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The Basilisk and Rattlesnake, or a European Monster Comes to America

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This article looks at legends of the basilisk, a fabulous creature of ancient and medieval lore that was believed to kill with a glance, and shows how many characteristics of the basilisk were transferred to the rattlesnake in the New World. The deadly power of "fascination, " also known as "the evil eye, " which legend attributes to both basilisk and rattlesnake, was understood as an expression of resentment over the perceived lack of status of reptiles in the natural world and directed at so-called "higher" animals. The persistence of such legends suggests some of the limitations of capitalistic American society in dealing with inequalities.

Affiliations: 1: MERCY COLLEGE


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