Snake worship found expression in both the Aztec and Toltec periods of prehistoric Mexican culture. The snake signified wisdom and was a symbol of fertility among the Dionysian cults. Apollo is the Greek god most connected with snake worship. (Snake worship is not to be confused with snake charming, the art of capturing, controlling and fascinating serpents.)
The mysterious and ambivalent nature of snakes has led to conflicting assessments of them. On the one hand, they represent death and evil, while on the other, serpents are believed to embody the divine and the good. In some religions, they can be both worshipped and accursed. For example, in the Bible the snake is a symbol of evil (Gn 3) and of life (Nm 21: 6-8). They play a major role in the beliefs of people because of their shape and their relation to their surroundings.
Serpent-handling in the United States finds its basis in Mark 16: 17-18 – “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.” Snake-handling churches have been inspired by these words for a hundred years. Beginning in the early 1900s, the popularity of handling poisonous snakes has waxed and waned over the years. Although this popularity is currently at a low ebb, it will probably never disappear from its traditional home of Appalachia.
Hindus believe Kadru was the mother of serpents while Vinita was the mother of the eagle Garuda. There is a story about Kadru winning a bet and asking Vinita to work as her slave. Garuda went to get Amrit for Kadru because he was unable to bear his mother’s plight. He was bringing back a pot of Amrit when the King of the Devas, Lord Indra, stole it back from him. Garuda and Lord Indra were fighting and a few drops of the portion fell on the grass. This is what makes snakes able to shed their old skin and grow new skin in place of it.
From ancient Greece to contemporary Christianity, the snake has always played an important part in religion. Sometimes serpents are thought of as evil and sometimes as good. Serpent handling is very much a part of some Christian religions, especially in Appalachia. Hinduism makes a strong connection between religion and science and tell stories that involve snakes.