The Myth of the Amphisbaina

amphisbainaSnakes appear throughout mythology in different forms, from the snake gods of Egyptian mythology to the world serpent Jormungand of Norse myth.  However, in Greek myth snakes played many roles, and one such mythic snake was the Amphisbaina.

According to myth, the Amphisbaina was created when Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert with the severed head of Medusa and her blood dripped down to the sands below.  This snake was two headed, one on each end, and had scaled feet like a chicken and feathered wings. It was considered a formidable adversary, especially since it is said that the snake could charge in either direction, and was described as being deadly poisonous; one bite and the wound would not heal, leaving the victim to die.

pictures-amphisbaenaHowever, even though the Amphisbaina was considered deadly, it was also sought out for its healing properties.  Some have speculated that its dried skin was a cure for rheumatism while others say that if the skin was worn around one’s neck it could cure a common cold.  Another medicinal property tied with this creature states that the wearing of one of these — alive — around a pregnant woman’s neck would ensure a safe pregnancy.  The Amphisbaina wasn’t just sought out for is healing properties. According to myth, it was also said that if the meat of the creature was ingested it would act as an aphrodisiac, attracting many lovers to the one who ate of it.

We always remember snakes in myth to be guardians or gods, monsters or tricksters.  Amphisbaina was created from the blood of a creature, was given wings and feet and dual heads, but it is not a monster.  Instead, the Amphisbaina is a great example about the dual nature of myth — a creature to be feared, and a creature to be revered.bibliothc3a8que-nationale-de-france-lat-6838b-folio-32v

For more reading on the Amphisbaina (sources):

https://www.mythical-creatures-and-beasts.com/amphisbaena.html

http://www.theoi.com/Thaumasios/Amphisbainai.html

Matthews, John, and Caitlin Matthews. The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures: the Ultimate A-Z of Fantastic Beings from Myth and Magic. Harper Element, 2009

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