Since I reserve the right to babble about whatever I feel like on my site, I think today I will seize upon that right to do so. I mean, hell, its in the title! I have other interests and I am going to take this opportunity to express them. Today: due to a recent need to do research in the area of demonology (religiously, historical and and in a literary context), I will be writing on a related topic.
History of Central European Vampires
The roots of vampirism are unknown, they strech back as far as Sumerian civilisation, but the strongest and most influential cultures on present day depictions of the demons are that of early medieval German and Slavic. It is from these stories that we get their deathly aversion to garlic and death by a stake to the heart.
In Slavic folklore the accounts told of depraved spirits, called ippur or a nelapsi, that would attack their former neighbors and livestock. Others of Czech origin mentioned incidents of nightmares accompanied with pain, a feeling of being suffocated, and a squeezing around the neck area upon waking up.
Another vampire-related incident was recorded by Count de Cadreras, who in the 1720s was designated by the Austrian emperor to research suspicious events in a town near the Hungarian border called Haidam. The Count investigated several cases involving people who had been dead up to 30 years who were reported to have returned from the dead to attack their relatives. When the bodies were unearthed, they showed dilatory decomposition including the flow of fresh blood when a primitive autopsy was performed. The Count ordered that the bodies be decapitated and then burned twice again. The paperwork given to the emperor documenting these procedures along with a lengthy account given by the Count to a professor at the University of Fribourg survive to this day. The town of Haidam has never been identified, nor has a place by that name ever been recorded in any other contemporary documentation.
Germany gives us the Blutsueger, or bloodsucker, and the Nachtzehrer
, or time waster. These figures are best representative of the Nosferatu
-esque vampirism. The Nachtzehrer were similar to the Slavic vampire in that they were known to be recently deceased people who returned from the grave to attack family members and villagers. Their undead state stemmed from an unusual death, such as a person who died by suicide or accident. They were also associated with epidemic sickness. e.g.:
whenever a group of people died from the same disease, the person who died first was labeled to be the cause of the groupÂ’s death. Nachtzehrers were also believed to chew on their own extremities and cloths until they had been satiated with blood. They would then ascend from of their graves and ravage the bodies of living beings like ghouls.
In southern Germany, it was believed that those who were not baptised were drawn to immoral life and the practise of black magick. These were people who, upon death, became Blutsuegers. Also, people who commit suicide also were supposedly open to this undead state. They appeared pale and resembled a zombie from Dawn of the Dead
. Bavarians safeguarded their homes by smearing garlic over their doors and windows and placing hawthorn around their houses and barns. In the folklore, Bluatsaugers could be killed by a stake though the heart and stuffing garlic in their mouths.
In Bulgaria, the people believed that spirits of the dead embarked on a journey immediately after death that visited every place they had visited during their life on earth. Their journey lasted for 40 days and then the spirit went on to its next life. However, if the dead were not properly buried, they may find that their passage to the next world was blocked, and might return to this world as a vampire. The Romanian word for vampire comes straight from the original Slavic word: opyri.
Certain people were prone to becoming vampires in Bulgarian folklore. These included people who died violently, those excommunicated from the church, drunkards, thieves, murderers, and people who practised witchcraft. Tales spread about vampires who returned to life and started their lives over in foreign towns, even so much that they would marry and have children. Their only supposed abnormality was their nightly search for blood to quench their thirst.
Methods of killing vampires include the traditional stake to the heart and a method called bottling, where a man called a djadajii would chase after the vampire with a holy icon such as a crucifix or a picture of Jesus or Mary. The djadadjii would force the vampire towards a bottle that contained its favorite food. Once the vampire was lured into the bottle, it was corked and thrown into a fire until consumed.
* These were the origins of Germanic/Slavic vampire myths and tales. More historical stuff tomorrow, I suppose.