Serpent-Handling West Virginia Pastor Dies From Snake Bite

Snake Handling

Handling serpents at the Pentecostal Church of God in 1946.

Reports Arlette Saenz on ABC News:

A “serpent-handling” West Virginia pastor died after his rattlesnake bit him during a church ritual, just as the man had apparently watched a snake kill his father years before.

Pentecostal pastor Mark Wolford, 44, hosted an outdoor service at the Panther Wildlife Management Area in West Virginia Sunday, which he touted on his Facebook page prior to the event.

“I am looking for a great time this Sunday,” Wolford wrote May 22, according to the Washington Post. “It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good ‘ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers.”

Robin Vanover, Wolford’s sister, told the Washington Post that 30 minutes into the outdoor service, Wolford passed around a poisonous timber rattlesnake, which eventually bit him…

26 Comments on "Serpent-Handling West Virginia Pastor Dies From Snake Bite"

  1. Snake handling fail; this man was not holy enough, one might infer. Whatev. Next!

  2. Liam_McGonagle | May 31, 2012 at 11:21 am |

    Assh*les like this vote in Wisconsin.  Nuff said.

  3. It’s always amazing to me that people like this can’t view the Bible in anything but the literal sense. All the stuff about handling venomous snakes makes a lot more sense as a metaphor. It’s like Duncan Trussell recently said on one of his podcasts: religion is like a coconut, and these guys are just chewing on the shell rather than cracking it open.


  5. Monkey See Monkey Do | May 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm |

    Lucifer is still playing his games. Love that guy. 

  6. SOUND FX:
    Insert Nelson Muntz “HA, HA!” laugh HERE, followed immediately by “Sad Trombone Sound”

  7. Serpent-Handling West Virginia Pastor Dies From Snake Bite.

    Because they are POISON, dumbass.

    What, too sciencey for ya?

  8. Snakes are poisonous. 

  9. It must have been god’s will (isn’t that what you people say?)…

  10. Anarchy Pony | May 31, 2012 at 10:31 pm |

    The Schaden Freudes itself.

  11. DeepCough | May 31, 2012 at 10:55 pm |

    If you ask me, it was clearly God’s Will.

  12. Sadly enough a person has perished based on their absolutist belief.  Perhaps his flock believes god decided his time has come.  I am not one of those believers.  The strange thing to me about religion in this case is that the true believers cannot say he was wrong but attribute it to gods will.  They may justify it by saying god willed him to heaven.  So I should shoot up 1kg opiate tomorrow and say god chose me?  How does that play on the free will/destiny idea? 

  13. Anonymous | Jun 1, 2012 at 3:58 am |

    He’s an idiot. He’s dead. Good! We lost a moron? Fucking celebrate. There’s one less moron in the world. 
    -Bill Hicks

    Mother nature has a clever way of killing off the idiots.

    • a little too barbaric, I Will not celebrate death.  Bill Hicks was cool, but you do not need to think like him, he was a comedian, an intelligent comedian, but one none the less. Normal behavior is less intense and less emotional. Emotions are special and to be let loose only in special occasions and rituals, analogous to the snake handling and just as dangerous. He took a risk messing with an armed animal, should have used his obsession with snakes to create an anti venom bank, but didnt deserve to die for his folly. texas does rule the world buddy (yet). In another note, I am tempted to call the people that build expensive above ground houses in tornado alley idiots, but I dont know everything that is going on there, and I dont know what makes people behave in certain way nor do I know what makes people stay alive in general. All I know is that if you celebrate someones death you are no better than they were. 

  14. God’s will no doubt. 

  15. Calypso_1 | Jun 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |

    Something to consider –
    Oft enough, and rightfully so commenters on this sight, and I am one, have been accused of making negative comments about Christianity.  I believe this is, to a great extent, symptomatic of absolutely real endemic faults throughout the history of Christianity and the way many practitioners of this religion present themselves.  The comments here, regarding snake handlers, though largely in humor reflect this. 
    I would like, however to offer I different line of thought regarding the cultural/religious practice of Pentecostal-Holiness snake handling which has become one of primary mythic signifiers of Appalachian culture. 
    I believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Appalachian snake handling is a vestigial religious practice of the Cherokee people.  One could even call it a reverse cargo cult in that the Cherokee had a far more complex culture than that of rural Appalachia and that snake handlers have lost all awareness of the original cultural heritage and have grafted a far more primitive interpretation of Christianity and the Bible to account for and maintain a non-traditional Christian practice. 
    Snake dancing is well accounted for among the Native American tribes of the southwest (see images).  The references in Cherokee culture are not as well persevered.  However, there are some interesting possibilities.
    Tsa-la-tsi-s-gi  gv-do-di  ka-ne:  Dances with Snakes – is still a common Cherokee name. 
    The rattle snake was sacred to the Cherokee, not to be killed, except by medicine men, who had the knowledge of preparing its body for ritual use.  A snake medicine man would consume the flesh and poison of snakes to acquire snake power or perhaps simply survive being bitten by a snake.  Fangs were used for ritual scarification and there are accounts of medicine men who kept live rattlers wrapped around their waste inside their clothing.  Cures for various ailments were affected with different species of snakes by stretching the snake out head to tail with the hands, placing the snake in the teeth and biting down, carful not to pierce its flesh and then releasing the snake to carry away the illness (Note the similarity to image of Hopi serpent dance w/ snake in mouth).
    One of the primary myths of the Cherokee is that of the Horned Serpent, the Rattlesnake and the Sun.  The snakes were sent to save mankind from the overbearing power of the sun.  There are accounts in other tribe’s lore of medicine men turning sticks to rattlers and back again.  That ancestors of the Cherokee should turn to Bible versus emphasizing snake lore to explain older practices for which their own memory was fading is a not improbable.
    Appalachian snake handling, as historically documented began within the Church of God, Cleveland, TN in Cherokee Co NC and across the state line Monroe Co, TN – Cherokee country, about 50 years after the forced removal of the Cherokee.  But about half of the Cherokee stayed blending into the culture around them.  George Hensley the ‘founder’ of Pentecostal snake handling simply states that he witnessed an old woman take up snakes at a camp meeting as a child.  This dates the practice prior to any inclusion in the church and possibly prior to Indian removal. 
    Take a look at some of the videos of snake handing churches.  Listen to the music.  Tune out the Appalachian style hymn singing on top.  Listen to the steady Boom Cha Boom Cha of the drums and tambourines.  Watch the dance steps.  Try to feel the shack shaking of fifty feet.  Hear the woops and screams.  Tune out all of the poorly educated, extreme Christian rhetoric.  I’ve met these people.  They all talk about their Cherokee ancestry.  They say the peak of snake handling is a trance – Blinding light and ecstasy.  Realize that you may in fact be witnessing something far older and precious to the heritage of the land and its people. 

    • Jin The Ninja | Jun 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm |

      extremely well done. thanks for this.

    • its not just xtianity that is despised, but any religion that enslaves the minds of its followers taking anyway individuality, critical thinking, creativity and the all important logic.  The ones that do not bring clear benefits to society as a whole, or tries to take over the mainstream of a culture . Its memetics, not so much theosophy that I look at when i analyse this problem.  

    • No, I hadn’t seen this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      I had avoided the whole article.

      I’ve got kin who attend Pentecostal services where they handle snakes,
      drink strychnine, speak in tongues, and leap the pews. So, I didn’t
      imagine there would be anything of interest here for me.

      I wrongly concluded that all of the comments would be a mere snide dismissal of the person or practice. (Would the attitudes would be the same toward a person who died as a result of the Sun Dance?)

      My mistake. 

      You’ve done an excellent job.

  16. Good Riddance.


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