The original Basilisk of classical tradition was a small venomous serpent whose throat never touched the ground, with a crest upon its head that gave it its name. Basileus is the Greek word for king, and this ensured that the snake was remembered as the king of all serpents. Pliny described the Basilisk as a snake with white spots or stripes with fiery breath and a death-dealing cry, that had the ability to drive people mad with its poison.
Over time the description of the Basilisk has become confused and has evolved. A common description is a lizard with six legs, with the tail of a snake. The Basilisk andCockatrice descriptions have also been muddled together.
The Basilisk is alleged to be hatched by a cockerel from the egg of a serpent (the reverse of the Cockatrice, which is hatched from a hen’s egg incubated by a serpent’s nest).
The Basilisk’s Poison
Everything about the Basilisk is poisonous. Its bite, glance, saliva and smell are all fatal. In addition, it can spit venom at flying birds. The venom of the Basilisk can rot the fruit on trees and pollute water. It was considered to be the cause of the Libyan and Middle Eastern deserts. The Basilisk shares with Medusa the ability to strike onlookers dead by its glance alone.
There were certain strategies that helped protect the traveler during encounters with it: you might carry a crystal globe to reflect back the petrifying stare, you could carry a weasel which can give as good as it gets by way of venomous biting, or you could take a cockerel with you, since its crowing would send the Basilisk into fits.
Basilisks are said to be killed by hearing the crow of a rooster or seeing their own reflection. Weasels are also said to be able defeat a Basilisk, some say the smell of weasel urine will kill the beast, others say the weasel is immune to the gaze of a Basilisk. Rue, an evergreen shrub, is the only plant that can withstand the Basilisk venom.