Empousa #folklore

I first encountered this vampiric creature in Rick Riordan’s work.


Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology edited by William Smith (1844)

EMPU′SA (Empousa), a monstrous spectre, which was believed to devour human beings. It could assume different forms, and was sent out by Hecate to frighten travellers. It was believed usually to appear with one leg of brass and the other of an ass. Whenever a traveller addressed the monster with insulting words, it used to flee and utter a shrill sound. The Lamiae and Mormolyceia, who assumed the form of handsome women for the purpose of attracting young men, and then sucked their blood like vampyrs and ate their flesh, were reckoned among the Empusae.

Empusa. Image credit

A Wizard’s Bestiary by Oberon Zell Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk

Empusa (or Empousa, pl. Empusae)—A shapeshifting female monster in Greek folklore, she is human from the waist up, with one leg of an ass and the other of brass. The goddess Hecate sends Empusa to harass lone travelers on dark country roads. Appearing as a Black Dog, a mule, an ox, or even a beautiful woman, she scares to death or eats anyone she encounters. Empusa is also a genus of the Empusidae family of mantis insects, which includes the praying mantis.

*More can be read in the book.

Empousa. Image credit

Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religion by Theresa Bane

Empouse, plural: empousai Variations: Démon du Midi (“mid-day demon”), Empusa, Empusae, Empusas, Empuse, Empusen, Mormo, Moromolykiai, “She who moves on one leg”

In Greek, the word empouse translates as “vampire,” but technically, it was considered to be a demon by the ancient Greeks’ own mythological standards of classification. They defined a demon as any creature born in another world but with the ability to appear in the human world as a being of flesh. In spite of this, the word was understood to mean a vampire; therefore, the empouse is considered by some scholars to be the oldest recorded vampire myth.

In Greek mythology the empouse, or empousai as they are referred to collectively, are born the red-headed daughters of the witch goddess Hecate and act as her attendants. Their legs are mulelike and shod with bronze shoes. Along with its powers of illusion and shape-shifting, an empouse will also use its persuasive abilities to cause a man to have sexual relations with it. During the act it will drain him of his life and, on occasion, make a meal of his flesh, much like a SUCCUBUS.

Avoiding an attack from an empouse is fairly easy, as long as one does not fall victim to its allurements. A thin-skinned and sensitive creature, it will shriek in pain and flee as quickly as it can if confronted for what it is, with use of insults and profanities. Outrunning the vampire is also possible, as all references to it describe the empouse’s fastest gait as being comically slow.

In Russian folklore, the empouse appears at harvest time as a widow. It breaks the arms and legs of every harvester it can lay hands on.

*More can be read in the book.

AI generated seductive Empousa. Image credit

The Everything Vampire Book by Barb Karg, Arjean Spaite and Rick Sutherland

And the Greek empusa, a shapeless vampiric demon, also enters the body to consume blood and devour flesh.

*More can be read in the book.

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft by Judika Illes

Hecate led a host of shape-shifting female spirits known as Empusas, whose usual manifestation was as a beautiful woman with one brass leg and one donkey’s leg; Hecate herself sometimes takes this form. The Empusas patrolled roads and apparently sometimes had fun terrorizing travelers. If one invoked Hecate, however, they left you alone.

*More can be read in the book.

AI generated seductive Empousa. Image credit

Further Reading:

AI generated seductive Empousa. Image credit

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

The Greek equivalent of a vampire, the empousa is a monstrous female creature with a brass leg and the leg of a donkey, while being human from the waist up. These creatures have the power to look beautiful to entice and seduce their victims before drinking their blood. Some scholars believe the empousai to be the oldest recorded vampire myth.

They were either created by Hecate or were merely her servants. Some myths even have it that the empousai are the redheaded daughters of the goddess Hecate. The empousai harass lone travellers on dark roads, either by order of the goddess Hecate or because it’s fun, only leaving the traveller alone when one invokes Hecate.

Myths conflict over their abilities of shape-shifting and illusion, some saying they can change into any form at will – such as donkeys and dogs while chasing travellers, while others claim they can only become alluring to human men – wanting to bed them while draining them of their life-force and blood – and even eating them in some tales.

Whether spirit or flesh, beautiful or grotesque, these vampires of Greek myth are easily offended and will attack with all the power at their possession.

Empousa in Modern Culture



Empusa (along with Lamia and Mormo) is one of the three witches in the film Stardust (dir. Matthew Vaughn). She is played by Sarah Alexander.[19] In Neil Gaiman‘s novel Stardust the witches are not given individual names.

about the witches in Stardust
Empusa the Young, Lamia the Great, Mormo the Plump. Image credit

Three ancient witch sisters resolve to eat the fallen star’s heart to recover their youth and replenish their powers. Their leader, Lamia, eats the remnants of an earlier star’s heart, and sets off to find Yvaine. She conjures up a wayside inn as a trap.

plot of Stardust film


Wicked Wings (Lizzie Grace #5) by Keri Arthur

…the villains are three empusae who are eating the flesh of their prey. They use the form of a young woman to lure the men to their deaths.

from wikipedia

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Tammi and Kelli, Empousai. Image credit.

Empousai (singular: Empousa) are winged, bloodsucking monsters under the control of the goddess Hecate. They are known to feed on the blood of men and are the basis for the image of the modern vampire.

There are two Empousai masquerading as cheerleaders named Tammi and Kelli at Goode High School. Percy manages to kill Tammi with his Celestial Bronze sword, Riptide, with the assistance of Rachel Dare, a mortal who can see through the Mist and received the power of prophecy from Apollo. Kelli, however, escapes by bursting into flames.

Learn more here.

Empousa in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Empousa

Singular: Empousa. Plural: Empousai.
Daughters and attendants of the goddess Hecate, these shape-shifting monsters are usually alluring to their prey – until their true nature is revealed. Fanged, clawed, sharp features, red hair, violet slit-pupiled eyes, a donkey leg and a brass leg that doesn’t slow them down at all, these vampiric monsters are fast, strong and cunning. They possess almost as much magic as their mother and know how to use it. They can easily shift from flesh to spirit form to move through the realms. Though they enjoy tormenting travellers on lonely roads, it is usually to send these humans or fae fleeing to a crossroads for an encounter with Hecate. They can transform into any creature, though they prefer to look mortal as they are always hungry and on the prowl. They do not, however, seduce humans as some folklore say – they aren’t succubi – they just enjoy their blood at a certain temperature. And though they are thin skinned – insults sting easily – they do not flee: they fight.

Empousa translated to Afrikaans: Empusa.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

Where did you first encounter the empousai? What do you think of this vampire faery? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

You can now support my time in producing folklore posts (researching, writing and everything else involved) by buying me a coffee. This can be a once-off thing, or you can buy me coffee again in the future at your discretion.

You can listen to this on my podcast!

*If you have difficulty commenting, check that you’ve ticked the data use block beneath the comment before leaving your comment. (Protecting your privacy per regulations.) If you’re still unable to comment, try enabling all cookies in your browser. On a device, like a tablet, go to settings, find your browser (eg Chrome), and uncheck “prevent cross-site tracking” AND “block all cookies.”

Want a taste of my writing? Sign up to my newsletter and get your free copy of Unseen, Faery Tales #2.

Success! You're on the list.
image credit

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

1 thought on “Empousa #folklore”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *