Skip to main content
padlock icon - secure page this page is secure

The Grass Snake and the Basilisk: From Pre-Christian Protective House God to the Antichrist

Buy Article:

$21.07 + tax (Refund Policy)

The grass snake owes its far northern distribution in Europe to the production and hoarding of dung from stock breeding. Dung heaps appear to be perfect breeding sites that surpass ‘natural’ reproduction sites in quality. Here we point out that the grass snake's dependency on manure goes back to Neolithic times and that it had a reciprocal cultural effect. Moreover, the positive influence of humans on the species not only resulted from physical opportunities offered by agriculture, but also from the fact that grass snakes were considered to be chthonic deities not to be harmed. The conversion of Europe to Christianity, however, marked the turning of the cultural tide for the species. From being a divine creature originally, the grass snake evolved into the number one symbol of the Anti-Christ: the basilisk. In spite of the subsequent witch-hunt motivated by Christian belief, the overall historical human influence on the species was certainly not detrimental as regarded geographical distribution opportunities. This historical perspective on grass snake-human relationships adds to the discussion of whether nature conservation is better served by a strategy of land sparing or of land sharing. It also makes clear not only that co-dependency of species is a matter of mutual biophysical advantages but that metaphysical considerations may also play a role. In this case it leads to the conclusion that bringing back the grass snake into our direct everyday surroundings is both favourable to the grass snake and reinstates the species in our own cultural environment.
No Reference information available - sign in for access.
No Citation information available - sign in for access.
No Supplementary Data.
No Article Media
No Metrics

Keywords: Natrix natrix; agriculture; folk tales; nature conservation strategies; religion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 0.698. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.806.
  • Information for Authors
  • Submit a Paper
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • Membership Information
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
X
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more