“Snake Eyes: Living as a Cobra Therian” by SerpentineZebra, written February 27, 2009
I realize that I am rather lonesome in the therian community, because even though I would say my secondary theriotype is a jaguar - which is not too uncommon - my main one is undoubtedly a cobra of some kind... though the two are never really completely separate, they act on a spectrum with each other. Most therians can easily relate to or understand mammalian shifts, being wolves, or cats, or foxes... even I can relate to it, having had wolf cameo shifts every so often... but very few know what it's like to be a reptile, especially a snake.
Long before I knew what a therian was, I believed strongly that I was a serpent. It never occurred to me to ask anyone about it, because I kind of assumed that everyone has a certain animal that they felt like in some way... I didn't think I was weird in that sense. I cannot give a time frame as to when this realization first happened, but I suspect that it may have been hit upon when I first played the video game Primal Rage, which had a female cobra beast in it named Vertigo. Despite her evil character, I related strongly to her and her unusual form. I've questioned the legitimacy of my therianthropy sometimes because of the nature of how I came upon that aspect of myself, but then I remind myself that a lot of sincere therians probably realized something about themselves from reading stories or watching movies about werewolves. I later read about the Naga, a mythical Indian race of shapeshifting cobra-people, when I was in about 6th grade, and contemplated on the possibility of being one of them. I had also found out about Chinese Astrology around this time, I believe, and found out that I was born in the year of the Snake. This gave me some closure, but I still felt like something was missing, something was not being explained to me. No resource seemed to touch upon why I sometimes felt like I am a snake-person... I related to snakes on an deeper level than the Chinese zodiac suggested (even though I would say the description of the sign is accurate for me).
As I grew a bit older, I realized that not only was I one of the few people (if not the only one) I knew that related to an animal in such a way, but I also felt like I was turning into a cobra, at some points... maybe not physically, I knew no one else would believe I was a snake in human form, but more times than I could count, I wished they could see the way I felt inside. I wanted them to see me as the serpent-woman I felt I should look like... this desire intensified as I matured further, as I would experience these shifts at moments when I felt very attractive... so my confidence in my own sex appeal would rise even more. I felt sexier and more alluring when I was shifted, maybe influenced by the infamy of the snake as a supposed "tempter" ("Garden of Eden" story) or similar symbol of sexuality, but mostly because it felt natural to me, like that was who I am and it was even more beautiful than my human body (not that I had body image issues, because I didn't... I just felt even better as a serpent).
I learned to work out these shifts and urges through my art work, and later, through learning to belly dance. In my art, almost any time I wanted to represent myself, I liked to use a snake in some way. Even in my senior year graduation photo, I wore a fine gold necklace, with a small, gold cobra pendant - a little piece of the "me" inside. If I doodled an animal representation of myself in the margins, most of the time she was more or less a serpent or other reptile. My piece, Chimerical Fancy, a seven foot high oil painting I did for Higher Lever IB Art 2, features my version of a chimera (modeled after my body) composed of a jaguar, bat, zebra, and a sea snake. When I belly dance, it is a profound experience, because I work out that slithering motion, I work out a shift, where I feel beautiful and liberated, I become at once the snake and the snake charmer. The throbbing bass and percussion guide my movements most, the vibrations and music attracting my fellow humans, and helping them see that I am not moving alone. Most may see a pretty girl who dances really well, but to me, I am showing them what I feel inside through a beautiful, ancient, and ever-feminine art.
Another thing is, that while it most likely is a human trait, it is also a quality of most reptiles to seek warmth, to become sluggish in the cold, but move about just fine in high heat. A good portion of people I've met - even and possibly especially on this site - would say that 83F is too hot for them, or up to 90; yet I can say that it usually must be at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit for me to be comfortable, where 83 is often ideal. On the flip side, once the temperature drops below 60 or 65, I have little desire to do anything but stay inside, eat well, and bundle up. It depletes my energy greatly to be forced to stand out in the cold. What's worse is I lived with my mother for several years, and she tends to overheat easily, so she would keep the fan on and make the apartment far colder than my liking. Luckily, I had a good blanket in my room.
Other than my phantom shifts and temperature sensitivity, however, I didn't really think about myself as being different or strange; at least, not for that reason, because I already got diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, I was a tomboy at heart, and I didn't really identify with the trends of the times. Not until my second semester of college, when I had been with my current boyfriend - who may be known to some as Werewolf of Waldorf - for about two or three months, did I even learn there was a term for people who felt like I did, as animals in human form. I had to go back and think about this for a few months before concluding on my therianthropy, because it wasn't something I'd consciously thought about for a while... yet even then, the first animal I thought was "cobra". No wolf, no cat, nothing... just cobra.
I regret that later I doubted my serpentine nature... I look back and wonder how that could have happened, as all my life it was snake, with the exception of the fact that I have limbs and snakes do not. Yes, I did correctly identify the jaguar part of myself at this time, but to confuse a dromaeosaur cameo shift with a true theriotype was a mistake... however, it was not too different from my cobra shifts, it was simply more feral. Now, however, I readily embrace myself as a cobra and jaguar hybrid therian.
A question I sometimes get asked is how I manage to get cobra shifts when I, as a human, have limbs that the snake does not. Well, it's a situation calling for compromise except in one case. Normally, the characteristics of a cobra, in my phantom-shifted form, super-impose over my human body as an anthromorph. I feel an elongation of my neck, a lengthening of my snout and fangs (which appear at my canines despite the fact that cobra fangs are forefront in nature), the sudden appearance of a flexible tail... no one can see it but I know it's there. A faint shiver surges up my neck vertebrae, radiating inward from the sides, and that is my phantom hood, ready to "extend" as needed when I am surprised, frightened, angry, want to be left alone, what ever.
My tail makes itself known suddenly. It does not extend from my legs, but rather as an extension of my spine, and I will have small muscle contractions in the area of my rear end. This is the extent of what I should feel, but it is not. I notice, whether slowly or suddenly, a feeling of thickening of my skin... not by much, but enough to know, those are my scales.
To compensate for the "extra limbs" I have... when these scales fill out on my extremities, they make them feel like lizard paws, complete with curved, slightly sharp, non-retractable claws where my fingernails are. The same with my toes, except that since no lizard regularly walks on two legs anymore... my legs feel like those of flightless birds, or a swift, agile dinosaur. Should I be barefoot, I can easily walk digitigrade; should I be unfortunate enough to be in shoes, my toe claws extend more or less from the front of whatever is on my feet. Sometimes this sensation will take the form of an itch.
In this shift - which is never pure because of the phantom jaguar ears - I am both more alert and more oblivious, because I will look around and watch more, but am more easily startled, if only by a bit. What is odd is that I shift best when music is playing, whether on speakers or through my headphones, compromising my hearing and adding to the serpentine sensations (as snakes do not hear the same as humans do)... yet I am more sensitive to vibrations (i.e. heavy bass), even enjoying the feel of them surging through me, and knowing that the cobra in me is picking up on the same signals it would in the wild. It can even happen in reverse, where such vibrations will trigger a shift, sometimes phantom, sometimes mental, or even simply sensory.
A bizarre quality about my phantom shifts, however, is that while I have little ability to see auras or astral presences, I often seem to "know" what "color" my phantom scales are... yet they are usually either an intense dark turquoise, a rich green, or a slightly metallic gold, none of which are natural colors for a cobra. This is a curious phenomenon and I have not yet found a plausible answer for why this is so, but it is in my mind's eye.
As for the exception to the rule, the only time I feel a "true" cobra shift, at least in theory, is if my limbs are restrained and I cannot use them. I have not as of yet tried to trigger such a shift - which would require the aid of someone else - but according to my estimates, I would feel my phantom body merge into a more serpentine form, with my arms melding into my torso and my legs fusing into a tail. Unfortunately, I am relatively sure that using core muscles in that intensity would result in me quickly tiring out, and my human side would gravely miss the ability to use my limbs, most likely "breaking" the shift and requiring assistance with my release.