I will strangle [their] children, or I will let them live for a while and then kill them' … By making Gello a virgin and Lamia and Mormo mothers who had lost their children, myth reiterated the message that a Greek woman's life was defined by successful reproduction and that women who failed to live up to this goal belonged in the dark and marginal world of the restless dead rather than in the human world. Greek tradition was also normative in that it censured the real acts of killing a child or impeding reproduction.By going further, however, and describing these ghosts as envious — by virtually making them personifications of envy — tradition also censured the envy itself.Sometimes the acts characteristic of Gello were attributed to "poor and miserable old crones," who could be accused in court as gelloudes and might even claim or confess to have acted as such.
Allatios also records, but does not condone, the hanging of red coral or a head of garlic In Byzantine sources, the adversary of Gello is often St.
Sisinnius or Sisoe, whose defeat of her is his most renowned deed.
Redundant naming is characteristic of magic charms, "stressing," as A. Barb noted in his classic essay "Antaura,"My first and special name is called Gyllou; the second Amorphous; the third Abyzou; the fourth Karkhous; the fifth Brianê; the sixth Bardellous; the seventh Aigyptianê; the eighth Barna; the ninth Kharkhanistrea; the tenth Adikia; (…) several of these names suggest recognizable Greek elements and can be deciphered as functional epithets: Petasia, "she who strikes"; Apleto, "boundless, limitless"; Paedopniktria, "child suffocator." Byzo is a form of Abyzou, abyssos, "the Deep," to which Pelagia ("she of the sea") is equivalent.
Gello is named also in works by the polymaths John of Damascus (7th–8th century) and Michael Psellos (11th century), the latter of whom notes that he has found her only in "an apocryphal Hebrew book" ascribed to Solomon Because etymology in antiquity was interpretive and phonic, and not based on scientific linguistics, the Greeks themselves might have heard the root gel-, "grin, laugh," in the sense of mocking or grimacing, like the expression often found on the face of the Gorgon, to which Barb linked the reproductive demons in origin.'Fonder of children than Gello' is a saying applied to women who die prematurely (aôrôs), or to those who are fond of children but ruin them by their upbringing.
'This is where reproductive envy leads,' the myths seem to say, 'to exclusion from humanity and an eternity spent in restless wandering.' The psychological aspects of Gello were observed also by Leo Allatios in his work De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinionibus ("On the beliefs of the Greeks today").
Textual sources he collected on the Gello included Sappho's poem, the Suda, but also to show that these beliefs distorted or ran contrary to Christian doctrine.
Although reports of Gello's behavior are consistent, her nature is less determinate.
She is regarded as a demon in exorcisms and commanded as an "unclean spirit" (akatharton pneuma).
For Gello was a maiden (parthenos), and because she died prematurely (aôrôs), the Lesbians say that her ghost haunts little children, and they also blame her for the deaths of those who die prematurely (aôrôn).
Magic texts and amulets attest by name to the prevalence of a belief in reproductive demons in the Greco-Roman world.
The Homeric epics allude to the unmarried dead, who are excluded from the Underworld and might harm the living.