Bloody Myth – The Vampire Syndrome
Those vampire myth never gets old, only evolves into something worse in this day and age – movies, books, games and series only get more and more lame or simply the representation of the vampire myth that they give is rather hilarious or a no-brainer. Vampires and vampire stories evolved during the centuries, from monsters into aristocratic philosophers, or screaming busty girls in the retarded Japan. Vampires are a typical European creation, but no one is willing to acknowledge it so. The USA gave us some outstanding representations in both games and movies:”Interview with the Vampire”, “World of Darkness” from White Wolf and “Blade”. The rest is in my opinion, relatively trash.
Some general information about the vampire syndrome….
Vampires came from the Eastern Europe, although there are numerous old legends about similar beings from Egypt, India, Greece and Babylon, but the “blood sucking myth” proliferated on the Balkans, especially in Hungary, Bulgaria and of course, Romania where our, all around bad daddy vampire, Count Dracula certainly still resides, despite the fact that he never owned a castle. Our Count Dracula is none other than Count Vlad Tepes, member of the order of the Dragon and a fierce enemy of the Ottoman Turks. According to legend, he hated the Turks so much, that he feasted on meat in the middle of several impaled Turks dying in agony around him – oh yes, he is also known as the “Impaler”, for obvious reasons. The accounts about Mr. Tepes differ in radical degree: outside Romania, mostly in Western Europe, he was known as a sadistic, cruel monster while in Romania he was seen as a just ruler that managed to drive off the Turks, killing off a substantial number. Nevertheless, Vlad was a charming gentleman that fought the Ottomans, but was killed in an ambush while marching to battle along with his immediate entourage by an Ottoman party. He did that as a human being, not as a vampire.
Of course, Vladimir is much more interesting post-mortem. He is claimed to had been buried in several tombs, but all of them reportedly empty. Many explained this eerie result as a demonstration of his vampiric powers, but no credible historical explanation was given. It is sure, however, that Count Tepes DID indeed die, but his body was not recovered. Look at it realistically – during the ambush, Vlad’s body could had been taken as a sign of repression for earlier defeats or simply to prove a “job well done”. There are no surreal theories of resurrection or metamorphosis.
Vladimir was maybe a cold-hearted killer and a successful commander, but he had no obsession over human blood. I wish I could say the same about the Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Transylvania that really got it kicking. It is said that she enjoyed torture of all kinds and simply inflicting pain, but by far her greatest and infamous deed was the bathing in virgin blood to keep her permanently young. Of course, she didn’t avoid the grave, but she killed around 700 maidens before she bit the dirt. She is proclaimed as the most vicious female mass murder in recorded history, despite her beautiful looks, noble birth and good education. This wasn’t enough to cover up insanity and paranoia that haunted her and made her perform gruesome killing, tortures and mutilations that would put Vladimir to shame. However, her death was a spectacular one I might say. She was arrested with her four accomplices and tried for 80 murders – more than 300 witnesses confirmed her gruesome deeds and three of her “assistants” were executed with one sentenced to life-long imprisonment. As for Bathory herself, despite her noble birth that hindered an execution, her fate was appropriately worse: In Csetje Castle she was confined, with its windows walled up and died in 1614. at age 54.
Looking from the modern, medical perspective, there are several possible explanations, but the best suited one I think is the fear and interpretation of wasting diseases. It is all well too known that human kind in the past described unexplained things as deeds of something supernatural and it could be said the same for vampires and the vampire myth in general. Humans feared for the bodies and how they would decompose after death, so all unnatural happenings are labeled either as “vampirism” or “undead” in general. In some legends, when vampires are staked, they emit a loud shriek and foul stench, but it could be a result of gases that remained inside the bodies. When we talk about the folklore interpretations, many say that the vampire myth came from the human fear of death and outbreaks of plague and disease that were quite common in many parts of Europe. The result of someone being turned into a rapacious vampire is the improper burial and the failure to observe correctly all the burial rites. There are several sicknesses that are equalized with vampirism and vampires: porphyria is a sickness that produced several symptoms that resemble a vampire, like extreme daylight sensitivity, brownish teeth and in later stages, madness. Anemia is also similar and is known generally as “bloodlessness”, while hemeralophia causes day blindness. So the origin of the myth is easily established when looked at with sober eyes than after an all-night goth party.
Let’s stop here for a spell – where is the cradle of the vampire myth? Maybe Romania rightfully boasts its status as the vampire capital, but for the real roots, we should look into Slavic folklore, namely Serbia. In Serbia, vampires are quite different from the Hollywood “products”: they were ugly and fat, can turn into dogs or moths and were able to become invisible. They usually killed their prey with beatings and suffocating before draining their blood. The most important ones are Petar Blagojevic and Arnaut Pavle.
Petar Blagojevic is a real hard-core vampire. He was from the village of Kisilevo that is located near Pozarevac today. He died at the age of 62, and has “risen” two months after. At first he visited his wife asking for shoes and then went on a killing spree, killing villagers of various ages each night. All victims lived for a day more after the attack, only to report that Petar came into their dreams and kept suffocating them. The local Austro-Hungarian authorities were of course concerned, but the most important figure that came to represent the empire was an official by the name of Frombald. Soon, Petar’s terror became unbearable, so the villagers gathered en masse, and went to Frombald to seek his company when they unearth the grave to stake the corpse, believing that it will end the bloody crusade. Frombald at first refused, but ultimately he accompanied the villagers. When the tomb was opened, a surprise popped – Petar was erringly life-like, his hair and nails undamaged. When he was staked, blood flew from his nose, ears and mouth. After the stake, Petar faced the burning and perished.
Frombald became a sort of a harbinger of the vampire folklore to the West. It was in Vienna at first where vampires “walked”, in the newspaper called:” Wienerisches Diarium” and from there, the myth journeyed into Germany, France and England.
Of course, Petar wasn’t the only vampire – the first hunter and a subsequent victim was Petar Arnaut, a Serbian mercenary that journeyed into Greece where he killed a vampire by staking and after it burning. During the “process of purification” it is said that Petar had eaten the soil where vampire was and covered himself in his dried blood to prevent the inevitable change. However, when he returned to his small village by the Morava river, Petar abruptly died and soon risen to kill four people before he was purged in the same way as Petar Blagojevic had been, but this time, the deaths did not stop. Seventeen bodies were found and the Austro-Hungarian authorities sent a team consisting of three surgeons and two soldiers that were supposed to examine the victims’ bodies. They found out that twelve bodies were still fresh, not showing the signs of decomposition and were swollen with blood. The work “Visum et Repertum” that translates from Latin as “Seen and Discovered” (1732. marks the public publishing of the book) was written by the surgeon Johann Flückinger who explained the odd states in which the bodies were found and their life-like features. This was the final impulse for the vampire hysteria that started spreading.
Another honorable mention is Sava Savanovic, a vampire that can turn into a moth. He lived in the village of Zarozje, near Bajina Basta. It is said that he resided in his own watermill, where he drained his victims dry during the night. When his watermill crumbled, the villagers built him a new one to stop any potential killings that may occur if he starts rampaging around.
This proves two things:
- The cradle of the vampire myth IS Serbia. Look at the word itself: The English word “vampire” came from Serbian “vampir” or “upir” and many philologists openly support this claim, based on clear linguistic evidence.
- Most of the elements like bloodsucking as the primary killing of prey, turning into ash upon vampire’s staking, or murdering is a modern invention. Turning into wolves and sunlight also counts into this tab.
How to kill a Vampire…..
There is something also peculiar – the primary means of killing a vampire in Serbia involves staking, burning, garlic (necklaces and meals for protection) and even rifles and long knives. Most of these ideas were borrowed by Mr. Stoker and published in a “slightly” altered form in his novel “Dracula”.
Another interesting story about vampire killing comes from the Scottish border, namely from the Melrose abbey. There a “Hunderprest” (Hound priest) vampire was operating and he got his name thanks to his favorite way of hunting, on horseback and with dogs. His vicious behavior included blood draining and transforming into a bat and to this, the monks were unusually tolerant. The drop that spilled the cup was when he intimately visited his mistress at night and to this monks responded with killer instinct and a successful attack. One night, they organized the watch over the Hunderprest’s grave and as soon as he got out, the monks ganged up on him and gave the chance for the one of them to decapitate the vampire. After that, the body was burned and his mistress could enter her bed unmolested. This proves that you should not mess with the monks if you want your body in one piece, vampire or not.
Now, the real question is, how do you kill a vampire. To this question, there are 10.000000+ answers based on the region, period, people and today, medium. The first were sorcerers and wizards that could imprison and later kill a vampire, than came staking, beheading and burning or a combination of them all, as the situation requires. With Christianity came crucifixes, holy water and auras as well as garlic. Modern “hunters” use all of these, plus some heavy firepower like guns, shotguns with phosphorus rounds and silver blades. “There is no end to the possibilities!” like Jim Carrey said in the “Cableguy”. Countless representations of vampire hunters were and still are being made, but those worth of mentioning are Blade, Van Helsing and Abe (no, not the president). All anime misfits are excluded intentionally.
Vampirism and Vampires in popular culture…
When it comes to vampires themselves, the depiction advanced and gained detail as well as diversity through the ages. Here are some examples (given without a chronology, but rather with differences):
- Movie and classic horror novel “Nosferatu” depicts vampires as they truly are:
hideous, merciless and deformed.
- Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” further elaborated on the theme and gave some widely accepted theories about vampires and painted Count Vlad pitch black.
- Anne Rice’s “Interview with the vampire” is something that is a sort of a turning point, cult classic that gave these interesting bloodsuckers a more dramatic image, with Lui struggling to accept who he had become.
- “World of Darkness” franchise from White Wolf is a real thing, except the fact that vampires did not turn into ash as soon as they got killed.
- “Blade I and II” are great action-packed movies, that are wrongly underrated.
- Games like “Blood Omen” 1&2 and Kain titles give a nice little action-packed punch with decent lore. “Bloodrayne” is also present as an alternative view on the WWII (first part) and a grim future and vampire apocalypse (second part), but the vampire lore is practically nonexistent except some basic tenets.
(All teen stupidity is omitted since it has no value whatsoever)
There is also an interesting thing to comment – vampires, during their “early” period, did not feast on blood – they feasted on life essence that is connected to souls in various folklore. They were classified as undead and one can become an undead vampiric predator if his corpse was crossed or walked over, got wronged or committed bad things during his life. Vampires of old always returned to their resting places, tombs or coffins to sleep until nighttime when they go hunting. Human fear of death and decomposition was the one that gave rise to these bloodsuckers – they came from a small country on the Balkans, Serbia only to travel West and in time “conquered” the entire world. The Asian legends of vampires tend to be a whole lot vicious and gruesome, crossing in my opinion, the threshold of vampirism and turning into plain monstrosities, so I did not analyze them. Vampires remain a fascinating subject if you disregard certain stupidities like teenage drama, anime and overly bloody horrors – vampires were never so sloppy in their profession, so those films only serve to fuel someone’s sick imagination. Keep the view on vampires as a cultural and academic one and if you do not, what you can see about the vampires on the net, makes you doubt the rationality of mankind.
I already started.