In this painting by Henry James Draper, Lamia doesn’t look particularly vicious, just cold.
This post is actually a cross between a post for Vampire Faerie Month and a post for next month’s theme – “I’d rather be single than have you as a lover.” I’ll feature four different Faerie lovers over the course of the month in honor of Valentine’s Day. And before you start thinking that’s sweet, remember Faerie lovers can be callus, cruel and capricious (and other words that start with C.) Kind of like that jerk you dated your sophomore year of college, but instead of sleeping with your roommate he causes your untimely death. Faerie love isn’t for the faint of heart!
The story of Lamia is a sad one and starts very much like a lot of Greek and Roman myths - Zeus getting his dick caught in something and Hera doing her best to cut it off. In this case, the something was Lamia, a Libyan princess (sometimes Queen depending on the version of the story.) Zeus falls in love with her as he often did and she bears him a couple brats. Instead of kicking Zeus’ ass for his infidelity, she gets revenge by kidnapping and killing Lamia’s offspring.
Stricken with grief and anger, Lamia retreats to a cave where she eventually goes bat-shit crazy and turns into a half beautiful woman (upper half) and half serpent (the lower regions) monster. Zeus feels bad for Lamia and gives her the ability to remove her eyes from her head. It’s just what every round the bend, grief stricken woman needs. Thus starts her child killing, blood sucking, man seducing rampage.
That was the first Lamia. The term lamia means “she who swallows up” (yeah, I know!) and it has come to have a few different meanings. Generally, it’s a horrible beast that is half serpent and half woman. Lamia has referred to a Roman nursery bogey (a deterrent of bad behavior), a vicious Greek Faerie and monsters that stalk the North African desert. In medieval Europe, witches were referred to as Lamia. In most of these legends, the Lamia is a vampire.
Like a succubus, Lamiae have been known to seduce men. In some stories, it’s the only way to make her beautiful again. She sleeps with man after man trying to regain her youthful beauty. I bet you know a few people like that.