The basilisk is the king of serpents, [7] specifically dubbed 'the king of snakes' by Aristotle. [10] Regulus is its Latin name. [10]

Physical Description

Early naturalists, such as the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, described the basilisk as a snake with a crown-like structure on its head. [10]

Later accounts, especially those in the Middle Ages, give the Basilisk a far more fantastical depiction:

A fabulous animal with a snake's body, pointed head, three-pointed crest, [8] three-pointed tail, glittering eyes, and a crown upon its head. [9]

Another description claims the basilisk is about the size of a cat with the body of a rooster and the head and tail of a serpent with its head crested like a royal crown. [7]

Other descriptions range from a rooster with a serpent's tail, [6] to a combination of a rooster, toad, and serpent, [9] to a winged, triple crested snake with the claws of a rooster. [3]

Unlike other serpents, the basilisk doesn't crawl. Instead, it coils itself up and pushes itself ahead, giving it a distinct moment pattern that looks like it hurls itself forward. [1]

Often mistakenly conflated with the Cockatrice.

Hatching a Basilisk

In Greek myth, the basilisk, like the Aspis, was born from the blood of a Gorgon's eye. [2] However, many accounts relate the hatching of a basilisk under very specific, and very rare, circumstances.

A basilisk must be hatched from a misshapen chicken's egg by a snake or toad on a bed of manure. [6] Alternatively, one may come from the egg of a cock hatched by a serpent or [7] a yokeless egg laid by a cock and hatched by a toad on a bed of dung. [9] Another possibility, a basilisk could be born from an egg laid by a seven-year-old cock during the days of the dog star Siriuius and hatched by a toad. [11]

The basilisk egg has distinctive characteristics: it is spherical instead of ovid and is covered by a skin membrane instead of a shell. [11]

Basilisk Most Poisonous

The basilisk is dangerously toxic, with both its breath and glance fatal. [6] The presents of a basilisk is easy to detect, as birds that pass over it fall from the sky and plants nearby it whither and die. [7] Its venom is so potent that just the stench of its breath or a mere glance of its eye can kill a grown man. [5] Even other serpents flee from the basilisk, so deadly is its appearance. [10]

Other accounts claim the basilisk comes in two forms. One can cause instant horror that leads to death with a look, and the other stares at objects and sets them aflame. [7]

To Kill A Basilisk

Only two animals have been known to withstand the basilisk. The weasel fights back with its sharp teeth, and the rooster can kill it with the sound of its crow. [7]

Any person attempting to kill the basilisk should take a mirror with them, because the only way to see it without dying is to see its reflection. [9] In some cases, forcing a basilisk to see its own reflection will kill it. [11]

The Basilisk Hunt

During the Middle Ages, people believed that a basilisk was a real threat and attributed many mysterious deaths to the presence of one. [11] When a basilisk was suspected, a Basilisk Hunt would be organized, and those brave enough to attempt such a feat carried a mirror each. [11]

In 1587, a large Basilisk Hunt occurred in Warsaw when people discovered two small girls dead in a cellar and assumed a basilisk was responsible. [11] In this case, a condemned prisoner was the only one to volunteer to slay the basilisk, so they fitted him with a leather suit and mirror. He descended into the cellar and, a short time later, emerged carrying what looked like an ordinary snake. A physician later confirmed it was a basilisk. [11]

In the sixteenth century, naturalist Konrad Gesner denounced the basilisk as mere gossip, as belief in their existence declined. [12] In the later sixteenth century and beyond, the basilisk was kept alive by the sale of manufactured monsters [11] called Jenny Hanivers. Essentially, people would take dried rays or other sea creatures and transform them into tiny monstrosities of legend, which were later discovered to be fraudulent and dubbed Jenny Hanivers. [12]

The Basilisk in Symbolism

According to the psychologist Paul Diel, the basilisk is a projected image of the human psyche, infernal in nature and predominantly evil. [4] Its fiendishness is signified in the threefold attribute, which can be seen as an inversion of the Christian Trinity. The predominance of symbolically evil components, such as the toad and the serpent, also point to the basilisk's evil nature. [9]

In legend, basilisks are one of the many 'keepers of treasure,' [9] but it signifies death, the Devil, and sin. It was commonly represented crushed under the feet of the victorious Christ. [6]


  1. Rose [Monsters] 41
  2. Nigg [Dragons] 40
  3. Airey 137
  4. Airey 209
  5. Cotterell 188
  6. Herder Symbols 18
  7. Ingpen 12
  8. Cirlot 22
  9. Cirlot 23
  10. Cohen 226
  11. Cohen 227
  12. Cohen 228

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.