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OR Press: Man Becomes 'One With Snake'

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Tue Jan 25 09:31:57 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

SALEM NEWS (Oregon) 16 January 11 Man Becomes 'One With Snake' Survives Cobra Bites (Terrence Aym)
"When I am bitten by a cobra it is nothing for I become one with the snake. That is why I do not die" - Snake man
Chicago: Of all the countries I've traveled, and all the people I've met, few experiences have been as intriguing, thought-provoking, and frankly, as disturbing, as my chance encounter in West Africa with a man I only knew as the "snake man."
While in West Africa during 1999 I spent three weeks in the country of Ghana. Ghana is what remains of what was once a great African empire known as the Ashanti. Their wealth and power influenced much of what the Europeans then called "The Dark Continent" and was rivaled only by the Zulu empire far to the south.
I made a trip from the capital city of Accra to the northwestern town of Berekum. From there I planned to visit the famous Mole Game Reserve.
About forty kilometers south of Berekum we came upon an interesting village. I asked the driver of the bush taxi, Frank, if he knew the name of the village. He simply shrugged his shoulders. I asked him to stop.
As soon as I exited the bush taxi I found myself surrounded by laughing, giggling children. They tugged at my clothes and jabbered away in a combination of English and Twi (pronounced chwee). Twi is the language of the Akan and spoken by the Ashanti people throughout the Brong Ahafo Region.
The village lay in a clearing not far from the main highway. I counted no more than twenty huts, so it was possible that Frank did not know the name of the place as it had no name.
A few adults came up to me to wish me a good-day and inquire about my purpose. I explained that I was traveling to Berekum to meet a cousin of the Chief and had asked my driver to stop because their village looked interesting. They laughed at that. One told me that nothing was interesting in his village except for the snake man. That caught my attention.
After a few more minutes of conversation with the villagers, interspersed with complaints from Frank that the flies were terrible in that area and they were eating him alive, I convinced them that I truly had an interest in the snake man.
Several of the men left for a hut on the other side of the small community and returned a few minutes later with a very tall, lean man wearing little more than a scrap of loincloth. His legs and arms were thin and bony. In places thin white scars shone against the darkness of his skin.
The man stood before me and asked, "You are the one who asked to see me?" He spoke excellent English with overtones of a British accent.
"Yes," I responded. "I have been told you are a snake man and have special powers. I am curious about that. My name is Terrence." I held out my hand. He took it in his and shook it while asking, "You are British?"
"No, I'm an American." That answer elicited an excited chatter amongst the villagers.
Seeing my reaction, the snake man explained, "We have very few foreigners who stop here. The ones that do stop are either English or German. Once we saw a Japanese. No American has ever stopped here. I believe there are very few Americans that come here, other than your President Clinton last year."
"I see," I answered, a bit surprised that Americans were considered rarities in those parts. I turned the conversation back to him. "Tell me, what are those scars on your arms and legs?"
"Ah," he smiled, "Those are the reason I am known as the snake man. They are scars left by the bites of cobras."
I wasn't sure if he was pulling the leg of a gullible white man or telling me the truth, but he looked somber and serious as he related his story.
"Each of them is a bite mark I have received from a cobra. I handle them, you know, to obtain their venom. It is used for certain medicines."
No, I hadn't known and it sounded dangerous as hell to me.
"How did you survive their bites? Cobras are deadly poisonous. Did you receive medical treatment?"
The snake man stared at me, a quizzical look in his eye. Around us the villagers in earshot of our conversation chuckled and giggled.
"I have never been to a doctor in the city or hospital. Here most people go to hospital to die."
"So how did you survive the bites of so many cobras?" Looking again at his livid scars I counted at least eleven snake bites, maybe more.
He caught my eyes with his and said slowly, "When I am bitten by a cobra it is nothing for I become one with the snake. That is why I do not die."
Shortly after that conversation Frank and I left the village and continued on to Berekum. Before we left I passed out some candy we had to the children and gave the snake man a parting gift in way of thanks for his sharing the story of the cobras with us.
"You really believe that old man?" Frank laughed. "I'm telling you these villagers, a lot of them are crazy."
"I'm not so sure," I responded and then turned my head to watch the African countryside slide past the window.
I believed the old man then and I still do today. The old man's story reveals how much power resides in all of us that goes undiscovered and untapped.
Man Becomes 'One With Snake' Survives Cobra Bites


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