Don't Tread On Me

A propos of absolutely nothing, here are some photographs of a venomous snake, Echis Coloratus, also known as the Israeli Saw-Scaled Viper, Burton's Carpet, or Painted Carpet.


This deadly snake is most likely the one described as the "Fiery Flying Serpent" in biblical accounts (e.g. Numbers 21). The Caduceus symbol of the medical profession might also be grounded in that same story.

This snake can lunge through the air at high speed. It's venomous bite leaves a fiery burning sensation, and death occurs from slow internal bleeding.

But there is another mystery here. The same story (Numbers 21) says that the cure was to gaze upon a bronze cast of the snake, mounted on a staff. How could that save you?

Keep in mind that the venom in the bite contained a powerful anti-coagulant, so that the panicked victim bled to death. The panic, of course, was mediated by the operation of the Amygdala and Hippocampus -- the brain's fear processor -- which released heart-pumping Adrenalin which hastened the bleeding. By gazing upon a bronze replica of the snake, the person 'faced their fear' and that helped arrest the panic attack. With the adrenalin surge attenuated, the victim was less likely to bleed to death from a racing heart.

The name of this snake suggests it may also be the inspiration for the storybook notion of the Arabian Flying Carpet.

The notion, suggested in Numbers 21, of conquering one's fears by contemplating a harmless model or a replica of them is found today in our unending fascination with games, simulations, plays, and other artistic recreations of dreadful situations.

We do not make idols of our gods, but of our demons. By reckoning the idol of a demon, we lose our dread of it.

And the goofy demon thereby loses its grip on us.