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6 entries this month
 

The Evolution Of the Vampire Chronicles

12:08 Oct 30 2005
Times Read: 790


Akasha's creation as the first vampire occured circa 4011 BC before the first civilisations. She was worshipped by her progeny through the ages more as a myth than a leader and was described by many names. In the most common legends She and Enkil, her spouse, are referred to as "Those Who Must be Kept."

In her mortal life Akasha originated from the city of Uruk in the Tigris and Uphrates Valley. She went to Kemet to become the bride of Enkil and Queen of the region, bringing new ideas and beliefs to the area. One of these was the banning of the custom of eating the flesh of a deceased parent, the crime for which Maharet and Mekare were taken prisoner.



She became a vampire having had her skin pierced by Amel and his entering her body. She went on to make vampires of her husband, her right hand man, Khayman, and many others of whom we hear no more, in order to aleviate the insatiable blood thirst she had acquired.



The Queen and Enkil were protected by many keepers through the centuries, among them Marius. Their bodies became completely hardened with time and they no longer needed to feed. They went into seeming trances for centuries on end. The Queen used to experience "life" in this time by occupying the minds of lesser vampires, such as Baby Jenks.



Akasha was woken again by Lestat and his music in the twentieth century, and took him as her new lover, destroying her husband.



She was destroyed herself by the Twins having wiped out the majority of the vampire population with fire.






Amel -----------Akasha

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-----------------

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Enkil / Khayman

/

Maharet / Mekare

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Jesse





God of the Grove

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-------------

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Marius / Mael

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-----------

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Pandora / Armand

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Daniel





Unnamed Parisian

Child of Darkness

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Magnus

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Lestat

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----------------------------------------------

| | | | |

Louis / Claudia / Nicki / Gabrielle / David

|

Madeline


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BOOK OF NOD

08:30 Oct 19 2005
Times Read: 797


I have believed this for years, after I read


THE BOOK OF NOD




Enter Cain: Cain was the firstborn son of Adam and Eve. He was banished, with a mark, from the land of his parents because he killed his brother in a jealous rage.



10 What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crith unto me from the ground.

11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven fold. And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest any finding him shall kill him."

Genesis 4:10-15



According to vampire legend, Cain wandered until he found Lilith by the Red Sea. She took him in and showed him the power of blood. (My religion teacher put it that the tree of life is represented in blood). Thus why Jewish persons staunchly drain all blood away from their meat before cooking and eating it. And thus why drinking blood/ being a vampire is such a big deal in a religious context.







From Cain and Lilith came a host of demons and vampires in the vague myths. Cain is mentioned in the Bible as having a number of legitimate children, with an unnamed woman/ wife. Some of his children are even highly regarded, as they are listed with their inventions, such as the harp and metal working. But, past Gen. 4:26 there is no more mention of Cain's children or his line. Cain himself is referred to only twice more, in the New Testament, as "the prototype of the wicked man."



From what there is presented in the Bible, there is little to go on with the myth of Cain and Lilith. Lilith herself appears only in Jewish apocrypha texts-- she is in neither the Torah or the Bible. But what is interesting is Cain-- and it might be inferred Lilith too-- appears in the epic poem Beowulf, and with much more mention than he ever receives in the Bible.



...Till the monster stirred, that demon, that fiend,

Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild

Marshes, and made his home in a hell

Not hell but earth. He was spawned in that slime,

Conceived by a pair of those monsters born

Of Cain, murderous creatures banished

By God, punished forever for the crime

Of Abel's death. The Almighty drove

Those demons out, and their exile was bitter,

Shut away from men; they split

Into a thousand forms of evil-- spirits

And fiends, goblins, monsters, giants,

A brood forever opposing the Lord's

Will, and again and again defeated.

(Ll. 101-114)







...Cain had killed his only

Brother, slain his father's son

With an angry sword, God drove him off,

Outlawed him to the dry and barren desert,

And branded him with a murder's mark. And he bore

A race of fiends accursed like their father...

(Ll. 1261-1266)



How intriguing is that? Where does the author's venom for Cain come from? Yes, he's a sinner, but in the Bible it seems that he goes off and does the best he can, building the city of Enoch, and having a lineage of creative descendants. In the other references to him, he is used as an example of a sinner, but without malice. But the author(s) of Beowulf seems to heap undue vileness onto Cain. There is simply no place in the Bible that speaks of Cain in such a hate-filled regard.



What's even more interesting is that Grendel's forefathers are referred to as a pair. "The Almighty drove/ Those demons out" when there is clearly no mention of God driving anyone out of Eden but Cain. The only other time we see sin in (around) Eden is when we look at the legends of Lilith. It was she who said the holy name of God and vanished out from Eden. And Lilith, in the Jewish tradition, has always been seen as the mother of demons. So for there to have been demons, Lilith must have conceived them (Cain's wife was busy having good children). I think the original author of Beowulf must have known of this Lilith legend (it certainly isn't obscure) and implied this in his writing, because the audience otherwise knows that there was no one expelled but Cain, and that, in the Bible, he stays a legitimate person, not a bearer of monsters.



To further drive home the point that the author knew what he was talking about, Beowulf was first written down and preserved by monks-- who were the only literate people in their time. The tale originated somewhere in the 600's in England, and was thought to have been written down at a later time (it was a bard's tale before that, made to be sung). As monks have a notorious reputation for adding God and His works into things as they write, we would certainly expect to find more references to Christianity than would have probably been present in the newly-Christian world that the poem was composed in. So it can only be concluded that the author knew what he was talking about and wrote down something that had meaning to his audience at the time, but which has been lost to us since. At the time of the composing of the poem, and during the later years when it was written down, the Bible of choice was the Vulgate, of Jerome's Latin Bible. I have attempted to look through the Latin text of this Bible, and have searched for Cain references, but it appears to have no more to say about Cain than does the later (and most popular) version, the King James Version (which most all of us know). The origin of the Cain = monstrous evil myth is well obscured and lost, which allows us to speculate even more as to where monsters-- in particular, vampires-- came from.

COMMENTS

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The Gangrel Vampire

08:26 Oct 19 2005
Times Read: 799


The Gangrel are loners and wanderers. They can go for years at a time without encountering another member of their own clan, much less another vampire. They are attuned to the natural world and prefer their solitude far from the hustle and bustle of modern civilization where they can live and hunt in peace. As isolationists they have become very self-reliant and while that means there may not be any allies around should a Gangrel find himself in a predicament, they are less likely to need help than the other clans anyway. Such a basic and primal existence brings the Gangrel into a close relationship with their inner Beast.



Part II The Gangrel Clan.....My Clan

The Gangrel are a clan of vampires, often associated with Gypsies, transmogrification, and vagrants. As a symbol, Gangrel often use a wolf's head. The Gangrel clan's magical Discipline, Protean, allows them to assume partial or complete animal forms. Their mastery of Protean is so much greater than any other Clan that Gangrel can assume virtually any animal form, providing it is a scavenger or a predator. Other vampires with the Protean Discipline are limited to the forms of Wolf and Bat; no one (not even the Gangrel) know why this is so.



The Gangrel, despite living in the wilderness, are attacked much less often by werewolves than other vampires; some speculate that the werewolves and Gangrel have a shared origin.



In the Dark Ages, the Gangrel were the vampires most commonly associated with the Road of the Beast, which dictates a life based on instinct, similar to that of an animal (which lives in the immediate present, has no morality, and kills whenever and only it is needed).



In the modern setting, Gangrel are commonly allies of the Brujah and enemies of the Ravnos. The Gangrel severed its ties with the Camarilla in 1998, when the Camarilla's ruling body refused to lend aid to the clan's Justicar to fight a creature he identified as an Antediluvian (the god-like progenitors of the vampire clans).



GANGREL PART III Perhaps the most interesting possibilities can be seen in the founder of the Gangrel clan. She is the one Antediluvian who has a direct motive of self preservation for learning to avoid frenzy. Any Gangrel vampire will eventually descend lower even than the most vile Nosferatu as the form of the Beast wracks their body with every berserked craze. Allegedly, one who has found Golconda is no longer subject to the drives of the Beast. Two other legends unite to form interesting points in this direction. The Gangrel are believed to be possessed of the only Antediluvian who is presently awake and consider themselves blessed that she allows them great freedom and yet constrains them from attacking her mortal descendants. The strange power she has taught some of her followers which allows them to preserve creatures from final extinction seems benign. It is also said that one of the Ancients might have achieved Golconda and indeed that this might be one of the secrets of the Jyhad, a vicious battle by others to prevent such enlightenment from being realized. The Gangrel are often treated as outcasts, and many do indeed seek their own desparate way to control the beast that gradually steals their body and soul. Certainly Set, driven to acts of unadulterated evil in his quest to become the next Apophis, could not tolerate the presence of one who had not only achieved the state, but actively promoted its learning towards enlightening others. The greatest reputed power of the Gangrel founder is Set's greatest weakness--the form of the sun itself. There is little evidence to support any kind of war between the two, though, and it is certainly possible that everything her clan credits her with doing is all lies. Given the power of a god, one can convince their followers of anything, permanently.

COMMENTS

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CHANGING TRENDS IN VAMPIRE FICTION

12:40 Oct 05 2005
Times Read: 806


Monsters in numberless quantities haunt the pages of horror novels, but none is more popular than the vampire. Why? Probably the versatility of the vampire. Most other monsters have severe limitations in how they can be portrayed. A thing from a swamp is destined to lurch around isolated farmhouses or in the sewers of some big city. By its very nature, it will be difficult to portray in meaningful relationships with people. In the majority of cases the monster's role will be that of the one dimensional evil character menacing the protagonists, but vanquished in the end. Other fictional creatures of horror suffer from similar problems.

The vampire, on the other hand, has almost endless potential for variety in its interactions with people and can vary from the evil one-dimensional monster to the psychic vampire working as a Nazi concentration camp guard, to the otherwise average person struggling to retain what little humanity is left to him as a vampire, to the delightfully charming and romantic Saint-Germain type of vampire. It is this endless variety and, above all, the ability to be human with all the strengths and weaknesses inherent in that humanity, which makes the vampire of fiction so popular.



This fascination with the vampire has been with us for centuries, fictional stories having appeared since classical times. But it wasn't until Europeans began writing about vampires that vampire fiction began to have an impact on the current form of our legends.



One of the more important early stories to appear in Europe was "The Vampyre" by John Polidori, published in 1819 and based on an idea by Lord Byron. A mysterious nobleman, Ruthven, tours Europe with a wealthy young man named Aubrey. Aubrey eventually realizes that Ruthven is a very unpleasant man, but thinks he has seen the last of him when he is killed by bandits in a mountain pass in Europe. When Aubrey returns to England, he finds that Ruthven is alive and is engaged to Aubrey's sister. The agonizing part of Aubrey's dilemma is that, even though he now realizes what Ruthven is, he cannot stop the wedding plans because Ruthven made Aubrey swear not to reveal "knowledge of my crimes or death" for a year and a day. Now, because of this oath, Aubrey cannot even warn his sister of her imminent doom, with the result that Ruthven kills the sister on the wedding night and then disappears.



Being held to an oath like this even at the expense of a person's life was a concept frequently found in older stories. And while it may seem silly today, the modern equivalent is still with us in the form of the priest or lawyer who is unable to tell the police of the confession of a murderer. The resulting suspense when the hero knows and has proof but cannot tell anyone, can have the reader on the edge of his or her seat.



In 1836 Theophile Gauthier wrote "La Morte Amoreuse," which has been translated into English under various titles, including "Clarimonde." A priest becomes obsessed with a beautiful vampire. The story has a rather dreamlike quality in which it becomes difficult for both the priest and the reader to differentiate between reality and the priest's fantasies.



"Varney the Vampire" by Thomas Preskett Prest or James Malcom Rymer appeared in 1840. This penny dreadful, consisting of romance, mystery, and blood, was almost the nineteenth century equivalent of a soap opera and was as popular as many soaps are today.



Then in 1872, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu wrote the landmark story "Carmilla." This was one of the first stories to feature a three- dimensional vampire with human emotions and feelings. The plot concerns a young woman named Laura who lives in an isolated castle in Austria. Nearby is a deserted village and a ruined castle whose last owner had died a century before. One day a beautiful stranger called Carmilla comes to stay after a carriage accident. She and Laura become fast friends, with undertones of lesbianism. One can see that even as Laura becomes weaker, Carmilla has a real affection for Laura. Finally the truth comes out: a grave in the chapel near the ruined castle is opened, and it is proven that Carmilla and the long-dead owner of the ruined castle are one and the same. The vampire is destroyed in the traditional manner.



However popular some of the these other vampire stories were, the most famous and influential one is "Dracula" by Bram Stoker. Since its appearance in 1897, countless other books and films have been based on it. Even though many films have diverged considerably from the book, most people are familiar with the plot.



To summarize drastically, Dracula hires a solicitor to purchase some property in England prior to his relocating there. Leaving the young solicitor, Jonathan Harker, trapped in his Transylvanian castle, Dracula takes his 50 boxes of earth and moves to England. Shortly after his arrival he attacks Lucy, the best friend of Harker's fiancee, Mina. Dr. Seward, who owns the insane asylum next door to Dracula's new London home, is called in to look after Lucy. He is baffled by her symptoms and calls in Dutch scientist Van Helsing.



Van Helsing soon recognizes that a vampire is at work, but he is still unable to save Lucy, and she soon begins her own nightly wanderings as an undead vampire. After dispatching the unfortunate Lucy, the group of young men, led by Van Helsing, begins to hunt down the Transylvanian count. Meanwhile, Dracula next turns his attention to Mina and exchanges blood with her. The others hound Dracula until they have destroyed all but one box of Transylvanian soil. Pursued by the protagonists, he flees back to his homeland and is killed almost at his castle gates.



Why has Stoker's story endured while others have been forgotten? Part of the answer lies in the vivid imagery and suspense. While many nineteenth century stories are wordy and tedious, this book catches the attention of the modern reader with spine-tingling suspense and description. One of the most memorable parts in the book is Harker's description of Dracula's descent headfirst down the outside castle wall. But an even more important part of the answer lies in the fact that Stoker managed to do what no one else had previously done. He created an incredibly evil character who was at the same time proud, noble, and self-confident in his powers. And yet the reader sees a hint that Dracula may still remember how it felt to be human.



There are many loose ends and unanswered questions in "Dracula" as well. Because it is written in diary form, the characters can only tell what they know, which leaves intriguing questions about the identities of Dracula's three women unanswered because Harker, who wrote the diary entries concerning them, knew nothing about the three vampires. These and other unanswered questions have provided fertile territory for other writers to fill in the gaps as they saw fit.



The novel is charged with sexual undercurrents and tension, particularly in such scenes as the one with Harker and the three women, or Mina drinking Dracula's blood. This too holds the reader's interest.



Since then, most vampire novels have been strongly influenced by "Dracula" to a greater or lesser degree, but certain interesting trends have developed in recent years. It would be impossible to describe every book which has appeared -- there are far too many of them. But some representatives of the new trends in vampire fiction stand out above the rest, and it is some of these which are discussed in the remainder of this article.



Until a few years ago, the general trend has been to cast the vampire in the role of the evil one-dimensional monster whom one or more protagonists must overcome in order to save themselves and their loved ones. A lot of truly forgettable books have been written in this vein, but some real chillers have appeared as well.



One of the best-known of these was "'Salem's Lot" by Stephen King. A vampire moves to a small town in the U.S. and begins attacking the townspeople. Despite the efforts of a group of people, the vampirism spreads until almost the entire town is undead. King's vampires never really acquire personalities, remaining one- or two-dimensional characters at best. But the protagonists, who include a writer, teacher, priest, schoolboy, and doctor, are beautifully developed. Their interactions with each other and with the events happening around them make this a difficult book to put down.



A similar plot appears in Robert McCammon's "They Thirst", which appeared in 1981. Vampires move into Los Angeles and gradually take over the city. McCammon goes one step further than King in a number of ways. First, not only are the protagonists well developed, but even the vampires have personalities to some extent. The vampire girl killing her boyfriend and then tenderly wrapping his body in bedsheets to protect him from the sun until he returns from the dead the next night comes to mind. The backdrop of a large city besieged by vampires along with vivid descriptions of bloodsucking street gangs and radio announcers telling their vampire listeners to go and feed on the humans holed up in the shopping malls all add to the suspense and atmosphere.



The 1970s brought a new and fascinating trend in which vampires were portrayed in a much more human and sympathetic way. The first author to really break out of the old mould was Anne Rice with "Interview with the Vampire" (1976). Told from the viewpoint of Louis, it details how he became a vampire and his "life" with others of his kind. For the first time, the reader sees the hopes, fears, and personality conflicts between vampires portrayed as people rather than as objects of horror. Unlike previous books, "Interview with the Vampire" almost entirely omits normal humans from the story.



The sequel, "The Vampire Lestat", is even more interesting. Lestat's personality is more complex and the plot more involved. The second book, narrated by Lestat, paints a very different picture of this charismatic character than the one painted by the resentful Louis in "Interview". The series continues with several more books, each of which expands on the lives, hopes, dreams, and fears of Rice's androgynous creatures of the night.



While Anne Rice's books marked the beginning of a fresh trend in vampire fiction, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro moved off in her own unique direction, beginning with "Hotel Transylvania" in 1978. Many of her books chronicle the experiences of her charming and dapper vampire protagonist, Saint-Germain, with a few books featuring vampires Atta Olivia Clemens or Madelaine de Montalia. Each book takes place in richly described cultures ranging from ancient Rome and China to the modern day U.S. The personalities of the vampires combined with the vividly detailed historical background makes these stories unique.



In George R. R. Martin's "Fevre Dream" (1982) we see the interaction of vampire and human on equal terms, as a human and vampire team up against a rival group of vampires. The action takes place on the Mississippi River at the height of the riverboat trade. A haunting quality and vibrant characters make this book memorable.



Some books which, for want of a better term, could be called suspense-horror, have also made their mark. Garfield Reeves-Stevens's "Bloodshift" is an excellent one concerning a power struggle between two factions of vampires. The book deals nicely with the interaction between a retired hit man and the female vampire he is hired to kill, but instead teams up with against his vampire employers. The plot is further complicated by the CIA and a group of Jesuit priests, each of which have their own reasons for going after the vampires.



Lee Killough's "Blood Hunt" (1987) and the sequel "Bloodlinks" (1988) concern a policeman who tracks a trail of dead bodies to a woman vampire. She attacks and kills him in the first book, and he revives as a vampire in the morgue. His struggle to adapt to his new "life" while hunting down first the woman, and then someone who is killing both humans and vampires, makes for two fast-paced books.



Humour has been sadly lacking in most vampire fiction. Fortunately, P. N. Elrod's "Vampire Files" series helps fill the gap with six very entertaining books. Beginning with "Bloodlist", the series takes place in the 1930s and features a hard-boiled newspaper reporter who is murdered by gangsters and comes back as a vampire in the first book. A well-balanced blend of suspense and humour combined with a Mickey Spillane atmosphere all make these books delightful. The humour is evident even in the blurb on the back of the first book, in which the protagonist waxes enthusiastic on the advantages of being a vampire, summing it up with ". . . and best of all . . . You can hunt down your own murderer". For well-written enjoyable fun, this series is hard to beat.



In the late '80s and early '90s a new trend of gritty vampire stories began to appear. These vampires are not at all romantic; many are streetwise, earthy, or corrupt, and in some cases just plain evil. One of the best-known was Dan Simmons's "Carrion Comfort", whose psychic vampires are truly hideous, ranging from an ex-Nazi concentration camp guard to murderous corrupt FBI employees. Some of the vampires don't just prey on the humans -- they torture them too.



Nancy Collins has also produced down-to-earth vampires in "Sunglasses After Dark" (1990) (and the sequels, published most recently in the volume "Midnight Blue"). The book opens with the vampire protagonist heavily sedated in a straitjacket. Reviving from the drugs to some extent, she escapes the insane asylum determined to find out who had her captured. Meanwhile, through flashbacks we learn her past. The daughter of an incredibly rich family, she disappeared without a trace several years before while on a holiday in England. Attacked by a vampire, she revived as a vampire with amnesia and became a hooker. In many ways this vampire is a fairly decent person, but streetwise and tough as nails too, giving a much more realistic picture of what might really happen to someone in her situation. Combined with a good plot and characterization, this and the sequels are excellent.



Poppy Z. Brite's "Lost Souls" is aptly named, as it describes in rich gothic detail the lives of a group of people in the small town of Missing Mile. As they drift without purpose through the days and nights, their lives parallel those of a group of equally purposeless nomadic vampires. The reader follows the dark meanderings of the plot as the two groups, human and vampire, come together.



A book with a most unusual premise is Lois Tilton's "Vampire Winter". The scene is the post nuclear war U.S. Blaine, the vampire protagonist, emerges from his vault in Chicago within hours of the city's destruction in a nuclear attack. As he moves to the countryside, Blaine finds that twilight now lasts 24 hours a day, so he can hunt and move around unhindered. Society has been reduced to a brutal struggle for existence in which bands of radiation-contaminated marauders wander around attacking farmhouses and small towns occupied by people hoping to keep their dwindling supplies of food while avoiding contamination. The comparison of this ruthless vampire with the equally ruthless people around him makes one think. Eventually, realizing that the uncontaminated people must be preserved if he is to survive, Blaine gathers some people together, providing food for them in exchange for blood and protection from the marauders. He eventually ends up in a similar mutually beneficial relationship with some of the nearby towns. The townsdwellers are his food source, and he with his immunity to radiation is able to roam freely and help protect them against marauders. A most unusual book showing a fascinating symbiotic relationship of human and vampire.



Kim Newman's "Anno-Dracula" creates an alternative history in which Van Helsing and his cohorts failed to kill Dracula. Instead Dracula is the official Prince Consort of Queen Victoria, and vampires make up a sizable portion of London's population. The book is filled with historical and fictional characters who become embroiled in the various plotlines.



Nancy Kilpatrick's characters in "Near Death" are streetwise and hard as nails, yet curiously fragile in some ways. Filled with sensuality and violence, the story grabs the reader and won't let go.



Over time authors have added new dimensions to the increasingly versatile vampire. What will the future bring? We can only wait and see, but so far there appears to be no lack of innovative takes on this most popular of monsters.





This article was originally published in:



I N T E R N E T V A M P I R E T R I B U N E

Q U A R T E R L Y

Prototype Issue Vol.1 Num.1, November-January 1996


COMMENTS

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VAMPIRES IN MYTH AND HISTORY

12:37 Oct 05 2005
Times Read: 807




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 the vampire occupied all night counting seeds rather than preying on relatives, have all but disappeared from modern fiction and film.



Even among the Eastern European countries there is a large variety of vampires.







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SLAVIC VAMPIRES:

The Slavic people including most east Europeans from Russia to Bulgaria, Serbia to Poland, have the richest vampire folklore and legends in the world. The Slavs came from north of the Black Sea and were closely associated with the Iranians. Prior to 8th century AD they migrated north and west to where they are now.

Christianization began almost as soon as they arrived in their new homelands. But through the 9th and 10th centuries the Eastern Orthodox Church and the western Roman Church were struggling with each other for supremacy. They formally broke in 1054 AD, with the Bulgarians, Russians, and Serbians staying Orthodox, while the Poles, Czechs, and Croatians went Roman. This split caused a big difference in the development of vampire lore - the Roman church believed incorrupt bodies were saints, while the Orthodox church believed they were vampires.



The origin of Slavic vampire myths developed during 9th C as a result of conflict between pre-Christian paganism and Christianity. Christianity won out with the vampires and other pagan beliefs surviving in folklore.



Causes of vampirism included: being born with a caul, teeth, or tail, being conceived on certain days, irregular death, excommunication, improper burial rituals etc. Preventative measures included: placing a crucifix in the coffin, or blocks under the chin to prevent the body from eating the shroud, nailing clothes to coffin walls for the same reason, placing millet or poppy seeds in the grave because vampires had a fascination with counting, or piercing the body with thorns or stakes.



Evidence that a vampire was at work in the neighbourhood included: death of cattle, sheep, relatives, neighbours, exhumed bodies being in a lifelike state with new growth of the fingernails or hair, or if the body was swelled up like a drum, or there was blood on the mouth and if the corpse had a ruddy complexion.



Vampires could be destroyed by staking, decapitation (the Kashubs placed the head between the feet), burning, repeating the funeral service, holy water on the grave, exorcism.







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ROMANIA:

Romania is surrounded by Slavic countries, so it isn't surprising that their vampires are variants of the Slavic vampire. They are called Strigoi based on the Roman 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 soul at night to meet with other witches or with Strigoi mort who are dead vampires. The strigoi mort are the reanimated bodies which return to suck the blood of family, livestock, and neighbours.



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 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.



Measures to prevent a person 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 & St Andrew's days.



To destroy a vampire, a stake was driven through the body followed by decapitation and placing garlic in the mouth. By the 19th century people were shooting 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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GYPSIES AND VAMPIRES:

Even today, Gypsies frequently feature in vampire fiction and film, no doubt influenced by Bram Stoker's book "Dracula" in which the Szgany gypsies served Dracula, carrying his boxes of earth and guarding him.

In reality, Gypsies originated as nomadic tribes in northern India, but got their name from the early belief that they came from Egypt. By 1000 AD they started spreading westward and settled in Turkey for a time, incorporating many Turkish words into their Romany language.



By the 14th century they were all through the Balkans and within two more centuries had spread all across Europe. Gypsies arrived in Romania a short time before Vlad Dracula was born in 1431.



Their religion is complex and varies between tribes, but they have a god called O Del, as well as the concept of Good and Evil forces and a strong relationship and loyalty to dead relatives. They believed the dead soul entered a world similar to ours except that there is no death. The soul stayed around the body and sometimes wanted to come back. The Gypsy myths of the living dead added to and enriched the vampire myths of Hungary, Romania, and Slavic lands.



The ancient home of the Gypsies, India has many mythical vampire figures. The Bhuta is the soul of a man who died an untimely death. It wandered around animating dead bodies at night and attacked the living like a ghoul. In northern India could be found the brahmaparusha, a vampire-like creature with a head encircled by intestines and a skull from which it drank blood.



The most famous Indian vampire is Kali who had fangs, wore a garland of corpses or skulls and had four arms. Her temples were near the cremation grounds. She and the goddess Durga battled the demon Raktabija who could reproduce himself from each drop of blood spilled. Kali drank all his blood so none was spilled, thereby winning the battle and killing Raktabija.



Sara or the Black Goddess is the form in which Kali survived among Gypsies. Gypsies have a belief that the three Marys from the New Testament went to France and baptised a Gypsy called Sara. They still hold a ceremony each May 24th in the French village where this is supposed to have occurred.



One Gypsy vampire was called a mullo (one who is dead). This vampire was believed to return and do malicious things and/or suck the blood of a person (usually a relative who had caused their death, or not properly observed the burial ceremonies, or who kept the deceased's possessions instead of destroying them as was proper.)



Female vampires could return, lead a normal life and even marry but would exhaust the husband. Anyone who had a hideous appearance, was missing a finger, or had animal appendages, etc. was believed to be a vampire.



Even plants or dogs, cats, or farm animals could become vampires. Pumpkins or melons kept in the house too long would start to move, make noises or show blood.



To get rid of a vampire people would hire a dhampire (the son of a vampire and his widow) to detect the vampire. To ward off vampires, gypsies drove steel or iron needles into a corpse's heart and placed bits of steel in the mouth, over the eyes, ears and between the fingers at the time of burial. They also placed hawthorn in the corpse's sock or drove a hawthorn stake through the legs. Further measures included driving stakes into the grave, pouring boiling water over it, decapitating the corpse, or burning it.



In spite of the disruption of Gypsy lives by the various eastern European communist regimes, they still retain much of their culture. In 1992 a new king of the Gypsies was chosen in Bistritz, Romania.







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BATS:

No discussion of vampires is even thinkable without talking about bats. They are integral to the modern day concept of the vampire, but this was not always the case.

Many cultures have various myths about bats. In South America, Camazotz was a bat god of the caves living in the Bathouse of the Underworld. In Europe, bats and owls were long associated with the supernatural, mainly because they were night creatures. On the other hand, the Gypsies thought them lucky - they wore charms made of bat bones. And in England the Wakefield crest and those of some others have bats on them.



So how did bats end up becoming associated with vampires? There are only three species of vampires bats in the entire world, all of which occur in Central and South America. During the 16th century the Spanish conquistadors first came into contact with them and recognized the similarity between the feeding habits of the bats and those of their mythical vampires. It wasn't long before they began to associate bats with their vampire legends. Over the following centuries the association became stronger and was used by various people, including James Malcom Rhymer who wrote "Varney the Vampyre" in the 1840's. Stoker cemented the linkage of bats and vampires in the minds of the general public.







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EIGHTEENTH CENTURY VAMPIRE CONTROVERSY:

Today everyone is familiar with vampires, but in Britain very little was known of vampires prior to the 18th century. What brought the vampire to the attention of the general public? During the 18th century there was a major vampire scare in Eastern Europe. Even government officials frequently got dragged into the hunting and staking of vampires.

This controversy was directly responsible for England's current vampire myths. In fact, the word Vampire only came into English language in 1732 via an English translation of a German report of the much publicized Arnold Paole vampire staking in Serbia.



Western scholars seriously considered the existence of vampires for the first time rather than just brushing them off as superstition. It all started with an outbreak of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and in the Austro-Hungarian empire from 1725-1734.



Two famous cases involved Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paole. Plogojowitz died at the age of 62, but came back a couple of times after his death asking his son for food. When the son refused, he was found dead the next day. 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 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.



COMMENTS

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TOP TEN VAMPIRE MYTHS...

12:34 Oct 05 2005
Times Read: 808


The Top Ten Vampire Myths

Most vampire myths come to us from the Dark Ages, when science was in its infancy and people looked to religion or superstition to explain the world around them. While many vampire myths have their basis in Christian orthodoxy, others represent imaginative interpretations of actual vampire behavior.



Vampires sleep in coffins



Bela Lugosi as Dracula

Source: this myth probably arose from gravediggers and others who observed vampires emerging from coffins and crypts.

Truth: if a vampire did spend the night in a coffin, it probably had nothing to do with sleeping preference. In the old days, many victims of vampire bites were interred while still in a vampiric coma. The truth is, vampires will sleep wherever they feel safe.





Garlic repels vampires

Source: most likely based on observation.

Fact: vampires have sensitive noses and can momentarily be driven off by pungent odors. However, this method of deterrence is unreliable and certainly won't work on an experienced vampire.





A cross employed in WB's

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Crosses repel vampires

Source: Christian religion.

Fact: crosses have no effect on vampires.





Vampires are killed by driving a stake through their heart

Source: Christian religion.

Fact: because their blood is circulated by skeletal muscles, vampires can easily survive injuries to the heart.





Vampires burst into flames upon exposure to sunlight

Source: most likely based on observations of a vampire's extreme reaction to sunlight

Fact: sunlight renders vampires, with their hyperdilated irises, blind. It also causes neural pathways to fire randomly in the vampire brain, creating an extreme epileptic reaction. As dramatic as this reaction may appear, it will not be enough to start a fire.



Holy water burns the skin and flesh of vampires

Source: Christian religion.

Fact: holy water, or any water for that matter, has little effect on vampires (although vampires can be drowned).



Lugosi whispers

sweet nothings to

his next victim

Vampires prey on virginal women

Source: a reflection of Victorian-era fears over the sexual awakening of young women.

Fact: while vampires have a stated preference for the taste of young blood, they are not particular as to which gender provides it.





Vampires can fly

Source: observation of leaping vampires; association of vampires with bats.

Fact: while they do possess extraordinary leaping ability (vampires have been observed leaping over fences 20 feet high), vampires cannot fly.





Vampires turn into bats

Source: association of vampires with bats.

Fact: no, vampires cannot turn into bats.





Vampires are not visible in mirrors

Source: Christian religion. It was thought that a vampire, or any creature lacking a soul, would not produce a reflection in a mirror.

Fact: vampires are visible in mirrors, although interestingly enough, they are often quite discomfited by their own reflections.


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