Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake-Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, by Dennis Covington.

Essay by mrbradgA, December 2005

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Dennis Covington writes about the snake handling rituals that go on in Scottsboro, Alabama, in March on 1992. While going to the services held at the churches, Covington realizes that he is not only doing a story on other people's religions, but that he is also discovering his own religion. Covington creates feelings of sympathy and disgust for me while he talks about snake handling in southern churches. Through Covington's eyes I was exposed to his spiritual journey, family, and southern beliefs about snake handling. Covington's spiritual journey throughout Salvation on Sand Mountain was shocking. It makes one think that the phrase "everything happens for a reason" really is true. His first experience in a serpent-handling church was "exhilarating and unsettling" (11). Especially compared to Covington's small Methodist church in Birmingham, Al. The snake-handling church on Sand Mountain seemed to bring a different point of view to Covington about his spiritual life.

For example, Covington stated that "he wanted to experience more" (11) because the services at The Church of Jesus with Signs Following always seemed to leave Covington wondering about what was going to happen next.

Dennis Covington began to get closer to the congregation and he soon had a taste for handling snakes. After he became familiar with the church services, he began to invite his family to come along. Covington's daughter, Ashley, also had an influence on Covington becoming more interested in the snake handling ritual. She was the one person that he thought would never like an act such as snake handling. Her reaction to the services startled him. "The raw hillbilly music had been imprinted on her genes, like something deep within her she was remembering" (114). Ashley's reaction to the ritual brought on a more determined and willing Covington to search their family history...