Print

Print


medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

My candidate for the origin of the term and mythology.  Plny's Natural History.

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)

See more:   http://webhome.idirect.com/~donlong/monsters/Html/Basilisk.htm  It
seems pretty well documented and I could not find an earlier citation.  Pliny's
description of the viper sounds a lot like the one in the video at
http://www.whozoo.org/Intro2000/sabrinor/SDNdeserthornedviper.htm

--V. K. Inman

**********************************************************************
To join the list, send the message: join medieval-religion YOUR NAME
to: [log in to unmask]
To send a message to the list, address it to:
[log in to unmask]
To leave the list, send the message: leave medieval-religion
to: [log in to unmask]
In order to report problems or to contact the list's owners, write to:
[log in to unmask]
For further information, visit our web site:
http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/medieval-religion.html