The adder is the only venomous snake in the British Isles and as you might expect many omens have been associated with it. Traditionally many of these omens were thought, by some country folk, to have been the result of nomadic gypsies.
One amazing belief was that relief from an adder bite could be achieved by rubbing the wound with the dead body. Generally the adder was believed to be a positive omen especially if seen early in the spring and indicated success in any battle or dispute with an advisory. Some would even hang the dried skin by the chimney to add to the good fortune. To protect the house against fire, dried skin in the roof would provide a positive influence for the household whilst an adder on the loose was a powerful omen of ensuing misfortune. If one was seen by the entrance to a property fatal illness and even death was thought to be the ultimate result.
The adder has long been imbued with particular qualities especially the power of wisdom and a sly nature. ‘Gloine nathair’, translates as ‘the glass of the serpent’, and was the name of sacred Druid amulets.
The Battle of Camlan according to legend was said to have been caused by this snake. An adder is said to have suddenly emerged from bushes when the armies of Mordred (Arthur’s illegitimate son) and Arthur, King of Britain (son of Igerna and Uther Pendragon) confronted one another. As it appeared one of Arthur’s men pulled out his sword to kill it and this was taken as a sign to attack by Mordred and the battle commenced.