Historical Beliefs About Python
In ancient Egypt, the serpent was a sign of healing, they passed this belief to the Greeks, it became the emblem of the Greek god of healing Aescelpius,
In Africa generally right from pre Christian times serpents were in particular reverence in many communities,
In India the cobra is sacred and a symbol of the Snake goddess Nagini,
In Our locality in West Africa, there are many communities that revere serpents such as Ouidah in Cotonou, Nembe in Bayelsa, in Cotonou there is a vodou temple to the snake goddess, but I don’t think there’s any other ethnic group where serpents (especially pythons) have a significance or symbolism than among the Igbo, About half of the Igbo communities revere different species of pythons and some vipers or mamba,
The python is known as Eke, the viper : ajuala,
It is a totem animal to the Igbo, in pre Christian times they believed it was a messenger from Mother Earth (Ala/Ali) and in some communities it represented the River deity or mammy water(owu mini) One deity(Agbara) that is worth mentioning is the Idemili River in the Northern fringes of Igbo land, in communities that evolved around this river may not touch a particular specie of python (African rock python) sacred to the goddess, it was such a strong taboo that has persisted to this very day that if you kill or harm the serpent you would organize and perform a funeral service with full rites for the serpent as you would a human being.
When I schooled briefly at Oba Anambra State, we would put a big stick for it to cool around and then we would throw it into a bush or we would simply call the natives and watch as their kids carry the snakes, play with them.
It was interesting to note that the snakes were docile and didn’t harm humans.
Some of the many communities where such pythons were revered were ihiala (their headquarters), Oba, Nnewi, Orifite, Ogidi, Aguata, Agulu, Anaocha in ihiala it wasn’t uncommon to wake up with a python lying next to you, that is how numerous and protected they are.
In the Isu area it was sacred to the Njaba River so all the Awo communities, And sorrrounding communities such as Umuaka, Amiri held the python as their totem,other communities where pythons were sacred include Owerri Nchiise, Ogbaku, Ogutu, Ndoni, Ulakwo, etc where it represented the Mother Earth (Ala/Ali)
I really don’t have any statistics yet on the veneration of serpents amongst Anioma communities on the western side of the Niger, so anybody from there could avail us with correct information that they are sure of.
When it’s seen within the vicinity of the home, it’s simply presented with kola nut, chalk and salutations and it quietly slithers off back into the forest,
Ecologically I recognize the importance of such taboos because it has preserved these beautiful species from extinction and given them a sanctuary, especially now that Nigerians are indiscriminately killing everything in their part and have no respect for wildlife…
Almost every community has its totem animal, what’s your community and what are it’s totems