Poisonous Serpents have been handled by devout Appalachian believers since the early 1920s. Handling serpents is considered, by those in the practice, to be one of the five signs mentioned in Mark 16. Those in this Pentecostal/Holiness sect feel that believers should manifest at least some of the signs. Although these fine folks have been ridiculed for their worship, and have often suffered death, serpent handling persists in Appalachia. This pathfinder and bibliography include all found published information concerning the practice, including all aspects such as deaths, legality, fictional sources, bibliographies, encyclopedia entries, etc.
Thomas Burton’s book, Serpent Handling Believers, offers a comprehensive description of the practice, and is an excellent starting point.
Burton, Thomas. Serpent Handling Believers. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993. App Coll BX7990.H6 B87 1993
Thomas Burton, mentioned above, and Ralph Hood are two of the most noted scholars concerning serpent handling.
Hood, Ralph W. Them That Believe: The Power and Meaning of the Christian Serpent-Handling Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. App Coll BX7990.H6 H66 2008
Kimbrough, David. Taking Up Serpents: Snake Handlers of Eastern Kentucky. Georgia: Mercer University of Press, 1995. App Coll BX7990.H6 K46 1995
La Barre, Weston. They Shall Take Up Serpents: Psychology of the Southern Snake Handling Cult. New York: Schocken Books, 1969. ASU Main Stacks BL441.L3 1969
McDonald, Jeanne and Fred Brown. The Serpent Handlers: Three Families and Their Faith. Winston-Salem: John Blair, 2000. App Coll BX7990.H6 B76 2000
Pelton, Robert. Snake Handlers: God Fearers or Fanatics. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1974. App Coll BX7990.H6 P38
Burton, Thomas. “Serpent Handling.” Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Eds. Ruby Abramson and Jean Haskell. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee, 2006. 1351-1353. App Coll F106.E53 2006
Kane, Steven. “Serpent Handlers.” The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 1 Religion. Ed. Samuel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. 211-212. ASU Main Stacks F209.N47 2006 v.1
Relevant search headings are “Snake Cults” and “Holiness Serpent”
America: History & Life
Relevant search headings are “Snake Handling” and “Serpent Handling”
Relevant search headings are “Serpent Handling” and “Snake Handling”
Appalachian Journal has published several articles over the years that concern serpent handlers, and includes reviews of books related to the topic.
Appalachian Journal (v. 1-35, 1972- )
Subject Headings Frequently Used in Journals:
Smith, Colin. SOC 257: New Religious Movements. Course home page. Serpent Handlers aka Snake Handlers and the Signs Following Movement. May 1998. Department of Sociology, U of Virginia. 27 October 2008 <http://web.archive.org/web/20060830052426/religiousmovements.lib.virgini....
Compiler: Joshua Noah, 9 December 2008