What the Heck Is a Cockatrice, Anyway?!

Bronze Cockatrice at Belvedere Castle

The cockatrice at Belvedere Castle in Central Park

I might also have asked, ‘And who thought this crazy creature up in the first place?’ (see photo to the right)

According to the dictionary, a cockatrice is a dragon with the head of a rooster, the body of a snake, and the wings of a bat–or as Christopher in Central Park Story said when he first spotted this bronze figure over the door to Belvedere Castle, ‘three of my least favorite animals’.

I tried to find a decent drawing of one but this is probably the best rendition I’ve seen.

The first mention of this curious creature that I could find is in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 8: ‘For behold, I shall send serpents and cockatrices among you which shall not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord.’

Bite me?! Not if I’ve still got feet!

Apparently they were invincible in Biblical times and, by the Middle Ages, it was a well-known fact that they couldn’t be killed except by seeing their reflection in a mirror. To make matters worse, they could kill humans with a single glance, or a touch, or even with their breath! (I already figured a rooster’s breath could kill).

I don’t know about you, but if I saw something even remotely like this creature standing in my way, I’d take off even before it could get close enough to breathe on me!

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