The basilisk is usually described as a crested celestial snake and sometimes as a rooster with a snake’s tail. It is called the Queen (Sibilus), the Queen of the Serpents because its Greek name means “royal and imperial” which is probably closer to the Persian Royal Star Regulus than any little king. The sibyls were oracles in Ancient Greece and the earliest sibyls around 300 bce, according to legend, prophesied at holy sites.
Their prophecies were influenced by divine inspiration from a deity; originally at winged woman from Ephesus and at the Artemis Temple and in Greece at Delphi and Pessinos, the deities were life and chthonic deities. In Late Antiquity, various writers attested to the existence of Sibyls in Greece, Italy, the Levant and Asia Minor.
The English word sibyl comes from the Old French Sibile and the Latin Sibylla from the ancient Greek Sibulla. Varro derived the name from theobule “divine counsel” rather than military and political counsel of a king. Remember we are talking Goddess here, which is nature, woman, animism and celestials.
A little king would be a prince and thus they would have meant a Prince instead of King, but when handing out all the Grandmother and Queens attributes they had to come up with new forms of the Patriarchal names to pass it over to the kingdom.
Serpents have always been a woman’s tradition in ancient and pre-ancient times as it is one of her four main shaman era symbols. Woman’s serpent symbol and her symbolism of Healing (of the soul). Women of course were the original healers, shaman healers and medicine women in prehistory, part of history and returning today.
In its mythological animistic traits, its odor is said to kill on sight to its enemies. Fire coming from the Basilisk’s mouth kills demo and with one glance will kill a man. It can kill by hissing. Like the Scorpion it likes dry places and its bite causes the victim to become hydrophobic.
A Basilisk is hatched from a Firebird’s Egg, a rare occurrence (in the text they say Rooster, but the Rooster is the undeveloped Firebird and the middle ages demotion of the Firebird). Only the Weasel can kill a dark Basilisk and even then the Basilisk on occasion has turned the weasel into a friend.
Some manuscripts have separate entries and illustrations for the Basilisk and the sibilus / regulus, possibly because the Basilisk account in Isidore has three sections, one each for the basilisk, the “kinglet”(reguli), and the “queenlet” sibilus which just means prince and princess.
Sources (chronological order)
Lucan [1st century CE] (Pharsalia, book 9, verse 849-853): “…there upreared, the regal head, and frighted from his track with sibilant terror all the subject swam, / Baneful ere darts his poison, Basilisk / In sands deserted king”. (verse 968-975): “What availed, Murrus, the lance by which thou didst transfix. A Basilisk? Swift through the weapon ran. The poison to his hand: he draws his sword and severs arm and shoulder at a blow: Then gazed secure upon his severed hand, which perished as he looked. So had’st thou died, and such had been thy fate!”
Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 33): Anyone who sees the eyes of a basilisk serpent (basilisci serpentis) dies immediately. It is no more than twelve inches long, and has white markings on its head that look like a diadem. Unlike other snakes, which flee its hiss, it moves forward with its middle raised high. Its touch and even its breath scorch grass, kill bushes and burst rocks.
Its poison is so deadly that once when a man on a horse speared a basilisk, the venom traveled up the spear and killed not only the man, but also the horse. A weasel can kill a basilisk; the serpent is thrown into a hole where a weasel lives, and the stench of the weasel kills the basilisk at the same time as the basilisk kills the weasel.
Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 4:6-9): The basilisk is six inches in length and has white spots; it is the king (regulus) of snakes. All flee from it, for it can kill a man with its smell or even by merely looking at him. Birds flying within sight of the basilisk, no matter how far away they may be, are burned up. Yet the weasel can kill it; for this purpose people put weasels into the holes where the basilisk hides.
They are like scorpions in that they follow dry ground and when they come to water they make men frenzied and hydrophobic. The basilisk is also called sibilus, the hissing snake, because it kills with a hiss.
Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (De proprietatibus rerum, book 18): The cockatrice height Basiliscus in Greek, and Regulus in Latin; and hath that name Regulus of a little king (prince), for he is a prince who serves the Queen’s serpents, and they be afraid, and flee when they see him. For he slayeth them with his smell and with his breath: and slayeth also anything that hath life with breath and with sight.
In sight no fowl nor bird passeth harmless, and though he be far from the fowl, yet it is burned and devoured by his mouth. But he is overcome of the weasel; and men bring the weasel to the cockatrice’s den, where he lurketh and is hid. For the maker of everything left nothing without remedy and the serpent that is bred in the province of Sirena; and hath a body in length and in breadth as the cockatrice, and a tail of twelve inches long.
Hath a speck in his head as a precious stone, and feareth away all serpents with hissing. And he presseth not his body with much bowing, but his course of way is forthright, and goeth in mean. He drieth and burneth leaves and herbs, not only with touch but also by hissing and blast he rotteth and corrupteth all things about him.
And he is of so great venom and perilous, that he slayeth and wasteth him that nigheth him by the length of a spear, without tarrying; and yet the weasel taketh and overcometh him, for the biting of the weasel is death to the cockatrice. And nevertheless the biting of the cockatrice is death to the weasel.
And that is sooth, but if the weasel eat rue before. And though the cockatrice be venomous without remedy, while he is alive, yet he loses all the malice when he is burnt to ashes. His ashes be accounted good and profitable in working of Alchemy, and namely in turning and changing of metals.
from the website: http://bestiary.ca