Lamia | Mythic Creature

Lamia Greek Mythology

Lamia (Greek: Λάμια), in Greek mythology, was a queen of Libya who became a child-eating demon. Lamias were also called a type of monsters, witches or female spirits, who attacked young people or travelers and sucked their blood.

Several stories are told about Lamia. Her appearance also varies from legend to legend. In most versions, however, her body, below the waist, is shaped like a serpent's tail. This version became especially popularized from the poem Lamia, published by Englishman John Keats in 1819. Diodorus Siculo, in turn, describes her as a woman with a distorted face.

Greco-Roman mythology

According to the most current version, Lamia was a beautiful queen of Libya, daughter of Posidon and lover of Zeus, by whom she conceived many children, among whom was the nymph Libya.

Hera, Zeus' wife, corroded by jealousy, killed her children at birth and, in the end, turned her into a monster (in other versions Lamia went to hide in an isolated cave and what turned her into a monster was her own despair).

Finally, to torture her even more, Lamia was condemned by Hera not to be allowed to close her eyes, so that she would be forever obsessed with the image of her dead children. Zeus, pitying her, gave her the gift of being able to extract her eyes from time to time to rest.

Other mythologies

According to widespread opinion, the mythological Lamia served as a model for the Lamiae (Latin for Lamia), sometimes described as witches, sometimes as spirits and sometimes as monsters, human from the waist up but with serpent tails.

The lamiae attracted the travelers by exposing their beautiful breasts and emitting a pleasant cicio, and then killed them, sucking their blood and devouring their bodies. In this respect, the Lamia are an antecedent of the succubi of the Middle Ages and modern vampires.

Often the Lamia is described in the bestiaries of other cultures as creatures of a wild and evil nature, with claws on their front legs, hooves on their hind legs, a female face and bust, and a body covered with scales. It is also associated with Lilith of Hebrew mythology. In Neo-Hellenic, Basque, and Bulgarian folklore legends about Lamias can be found, heir to the classical tradition.

In Basque mythology, Lamias are genies with the feet and claws of a bird and the tail of a fish. Almost always feminine and of admirable beauty, they lived in rivers and fountains, where they used to comb their long hair. They are generally kind, but become enraged if someone steals their fish. Sometimes they fall in love with mortals and even have children with them, but they cannot marry.

In Bulgarian folklore, lamia are mysterious creatures, usually female, with many heads, which if cut off can regenerate themselves (like the Hydra of Lerna). They live in caves or underground and torment villages, feeding on human blood or devouring young women. In some versions they have wings, in others their breathing is fire.

In the Bible

In the book of Isaiah, the Latin Vulgate refers to lamia only once: et occurrent dæmonia onocentauris et pilosus clamabit alter ad alterum ibi cubavit lamia et invenit sibi requiem.