Monday, March 21, 2016
The History Of The Snake Ring In Hoodoo, The Occult And Popular Culture
The above snake ring is my personal "conjure ring" and is fashioned out of sterling silver and has genuine, as in made-by-nature, rubies for eyes. The ring is in the form of an Ouroboros, a snake eating it's own tail, a symbol of eternity and the cyclical nature of reality.
Snake rings, rings fashioned in the image of a serpent, are among some of the oldest rings worn by humans. The symbolism and style of snake rings has evolved with time. For the ancients, the snake was a symbol of fertility, healing and protection. The ancients believed that snakes were immortal and that they became young again after shedding their skin. It was also believed that the "kiss" or lick of a snake could heal wounds. Images of snakes ready to strike were used as apotropaic charms to ward off evil.
By the latter Renaissance it became the trend for people, especially women, to wear snake jewelry to indicate mourning. Thus, the snake as symbol of life had been transformed into a symbol of death. It was very common for widows to wear snake jewelry the rest of their life in honor of their lost spouse. By the 1700s the symbolism of the snake would transform again. This time the snake's fertility symbolism was emphasized and the serpent was viewed as symbolic of love. This belief would reach a peak of popularity in the Victorian age where even Queen Victoria herself wore a gold snake ring with emerald eyes. It was her engagement ring from her beloved Albert and she was said to frequently comment that it symbolized their love. During this time the most popular form of snake ring was the Ouroboros, the snake biting it's own tail, which was said to symbolize the eternal nature of true love.
Fast forward to the early 20th century, specifically on or before the 1920s and the symbolism of the snake ring would evolve yet again. This time snake rings, as well as snake jewelry, became popular with women who viewed it as a symbolism of exoticism and freedom. The preferred imagery of the snake ring had changed to a non-Ouroboros type, with a serpent having one or more heads often set with precious or semi-precious stones. The preferred stones were almost always red in color and usually were rubies or garnets. However, diamonds and emeralds were a close second. Those who could not afford stones often had snake rings with colored glass eyes.
It was at this time that various occultists began promoting snake rings as talismans or symbols of occult powers. The most famous occultist to champion the snake ring would be L. W. de Laurence who wrote about it's alleged and mostly self-invented magical lore in his, "The Great Book of Magical Art, Hindu Magic and East Indian Occultism, and the Book of Secret Hindu, Ceremonial and Talismanic Magic" (1915). L. W. de Laurence sold three-headed snake rings, the fashion of the time, with or without precious stones, ranging in price from $15 to $100 each. You can read the advert at the link below.
Keep in mind that though de Laurence billed these rings as possessing magical powers, two and three-headed snake rings had already become quite popular. One can still find examples from this time period for sale. There was a vintage three-headed snake ring, the exact same type as sold by de Laurence, listed on Etsy for quite some time. It recently sold or else I would have provided the link.
Although L.W. de Laurence was among the first occultist in modern times to promote snake rings for their alleged occult powers, he wasn't the first modern occultist to employ one. One of the first persons to have employed a snake ring possessing alleged magical powers was "The Black Constable", a.k.a. John Domingo. Domingo was said to have been the most powerful hoodoo man and necromancer in South Carolina in the 1880s. He possessed a silver snake ring that he claimed was made in the Congo and which possessed the power of commanding spirits. Upon his death the ring was lost and it's whereabouts remain a mystery.
It was John Domingo that inspired me to purchase my own snake ring. I chose sterling silver due to it's protective qualities and genuine, natural rubies vs. rubies made in a lab, as red is the color of power, will and manifestation. I chose the Ouroboros form, not as a symbol of true love, but rather due to it's older symbolism of eternity and the cyclical nature of existence. I have enchanted the ring for a specific purpose, which will remain secret.
If any of my readers are interested in purchasing their own snake rings there are many options to choose from. You can purchase a pre-made one or a vintage one. You can even have someone create a custom design. Rubies and garnets are the traditional stones for the eyes. However, you can choose whatever stones appeal to you. There's a snake ring for every budget so don't let prices discourage you. After receiving your ring you too can enchant it for whatever purpose you like.
A bit of trivia, in the 2015 movie, The Skeleton Key, the three-headed snake ring worn by the character of "Papa Justify" was inspired by the snake rings sold by L.W. de Laurence. It was used at the suggestion of Cat Yronwode.