The Amphisbæna is a Greek serpent with a head at each end of its body and eyes that glow like candles. Its name means "goes both ways" in Greek.

If the serpent is somehow cut or severed the parts will regenerate and join again, in this sense the beast is immortal. Pliny recorded that the wearing of a live Amphisbæna would insure a woman against miscarriage and guarantee a safe pregnancy while the wearing of a dead serpent would safeguard one against rheumatism.

The serpent is also known as the "mother of ants" because it feeds on them.

Why you name something the 'mother' of what it feeds on you'll have to ask the Greeks - they were mostly crazy, you know...

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Greek and Roman Mythology

Originating in Africa (according to some, though the name is clearly Greek, don't blame me folks, I just report this nonsense), this venomous serpent-like creature had two heads - one where it should be, and one for its tail. The front head would hold the tail head in its mouth, creating a circle that allowed it to roll. It was said to be a very evil creature. Some pictures of this creature depict it as having feet, others just as a snake. It is usually portrayed as having a scaly body, feathered wings, and, if it does have feet, the feet of a rooster.

Stories say when the female amphisbaena was looking over her eggs, she could keep one head awake at all times. Today, there is a lizard named after this dragon which has markings on its tail that look like a head. When threatened, it lifts its tail and scatters back and forth to confuse its attacker.

Our old pal John Milton, in Paradise Lost, describing the transformation of the devils into serpents in hell:

. . .dreadful was the din
Of hissing through the Hall, thick swarming now
With complicated monsters, head and tail,
Scorpion and Asp, and Amphisbaena dire. . .

Am`phis*bæ"na (#), n. [L., fr. Gr. ; on both ends + to go.]


A fabled serpent with a head at each end, moving either way.


2. Zool.

A genus of harmless lizards, serpentlike in form, without legs, and with both ends so much alike that they appear to have a head at each, and ability to move either way. See Illustration in Appendix.

⇒ The Gordius aquaticus, or hairworm, has been called an amphisbæna; but it belongs among the worms.


© Webster 1913.

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