Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Snakes On A ... Stamp?

One of the most common fears that humans have is the fear of snakes. In fact, if you suffer from this fear, called Ophidiophobia, you are probably squirming just reading this blog entry.

Snakes are a branch of reptiles of the suborder Serpentes. They are meat-eaters, which may play into some of the fear that humans have of the animals. But rest assured, snakes do not normally attack humans unless startled or provoked. Deaths from a snake bite is uncommon.

There are about 2800 species of snakes and they live on every continent except Antarctica. Of these species, only about 13% of considered venomous.

In Judeo-Christian cultures, the snake symbolizes Satan, the force of evil. From the very first book in the Bible, Genesis, the serpent is seen as the tempter of Adam and Eve. Even in the last book of the Bible, The Revelation, Satan is called "that serpent of old." Thus it is easy to see why snakes are maligned in Western societies.

Rod of AsclepiusSome ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians and the Greecians, and modern cultures, such as the Indians, actually revere snakes. The Greeks saw the snake as an agent of healing in their mythology; you can still see this today whenever you see the "Rod of Asclepius" whereby a snake is intertwined around a staff. This imagery is frequently seen in medical iconography.

In 2003, the United States Postal Service issued a 5-stamp set of Reptiles and Amphibians of the U.S, displayed here. From top to bottom, it includes the Scarlet Kingsnake, the Blue-Spotted Salamander, the Reticulate Collared Lizard, the Ornate Chorus Frog, and the Ornate Box Turtle, all of which are native to the United states.

If you can get over your fear and phobia of snakes, this is a wonderful issue to collect. Just be careful to whom you show them to!

1 comment:

Joshua McGee said...

In the hands of a talented cartoonist, the scariest-looking animal can be made lovable. Here's one of my favorite cachets by artist Dave Bennett, for this issue:

Keep your eyes open! You can spend anywhere from $5 to $200 on that cover alone, depending on when and where you buy it!