This week’s guest post is the lovely Monette Bebow-Reinhard, author of Adventures in Death and Romance: Vrykolakas Tales. Here she discusses her research into vampirism.
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Did you notice the literary trend is for vampires to walk about in the daytime? What happened? That isn’t scary. But if you take a look at mythology, you’ll wonder why they ever started sleeping in coffins in the first place.
Welcome to the world of vampire research. I got a master’s degree in history but my thesis was on Custer and Grant, not a Vrykolakas named Arabus Drake. And yet he’s the reason I became a researcher.
In 1983 I had a dream, one that came to possess me. Arabus Drake has been through many incarnations before Solstice finally published his first series of historical adventures. Third person, first person, agented, agented, and agented again, turned into a movie script, yada yada.
And through it all, I watched as vampires changed over the years. I was writing mine when Anne Rice became famous. And I thought, okay, life’s over, people will think I’m copying. But after the movie version, I stopped worrying.
Turning people into vampires by having them drink vampire blood? Nonsense. Actually, it’s not. There’s a world filled with legend and plenty of room for all of us.
Arabus Drake is a Vrykolakas, Greek for vampire. In some myths, they’re ghosts, a haunting spirit of the dead. Some say they can crush people by sitting on their chest. Or they’re a werewolf form that rips skin to drink blood, or some kind of sustenance or vitality from the living—crushing the chest could be taking a breath.
Belief in the corporeal revenant who preys on the living developed in Greece after the arrival of Slavs beginning in 587. Three new ideas developed: drinking human blood right from the source, bodily return from death, and how thirsting for this blood allowed the dead to cross back into the living world.
The origins of the vampire myth are found in the mystery cults of oriental civilizations, like the Nepalese Lord of Death and the Tibetan Devil. Almost every country has some sort of vampire legend.
They can be traced back as far as the time of the Egyptian pyramid building. But the Greek island of Santorini is the most vampire-infested place in the world. (It’s the last item on my bucket list.)
Here’s an abbreviated look at undead mythologies around the world, in three parts.
How to become one
Greeks believe anyone can become if they live a sacrilegious life, are excommunicated, are buried in unconsecrated ground, or eat meat of a sheep wounded by a werewolf. Another method elsewhere in the world is either from sin, or a cat or dog gave them a demon soul by jumping over their coffin.
Some of this is so surprising you wonder if these humans were sane! Anyone who thinks a cat or dog has a demon soul probably believes all nature is just generally evil.
The Greeks also believed that blue-eyed people were most likely to become vampires. The Irish believed that blue or gray-eyed people had the ability to see ghosts. Red hair and blue eyes also suggested vampirism to the Greeks. (Now I’ve just made some people paranoid.)
In the early Christian view, vampires of seduction, possession and death were considered the minions of the devil, along with alchemists, witches, sorcerers and atheists. The Catholic Church broke apart in 1054 CE and Romans believed incorrupt bodies were saints, while the Orthodox believed they were vampires.
The Vikings believed that the dead body in the grave becomes animated with strange life and power, and continues a pseudo-life within the grave. These are not depicted as spirit or ghost, but more monstrous, like a Nosferatu (check out the silent movie).
The Upierci became a vampire by suicide, violent death or practiscing witchcraft. They can cause drought. The Strigoi and Norferat of Romania needed to have red hair, or be the illegitimate son of illegitimate parents or be the 7th son of the 7th son. (Not surprisingly, the males can father children.)
What it’s like to be one
A Vrykolakas would go to houses and eat their food, and people there would recognize his voice. In the Adriatic and Aegean regions, the Vrykolakas travelled at night and knocked upon doors, calling out the name of someone inside. If that person responded, he died.
One tale comes from a rabbinical fable called a Midrash. Lilith was the first wife of Adam. She was cast out of Eden because she refused to assume a subordinate sexual position. Lilith was transformed into a nocturnal monster who mated with animals and sought out the children of Adam & Eve, killing them vengefully and eating their flesh.
The Draugr of Scandinavia was the actual corpse of the deceased. They tend to kill by crushing the victim to death. They have magical powers, like knowledge of the future, controlling the weather, and shape-shifting. Do we get the vampire turning into a bat from this? Likely.
Norferat of Romania would appear attractive to the opposite sex. That person would slowly lose vitality. They can make husbands of their loved ones impotent. In Africa, the Asanbosam of the Ashanti of Southern Ghana had normal vampires except they had hooks instead of feet and bit the sleeping victim on the thumb.
The Bhuta of India wandered at night animating dead bodies and attacking the living like a ghoul. They had a problem in that they lacked a shadow and could not settle on the earth. Rakshasa, also of India, could appear in human form with animal attributes such as claws, or as an animal with human features.
You can see where they’re going with all these animal connections, right? These creatures had to be of the animal world, not quite human. In the ancient past in the Americas, however, natives believed they evolved from the animal world—they were their brothers.
The Bantu believed that men of evil lived after death and returned to attack the living. It seemed that these revenants were so attracted by blood that even a few red drops would re-vitalize them.
So a Bantu would never allow even a spot fallen from a bloody nose or cut to lie uncovered. Should it stain the ground it must be instantly hidden with earth, and if it splotched them, they had to purify themselves with elaborate ceremonies.
How to destroy one
Depending on who you’re dealing with, here’s a short list: impale, behead, drown, cremate (or hold them in a lightning storm until they’re struck), torch them, boil them in vinegar, transfix with a nail, expose to sunlight, exorcism; in Persia, ornamental vases were found showing men fighting against monstrous creatures who tried to drink their blood. Try fighting a vampire in hand to hand combat!
Of course, this is the abbreviated list, and I haven’t matched the deaths to the locations. So I suggest if you meet one and can’t place its accent, have that vinegar ready!
Of course, any vampire you create for your own fictional world might have a variety of traits, and I would not be surprised that any one of them could be found in a myth somewhere in the world.
For Arabus, he has his soul trapped inside him, which explains why he wants to be with family again. Hence, they recognize his voice when he calls out to be let back in.
See me for more myth (there’s so much more), and for a source list.
Adventures in Death and Romance: Vrykolakas Tales
Think you know vampires?
Arabus Drake emerged from the depths of Greek mythology to turn the legend around. Emerged from the grave in 1503, he spends the following centuries with his soul trapped in a corpse of demonic possession trying to find a place in the world again.
Here, the focus is on romantic involvements and how he settles on a plan to find his forever companionship. Get to know Arabus and you will know what it’s like to be undead.
Connect with Monette
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Big thanks to Monette for her interesting article. As a writer of Preternatural fantasy, I found it fascinating.
Please do check out her links and if you have any questions or comments for Monette, leave them in the section below.
I’ll be back tomorrow, with another Blogger Series post! Don’t forget it you want to see something specific on this blog, drop me a message.