Posted by Jean on January 31, 2005
In Reply to: Wake snakes and come to Taw posted by Lewis on January 31, 2005
: : : : This is the first line of a funny little ditty my Grandmother would recite. Her ancestors came to Georgia from England. I know there is a Taw River in Devon. I don't see one in Georgia. Is this line a part of something else- a poem, song, etc.? I do not bother to give the rest of the ditty as it has nothing to do with this one line. Thanks.
: : : It might have a Biblical origin. The Tau (Taw) cross and serpents feature in some of the Books of the Bible. The rest of the ditty might give us a clue.
: : I have no idea where the Taw is. There is a Haw River in North Carolina, and a Wake County too, but that is a stretch.
: : The line seems to have been pretty well known in Kentucky in the late 19th Century. I found the following reference in Irvin S Cobb's "Exit Laughing". The book speaks of a country lawyer whose shingle reads,
: : "WAKE SNAKES AND COME TO TAW
: : B.L.D. GUFFEY WILL PRACTICE LAW"
: : I am curious about your grandmother's ditty, too.
: The river Taw is in Devon (South West England).
: I think it is the reason for the naming of Taunton - settlement on the river Taw. Spelling was fairly fluid and the river could just as easily be "Tau" but pronounced "Taw" (as in straw).
: I think that the Tau cross was like Aldous Huxley's "T". The cross had many variations the Tau, the Ankh etc. The cross with a snake has its origins in the Staff of Hermes if I remember correctly - the intertwined snakes used as a symbol for medicine.
Wonderful! The Tau cross with entwined snakes certainly explains the Taw and snake association. The Taw River in Devon was most likely spelled Tau at an earlier time. Interesting, too, how this phrase was popularly used as in the reference given from Cobb's book . The first two lines of my Grandmother's ditty went like this:
Wake snakes and come to Taw
Such a dish I never saw.... etc.