Wednesday, October 27, 2021

‘The last of a dying breed’: Sri Lanka’s last snake man buried

Written by By Anija Wojtanovic, CNN Staff

After Tamara Ratnayake died last year aged 52, her husband’s ancestors paid him a tribute by chanting as a coffin was taken to a cemetery. Their valley — Parichay, 25 miles north of Colombo — was sealed off to outsiders.

But many people visited the site, which is now a symbol of Tamara’s life, out of curiosity — and looking for answers about what happened to him.

“We used to visit her grave every day, even if we had to wait for hours to see something,” said Ranjan Ratnayake, the woman’s husband and namesake.

“But when I found that my wife died because of a disease that I had never heard of, I had to stop visiting her grave.”

On Monday, Jan. 7, the snake man — who performed miraculous chakras and could cure ailments with the power of serpent power — was laid to rest. According to his family, he contracted pneumonia while visiting an area afflicted by typhoid.

“We never thought that we would ever come to realize that our folk healer did not have the supernatural powers that we were led to believe in,” said Tamara’s daughter, Rasheedynna Ratnayake.

Traditional medicines that have become popular recently, such as ayurvedic remedies, do not necessarily guarantee a cure. The most widely-used modern remedies include fish oil and light therapy.

A snake man — a Hindu religion and folk medicine that involves the purification of the snake and removal of toxic substances — once cured a woman of typhoid — which can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, according to the World Health Organization.

In another instance, in 2003, a snake man performed a resurrection ceremony for a former Japanese tourist who had allegedly expired during a hike in the Wuruluwa forest, amid war torn Sri Lanka.

According to The Guardian, during the ceremony the shaman had an elderly monk dressed as an elephant clean his dead body, before the monk dunked the body into water, which sustained the body while it floated away. The travel company Holidays by the Tiger took the elderly couple to Sri Lanka, where they were embraced by Sinhalese villagers who had viewed the ceremonies as miraculous.

The man, who the holiday company dubbed “the last of a dying breed,” was able to resume his normal life and return to the jungle.

These stories are not uncommon in Sri Lanka, where snake spiritualism is highly admired. New experiences such as mass bloodletting ceremonies or mass offerings of other purported remedies also spread through the country.

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