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Mythical Creatures -

Amazons
The race of Amazons or fighting women, is not yet extinct, ...

Pygmies
The antitheses of men--Dwarfs, and Giants--must not be over...

Giants
This last sentence seems almost a compendium of The History...

Early Men
On the antiquity of man it is impossible to speculate, beca...

Wild Men
Sometimes a specimen of humanity has got astray in infancy,...

Hairy Men
If, as we may conjecture from the above, the ancient Briton...

The Ouran Outan
Transition from hirsute humanity to the apes, is easy, and ...

Satyrs
He also mentions and delineates a curious Ape which closely...

The Sphynx
"The SPHYNGA or Sphinx, is of the kind of Apes, but his bre...

Apes
Sluper, who could soar to the height of delineating a Cyclo...

Animal Lore
We are indebted to Pliny for much strange animal lore--whic...

The Manticora
Of curious animals, other than Apes, depicted as having som...

The Lamia
The Lamiae are mythological--and were monsters of Africa, w...

The Centaur
This extraordinary combination of man and animal is very an...

The Gorgon
In the title-page of one edition of "The Historie of Foure-...

The Unicorn
What a curious belief was that of the Unicorn! Yet what myt...

The Rhinoceros
The true Unicorn is, of course, the Rhinoceros, and this pi...

The Gulo
Olaus Magnus thus describes the Gulo or Gulon:--"Amongst...

The Bear
As Pliny not only uses all Aristotle's matter anent Bears, ...

The Fox
By Englishmen, the Fox has been raised to the height of at ...

The Wolf
The Wolf, as a beast of prey, is invested with a terror pec...

Were-wolves
But of all extraordinary stories connected with the Wolf, i...

The Antelope
When not taken from living specimens, or skins, the arti...

The Horse
Aldrovandus gives us a curious specimen of a horse, which t...

The Mimick Dog
"The Mimicke or Getulian Dogge," is, I take it, meant fo...

The Cat
Aldrovandus gives us a picture of a curly-legged Cat, but, ...

The Lion
Of the great Cat, the Lion, the ancients give many wonderfu...

The Leontophonus The Pegasus The Crocotta
The Lion has a dreadful enemy, according to Pliny, who says...

The Leucrocotta The Eale Cattle Feeding Backwards
"There are oxen, too, like that of India, some with one hor...

Animal Medicine
We have already seen some of the wonderfully curative prope...

The Su
Topsell mentions a fearful beast called the Su. "There is a...

The Lamb-tree
As a change from this awful animal, let us examine the Plan...

The Chimaera
Aldrovandus gives us the accompanying illustration of a ...

The Harpy And Siren
The conjunction of the human form with birds is very eas...

The Barnacle Goose
Of all extraordinary beliefs, that in the Barnacle Goose, w...

Remarkable Egg
No wonder that a credulous age, which could see nothing ...

Moon Woman
One would have imagined that this Egg would be sufficien...

The Griffin
There always has been a tradition of birds being existent, ...

The Phoenix
Pliny says of the Phoenix:--"AEthiopia and India, more espe...

The Swallow
"And is the swallow gone? Who beheld it? Wh...

The Martlet And Footless Birds
Of the Martin, or, as in Heraldry it is written, Martlet, G...

Snow Birds
But we must leave warm climes, and birds of Paradise, and s...

The Swan
The ancient fable so dear, even to modern poets, that Swans...

The Alle Alle
"There is also in this Lake (the White Lake) a kind of b...

The Hoopoe And Lapwing
Whether the following bird is meant for the Hoopoe, or the ...

The Ostrich
Modern observation, and especially Ostrich farming, has ...

The Halcyon
Of this bird, the Kingfisher, Aristotle thus discourses:--"...

The Pelican
The fable of the Pelican "in her piety, vulning herself,...

The Trochilus
This bird, as described by Aristotle, and others, is of a p...

Woolly Hens
Sir John Maundeville saw in "the kingdome named Mancy, whic...

Two-headed Wild Geese
Near the land of the Cynocephali or dog-headed men, there w...

Four-footed Duck
Gesner describes a four-footed duck, which he says is li...

Fish
Terrestrial and Aerial animals were far more familiar to th...

The Sea-mouse
"The Sea-Mouse makes a hole in the Earth, and lays her Eggs...

The Sea-hare
"The Sea-Hare is found to be of divers kinds in the Ocean, ...

The Sea-pig
Again we are indebted to Gesner for the drawing of thi...

The Walrus
Of the Walrus, Rosmarus, or Morse, Gesner draws, and Ola...

The Ziphius
This Voracious Animal, whose size may be imagined by compar...

The Saw Fish
"The Saw fish is also a beast of the Sea; the body is huge ...

The Orca
is probably the Thresher whale. Pliny thus describes it:--"...

The Dolphin
Pliny says:--"The Dolphin is an animal not only friendly to...

The Narwhal
generally called the Monoceros or Sea Unicorn, is thus show...

The Swamfisck
The accompanying illustration, though heading the chapte...

The Sahab
"There is also another Sea-Monster, called Sahab, which hat...

The Circhos
"There is also another Monster like to that, called Circhos...

The Remora
Of this fish Pliny writes:--"There is a very small fish tha...

The Dog-fish And Ray
Olaus Magnus writes of "The cruelty of some Fish, and th...

The Sea Dragon
Of the Ray tribe of fishes, the Sea Dragon is the most ...

The Sting Ray
Pliny mentions the Sting Ray, and ascribes to it marvellous...

Senses Of Fishes
He also tells us about the senses of fishes, and first of t...

Zoophytes
Writing on the lower phases of Marine Animal life, he says:...

Sponges
"We find three kinds of sponges mentioned; the first are th...

The Kraken
This enormous monster, peculiar to the Northern Seas, is sc...

Crayfish And Crabs
Pliny tells us that in the Indian Ocean are Crayfish four c...

The Sea-serpent
Of the antiquity of the belief in the Sea-Serpent there can...

Serpents
Of Serpents Topsell has written a "Historie," which, if not...

The Crocodile
The largest of the Saurians which we have left us, is the C...

The Basilisk And Cockatrice
Aldrovandus portrays the Basilisk with eight legs. Topse...

The Salamander
Many writers have essayed this fabled creature, but almost ...

The Toad
Toads were always considered venomous and spiteful, and the...

The Leech
The Leech has, from a very early age, been used as a means ...

The Scorpion
Of the Scorpion, Pliny says:--"This animal is a dangerous s...

The Ant
No one would credit the industrious Ant, whose ways we are ...

The Bee
The Busy Bee, too, according to Olaus Magnus, developed, in...

The Hornet
So also, up North, they seem to have had a special breed...



The Basilisk And Cockatrice








Aldrovandus portrays the Basilisk with eight legs. Topsell says it is
the same as the Cockatrice, depicts it as a crowned serpent, and
says:--"This Beast is called by the Graecian Baziliscos, and by the
Latine, Regulus, because he seemeth to be the King of Serpents, not
for his magnitude or greatnesse: For there are many Serpents bigger than
he, as there be many foure-footed Beastes bigger than the Lyon, but,
because of his stately pace, and magnanimious mind: for hee creepeth not
on the earth like other Serpents, but goeth halfe upright, for which
occasion all other Serpentes avoyde his sight. And it seemeth nature
hath ordayned him for that purpose; for, besides the strength of his
poyson, which is uncurable, he hath a certain combe or Corronet uppon
his head, as shall be shewed in due place."



Pliny thus describes "The Serpents called Basilisks. There is the same
power[40] also in the serpent called the Basilisk. It is produced in
the province of Cyrene, being not more than twelve fingers in length. It
has a white spot on the head, strongly resembling a sort of diadem. When
it hisses, all the other serpents fly from it: and it does not advance
its body, like the others, by a succession of folds, but moves along
upright and erect upon the middle. It destroys all shrubs, not only by
its contact, but even those that it has breathed upon; it burns up all
the grass too, and breaks the stones, so tremendous is its noxious
influence. It was formerly a general belief that if a man on horseback
killed one of these animals with a spear, the poison would run up the
weapon and kill, not only the rider, but the horse as well. To this
dreadful monster the effluvium of the weasel is fatal, a thing which has
been tried with success, for kings have often desired to see its body
when killed; so true is it that it has pleased Nature that there should
be nothing without its antidote. The animal is thrown into the hole of
the basilisk, which is easily known from the soil around it being
infected. The weasel destroys the basilisk by its odour, but dies itself
in this struggle of nature against its own self."

Du Bartas says:--

"What shield of Ajax could avoid their death
By th' Basilisk whose pestilentiall breath
Doth pearce firm Marble, and whose banefull eye
Wounds with a glance, so that the wounded dye."

The origin of the Cockatrice is, to say the least, peculiar:--"There is
some question amongest Writers, about the generation of this Serpent:
for some, (and those very many and learned,) affirme him to be brought
forth of a Cockes egge. For they say that when a Cocke groweth old, he
layeth a certaine egge without any shell, instead whereof it is covered
with a very thicke skinne, which is able to withstand the greatest force
of an easie blow or fall. They say, moreover, that this Egge is layd
onely in the Summer time, about the beginning of the Dogge-dayes, being
not so long as a Hens Egge, but round and orbiculer: Sometimes of a
Foxie, sometimes of a yellowish muddy colour, which Egge is generated of
the putrified seed of the Cocke, and afterward sat upon by a Snake or a
Toad, bringeth forth the Cockatrice, being halfe a foot in length, the
hinder part like a Snake, the former part like a Cocke, because of a
treble combe on his forehead.

"But the vulger opinion of Europe is, that the Egge is nourished by a
Toad, and not by a Snake; howbeit, in better experience it is found that
the Cocke doth sit on that egge himselfe: whereof Levinus Lemnius in
his twelfth booke of the hidden miracles of nature, hath this discourse,
in the fourth chapter thereof. There happened (saith he) within our
memory in the Citty Pirizaea, that there were two old Cockes which had
layd Egges, but they could not, with clubs and staves drive them from
the Egges, untill they were forced to breake the egges in sunder, and
strangle the Cockes....

"There be many grave humaine Writers, whose authority is irrefragable,
affirming not onely that there be cockatrices, but also that they infect
the ayre, and kill with their sight. And Mercuriall affirmeth, that
when he was with Maximilian the Emperour, hee saw the carkase of a
cockatrice, reserved in his treasury among his undoubted monuments....
Wee doe read that in Rome, in the dayes of Pope Leo the fourth (847 to
855), there was a cockatrice found in a Vault of a Church or Chappell,
dedicated to Saint Lucea, whose pestiferous breath hadde infected the
Ayre round about, whereby great mortality followed in Rome: but how the
said Cockatrice came thither, it was never knowne. It is most probable
that it was created, and sent of God for the punnishment of the Citty,
which I do the more easily beleeve, because Segonius and Julius
Scaliger do affirme, that the sayd pestiferous beast was killed by the
prayers of the said Leo the fourth....

"The eyes of the Cockatrice are redde, or somewhat inclyning to
blacknesse; the skin and carkase of this beast have beene accounted
precious, for wee doe read that the Pergameni did buy but certaine
peeces of a Cockatrice, and gave for it two pound and a halfe of Sylver:
and because there is an opinion that no Byrd, Spyder, or venomous Beast
will endure the sight of this Serpent, they did hang uppe the skinne
thereof stuffed, in the Temples of Apollo and Diana, in a certaine
thinne Net made of Gold; and therefore it is sayde, that never any
Swallow, Spider, or other Serpent durst come within those Temples; And
not onely the skinne or the sight of the Cockatrice worketh this effect,
but also the flesh thereof, being rubbed uppon the pavement, postes, or
Walles of any House. And moreover, if Silver bee rubbed over with the
powder of the Cockatrices flesh, it is likewise sayde that it giveth it
a tincture like unto Golde: and, besides these qualities, I remember not
any other in the flesh or skinne of this serpent....

"We read also that many times in Affrica, the Mules fall downe dead
for thirst, or else lye dead on the ground for some other causes, unto
whose Carkase innumerable troupes of Serpentes gather themselves to
feede there uppon; but when the Bazeliske windeth the sayd dead body,
he giveth forth his voyce: at the first hearing whereof, all the
Serpents hide themselves in the neare adjoyning sandes, or else runne
into theyr holes, not daring to come forth againe, untill the Cockatrice
have well dyned and satisfied himselfe. At which time he giveth another
signall by his voyce of his departure: then come they forth, but never
dare meddle with the remnants of the dead beast, but go away to seeke
some other prey. And if it happen that any other pestiferous beast
cometh unto the waters to drinke neare the place wherein the Cockatrice
is lodged, so soone as he perceiveth the presence thereof, although it
be not heard nor seene, yet it departeth back againe, without drinking,
neglecting his owne nutriment, to save itselfe from further danger:
whereupon Lucanus saith,

----Late sibi submovet omne
Vulgus, et in vacua regnat Basiliscus arena.

Which may be thus englished;

He makes the vulgar farre from him to stand,
While Cockatrice alone raignes on the sand.

"Now we are to intreate of the poyson of this serpent, for it is a hot
and a venemous poyson, infecting the Ayre round about, so as no other
Creature can live neare him, for it killeth, not onely by his hissing,
and by his sight, (as is sayd of the Gorgons) but also by his touching,
both immediately, and mediately; that is to say, not onely when a man
toucheth the body it selfe, but also by touching a Weapon wherewith the
body was slayne, or any other dead beast slaine by it, and there is a
common fame, that a Horseman taking a Speare in his hand, which had
beene thrust through a Cockatrice, did not onely draw the poyson of it
unto his owne body, and so dyed, but also killed his horse thereby."





Next: The Salamander

Previous: The Crocodile



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