The Greeks sure love their vampires, part 7: Empusa

There are a lot of vampires in Greek folklore. In fact, where we have one name for undead creatures who inhabit corpses and suck the blood of the living, they have a crapload of them. I’ll feature one of them today, the empusa, who really does not like swearing.

Empusa

An empusa is one of the vyrkolakoi. She’s an elusive sort of creature. I had a lot of trouble finding information on her. She might be really good at hiding. Or maybe she doesn’t bother hiding at all…

According to Rosemary Ellen Guiley, an empusa doesn’t have a shape of her own, but is a demon who takes over corpses.

I have a problem believing that because Philostratus tells a story in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana about a certain young, handsome man from Lycia by the name of Menippus. This guy met a pretty young Phoenician woman and fell in love with her. He was going to marry her, but Apollonius saw through her disguise and made her admit that she was an empusa and was going to devour him right after their wedding night.

But the thing is, what corpse is so young and pretty that a handsome guy would want to marry her? None.

I’m more likely to believe the other origin story, that Empusa was an actually a demigoddess, the daughter of the witch goddess Hecate and the spirit Mormo (despite the fact that both of these people were females). This Empusa seduced guys like a succubus, then drank their blood while they slept.

Charming.

If you think that the sweet young chick you’ve just met is an empusa, try this simple test: Swear at her. Insult her. An actual empusa really does not like that.

Of course if she’s not an empusa, try explaining that one.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

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The Greeks sure love their vampires, part 6: Lamia

This post is part of Bad Girls month!

There are a lot of vampires in Greek folklore. In fact, where we have one name for undead creatures who inhabit corpses and suck the blood of the living, they have a crapload of them. I’ll feature one of them today, Lamia, who used to be the queen of Libya.

Lamia

Zeus was the king of the Greek gods and boy, you did not want him to have a crush on you. Sure, it sounds great to have a boyfriend who could snap his fingers and give you the world, but he was fickle and his wife was the jealous type.

Lamia (first version) by John William Waterhou...

Image via Wikipedia

Seriously, if Zeus thought you were cute, you were between a rock and a hard place. You couldn’t say no to the king of the gods, but his wife was bound to find out about it. It happened over and over. Zeus would have an affair on Hera, his wife. Then she would find out about it and do something evil to the woman he had an affair with. Typical jealous woman (Ancient Greeks didn’t think much of women in general).

In Lamia’s case, the punishment was really bad.

Lamia was the queen of Libya when she caught Zeus’s eye. She bore him a bunch of children.

As these things go, Hera found out about her husband’s affair and she decided to punish Lamia by killing her all children except Scylla, who would later be turned into a monster herself.

Lamia went crazy, turned into a monster, and started killing other women’s children and sucking their blood.

Her folklore gradually developed so that in addition to sucking the blood of babies, she also had sex with men and killed them. She may or may not be a beautiful woman who can also transform into a snake.

The word lamia eventually became plural, and instead of being a single person, ‘lamiae’ are a group of female vampires who prey on kids.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

The Greeks sure love their vampires, part 8: Mormo

Williamblake

Image via Wikipedia

There are a lot of vampires in Greek folklore. In fact, where we have one name for undead creatures who inhabit corpses and suck the blood of the living, they have a crapload of them. I’ll feature one of them today, the mormo.

Who is the mormo?

There isn’t much information on the mormo and maybe that should frighten us a little.

Some people say that the mormo (or Mormolyceae) is just another word for the empusa. In the Satanic Bible, Anton LeVey said that Mormo was the witch-queen Hecate‘s boyfriend, and the king of the ghouls.

For Aristophanes, the mormo was just a kind of bogeyman, used to scare children, and that it had one leg made out of bronze, another out of cow (or donkey) dung.

Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure I don’t want one in my house.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

The Greeks sure love their vampires, part 5: Vyrkolaka

There are a lot of vampires in Greek folklore. In fact, where we have one name for undead creatures who inhabit corpses and suck the blood of the living, they have a crapload of them. I’ll feature one of them today, the vyrkolakoi, the lost souls.

Vyrkolaka

Vyrkolakoi is a general name for lost souls who wander the earth, unable to find peace.

One kind of vyrkolakoi is a sort of vampire. If you’re an evil person or die by violence, a demon can inhabit your body and soul between the time you die and the time you’re buried. Then you get up from your grave and go around drinking the blood of your relatives through their noses, killing them, or maybe just giving them anemia.

This kind of vyrkolakoi can change into any animal, and even take on the form of other humans, a handy trick if you’re hungry for some nose blood.

It’s interesting that vyrkolakoi can also be created if the rituals of burial aren’t carried out exactly as they’re supposed to be.

Death rituals have been an important part of Greek culture for as far back as our records of history go. Maybe you saw the part of Troy where Brad Pitt killed Eric Bana and dragged his body around the city? This came directly from Homer’s poem the Iliad, about the siege of Troy.

In Greek culture, Achilles treating Hector’s body that way was just as bad as killing him–if not worse. After all, Hector died as an honorable knight.

We don’t know what the ancient Greeks thought about vampires, or if they even believed in them. If the ancient Greeks believed what their descendants did, Achilles ensured Hector became a wandering spirit, unable to find peace. That’s the best case scenario.

At worst, the noble prince Hector would have become a ravenous flesh-eating ghoul, intent on sucking the blood of his own family.

The Greeks sure love their vampires, part 4: Sarkomenos

Quick reminder

From now until Jan 7th, watch out for the Callicantzaros.

The Greeks sure love their vampires

There are a lot of vampires in Greek folklore. In fact, where we have one name for undead creatures who inhabit corpses and suck the blood of the living, they have a crapload of them. I’ll feature one of them today, the sarkomenos, who have a cool name.

Sarkomenos

If you happen to be on either the island of Crete or the island of Rhodes (which is different than Rhode Island), watch out for the vampires called “sarkomenos”. Their name means ‘the fleshy ones,’ so maybe they’re vampires who played too many video games and ate too many potato chips while they were alive.

Bonus fact (because the info on sarkomenos is slim)

In Greek folklore, all kids born on December 25 are vampires as a punishment to their mothers for conceiving on the same day as the Virgin Mary.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

The Greeks sure love their vampires, part 3: Keres

There are a lot of vampires in Greek folklore. In fact, where we have one name for undead creatures who inhabit corpses and suck the blood of the living, they have a crapload of them. I’ll feature one of them today, the Keres, who just love to steal corpses (although why they’d want to is beyond me).

Keres

I’m cheating here. Keres are not exactly vampires. What they are is spirits of the dead that escape from the jars that the Greeks used to use as coffins (I’m going to write something about Greek death rituals pretty soon. It’s interesting stuff).

Keres aren’t that interested in sucking blood–that’s the part that makes them not vampires. Technically, they’re ghouls. What they love to do is to steal corpses. Frankly, I don’t want to think about what the keres do with those dead bodies. Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it’s not sunshine and rainbows.

Now just because keres are more interested in the arteries of the dearly departed doesn’t mean we should invite them into our homes with open arms. You see, keres spread disease faster than the most flea-bitten plague rat.

Luckily there is a preventative measure you can take that will keep keres out of your humble abode. Just paint tar or something equally sticky on the doorframe of the entrance to your house. If any keres tries to get in, they will get caught in the stickiness like one of those fly strips with disgusting dried fly corpses on it.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

The Greeks sure love their vampires, part 2: Callicantzaros

There are a lot of vampires in Greek folklore. In fact, where we have one name for undead creatures who inhabit corpses and suck the blood of the living, they have a crapload of them. I’ll feature one of them today, the callicantzaros, who have the dubious distinction of not being very scary–most of the time.

Callicantzaros

The good news is that you’re safe from the callicantzaros for fifty weeks of the year. They live in the underworld pretty much all the time, so from January 8-December 24, you just don’t have to worry about them.

Now for the bad news… The callicantzaros don’t live in the underworld all the time. For two weeks every year, they get unleashed on the unsuspecting earth and are allowed to do what they please. Since they’re vampires, what they please is not very pleasant for the rest of us.

Even more bad news is that the callicantzaros have really long talons where their fingernails should be.

So, if you happen to be out late on New Years and you run into someone with really pointy fingers, try offering her a manicure before she heads back to Hades. It could save your life.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

The Greeks sure love their vampires, part 1: Burculacas

Did you think Transylvania had the vampire market cornered? When I was doing my research for this blog, I noticed something. The Greeks have more kinds of vampires than ANYONE. So many that I had to give them their own feature. So, without further ado, I introduce the first of a new series…

The Greeks sure love their vampires

There are a lot of vampires in Greek folklore. In fact, where we have one name for undead creatures who inhabit corpses and suck the blood of the living, they have a crapload of them. I’ll feature one of them today, the particularly disgusting Burculacas.

Your burculacas is something you don’t want to meet in a dark alley for a couple of reasons.

  1. It wants to drink your blood.
  2. It spreads plagues and diseases.
  3. It’s made out of poo.

I’m not kidding. The burculacas is a kind of sentient slime/excrement creep that rises up out of revolting material (cesspools, muck, whatever you’ve got) and comes after people to feed on them and to make them sick.

This is the best reason I can think of for remembering to flush every time.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley