Variations: Letum, Tenebrae
In ancient Greece a ker was the vampiric spirit of a deceased person who had escaped the funeral jar that it was buried in (see GREEK VAMPIRES). Keres (plural for ker) were hideous women wearing red robes over their dark-skinned bodies. They had black wings and long white fangs and nails.
The keres were under the control of the Fates, killing only those that they are permitted to kill. The vampires began their attack with a blood-curdling scream, then they dived down and drank the blood of the dying on the battlefield and ripped the souls from the bodies of the dying. Vengeful, plague-carrying beings, the keres were known to control heroes on the battlefield. It was said that the Olympian gods themselves would stand invisibly on the battlefield and swat at incoming keres to keep them off their favorite he-roes.
Tar was often painted on doorways to keep a ker from entering into a home. The idea was that the tar would stick to the ker if it tried to enter into the home and it would be stuck in the doorway. To destroy one, it must be exorcised by ritual incantations.
Keres played a prominent role in Homer's The Iliad. On March 4, a three-day ritual called Anthesteria was held to honor the keres, keeping them from attacking.
Source: Berens, Myths and Legends, 149; Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore, 290; Turner, Dictionary of Ancient Deities, 266; Widengren, Historia Religionum

Encyclopedia of vampire mythology . 2014.

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