Basilisks in Medieval Manuscripts

I wanted to add something to yesterday’s post, which is an important notice in Page’s book about basilisks:

[The herb] Basilica is said to be found in places where the three species of basilisks live:  Olochrysus, golden-headed Stellatus and blood-red Ametisteris…  Olochrysus’ glance causes his victim to swell up and be set alight; Stellatus kills with a gaze that dries up its object and Ametisteris’s stare strikes and flows out until only dry bones remain.

Thus, it’s important when meeting a basilisk to check its coloration, and to remember it can’t really turn you to stone.  Or maybe you’d be better off hiding.  Even better, stay away from any place where basil grows.   Thorndike passes on the following from a Book of Secrets:

According to Holler,  an Italian who smelled too often of the herb basilica died of headaches produced by a scorpion generated in his brain.

Thorndike was quite the scholar, but he also knew how to repeat the entertaining bits.

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 1:59 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. interesting reading here on of all places, regarding the basilisk:

    The author seems to have dated the earliest reference to the basilisk’s stone gaze to Vienna in 1212

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