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Snake in the Tree

September 16, 2010

Submitted by Zameer Andani, who lives in Vancouver, B.C.

Zameer Andani's family tree

Zameer Andani's family tree, drawn by members of his family in Malawi and England. Click to see the entire tree.

My great-great-great-grandmother gave birth to a snake. It’s marked on our family tree with its own circled entry that says “SNAKE,” right amongst her six other offspring.

There are two different versions of my family’s snake legend. In the one I know best, she took care of the snake and treated it like her human children. One day, when the snake was grown up, it came home and said, “You’ve taken really good care of me and treated me like one of your own, so I will now bless your family and will ensure they will never die by a snake bite.”

In the other variant of this story, after my great-great-great-grandmother gave birth to the snake, it was cut into seven pieces. I’m not sure how the rest of that version goes, but both stories state that our family is protected from all encounters with snakes.

Since then, there have been numerous run-ins with snakes in my family. My dad encountered a black mamba, the deadliest snake in Africa, who was curled up at his feet while my dad was sleeping, and who did him no harm.

Another time, he put his foot in his shoe and there was a snake in it. The snake didn’t bite, it just slithered away.

My grandma, who lived in a place called Karonga (in northern Malawi), met a snake one night on a trip to the bathroom, which was located outside of the main house. Frightened, she ran in and got my grandfather. The snake peacefully went on its way and nobody was bitten.

Growing up in Malawi until the age of ten, I played with snakes often. I used to toss them around and look at their fangs. I never got bitten.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chispas permalink
    September 18, 2010 12:56 am

    That is an amazing story Z. Fascinating actually.

    There is so much mythology surrounding snakes, from the western Christian faith to many African myths about snakes.

    It’s interesting that in pan Africa mythology the snake is almost always seen as having powers that are related to health and family and protection whereas in the west the snake and reptiles in general are seen as dangerous and evil.

    This is a history that is worthy of a lot more research.


  2. Kate permalink
    November 14, 2010 10:19 pm

    Great family myth, one of my favourites I’ve read so far.

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