Basilisk

Basilisk

Basilisk

The basilisk is one the mythological beings associated with Lammas.  Depending on which account of the basilisk you credit, this mythological beings size ranges from over 100ft long in Harry Potter, to not more than 3ft in length according to Pliny the Elder of ancient Rome.  In all descriptions, basilisk is an extraordinarily deadly creature whose glance would turn whoever it gazed upon to stone.    In some accounts the basilisk’s glance would even kill itself if it gazed into a reflective surface.  Turning-to-stone-with-a-gaze is the theme of mythological snakes, serpents and their derivatives — think of Medusa and the gorgon. 

Basilisk’s magical properties were linked with alchemy.   Combining basilisk blood with human  blood, red copper and a special vinegar was said to be able to convert copper into gold, while basilisk ashes supposed could convert silver into gold.

In his written accounts about the natural world, Pliny the Elder in 79 AD described the basilisk:

“being not more than twelve fingers in length. It has a white spot on the head, strongly resembling a sort of diadem. When it hisses, all the other serpents fly from it: and it does not advance its body, like the others, by a succession of folds, but 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, too, and breaks the stones, so tremendous is its noxious influence.”

According to Cantabrian mythology the ancient basilisk disappeared from most of the Earth but still lives in Cantabria, although it is rare to see it.  This animal is born from an egg laid by an old cock just before his death on a clear night, under a full moon exactly at midnight.  Within a few days, the egg shell, which is not hard, but rather soft and leathery, is opened by the strange creature that already has all the features of an adult:  legs, beak, cockscomb, and reptilian body. The weasel is the only animal that can face and even attack it.  It can only be killed with the crowing of a rooster, so, until very recent times, travelers carried a rooster when they ventured into areas where basilisk were reputed to live.  According the Pliny the basilisk could also be killed by a weasel.  Some accounts credit the weasel’s deadly effect on the mythical basilisk to its odor, while other compare the weasel’s effect to that of a mongoose on a king cobra.

So toxic and dangerous was the basilisk that 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.   Stories gradually added to the basilisk’s deadly capabilities, such as describing it as a larger beast, capable of breathing fire and killing with the sound of its voice.  The basilisk is also the guardian creature and traditional symbol of the Swiss city Basel.

About the Author

When not writing for Ravenhawks, Kamberlyn works with clients seeking a more spiritually centered life.  In her work, she helps people realize the relationship, career and finances that belongs to their soul.  She can be found on KEEN at Kamberlyn Divine Love or through her website, LadyKamberlyn.com.