Sunday Snake Charmer

Today’s selection comes courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a fantastic collection of photographs. These photos depict a young woman snake charmer, taken between 1900-1908.

Snake charming originated in India long ago but it became popular in the early twentieth century, as governments promoted it to draw in tourists.

A typical snake charmer uses about seven snakes a year. Charmers like to sit out of biting range, and the snakes are usually sluggish and reluctant to attack.

Snake charmer 1900-1908
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Note the snake in the lower right corner. Hopefully, this woman was a good charmer, since she’s sitting within biting range.

Snake charmer 1900-1908
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Most snakes used for snake charming are highly venomous. Indian snake charmers typically use Indian cobra and Russell’s vipers.  In North Africa, the Egyptian cobra, puff adder, carpet viper, and horned desert viper are more popular.

The highly venomous Indian Cobra by Wikipedia user Kamalnv


Snake charming appears to be a male occupation, and it’s an inherited profession. Most charmers begin learning the practice at a young age from their fathers.

I did find one other image (a drawing) of female snake charmers in the Library of Congress, but it’s an interesting one!

LOC Women Snake Charmers