Do Snakes Take Revenge? Here’s What Scientists Claim

It has been a common belief and superstition in many countries that snakes take revenge whenever you kill one of their own kind.

There is at least one version of this belief where the eyes of the dead snake record the image of its killer, and when its brethren see its dead body, they check the dead snake’s eyes to look at the recorded image and determine the person who killed their fellow.

They then hunt that person and kill them to take revenge. But is this belief true?

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It has been said in many cultures that if someone kills a snake, its mate or other snakes will follow you to take revenge upon their fallen brethren.

Even though this is a mistaken belief and superstition, it has some basis in reality, as most superstitions and legends do.

A snake that is being killed will likely expel musk from its cloacal opening (where its eggs and excreta goes out) as a defensive reaction. It is quite possible that nearby snakes may smell the musk because it also functions as an attractant or a pheromone.

They may then go to the location of the dead snake to investigate the matter. Let us see how this legend and belief came about and explore why it persists.

Snakes Do Not Seek Vengeance Nor Chase People

Snakes do not seek vengeance.

They do not chase people, either.

They do not know how to hold a grudge or seek retribution for being wronged. This belief only belongs to the realm of legend and folklore.

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However, snakes do have learned behaviors, so that if a person performs actions that cause a snake to become uncomfortable, afraid, and defensive, the animal will start developing behaviors for adapting to their situation, and they will try to counter the action that elicits fear and discomfort.

Just like other animals, a threatening behavior from a human or an abusive snake owner will cause any snake to exhibit defensive behavior in the presence of people.

There are also instances where no abuse is present, but the snake senses fear; as a reaction, they then become more nervous and may bite or become aggressive.

All of these may cause the snake to be averse to people and their handling of the animal.

Such aversion can cause them to bite and/or release the defensive musk odor from the cloacal glands, to signal humans to release them or leave them alone.

Snakes rarely, if ever, chase people. Some may seem to chase you for a few meters, but they are not really chasing you; instead they are exhibiting a defensive reaction.

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Snakes are not chase predators, and do not have that tendency. No native snake in the US is capable of eating a human, so there is no possibility that they will see you as a food item and go after you.

The Legend of the Ichchadhari Naags

Indian folklore tells of the Ichchadhari Naags, the mythical cobras that are devoted to Lord Shiva, an Indian god.

They are said to be shape-shifting serpents with unusual abilities.

The male is known as an Ichchadhari Naag, while the female is called Ichchadhari Naagin. In Indian mythology, normal, regular cobras become Ichchadhari Naags and Ichchadhari Naagins after a hundred years of penance or Tapasya.

There have been countless references through many centuries of the ichchadhari snakes.

“Ichcha” means wish or desire, and “dhari” means adopt, so that they are beings who can take the shape of whatever being they choose.

Some say that thousands of years are needed to achieve the status and to gain the powers of the ichchadhari snake.

They are then blessed by the Lord Shiva, and they become able to shift into the form of any living thing, including people. They can also live for over a century without becoming old.

The Naags and Naagins also possess a gem known as the Naagmani, which is known by many names, such as the serpent crystal, the cobra pearl, or the snake gem. This gem has a much higher value than other precious stones.

There are legends of many people who died from snake bites while trying to obtain the Naagmani through theft.

If they manage to kill a naag or naagin instead, its killer’s image or face is recorded in the snake’s eyes.

Through the image captured in the eyes of its mate, the killed snake’s partner will supposedly then seek vengeance.

The ability of Naags to take any living form is especially prominent when they are out for their revenge.

They can be counteracted, however, and they can be forced to become crazy and reveal their true form when they are exposed to the “been” sound from the wind musical instrument used by snake charmers or saperas.

The Ichchadhari Naag legends have been used as plots for many stories and even children’s comics.

An Indian comic book superhero by the name of Nagraj – translated as Cobra King – is derived from these legends.

The male Hindi shape-shifting comic book character known as Tausi may have also been inspired by the shape-shifting ability of Naags.

Since India is an old civilization, and since many younger cultures have come from it or been influenced by it, it is possible that old legends such as this may have also been transferred and spread along with their other cultural influences on other peoples.

This is probably the reason why there exists the widespread belief that snakes can take revenge and record the image of their killer through their eyes, which can be seen by other snakes so that they can avenge their fallen brethren.

Such an ability is especially true for a cobra or a nag.

The vengeance may be extracted either in this lifetime or birth, or in the next. It is a concept that is tied to the belief in reincarnation.

The Revenge of Ichchadhari Snakes

Some of those who believe in the existence, powers, and avenging nature of ichchadhari snakes also believe that repentance and the help of a pandit (a teacher of Hinduism) may lessen the consequences and payment owed by the killer to the snake.

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There is also a belief that ichchadhari snakes have the form of humans by day and the form of snakes by night. Other types of ichchadhari snakes, meanwhile, can take any form they want during the night.

It is also believed that when extracting its revenge, the snake can shift into any shape at any place or time. It is also believed that these snakes do not rest until they have taken their revenge.

Related questions

Do snakes have supernatural powers and possess precious gems?

It is widely believed that snakes possess otherworldly powers, while some snakes, such as golden colored snakes and ichchadhari snakes, have a diamond in their mouth or possess a precious stone more valuable than any other gem.

 Just like any other animal, snakes are simply ordinary creatures that possess no supernatural or mystical powers. Neither do they have diamonds or other precious stones in their mouths. These are simply fantastic stories meant for movies and children.

Do snakes drink milk?

There are persistent myths that say the snakes enter barns because they seek out a cow’s udder and suckle milk from it. According to science, snakes are not attracted nor do they drink milk.

It has been shown by experiments that if you force a snake to ingest milk, they become sick because of it.

Can snakes hear a snake charmer’s music?           

Snakes have no outer ear, and cannot hear the frequencies of sound that humans can. They do have an internal ear which is more sensitive to ground vibrations.

This is especially useful because their entire bodies are usually in contact with the ground so that it is very advantageous for them to have this sense.

The music played by the snake charmer to induce a cobra to rise, make a hood, and sway or dance to the music does not affect the snake at all.

In such a case, the cobra is actually in a defensive and striking position, and is ready to strike its perceived aggressor, the snake charmer, at any moment.

Its apparent corresponding “dance” to the charmer’s music is actually a reaction to the swaying movements made by the snake charmer.

As the charmer plays his music, which is actually for the human audience’s benefit, he also sways his instrument and his body sideways in accordance to the tune.

Snakes are highly sensitive to movement so that when they see the charmer swaying, they follow suit in anticipation of the perceived possible attack by the human in front of them.

They actually do not hear the music at all.

Sources

  • http://www.ncra.tifr.res.in/~yogesh/wildlife/snakemiscon.shtml
  • https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/opinion/5858-humans-during-day-snakes-night
  • https://www.thestar.com.my/metro/focus/2016/09/17/top-10-misconceptions-about-snakes-a-night-out-herping-debunking-myths-that-give-reptiles-a-bad-name

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