Mankind has always feared and been fascinated by snakes. They have played a major role in the religion, art, legend, and fairy tales, as well as in the mystical and medicinal rites of many peoples. In the Bible, we read of the serpent in Paradise, and the ancient Egyptians worshipped the uraeus or asp. The son of the Greek god Apollo and the mortal Coronis, Aesclepius was trained as a healer by the centaur Chiron. He used snakes to cure and carried a snake-entwined staff as his symbol. The Aesculapian staff, also called the caduceus, is still the emblem of the medical profession. Hygieia, the goddess of health, sometimes said to be Aesclepius' daughter, is depicted by a snake emptying its venom in a bowl.
Snakes are regarded as symbols of slenderness, gentleness, and wisdom, but also of dishonesty, seduction, and sin. The word snake is often used to indicate cunning and treachery. The head of Medusa, one of the terrible mythological gorgons, had serpents for hair. Snakes have been used as medicines since time immemorial. Antiochus III, King of Pergamum (242-187 B.C.), Mithridates VI Eupator, King of Pontus (132-63 B.C.), and Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt (69-30 B.C.) all took an interest in poisonous snakes with the goal of discovering a universal antidote to protect themselves against assassination. Mithridates' famous theriac, the «Antidotum Mithridaticum», became famous and was used as an antidote to poisonings from snakes, spiders, and scorpions until the late Middle Ages.
The homeopathic physician Dr. Constantin Hering (1800-1880), the founder of the North American Academy for Homeopathic Medicine, added various snake venoms to the store of medications. During his stay in Surinam (1827-1833), he took the poison of the bushmaster, a snake greatly feared by the natives, and tested it in potentised form on himself and other experimental subjects. Later he tested other snake venoms and published his results.
Of the names of the three daughters of Zeus and Themis, the Moirae or Fates Clotho, Lachesis (who cut the thread of life), and Atropos three were used to name snakes. Muta is derived from the Latin mutus, for «dumb/silent». Linné originally gave the bushmaster the name Crotalus mutus, which means «dumb rattlesnake». The bushmaster bears various names among the Indians and natives of the Central and South American states. Among the Amazonas Indians, it is called surucúcú, in Bolivia verrucosa or cacabela muda, in Colombia and Ecuador rieca, on Trinidad magepire or zarama, in Panama mapana, and in Venezuela guaima or daya.
The bushmaster is the most dangerous and, with a length of 170 to 270 cm and in exceptional cases up to 400 cm, the largest poisonous snake in the Americas. The flat, broad head is markedly set off from the neck. The eye is conspicuously small with a round pupil. The bushmaster's particularly long fangs develop as tubular teeth on movable sockets. When the jaws close, the contraction presses the poison from the glands below the eyes into the ducts and tubes of the two poison fangs and, as if by a syringe, into the bite wound. Interestingly, a snake's venom is not poisonous to another of the same species, but can be lethal to one of another species. Every snake can also dose the amount of poison voluntarily. In its outward appearance, the bushmaster is reminiscent of a rattlesnake. The knobby scales are wedged and enclose the middle of the snake's body in 35 to 37 rows. The bushmaster's tail has no rattles, but a horny thorn behind a projecting shield, which is used to produce a whistling tone when the animal is excited.
The light yellow-brown to reddish upper side of the body is covered with glossy black, rhombic patterns. These have light yellow margins and a yellow spot in the middle. The upper side of the head has black spots. A dark band connects the eyes with the corners of the mouth. The belly gleams in one yellowish-white hue.
The huge, ground-dwelling snake is nocturnal and feeds on small rodents. The females lay eggs ca. 7.5 cm long and guard them until the young snakes hatch.
The bushmaster requires a specific temperature and humidity level, so it is difficult to keep in captivity.
The bushmaster is at home in the jungles of Central and South America. It is very shy and is thus seldom sighted.
Snake venoms are collected by manually «milking» or electrically stimulating the poison glands of snakes raised on farms. Fresh venom is centrifuged and dried in a dessicator under vacuum conditions at a temperature of 37° C, or else freeze-dried (lyophilized). The bushmaster produces more venom than any other poisonous snake between 280 and 450 mg of dry venom. The Crotalus species regenerate their poison relatively slowly, so that they can only be «milked» once a month. The poison consists of shiny, usually yellowish, amorphous particles of crystalline character.
A.Vogel/Bioforce uses snake poison produced in accordance with the actual HAB. The potentisation of the dilutions is carried out by shaking by hand.