Venom is, specifically, a poisonous fluid that certain creatures excrete and use on other creatures by biting or stinging. Poison is, in general, a substance which impairs or destroys health or life.
In other words, venom is poison with a purpose.
Among the gods to Whom I am devoted is a scorpion goddess: Serqet. The bulk of Her lessons to me revolve around poison (the avoidance of and the healing from) and protection (the hardy carapace that guards rather soft innards), which are both particularly useful for an empathic individual. She is, in ancient Egyptian myths, largely hailed as a goddess of protection and healing, and modern Kemetics often consider Her also able to help with some forms of addiction, interpreting a substance to which one might become addicted as a poison. I myself have referred to Her as Our Lady of Poisons.
But Serqet’s realm of wisdom reaches beyond general poison. In myth, She has purposefully stung more than one person. She understands the active use of venom, not just the healing required when its effects have taken hold on a body. In myths that I have read, She is not portrayed as a patient and gentle lady: She is quick-tempered, a little fickle, and overall deadly—which is why She is pacified by such extravagant epithets, sweet prayers, and offerings.
I think one of Serqet’s most potent strengths is knowing when to use Her own venom… and how to deal with others using theirs against Her. It’s a painstaking lesson for humans to learn, but full of worth. How many people squander their own venom against over-exaggerated threats, poisoning those who don’t deserve it and reducing their own supply of last-ditch defense? How many people passively accept envenomed strikes by others, shrugging it off as accidental poison as though they were dropped as a sponge into some haphazard puddle and not sought out as targets?
Those who work with animal medicine may recognize the concept of being precise, accurate, and decisive when using one’s venom; it’s a Snake lesson, too. And, as snakes exemplify, venom is used to survive (hunting for food) and in defense—not for random or unnecessary aggression. Many animals display a tendency towards conserving their own energy and resources for circumstances that genuinely need the effort, and most venomous creatures also reserve their own potency for food or serious threats.
I feel that many people would hesitate before using their own venom, in whatever form that may take, even against a person or situation that has proven its malice and persistence… but is it really worse to strike out in self-defense to save oneself and establish strong boundaries than to suffer in helpless misery, wracked by the throes of someone else’s suffocating poison? There is a balance to be found between striving for peace, giving second chances, and compassionately trying to see a situation from another’s point-of-view—of which I am a hearty proponent—and consciously excising a harmful and useless person or situation from one’s life. To cut away a toxic influence is common sense; to defend against and depart from an influence that is deliberately attacking should be, as well.
If venom is poison with a purpose, then we should be purposeful and rational when we use our own in circumstances that truly merit the force—and we should understand that venom from others is equally purposeful and should not be tolerated.
When I started writing this post, I had really hoped Serqet would guide it, perhaps reveal some tidbit of wisdom that would be beneficial for others to hear. Instead, She has worn Her perpetual grin and said nothing, letting me find the lesson in Her. She is not one to do my work for me, after all. So take this post as the contemplation of a student, not as handed down from the master. :)