The Empire of the Snakes. By F. G. Carnochan and Hans Christian Adamson. Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers), Ltd. 12s. 6d. net.
Snakes have fascinated men since the earliest times. Snake worship is as old as history– and older. Serpent worship is discernible in the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man. In other portions of the Bible the serpent plays an important part, for instance in the brazen serpent.
Every homoeopath knows that drugs have a two-fold action. In large doses they are mischievous or poisonous, and in small doses they are beneficial. Strychnine and Arsenic in large doses kill: in small doses they are extremely valuable tonics and are prescribed by every doctor.
A hundred years ago a distinguished homoeopath, Dr. Constantine Hering, experimented with the poison of the deadly bush master snake on himself, injuring himself severely. The poison of the snake has since been used by innumerable homoeopaths and is called Lachesis, and it is one of the most valuable drugs in the Homoeopathic Materia Medica. Other snake poisons, and the poisons of spiders, insects and other animals, are used as well with excellent curative results.
Orthodox doctors and investigators have tried to use snake poisons in their usual fumbling way by making experiments on animals which are always inconclusive and frequently worthless. The full value of a drug can only be discovered by experimenting on human beings, and especially on healthy human beings. The natives of many countries have used serpent poisons partly for poisoning their arrows and spearheads in order to kill their enemies, partly for medicinal purposes.
Messrs. Hutchinson & Co. have published a volume, The Empire of the Snakes. The contents of the book are sensational. Mr. Carnochan was sent as a member of a scientific expedition to Africa to obtain animals, birds and reptiles for the National Zoological Park in Washington. By great good fortune he came across some of the snake men, natives forming a secret society who have mastered the secrets connected with snake poison.
They know how to make themselves immune from the bites of the most poisonous snakes, and they employ snake poisons creatively. We can undoubtedly learn very much from the African snake men who have a wonderful knowledge not only of snake poisons but also of the curative powers of herbs and other natural substances.
I imagine that this book will have a large sale, and I would quote the following passages:.
“The more I learned about the herbs of the Snake-Men, the deeper became my appreciation of the astounding and effective therapeutic science these so-called savages have developed. Though those who do not take their Africa seriously enough may view the natives with contempt, the fact of the matter is that they have a culture that suits their needs and that their Snake- Men diagnosed and cured diseases with healing drugs in the not so distant days when our own medicine-men were nothing but blood-letting quacks who cured ailments with weird medicines.
“There is, of course, a vast amount of mumbo-jumbo in the ritualistic and religious end of the Snake Empire, but I found hardly any trace of it in the practice of medicine. In that field, the Snake-Man is as direct and straightforward as any conscientious family physician. In this fight against disease, he has built up an extensive pharmacopoeia that embraces hundreds of prescriptions, and many of his drugs are highly effective.
“To some extent, I speak from experience, because I made the first-hand acquaintance of three preparations which respectively reduced a fever, freed me from an attack of la grippe and chased away a cough that set in after a la grippe had gone. I had been feeling below par for several days, but one morning I felt so ill that I had to stay in bed. I sent for Nyoka and told him that he had better hunt snakes without me. He felt my forehead with such a professional touch that I could not help laughing, as I said:.
“How about it, doctor? A touch of la grippe–eh?.
” Bwana, wait! he said presently. I know his sickness and will drive it away.
“He disappeared and came back about fifteen minutes later with a bucket that was half-full of water, and a thick sheaf of green leaves. Crushing the leaves, Nyoka dropped them into the bucket and stirred them briskly. A few seconds later, flecks of foam formed on the water and presently the pail was full of suds. I wondered what I was supposed to do, and soon found out.
I was to take a rub-down. While I did not care for the idea, I took the bath though my teeth chattered and chills shot up and down my spine. But, strange as it may sound, in no time at all, my temperature dropped from 102 degrees to almost normal.
“Meanwhile, Nyoka sat in the doorway of my tent and made a pulp of some roots. When they had become a paste, he told me to eat it. I did. It was the worst and vilest stuff I ever tasted, but I had hardly swallowed it, before I broke into a terrific perspiration. By mid-afternoon, the fever was gone. I felt weak, but very much on the up-grade.
“The next day I had a rasping cough. I was up, however, and Nyoka suggested that I load my shot-gun with bird-shot and follow him.
” What now ? I demanded.
” I will cure Bwanas cough.
” With a shotgun ?.
” Yes, Bwana, laughed Nyoka, with a shotgun. He chuckled in high glee and thought it quite a joke. To keep me in further suspense, the rascal said not say a word as he led me around in the mango grove, where we were encamped. I kept my eyes on Nyoka, who, with head thrown back, stared into the branches above us. Finally, he lifted his arm and pointed at a plantain-eater, a common enough bird. I could not understand what this particular greenish one with crimson wing-feathers had to do with my cold.
” Shoot it, Bwana, said Nyoka.
“Why ? Oh, very well! The bird could always be used for the pot. I aimed, fired and down it came. Nyoka picked it up and , one by one, pulled the red wing-feathers out.
“Once back in camp, Nyoka produced a mortar and pounded the feathers into fine red dust, which he mixed with a yellowish powder. He poured this concoction into a cup of water and gave it to me with the word: Drink.
“I felt like declining, but tossed it down as quickly as I could. Not bad! I took several doses of it during the day and it cured me. And why not ! I learned later that the red wing- feathers of the plantain-eater contain a fair percentage of an organic salt of copper which, according to our own medical experience, is an expectorant, and, therefore, serves a definite purpose in stopping a cough. Strange ! Yes ! But even stranger –how did the Snake-Men discover this unnatural remedy ?.
“I never found out.
“In malaria cases, the Snake-Men prescribe baths of cooling herbs which, if they do not produce lasting cures, at least provide prompt relief. Stomach-aches–known as bites inside– are treated with powders that kill the parasitical worms to which natives are subject. Infected eyes, frequent among children, are healed with a water infusion from a species of asparagus. Colds and bronchial ailments are treated with sweat-inducing drugs taken internally or through inhalations. Certain seeds relieve distress from overeating, while loss of appetite is overcome by means of a preparation which, as I can also testify from personal experience, induces a Gargantuan appetite.
” I saw Nyoka save the life of a poor wretch who had been bitten by one of the deadliest of snakes — an Egyptian cobra. He did it by using one of his native drugs of which I subsequently prevailed upon him to give me a sample. The boy, a porter in my outlet, was bitten on the hand when he was foolish enough to open one of the snake-boxes. Quick as a flash, the cobra lashed out and the boy yelled in mortal terror.
“Nyoka and I happened to be near when the boy was hurt. We heard his cries ran to the scene. Asking me to get some water, Nyoka reached under the folds of his Americani, and pulled out a gourd. From this he poured a small quantity of coarse, reddish- brown powder directly into the stricken mans mouth, gave him some water and told him to lie still. My interest was intense. This was the first time I had seen Nyoka give treatment for snake-bite. Would it work?.
“The cobras venom is a neuro-toxin that paralyses the nerves. Death is usually caused by the inability of the heart to keep on beating, or else by stoppage of breath, due to paralysis of the diaphragm. The end comes quickly, unless steps are taken to break its hold with a stimulant that can carry the patient through the period of heart and nerve paralysis caused by the poison. The powder Nyoka used was such a stimulant –for the boy lived. It seemed like a miracle to me, but Nyoka took the lads recovery as a matter of course.
” Nyoka, I said, when all was over, I hardly dare believe my eyes. I did not think that the boys life could be saved. You must let me have some of that powder. You need not tell me what it is, or how you get it. But I want it. I was so earnest that my black friend grinned broadly and, much to my surprise, placed the gourd in my hand and told me to keep it. I need not describe the wave of exultation that swept over me. This was the prize of my collection.
“We reached Dodoma a few days later. I disbanded my outfit and asked my personal staff if they would like to work for me when I came back. They said they would and I told Nyoka that I would get in touch with him through the District Commissioner in Tabora. When ? He did not ask. If he had, I would have replied: Bado kidogo, which means in a little while and could be a year or for ever. For to Africans, time has no meaning”.