Sep 23 2014

Holy Snake!

Though most public places shriek at the sight of a snake and are quick to get rid of it, the opposite is true for certain churches across the country.

As a result of a select interpretation of a scripture in the bible, there are churches that not only welcome snakes to their mass, but also see them as a necessity. Snake-­handling in religious ceremonies has been around for quite some time, and is surprisingly still a practice in dozens of churches across the United States.

snake handler

Believers will interact with the snakes in a variety of ways, including touching them, holding them up in the air and letting them crawl on their bodies.  To them, it represents their trust in God as their protector, and their dedicated belief in Him.

The practice has always been seen as obscure and controversial, and of course, many bites have resulted from it. One recent case was pastor Jamie Coots, who was bitten by one of the most venomous snake species in the United States, the rattlesnake.


The rattlesnake is a species of pit viper that is not uncommon in the area surrounding the church Coots led in Middlesboro, Kentucky, and a species which is commonly used in these ceremonies. Of the dozens of snakes Jamie kept, he had handled this same rattlesnake many times before, and was surprised when it sunk its fangs into his right hand.

Rattlesnake bites, though extremely venomous, do not usually result in many deaths of humans because of how accessible and effective the treatment for them has become. With the ambulance’s prompt response and the location of the bite, Coots would have likely survived the incident if he had agreed to receive the treatment.

jamie coots

As a dedicated believer in his practice, Jamie declared in front of the church that he would not accept any medical treatment for the bite.  By the time Jamie was in his home again, he was already unconscious.  Respecting his wishes, Jamie was not given medical treatment, and was pronounced dead a few hours later from the snake bite.

Impressively, Coots had survived quite a few rattlesnake bites in the past without any medical intervention.  With dozens of deaths occurring from the practice, it has been made illegal in many areas.

Of all of the practices humans use snakes for, this is one of the most bizarre, as well as dangerous.

snake handlers


bunch of rattlesnakes