research 46 (2): 150–68. doi:10.2307/3512230. 
  • Stephen Kane: "Ritual Possession in a Southern Appalachian Religious Sect" The Journal of American Folklore: 27:348 (October–December 1974): 293-302.
  • Paul Williamson and Ralph Hood Jr: "Differential Maintenance and Growth of Religious Organisations Based on High-Cost Behaviours: Serpent Handling with the Church of God" Review of Religious Research: 46:2 (December 2004): 150-168.
  • Paul W. Williamson and Howard R. Pollo: "The Phenomenology of Religious Serpent Handling: A Rationale and Thematic Study of Extemporaneous Sermons" Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion: 38:2 (June 1999): 203-218.

External links[edit]


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2876 news items

ABC Online

ABC Online
Sat, 16 Apr 2016 16:24:35 -0700

Mr Hitchin said snake handling was becoming more popular, with many people in rural areas wanting to move them on instead of killing them. "I have a lot of people approaching me that are people who don't have a reptile background," he said. "People ...

Clean Malaysia

The Guardian
Mon, 11 Apr 2016 22:21:30 -0700

Raymond Hoser, who runs snake handling courses and gave reticulated pythons their scientific name, Broghammerus Reticulatus, said that snakes do not kill themselves and the python likely died due to internal injuries. “Snakes don't just drop dead.

CNN

CNN
Thu, 28 Apr 2016 10:50:20 -0700

... Weaver said: "I'm in the trust-but-verify business." Thursday night, he said in another tweet, "Good I grew up in far West Texas... Snake handling skills coming in handy!!!" CNN's Betsy Klein, Gregory Krieg, MJ Lee and Cassie Spodak contributed to ...

Berea Online

Berea Online
Sun, 03 Apr 2016 20:56:15 -0700

At least once when we passed the area years ago there was a gathering of folks on the roadside near where the states intersect. Some were there to handle poisonous snakes. Others were there to watch. Anti-snake handling laws had been enacted by that ...
 
Columbia Missourian
Mon, 25 Apr 2016 04:03:45 -0700

Now comes the snake handling. I gathered up my Snake Recovery Kit consisting of scissors and some heavy gloves and trudged off to release the snake. I grabbed all of the loose, wiggling snake (it was a least two and a half feet long) that I could with ...

Columbus Dispatch

Columbus Dispatch
Fri, 29 Apr 2016 05:03:25 -0700

Snake handling skills coming in handy!!!” Thoughts on the failed pact: “Whatever high ground Trump's opponents may have commanded was pretty much squandered when Cruz and Kasich announced that they were, in fact, going to game the system in an ...

Savannah Morning News

Savannah Morning News
Sun, 27 Mar 2016 06:19:59 -0700

Snake handling is a religious ritual that developed in some Pentecostal churches throughout the South in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, the practice involved poisonous snakes, particularly rattlesnakes. Frequently, snake handlers were bitten ...

Guardian Liberty Voice

Guardian Liberty Voice
Wed, 17 Feb 2016 19:22:30 -0800

In a twist of fate as predictable as a Love Boat plot, Jamie Coots, a preacher in Kentucky who gained fame for handling snakes while leading services at his church, died on Saturday after a rattlesnake he was handling bit him on the right hand.
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