Ah, motherhood–it suits me! ((Blushes with Virgo modesty))
It gives me great pleasure to announce that as of Sunday, January 17, my Bodacious Beau™ and I fulfilled a longstanding dream of ours and we became proud parents of a baby red corn snake! Our trip to our local PetSmart was not taken for that purpose, however: We’d gone there in the hopes of procuring a particular toy for the cats, one that a friend had brought over on Saturday night to entertain said fur-babies while we all watched the film Labyrinth for the first time (yes, I know: For a Pagan with pronounced fantasy leanings I’ll admit I am way behind in achieving certain pop culture milestones!), enjoying a cozy night indoors (Chicago pizza included!) given the severity of the winter weather that night.
Of course, PetSmart stores are craftily designed (at least in the Chicago area, they appear to be this way) so that you have to walk past the reptiles and birds for sale before you can get to the all-important cat food and supplies area. As is my wont, I stopped before the terrariums of the reptiles and cooed at every scaly critter on display–a variety of snakes, bearded dragons, chameleons, and turtles and tortoises. At first, a lovely but shy small ball python caught my eye; it was housed in the same terrarium with a gorgeous, larger piebald ball python. I sensed that the smaller snake was annoyed by the nonstop, fast-paced slithering of its larger housemate. “You poor thing!” I pouted. “Daniel, look!”
Dan had pulled up behind me with the shopping cart in tow. “What a pretty python!” he said, though I wasn’t sure if he was referring to the large piebald or the shy one.
But then, as if to formulate a diversion to the attention being given to the ball pythons, a wee red, scaly head characterized by mesmerizing, bulbous red eyes popped out of its aspen shave bedding in the terrarium directly above the ball pythons’ enclosure. It was a baby red corn snake! It cranked itself up higher, just like a periscope of a submarine jutting out of the ocean, zooming in on us for a closer look.
“OH!” My beau and I both marveled simultaneously.
“What a precious little baybeeee!” I cooed, clasping my hands together and pirouetting in the middle of the aisle. “Oh Dan, it’s a baby! We’ve always wanted a baby!”
For the record, aside from cats, the next class of creatures that really trigger my maternal instincts are reptiles, especially serpents and crocodilians.
“This is a sign. We need to get her!” he said.
We’d discussed becoming snake parents long before our official engagement as a couple. In fact, we came close to buying a baby king snake last autumn at a different store, but our budget was strained at the time. When we discovered the king snake was sold, it was a bit of a knife wound to the heart. We vowed to be patient.
And lo, she appeared when we’d least thought about it!
We immediately asked for the reptile associate of the store to help us and answer questions. He was so helpful, so knowledgeable, and so genuine in his love for the reptiles in the store (he was an avid snake papa himself) that his enthusiasm was infectious and made Dan and I confident that this was the right place and right time to make the life-altering decision to commit to the care of another animal in our home for at least the next 20 years!
“Is it a boy or a girl?” Dan asked while handling the wee corn snake, who scented Dan’s fingers gingerly with a fast-flickering tongue.
“This is still very much a baby and it’s way too early to be able to tell what the biological sex is,” Sid the sales associate said.
I tugged on Dan’s sleeve. “Brimo!” I exclaimed, wide-eyed.
“Yes, that’s perfect!” he said in agreement. “Little Brimo, we’re going to welcome you to our house today. Are you ready to come home with us, baby girl?” Dan asked, making eye contact with the lively Brimo, who had actually paused in Dan’s hand to make that periscope maneuver again.
I smiled with sheer maternal contentment. I sure picked a good mate to be a fellow snake parent!
As devotees of the great Titan goddess Hekate, Dan and I felt Brimo to be a very fitting choice for a name for our snake. With its origins in Thessaly, renowned in the Classical world for its witch-lore, the name Brimo (“the Raging One,” “the Mighty”) is an epithet of Hekate’s, one that stresses Her terrifying aspects (Harrison 551). It is also an epithet applied to the raging Demeter, Demeter Erinys, as well as another Thracian import of a Deity known for His rages: Ares (Harrison 552-553).
In his haunting and strange third century B.C.E. poem The Alexandra, the poet Lycophron has the tragic Cassandra warning her mother Queen Hecuba of Troy that Hekate Brimo has ordained an unsavory fate for her (to lose her human, royal form and become one of the infernal goddess’s hounds):
O mother, O unhappy mother!
Thy fame, too, shall not be unknown, but the maiden daughter of Perseus,
shall make thee Her attendant, terrifying with thy baying in the night
all mortals who worship not with torches the images of
the Zerynthian queen of Strymon,
appeasing the goddess of Pherae with sacrifice.
–lines 1174 ff.
It has been my personal experience that Hekate Brimo is an ideal Power to call upon for magical workings of both a defensive and an offensive nature, if you are willing to pay the price.
I just love knowing that my Bodacious Beau™ and I have a living link to Her in the form of an undulating, chthonic beauty–a power that we will love, feed, and nurture. Io, Brimo!
Harrison, Jane Ellen. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1908. Second edition.
Lycophron. Aratus. Translated by Mair, A. W. & G. R. Loeb Classical Library Volume 129. London: William Heinemann, 1921.