POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The world is celebrating a slithering creature that most people fear – Monday, July 16 is World Snake Day.
Some cultures revere the serpents while others simply keep them as pets. Now, you can even get a snake massage.
CBS2's Vanessa Murdock witnessed her first snake massage with Serpentessa, a snake priestess at Dreaming Goddess in Poughkeepsie.
"Just enjoy them and feel them," Serpentessa tells Pam Kelly of Pleasant Valley, New York.
Serpentessa guided three boa constrictors, some longer than six feet, all over Kelly's body. She can't force them to do anything -- each serpent chooses its own path, gliding over Kelly, wrapping around her feet, her head, even resting on her neck.
"They tone and stimulate the vagus nerve in our body and that releases endorphins and oxytocin," Serpentessa said. those are the feel good hormones."
Serpentessa has specialized as an interspecies facilitator for 25 years. Murdock asked her how safe this is.
"There are no guarantees with a wild animal," she says. "You are the one who's going to choose whether if it's is safe for you or not. So no one has ever been hurt by one of my boa constrictors."
Serpentessa says people typically reach out to her for one of three reasons: healing, empowerment or to get over their fear of snakes.
In the end, Kelly said the session helped.
"It was a lot calmer and peaceful than I thought it would be," said Kelly. "There was a point it felt like they were just hugging me around the shoulders. It just felt very calm - like I could fall asleep."
Kelly's ease on the table gave Alan Lesner, the courage to try it. He barely flinched as a snake went in for a kiss.
As for Murdock, she forced herself to at least sit with a snake, the only animal she says she's ever really feared. Within a few minutes, she could finally relax, breathe normally and even smile for a picture with Serpentessa and one of her snakes.
Serpentessa also offers snake massages in the city. An hour and 15 minute massage starts at $300.
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