Folklore concerning snakes in the Ceará State, northeastern Brazil

Hugo Fernandes-Ferreira, Rono Lima Cruz, Diva Maria Borges-Nojosa, Rômulo Romeu Nóbrega Alves


Snakes, since the dawn of humanity, make
part of an amount of legendary histories and mythes of the whole world because of their true capability in increasing the
popular imaginary. In Brazil, in almost all areas, there is an abundant folklore about these animals. An ethnographic survey
about the beliefs and the respective scientific considerations involving snakes in Ceará State, northeastern Brazil, were
carried out between 2008 and 2010. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with selected ‘local experts’ in the
municipalities of Aratuba, Pacoti and Mulungu (mountain region); Itapajé, Irauçuba and Tururu (semi-arid region) and São
Gonçalo do Amarante and Caucaia (coastal area). In the study areas, there is a local differentiation between ‘snakes with
and without venom’, although even the majority of snakes considered venomous by the locals are not lethal to humans.
The interviewees indicated a preference in the use of snake anti-venum in case of snake bites, however, they also
considered that home remedies were effective. For certain specific snakes, we described the folklore characterized by
assimilation of morphological, physiological and ecological features, the majority of which are not corroborated by the
zoological literature. This is probably because the sense of fear makes it difficult to promote folklore in a manner that is
more consistent with scientific knowledge. The conflicting relationship between humans and snakes has led to a common
law justification for the indiscriminate hunting of these animals causing serious environmental and health problems that
can only be addressed through public policies directed towards environmental education, and the prevention and treatment
of snakebites.



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