Filipino Folk Beliefs: Snakes – A Sign of Luck or a Bad Omen?

Finding a snake in the house or on the path is associated with good luck. Cagayan de Oro City, 1967, by Angel Eblacas: as recounted by Mechlora Poson.

Snakes play a significant role in Filipino folk narratives, symbolizing a range of concepts including protection, strength, transformation, and ancestral connection. In this context, finding a snake in the house might be interpreted as a positive omen, signifying that positive changes or transformations are on the horizon for the inhabitants of the house. While some people might see a snake as a harbinger of good luck, others might still find it alarming due to the potential dangers. Some folk accounts point to the exact opposite – that coming across a snake signifies bad luck. The negative connotation may be of religious influence by Spanish colonization, whose beliefs of snakes are associated with deception, sin, and the devil. 

The Legend of Maria Makiling (guardian spirit or diwata of Mount Makiling) exemplifies the integration of snakes as protective entities. In some versions of the tale, snakes are depicted as guardians and companions to Maria Makiling, enhancing her mystique and emphasizing her connection to the natural world. Additionally, the practice of tattooing snakelike patterns on the body, further illustrates this protective association. The belief that these patterns could shield individuals from diseases reflects the intertwined relationship between nature and human well-being.

In Ancient Visayan culture, the belief that certain warriors were accompanied by snakes during battles adds to the significance of serpents as protective spirits. The presence of snakes on warships and their incorporation into the design of karakoa warships demonstrates the merging of cultural beliefs with practical symbolism, symbolizing strength and guardianship to weather the seas.

The Creation Story of Palawan underscores the transformative aspect of snakes. The deity Ulilang Kaluluwa takes the form of a snake, symbolizing its power to shape the natural landscape. This dual nature of snakes as both creators and transformers aligns with their representation as symbols of renewal and change.

Snakes hold profound spiritual significance to many cultures in the archipelago. An Ifugao account of a large Hakuku snake appearing at the time of death of a family member, illustrates how snakes are believed to embody the spirits of ancestors, acting as guides for the departed souls to the spirit world. The spiritual connection of snakes is reflected in the “chila na urog” forked-tongue batok (traditional Filipino tattoo) design of the Kalinga, who believe snakes are physical representation of ancestors, and that we must stop, listen, and invite presence and reflection when one crosses our path.


Apostol, Virgil Mayor. Way of the Ancient Healer: Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions. North Atlantic Books, 2010.

Demetrio, Francisco R. Encyclopedia of Philippine Folk Beliefs and Customs. Vol. 1, Xavier Univ., 1991.

Demetrio, Francisco R., et al. The Soul Book: Introduction to Philippine Pagan Religion. Vol. 1, GCF Books, 1991. 

Wilcken, Lane. Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern. Schiffer Pub., 2011.