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34 35 the BasIlIsk The Basilisk is the king of serpents, and monarch of smaller reptiles. In early pictures it appears as a serpent with a narrow pointed head topped by three crestlike excrescences, but it was later portrayed with a thicker and heavier body, two birdlike legs and a crown instead of a crest. The Basilisk lives in the desert, which it creates through its venomous withering breath. One searing glance from its glowing eyes is enough to kill a man instantly. This murderous stare can also be the Basilisks downfall for the sight of its reflected stare in a mirror will strike it dead. Two creatures can kill a Basilisk the weasel by biting it to death and the cockerel whose crowing sends it into a terminal fit. During the first century AD the deserts of North Africa were said to be infested with these creatures and desert travellers often used to take a number of cockerels as protection against them. But reports soon began describing a different type of Basilisk which had the head of a cock. This creature was at first called a Basilcock and later a Cockatrice. The Cockatrice was born from a toughened, spherical, unshelled egg laid by a seven year old cock under Sirius the dog star and hatched by a toad or snake on a dung heap. To medieval Christians, the cockatrice represented sin and sudden death and was one of the four aspects of the devil. Various images showing Cockatrices opposite left, above right, and Basilisks opposite right, above, and right, as portrayed by Athanasius Kircher in the 1600s.
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