Marsabit man tames snakes using his saliva

Snake charmer Tache

Mzee Duba Tache releases a puff adder tamed at Manyatta  Choraro into the bush on January 30, 2023.

Photo credit: Jacob Walter I Nation Media Group

The Galantu Lukhu clan of the Borana tribe in Marsabit County takes great pride in its association with deadly snakes.

The clan has a mythical attachment to snakes and other clans in Marsabit depend entirely on it to remove snakes that invade their homes.

Mzee Duba Tache from Manyatta Chorora is a known snake-charmer who has extraordinary powers to tame a snake using his saliva.

“All the members of the Galantu Lukhu clan are endowed with the snake charming capabilities, though mine is well known in the entire Marsabit and beyond since I have made it my full-time job,” Mzee Tache said.

He also orders snakes to either calm down or disappear into the thicket.

He can tell whether a snake is willing to be caught by observing its head nods. Only one nod means affirmative, while three nods mean the snake is unyielding, and will bite.

He takes the encroaching snakes from homes and returns them to the bush. He also ‘orders’ them never to return to human habitats.

He explained that the clan members’ exceptional powers are hereditary and are passed down to every male child born in the clan.

The boys do not need rigorous initiation that culminate in them becoming fully-fledged performing snake charmers, since they are already born with the powers.

The training begins at two years old. The boys are taught the ancient ways of snake charming, learning the dos and don’ts until they are ready to take up their roles as the next generation of snake charmers.

Women married into their clan are also taught the skills, as long as they are willing to learn.

However, daughters of the clan are not taught snake-charming lest they take it with them to their new homes when they get married.

According to the snake-charming tradition of the Galantu Lukhu clan, one is not permitted to eat chicken, eggs, or meat from the cow’s ankle or heel.

Whoever breaks the taboo loses all power to charm snakes.

When our reporter was called upon to witness how Mzee Tache performed his duties, he nearly got petrified at the sight of the reptile.

The reality of being up close with a poisonous snake strikes terror into the heart of anyone.
We witnessed first-hand how he whipped away a deadly puff adder from under old iron sheets behind a client’s house.

He spat on the snake and it was apparently rendered harmless, allowing us to hold the bucket the snake had been placed into.

Mzee Tache then walked briskly with the snake in the bucket and then ordered it to disappear into the nearby thicket.

The tradition of snake-charming in his family and clan, in general, stretches back over 100 years, he said.

His late father, Tache Huqa, was also famous for his work, known as far as the Western world. He toured Uganda, Sudan, and Somalia, among other countries, courtesy of his snake-charming.

Mzee Tache’s work extends to healing snake bite victims. He has cured many who were bitten, some of whom were on the verge of losing life or limb.

And whenever modern medicine fails, he is sometimes invited by doctors in the region to help save lives.

Not only does he serve Marsabit residents, but he also receives patients from as far as Nairobi.

He is a champion of wildlife conservation, especially the snakes. He warns residents against killing snakes, because they could face retaliation from other snakes.

He insisted that he never charms snakes for financial gain, but dutifully carries out his work of serving and saving humanity.

He only accepts money, coffee, or tobacco as tokens of appreciation, just as his culture dictates.

We reached out to the Northern Conservancy Area of KWS Assistant Director Godfrey Kebati for his comments on the impact of Mzee Tache on environmental and wildlife conservation in vain.

“We need more time to see how we can handle the matter,” Mr Kebati said.