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Life Arts    H4'ed 10/29/14

Haunted by the Evil Eye? Grab the nearest phallus!

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Message Vicki Leon

Since they were so fascinated with fascination, did the Greeks and Romans also believe in ghosts? What about our own fascination with monsters, ogres, and the undead? Are there any parallels in their era?

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Uppity women will be pleased to hear that the Greeks pioneered a supernatural first: bogey women. Garnering top fears among adults was the snaky-haired Medusa, one of the ancient Gorgones trio. Her fangs and face were so hideous that the Greeks put her leering mug on their shields, hoping to turn enemy soldiers into stone, or at least unman them. Medusa's image was also popular on amulets to ward off the evil eye, another high-polling fear among the Greeks.

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Everyone also paid reverence to Hecate, the night terrors queen of the phantom world who hung out at crossroads and intersections. This ancient crone goddess was present whenever souls entered or left their bodies, so Greeks young and old were phobic about new births and deathbeds and they even swore legal oaths in her name.

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Hecate had three henchwomen: Lamia, Mormo, and Empusa, who were responsible for most of the everyday, everynight skullduggery in terms of haunting, flesh-eating, blood-sucking, and so forth.

Lamia claimed title to being the quintessential bogeywoman, a giant shark-like ogre who stole children and ate them. Greek parents often threatened naughty kids with a visit from Lamia.

Her sister Mormo, a bloodsucking monster, also served as a deterrent for Roman parents, who dropped Mormo's name to terrify their misbehaving children.

Empusa, a voracious vampire who sported one leg of brass and the other of a donkey, often took on the shape of a woman in order to quench her thirst.

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Vicki Leon, author of over 35 nonfiction books on women's history, ancient history, and travel, along with pictorial books for younger readers on wildlife and earth's fragile habitats, lives on the California coast but often returns to her favorite (more...)
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