Cryptozoology, Greek Folklore, Heraldic Folklore, Mythological Creature Archive, Writing prompt

Mythological Creature; Amphisbaena, a Grecian snake with a head at both ends, and writing prompt

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According to Wikipedia, the amphisbaena plural: amphisbaenae; is a real creature. A worm lizard native to South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Mediterranean Europe.

The mythological creature is an ant-eating venomous serpent with a head at each end. The creature can be found listed under various other spellings of its name and is alternatively called the “Mother of Ants”.

Also according to Wikipedia, the creature’s name comes from the Greek words amphis, meaning “both ways”, and bainein, meaning “to go”.

In Greek mythology, the amphisbaena is said to have been spawned from the blood that dripped from Medusa’s head as Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert with her head in hand. Later Cato the Younger’s army came through, encountering it amongst other serpents.

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Amphisbaena then fed off of the corpses left after the inevitable attack on Cato’s men.

The amphisbaena has been referenced by various writers and poets such as Nicander, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Aimé Césaire, A. E. Housman and Allen Mandelbaum; specifically as a mythological and legendary creature, it has been referenced by Lucan, Pliny the Elder, Isidore of Seville, and Thomas Browne, the last of whom debunked its existence.

The amphisbaena has a twin head, that is one at the tail end as well, as though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth.— Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia

Photo Credit : In European Heraldry, this is the Coat of Arms in Poland.

This early descriptions of the amphisbaena depict a venomous, dual-headed snakelike creature, as stated before. However, Medieval and later drawings often show it with two or more scaled feet, particularly chicken feet, and feathered wings. Some even depict it as a horned, dragon-like creature with a serpent-headed tail and small, round ears, while others have both “necks” of equal size so that it cannot be determined which is the rear head.

Many descriptions of the amphisbaena say its eyes glow like candles or lightning, but 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.” The

Supposedly dangerous amphisbaena had many uses in the art of folk medicine and other such remedies. Pliny notes that expecting women wearing a live amphisbaena around their necks would have safe pregnancies; however, if one’s goal was to cure ailments such as arthritis or the common cold, one should wear only its skin. By eating the meat of the amphisbaena, one could supposedly attract many lovers of the opposite sex, and slaying one during the full moon could give power to one who is pure of heart and mind. Lumberjacks suffering from cold weather on the job could nail its carcass or skin to a tree to keep warm, while in the process allowing the tree to be felled more easily.

In Pop Culture

According to Wikipedia, in John Milton‘s Paradise Lost, after the Fall and the return of Satan to Hell, some of the fallen angelic host are transformed into the amphisbaena, to represent the animal by which the Fall was caused, i.e. a snake. The amphisbaena is mentioned in the first book of Andrzej Sapkowski‘s The Witcher series, i.e. The Last Wish, when The Witcher’s protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, is recalling past events when he meets an old acquaintance named Irion. The amphisbaena was endangering the region of Kovir until the beast was slain by Geralt’s hand. Brandon Sanderson’s novel Skyward has a character whose name is Arturo Mendez. His call sign is amphisbaena.

In the 1984 Scandinavian animated film Gallavants, an amphisbaena (called in the film as a ‘Vanterviper’) appears as a minor antagonist. The two heads, a red one named Edil and a blue one called Fice, frequently disagree and argue, and sing a song about their miserable plight.

Writing Prompt

As you may know, Medusa was a Gorgon. According to Wikipedia, a Gorgon is a mythical creature portrayed in ancient Greek literature. The term commonly refers to any of the three sisters who had hair made of living, venomous snakes, as well as a horrifying visage that turned those who beheld her to stone. Traditionally, while two of the Gorgons were immortal, Stheno and Euryale, their sister Medusa was not and she was slain by the demigod Perseus.

The smash series Percy Jackson and the Olympians uses this part of Greek Mythology in his story The lightning Thief.

The writing prompt today will be about the moment the Greek Hero Perseus drops blood from Medusa’s head and the Amphisbae is created.

What were the conditions at the moment that the blood hit the Libyan desert floor? Who was around to see the transformation. What happened next? Was this creature a leader, having come from a Gorgons head? Tell me everything!

If you find this article fun and interesting and you decide to expand on this story -let me know how this story continues in the comment section below, and as usual…happy writing!

8 thoughts on “Mythological Creature; Amphisbaena, a Grecian snake with a head at both ends, and writing prompt”

  1. Interesting story about you show the snake in your hand,is presented in India.we call that snake “Domunha”(double faced snake)beautiful discription from Greek Mythology🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹

    Liked by 1 person

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