Herbarium & Snakes

Back in late autumn/October 2011, when I was living in Freiburg, me and three other classmates went on a trip to Basel, Switzerland for a weekend getaway. For us this was supposed to be hostel-staying, playing games & drinking with other college kids/teens from across Europe who were staying there, walking along the river in Basel, and just general good fun in visiting the expensive neighbor-country. So…normal college kid stuff, of course.

As usual for tourists & Americans abroad, we were all taking twenty-billion photos of everything around us and just trying to take it all in. Though to be fair, Europeans do far more “tourist photo taking” than Americans really do. Europe is so gorgeous that everyone takes photos everywhere. And somewhere along the line of our wandering the city and looking at different old buildings, we managed to end up along some little Gasse (small side street, really). So we’re walking along, going up and down the hills in the city, and we come across that sign.

I’m generally terrified of snakes. I’ve mentioned that before at least once; especially given that it’s really my father’s family’s fault that I’m phobic, since both my dad and his mom were just as bad about it. But my fear of this is different than my paralyzing arachnophobia. See with snakes, I can look at still photos of them, or art of them. Because they’re not moving, and therefore not threatening. Art is okay, since it doesn’t move, and I’m able to rationally and subconsciously parse out that this is different than one in the wild. I’ve gotten better about this since I was a kid. Still would panic if I came across a live one in the real world, but a photo is something I can at least look at without full-blown panic. That’s a major step up for me.

So this sign. I was really interested in it. First thing that caught my eye was “Herbarium”. Not going to lie: my little witchy/pagan heart was super interested in that. It was the first time I’d seen something like that before. But with the others around, I couldn’t do too much research or looking into this sign or the museum beyond two little photos I took. Because the sign is for the Pharmazie Historisches Museum Basel (Pharmacy Museum, basically). Which was super fascinating, and got me very interested. Unfortunately I never got back around to visiting this museum, but it’s on my list for a future trip back to Switzerland.

The snake though, usually back then I would have been terrified of it. Normally I would never have taken a photo of it. Or at least, I would have taken a photo of the word Herbarium and then would have immediately cropped the snake out.

But this snake, it’s kind of cute looking. It isn’t scary at all, and I can distinctly remember not being at all afraid when I was looking at it, which would have been majorly out of character back when I was 20. So this was perhaps the start of my being able to at least look at snake pictures without panic. Which is a good thing. Because for all that I am not overtly fond of the personification of Veles in relation to snakes, that’s a very common UPG–enough so that it’s pretty much universal. So lots of images of him that I can find or see online have snake-like features. If I were still panicky on seeing just a photo or image, I would have a very hard time in honoring this god among my pantheon.

Which might have been a different kind of sign, now that I’m looking back on it. Who knows. I’m certainly head blind enough that I would never realize it in real time. But with about 5.5 years of hindsight, this probably was a sign of some sort for me.




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I'm a bibliophile who loves collecting books. Definite cat person. Amateur historian and major geek, who loves all things Tolkien and Star Trek. I'm also fluent in German.

2 thoughts on “Herbarium & Snakes

  1. I like snakes. Perhaps it was rebellion against Christian iconography or something; but, snakes never scared me. Spiders — I’m with you. I have major arachnophobia. The only one I tolerate is the daddy-long-legs. When we lived in No. Car. when I was a child for 4 years we had a mini- black widow invasion. This so seriously creeped me out that I will have cold sweats. Forget it with the monsters (and there have been some of those, too).


    1. The best year of my life was the year I lived in Germany. I did not see a single spider for the whole year. Only spider I saw in Germany was on the wall of the train station on the day I flew back home.


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