The Shape of a Snake

What is the shape of a snake? I picture it something like a sine wave; I picture it coming up out of a hole in the ground and then going back down.

Traditionally, snake is sometimes seen as a psychopomp–a guide for souls traveling between different realms–a quality that is often assigned to animals with habits like that.

Snake is different than a lot of the shapes that I think about because, of course, it’s alive. It’s four-dimensional in the time sense (like all living things and maybe all objects in general, but few evoke the intersection of geometry and movement as much as a snake does).

Snake’s movement is also multi-dimensional. It undulates forward-ish, and simultaneously, at times, is sheds its skin. Snake is engaged in a process that is directional and also, maybe equally, evolutionary. The snake that arrives home at night is clearly not the same one that left in the morning; it is literally the shape of a process.

On a mystical level, snake has another important power. This is maybe the time to mention that my younger child is absolutely obsessed with snakes. We also share an interest in Greek mythology and were recently reading the story of Eurydice, who carelessly stepped on a poisonous snake while fleeing a suitor. This should not be a big deal, my child insists that you know, because stepping on a poisonous snake isn’t going to hurt anybody besides the snake.

Unfortunately for Eurydice, the snake was actually venomous, and fortunately for the snake, that’s a whole different situation. A big part of snake magic is the idea of pharmakon, the p̶o̶i̶s̶o̶n̶ venom that’s also a medicine, the way the shape of evolution gets inside of you.