Beth and I just finished watching Drag Me to Hell, basically a horror movie with some obvious silliness, like a goat calling a woman a bitch. I have to say that I thought the protagonist got what she had coming to her. Once she decided to kill her kitten, that was it as far as the character getting any sympathy from me. Anyway, the demon that plagued her was called Lamia, a name that comes from Greek mythology. The movie didn’t really use anything about this being other than the name and the fact that it was a demon, however.
So what was the Greek Lamia? Well, essentially a monster that killed babies, possibly by sucking out their blood. There’s a little more to it than that, though. The traditional account has it that the original Lamia was the Queen of Libya, and either the daughter or granddaughter of Poseidon. Not surprisingly if you know anything about Greek mythology, she was seduced by Zeus, and actually bore him several children. Hera was even more vindictive about this affair than usual, and killed the kids. Some versions also say that the Queen of Olympus made it so that Lamia was unable to close her eyes, and could never get the image of her children dying out of her head. As revenge for this, she began killing other people’s children, and that she became a hideous monster due to her deeds. According to some accounts, Zeus gave her the gift of prophecy and the ability to remove her eyes at will. It’s not entirely clear what sort of monster Lamia was, but there was often a snake involved in the descriptions.
It was typical during the Renaissance and afterward for her to be portrayed as a woman from the waist up and a snake below that, and it’s in that form that she tends to appear in video games and such.
The name Lamia eventually came to refer not only to the Libyan child murderer herself, but to many different monsters of the same sort. Lamias have taken on a bogeyman sort of role, being used to scare children, and often appearing in folklore. There are also some tales that make her a succubus-like temptress. I’d say she’s fairly similar to Lilith.