For some people, reptiles are one of the most dangerous animals in the world.
There is another group who get excited not repulsed at the sight of snakes since they regard reptiles as nothing but exotic meat.
Then we have the last group of people who see snakes as creatures to be respected and worshipped, not feared. These group of people can be found in certain towns in Delta, Bayelsa, Anambra, Imo and Yobe states.
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People in these communities worship one snake in particular — the python. Despite its size, this huge creature is considered a harmless being.
Here, a python is a totem, a sacred object and the manifestation of a spirit to be revered. These communities believe that they are not worshipping the snake itself but the spirit inside seen as the god of wisdom, bliss and benevolence.
The python often has a temple, chief priest and snake wives — beautiful women that the snake consistently appears. The appearance could be physically or spiritually.
It is not uncommon for the women to wriggle like snakes on the floor while speaking in a strange language after being initiated into the service of the snake god.
When seen at home or outside, they are to be treated with respect or removed using traditional methods. A visit from a python could either be a good omen or a bad one especially if it attacks the human being.
It is rare for a python to attack someone but when it happens, only a priest can rescue the affected person.
Why do Nigerians worship pythons?
Legend has it that this snake helped natives of Useifrun and Ujevwu communities in Ughelli South and Udu Local Government Areas in Delta state escape during the inter-tribal wars.
The python did this by going after the people and erasing their footprints which prevented their enemies from knowing where they went. The descendants of these people show their gratitude by refusing to kills or eats the python even in 2019.
As such, it is forbidden to kill these creatures. On the rare occasion when a python is killed, the person responsible faces very serious penalties including human-like funeral rites for the killed snake.
“I f you mistakenly kill a snake, you will simply appease the gods or face the consequences,” a priest named Ngozi Obiwuru explains. “It is very simple. The individual will buy a white coffin, white cock, goat and will come to the shrine for sacrifice. The coffin will be used to bury the snake. These snakes do not bite anyone; it is a sign of blessing if it chooses to visit your family at night. It is an honour to have a god in your home, just as the Christians rejoice when they spot an angel in their homes.”
The worship of snakes in Nigeria is similar to that of the people in the Benin Republic, where the popular Python Temple in Ouidah is located.
Note: Pythons are technically considered harmless since they are not poisonous or venomous. However, it is important to note that they still pose a serious threat to humans because of their size.
Certain python species are large and powerful enough to squeeze a human to death.