A to Z Challenge Folklore

Lamia #folklore #AtoZChallenge

L is for Lamia

Learn more about the challenge here.

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A to Z Challenge here.

I first encountered the lamia in Merlin (see below).


Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology by William Smith [1849]

LA′MIA (Lamia). 1. A daughter of Poseidon, became by Zeus the mother of the Sibyl Herophile. (Paus. x. 12. § 1; Plut. de Pyth. Orac. 9.) 2. A female phantom, by which children were frightened. According to tradition, she was originally a Libyan queen, of great beauty, and a daughter of Belus. She was beloved by Zeus, and Hera in her jealousy robbed her of her children. Lamia, from revenge and despair, robbed others of their children, and murdered them; and the savage cruelty in which she now indulged rendered her ugly, and her face became fearfully distorted. Zeus gave her the power of taking her eyes out of her head, and putting them in again. (Diod. xx. 41; Suidas, s. v. ; Plut. de Curios. 2; Schol. ad Aristoph. Pac. 757; Strab. i. p. 19.) Some ancients called her the mother of Scylla. (Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1714; Arist. de Mor. vii. 5.) In later times Lamiae were conceived as handsome ghostly women, who by voluptuous artifices attracted young men, in order to enjoy their fresh, youthful, and pure flesh and blood. They were thus in ancient times what the vampires are in modern legends. (Philostr. Vit. Apollon. iv. 25; Horat. de Art. Poet. 340; Isidor. Orig. viii. 11; Apulei. Met. i. p. 57.)

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane


According to the Malleus Maleficarum (“Hammer of the Witches”), a treatise on witches written by Inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger in 1486, the lamiae (“render”) were a species of evil fairy or a FAIRY ANIMAL described as having a human face but a bestial body. Sent by a witch, the lamiae would sneak into a home, tear an infant to pieces, and then restore it to life.

*More can be read in the book.

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John & Caitlín Matthews


In classical legend, the Lamia had the shape of a woman to the waist and that of a serpent below, but she was able to assume the shape of an ordinary woman. Legend tells how she was originally a Libyan queen whom Zeus took as his mistress. He hid Lamia from his jealous wife, Hera, by placing her in a cave in Africa, bidding her leave her eyes outside on watch while she slept each night. But Hera found the cave and turned Lamia into her half-serpentine shape and took away her children by Zeus, destroying them. From then onwards, Lamia has had an implacable hatred that she takes out upon the human race by enticing men and children into close proximity with her before killing them.

From classical times onwards, Lamia has taken other roles. She has been associated with the Empusa as a kind of vampire. Since then, the story and role of Lamia has developed in two distinct ways. She has become an evil fairy or nursery bogey of some antiquity – Aristotle relates his grandmother telling him that Lamiae lay in wait in the wilderness preying on little boys; but she has also become a Succubus, helped by Burton’s Anatomie of Melancholy where he retells a story in which a philosopher named Menippus was seduced by a phantom woman with whom he became besotted. At their wedding feast, the magician Apollonius of Tyana realized that the woman was none other than a Lamia, a serpent-woman. The Lamia begged him to be silent, but when he revealed her true nature, the Lamia and all her goods vanished into the air. In Topsell’s Historie of Foure-Footed Beasts (1607), the Lamia is shown in a woodcut as a scaly, four-footed creature with paws on her front limbs and hooves on her back limbs. She has a woman’s face and breasts but also a phallus. John Keats’s famous poem on the Lamia sees her as a Succubus, thus bequeathing an undying legend of the seductive, vampiric female.

*More can be read in the book.

Topsell’s Lamia. Image credit.

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


Once the beautiful Queen of Lybia, Lamia was seduced by Zeus, king of the Greek gods. His jealous wife, Hera, killed Lamia’s children and turned her into a hateful monster—a woman above the waist and a serpent below. In this form she bore more children, the vampiric Lamiae or Lamya, which prey particularly upon sleeping children. Their reptilian bodies have a woman’s head and breasts, with cloven hind hooves, a horse’s tail, and feline forelegs. Lamia is also the name of a friendly Mermaid in Basque folklore of southern France and northwestern Spain.

*More can be read in the book.

Further Reading:

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

From Greek myth, Lamia was a Libyan queen who was seduced by Zeus. Hera, being the jealous wife she is, took Lamia’s children away. It’s not clear if she killed them in front of Lamia or not. But Lamia, in her grief, started killing the children of others. As her brutality grew, she lost her beauty and became phantom to be feared. The lamiae came later, as gorgeous women who seduced young men in order to eat them. Some legends say that the original Lamia gave birth to them.

According to a treatise on witches written by inquisitors in the 1400s, lamiae are evil fae with a bestial body and a human face. They apparently snuck into homes and ate infants.

Whether the lamia has the upper body of a woman and the bottom half of a snake, can turn into a human at will, or is a four-footed creature with odd body parts, it remains clear that she steals and eats children out of vengeance for what happened to the first Lamia, and thanks to Keats, is a seductive vampire type creature.

Lamia in Modern Culture

Percy Jackson book series by Rick Riordan

Lamia, also known as Marian Lamia, was once a Greek demigod, a daughter of Hecate, and Queen of Libya but was turned into a monster by the goddess Hera in revenge.

Lamia had attracted the attention of Zeus and accepted his courtship. But upon doing so, faced the wrath of the jealous Hera. Hera killed her children, Altheia and Demetrius, and then Lamia was turned into a monster. Angered at the goddess, she used an incantation to allow all the monsters in the world to sense the taint of half-bloods, so that they could always be found. Lamia did it out of spite so that Hera would finally understand her pain of losing her children after so many demigods have been killed.

Learn more here.

BBC’s Merlin

Lamia using magic. Image credit.
Lamia monster stabbed with sword by Guinevere. Image credit.

In their wars with the Ancient Kings, the High Priestesses of the Old Religion combined the blood of a girl with the blood of a serpent’s, creating fearsome and powerful monsters who were able to kill with a single touch. The Lamia were extremely powerful, but proved to be more dangerous than their creators imagined; the High Priestesses lost control of them and the Lamia continued to kill, unwilling to stop.

The Lamia’s kiss was also shown to be deadly as it drained the life force out of the recipient and its effects did not have an easy remedy since Merlin was unable to cure the victims, even when with the help of magic. When the Lamia absorbed the life force of a man, her eyes would glow green and take a snake-like appearance.

The Lamia was a shapeshifter as she was able to transform from a humanoid girl into a huge beast with many tentacles. This form possessed immense physical strength making it capable of charging through a pile of boulders, as well as high endurance, being able to survive a sword being impaled through the chest. However, it was unable to survive a second assault to the vertebrae with a thrown spear.

Learn more here.

Lamia in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Lamia

Singular: lamia. Plural: lamiae.
Lamiae are beautiful women when they are on the prowl. Men cannot help but feel protective towards them. Even when evidence stacks up that children have gone missing since this mysterious woman had arrived, the men won’t hear a wrong word against the lamia. Though they enjoy eating the pure flesh of children, they drain the life-force from men with a single kiss. They can turn into serpentine monsters while hunting. There is no way to save the victims of a lamia.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

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Where did you first encounter Lamia? What do you think of this shape-shifting faery? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

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

7 thoughts on “Lamia #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Goodness, that would be something to scare children with! “Behave yourself or Lamia will come and tear you to pieces!” And then there are the eyes… St Lucy, patron saint of the blind, was said to have plucked out her eyes and tossed them at a suitor who said what beautiful eyes she had. “You like them? Here, have them!”

    Visiting from the A to Z challenge 2024, theme “villains!” https://suebursztynski.blogspot.com/2024/04/a-to-z-blogging-challenge-2024-villains_15.html

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