Looking through my old notes, I found this story which symbolically represents many old traditions that we follow without paying any attention to why we do what we do. Let’s start this conversation with the story straight.
The Tradition Of Black Snake Breakfast
10,000 years ago, a farmer watches while his crops start to wither under the sun. The earth now baked dry with no signs of rain. This is unusual. He is worried knowing not what to do.
One morning his wife catches a black snake, kills and cooks it for breakfast. Later that week the rains come and the crops are saved. The farmer is very happy.
A year goes by and this time, even before the rainy season, the farmer instructs his wife to catch a black snake, kill and serve it for breakfast. She does and somehow, rains come a few days later. Now, black snake breakfast is considered lucky.
Each year the rains come, as usual – but the farmer believes the ‘black snake breakfast’ ritual is responsible – he has now forgotten the years before when the rains came anyway. Now, he seems to have figured out a way to ensure rains.
A few years later the rains don’t come despite the ritual. The farmer is analyzing the reasons for the failing in confusion.
Soon he remembers a significant event that preceded the meal – they did not have any black pepper and so the meal was spiced with chilli this time. This seemed trivial at the time, but now it is a cause – the chilli is unlucky. He buys black pepper, has his wife repeat the ritual, and a few days later the rains come – late – but as usual.
10-15 years later, as his son grows up, he points out that in many other far away villages, farmers get rain even when they do not follow this tradition. They get rain even when they don't kill black snakes.
The farmer is angry. With years and years of trial and error, he has found a way to control the rains; and the son is questioning his discovery? He calls his son a fool.
It just seems common sense. Why not perform the ritual – which is inexpensive and tasty? The son sees no reason not to comply.
Just to enhance the experience, the farmer now wears snake teeth as a necklace. He also makes a similar necklace for his son. That year the crop is extra good.
Over generations this ritual is passed from father to son. Black snakes are now very lucky for this community. Any good event is attributed to them – in case of unexpected dissatisfying events, deviations in the ritual are explored and corrected.
This is how many traditions were developed. In case you found this story interesting, you will also like my earlier post where I shared two similar stories to demonstrate why following a system without thinking may not guarantee your success. I encourage you to check it out.
The Other School Of Thought –Traditions Are Smart
On the contrary, I’ve come across many who believe that traditions have gone through years and years of experience to become what they are today, and therefore they are more dependable and more likely to work than newly created ideas.
A very interesting book I found speaking of traditions is by Edward Shils. He has written an entire book, called Tradition on this topic. Shils is a believer of the traditions and shares how and why traditions are important to society as a whole –even today.
Your Thoughts On Traditions?
Having shared these stories, I would like to open the floor for you to share your thoughts on traditions. Do you think traditions should be challenged? Or do you believe that they exist for a reason? I look forward to your thoughts and comments. Please click here to share. Thank you kindly.