Mission: Empusa-ble

While our culture currently has a pretty specific idea of what vampires are, legends of bloodsucking creatures aren’t limited to any one historical culture, and the details can vary quite a bit. I’ve focused on some of these regional vampires before, and this time I’m taking a look at the Greek Empusa. As with other mythological monsters, the Empusa is sometimes treated as an individual, and other times as a species. Traditionally, the parents of the original Empusa are the goddess Hecate and a demonic being called Mormo. What I’ve seen online suggests that Mormo was basically the ancient Greek bogeyman, a monster that would bite or suck the blood of misbehaving children. It’s amazing how many monsters have their origins in trying to scare kids straight.

Empusa was sort of a succubus, seducing men and then sucking their blood (which I guess made her more of a SUCK-ubus) and eating their flesh. While she could change shape, she generally appeared with one donkey’s leg and another made of brass.

Some descriptions gave her flaming hair and parts of a dog or cow. As a group, the Empusae would guard roads and attack travelers. You could cause them to flee by shouting insults at them, which must have made travel down Greek roads interesting and noisy. The demonic Lamia was sometimes said to be an Empusa, or at least closely related to them. The first Empusa’s father also changed from an individual to a group, the Mormolyceae. It became common for them to be seen as female rather than male, but I’m sure gender is fluid for shape-changers anyway. I’m reminded of how Chris Claremont originally intended for Mystique to be Nightcrawler’s father, with Destiny as her partner and Kurt’s mother.

Anton LaVey mentions Mormo in his Satanic Bible as the consort of Hecate and father of ghouls.

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