In Mesopotamian mythology, Lamashtu (Akkadian dLa-maš-tu; Sumerian Dimme dDim3-me) was a female demon, monster, malevolent goddess or demigoddess who menaced women during childbirth and, if possible, kidnapped children while they were breastfeeding. She would gnaw on their bones and suck their blood, as well as being charged with a number of other evil deeds. She was a daughter of the Sky God Anu.
Lamashtu is depicted as a mythological hybrid, with a hairy body, a lioness' head with donkey's teeth and ears, long fingers and fingernails, and the feet of a bird with sharp talons. She is often shown standing or kneeling on a donkey, nursing a pig and a dog, and holding snakes. She thus bears some functions and resemblance to the Mesopotamian demon Lilith.
In Mesopotamian mythology Lamashtu was a female demon that menaced women during childbirth an kidnapped children while they were breastfeeding.
The demoness's name, Lamashtu, is Akkadian for "she who erases." Incidentally, she was said to have seven names and incantations frequently referred to her as "the seven witches."
Description/MorphologyEditLamashtu had a hairy body, the head of a lioness with donkey's teeth and ears, long fingers and fingernails and the feet of a bird with sharp talons. She is often shown standing or kneeling on a donkey, nursing a pig and a dog, and holding snakes.
Assyrian legend says she is the daughter of the sky god, Anu.
Lamashtu was the enemy of the demon Pazuzu, king of the wind demons, who once defeated her in battle. Although Pazuzu was evil, expectant mothers often wore amulets bearing his image to protect themselves against Lamashtu.
She was also traditionally bribed away with combs and fibulae (safety pins) which mothers set adrift in model boats along with a small clay statue of Lamashtu, in hopes the boat would carry the demoness back to her world.
Incantation against Lamaštu:
- Great is the daughter of Heaven who tortures babies
- Her hand is a net, her embrace is death
- She is cruel, raging, angry, predatory
- A runner, a thief is the daughter of Heaven
- She touches the bellies of women in labor
- She pulls out the pregnant women’s baby
- The daughter of Heaven is one of the Gods, her brothers
- With no child of her own.
- Her head is a lion’s head
- Her body is a donkey’s body
- She roars like a lion
- She constantly howls like a demon-dog.
She crept into houses at night to kill babies, in their cribs or in the womb. Thus she was responsible for sudden infant death syndrome and miscarriage. She preyed on adults, too, bringing disease, sterility, nightmare, not to mention sucking blood from young men.
She used to sneak into the house of an unlucky pregnant woman and touch the victim's stomach seven times to kill the unborn child. Lamashtu would also steal newborns from their wet nurses and allow them to suckle the toxic milk from her own breasts, which would cause the infant to die. She slaughtered mothers as well, and sometimes dined on the flesh and blood of adult males, although it is unknown whether these men were fathers or just arbitrarily picked. Lamashtu's less lurid exploits include poisoning water with disease, spreading nightmares, killing plants, and causing tetanus and fever.
Lilitu, closely related to Lamastu, was of Babylonian origin. In ancient Hebrew culture this female demon was called Lilith. Talmudic legend places her as the first wife of Adam, banished from Eden for being the earliest feminist on record by refusing to obey her husband. She was, after all, the original woman (by some accounts), having been created from the earth alongside of Adam. Legend and superstition evolved Lilith into a night demon. She flew out of the dark to suck the blood of infants and children. She was blamed for causing men to have erotic dreams in a time when the loss of semen was considered horrific. When Christianity ascended one of the many thrones of human belief, early church fathers assigned the Queen of Night her own Army of Jinnestanl which waged fierce war on the good. Incubi (male) and succubi (female) were spirits or demons assuming human form to seduce unwilling victims. Interestingly, many a nun or woman of virtue became pregnant this way.
Many scholars believe that some aspects of the the demoness Lilith (such as her penchant for infanticide) were borrowed from Lamashtu.
Theories and analysisEdit
One of the primary purposes of Ancient mythology was to explain mysterious natural phenomena, and Lamashtu's place in Sumerian mythos is fundamentally to account for miscarriage, infant death and maternal mortality.
MythologyEditLamashtu's father was the Sky God Anu (Sumer An). Unlike many other usual demonic figures and depictions in Mesopotamian lore, Lamashtu was said to act in malevolence of her own accord, rather than at the gods' instructions. Along with this her name was written together with the cuneiform determinative indicating deity. This means she was a goddess or a demigoddess in her own right.
She bore seven names and was described as seven witches in incantations. Her evil deeds included (but were not limited to), slaying children, unborns, and neonates, causing harm to mothers and expectant mothers, eating men and drinking their blood, disturbing sleep, bringing nightmares, killing foliage, infesting rivers and lakes, and being a bringer of disease, sickness, and death.
Pazuzu, a god or demon, was invoked to protect birthing mothers and infants against Lamashtu's malevolence, usually on amulets and statues. Although Pazuzu was said to be bringer of famine and drought, he was also invoked against evil for protection, and against plague, but he was primarily and popularly invoked against his fierce, malicious, rival Lamashtu.
An Akkadian incantation and ritual against Lamashtu is edited in Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments vol. 2 (1988) It is glossed as an "incantation to dispel lasting fever and Lamashtu". The prescribed ritual involves a Lamashtu figurine. A sacrifice of bread must be placed before the figurine and water must be poured over it. A black dog must be made to carry the figurine. Then it is placed near the head of the sick child for three days, with the heart of a piglet placed in its mouth. The incantation must be recited three times a day, besides further food sacrifices. At dusk on the third day, the figurine is taken outdoors and buried near the wall.