We know all about the vampires from Anne Rice, Stephanie Meyer and Bram Stoker, who based his literary villain Dracula on the historical figure Vlad Dracul. But, did you know vampire stories have been told for thousands of years? The legend of vampires have captured the imagination and horror of countless since the dawn of civilization. Let me share a few…
The first vampire-like demons could be found in Ancient Mesopotamia, also known as the ‘cradle of civilization’. Mesopotamia during the Bronze Age (3300-1200 BCE) included the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Sumerian empires. This area is part of the Tigris-Euphrates river system and encompasses present-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and southwestern Iran.
The goddess Lamashtu (daughter of the sky god Anu) was a wicked, blood-sucking being, who menaced women during childbirth and kidnapped babies. She drank their young, fresh blood and gnawed on their bones. She caused nightmares, infested rivers and lakes, and spread illness and death. Lamashtu is described as having the head of a lion and the feet of a bird. Parents often used amulets and statues to protect against Lamashtu’s malevolence.
If you died a violent death or were not buried properly, Sumerians believed you would come back as an edimmu which was a type of spirit or demon. They terrorized the living by walking through walls to suck the life from their sleeping victims. They also caused disease and criminal behavior.
Assyrian demons called Lilitu were described as beautiful women who used their beauty to beguile and trap their victims. They sexually victimized men. They roamed during the night, hunting and killing pregnant women and drinking the blood of babies. They are associated with lions, storms, desert and disease. They are depicted having wings and bird talons for feet. Some believe the Jewish demoness Lilith was a part of this group of Assyrian demons.