Who doesn’t like dragons? I’ve done a post about dragons before, but somehow missed out on the Aspis. There’s not a lot of information available about this dragon, but there’s enough to intrigue.
“The emorrosis is an asp, so called because it kills by making you sweat blood. If you are bitten by it, you grow weak, so that your veins open and your life is drawn forth in your blood. For the Greek word for ‘blood’ is emath. … The prester is an asp that moves quickly with its mouth always open and emitting vapour… If it strikes you, you swell up and die of gross distention, for the swollen body putrefies immediately after… There is a kind of asp called ypnalis, because it kills you by sending you to sleep. It was this snake that Cleopatra applied to herself, and was released by death as if by sleep.”
The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlín Matthews
According to the legend and folklore of medieval Europe, the Aspis was a small dragon with two feet rather than the usual four. While its touch was poisonous and even to come close to it was to invite death, its bite was instantaneously fatal. It had one weakness however – its susceptibility to music, which could make it docile. Eventually the Aspis became aware of this and reacted to the sound of music by sticking the end of its tail in one ear and pressing the other to the ground. However, once in this position, it was virtually helpless, allowing its prey to escape. The name Aspis actually means ‘serpent’, suggesting confusion in the minds of medieval writers between this creature and the more familiar dragon.
*More can be read in the book.
A Wizard’s Bestiary by Oberon Zell Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk
A two-legged Dragon of medieval Europe, depicted both with and without wings. Its bite causes instant death, and it is so poisonous that even touching its dead body is fatal. But it can be easily overcome by music, upon hearing which it jams its tail into one ear and presses the other to the ground.
*More can be read in the book.
Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel
The Aspis is sometimes confused with the Wyvern because they both are dragons with only two legs, but the Wyvern is much bigger and with other attributes than the Aspis.
From the folklore of Medieval Europe, the Aspis is a small dragon poisonous to the touch. Even getting too close to it is to invite death. Its bite causes instant death. Even dead, touching it can be fatal. The type of death varies from tale-to-tale, from bleeding to death to swelling up and putrefying on the spot.
The only weakness of the Aspis is music, as it makes it docile or distracted, depending on the source. This small dragon knows of this, so plugs its tail into one ear and presses the other to the ground to save itself from being enslaved by song. This, however, allows its prey to escape. Most depictions of the Aspis is of it in this position.
Sometimes confused in Medieval manuscripts with snakes as its name means “snake” and both snakes and aspises were depicted the same in these bestiaries, it is still difficult to find references to one without the other.
Aspis in Modern Culture
I couldn’t find anything online about this creature in books, movies or games. Dreadful! If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments.
Aspis in My Writing
Origin of the Fae: Aspis
Aspises are only found in the deepest forests, near caves – either natural or created by them – where they protect trees that grow golden fruit. These fruit are only meant for consumption by fae, but mortals often challenge each other to acquire the forbidden fruit.
The Aspis is small, the size of a foal, and moves quickly through the forest with its two legs. Its wings, shaped like that of a bat’s, can take it high above the treetops. Aspises vary in colour from the deepest green to black. Its breath is poisonous to mortals. Its bite is instantly fatal to all creatures. Touching it will systematically paralyse you until your breathing stops.
Just as folklore suggests, music is its one weakness. For some, music puts them to sleep, while for others it brings it under the thrall of the one wielding the music.
See it in action:
Workers of Death (Origin of the Fae #5)
Have you heard of Aspis before? Any folklore about Aspis you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.
You can listen to this post on my podcast:
You can now support my time in producing folklore posts (researching, writing and everything else involved) by buying me a coffee. This can be a once-off thing, or you can buy me coffee again in the future at your discretion.
Want a taste of my writing? Sign up to my newsletter and get your free copy of Unseen, Faery Tales #2.
No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.