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For the moth genus, see Mormo (moth).

Mormo (Greek: Μορμώ, Μορμών, Mormō) was a female spirit in Greek folklore, whose name was invoked by mothers and nurses to frighten children to keep them from misbehaving.

The term mormolyce /mɔːrˈmɒlɪˌs/ (μορμολύκη; pl. mormolykeia μορμολύκεια), also spelt mormolyceum /mɔːrˌmɒlɪˈsəm/ (μορμολυκεῖον mormolukeîon), is considered equivalent.


The name mormo has the plural form mormones which means "fearful ones" or "hideous one(s)", and is related to an array of words that signify "fright".[1][2]

The variant mormolyce translates to "terrible wolves", with the stem -lykeios meaning "of a wolf".[3][2]


The original Mormo was a woman of Corinth, who ate her children then flew out; according to an account only attested in a single source.[4] Mormolyca /mɔːrˈmɒlɪkə/ (as the name appears in Doric Greek: μορμολύκα) is designated as the wetnurse (Greek: τιθήνη) of Acheron by Sophron (fl. 430 BC).[6]

Mormo or Moromolyce has been described as a female specter, phantom, or ghost by modern commentators.[7][8][9] A mormolyce is one of several names given to the female phasma (phantom) in Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana.[10][11]

Mormo is glossed as equivalent to Lamia and mormolykeion, considered to be frightening beings, in the Suda, a lexicon of the Byzantine Periods.[12] Mombro (Μομβρώ) or Mormo are a bugbear (φόβητρον), the Suda also says.[13]

"Mormo" and "Gello" were also aliases for Lamia according to one scholiast, who also claimed she was queen of the Laestrygonians, the race of man-eating giants.[15]


The name of "Mormo" or the synonymous "Mormolyceion" was used by the Greeks as a bugbear or bogey word to frighten children.[7][8]

Some of its instances are found in Aristophanes.[16][17] Mormo as an object of fear for infants was even recorded in the Alexiad written by a Byzantine princess around the First Crusade.[18]

Modern interpretations[edit]

A mormo or a lamia may also be associated with the empusa, a phantom sent by the goddess Hekate.[19]

Popular entertainment[edit]

  • Mormo is an evil witch in the 2007 film adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel Stardust.[a] In the story, she is one of a triune of magically powerful sisters, the others being named Lamia and Empusa. In the book, the characters were not named.[20]
  • "To Switch a Witch", a third-season episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, describes a symbol on a gravestone as "the Mark of Mormo, a witch's sign".

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Mormo lives with two sisters, Lamia and Empusa in the film.
  2. ^ Cuomo later named his band Mormos.


  1. ^ a b c Johnston, Sarah Iles, ed. (2013) [1999]. Restless Dead: Encounters Between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece. Univ of California Press. p. 174. ISBN 9780520280182. ISBN 9-780-5202-8018-2
  2. ^ a b Stannish & Doran (2013), p. 118.
  3. ^ "Lamia & Empusa (empousa)". theoi. Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  4. ^ Scholios to Aristides (Dindorf, p. 41)[1]
  5. ^ Johnston, Sarah Iles (1995). Meyer, Marvin W.; Mirecki, Paul Allan (eds.). Defining the Dreadful: Remarks on the Greek Child-Killing Demon. Ancient Magic and Ritual Power. p. 367. ISBN 9789004104068. ISBN 9-789-0041-0406-8
  6. ^ Sophron frag. 9, ed. Kaibel.[5]
  7. ^ a b L.S. (1870), Smith, William (ed.), "Mormo", A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, London: John Murray
  8. ^ a b L.S. (1870), Smith, William (ed.), "Mormo'lyce", A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, London: John Murray: "the same phantom or bugbear as Mormo, and also used for the same purpose".
  9. ^ Stannish & Doran (2013), p. 28.
  10. ^ An empousa, or lamia, she is also called in the work.
  11. ^ Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 4.25, quoted by Ogden (2013a), pp. 106–107
  12. ^ "Mormo", Suda On Line", tr. Richard Rodriguez. 11 June 2009.
  13. ^ "Mombro", Suda On Line", tr. David Whitehead. 27 July 2009.
  14. ^ Ogden (2013b), p. 98.
  15. ^ Scholios to Theocritus Idylls 15.40.[14][1]
  16. ^ Aristophanes. Archanians, 582ff. "Your terrifying armor makes me dizzy. I beg you, take away that Mormo (bogey-monster)!"
  17. ^ Aristophanes. Peace, 474ff. "This is terrible! You are in the way, sitting there. We have no use for your Mormo's (bogy-like) head, friend."
  18. ^ Anna Comnena (1969), The Alexiad of Anna Comnena, Sewter, Edgar Robert Ashton (tr.), Penguin Books, p. 61
  19. ^ Fontenrose (1959), pp. 116–117.
  20. ^ "Stardust (novel)", Wikipedia, 2019-01-22, retrieved 2019-01-27