Vampire Mermaids and Migraines May 17, 2011Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval , trackback
A Roman charm from, of all places, Carnuntum in the Alps offers one of the earliest recorded cures for migraine. Written on a piece of silver (and badly eroded) it does not discourse on low-dairy diets or darkened rooms. Rather… Well, Beachcombing will quote from the translated Greek:
‘Antaura came out from the sea. She shouted aloud like a hind, she cried out like a cow. Artemis of Ephesos comes to meet her. ‘Antaura where are you bringing the half-head pain? Not to…?’
Here the text runs out, but anyone familiar with ancient charms will recognize that Antaura is the demon of the ‘half-headache’ and Artemis is protecting the charm-holder from Antaura’s wiles.
In a remarkable display of continuity across a thousand years, two religions and half a continent a medieval Christian prayer from southern Italy (also written in Greek) picks up where the eroded Roman charm fails:
‘Migraine came out from the sea rioting and roaring and our Lord Jesus Christ came to meet it and said to it: ‘Where are you bringing headache and migraine and pain in the skull and in the eyes and inflammation and tears and leukoma and dizziness?’ And the Headache answered to our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘We are going to sit down in the head of x the servant of God’. And our Lord Jesus Christ tells it ‘Look here, do not go into my servant but be off altogether and go into the wild mountains and settle in a bull’s head. There you may eat flesh, there drink blood, there ruin the eyes, there darken the head, seethe and wriggle. But if you do not obey me I shall destroy you there on the burning mountain where no dog barks and the cock does not crow. You who have set a limit to the sea stop headache and migraine from x the servant of the Lord’.
Apart from the obvious question of whom you would rather have on your side – Lord Jesus Christ or the magical Artemis – there is also the problem of the identity of Antaura/the-nameless-migraine-demon-of-the-Christian-prayer.
She comes from the sea. She works with animal noises or, at least, ‘rioting and roaring’. She causes headaches. But what is her true nature?
One scholar, A.A. Barb, from whom the translations above are borrowed (with some small alterations), would place Antaura in association with a series of eastern Mediterranean marine demons, all intent on bringing maladies to landlubbers.
Chief among these is the truly terrifying Lillith, an Assyrian demon – and by some accounts the first wife of Adam – who makes Beezlebub look like a quaker do-gooder. Lillith, indeed, used to boast ‘I am going where I can find a woman in childbed to steal her baby, to drink its blood, to suck its marrow, to devour its flesh’.
You get the idea.
Both Lillith and Antaura live in the sea. Both devour blood – see the references to blood in the prayer. Both have names – though etymologies are argued over in the case of Lillith – meaning ‘unpleasant breeze’.
Zoologists and folklorists have long speculated on which particular animal is responsible for the mermaid myth. But it seems possible that here we have the origins not of mermaid bodies – though A.A.Barb would argue the toss there too – but of mermaid psychology: the hussy sitting on a rock combing her hair, dreaming of men and their destruction. Only these early mermaids seem to have acted more like vampires than Disney princesses, Copenhagen fantasies, Manx temptresses or ‘easy’ fish.
Other suggestions for the origins of mermaids please contact: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
18 May 2011: Agib, a fellow sufferer, writes in – ‘Very interested in the possible connection with bad breezes and migraine in this piece. ‘Wind’ is well associated with the onset of migraine, tho why is ‘still’ not understood. I belong to a Migraine alert network in Canada, weather is major, as I can attest to over the last 40 years of weekly (at least) attacks.’ Then comes KMH with a very unusual explanation for mermaid origins. ‘Here is the most original account of the origin of mermaids you are likely to receive this time. [No question!] When God made man on the sixth day, man was given dominion over the earth, the fish of the sea, and the fowls of the air. How was man, an earth creature, going to dominate the animals in the sea and air? Not by technological devices. In reality, the name ‘man’ or ‘adam’ was only general at that time (the sixth day ended about 1.5 million years ago, according to my reckoning, around the time of homo erectus). So, the fowls were dominated by a ‘birdman’ who had wings, and the fish by a fishman who resembled today’s mermaids and mermen. Of the three, the most successful was the birdmen, who over the millennia, evolved beyond the level of man up to the angelic realms. This is why some angels are seen with wings, since they haven’t left the bird nature completely behind. We don’t see birdmen anymore, but predatory creatures such as ‘mothman’, etc., are beginning to show up as our era comes to an end. Man has come in second. Although perpetually struggling, man has been able to make slow spiritual progress since the time of the Fall, as described in the book of Genesis. It should be understood that man was never meant for just one climate, so physical variations were to be expected from the parent stock. Those of the sea were unable to progress since there were no safety regions within the sea, and almost every animal in the sea is predatory. The sea and everything in it has been won by satan (balancing his loss of the birds), except for the top third or so, where man can legitimately travel. The original merfolk have long ago been replaced by artificial creations which do not truly depend upon the sea for continued existence, anymore than the loch ness monster and similar creatures depend upon their environment for continued existence. All these species are highly subsidized by satanic powers to maintain real evidence of ownership of the areas they inhabit. Tales of the interactions of mermaids and humans shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. This is one of those areas where the truth may be much stranger than fiction.’ Thanks as always KMH and thanks Agib!!