Join the Unexplained Mysteries community today! It's free and setting up an account only takes a moment.
- Sign In or Create Account -
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Engulf

Basilisk

27 posts in this topic

i've juz rad an article about this wierd mythical creature that has a resemblance to the Gorgon(the stone stare) and a screeching voice??(i can't remember).i've also rad that this massive creature does exist one time ago!!only to be killed by some...warrior??i'm not too sure.

there's also an alledged cave or pit that this creature use to dwell in.is it real

or some hoax yet again?plz do supply me with details and maybe links to some strong evidence on the existence of this creature.....or maybe the other way round

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well the Basalisk as far as I know has never been claimed to of ever really existed. In fact, it's just a Myth or Legend from old stories.

I believe it's something like a chicken or rooster with the head of a snake which will turn people into stone by either looking into their eyes or shrieking... their are however MAAANY versions of this creature including one which tells of an enourmous snake and the one which I have just stated... other than those, I don't recall any other versions of the beast but other people here might.

But to answer your question, as I sayed, I don't think their has ever been any claims to suggest this thing actually exists, although it is a pretty cool creature to read about never the less.

Sorry, no links...

--FireFrog

QUICK EDIT - Please try to improve your grammar / spelling as it was kinda' hard to make out. original.gif Nothing big...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are few links on the Basilisk:

Link1

Link 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

thanks al for the links!!really helped alot

although this creature is mythical,it's still a little intriguing that the 2 girls were believed to be killed by this creature.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, Engulf.

The sites that Al gave you are great. The first site has the story that I've always heard and I'm considered to be quite a mythology expert in my town. If you like to read, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a good book that has a basilisk in it, though not mythologically correct.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very intresting, never heard of that thing before.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the basilisk is an exaggerated cobra. explorers saw cobras and brought back stories of a serpent with a white daidem/crown (explained by the spectacle shape on the hood) that could kill at a distance or by biting (explained by de spitting cobra spitting poison from far away).some times it was thought it could bite a horse or even a spear and the poison would spread and kill the rider/spear weilder.

later it was exagerated into being part rooster, maybe because of the featherless breeds of chickens the egyptians raised. it was said to kill with a look, turning people to stone or ice.

even later it was said to be hatched by a seven year old rooster laying an egg and being sat on by a snake and hatching on a fortnight. also the cockatrice legend stemmed off from the basilisk(a cockatrice is a snake that burns a path in grass, with a large plum on its head,and wings or feathers on its body, and sometimes breathes fire.)

later still it was a rooster with fins and scales. now it could sing or kill with a songas well as a look.

and last, JK Rowling got a hold of it and screwed the legend up by combining it with its conterpart, the cockatrice. she made it into just a big snake(the males only had plumbs) that could kill with a look.

PS- after the fall of the roman empire, when jesus and his associated religions became popular, it became a symbol of sin and the devil. if you ever see a stylized, medievil-looking picture of a red or green rooster in fire, chances are good its a picture of a basilisk.

Edited by man_in_mudboots

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

a cockatrice is a snake that burns a path in grass, with a large plum on its head

? blink.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Basilisk was a serpent with a crown on it's head. (sometimes called a crest) It could kill with a look. (i know some poeple like that) The two things that could kill a Basilisk was the crow of a rooster, or another basilisk. However, the story became confused over time. The crown became the comb of a rooster, and instead of being killed by a crow form a rooster, the basilisk crowed itself.

This new creature later was called a cockatrice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
abduct.gif Isn't that from the Harry Potter books?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Isn't that from the Harry Potter books?

no. *remark just dripping with sarcasm*

TO BYUU- true. forgot that thing about the crow of a rooster killing it. also you may have a poit about that crown turning into a comb(the glove shaped thing on the head of most chickens-some have a rasin, pea, cushion, strawberry, or even two gloves aligned.)

TO ASLAN- whats the question mark for?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

sounds to me like the story of medusa, and whoever the warrior was that killed him...but with some changes here and there...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
disgust.gif Man_in_mudboots I didn't read the whole story so there all I says saying is that I reconize the name of the creature from the HP books and something else.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A basilisk was in the chamber of secrets. Harry Potter killed it. I want to be like Harry Potter. alien.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

um...there is a real reptile named the basilisk lizard, that is the really fast crested lizard that can run across water since it is soo light. But many reptiles that are real are exagerated in mythology.....though i do like the concept of the cockatrice, the serpent with the power to kill with a single stare grin2.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

this little guy, i don't think he killed any little girls....

malebasilisk1.jpe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

sorry cuda.... but before posting another question why dont you just skim whats there you may find your question already answered.

and basilisk lizards share only the name with the legend.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the basilisk is not a legend it is a myth...legends are plausible and possibly true and some how made a mark on history, but the other one is simply from greek mythology, some weird ass creature like the minataur and centaurs....but if u r gonna believe in the basilisk, then y not go all the way and worship zeus...?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

um...there is a real reptile named the basilisk lizard, that is the really fast crested lizard .But many reptiles that are real are exagerated in mythology.....

hmmm....on second thought, maybe....but doesnt it live in south america?.....the story of the basilisk was born before america was discovered....and the (mythological) basilisk is said to live in north africa (the sahara).....yet, there is a slight resemblance....what with the spikey head-crest and mean-looking eyes... and the dewlap could be mistaken for wattles....

PS- i dont believe in anything on this entire websight....im just fascinated with the possibilities....

Edited by man_in_mudboots

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

has someone been reading Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets? laugh.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the Basilisk an incarnation of the Death God that is the first time ive heard it refered to as that.. i have heard many stories and rumors about the Basilisk but never knew the orgin of the story anyone have any idea about where the Basilisk story started

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BREAKTHRU!basilisk lizards only live in south america, which was undiscovered when the myth began. the discoverer of the basilisk lizard named it after the basilisk myth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

basilisk

The basilisk has garnered a place in the imagination with other monstrous beings like the dragon, unicorn, giants and other well-known fabulous beats. The basilisk is almost always included in encyclopedias or concordances of monsters and mythical beasts, even though there is very little in the way of art and literature throughout the ages that features the basilisk. The dragon, though, for example, features into so many stories, both ancient and modern, and has been depicted countless times, but the same cannot be said of the basilisk. Yet somehow the creature has prevailed and lived on in the collective imagination as an image of monstrosity.

There are two terms, both having their roots in Greek mythology, that apply to the basilisk. The evolution of the basilisk is protean, and the creature eventually becomes chimerical. It is fitting that these attributes of the basilisk come from the ancient Greek world as the etymology of the word ‘basilisk,’ and the origins of the creature are rooted in ancient Greece.

The word ‘basilisk’ is from the Greek basiliskos meaning "little king". The etymology seems to directly relate back to the original description of the basilisk. However, the knowledge of the basilisk is not based on literature from the classical period in ancient Greece. Instead, the main description we have for this beast is found in Pliny’s Natural History which was written in Rome in 77 AD. This piece is a compilation of ancient (and mostly Greek) sources. Pliny lists over 60 sources, most of which have been lost. Because the basilisk has a very limited number of appearances in classical literature, Pliny’s paragraph about the creature in book XIII is very important in the lore of the basilisk. After discussing another mythical creature the catoblepas, and its ability to kill people with its vision, Pliny describes the basilisk:

The basilisk serpent also has the same power. It is a native of the province of Cyrenaica, not more than 12 inches long, and adorned with a bright white marking on the head like a sort of diadem. It routs all snakes with its hiss, and does not move its body forward in manifold coils like the other snakes but advancing with its middle raised high. It kills bushes not only by its touch but also by its breath, scorches up grass and bursts rocks. Its effect on other animals is disastrous: it is believed that once one was killed with a spear by a man on horseback and the infection rising through the spear rising not only the rider but also the horse. Yet to a creature so marvelous as this — indeed kings have often wished to see a specimen when safely dead — the venom of weasels is fatal: so fixed is the decree of nature that nothing shall be without its match. (8. xxxiii)

It may seem pedantic to pick apart, piece by piece, the particulars of Pliny’s description, but these particulars are quite important in the history, meaning and evolution of the basilisk. The line, and adorned with a bright white marking on the head like a sort of diadem, for example, is the aspect of the basilisk is probably what gave the creature its name. It also is one of the factors that associate it with kings. The Egyptian Horapollo wrote of the basilisk in his Hieroglyphica (c. 450 CE)1. In it he says, "…this the Egyptians call Ouraion, but the Greeks a Basilisk. They make this of gold and put it on the [heads of the] gods." (1.1) And therefore an association with royalty, even in Egypt, was apparent.

The concept of royalty being associated with the basilisk was already clear when Pliny was writing, hence the line ‘indeed kings have often wished to see a specimen when safely dead.’ The association with kings is also reinforced by the line that the basilisk ‘does not move its body forward in manifold coils like the other snakes but advancing with its middle raised high.’

These characteristics have also led many to believe that the basilisk, and the original legends of it, has arisen from nothing more than the tales of the Egyptian cobra, whose characteristics have, from oral transmission, been exaggerated. This cobra has a white marking on its head, powerful venom (which I believe it can spit, thus not having to bite a victim to harm him), and the ability to move with its head held upright.2

When Pliny writes ‘It routs all snakes with its hiss,’ the concept of the basilisk as king of the serpents is conjured. It is this concept that Lucan in his Pharsalia (c. 65 AD) explores. In it, the basilisk drives off all other serpents and reigns supreme in the desert.

Releasing hisses dismaying to all these pests, its breath

lethal before its bite, the basilisk thrusts the entire

brood aside and lords it over empty sand (9.724-726)

Thomas Bulfinch also explores the concept of the basilisk as the king of the serpents. He says,

The basilisks were called kings of serpents because all other serpents and snakes, behaving like good subjects, and wisely not wishing to be burned up or struck dead, fled the moment they heard the distant hiss of their king, although they might be in full feed upon the most delicious prey, leaving the sole enjoyment of the banquet to the royal monster.3

This king-like characteristic could also be a partial explanation for the basilisk’s powers. The theme of the king appears throughout literature and he often symbolizes the land itself, for good or bad. This is the theme of the king, his actions and decisions, and how they affect the land he is ruling. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, for example, Macbeth (as he is not the ‘proper’ ruler) and the decisions he makes are reflected in the land itself. Scotland is horribly affected. The crops die and the days become routinely gloomy. This concept is also found in the Western world’s two longest epics: the Iliad and Odyssey. In the first book of the Iliad, for example, the decisions of king Agamemnon that the society deem to be ‘wrong’ result in a plague coming down on the Greeks and their animals (cattle and sheep). It is this concept of the king inadvertently hurting the land that the basilisk embodies.

The basilisk as an embodiment of this theme can be seen by combining its association with royalty and the powers of destruction ascribed to it. The basilisk is always found in a desert. This is not because that is where a basilisk lives, but because its breath and sight are so destructive (Pliny says ‘It kills bushes not only by its touch but also by its breath, scorches up grass and bursts rocks’.) that it creates a desert! Thus this land is affected by the powers of this little king. This concept can be taken one step further: the word basileus in Greek was usually used to refer to a foreign king, whereas the term basiliskos often meant "petty tyrant." Both of these root words contain negative connotation s. Thus the theme is furthered by looking at the negative kingly qualities (tyrant or foreigner, the negative qualities, of course, hurting the land) and its dangerous powers.

However, the kingly attributes of the basilisk seem to have been overshadowed in classical literature by the power of its glance or venom. Although Lucan’s Pharsalia does explore the concept of the basilisk as the king of the serpents (see above) he spends more time exploring its virulence.

Poison plays no part: he’s reaped his death from a wound.

Now the men see how lazily slingshot pattes fly,

How slow is the whistling air about a Scythian arrow.

What good is it that poor Murrus spited a basilisk

with his spear-tip? In a flash, its venom shoots up the shaft

and invades his hand–which he, drawing his sword,

strides clean off from the upper-arm at a single blow;

stands and stares at the pitiful paradigm of his own demise,

safe himself, while his hand is destroyed…(9.824-833)

The mordancy of the basilisk is the focus of the other references to the basilisk in antiquity. In Greece, Heliodorus, in his Aethiopica, explores the concept of love at first sight and the evil eye. He alludes to the powers of the basilisk saying, "by its mere breath and glance will shrivel and cripple whatever comes its way." (3.cool.gif Similarly, someone is mentioned as being "like the basilik, …harmful from even a distance" in the Latin author Ammianus’ History. The basilisk is also mentioned in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. (Psalm 91:13 and Isaiah 59:5)

From classical times the notion has existed that basilisks’ skin would repel snakes and spiders. It is said that such a skin was hung in a temple to Apollo and in another to Diana to ward off swallows as well as snakes and spiders.4 It was also said in antiquity that silver rubbed with the ashes of a dead basilisk would make the silver take on the appearance of gold. These protoscientific uses of the basilisk persist in the medieval bestiaries and the latter attribute became quite popular in the alchemical tracts of the Renaissance. Also in Pliny we find another protoscientific use of the creature:

Its blood the magi praise to the skies, telling how it thickens as does pitch, and resembles pitch in color, but becomes brighter red than cinnabar when diluted. (29. xix)

Another tie to antiquity that the basilisk has can be seen in one of the ways to combat this beast. Lucan, (9.696 ff.) among others, has suggested that (although it may just be a poetic device) the basilisk sprang from the blood of Greek mythology’s Medusa. This would explain the deadly gaze of the serpent, the serpentine qualities, and is probably the origin of the concept that the basilisk can be overcome using a mirror, because in the myths of Medusa, she was defeated using a mirror, by Perseus.

This is not the only way the basilisk can be overcome. An antagonism between the weasel and the basilisk is first found in a third century BCE work attributed to Democritus.5 This antagonism, although not of great importance in antiquity, comes to carry more weight as the legend of the basilisk travels through time and cultures. This rivalry between weasel and basilisk can also be found in the former quote from Pliny, ‘…yet to a creature so marvelous as this…the venom of weasels is fatal…’ and

They throw the basilisks into weasels’ holes, which are easily known by the foulness of the ground, and the weasels kill them by their stench and die themselves at the same time, and nature’s battle is accomplished. (8.xxxiii)

Using either of these methods to defeat the basilisk requires a preparedness by the attacker. In this light, the basilisk must symbolically be tied to death. "…laying us low with a sudden sweep of his scythe, which flashes like the creature’s glance, unless we weigh up our fate in advance and prepare ourselves clear-headedly for it…"6 Death by basilisk can be avoided it the methods for defeating it are known, and foreknowledge is used to prepare for a chance encounter with the beast.

Another way that it was said that a basilisk could be defeated can be found in Claudius Aelian’s (c. 175-235 CE) On the Characteristics of Animals. In it he says that the crowing of a c*** can kill a basilisk. (3.31) If this is the first mentioning of an association between the rooster and the basilisk (which it quite possible is) it becomes very important to the history and evolution of the beast (as will be seen later).

This association also brings up another possible meaning of the creature. In the folktales of many cultures fantastical creatures are used to explain natural phenomenon. In the Celtic world, for example, fairies and similar figures are often used to explain why a farmer’s animals have died or become sick in the night, or why certain crops have failed etc. This was attributed to the nightly activities of fairies or spirits or ghosts. And because these creatures can only work at night, the sound of a c*** crowing (thus signaling morning) is quite dangerous to their well-being. It is possible that the basilisk was nothing more than a folk legend like a fairy, and not a full-fledged mythical beast as it has been widely thought. It may have been invented to explain nightly natural phenomenon and thus the crowing of a c*** would ‘kill’ the beast.

The antipathy between c*** and basilisk, being common to European folk traditions, both aided the transition of the beast from foreign serpent to domestic monster and had serious evolutionary implications on the creature.

With the end of the Roman Empire, the original Plinian concept of the basilisk starts its protean metamorphosis. The creature is no longer thought of as a deadly snake; instead it becomes regarded as a full-fledged monster. Laurence Breiner, in his essay about the creature, gives one theory explaining the monstrous mutations of the basilisk.

Europe lost regular contact with Africa: in succeeding centuries the continent and its contents became more and more fabulous. Medieval Europe came to imagine the basilisk not as a marvel but as a full-fledged monster.7

However, as it became more monstrous, the basilisk became somehow less exotic. It was no longer a creature over in Africa, but as something that could fatally be stumbled upon just outside your door. In fact, Edward Topsell, in his The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents and Insects tells a story that insists that England was once full of basilisks.8 That said, the Plinian version was still maintained faithfully through the Middle Ages by some, even into the seventeenth century. It’s at this point though, that the creature begins to fade away, eventually to disappear "under the weight of its accumulated attributes."9

Although the transformation of the basilisk into a fabulous monster may be partly the result of the lack of contact with its supposed homeland of Africa, and partly due to its associations with the c***, it is the story of the birth of the creature that acts as the precursor for the creature’s evolution.

The birth of the basilisk is anomalous. It is not part of a normal reproductive cycle, but is, rather, a genetic fluke, producing a monster. The seed of the story of the birth of the basilisk is found in the third century BCE, in the Septuagint’s translation of the Bible. Isaiah 59:5 reads, "They break the eggs of asps and weave the spider’s web; he who would eat their eggs, having crushed the wind egg [ourion] finds in it a basilisk." This verse is, obviously, unclear and obscure. This obscurity is reflected in subsequent translations of the Bible. The Vulgate, for example, intensifies the verse thusly, "He who would eat of their eggs will die, and the one that is broken produces a basilisk [regulum]," while the King James version turns the verse inside out: "They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web; he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper." This passage’s context within the book of Isaiah encouraged an association with evil and the devil. Thus, in Christian commentary, the basilisk is occasionally treated as a type of devil, a "wickedly fascinating serpent that, like Milton’s Satan before the fall still carries himself upright,"10 true to its Plinian origin. Not only did the mentioning of the basilisk in Holy Scripture anoint the creature’s existence with the highest authority, the evil, devilish and diabolical view of the beast lent itself well to increasingly grotesque depictions. And, the lack of descriptive detail in the biblical passages lent creative license to radical transformations to its physiological make-up, as long as the name was preserved.

The basilisk is also referred to in Psalm 91, but interestingly, by the time of the King James translation, the reference has been ‘watered down’ to reference to an "adder,"

Although this version of the birth of the basilisk may be odd, the story only gets stranger, and this is reflected in how much stranger the basilisk physically becomes. After these biblical passages, the earliest surviving account of the monstrous birth is found in Alexander Neckam’s De Naturis Rerum, written in 1180 CE. Interestingly, the story of its birth is not found in the entry on the basilisk where he simply recounts Pliny’s description, but rather in the chapter on the barnyard c***. (1.175) From there, the story of its extraordinary birth enters into a more mainstream tradition with its inclusion in Pierre de Beauvais’ enlarged bestiary of 1218 CE. In his version of the birth an egg forms in the body of an old c***, which lays it (secretly) in a dung heap. There, it is hatched by a toad and the animal produced has the upper body of a rooster and the lower body of a snake.11

The transmission of the story of its birth through time only allowed for more detailed and more peculiar accounts. For example, in a consolodation of basilisk lore, the summary of a medieval account reads:

…it had to be born of an egg laid during the days of the dog star Sirius by a seven-year-old c***. Such and egg was easy to recognize: it did not have the normal ovoid shape but was spherical. It had no shell, but was covered by a thick skin or membrane. The egg then had to be hatched by a toad, and the result was an unbelievably poisonous monster which was basically a serpent but with some characteristics of the toad and the c*** as well.12

Thus, the medieval visualization of the basilisk as a chimerical monster, part serpent, part c*** derives from the story of its birth. And as these medieval versions that had this tale were more mainstream works, they were readily available and this chimerical vision of the basilisk became the popular and accepted image of the beast. However, as early as the twelfth century the textual illustrations of the basilisk were still based on the Plinian, serpentine creature, while the chimerical monster was at the heart of most visual representations. An example of this incongruity can be found in a twelfth century bestiary translated by T. H. White; here the textual portrait is the Plinian model, and yet the text is illustrated with a rooster having a long serpentine tail.13

At about the same time (twelfth century) the word ‘cockatrice’ started being interchanged for basilisk. The term was an all-purpose word for just about any chimerical monster. It eventually came to be used as the name of a basilisk born of a cock’s egg or in some cases the peculiar egg itself. And eventually, although some tried to reserve the term ‘cockatrice’ for the chimerical monster, as distinct from the Plinian snake, ‘cockatrice’ and ‘basilisk’ became interchangeable, as ordinary medieval practice rarely distinguished the two (as seen in the bestiaries).

As the artists of the middle ages took more liberties in depicting the basilisk, wings eventually became a part of the creatures accepted make-up. This though, as well as the story of the birth from a cock’s egg, was disputed by one of the most learned and comprehensive accounts of the basilisk: Albertus Magnus’ De Animalibus.14 This account also mentions the usage of the word basilisk in alchemical writings.

In alchemical writings the basilisk played many roles. Sometimes it would fall into the realm of the fabulous salamander where it would be used to symbolize the destructive fire that preceded the transmutation of metals. In other works, the elixer, or Philosopher’s Stone, a potent and mysterious catalyst that was said to turn whatever it touched to gold, cure all ills, and confer eternal life was called the basilisk or cockatrice.

With the Renaissance’s passion for scholarship and empirical research, much of the lore and belief in the basilisk was being discarded. Conrad Gesner, one of the most famous naturalists ever, had, in his Historia Animalium, an account of the basilisk, but was very skeptical of the creature’s existence. Edward Topsell in his famous The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents and Insects, which relied heavily on Gesner allows, that there may be a cockatrice born from a cock’s egg (denying this would be contradicting scriptural authority as there were biblical references to it), but that this was not the ‘real’ basilisk, and that the idea of a composite (let alone winged) monster was impossible.15 Thomas Browne essentially agreed, "Nor is this Cockatrice only unlike the Basilisk, but of no real shape in nature; and rather an Hieroglyphical fansie."16

However, when the belief in the Plinian African basilisk wanes, the purely fantastical cockatrice (or chimerical basilisk) flourishes. One reason for this, as Laurence Breiner points out, is that "Renaissance technology made possible a tremendous proliferation of images of the creature at its most chimerical."17 Many of these images were based on contrivances of ‘real’ basilisks. Small, dried, carved and varnished marine rays and other fish were concocted and sold as ‘actual’ basilisks. Some of these so-called "Jenny-Hanivers," several of which can still be found in some museums, were also created in the names of baby dragons, devil fishes, or some other suitably monstrous name. In fact, Gesner and Browne warn their readers "against these impostures — or at least spending too much for them."18 Ulisse Aldrovandi, in his Serpentum, et Draconum Historiae of 1640, also warns of these Jenny-Hanivers, even though some of his own illustrations are based on them.

The surge of interest in the fantastical chimerical beasts is also reflected in literature. As noted earlier, the basilisk does not appear much in classical literature. Christianity then rediscovered the creature in the context of the Old Testament and used it sparsely as an emblem of the devil and sin. This context is explored in the moralizing and allegorical bestiaries and biblical commentaries. Then, at the end of the Middle Ages, when the belief in the existence of a ‘real’ basilisk fades, there was a emergence of secular literature that opened up new and inventive uses for the basilisk. This being said, though, the basilisk tends to adorn a tale, and it rarely ever plays a central role. Of the major authors of the times, the basilisk appears in Chaucer’s Parson’s Tale under the name ‘basilcoc’ and Herbert and Donne, both Renaissance poets, mention it. However, the words ‘basilisk’ and ‘cockatrice’ were heard most often from the stage. One possible explanation for its popular use in theatre was that "because ‘cockatrice’ had become a slang term for prostitute."19 Almost every time the creature was mentioned on the stage, the dialogue was invoking the basilisk’s deadly glance. This is, for example, the sole content of seven of the twelve instances of the words in Shakespeare’s plays. The basilisk then appears among the Romantic poets. Coleridge uses ‘basilisk’ twice, and Keats uses it only once. Shelly however uses it four times. Three of these are almost identical where he envisions a child sharing a meal with one. (Daemon of the World 2.91, Queen Mab 8.86, and Revolt of Islam 5.50.3) This image invokes the biblical Chapter 11 verse 8 of Isaiah where even in the King James version it reads "And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den." (The word ‘cockatrice’ is footnoted, though, and reads "or, adder’s") The basilisk also appears in modern fantasy books, like Piers Anthony’s Spell For Chameleon. However, in all of these instances, even the modern ones, the basilisk is found in the realm of imagery, not in narrative.

This idea that the function of the basilisk as a peripheral image in literature is important. In both visual arts and literature the basilisk, because it cannot offer much to a composition other than its monstrosity, is rarely found in any anecdotal form, be it writing, or the textual response that a painting may invoke. That is why its use has been mainly decorative. The sharpest definition of the physicality of the basilisk is found in the solely decorative field of heraldry where the basilisk had the head and legs of a c***, a snake-like tail, and a body like a bird’s, but was covered with scales like a serpent. It seems that the wings could be depicted as either being covered with feathers or scales. Its two legs set it apart from the griffin or the dragon, but the two-legged wyvern differed in having a serpent’s head and the legs of an eagle. Yet even in heraldry the basilisk only offered its form. This is why the basilisk was depicted in a few illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages but was depicted much more often as an ornamental detail in church architecture, adorning capitals and medallions. In the Renaissance the basilisk still did not feature significantly in anything other than the decorative arts. In a sense, the basilisk has form, but no content. It is successful as an element of grotesque decoration, because it has a striking appearance that artists can play very freely with. Because the basilisk has constantly been changing shape through its history, and because there is not a singular set definition for its chimerical physiology, an artist can make whatever distortion that might be necessary to fit it into the available space, while keeping its monstrosity intact. So there are few reasons that a basilisk would be included in a composition in a central way, as there is no textual content to it. The paintings of this time were anecdotally driven and thus would not lend themselves well to including a creature that is only suggestive of monstrosity and has no set symbolic meaning. This is true of many chimerical monsters of this sort, the chimera, wyvern, and the manticore for example. And unlike these creatures, many fabulous beasts are highly suggestive. Laurence Breiner explores this:

The unicorn, for example, presents a fine visual image, but it is also a regal ennobling of the domesticated horse, and an Apollonian version of the centaur, its phallic power absolutely patent in icon as in anecdote, but somehow purified. The mermaid offers a complex of fertile ideas by bringing together land and sea, the human and the far from human; by contrast the melding of a chicken and a snake does not invite much thought.20

So it seems that the basilisk has little resonance; it is merely monstrous and not in any way emblematical.

The basilisk, in a way, shoots itself in the foot. Its lack of a defined physical make-up and its deadly powers limit how it can be used. It would be very difficult to introduce a basilisk into a narrative (be it textual or visual) as its powers would inevitable cause the destruction of everything else, be it animate or inanimate. Where Medusa would only turn a person to stone, the basilisk would kill the person, the plants around the person, and all of the landscape within its site. Any narrative that conjured its image would have a very abrubpt and premature ending. This is why it was never a prominent image throughout the history or art and literature; it couldn’t be used. However, this limitation in mind, the basilisk somehow managed to save itself from disappearing into obscurity, and has held a place in the collective imagination. It is still almost always featured in catalogues of fabulous beasts, and can even be found in modern fantasy novels and video games such as Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy series

from gareth longs encyclopedia. Hey, joc,i figured out how to cut also!

Edited by man_in_mudboots

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
WHAT A GEEK

original.gif i realize it may appear that way, but never make the mistake of confusing geekititis with obsessive behavior. original.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.