Rattlesnake Dance

Rattlesnake Dance; True Tales, Mysteries, and Rattlesnake Ceremonies by Jennifer Owings Dewey. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 1997. ISBN L-56397-247-6 48 pp. $17.95

When the author/Illustrator of this book was nine years old, she was bitten by a rattlesnake. The telling of that story is the first of the three chapters in this beautiful book. The second chapter tells of her experience at ige 10, witnessing Hopi snake ceremonies, and he third is her description of the Rattlesnake dance, the combat between two male rattlers with no biting, striking, or intent to kill. Illustrated sidebars in each chapter convey fascinating factual information about rattlesnakes as well as folklore, beliefs, and myths about them. I earned details about the snakes' rattles, venom, mating habits, and habitats.

I read about the Micmac legend that thunder was made by seven rattlers flying across the sky; and the Yurok legend that the eclipse occurred when a rattlesnake swallowed the sun. storytellers who are always on the alert for throat remedies will want to know that in Texas they say a rattlesnake skeleton and skin, sewn into an old sock and wrapped about the neck, will ward off colds and sore throats. This is probably less fragrant than the local Mennonite custom here of wrapping fried onions in flannel and applying them to the throat and chest. But then, we have no rattlesnakes, and lots of Onions.

The illustrations throughout the book are quite wonderful and I highly recommend Rattlesnake Dance for schools and libraries. Storytellers should not expect to find it a complete source book of rattlesnake lore and legend, but it has enough little tidbits to be of interest and is a quick and fascinating read.

The Second Story Review, Vol 3, No. 1, March 1998
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