Zith and serpents of the garden

Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)

Being locked in a room with a snake would qualify as my worst fear. My phobia of the wee serpents stems back to my Dad. He hates snakes. We once watched him chase one around the backyard with a lawnmower.

My Dads fear of them stems back to his childhood in Eastern North Carolina where a healthy respect for snakes would be an asset. One of my favourite stories is about him walking into the kitchen at his Grandma’s house at their tobacco farm when he was a teenager and finding a snake dangling from the stove-pipe above the stove she was cooking on. Great Grandma was oblivious. Dad went back I guess, grabbed a rifle, and blew out the snake, the stove-pipe and part of the wall in the kitchen to save her. She was not impressed.

It’s not a rational fear for a Southwestern Ontario resident though since we have managed to killed off the majority of the poisonous ones – see: Massassaga Rattlesnake.

Due to disappearing habitat and human persecution, the snake is considered threatened and listed on the Canadian Endangered Species List. [from PARKS CANADA]

When I was young I remember once coming upon a couple Garter snakes slithering around the hostas that lined the walkway up to the old homestead. I went screaming back down the walk, up the driveway and into the house. My Grandma and Mom were in the kitchen and thought someone had tried to kidnap me, or worse. So I explained to them there were these terrifying serpents that were infesting the front lawn. Grandma took me back outside, explaining they were just Garter snakes, that they were completely harmless, and were good for a healthy garden and good for the environment (she was an organic gardener). I remembered standing their absolutely stunned watching her…..tap her foot down near them going “shoo snake, shoo snake, you’re scaring my Granddaughter”…I was convinced for years she was a magical snake charmer.

So, as a gardener I have had to come to terms with these serpents. It does me no good to go running screaming back to safety every time I run into one, hidden here and there, as is their habit. It’s not their fault they have such a bad rap, look slithery and don’t fit our notion of “cute”. If you were to ask a snake enthusiast though, well, they will go on and on about their cute little faces and charming, quiet demeanor. I don’t see it; probably never will.


aHOWEVER, I did once make friends with one. Its name was Zith and it visited my garden one whole summer.

In the past I’d run into a snake every single spring in the garden in London, Ontario when I was married. They would come up from the river below in the ravine, I guess to shed their skin and whatever else snakes do. They would always be somewhere hidden, of course, and would scare the living daylights out of me every single time. So one year I decided enough is enough. I read once, somewhere, that in a garden wherever you find a snake and a tree, look for a goddess.

So I named it. Naming a thing is I think the first step towards understanding, and it worked. It spent its days coiled in a ball on the sunny side of the house, against the brick, sunning itself and I went about my business that summer. Zith had his southerly domain, and I welcomed him where ever he choose to go…but I was, em, cautious. I over that summer really grew fond of Zith. He was young and had only shed maybe a couple of skins.

One day though in early fall as I was cleaning up after watering the garden…I came upon him…quite dead. As I was dragging the hose around I had somehow got him tangled up in it and I killed him. I was absolutely heart broken..I had imagined him coming back in the spring, taking his place in his sunny domain; alas, it was not to be. Zith though taught me alot that year — about understanding the “other” and acceptance of the strange.

Snakes are “symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing” [Wikipedia]. I no longer fear them, but I still would not want to be locked in a room with one. Locked outside in a garden with one…ah…now that I wouldn’t mind at all. ;-)

11 thoughts on “Zith and serpents of the garden

    1. Maybe. Hadn’t thought of it till you said it. But…you’ve got me thinking now….emmm…

      zith is a character from a book..can’t remember now which…but some fantasy author or other…but a great name for a snake I think.


    1. My first thought was the scene from the one Indiana Jones movie when he falls into the quicksand and he won’t grab the snake unless his son calls it a rope…that would be me ;-)


  1. i like snakes. being stuck in a room with piers morgan or maggie thatcher is my worst fear.


    1. LOL….as for people, um, I can think of few … I find people sometimes rather annoying…… especially ones with load obnoxious voices with a point of view they feel they have to shove down your throat ;-)


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