Death Song for Lamia

“when my voice is silent in death, my song will speak in your living heart…”

— ‘My Song’ from The Crescent Moon by R. Tangore (1913)

Half woman, half serpent, and seeking solace in the moonlight we find our Lamia mournfully embracing the ancient love she was compelled to destroy by her own primal instincts. This love knew what fate lay ahead and mercifully welcomed death, his spirit forever anchored to his bones and her sorrowful heart. Countless tales of Lamia and snake women can be found across the world, but this painting was inspired by nothing more than a curious note from the peculiar folklorist, Charles Godfrey Leland, which alluded to witch-like origins. Read more below…

Death Song for Lamia Illustration by CAZ

In Chapter VIII of Leland’s Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition (1892), he writes within the section on Diana and Herodias: “There are in the treatise on the Magic Walnut Tree of Benevento, by P. Pipernus (Naples, 1647), several passages in reference to Diana as Queen of the Witches, one of which is curious as it seems in a manner to identify Lamia with Lilith and Diana. It is to the effect that the witches who of yore seduced youths to their death, were the same with Lamia…appearing on one foot in various figures dedicated to Diana…”

John Keats’ portrayal of the despairing title character in Lamia (1820) also seems to nod toward this notion of witchery with descriptors and symbols often linked to Diana and/or Lilith:
“And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolv’d, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries—
So rainbow-sided, touch’d with miseries,
She seem’d, at once, some penanced lady elf,
Some demon’s mistress, or the demon’s self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne’s tiar…”


Work In Progress

It took ages to figure out exactly where I wanted her arm to be and the overall shape of her coiled tail. These, along with the tiny scales, took on my shapes through many drafts over the last several months. The only thing I was ever completely sure of during this project was that she must be holding the skull lovingly against her head. That never changed