Monday, September 15, 2008

The Greek Vampire - Lamia

According to Greek mythology, Lamia is a vampire that stole children to drink their blood. She is usually described as a serpent-like creature with a female head and breasts. Lamia is typically female but is sometimes referred to as a hermaphrodite or a male. The name Lamia comes from the Greek word Laimos meaning gullet.

Lamia is said to be the daughter of Poseidon and Lybie. She was the queen of Libya and Zeus fell in love with her. Hera found out about this and stole and killed all her children except for Scylla. It is still a debate on whether Hera turned her into a monster or this was due to her grief but one thing that’s certain was that Lamia became a murderer of children after that. She envied the joy of other mothers with their children so she would steal them away and eat them.

Legend had it that Hera cursed Lamia so that Lamia can’t close her eyes so that she would obsess over the images of her dead children. As an attempt to please her, Zeus gave her the ability to temporarily remove her eyes so that she can rest her vision. Plus he also gave her the gift of prophecy.

Greek mothers would scare their children with the story of Lamia. They would tell the younger ones to behave or else Lamia might go after them. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Lamia was jealous of other mothers and would eat their children.

There were a lot of interpretations of the myth. Aristophanes suggested that Lamia is a hermaphrodite with a phallus. Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana portrayed Lamia as a seductress. Apollonius said to the groom that his to be was really a lamia that was planning to eat him on their wedding night.

English poet John Keats wrote about Lamia in his 1820 piece Lamia and Other Poems. He based his Lamia on Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. Keats described Lamia as one having the ability to change into a very beautiful woman. She would do so in the hopes of seducing a man into loving her.

Lamia survived the test of time is still very much alive in modern day Greek folklore. At present, Lamia is said to sloppy, glutton and stupid. The Greek proverb Lamia sweeping would mean unclean. There’s also a saying the child has been strangled by the Lamia which means that the child died of sudden causes.

Modern Greek Lamia is an ogress that lives in a remote tower or house. Her diet would include humans and can do magic. Her abode would contain magical things and would be able to know about the hero’s action even before the hero would do it. In order to succeed, the hero must use trickery, avoid her entirely or gain her favor to achieve his goal. There are some tales that tells of a Lamia’s daughter that would help the hero and would eventually fall for him.

A Lamia is one of the creatures that can be seen in the movie Pan’s Labyrinth. The movie version also has the appetite for small children and can take her eyes off their sockets.