The Basilisk: A Legendary Evil Serpent

the basilisk serpent

The fabled creature known as the basilisk is most frequently pictured as a huge serpent. Even the king of snakes, according to legend, is this enormous creature.

The Basilisk, one of the most dreaded mythological creatures, is rumored to possess the ability to murder with a single glance, like the gorgons of Greek mythology.

Although J.K. Rowling and its depiction in The Chamber of Secrets, the second Harry Potter movie, popularized this giant snake, it has been a part of European mythology and medieval folklore since ancient Greece.

Romanian culture prominently features this fabled creature as the Vasilisc. Additionally, feathers and wings are frequently used to depict the king of snakes.

Everything there is to know about the basilisk, including its debut in Harry Potter, the myth's beginnings, how to kill it, and more, is covered in this article.

1) What is a Basilisk Snake?

basilisk serpent night

You should be aware that there are two different kinds of basilisks:

  • A huge snake is the first and most well-known. This is the first and earliest illustration of a basilisk. Notably, it appears in the second Harry Potter film.
  • The second illustration of the basilisk is a hybrid of a snake and a rooster. Basilicoq is the name of this one.

Regardless of how it appears, the basilisk is depicted in all stories as a vicious predator that is especially hostile toward people. It is frequently referred to as a mythological being that personifies pure evil.

Despite the fact that they refer to him as "The king of snakes," some mythology imply the existence of several basilisks. As a result, both "the basilisk" and "a basilisk" are acceptable.

The basilisk might just as easily pounce on other prey from myths and legends: unicorns, pegasus, fairies, although preferring to eat animals like goats and deer.

As a man-eater, it not hesitate to enter quiet settlements at night in search of its next prey.

2) The Snake Basil

Because of the Harry Potter series, we are more familiar with the basilisk in its enormous snake form. However, this portrayal also existed before J.K. Rowling published her books. In myths and stories, the basilisk actually appeared in this form first.

The first accounts of this enormous snake trace back to antiquity. According to tradition, Perseus, a Greek hero, killed Medusa and used her severed head to create the Basilisk.

However, according to some other stories, a rooster incubated a toad or snake egg, from which a basilisk was formed.

3) A Basilisk with feathers?

The Basilisk has only been shown as a hybrid of a bird and a serpent since the Middle Ages. The egg of a toad or snake, incubated by a rooster, would also give birth to the chimerical monstrosity known as Basilicoq (or Basilicoq Rooster).

The Basilicoq and the Cocatrix are frequently confused (or Cocatrice). The latter is likewise a hybrid of a bird and a reptile, but it is "extremely unusual" because it is created from a rooster egg that was fostered by a snake or a toad.

Furthermore, despite how similar the two creatures are, they still differ from one another. Evidently, the Cocatrix would be a new kind of Basilicoq.

A translation of the 1260 book De Proprietatibus Rerum by Bartholomeus Anglicus made the terms "Cocatrix" and "Basilicoq" interchangeable. Cocatrice is used in place of the Latin term Basiliscus in John Trevis' 1397 adaptation.

4) Origin of the Basilisk as a mythical monster

The Basilisk has its roots in the cultures and mythology of several ancient peoples, just as many well-known fantasy monsters (werewolves, vampires, etc.).

For our benefit, the basilisk has never set foot on earth. He is merely a legend that other people have helped create.

It's fascinating to note that, despite this, people fervently believed in his presence throughout ancient and medieval times.

A) Cobra and Basilisk

snake jewelry

The fable of the basilisk, like many legends, draws its inspiration from reality. The cobra may have inspired the tale of the basilisk, according to certain theories.

In fact, this dreadful snake shares certain traits with the legendary beast, most notably the capacity to slay prey at a distance (albeit it does so by spitting venom rather than by a lethal look!).

The cobra was a natural choice for the role of the most wicked snake in mythology because of its ability to maintain a menacing upright posture and its extremely lethal bite.

In addition, similar to how weasels can kill a basilisk, mongooses frequently prey on cobras. Despite the fact that these two creatures are not biologically related, they yet share traits, particularly in the way that they hunt.

Finally, just like the Basilisk, the king cobra is frequently connected with monarchy and power, as its name suggests. The cobra was additionally connected to magic in ancient Egypt.

The snake is regarded in our society as a terrible creature that symbolizes treachery, just like the basilisk is. Since a snake is said to have tricked both Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden story.

It is clear that Christian beliefs, which even connected this animal with the devil, are to blame for this unfavorable perception of snakes.

B) History and formation of the Basilisk legend

The Natural History, a literary book by the naturalist Pliny the Elder in the year 79, has one of the earliest reports of the Basilisk.

He talks of the terrifying Catoblepas, which resemble giant cows and have the ability to kill by staring. Pliny claims that the basilisk has the same strength as the catoblepas in this book:

"It drives away all snakes with its hiss, and does not move by crawling like other snakes, but by advancing with its head and half of its raised. It kills bushes not only by its touch but also by its breath.

It burns grass and shatters rocks. His effect on other animals is disastrous. it is believed that he was once killed with a spear by a man on horseback, and that the poison rising from the spear killed not only the rider, but also the horse."

The myth that a basilisk is formed from an egg hatched by an elderly rooster was first made popular by author Bede.

Later, some writers added the constellation Sirius to the list of prerequisites for the birth of a basilisk. Isidore of Seville, a bishop, was the one who described the basilisk as the king of snakes.

Alexander Neckham, a philosopher, was the first to assert that the basilisk's most lethal weapon is not its stare but rather the "pollution of the air." Pietro d'Abano, a physician and philosopher, subsequently expanded this notion.

The white mark that looks like a diadem on the head of the basilisk was described by Leonardo da Vinci himself in his amazing bestiary.

The lethal appearance of the basilisk was described by the naturalist Albertus Magnus in his book De animalibus. He refuted other myths, though, like the one about the rooster hatching the egg.

He claims that the Greek philosopher Hermes Trismegistus is the originator of these traditions. The latter is frequently credited with coming up with the legend of the basilisk's ashes, which had the power to turn silver into gold.

Although this last claim appears to be untrue, it demonstrates how basil and alchemy were already associated in the 13th century.

snake basil

5) Description of Basil

There are two descriptions of the basilisk that have remained the most popular throughout its lengthy history, despite the fact that they have changed throughout time.

A) Snake Basil

The Snake Basilisk is a massive ophidian with green scales covering it and dagger-sized fangs lining its lips.

The Basilisk frequently has a membranous crest on top of its body.

  • Male basilisks are described as having feathers on their heads in various grimoires and bestiaries from the middle ages.
  • Female basilisks are described as having big horns.

It moves differently from other snakes in that it crawls forward with its front half upright rather than crawling with its belly attached to the ground.

Snake-shaped Basilisks typically grow to enormous sizes. The largest ones can grow to a maximum length of 20 meters and a maximum width of one and a half meters. It was reported by medieval travelers as a gigantic beast with a ferocious breath and a scary growl.

The beast, which appears to be aquatic, would like moist locations and would thus be found in underground tunnels, caverns, abandoned dungeons, close to rivers, etc.

Watch out for the person who enjoys ricocheting on the water at night! A labyrinth may be haunted by these legendary beings, according to some tales.

B) The Basilicoq or Basilisk Rooster

The Basilicoq is depicted as having a body made up of snake and rooster parts. It is supported by two rooster legs with strong talons and claws and has a feathered rooster head.

Its shoulders are adorned with dragon or bat wings, and its horrifying image is completed with a long serpentine tail. This mythical animal's fur is frequently vividly colored and can have blue or red undertones.

Despite having terrifying abilities, this chimera can be quite little. According to early tales, the creature was only 30 cm long.

This hybrid creature is described in a more uncommon way. According to certain traditions, this monster resembles a lizard with a rooster's head, a snake's tail, and eight rooster's legs. A serpentine tail completes the nightmare creature's look.

6) The Powers of this fantastic snake

The basilisk is particularly dangerous because, like every self-respecting mythological creature, it possesses strong abilities. One of the most dreaded creatures in all of European legend is this monster.

No matter if it's a snake or a Basilicoq, this creature has five various ways to kill or severely hurt you without even coming close to you to eat you.

Therefore, let's look at what you'll need to survive before you approach this monster and have to deal with its mouthful of razor teeth or its rock-hard beak and talons.

A) The Basilisk's Deadly Gaze

basilisk dragon snake

The murderous stare of the basilisk is its most infamous weapon. Despite the fact that the stories about him all talk about how powerful his eyes are, if you meet his gaze, it's game over for you.

The Basilisk is supposed to possess the latter because of which he can allegedly split rocks in two, cause plants to wither, and instantly kill any living thing that comes into contact with his stare. Keep in mind this last point:

The comparison to Medusa, whose terrifying gaze could paralyze anybody who crossed it, is obvious. Not a surprise given that Medusa is said to have given birth to the basilisk!

B) Toxic Breath

In the unlikely event that you are able to avoid the monster's eyes, you will have to deal with its foul breath.

This is so awful that it can paralyze an adult male and cause plants to wither. While we're about it, some academics claim that the creature can spit fire from its nostrils.

C) Venomous Basilisk Fangs

The monster's third lethal weapon is the venom in its fangs. The basilisk is regarded as being the most poisonous animal to have ever existed.

Because it is so poisonous, if the animal drinks from a well, the water will remain contaminated for millennia and will kill everyone who consumes it. Basilisk fangs can cause a single scrape that can instantly kill the victim.

Additionally, the basilisk has the capacity to hurl its lethal venom up to 10 meters. In a legend from the Middle Ages, a mounted warrior killed a basilisk by impaling it on his spear.

Unfortunately, the creature's venom was so potent that it first infected the spear before spreading to the warrior and his horse, killing them both.

It is stated that the sole cure for a basilisk's venom is phoenix tears.

D) Shrill Whistle

You've been able to avert the beast's sight, shield yourself from its breath, and avoid being sprayed with its lethal venom. Good work! Can you endure its hiss, though?

Men who are exposed to the basilisk's hiss too often can become insane, become paralyzed, or even die. Because of this, the Latin name for the basilisk is Sibilus, which means "whistle."

It's unclear whether the basilisk's whistle's lethal effect results from a sound so loud that eardrums rupture, or whether it genuinely possesses magical capabilities.

E) Evil Basilisk Aura

Finally, you are close enough to meet Basilisk after dodging all of his blows. But by approaching him so closely, you have condemned yourself.

Because he is such a supernaturally evil monster, the basilisk always emanates a deathly aura. He not only poses a threat to people, but to all forms of life.

Wherever it goes, this monster leaves a trail of devastation. His vile odor and terrible spirit cause plants to wither and burn, birds to catch fire if they approach too closely, and even other snakes flee from him.

Rue is the only plant that can withstand the Basilisk's aura (herb of grace). This last one is consequently ideal for treating any injuries sustained during a battle with the monster.

7) Killing a Basilisk

Despite their terrifying abilities and immortality, these mythical beings are not immune to harm.

A) The Mirror and the Basilisk

Some folklore claims that you can destroy these animals by gazing into a mirror. Only one of these weapons will be able to save you if you find yourself in the vicinity of one of these terrifying chimeras.

The monster will also perish if compelled to look into the eyes of its reflection because its sight is fatal to all living things.

According to legend, Alexander the Great had a shield made for him that was mirror polished so he could defend himself from Basilisks while he was conquering the Indies.

By positioning his shield so that the basilisk saw its own image and died, St. George also defeated a basilisk.

B) Basilisk vs Weasel

The Basilisk is afraid of two animals, one of which is the weasel. Based on rue leaves, it appears to be resistant to its lethal gaze and even capable of recovering from a poisonous bite with the right medical care.

A weasel should be thrown into the basilisk's den, or the hunter should bring the basilisk up in front of one of these little mammals, according to many ancient manuscripts. Even so, the weasel frequently dies as well, even if it does manage to slay the monster.

C) The Rooster's Song and its effect on the Basilisk

The crowing of the rooster makes the basilisk extremely susceptible, which may be related to how it was hatched.

According to stories, the latter can either drive him away or kill him. Due to this notion, medieval travelers would always bring roosters along for security.

8) The Basilisk Snake in Harry Potter

A) Appearance of the Basilisk Serpent in Harry Potter

basilisk harry potter

Because of its appearance in the Harry Potter series, the basilisk has gained a lot of notoriety in modern times. Who hasn't heard of Harry Potter and the fantastical universe J.K. Rowling built in her novels? The most impressive mythical creatures are created by the well-known story.

In spite of being severely poisoned by the Basilisk, Harry Potter manages to use the creature's fang to stab Tom Jedusor's journal in the most iconic sequence from the second Harry Potter film, Chamber of Secrets. The Basilisk is also mentioned in the Fantastic Animals films.

The Basilisk is a creature with many similarities to those in our world's mythology in J.K. Rowling's fantasy world. Only phoenix tears have the power to counteract the beast's lethal glare.

Venom is additionally one of the few chemicals capable of destroying a Horcrux, an item in which Voldemort has imprisoned a portion of his soul. A basilisk in the Harry Potter universe is estimated to have a lifespan of up to 900 years. He is, nevertheless, quite susceptible to a rooster's crowing.

To attempt to raise a Basilisk would require the most insane dark magicians. Because despite the fact that the beast can be subdued by speaking Fourchelang (the snakes' language), it still behaves in a nasty and unpredictable manner. This magnificent animal is feared by even Aragog and the Acromentles.

B) Basilisk: the two monsters of Harry Potter

Two basilisks are referred to in the Harry Potter world. Herpo the Infamous, a Greek wizard skilled in evil magic, is the earliest of these fabled monsters.

It was the latter who made the initial discovery that a toad-incubated hen's egg is the source of a basilisk's birth. He is able to raise the first Basilisk in recorded history thanks to his knowledge and proficiency in Fourchelang.

A female Basilisk is the beast in the Chamber of Secrets. Salazar Slytherin himself planted it there with the intention of one day ridding Hogwarts of Muggleborn students.

Tom Jedusor, Salazar's immediate heir, is the only one who has the ability to control the basilisk in the room. Wizards who speak Fourchelang can comprehend it, but they cannot control it.

Before Harry Potter killed it, this basilisk terrorized or killed a number of Hogwarts students, including Hermione and Mimi Geignarde.

Harry got poisoned by one of the beast's fangs while battling it.

Only Dumbledore's phoenix Fumseck, who shatters the Basilisk's eyes and uses his tears to treat Harry's wound, is responsible for his survival.

9) The Romanian Vasilisc

The Vasilisc is a monster from Romanian folklore that resembles the Basilisk. This creature resembles the basilisk more than it does its serpentine form.

During the 1970s, a poem gave birth to the Vasilisc. It was eventually made into a song by the renowned folk rock group Phoenix.

The Vasilisc is quite similar to the Basilisk in that it has a lethal stare and a poisonous breath that can quickly kill. He can be killed by looking in the mirror, although he doesn't appear to be afraid of roosters or weasels.

For the rest of Europe, the basilisk is merely another fascinating monster, but in Romanian legend, this fantastic creature is still an exotic horror.

10) Symbolism of the Basilisk

mythical basilisk serpent

Generally speaking, the basilisk is a symbol of death and evil. The basilisk, like other snakes, was occasionally portrayed in Christianity as a demon or an appearance of the devil.

As a result, especially in Eastern Europe, it was frequently portrayed in sculptures or wall paintings. The Basilisk is frequently shown being killed or subdued by a Christian knight to represent the capacity to overcome evil.

In particular, Basel, Switzerland, where it became a symbol, the Basilisk was introduced into heraldry at about this period.

During the Protestant Reformation, the bishop of Basel was forcibly ejected, and a city earthquake that occurred decades before was attributed to the basilica. These two sad incidents have each come to represent the city.

Despite being vicious, this creature evolved over time to represent power. Particularly of royal authority, which, like the Basilisk, devours its foes.

11) The Basilisk in Alchemy

The alchemical basilisk stands for the consuming power of fire, which disintegrates the elements and enables the transformation of metals. It's said that even after a basilisk's death, its power is still present.

When the monster is destroyed, the ashes still have magical characteristics that alchemists in the 13th century highly desired.

In one mythology, the ashes of the creature are used by an alchemist to transform silver into gold, and in other myths, the ashes are a key component of the fabled Philosopher's Stone.

12) Etymology of the word "Basil"

green basilisk snake

The Greek letter o (basiliskos), which translates to "small king," is where the word "basilisk" originates. The beast is known as Regulus in Latin and Basilisk in English.

The origins of the word "cocatrice" are more difficult to decipher. During the Middle Ages, this phrase appeared in numerous old European languages. This animal's ancient French name was "Cocatris." The cocatrice or cocatrix, as we now know them, was the term that eventually replaced it.

The terms "basil" or "cocatrice" are frequently used to refer to the same animal. Despite the fact that they do look very similar, these two words really refer to different animals.

13) References to the Basilisk Snake

A) Literature

The basilisk is a creature that has appeared in literature for ages. A basilicoq, as Geoffrey Chaucer referred to it, was portrayed in Richard III by both William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer.

These two pieces accurately mark the transition of the basilisk from the realm of science to that of folklore.

The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley references to the basilisk in his poem Ode to Naples:

"Be like the imperial basilisk,
Kill thy foe with unseen wounds!
Watch the oppression, to that dreaded risk,
Horrified that it passes from the earthly disc.
Fear not, but look, for free men grow mightier,
And slaves weaker, looking on their enemy."

Voltaire mentions a basilisk in chapter 16 of Zadig. When the main character makes his initial effort to kill the vampire count in the fourth chapter of Dracula, Bram Stoker alludes to the beast's lethal gaze.

The Harry Potter book series features the basilisk that is currently most well-known. The basilisk is portrayed by author J. K. Rowling as a creature under the authority of evil wizards in the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

B) Visual Arts

Great works of art frequently feature the basilisk as an ornament, especially in European works from the 14th to 16th century.

The monster is frequently seen among the devils in the architectural engravings of large cathedrals or in the ornamentation of family coats of arms, despite its rarity as a focal point of art.

14) The Basilisk in Modern Fantasy

These days, fantasy culture is really booming. This is in part because popular television shows like Game of Thrones or Vikings, as well as video games like God of War, in which the protagonist battles a basilisk, have gained appeal. But generally speaking, the Basilisk is not frequently seen in video game works.

The Basilisk can be seen in a number of role-playing games, including Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons. However, the majority of literature and video games are satisfied to design monsters that just partially resemble or possess the abilities of the basilisk.

A basilisk frequently manifests as its enormous serpent form in fantasy works where it is present. Rarely is the Basilicoq portrayed.

snake ring

15) The Basilisk, a Lizard in Real Life?

There is a Basilisk, and it is real! Okay, it's true that this one doesn't possess the strength of its perilous relative and doesn't provide a hazard.

A genus of little green lizards called Basiliscus Plumifrons is a member of the Corytophanidae family. Because of its propensity to race across the water's surface, the green basilisk, also known as the feathered basilisk, is frequently referred to as the "Jesus Christ lizard."

It is able to accomplish this feat because of its small size, wide-contact water-contact legs, light weight, and intricate movement, which enables it to glide over the water without sunking into it. This allows it to exceed 10 km/h.

A man would need to travel at a speed of 110 km/h and possess muscles that were 15 times stronger than those of an average person to do the same feat.

You now know all there is to know about this amazing (albeit extremely unpleasant) creature! Please leave us a comment to let us know what you thought of this article. Additionally, you are invited to provide any additional information.

We recommend reading our page on the snake in mythology or the post on the snake dragon if you're interested in snakes as mythological creatures. There, we list the most fabled snakes from all cultures, and when compared to some deities, not even the basilisk comes close!