Snake charming  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Snake charming is the practice of pretending to hypnotise a snake by playing an instrument. A typical performance may also include handling the snakes or performing other seemingly dangerous acts, as well as other street performance staples, like juggling and sleight of hand. The practice is most common in India, though other Asian nations such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Malaysia are also home to performers, as are the North African countries of Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

Ancient Egypt was home to one form of snake charming, though the practice as it exists today likely arose in India. It eventually spread throughout Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Despite a sort of golden age in the 20th century, snake charming is today in danger of dying out. This is due to a variety of factors, chief among them the recent enforcement of a 1972 law in India banning ownership of snakes. In retaliation, snake charmers have organised in recent years, protesting the loss of their only means of livelihood, and the government has made some overtures to them.

Many snake charmers live a wandering existence, visiting towns and villages on market days and during festivals. With a few rare exceptions, however, they typically make every effort to keep themselves from harm's way. For one, the charmer typically sits out of biting range, and his animal is sluggish and reluctant to attack anyway. More drastic means of protection include removing the creature's fangs or venom glands, or even sewing the snake's mouth shut. The most popular species are those native to the snake charmer's home region, typically various kinds of cobras, though vipers and other types are also used.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Snake charming" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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