This week, I’m sharing four stories about snakes and the people who love, hate, and tolerate them in equal measure. But first, a haiku:

Scary, beautiful
Important to religion
Slithering and scaled.

1. “The Pentecostal Serpent.” (Asher Elbein, The Bitter Southerner, September 2014)

An Atlanta zoo. A dusty office at the University of Tennessee. The mountains of Appalachia. A small church in Alabama. How has the life of the handled snake touched each of these?

2. “Notes From The Road: The Snake Charmer.” (Tessa Fontaine, The Rumpus, November 2013)

Tessa Fontaine learned a hot new skill in order to join a circus. Now, she has to own up to a small exaggeration on her sideshow résumé and handle snakes.

3. “The Worst Tree in the World.” (Casey N. Cep, Pacific Standard, July 2014)

In her father’s old walnut tree lived 18–18!–black snakes. Casey N. Cep learns how to live with the hidden snakes in another tree–her family tree.

4. “Woman Marries Snake.” (Mischa Berlinski, Harper’s Magazine, November 2007)

Hinduism regards snakes as god-like, not evil. But everyone speculates when a woman from a small Indian village marries a cobra named Debo. Mischa Berlinski travels to India to investigate.