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Vampires in Myth & History

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Vampires in Myth & History Vampire myths go back thousands of years and occur in almost every culture around the world. Their variety is almost endless; from red eyed monsters with green or pink hair in China to the Greek Lamia which has the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a winged serpent; from vampire foxes in Japan to a head with trailing entrails known as the Penanggalang in Malaysia. However, the vampires we are familiar with today, although mutated by fiction and film, are largely based on Eastern European myths. The vampire myths of Europe originated in the Far East, and were transported from places like China, Tibet and India with the trade caravans along the silk route to the Mediterranean. Here they spread out along the Black Sea coast to Greece, the Balkans and of course the Carpathian Mountains, including Hungary and Transylvania. Our modern concept of the vampire still retains threads, such as blood drinking, return from death, preying on humans at night, etc in common with the Eastern European myths. However many things we are familiar with; the wearing of evening clothes, capes with tall collars, turning into bats, etc are much more recent inventions. On the other hand, many features of the old myths such as the placing of millet or poppy seeds at the gravesite in order to keep ...read more.


As was the seventh child of the same sex in a family, the child of a pregnant woman who didn't eat salt or was looked at by a vampire, or a witch. And naturally, being bitten by vampire, meant certain condemnation to a vampiric existence after death. The Vircolac which is sometimes mentioned in folklore was more closely related to a mythological wolf that could devour the sun and moon and later became connected with werewolves rather than vampires. The person afflicted with lycanthropy could turn into a dog, pig, or wolf. The vampire was usually first noticed when it attacked family and livestock, or threw things around in the house. Vampires, along with witches, were believed to be most active on the Eve of St George's Day (April 22 Julian, May 4 Gregorian calendar), the night when all forms of evil were supposed to be abroad. St Georges Day is still celebrated in Europe. A vampire in the grave could be told by holes in the earth, an undecomposed corpse with a red face, or having one foot in the corner of the coffin. Living vampires were found by distributing garlic in church and seeing who didn't eat it. Graves were often opened three years after death of a child, five years after the death of a young person, or seven years after the death of an adult to check for vampirism. ...read more.


Soon Plogojowitz returned and attacked some neighbours who died from loss of blood. In the other famous case Arnold Paole, an ex-soldier turned farmer who had been attacked by a vampire years before, died while haying. After his death, people began to die and it was believed by everyone that Paole had returned to prey on the neighbours. These two incidents were extremely well documented. Government officials examined the cases and the bodies, wrote them up in reports, and books were published afterwards of the Paole case and distributed around Europe. The controversy raged for a generation. The problem was exacerbated by rural people having an epidemic of vampire attacks and digging up bodies all over the place. Many scholars said vampires didn't exist - they attributed reports to premature burial, or rabies which causes thirst. However, Dom Augustine Calmet, a well respected French theologian and scholar, put together a carefully thought out treatise in 1746 which said vampires did exist. This had considerable influence on other scholars at the time. Eventually, Austrian Empress Marie Theresa sent her personal physician to investigate. He said vampires didn't exist and the Empress passed laws prohibiting the opening of graves and desecration of bodies. This was the end of the vampire epidemics. But by then everyone knew about vampires and it was only a matter of time before authors would preserve and mould the vampire into something new and much more accessible to the general public. Natasha Tracey 8EBO ...read more.

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