Of the LAMIA.
THis word Lamia hath many significations, being taken sometime for a Beast of Lybia, some-times for a fish, and sometimes for a Spectre or apparition of women called Phairies. And from * hence some have ignorantly affirmed, that either there were no such Beasts at all, or else that it was a compounded monster of a Beast and a Fish, whose opinions I will briefly set down. Aristophanes affirmeth, that he heard one say, that he saw a great wilde Beast having several parts resembling out∣wardly an Ox, and inwardly a Mule, and a beautiful Woman, which he called afterwards Empusa.
When Apollonius and his companions travelled in a bright Moon-shine-night, they saw a certain ap∣parition * of Phairies, in Latine called Lamiae, and in Greek, Empusae, changing themselves from one shape into another, being also sometimes visible, and presently vanishing out of sight again: as soon as he perceived it, he knew what it was, and did rate it with very contumelious and despiteful words, ex∣horting his fellows to do the like, for that is the best remedie against the invasion of Phairies. And when his companions did likewise rail at them, presently the vision departed away. *
The Poets say, that Lamia was a beautiful woman, the daughter of Bellus and Lybia, which Jupiter loved, bringing out of Lybia into Italy, where he begot upon her many sons, but 〈◊〉 jealous of her husband, destroyed them as soon as they were born, punishing Lamia also with a restless estate, that she should never be able to sleep, but live night and day in continual mourning, for which occasion she also stealeth away and killeth the children of others, where-upon * came the fable of changing of children: Jupiter having pity upon her, gave her exemptile eyes that might be taken in and out at her own pleasure, and likewise power to be transformed into what shape she would: And from hence also came the faigned name of Acho, and Al〈…〉,Page 353wherewithal women were wont to make their children afraid, according to these verses of 〈◊〉.
Of these Angelus Politianus relateth this old wives story, in his preface upon Aristotles first book of *Analyticks, that his Grand-mother told him when he was a childe, there were certain Lamiae in the Wilderness, which like Bug bears would eat up erying boys, and that there was a little Well near to Fesulanum, being very bright, yet in continual shadow, never seeing Sun, where those Phairy women have their habitation, which are to be seen of them which come thither for water.
Plutarch also affirmeth, that they have exemptile eyes as aforesaid, and that as often as they go from home, they put in their eyes, wandring abroad by habitations, streets, and cross ways, entring into the assemblies of men, and prying so perfectly into every thing, that nothing can escape them, be it never so well covered: you will think (saith he) that they have the eyes of Kites, for there is no small mote but they espy it, nor any hole so secret but they finde it out, and when they come home again, at the very entrance of their house they pull out their eyes, and cast them aside, so being blinde at home, but seeing abroad. If you ask me (saith he) what they do at home, they fit sing∣ing and making of wool, and then turning his speech to the Florentins, speaketh in this manner: Vidi∣stisne ••secro Lamias istas, viri Florentini, quae se & sua nesciunt, alios & aliena specu antur? Negatis? atqui tamen sunt in urbibus friquentes: verum personatae incedient, homines credas, Lamiae sunt: that is, to say; O ye Flo∣remines, did you ever see such Phairies; which were busie in prying into the affairs of other men, but yet ignorant of their own? Do you deny it? yet do there commonly walk up and down the City, Phairies in the shapes of men.
There were two women called Macho, and Lamo, which were both foolish and mad, and from the strange behaviours of them, I came the first opinion of the Phairies: there was also an ancient Lybian woman called Lamia, and the opinion was, that if these Phairies had not whatsoever they demand∣ed, presently they would take away live children, according to these verses of Horace.
Page 354It is reported of M•nippus the Lycian, that he fell in love with a strange woman, who at that time * seemed both beautiful, tender, and rich, but in truth there was no such thing, and all was but a fan∣tastical ostentation; she was said to insinuate herself into his famillarity, after this manner: as he went upon a day alone from Corinth to Conchrea, he met with a certain phantasm or spectre like a beautiful woman, who took him by the hand, and told him that she was a Phoenician woman, and of long, time had loved him dearly, having sought many occasions to manifest the same, but could never finde opportunity until that day, wherefore she entreated him to take know∣ledge of her house, which was in the Suburbs of Corinth, therewithal pointing unto it with her finger, and so desired his presence: The young man seeing himself thus woo•d by a beautiful woman, was easily overcome by her allurements, and did oftentimes frequent her com∣pany.
〈…〉pus in this manner: O formose, & a formosis expetite mulieribus, ophin thalpeis, cai su ophis? that to say, O fair Menippus, beloved of beautiful women, art thou a Serpent and dost nourish a Ser∣pent? by which words he gave him his first admonition, or inkling of a mischief; but not pre∣vailing, Menippus purposed to marry with this Spectre, her house to the outward shew being rich∣ly furnished with all manner of houshold goods; then said the wise man again unto Menippus, th〈…〉 gold, silver, and ornaments of house, are like to Tantalus Apples, who are said by Homer to make a fair shew, but to contain in them no substance at all: even so whatsoever you conceive of this riche〈…〉 there is no matter or substance in the things which you see, for they are only inchanted Images and shadows, which that you may believe, this your neat Bride is one of the Empusae called Lamiae of Mormolyciae, wonderful desirous of copulation with men, and loving their flesh above measure, but those whom they do entice, with their venereal marts, afterward they devoure without love or pi∣ty feeding upon their flesh: at which words, the wife man caused the gold and silver plate and houshold stuffe, Cooks and Servants, to vanish all away; Then did the Spectre like unto one * that wept, entreat the wise man that he would not torment her, nor yet cause her to confess what manner of person she was; but he on the other side being inexorable, compelled her to declare the whole truth, which was, that she was a Phairy, and that she purposed to use the company of Me•ippus, and feed him fat with all manner of pleasures, to the intent that afterward she might eat up and devour his body; for all their kinde love was but only to feed upon beautiful young men.
These and such like stories and opinions there are of Phairies, which in my judgement arise from * the prestigious apparitions of Devils, whose delight is to deceive and beguile the mindes of men with errour, contrary to the truth of holy Scripture, which doth no where make mention of such in∣chanting creatures; and therefore if any such be, we will hold them the works of the Devil, and not of God, or rather I beleeve, that as Poets call Harlots by the name of Charybdis, which de∣voureth and swalloweth whole Ships and Navies, alluding to the insatiable gulph of the Sea, so the Lamiae are but Poetical allegories of beautiful Harlots, who after they have had their lust by men, do many times devour and make them away, as we read of Diomedes daughters; and for this cause also Harlots are called Lupae, She-wolves, and Lepores, Hares.
To leave therefore these fables, and come to the true description of the Lamia, we have in hand. * In the four and thirty chapter of Esay, we do finde this beast called Lilith in the Hebrew, and transla∣ted by the Ancients Lamia; which is there threatned to possess Babel. Likewise in the fourth chapter of the Lamentations, there it is said in our English translation, that the Dragons lay forth their breasts in Hebrew they are called Eihannim, which by the confession of the best Interpreters▪ cannot signifie Dragons, but rather Sea-calves, being a general word for strange wilde Beasts. Howbeit the matter being well examined, it shall appear that it must needs be this Lamia, because of her great breasts, which are not competible, either to the Dragon or Sea-calves; so then we will take it for granted, by the testimony of holy Scripture, that there is such a Beast as this▪ Chrysostomus D〈…〉 also writeth that there are such Beasts in some part of Lybia, having a womans face, and very beau∣tiful, also very large and comely shapes on their breasts, such as cannot be counterfeited by the art of any Painter, having a very excellent colour in their fore-parts without wings, and no other voice but hissing like Dragons: they are the swiftest of foot of all earthly Beasts, so as none can escape them by running; for by their celerity they compass their prey of Beasts, and by their 〈◊〉 they overthrow men. For when as they see a man, they lay open their breasts, and by the beauty thereof, entice them to come near to conference, and so having them within their compass, they devour and kill them: unto the same things subscribe Coelius and Giraldus; adding also, that there is a certain crooked place in Lybia, near the Sea-shore, full of sand like to a sandy Sea, and all the neighbour places thereunto are Deserts.
If it fortune at any time, that through shipwrack men come there on shore, these Beasts watch up∣on them, devouring them all, which either endevour to travel on the Land, or else to return 〈◊〉 again to Sea, adding also that when they see a man they stand stone still, and stir not till he come unto them, looking down upon their breasts, or to the ground; whereupon some have thought, they seeing them at the first sight, have such a desire to come near them, that they are drawn into their compass, by a certain natural Magical Witch-craft: but I cannot approve their opini∣ons, either in this or in that, wherein they describe him with Horses, feet, and hinder-parts of a Serpent; but yet I grant that he doth not only kill by biting, but also by poysoning, feedingPage 355upon the carcasse which he hath devoured: His stones are very filthy and great, and smell like a Sea-calves, for so Aristophanes writing of Cleon a Coriar, and lustful man, compareth him to a Lamia, in the greatness and filthiness of his stones; the hinder part of this Beast are like un∣to a Goat, his fore-legs like a Bears, his upper parts to a Woman, the body sealed all over like a Dragon, as some have affirmed by the observation of their bodies, when Probus the Emperour brought them forth into publick spectacle: also it is reported of them, than they devour their own young ones, and therefore they derive their name Lamia of l〈…〉. And thus much for this Beast.