Friday, December 5, 2008

Snakes and Superstitions

Snakes are a very big part of life here in Uganda and there are many strong fears and superstitions towards them, some warranted and others unfounded.

I (Mike) have seen five different kinds of snakes since I have been here. I’ve only been able to identify one of them and it is poisonous. The others I’m not sure about, people say that they are all poisonous, but that is just one of those unfounded fears.

Today I found a 5-foot cobra in the driveway orchard which is obviously a threat to the hundreds of children who are constantly running around here. I killed it with a garden hoe.

The people here (including the well educated ones) believe that holding a special black stone will cure a bite from a poisonous snake. They think it works because when someone gets bit and they hold it, the person usually lives. But this is not because of the stone, it is because most of the snakes aren’t actually poisonous and even when the snake is poisonous their bite is not usually fatal (unless of course it is one of the major ones like a mamba).

It was kind of scary today to think that if any of those children would have gotten bit by that cobra that they would have run for a black stone and not the hospital. I sat down with the ones present and told them what they should do, but it was very very difficult to convince them, and I even have a book here, “Where There is No Doctor” that discusses the superstitions around the black stone. Their grandparents and parents have been telling them since birth to hold the black stone, so this is what they believe very deep inside of them. And it is not just snakes; they have very strong superstitions about many things.

Anyways, poisonous snakes and very deep superstitious beliefs are a couple of the challenges we face working here in Uganda.


6 comments:

tandcinuganda said...

hey! you guys are doing such awesome work! gyebale koh!!

I was wondering a bit about the plastic disposal project and about reuse efforts. I saw this really beautiful craft and wondering if any Ugandans had caught this bug yet:

http://pics.livejournal.com/tandcinuganda/pic/000d9a5h/


(in case the pic doesn't come up: it's a basket made from plastic scraps)

thank you for all your hard work!

mzungumike said...

Cobras are extremely dangerous, being neurotoxic and large to boot. A standard snakebite kit will be of only marginal help; polyvalent antivenin would be about the only way to save one of the kids if bitten and it has to be applied quickly. In a lypholized state, it doesn't need refrigeration; I have no idea of costs, but it might be worth looking into trying to obtain a couple vials to have on hand.

Though more for Indian varieties, this page has some useful information.

Keep up the great work; I hope to get back myself this summer.

Ben said...

Wonderful work; I'll try to put an RSS feed on my iGoogle page. Please post often!

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Unfounded fears about snakes are the most common in Africa, for example the black mamba is said to attack a man spontaneously but this is a fake tale.