Folk Belief

“Dead Snake in the Tree”

Jessica Lewis is currently a student at the University of Southern California where she studies Psychology and Classics. She was born and raised in the small city of Newnan, Georgia. Her family lives in a rural area of Newnan, where agriculture is the people’s main source of profit and professional life.

Jessica was informed of this superstition by her grandfather, who claims that it has proven true on multiple occasions. The superstition is that if one kills a snake and then hangs the dead snake on a tree limb then it will rain within three days. Jessica says that her grandfather often would practice this superstition and that it was not a rare site to see dead snakes hanging from trees on her farm. She says that she thinks the superstition came about as a result of the family’s primarily agricultural lifestyle, wherein adequate amounts of rainfall are essential to the subsistence of both the crops and her family.

It seems that these superstitions probably arose out a person’s desire to express some sort of control over the weather, which itself is a rather uncontrollable entity. Most likely, the practice of killing snakes and hanging them on tree limbs is a desperate attempt on behalf of the farmer’s to control the rain in order to provide adequate rainfall for their crops. This leads one to believe that superstitions probably arise out of people’s desire to have some control in otherwise chaotic and inexplicable situations- particularly in matters of life and death.

A variant of this superstition is discussed in Lloyd N. Jeffrey’s Snake Yarns of the West and Southwest. From JSTOR: Western Folkore: Volume 14, No. 4, p.252

“Turning a dead snake on its back or hanging it on a fence will bring rain…”