Here are relevant references from the Books where the Snake is mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
"The lash," said the Forkbeard, "will be the snake."
His punishment would be heavy indeed. The snake is a single-bladed whip, weighted, of braided leather, eight feet long and about a half an inch to an inch thick. It is capable of lifting the flesh from a man's back. Sometimes it is set with tiny particles of metal. It was not impossible that he would die under its blows. The snake is to be distinguished from the much more common Gorean slave whip, with its five broad striking surfaces. The latter whip, commonly used on females, punishes terribly; it has, however, the advantage of not marking the victim.
It was not unusual that men died under the lash of the snake, that heavy coil laced with wire and flecks of iron.
"What punishment shall I mete out to you?" she mused. "I have it! Return to your cell and remove your clothing. There, have yourself placed in close chains. There will be no food or blanket for you tonight. Too, tell the guard you are to receive twenty strokes." She paused. "Of the snake," she added, thoughtfully.
I looked up at her, in disbelief. Men could die under the blows of the snake. She was smiling at me, contemptuously.
"Five will do," said the Lady Gina.
"Very well, five!" said Lola.
I lay on the stones of the cell, naked, in blood, my wrists and ankles chained. I could scarcely move my body. I had received five strokes of the snake, wielded by a man.
I jerked under the second blow of the snake. I did not cry out. Present were only two keepers, one of whom wielded the whip, and the Lady Florence.
I felt blood running down my back.
"Beat him," she said. She stepped away from me. Three more times the snake fell against my back.
"Hold," she said.
I was still on my feet. I struggled to remain so. I could scarcely see. "He is strong, Lady Florence," said the man who had struck the blows. He was a short, powerful man, Kenneth, a free man, a keeper and the first groom in her stables. I had not once lost my footing. I recalled that in the House of Andronicus I had once received five blows of the snake. After the second I had hung in the straps, helpless, weeping, crying out for mercy.
"Are you ready to obey me in all particulars and be fully pleasing?" she asked.
"Yes, Mistress," I said.
"Very well," she said. "I forgive you." Then she turned to the fellow with the whip, Kenneth. "Five more blows," she said.
I looked at her.
"I have forgiven you, Jason," she said. "But surely you must understand that punishment for your insolence must still be meted out to you."
"Yes, Mistress," I said.
Five more times the snake fell against my back.
"He is still on his feet," said one of the two men in the room, he who did not hold the whip.
"That he is," said he who wielded the whip, Kenneth, the groom.
"He is strong," said the Lady Florence, my mistress. There was a pride in her voice.
"Is he to be beaten further?" asked Kenneth.
"No," she said, "it is enough." She walked about to where she could look at me. "Cut him down," she said. "Then withdraw. I will tell you when to fetch him to his kennel."
The strap which held my bound wrists was cut away from the ring to which it was tied.
I crouched down, under the ring. I did not collapse to the tiles. I was sick. I was aware of the blood on the tiles, beneath me and on my feet. I was aware of the sweat and blood on my body. My hands were still tied before my body. I was conscious of the collar of steel on my neck. I had received fifteen blows of the snake. I knew that twenty blows of that fearsome whip could kill some men.
Then the lash fell and I shook and sobbed. I had felt the whip before, twice in the pens, a stroke each time. I was not at all eager for a repetition of that experience.
Again the lash fell.
In the pens it had been a single-bladed lash.
Again I felt the leather.
I went to my belly, unable to remain on my knees. I could not believe what I felt.
I had heard of this whip before, the broad-bladed, five-stranded lash, designed for use on such as I, but never before had I felt it. It is to be clearly distinguished from many other forms of whip, in particular, from the "snake," a terrible whip used sometimes on men, beneath the blows of which even a strong man might die. The five-stranded lash, that to whose attentions I was now, to my dismay, to my misery, being formally introduced punishes terribly, but inflicts no permanent damage. It is designed to hurt, not injure. Indeed, it does not even mark the subject, which might reduce her value.
Some seven or so males were kneeling in a small space, stripped, covered with dirt, heads down, to the left. They were chained, hand and foot, and
The snake is never used on women, for they might soon die under its blows. Whereas Gorean masters are strict with their kajirae, some inordinately so, they never forget that they are females, only females.
Tersites, master of the ship, and master shipwright, to whose specifications the great ship had been built, had refused to pour oil, and wine, and salt into the sea. A mariner had attempted to do so, in the wind and rain, in darkness, after the twentieth Ahn, but was apprehended by the deck patrol, and, by order of Tersites himself, was put under the lash, the snake, twelve strokes. The fellow was strong, and survived.
"Who is that fellow tied amongst you?" asked the voice.
"A local thief," I said, "caught stealing suls. We are taking him to Samnium, for an archon to put him beneath the snake."
The snake is a heavy whip. Sometimes glass and bits of metal are worked into its leather. Men have died beneath its blows. It is never used on women.