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Animals > Amphisbaena



An amphisbaena is a dragon, serpent or lizard with a head at both ends.  This one has bird-like heads with beaks that seem to be eating simultaneously, one a small snake, the other something more obscure.  Carvings of this subject are more often found in stone than in wood.


Such a beast was used in art to make one consider the duplicity and deceit of the man or woman who leads a double life.  The amphisbaena could put one of its heads into the mouth of the other, then roll along like a hoop, thus going in whatever direction it felt convenient.  According to bestiaries it was the only snake to withstand the cold and had eyes that shone like lamps.

Panel 2

This heraldic panel shows a shield with a sheep surrounded by a Latin motto, which translates, roughly, as: Shepherd, lead me, the sheep that has strayed, piously back to your fold.

At the base of panel two birds each pin down an amphisbaena.  Here the birds are clearly righteous creatures trampling down the forces of deceit or evil that are lying in wait to do harm.

Panel 3

This panel tells the story of deception in love, sacred or profane.  The heart motif contains a rose, the symbol of love, but its beautiful flower has a stem with thorns that prick like the wounds of love.  Lurking below amongst the foliage is an amphisbaena, poised to plant the seeds of deception in the heart.

Panel 4

On this panel the amphisbaena has one eye open and the other closed on each head, as well as a protruding tongue.  A small creature seems to peck at each face - a snail, a slug, a lindworm, a leech?