In the spirit of Halloween I plan to do a few posts that relate to Halloweenish themes. Probably the favorite scary character, second only to Zombies (on that note AMC has a new zombie series, The Walking Dead, that will air in Mad Men’s time slot), is the vampire. Now, you might think, what on earth is a Bible and ANE blog doing talking about vampires? Well, the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (page 887) actually has an entry on vampires. Ron Hendel discusses the fact that some interpreters have connected a word in Proverbs 30:15 which reads: “The ‘aluqah has two daughters: “Give! Give!” There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, “Enough.” with vampires.
‘Aluqah occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible, however, the word does appear in other Semitic languages, notably some incantations that talk about “blood-suckers.” So, some propose a personified reading of the “blood-suckers” as “vampires” or the like. However, as Nathan Wasserman has persuasively shown (“On Leeches, Dogs, and Gods in Old Babylonian Medical Incantations,” Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale 102 (2008): 71-85) this passage probably refers to a leech. Not only were various species of leeches present in ancient Babylonia and Palestine, but they were likely used by the doctor, asû, as part of medical therapies/religious rites. But, whether they were used specifically for blood letting is still undetermined (however, I think this is likely the case).
On the topic of leeches, my mom wrote a children’s science book about leeches, Those Amazing Leeches, as well as a Parade magazine cover article about their medical uses. Here’s an interview with her about the subject.