Does the Basilisk Exist?

Post 661

The Basilisk 1The Basilisk 2‘…The serpent called the Basilisk… Being not more than twelve fingers in length. It has a white spot on its head, strongly resembling a sort of diadem. When it hisses, all the other serpents fly from it… [it] moves along upright and erect upon the middle. It destroys all shrubs, not only by its contact, but those even that it has breathed upon; it burns up all the grass… and breaks the stones, so tremendous is its noxious influence…. If a man on horseback killed one… with a spear, the poison would run up the weapon and kill, not only the rider, but the horse, as well. To this dreadful monster, the effluvium of the weasel is fatal… The animal is thrown into the hole of the Basilisk… [destroying] the Basilisk by its odour, but dies itself in this struggle of nature against its own self.’

The words of Pliny the Elder. Words that speak of a most unusual snakelike beast. Isidore of Seville described this bizarre creature as the king of all snakes because of its deathly glare and poisonous breath. Saint Bede the Venerable added to the legend, saying that this creature hatched from the egg of an old cockerel. It’s said the cry of one can kill the Basilisk, and some say that it can die from its own reflection in a mirror.

As time went on, more and more people added to the legend. Leonardo da Vinci described the creature as ‘utterly cruel’. Others influenced its size, saying it was larger and larger still. Others said it was capable of breathing fire. That it had a deadly voice. And so on. Forever remaining vulnerable to the cockerel that brought it into the world.

Most think of this mysterious creature as born in the image of the cobra as they share many similarities. The upright posture. The diadem crest atop its head. And some can spit venom, perhaps convoluting and distorting eyewitness accounts. The stories certainly blossomed into something far greater than the seed the story began with. Maybe it’s based on some truth that became greatly exaggerated, or perhaps it was never real to begin with.

In any case, it’s certainly a strange beast that has tickled the mind of many great people for many, many years.

So I’ll give this creature a 50 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it bottom of the list, with the Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.

The Basilisk. A fascinating cryptid indeed.

Ciao :)(:

1) Two artist’s impressions of the Basilisk (credits: &

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The Indelible Life of Me
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