Amphisbaena, the Two-Headed Dragon

Amphisbaena, the Two-Headed Dragon

The Amphisbaena is a mythological, ant-eating serpent with two heads, one on each side. According to the Greek mythology, the Amphisbaena appeared from the blood that dripped from the Gorgon Medusa’s head. This happened when Perseus flew over the Libyan desert with her head in hand.

Cato’s army then encountered it along with other serpents on the march. Amphisbaenae fed off of the corpses that he found in the desert. Even poets such as Nicander, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and A. E. Housman mentioned this creature in their works. Lucan, Pliny the Elder and Isidore of Seville were other figures who actually believed in its existence. However, it was Thomas Browne who debunked its existence.

Amphisbaena, the Two-Headed DragonAmphisbaena, the Two-Headed Dragon

This early description of the amphisbaena depicts a venomous, dual-headed snakelike creature. However, drawings from the Medieval and later eras show it with two or more scaled feet. In particular it had chicken feet and a pair of feathered wings. Some people even describe it as a dragon-like creature with a serpent headed tail and with small, rounded ears.  Many descriptions of this creature say that its eyes glow like candles or like lighting. However, the poet Nicander seems to contradict this by describing it as “always dull of eye”.

He also says: “From either end protrudes a blunt chin; each is far from each other.” Nicander’s account seems to be referring to what is indeed called the Amphisbaenia. In ancient times, this dangerous creature had many uses in the art of medicine and other remedies. According to an ancient belief, pregnant women wearing a live amphisbaena around their necks would have safe pregnancies.

However, if one wants to cure ailments like arthritis or the common cold, one should wear only its skin. By eating the meat of this creature, one could attract many lovers of the opposite sex. Additionally, slaying one during the full moon could give power to one who is pure of heart and mind.



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