Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2011 Volume 7 :: Article 7
2011 Volume 7, Article 7
Near-Death Experience from Serpent Bites in Religious Settings

Author: Ralph W. Hood, Jr. (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) and W. Paul Williamson (Henderson State University)

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The study of near-death experience (NDE) has been fraught with conceptual and measurement issues. However, a consensus is emerging that NDE is far from a unitary phenomenon and that it is best illuminated by use of various methodologies, including qualitative approaches, in specific cultural contexts. This study employed phenomenological interviews and a hermeneutical method to derive the thematic structure of meaning of NDE for thirteen serpent handlers who experienced what they thought was a fatal serpent bite while handling in a religious setting in which the ritual is sanctioned. Results suggest that at the anticipation of imminent death, beliefs that are deeply embedded in the culture of serpent handling provide comfort, transformation of feelings, and transcendence of fear in the face of death for those who survive near-death bites.

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