Between Worlds – Snakes as Threshold Animals

It’s that time of year… the snakes are on the move. In cooler climates snakes have begun migrating back to their winter dens. Here in New England, you’re likely to see garters and ribbon snakes winding their way across warm asphalt, or rustling through the leaves. It’s kind of wonderful.

Serpents have long been associated with the magical. They are creatures of two worlds, identified along with Crows and Ravens as “threshold animals,” as Judika Illes explains in this excerpt from Pure Magic:

Snake is the animal most associated with Earth’s wisdom. As it lacks arms and legs, unless a snake is held captive, its entire body is in constant connection with Earth. Many ancient traditions believed that snakes could transmit Earth’s secrets and knowledge to people, should they choose. The ancient Romans considered snakes to be particular allies of human women, healing and empowering them,encouraging proper functioning of both body and psychic aptitude.

Because the snake periodically sheds its skin, first appearing dull then emerging shiny and new, it is assoiated with rebirth and rejuvenation. Snake’s power is particularly multifaceted. Snake is believed to be the official repository and guardian of Earth’s secrets. In addition to magic lessons, Snake can assist you with all matters regarding health, fertility, knowledge and wealth. Snake can also be approached as a research tool and resource whenever you need to learn something. Snake can also be considered the animal equivalent of a white camel: if you don’t know which animal to address, you can always approach Snake.

Snakes have an independent presence. Ultimately their loyalty is to Earth, not to humans. A snake is never “tame” although it may live among us. They rarely volunteer their wisdom, unlike Raven who on occassion demonstrates a protective and parental attitude towards humans. If you need information from Snake, assume that you will have to initiate contact.

Shed snakeskins or crow feathers are believed to be powerful and precious magical implements. The catch is: they must be given freely. If you find one, consider it a gift, perhaps acknowledgement that you’ve mastered a level of magical knowledge and skill. Harming any animal is believed to be unlucky but causing harm or discomfort to snakes,ravens or crows, or indeed to any of the threshold animals, is considered particularly inauspicious, really bad karma. Body parts taken by force may backfire upon you: crows, for one, are famous tricksters. If you want crow feathers, feed them, they tend to be generous with feathers as payment (remember, they won’t come before you’re ready) or request them from a crow-rehabilitation center. Many people keep snakes as companion animals, obtaining their skins as they shed. Likewise you can request shed skins at a rehabilitation center or zoo.

Abandoned snakeskins are worn as belts and girdles to rejuvenate female fertility. Snakeskins are also sometimes wrapped around aching joints to provide relief.

Abandoned crow feathers are used to focus magical concentration. Use it to waft incense smoke or the smoke from a smudge stick over your crystal ball. A crow feather under your pillow or placed whole inside a dream pillow assists with astral projection and lucid dreaming.

10 thoughts on “Between Worlds – Snakes as Threshold Animals

  1. Very interesting. Coming from a Native American background (Lenni Lenape) feathers have always been in my room or around my alter. I have acquired a beautiful Pheasant wing that I use for all my smudging purposes.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful and timely post! Autumn. Shedding season. How can we learn from snake? Lovely meditation. Yes, snakes are magical and so is the experience of Kundalini!


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