Lamenting the Lamia - Looking Into One of Greek Mythology's Scariest Monsters


 Dear Henry,

Have you ever heard of the mythological demon called the Lamia?  She is a particularly scary creature amongst the ancient Greek cosmology.

Lamia was once the very beautiful queen of Libya, so beautiful, in fact, that she got the attention of the god Zeus, who immediately pursued and seduced her.

Of course, getting Zeus's attention also meant she got Hera's. Hera was not inclined to be seductive and instead sought vengeance. Hera took all of Lamia's living children and then forced her to devour the child she was carrying from Zeus.  Hera didn't stop there. She would proceed to force the woman to devour any child she had, from any man, until Lamia finally went mad and no longer needed Hera's to force her own, and soon Lamia would begin searching the country looking for other children after she had run out of her own.

She has become something of a bogeyman in Greece and is now closely associated with vampires, succubi, and witches. 

Lamia is an easy demon to feel sorry for. It wasn't her fault Zeus loved her and it wasn't her fault Hera destroyed her. It wasn't even her fault when she lost her mind. None of this is her fault, right? Her life was decided by fate and by the gods and who could possibly be cruel enough to condemn this poor creature for being the victim of such terrible circumstances? 

I wonder what her children think.  

My suspicion is her children felt that looking for all of the "reasons" for their mother's behavior was beside the point." (read the review of Joan Didion's "Play It As It Lays" here)

While most of Lamia's children were utterly destroyed, mythology records the survival of at least one (perhaps two) children, and I wonder if they can look upon their mother with the same understanding the rest of the world has shown toward her.  A mother is supposed to be an unconditionally loving being, and for a child to watch their mother destroy their siblings piecemeal while also having to fight off their own destruction must have been an appalling thing to live through and sadly, because all of the Lamia's actions were forced, either by the gods or by madness, it would never be safe for them to be in her presence, ever. The Lamia wouldn't be able to stop herself from trying to hurt them again. 

Today, of course, we can see all kinds of correlations between Lamia of Libya and the problems many mothers have now. Addictions of all types plague mothers of all demographics, and the child abuse statistics are, even now in 2021, so incredibly high, with an estimated 12%  of the children in the United States currently in an abusive or dangerously neglectful situation. Sadly, a great many of these children will grow up to be just as broken as their mothers, act just as badly, and create a whole new generation of Lamias.  

I don't have a good solution to the problem either. Lamia is a tragic and sad figure who allowed weakness and compulsion to override her love for her children, and this is a sad thing. But that doesn't mean she should have access to her children, or any children, for that matter, and it's important that we never forget the evil Lamia is capable of.

No matter how sad and tragic she looks.

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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