The Celtic Tree of Life
The Celtic Tree Of Life is a symbol found all throughout Western Europe in one form or another.
To the Celts, the Tree of Life represented many things. The roots going deep into the earth, and branches spread high into the sky represented the Otherworld and the gods. The trunk, was what was held here in the reality.
The Tree was a pivotal area of early Celtic spirituality. To the Celts, the tree was a source of basic sustenance- a food source, a provider of shelter and fuel for preparing food and warmth. Without trees, life would have been nearly impossible.
The most sacred tree of all was the Oak tree, which represented the axis mundi, the center of the world. The Celtic name for oak, daur, is the origin of the word door- the root of the oak was literally the doorway to the Otherworld, the realm of Fairy. The word Druid, the title of the Celtic Priestly class, is comprised from the words for oak and wise- a Druid literally meaning "Oak Wise," the title of Druid, explained they are learned in Tree magick and guardian of the doorway.
In association with the Celtic Tree of Life, The Man in the Tree, or Derg Corra, is always accompanied by a stag. He is the Celtic guardian of knowledge.
Countless Irish legends revolve around trees and in them one could fall asleep next to a particular tree and awake in the faery realm.
Trees guard sacred wells and provide healing, shelter, and wisdom. Trees carried messages to the other realm, and appointed blessings- to this day, trees can be seen in the Irish countryside fashioned with ribbons and pleas for favors, love, healing, and prosperity.
Peter Plogojovitz was a man who lived in the early eighteenth century, in a village named Kisilova in what was then called "lower Hungary" (NiederUngarn), but is now part of Serbia . He died in 1725, and his death was followed by a spate of other sudden deaths (and after very short maladies), giving rise to the rumor he was a vampire. His body was exhumed, examined, found to be in "vampiric" condition, and subsequently staked through the heart and reduced to ash through burning.
The case made on that event by an official of the Austrian imperial administration was among the first documented testimonies about vampire beliefs in Eastern Europe, and the report was translated all across the West and North, contributing to the vampire craze of the eighteenth century in Germany, France and England.
Excerpt from a witness of the grave site:
"I went to the village of Kisilova, taking along the Gradisk priest, and viewed the body of Peter Plogojowitz, just exhumed, finding, in accordance with thorough truthfulness, that first of all I did not detect the slightest odor that is otherwise characteristic of the dead, and the body, except for the nose, which was somewhat fallen away, was completely fresh. The hair and beard- even the nails, of which the old ones had fallen away - had grown on him; the old skin, which was somewhat whitish, had peeled away, and a new one had emerged from it.
The face, hands, and feet and the whole body were so constituted, that they could not have been more complete in his lifetime. Not without astonishment, I saw some fresh blood in his mouth, which, according to the common observation, he had sucked from the people killed by him.
In short, all the indications were present that such people (as remarked above) are said to have. After both the priest and I had seen this spectacle, while people grew more outraged than distressed, all the subjects, with great speed, sharpened a stake - in order to pierce the corpse of the deceased with it- and put this at his heart, whereupon, as he was pierced, not only did much blood, completely fresh, flow also through his ears and mouth, but still other wild signs (which I pass by out of high respect) took place."
Tales of vampiric entities were also found among the ancient Romans and the Romanized inhabitants of eastern Europe, Romanians (known as Vlachs in historical context). Romania is surrounded by Slavic countries, so it is not surprising that Romanian and Slavic vampires are similar. Romanian vampires are called Strigoi, based on the ancient Greek term strix for screech owl, which also came to mean demon or witch.
There are different types of Strigoi. Strigoi vii are live witches who will become vampires after death. They can send out their souls at night to meet with other witches or with Strigoi i, which are reanimated bodies that return to suck the blood of family, livestock, and neighbours. Other types of vampires in Romanian folklore include Moroi and Pricolici.
A person born with a caul, tail, born out of wedlock, or one who died an unnatural death, or died before baptism, was doomed to become a vampire, as was the seventh child of the same sex in a family, the child of a pregnant woman who did not eat salt or who was looked at by a vampire or a witch. Moreover, being bitten by vampire meant certain condemnation to a vampiric existence after death.
The Vârcolac, which is sometimes mentioned in Romanian folklore, was more closely related to a mythological wolf that could devour the sun and moon (similar to Fenris in Norse mythology), and later became connected with werewolves rather than vampires. (A 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 George's Day is still celebrated in Europe.
A vampire in the grave could be discerned 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 identified by distributing garlic in church and seeing who did not eat it.
Graves were often opened three years after the 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.
Measures to prevent a person from becoming a vampire included removing the caul from a newborn and destroying it before the baby could eat any of it, careful preparation of dead bodies, including preventing animals from passing over the corpse, placing a thorny branch of wild rose in the grave, and placing garlic on windows and rubbing it on cattle, especially on St George's and St Andrew's day.
To destroy a vampire, a stake was driven through the body, followed by decapitation and placing garlic in the mouth. By the 19th century, one would also shoot a bullet through the coffin. For resistant cases, the body was dismembered and the pieces burned, mixed with water, and given to family members as a cure.
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