[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Basilisk is also known as the “King of Serpents.” According to Newt Scamander, a wizard (possibly, Herpo the Foul) created the Basilisk (p. 3 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). In some cultures it was created by hatching a Cock’s yolkless egg under a Toad on a dung heap. The Basilisk is often a bright green and its extreme length is crowned on its head by either a feathered crest or a three-pointed crest—usually a brilliant red in color. (In eastern cultures, it was a mixture of Toad, Snake and Cock.) It often has a three-pointed tail as well and it can kill with a glance of its bright yellow eyes or with its venom. In some literature, the Basilisk is capable of human speech in many languages and it may also be communicated with in a form of language known as “parselmouth.” (This is an adaptation of the word which meant split tongue or split lip and roof of mouth—a deformity often looked upon with horror.)
It eats mammals, birds, and other reptiles. Spiders will not stay in area in which a basilisk resides. It is said that the crowing of a Cock will kill a basilisk, so one of the first signs of trouble, besides evacuating spiders, is finding dead roosters around the premises.
Its name comes from the Greek basileus, “king,” and it is also called a “Cockatrice.” (Interestingly, a basilisk was also the name of a large brass cannon used in Elizabethan times.) It is seen by most cultures as inherently evil because it expands upon the venomous nature of some snakes. Its tri-partite tail and “crowned” head is the opposite of the Christian Holy Trinity and its association with the “evil” animal symbols of the Toad (Avarice and Lust), Snake (Envy), and Cock (Excessive Pride) also lends itself to its becoming a cultural anathema. For good or ill, it is also rumored to be used as “treasure guardian” (in the same vein as the Griffin and Dragon).
As described by Newt Scamander, the Occamy “is found in the Far East and India” and it is a “plumed, two-legged winged creature with a serpentine body” which may “reach a length of fifteen feet,” with rats, birds, and monkeys as its diet, and it produces eggs of purest silver (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, p.31). Because of this, people foolishly seek it out, and usually they meet a terrible end in its razor-sharp teeth.
The name may arise from the expression “Occam’s Razor.” This expression is named after William of Occam’s (d. 1347) technique of eliminating every unnecessary fact in order to arrive at the root knowledge or cause of a mystery, theory, etc.
The Cultic Snake
Of all animal symbols, the snake seems one of the most significant and complex. It started out representing male sexuality and female and agricultural fertility (the umbilical cord and plant growth). So, the snake is almost always a magic or religious symbol of the primeval life force—even of a creator divinity. The motif of a snake swallowing its own tail symbolizes not only eternity, but a divine self-sufficiency.
It is cold-blooded and secretive, connected to the underworld and death, sometimes venomous or possessed of a crushing power, at home in soil or water or both, swiftly-moving, and can rejuvenate itself by shedding its own skin. It has a form connection to undulating waves, growing plants, lightning strikes, rainbows, and the spiraling motion of the cosmos. Thus, the snake in most cultures has both a protective and destructive dual nature.