The Triple Hecate, 1795 William Blake.

Deities or Vampires? Hecate and other Blood-Drinking Spirits of Ancient Times

(Read the article on one page)

Vampires are a relatively recent creation. However, most of the ancient world knew of the practice of consuming blood. It seems that this was a fascinating ritual centuries before the term ''vampire'' appeared.

The ritual drinking of blood may sound today like a practice related to Satanists or fictional characters in fantasy novels or horror films. However, it was a part of mysterious rites related to many past civilizations. The custom of consuming blood always had a magical and mysterious meaning. It was used as a part of witchcraft, as a symbolic connection of the powers of life and death, as a religious practice, or as a form of offering to the gods.

The Blood of the Nile, Euphrates, and Tigris

According to many history books, the oldest ancient deity who consumed blood was probably Lilith. She is also described as the first demon, or a female spirit which exemplified all of the darkest attributes of the world.

Lilith (1892), by John Collier.

Lilith (1892), by John Collier. ( Public Domain )

However, it seems that the homeland of vampires is located near the Nile River. Some specialists in ancient Egyptian mythology believe that the first vampires were the gods Osiris and his brother Set. They were abandoned by their parents, but legends say that they were raised by a family which was into the dark arts.

When Osiris grew up, he had knowledge and skills which allowed him to have powers much like those attributed to a vampire. The offerings to this god were also mostly related to blood and flesh. Inscriptions suggest that corpses were offered to Osiris too. However, Ancient Egyptian rituals are still full of secrets, so it is uncertain how much of this is true.

Osiris with an Atef-crown made of bronze in the Naturhistorisches Museum (Vienna)

Osiris with an Atef-crown made of bronze in the Naturhistorisches Museum (Vienna) ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Persian folklore also speaks of some spirits who consumed blood. The most famous of these was Estries. She was a demon - specifically a shapeshifter. Usually she was believed to have appeared as a beautiful woman who looked for men to drink their blood. If she was injured, she could only be healed if her attacker offered her salt and bread. She was also well-known in Jewish legends.

A Goddess of Magic and her Daughters

Hecate is one of the most mysterious goddesses. She was related to ancient magic, necromancy, sorcery and everything connected to ghosts. According to some scholars, the temples of Hecate could be locations for blood consumption.

This practice was forbidden in ancient Greece, but many temples had secret rituals. According to Greek law, human autopsies were also frowned upon, but it seems that Hecate’s ancient followers saw something magnetic in the idea of drinking blood. If anybody in Greece tried to drink blood it apparently had to come from an animal.

It is believed that Hecate used to drink blood during her feasts. Also, her daughter Empusa was described as a demon who consumed men’s blood. Hecate's servant Mormo drank blood too. (He is well known from Aristophanes’ works.)

Other known ancient Greek vampires were Vrykolatios, who lived on Satorini Island, and Lamia, a queen from Lybia. She was seen as a demonic woman who drank children’s blood. Greek rituals may have been the inspiration for future stories of vampires in Romania and Bulgaria.

Wild Rituals in Asia

The religions of some tribes in the southern part of Asia were also related to blood rituals. However, the mentality connected with the cult of ritual sacrifices was very different than in Europe. In India, which was dominated by Persians for many centuries, the most important deity connected with blood rituals was Kali, who represents change, time, destruction, and preservation.

The most famous legend about Kali talks about consuming the flesh of the demon Raktabija. The demon and Devi Druga (and her assistants) had a fight. The woman was losing, so Druga asked for help from the goddess Kali. According to the descriptions from a Devi Mahatmyam :

''Out of the surface of her (Durga's) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger's skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the foes of the devas.''

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Striker, a U.S. Department of Agriculture brown tree snake detector dog, scratches at a cargo load notifying his handler that he has found a snake during a daily training session. Research has begun to see if dogs can detect smuggled antiquities too.
An innovative US research program is underway to sniff out smuggled antiquities. Called K-9 Artifact Finders, it is a project set up to train sniffer dogs to aid in the battle against cultural heritage looting. The primary focus right now is in seeing if the dogs can detect artifacts from conflict zones in Iraq and Syria.

Myths & Legends

‘L’enlèvement de Proserpine’ (The Rape of Proserpine) (circa 1636) by Peter Paul Rubens.
Who were Demeter and Persephone? And why did their myth resonate so strongly with women of ancient Greece? The story of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, and her daughter Persephone, queen of the underworld, has inspired many.

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article