Posts Tagged ‘vetalas’

So as most of us know vampires are nothing new.

They have been around for centuries. In fact, they are prehistoric. All throughout history there are signs of them. There have been many, many incarnations of them and no one ever seems to agree about them – except for what they feed on – life force (blood). In the past there were many steps taken to assure one did not rise as a vampire. Staking the heart in a coffin, putting millet or sand at the grave site (I guess vamps had to count it), and holy objects in the coffin. In Albanian folklore it was said that if a lugat (vampire) slept with his wife and she gets pregnant she will sire a dhampir. This dhampir could apparently tell who was a vampire and was the only one that could kill them.

There were a lot of weird rituals to discern if someone was undead. A virgin boy on a virgin stallion led through a courtyard – the horse would balk at a vampires grave. Holes in the earth above the grave meant vampirism. And of course, the corpse would not look decomposed. Apparently, villagers would occasionally dig up a grave and find fresh blood on the vampires face. This was done if there were deaths of animals, relatives, or neighbors.

Just as there are many versions of the vampire there are many things that are said to ward them off. Garlic. A branch of wild rose and hawthorn plant. Sprinkling mustard seeds on the roof of your house. Plus, they can’t walk on consecrated ground, enter your house without permission, or go into the sunlight (well some- more on that later). It was even said they couldn’t cross running water. And depending on the country a vampire would or would not have a shadow or show a reflection in a mirror – in Greece they had both.

Now, to kill a vampire you must stake them in the heart. Or burn them. Or cut off their head. “Vampire hunters” would carry kits to deal with them.

vampkit

And don’t forget, vampire is a relatively new term in history. While vampires are seen or heard of in most cultures they were not referred to as such.

In India they were vetālas.

In Ancient Babylonia and Assyria there was Lilitu which gave rise to Lilith.

In Ancient Greece and Rome there was Empusae, the Lamia, and the striges.

In Norse legend there was the draugr.
Vampires truly became folklore in the late 17th and 18th centuries in Eastern Europe. One of the earliest records was from Croatia in 1672! A peasant – Jure – died in 1656 and drank blood. He was staked, but that didn’t work, so they beheaded him. He became the first real case in history of a real person being described as a vampire. Of course, with news like this there was a rash of vampire sightings throughout Eastern Europe in the 18th century that resulted in lots of stakings and grave diggings. Funny how although this was the Age of Enlightenment vampire belief became widespread and caused mass hysteria.

It was started by attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and spread. Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paole from Serbia were the first two famous vampires, in fact, the first cases to be recorded officially. Serbia had another famous vampire, this time a woman, Sava Savanović. Apparently, she lived in a watermill and drank the blood of local millers. There was a book written using her later on and a movie “Leptirica” in 1973.

The Greek had vyrkolakas.

And the Roman strigoi.

strigoi

Africa also had it’s vampiric types. There were asanbosam, the Ewe people of the adze, impundulu, and ramanga. All which had attributes of vampirism.

Asia had the bhuta and the figure of Vetala. There was even a creature who had intestines on its head and a skull it drank blood from – the BrahmarākŞhasa.

In the Philippines there was the Tagalog mandurugo,and Visayan manananggal. One turned into a beautiful girl by day, but grew wings and a thread-like tongue at night. The latter was older, but still beautiful, had wings, and would feed on the fetus of pregnant women.

In Malaysia the Penanggalan used black magic and could detach its head to let it fly around at night to get blood. They also had the Pontianakb or Langsuir – a woman who died in childbirth and became undead.

The Balinese had the Leyak.

The Indonesian had the Kuntilanak(Matianak) – who were like the malaysian Langsuir.

The Chinese had Jiang Shi – created from a deceased body whos soul did not leave – mindless creatures.

The Aztecs had the Cihuateteo – spirits that died in childbirth and stole children.  It was also said they got men to commit adultery and the Cihuateteo were said to escort the sun at sunset.

cihuateteo

America. There was the Loogaroo – a mixture of French and AFrican voodoo beliefs. In the late 18th and 19th centuries people disinterred and removed the hearts of loved ones – dead ones – because they thought they were vampires and caused sickness and death in the family. They thought tuberculosis was caused by them.

There are many reasons that stories of vampires spread throughout – the black plague was thought to be brought on by vampiric creatures. And basically any other mysterious illness that spread rapidly. There was also porphyria – which is a rare blood disease. Those who were misinformed about this disease may have thought consuming large amounts of blood eased the symptoms. And of course rabies could have been a factor in some hysteria before it was known what it was.

Something to note – until the 16th century (when they were discovered) vampire bats had nothing to do with vampiric lore!

Okay. With all the folklore, legends, and superstition how did vampires turn into what we see today? (part 2 coming soon!)