Where did the art of snake charming originate?
Snake charming is the practice of appearing to hypnotize a snake by playing and waving around an instrument called a pungi. A typical performance may also include handling the snakes or performing other seemingly dangerous acts, as well as other street performance staples, like juggling and sleight of hand.
The earliest evidence for snake charming comes from ancient Egyptian sources. Charmers there mainly acted as magicians and healers.
As literate and high-status men, part of their studies involved learning the various types of snake, the gods to whom they were sacred, and how to treat those who were bitten by the reptiles.
Entertainment was also part of their repertoire, and they knew how to handle the animals and charm them for their patrons.
One of the earliest records of snake charming appears in the Bible in Psalm 58:3–5: "The wicked turn aside from birth; liars go astray as soon as they are born. Their venom is like that of a snake, like a deaf serpent that does not hear, that does not respond to the magicians, or to a skilled snake-charmer."
Despite a sort of golden age in the 20th century, snake charming is today slowly dying out. This is due to a variety of factors, chief among them the recent enforcement of a 1972 law in India banning ownership of snakes.
The most popular species are those native to the snake charmer's home region, typically various kinds of cobras, though vipers and other types are also used.