Snake Stone

Gather ’round, me droogies, and listen to a tale. This is the true story of my grandfather’s magic snake stone. We don’t know where he acquired it, but it seems likely that it was handed to him by his father, and to him by his father before him, back when my line still lived in old India.

My grandfather, who died when I was but a baby, was a rice farmer in rural Guyana, a place rife with wild, dangerous animals. And most lethal among them is a host of poisonous South American snakes.

My father tells many a tale of folks succumbing to fatal snake bites. Just today, he told me of an African gold digger in the jungle being carried for three days after stepping on a snake, only to die just as the village was in sight.

My grandfather’s magic stone, however, could cure snake bites. I speak the truth. My father was himself bitten by venomous slitherers, and my grandfather would place the stone upon the wound and watch it change colour as the venom was sucked out.

When my grandfather died, his stones (there were two) vanished. Some relative or neighbour absconded with them. And tales of the stones descended into the fanciful, with we scientific children of the West assuming them to be overblown fireside superstitions.

But the snake stone is real. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine (vol 14, num 1, 1996) has a letter from a hospital worker in New York attesting to the power and existence of the “snake stone.” And I have since learned that it exists yet in parts of India, tied in with religion and ritual. In Tamil, it is called “nagarathnam”, literally “snake gem.” Traditional snake charmers extract it from the sheddings of king cobras.

So what is it? I am told it is the solidified remnant of the king cobra’s unused venom, spat out when the snake sheds its skin. The magic stone is real and enjoys an efficacy explainable by science, though almost completely unknown to the world. Does that make it less magical? You tell me.

Update: Please see part two of this post.