The rattler has a reputation for bravery because it warns its victim before it strikes. The famous Revolutionary War flag depicting the rattlesnake and the slogan "Don't Tread On Me" probably expresses the sort of bravado that led 19th century men to use rattlesnake rattles (or gold facsimiles of them) as lucky watch fobs. It may also be as an emblem of bravery -- or as a remnant of African snake-worship -- that rattlesnake rattles are placed in hoodoo style conjure bags designed to produce gambling luck, especially by poker players, for whom a bluff or show of strength is part of the game.
My favourite use for rattlesnake rattles is the Appalachian fiddle-players' custom of placing them in one's instrument before entering a fiddle contest. Even folks who do not believe the rattles will help them win a contest may add a rattle to their fiddle to make it "sound better." In the South, rattlesnake rattles are sometimes placed in guitars for the same reason.
In 1999, James Beverly (firstname.lastname@example.org), who had purchased some rattles from me to use in his instruments, wrote with this information:
I just got back from the music festival in Owensboro, KY. A lot of elder (over 70) fiddle players from Appalachia were there and I asked about the rattlesnake rattles in the fiddles (which most had). Here were the responses:
1) All mentioned that the rattles inside "sang along" with the music giving it a better & sweeter sound.
2) One wonderful old gentleman from North Carolina said that his grandfather told him that "way back, the fiddle used to be a woman's instrument and putting the rattles inside 'masculinizes' it for men folk to play".
The origin of this belief is unknown, but some modern theorists have ignored the statements of old musicians regarding sound quality and opined instead that the smell of the rattlesnake which persisted in the rattle was originally intended to keep mice from nesting inside instruments.
Whatever the reason, this practice is quite commonly encountered, even to the present day.
To correspond with musicians about the folkloric use of rattlesnake rattles in fiddles, see Phil Campbell's Rattlesnakes and Fiddles page.
Because the rattlesnake sheds its skin, powdered whole rattlesnakes are used in Latin American folk-medicine involving skin diseases.
To cure eczema and boils: dry and powder the entire rattlesnake (some say just the skin, others say just the rattles) and sprinkle the powder on food; alternatively, use the powder to make a poultice and apply directly to the skin. (John O. West, "Mexican-American Folklore," August House, 1988)
In the African-American hoodoo tradition, powdered snake skin (Rattlesnake Dust) -- either from a snake that has been killed or from "sheds" that one finds -- is an important ingredient in a mixture called Goofer Dust. Some practitioners insist that the skin used in this compound must come from a rattlesnake; others prefer the skin of a king snake (because of its presumed mastery over other reptiles) or say that any species of snake will do. Additional ingredients in Goofer Dust are graveyard dirt, powdered sulphur, red pepper, black pepper, mullein, and a variety of other herbs. The mixture is used to jinx, cross, trouble, mess up, or even kill one's enemies.
The typical hoodoo logic of "reversing bad luck" further leads to the use of the Rattlesnake to cure a "crazy" spells that have been put on someone. For a detailed eyewitness account of such a cure, performed in 1929 with Rattlesnake Dust and Adam-and-Eve Root, see the web page on the famous root worker Aunt Caroline Dye. For a couple of simple African-American spells using Rattlesnake Skin to ward off evil, see the web page on protective magic spells collected in the 1930s by Harry M. Hyatt.
Rattlesnake salt is made by chopping up a Rattlesnake (rattles and all) and placing it in a container of salt. After six months the dried meat is discarded and the "rattlesnake salt" is ready for use.
To prolong life: sprinkle rattlesnake salt on the food you eat, at least once a day. (ibid.)
Despite the name of the product, "Incienso Marca-Brand Esperma de Vibora de Cascobel" is not incense per se, it is "rattlesnake salt" -- and the Spanish name ("Incense *Brand* Rattlesnake Sperm") indicates that the manufacturer was aware of the fact that the appropriated English label did not accurately describe the contents.
The two parts consist of packages of coloured rattlesnake salt, one off-white and the other coral-pink, which are to be used in (forgive my rusty Spanish translation) "rituals of Santeria, budu (voodoo), magical healing both black and white, spiritual healing, cleansing, and purification." A page of text inside the box explains that rattlesnake salt cures "hysteria, excessive wrath, mental illness, symptoms of insanity, uncontrollable tremors, phobias, delusions of grandeur, feelings of worthlessness, fantasies of persecution, and diabolical possession." A side-panel label on the box adds that rattlesnake salt will also protect one from envy and will prevent fights from breaking out in one's place of business or work.
The instructions given on the text-sheet call for the practitioner to lay the two colours of rattlesnake salt out in the doorway in a sort of sand painting depicting two S-shaped rattlesnakes and then to burn a black candle and a white candle on their respective heads, recite a lengthy prayer to "The Adorable Tetragramaton," extinguish the candles, sweep up the salt, and discard it at a crossroads.
"Alleged Rattle Viper Sperm Incense" is still manufactured, and although the label is different now (see the picture), the product is much the same as it has always been; still a mineral salt product inexplicably sold as an "incense."
Snake Oil is an old-time standard muscle and joint rub for sprains and osteoarthritis. Snakes are supple, so there is a magical component to the remedy, in that Snake Oil is the liquified fat of snakes. In America, there is a special tradition of making Snake Oil from from the fat of Rattlesnakes, a North American species of great traditional importance, but in actuality, the fat of any snake may be employed.
Snake Oil may be used straight, in the form of melted snake fat, as a rub, but its effectiveness is increased by formulating it to make a liquid liniment, with the addition of Turpentine, menthol (Mint Oil), capsicum (Red Pepper Oil), and/or Camphor Oil, all of which are topical analgesics and counter-irritants.
False Snake Oil, made with mineral oil or petroleum jelly in lieu of Snake fat, was sold as early as the 19th century in America. Formulas that substitute petroleum jelly or mineral oil for snake fat or snake oil resemble Tiger Balm Red, Tiger Balm White, Tiger Balm Liniment, Po-Sum-On Liniment, and other Chinese Traditional Medicines.
In one popular dictionary, Snake Oil is defined as "a product, policy, etc. of little real worth or value that is promoted as the solution to a problem.” True Snake Oil, especially in the form of a liniment, does not deserve the bad reputation given to it by its false imitations, nor the reputation for being invariably bogus that was given to it by allopathic pharmaceutical companies that devalue naturopathic remedies to increase their own sales. The fact that there is a dictionary definition of Snake Oil that refers to such a useful and traditional analgesic rub as inherently phony is a sad commentary on the programmatic commercial interests behind those who write our dictionaries.
Search All Lucky Mojo and Affiliated Sites!
You can search our sites for a single word (like archaeoastronomy, hoodoo, conjure, or clitoris), an exact phrase contained within quote marks (like "love spells", "spiritual supplies", "occult shop", "gambling luck", "Lucky Mojo bag", or "guardian angel"), or a name within quote marks (like "Blind Willie McTell", "Black Hawk", "Hoyt's Cologne", or "Frank Stokes"):
|copyright © 1994-2014 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
Send your comments to:cat yronwode.
|Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to catherine yronwode for the creation and maintenance of this site.
LUCKY MOJO is a large domain that is organized into a number of
Here are some other LUCKY MOJO web sites you can visit:
OCCULTISM, MAGIC SPELLS, MYSTICISM, RELIGION, SYMBOLISM
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by cat yronwode: a materia magica of African-American conjure
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
The Lucky Mojo Esoteric Archive: captured internet text files on occult and spiritual topics
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century occultist
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, and more
Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races
Hoodoo and Blues Lyrics: transcriptions of blues songs about African-American folk magic
EaRhEaD!'S Syd Barrett Lyrics Site: lyrics by the founder of the Pink Floyd Sound
The Lesser Book of the Vishanti: Dr. Strange Comics as a magical system, by cat yronwode
The Spirit Checklist: a 1940s newspaper comic book by Will Eisner, indexed by cat yronwode
Fit to Print: collected weekly columns about comics and pop culture by cat yronwode
Eclipse Comics Index: a list of all Eclipse comics, albums, and trading cards
EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course with cat yronwode: 52 weekly lessons in book form
Hoodoo Conjure Training Workshops: hands-on rootwork classes, lectures, and seminars
Lucky Mojo Community Forum: an online message board for our occult spiritual shop customers
Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour Radio Show: learn free magic spells via podcast download
Lucky Mojo Videos: see video tours of the Lucky Mojo shop and get a glimpse of the spirit train
Lucky Mojo Newsletter Archive: subscribe and receive discount coupons and free magick spells
Follow Us on Facebook: get company news and product updates as a Lucky Mojo Facebook Fan
The Lucky Mojo Curio Co.: spiritual supplies for hoodoo, magick, witchcraft, and conjure
Lucky Mojo Publishing: books on magic with herbs, roots and candles, sugar spells, bone divination, and more!
Herb Magic: complete line of Lucky Mojo Herbs, Minerals, and Zoological Curios, with sample spells
Mystic Tea Room Gift Shop: antique, vintage, and contemporary fortune telling tea cups
catherine yronwode: the eclectic and eccentric author of many of the above web pages
nagasiva yronwode: tyaginator, nigris (333), nocTifer, lorax666, boboroshi, Troll, !
Garden of Joy Blues: former 80 acre hippie commune near Birch Tree in the Missouri Ozarks
Liselotte Erlanger Glozer: illustrated articles on collectible vintage postcards
Jackie Payne: Shades of Blues: a San Francisco Bay Area blues singer
Lucky Mojo Site Map: the home page for the whole Lucky Mojo electron-pile
All the Pages: descriptive named links to about 1,000 top-level Lucky Mojo web pages
How to Contact Us: we welcome feedback and suggestions regarding maintenance of this site
Make a Donation: please send us a small Paypal donation to keep us in bandwidth and macs!
OTHER SITES OF INTEREST
Arcane Archive: thousands of archived Usenet posts on religion, magic, spell-casting, mysticism, and spirituality
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: psychic reading, conjure, and hoodoo root doctor services
Candle Ministry: Missionary Independent Spiritual Church deacons will set lights for your petitions and prayers
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic, plus shopping
Crystal Silence League: online prayer request network; upload your prayers here and pray for the welfare of others
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Hoodoo Psychics: connect online or call 1-888-4-HOODOO for instant readings now from a member of AIRR
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith; prayer-light services; Smallest Church in the World
Mystic Tea Room: tea leaf reading, teacup divination, and a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Satan Service: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including ex-slave narratives & interviews
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective, plus shopping
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Yronwode Institution: the Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology