1902 Encyclopedia > Cockatrice


COCKATRICE, a fabulous monster, the existence of which was firmly believed in throughout ancient and mediaeval times,—descriptions and figures of it appearing in the natural history works of such writers as Pliny and Aldrovandus, those of the latter published so late as the beginning of the 17th century. Produced from a cock's egg hatched by a serpent, it was believed to possess the most deadly powers, plants withering at its touch, and men and animals dying poisoned by its look. It stood in awe, however, of the cock, the sound of whose crowing killed it, and consequently travellers were wont to take this bird with them in travelling over regions supposed to abound in cockatrices. The weasel alone among mammals was unaffected by the glance of its evil eye, and attacked it at all times successfully; for when wounded by the monster's teeth it found a ready remedy in rue—the only plant which the cockatrice could not wither. This myth reminds one of the real contests between the weasel-like mungoos of India and the deadly cobra, in which the latter is generally killed. The term " cockatrice" is employed on four occasions in the English translation of the Bible, in all of which it denotes nothing more than an exceedingly venomous reptile; it seems also to be synonymous with " Basilisk," the mythical king of serpents.

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