The history of a demonic tradition that was stolen from women – and then won back again.
‘Remarkable work… Extraordinary, meticulous detail’ Literary Review
‘Deftly fuses scholarly rigour, control of literary and archaeological sources’ BBC History Magazine
Creatures like Lilith, the seductive first wife of Adam, and mermaids, who lured sailors to their death, are familiar figures in the genre of monstrous temptresses who use their charms to entice men to their doom.
But if we go back 4,000 years, the roots of these demons lie in horrific creatures like Lamashtu, a lion-headed Mesopotamian demon who strangled infants and murdered pregnant women, and Gello, a virgin ghost of ancient Greece who killed expectant mothers and babies out of jealousy. Far from enticing men into danger and destruction, these monsters were part of women’s ritual practices surrounding childbirth and pregnancy. So how did their mythology evolve into one focused on the seduction of men?
Sarah Clegg takes us on an absorbing and witty journey from ancient Mesopotamia to the present day, encountering a multitude of serpentine succubi, a child-eating wolf-monster of ancient Greece, the Queen of Sheba and a host of vampires. Clegg shows how these demons were appropriated by male-centred societies, before they were eventually recast as symbols of women’s liberation, offering new insights into attitudes towards womanhood, sexuality and women’s rights.
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