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Image from theoi.
The amphisbaina, mother of ants.
Grouping Theres Aithiopes
Greek name Αμφισβαινα
Region Libyan area of the Sahara desert
Country Africa
Parents Medusa
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The Amphisbaina (alternately spelled "amphisbaena", "amphisbena" or "amphisbona"; literally meaning "walking both ways" from amphi, meaning "both ways" and bainô, meaning "to go") was a Libyan serpent in Greek mythology. It had a head at both ends of its body, and was spawned from drops of Medusa's blood as Perseus carried it over the Libyan Desert.



The Amphisbaina was depicted in early times as a venomous serpent, with a head at each end of its body. Medievial drawings show it as a quadrupedal creature with chicken feet and feathered wings. Some even depict it as a horned, dragon-like creature with a serpent-headed tail and small, round ears, while others have both "necks" of equal size so that it cannot be determined which is the rear head. Many descriptions of the amphisbaena say its eyes glow like candles or lightning, but the poet Nicander seems to contradict this by describing it as "always dull of eye". He also says: "From either end protrudes a blunt chin; each is far from each other." Nicander's account seems to be referring to what is indeed called the Amphisbaenia.


In ancient times, the supposedly dangerous amphisbaina had many uses in the art of folk medicine and other such remedies. It is said that expecting women wearing a live amphisbaina around their necks would have safe pregnancies; however, if one's goal is to cure ailments such as arthritis or the common cold, one should wear only its skin. By eating the meat of the amphisbaina, one could attract many lovers of the opposite sex, and slaying one during the full mooncould give power to one who is pure of heart and mind. Lumberjacks suffering from cold weather on the job could nail its carcass or skin to a tree to keep warm, while in the process allowing the tree to fell easier.

When chopped in half, the amphisbaina's halves would simply join together. The amphisbaena is venomous, as Pliny the Elder indicates: "The amphisbaena has a twin head, that is one at the tail end as well, as though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth."


The amphisbainai were generally hostile, and were fierce protectors of their eggs. Both of its heads never went to sleep together; one stayed awake, and guarded the eggs.


Amphisbainai were found in the Libyan portion of the Sahara, and were supposedly found in areas of death.


The Amphisbainai ate ants, and as such was known as the "mother of ants". It also ate corpses.