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Old 02-25-2021, 09:42 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Walking After Midnight: Vampires in Myth and Media


It’s a fact that we all like to be scared. Some more than others, and me less than most, but yeah, we all enjoy a good fright from time to time. BOO! See what I mean? Throughout our history, one figure has lurked in the darkness of our collective hearts, haunted our nightmares, fired our imagination and fed our curiosity. For many of us, our first encounter with the creature known as a vampire was through the writing of Bram Stoker, or perhaps through Hollywood’s later interpretation of his horror classic Dracula, but this was written just over a century ago, and itself was partially based on a person who existed, who lived four hundred years previous to that.

But in reality, the myth of the vampire dates back much, much farther than that. Most religions and beliefs have tales of creatures who stalk the night and drink the blood of the unwary, the innocent, the damned, and it could be said that the vampire is a manifestation, perhaps the physical form of the Devil himself, Satan, the Fallen Angel of Christian belief. Or any demon in any religion or faith. Without exception, the vampire is seen as evil, a dark creature luring its victims into its cold embrace, but its glamour is such that an entire industry has grown up around the myth. From books and then movies, television series and of course music, the vampire has been celebrated for hundreds of years, feared and loathed for hundreds more.

I’ve always been fascinated by vampires, and though of course they don’t exist (my master has told me to say that, and you will believe him for he is master) the tales told of them are so compelling, so absorbing, often so terrifying and real that sometimes it’s easy to believe that they do lurk there in the shadows, watching, waiting, patient, quiet, deadly. Vampires have infiltrated every corner of our lives, from the books we read to the movies we watch, the games we play and the music we listen to. In this journal I’ll be investigating the myth (yes, Master, I told them it was a myth, like you said) behind the vampire, and taking a close look at how this phenomenon has influenced us, making millions for some of us, and providing entertainment, terror and intrigue for the rest.

I’ll be looking at the books, from Rice to Meyer and Harris and of course Stoker; at movies such as the Dracula franchise, Hammer Horror and other, less conventional vampire movies such as Let the Right One In, TV series including of course Buffy, Angel, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries as well as lesser-known works such as Moonlight, Blood Ties and Forever Knight also more light-hearted fare - Duckula, Neighbors from Hell and the recent series spin-off from the movie What We Do In the Shadows. Wherever vampires figure in music, natch, we’ll be there, and I’ll look at games as well, like Vampire: the Masquerade and Castlevania.

But it won’t be all fiction. There are, believe it nor not, people out there who actually think they are vampires. There are others who pretend they are, and rather sadly but perhaps inevitably, (and tying in with my other journal, begun on this same day) there are records of serial killers who have performed vampire-like deeds while perpetrating their heinous crimes, particularly the so-called Vampire of Dusseldorf and Vampire of Sacramento, and of course the infamous Countess Bathory. I’ll be checking their stories out and trying to get inside their twisted minds: hope I can find my way out again.

So you know, if you feel like you need to keep the lights on, or whistle tunelessly to yourself or talk to your cat while reading this, I won’t hold it against you. Maybe you’re the type who scoffs at such notions (my master loves your kind!) and loudly proclaims there’s no such thing, but remember what Shakespeare wrote, and if there are more things in Heaven and Earth that are dreamed of in your philosophy, my friend, perhaps, just perhaps, there are more things in Hell you can’t even dream of too.

Sleep well…


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Old 02-25-2021, 10:05 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 02-25-2021, 10:23 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Dark Genesis: Crouching in the Shadows

So where did the idea of vampires come from? Nobody knows. It’s a very complicated question, and you can search for, and find, answers that fit the further back into history you go. Human myth has always had evil figures, back to Satan and before him too, but why vampires? Why blood? Well I guess you can say blood is the thing that allows us all to live; lose enough of it and you’re dead, so anything trying to take it from you can be seen as dangerous and evil. But a serial killer (or just a regular, garden variety killer) will do that, and while we might fear such an event, we haven’t (quite) built up the kind of mythology around serial killers as we have around vampires.

Ah, but vampires don’t just take blood, do they? They use it to fuel themselves. They thrive on it. They feed on it. And that’s the scary bit. Of course, vampires don’t exist. Well, yes they do. Both of those sentences are lies. So is that one. If something is out there (or worse, in there, waiting by the foot of your bed or at the top of the stairs or just inside your door) that wants to catch you and suck your blood so as to prolong its own life or lend it strength, hell, that’s worrying. That would be bad enough were it not for the many powers vampires are said to possess, but more of that later. We’re getting off the beaten track and wandering into dark, cold, lonely forests where the kind of things lurk that we’re trying to avoid… come back here, don’t stray! They could be out there, just waiting for someone like you.

I think it was Anne Rice who coined the phrase “the blood is the life”, and so it is. Without it, or enough of it, we die. And the idea that something exists that could, and will, steal the life-force from us for its own selfish and evil ends is an unsettling one, but also an intriguing one, which has led to, as already mentioned, the growth of an entire entertainment industry built around the vampire. Blood has always had a special significance in most religions. Some spilled it as a way of appeasing their gods, sacrificing animals or even humans on crude altars. Some drank it (usually only animal, in this case) to gain strength and perhaps knowledge, and even in Christian mythos Jesus urges his disciples, and though them, us, to drink his blood in memory of him. Does this mean Jesus was a vampire? Surely not: (note: idea for possible novel!) in this case the blood is not blood at all, but wine - merely a symbol, a metaphor for the ordeal he was about to go through. Yet even to Jesus Christ, the importance of blood could not be overstated. If you’re going to remember my sacrifice, he said, remember my blood.

Quite apart from the vampiric myths, human dread has been driven by the fear of the dead returning for as long as we could imagine it. Zombies, ghouls, revenants and ghosts all figure prominently in the shared terror of humanity, part of that fear possibly rising from the belief that if the dead can come back, perhaps there is nothing after death; no Heaven, no afterlife, no God? We surely also didn’t want to see Aunt Matilda up and walking around hours after we had buried her, and we certainly didn’t want her scratching at our windows and demanding to be let in!

Writers like Rice and Tanith Lee have postulated - presumably only for fictional purposes, though who knows what they actually believe, if anything - that the vampire legend may have gone back as far as the Egyptians. Anne Rice sets The Queen of the Damned, the tour-de-force third instalment in her Vampire Chronicles in Egypt, blaming the plague of vampires on evil spirits which inhabit the bodies of the king and queen, while Tanith Lee, in the Blood Opera series claims the ancient tale of Osiris to be the source of the myth. There are those who suggest that Judas Iscariot was the first vampire, punished as a result of his betrayal of Jesus.

But the general consensus seems to be that what we know as the “traditional” vampire originates in Eastern Europe, in the Balkan countries, where long-held folk beliefs spoke of the dead coming back to life if not properly buried with the correct rituals. It would probably be true to say that there are, or were, two distinct types of vampire down through history. The first, referred to above, which we’ll call the “traditional” or “folk” vampire, tended to be fat and bloated, red or purple in colour, and likely to have blood around its lips or on its face. These type of vampires were seen more as beasts or demons, incapable of any sort of feeling, perhaps almost automatons controlled by some evil spirit, almost dark puppets. They would have had no communication with their victims, would display no emotion and would probably walk stiffly, having been just recently dead.

The second, or what we’ll call the “romantic” vampire, never existed in folk belief but only came to life, as it were, through the pen of gothic fiction writers such as Sheridan Le Fanu, Lord Byron and Bram Stoker. In these stories, the vampire was a cultured, educated, often noble being (Count Dracula being the most obvious example) who used his (almost always his, until people started writing about female vampires some time later) charm and animal magnetism, suave nature and noble bearing to ensorcell victims into obeying his commands. The romantic vampire is well-dressed, refined, usually somewhat at ease with the world around him, very much aware of his power and has no scruples at all about using it to get what he wants. Apart from unnaturally pale skin and perhaps red eyes, outwardly he looks the same as a living man, though he may have far greater strength. He walks as a man, talks as a man and often lives as a man, in a castle, house, or other habitation, unlike the folk or traditional specimen, who was usually expected to hang out at graveyards and cemeteries, and head back to his own grave before sunrise.

In fact, both species of vampire are tied to their own coffins, be they in cemeteries or in the cellars or attics of huge houses; a vampire, traditionally and romantically, sleeps through the day in his coffin, only rising at night, when the sun, which is deadly to their kind, has set. This, along with the drinking of blood, is probably the only real point of similarity between the two types, and the romantic vampire can certainly be seen as an evolution of, or an attempt by writers to evolve the traditional or folk vampire. Why? I guess because people identify more with a living (as such), thinking, feeling being other than just a monster. Vampires may be all monsters, but we can understand one that is more like a man than one that is basically a beast. It also allows the writer more freedom to develop the character of the vampire. No woman is going to fall in love with a beastly demon who may not even be able to speak, but Count Dracula, Lestat or Angel, now that’s a different matter.
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Old 03-06-2021, 09:33 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Vampires: the Dos and Don’ts

Because vampires are not real (yes, master, I told them. I’m sure they believe … wait. You guys can’t hear my thoughts, can you? Ah. Just checking. Carry on then) they don’t really obey any set rules, though their behaviour has been dictated by writers over the last two centuries. Because they are creatures of the night, creatures of Satan, creatures of Hell (sorry, master) they are seen to abhor saintly relics, religious artifacts and ceremonies. But not all do. The thing about fictional creatures is you, as a writer, can decide what rules they follow, and whether through artistic licence, ignorance, arrogance or sheer expediency for their plot, some writers have changed what vampires can and can’t do, and what they’re afraid of, what hurts them and what kills them.

Powers

Blood drinking

Most writers (and let’s face it, folk legends aside, writers are the ones who make the rules for vampires) agree that vampires can drink blood, usually by sinking long sharp fangs into the jugular vein of the victim on the neck, which they then take into their own bloodless bodies, to fortify and keep them alive, or undead. This can also have the effect of lessening their pallor and making them seem outwardly more human. In some, it adds to their strength. Stoker and his like had their vampire “heroes” draw the blood delicately, like a connoisseur sampling a fine wine, while later writers would make vampires more brutal, less refined, tearing open the throat and ravaging the flesh, sometimes even ripping off the head. Stoker’s “fine gentleman drinking” idea was probably to reinforce the image of a cultured being who just happened to be a bloodsucker, whereas later the idea of showing these creatures up to be the monsters they are resulted in gorier and more horrible acts of violence perpetrated by the vampire against his victim.

Flight

Generally dropped fairly quickly, the initial idea was that the vampire could fly, usually by transforming himself into a bat or bird, sometimes by leaping from roof to roof so agilely and quickly that he might seem to be flying. Vampires were also able to climb and crawl up walls, like insects, something that is displayed to a terrifying degree when we first read it in Dracula.

Hypnotism

Vampires are supposed to be able to mould and massage the human will, staring into the eyes of a victim and binding them with its spell, so that they cannot run - or want to - and even in death do not struggle. However this mesmerism can also be used by a vampire to sway the mind of a human, to make them, for instance, doubt what they have seen, or to believe whatever it is the vampire tells them.

Strength

Generally agreed by all writers is that vampires are very strong, inhumanly so, and no mere mortal can best them physically.

Speed

Vampires possess the ability to move so fast that the human eye cannot follow; a vampire can be a distance away and then in a micro-second be right in front of you. They can also use this power to evade weapons such as bullets.

Procreation/Siring

Although vampires are dead (or undead) creatures and therefore have no seed with which to create new life, they can make other vampires, according to many writers. Methods of achieving this vary but usually it has to do with the vampire cutting his own veins and either feeding the blood to whomever he wishes to make a vampire (often called simply Making) or mixing it with their blood and feeding that to them. The vampire is then the new creatures’s Maker or Sire, and they, the new vampire, the fledgling, are entirely subservient to them, their new Master.

Non-Reflection

Not a power as such, but many writers (though not by any means all) hold to the ancient belief that a vampire loses its reflection after death and cannot be seen in a mirror. Surely makes it a bitch to shave, but it does mean a vampire can creep up on someone without being seen in a mirror. Bit pointless really, I feel, when they can just mesmerise the person, but it’s part of vampire lore, the idea being I think that God refuses to recognise the base creature and so it can’t be seen in a mirror, or the soul being part of the reflection, and the vampire, soulless, has no reflection.

Control of Animals

“Ah!” exclaims Count Dracula, as he listens at the window of his castle to wolves baying in the nearby forest. “The children of the night: what music they make!” Vampires are supposed to be able to control animals such as ravens, wolves, bears, dogs, bats etc.

Metamorphosis

As they can control animals, vampires can also take on the form of same, as again Dracula does in the novel, appearing both as a bat and later a large dog.

Immortality/Ageless

Although not always the case, it has become accepted that vampires either live very long lives or in some cases may be immortal, or the next best thing to it. As they are generally invulnerable, and do not age, only the most catastrophic of accidents or carelesness (being caught out in the sun/staked in their coffins etc) can terminate a vampire’s life, and so to all intents and purposes, providing they are careful they can be regarded as all but immortal. As mentioned, vampires do not age, and some writers have declared that the age the vampire was “made” remains his or her age throughout eternity, or as long as he or she lives. Most vampires would not bother with a scion (the issue of a vampire; their children, in name only) of advancing age, and so the vast majority of them are created young, or relatively young, and remain so.

Miscellaneous

Again not really powers, but vampires have heightened senses, especially hearing and smell, and they do not need to consume food, as they are dead.

PROHIBITIONS, RESTRICTIONS AND THREATS

Powerful as they may be, there are things that can hurt, thwart or even in some cases kill vampires. Again, writers take from and add to these restrictions as they like, but some have been generally accepted as all but universal.



The Sun

Vampires don’t like the sun, and it doesn’t like them. Being creatures of darkness, who hunt at night and cling to the shadows, the power of the sun is the one thing they are powerless against. Every vampire must be in his or her coffin by the time the sun rises, or its power will burn them to ashes. It seems to be accepted that in order to be affected by the sun the vampire has to be in its direct path, and there are stories of vampires, caught out during the day, escaping with their lives by throwing a dark cloak and hood over themselves, dodging from shadowed spot to shadowed spot, pulling heavy drapes across sunlit rooms, or taking refuge in darkened environments such as blacked-out vans or warehouses.

The idea here again is that the sun represents the light of God and all that is good, and that the vampire cannot stand being in the light. His skin is sensitive to the heat and light of the sun, and his eyes are not accustomed to it. As something that should not exist on the Earth, he is able to hide in the shadows and live off people’s uncertainty and fear of the night, but in the blinding light of day his powers evaporate and he is as helpless as a newborn baby. Various writers and film-makers have different ideas of what the sun is supposed to do to vampires - some just burn like cinders, some flake away bit by bit, some burst into flames - but they’re all pretty much agreed that it kills them, though one - in my opinion, poor - writer did create a vampire in the TV series Moonlight who was able to go abroad by day in full sunlight, with the aid of only a rolled-up newspaper to protect him. Yeah. But that one was very much in the minority, and as a general, usually unbroken and unchallenged rule, vampires haunt the night and sleep in the day, fearing the touch of the sun.

Holy Water

It will come as no surprise that another supposed weapon used against the undead is holy water. Being blessed by priests, the instrument of God, seen as the adversary of vampires and all creatures of the night, holy water is meant to be not fatal to vampires, but it does (according to some writers) scar, blind or just really irritate them. Some even have it burning them like acid.


Crucifix


One of the classic early ways of holding off a vampire was to hold a crucifix in front of you, against which they were apparently powerless, this being the very symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for Man, and anathema to evil. Later on, some writers decided a simple cross wasn’t enough. You had to have the faith in the symbol to back it up, leading to one vampire (can’t remember in what) grinning at a priest who had lost his faith, knowing that the crucifix he held would not protect the man, as for him, it had lost its power. Mind you, according to Anne Rice, her vampires aren’t bothered by the symbol of Christian belief. Louis in Interview With the Vampire says “I’m quite fond of crucifixes actually” and to my recollection he actually wears one, though Lestat I think hates and reviles them, that is up until he meets God in Memnoch the Devil, but I don’t recall them hurting him.

Wooden Stake

Ah, the old stake through the heart! The classic way of killing a vampire. Except it doesn’t, not really. The idea is based on pinning the vampire to the earth by way of the wood, which is also natural, and so nature holds him, making it impossible for him to move or rise, essentially in a state of suspended animation. If someone should be foolish enough to remove the stake, however, look out, as the vampire will be free again. In this fashion, he is never dead - never can die, not by staking - and is merely awaiting his chance to be released by the unwary.

The series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, however, took this method more literally, and Buffy was able to despatch vampires by literally stabbing them through the heart with a pointed wooden stick, whereupon they collapsed into dust. I’ll check and confirm, but so far as I know, the wooden stake method has another proviso, this being that the vampire has to be staked in his own coffin. It can’t just be anywhere; he has to be basically returned to the place he rose from. Not sure, as I say, but I’ll research it.

Garlic

Not quite a weapon against vampires - you can’t hurl a piece of garlic at one and expect him to vanish in a puff of smoke - but believed to protect humans from the undead creatures. At this point I have no idea why, though I’ll be checking it out. Garlic would be traditionally worn around the neck on a string or hung over doors or windows to prevent the evil monster entering. Maybe it was just the smell that kept them out - I know it would me!

Rosaries

Another religious artifact, the rosary chain or rosary beads would be worn around the neck or held in the hand. As they are used in the mass, in confession and at other holy times, each one representing a prayer, they are said to be imbued with the power of God, and therefore proof against vampires.

Silver

Probably entirely a fictional creation with little or no basis in folklore, the idea that vampires can be stopped by silver seems to merge two very disparate ideas: that of the silver bullet being the only weapon that can kill a werewolf and, well, Kryptonite being the only substance capable of weakening Superman. Charlene Harris seems to have embraced this idea, with her vampire hero, Bill, in the series True Blood (based on her Southern Vampire Mysteries novels) chained in heavy silver as a punishment, and Lestat, too, at the end of Memnoch the Devil is so restrained, but these are the only instances of this restriction being used that I’ve come across to date.

Beheading

If you really want to stop a vampire, do as the zombie hunter do, and emulate the Queen of Hearts: off with his head! Removing a vampire’s head (before or after death or resurrection) is a sure-fire way to put him down. For good measure, you can then set it and him on fire. He ain’t coming back from that!


Barriers

Most writers over the years and centuries have changed, like many of the so-called laws governing vampires, the things they can and can’t do, but these are some of the ones sometimes held to be true.

Consecrated Ground

Vampires are said to be unable to walk on consecrated ground, that is, ground that has been blessed by a priest. Examples include church graveyards and churches themselves, as well as, one would assume, priests’ houses and seminaries. Rice gleefully flouts this when she has a coven of vampires living in the catacombs beneath the massive graveyard in Paris, who are shocked and scandalised when Lestat takes refuge in the cathedral of Notre Dame! Rice apart though (and probably others) it makes a certain kind of sense that vampires would shun churches, given that there would be such a confluence of religious artifacts there: holy water, crucifixes, etc.

Running Water

I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but someone decided vampires could not cross running water. Stoker ignored this when he sent Count Dracula on a sea voyage to England from his home in Transylvania, and most other writers (at least, relatively modern ones) seem to disown the idea too. Well, it’s hard for a writer to have her characters unable to move from country to country, after all.

Invitations

Generally held as universal, it’s said that a vampire cannot enter any habitation unless invited in by someone who lives there. This only needs to be done once though; after that, he can move in and out freely. Vampires have been known to hypnotise home-owners into inviting them in. There is disagreement about whether or not an invitation, once given, can be rescinded, but if it is allowed to work it has various results, from simply preventing the vampire to enter to actually bodily flinging him out of the dwelling.
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Old 03-06-2021, 03:06 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm gonna have so many ****ing opinions when you get to Anne Rice. Vampires rule though. Don't forget Hellsing (manga, anime, and second anime thankyouverymuch)
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Old 03-06-2021, 07:28 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Big Rice fan of course, also Brian Lumley (two very different vampire authors) but I've never heard of Hellsing. You'll have to link me, but I expect it's more recent, and I'm starting from the eighteenth century so, you know, might take some time...
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Old 03-06-2021, 08:09 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Meet the Ancestors (sort of)...

So to return to the question I asked at the beginning, and never answered, who or what was the first vampire? I didn’t answer because it’s pretty hard to say. Where does the line between blood-drinking demons or evil spirits and actual vampires lie? Are they both the same? Is one the progenitor of the other? We can look to the Bible, or further, as much of what is in that Holy Book is based on earlier legend anyway, and there we find one of the candidates for the first vampire, who is, rather ironically, a woman.

Lilith, or Lilitu

Perhaps marking one of the first, but enduring, beliefs that women cause all the trouble (thank you, Book of Genesis!) Lilith crops up in Hebrew belief as the first wife of Adam, but is originally based on figures from ancient Assyrian and Babylonian myth, where she is known as Lilitu, which means night hag, night demon, night monster etc. Unlike the Christian Eve, who is said to have been created from one of Adam’s ribs, Lilith is depicted as having been made from the same clay as him, so technically while Eve would be seen, from the moment of her creation, as a part of and therefore inferior to Adam, Lilith can be seen to be all but equal to him. Nevertheless, according to Hebrew scripture, having refused to be subservient to Adam she ran off and got it on with an angel, said to be Sammael, the Jewish figure of Satan himself, afterwards refusing to return to the Garden of Eden.

Although it’s hard to confirm, with such ancient religions leaving behind few written accounts and ideas and opinions changing as time continues its inexorable march, Lilith in Sumerian belief seems to have been a demon who flew around the underworld bringing nightmares, and is seen as a hateful figure who can, something like a succubus, transform herself into the likeness of a man’s wife and conceive a child with him. Later, Lilith would seek revenge upon the true children of the man and woman, making her a thing to be feared by children and parents alike. This legend would survive into Hebrew times, where the words “lilith-abi” would be inscribed on four amulets hung in a child’s bedroom by Jewish mothers, meaning “Lilith - begone!” and give us our present-day word lullaby.

From the stories told about her, it’s probably fair to demote, or promote, Lilith to the level of a witch - perhaps the first witch - rather than a vampire, but she is said to have drank the blood of infants and to have stirred the desire of men, whereas the vampire, particularly the romantic variation, certainly directed his sexual power at women, or occasionally, if female, at men. There are instances of homosexual or at least bisexual vampires in the writings of Rice and Lee, but they don’t seem to be based on any legend and are surely just there for the advancement of their stories and the development of their characters.

Lamia

Essentially another incarnation of Lilith, Lamia was changed into a bestial being by the Greek goddess Hera after all her children had been destroyed by Zeus’s wife (or she had compelled Lamia to do so herself) in retaliation for Lamia sleeping with her husband. Alternatively, she was a Libyan queen who ordered infants snatched, Herod-like, from their mothers and killed, her savagery affecting her appearance and turning her into a monster. More horribly, the Greek philosopher Aristotle spoke of a ravening beast which tore open the bellies of pregnant mothers and devoured the fetuses. Lamia is the first of these beings to be given shape-shifting abilities, something that would become attached to the vampire myth.

Because of the above, the Lamia became a name used to frighten children into good behaviour, a kind of ancient bogeyman, and she began to be depicted as half-woman, half-serpent. This possibly removes her from the running for being a true vampire, but there are references to her and her kind sucking and drinking blood as well as seducing sleeping men, so some aspects are definitely there. Intelligence and gentility, however, attributes given to the modern vampire, are not: Lamia and her fellow creatures are said to be stupid, and to stink.

A similar creature, called the empousa, was known to target young men for the quality and purity of their blood, and would fatten up her victims before killing and devouring them. This is not necessarily something that translated to the later vampire myths, though Dracula is seen encouraging Jonathan Harker to eat at his castle, while he, the Count, partakes of no food, and it is later revealed that there are three hungry female acolyte vampires in the cellars or dungeon of the castle who wish to feed on him. Other features of the empousa, such as having a foot made of bronze or cow dung, and being frightened away by loud noises, certainly do not conform to our stereotype of the vampire.

Strix


Perhaps leading to the involvement of the vampire bat in the legend, the strix was a bird of antiquity said to feed on the blood and flesh of humans. Description of it as a “nocturnally crying creature which positioned its feet upwards and head below” lends more weight to this possibility. The strix is the first case where we hear of the efficacy of garlic against the beast, which might help explain why it’s seen as being useful in warding off vampires. Strix were also said to be the transformed Polyphontes, in retribution by the gods of she and her sons’ cannibalistic tendencies (this also explaining why these strange birds craved human flesh and blood). Striges (plural of strix) have been called “vampire owls”, which certainly fits the description of their behaviour. Later, it was believed that striges transformed into witches, and vice versa, lending more credence to the myth of their association with vampires and creatures of darkness.

Vetala

Really more a precursor to the Haiitian zombie, the vetala comes from Indian legend, where it would inhabit the corpse of a recently-buried person and reanimate it, though it does not seem to have been to any evil end, more for mischief. Additionally, vetala are not said to have drank blood, though they did hang upside-down like bats.

Shtriga and dhampir

Dhampir sounds very close, doesn’t it? But let’s deal with shtriga first. Basically witches in Albanian folklore, they were said to possess the evil eye and could curse people, being the only ones who could lift the curse. It was feared they sucked the blood of infants at night, and transformed into flying insects once they had had their fill. One explanation offered for their being evil is that they were childless women, who were jealous of the offspring of others. Again, garlic was used to ward against them or banish them. The crucifix and holy water comes in here too, perhaps for the first time, though as usual it’s the Catholic Church trying to assert its power over the pagan monsters.

Despite what I said about the name though, dhampirs can’t be considered as forebears of the vampire, as they appear to be the result of a union between a vampire and a human. In fact, Slavic tradition has it that dhampirs could see vampires who were invisible to other eyes, and this led to many of them pursuing a career as vampire hunters. Dhampirs were supposed to have no shadow - a handy attribute if you are a vampire hunter - and no bones (not quite so handy), making them seem “slippery and jelly-like”. Uh-huh. Some of the more famous fictional dhampirs are Blade, Connor from the series Angel and Rayne from the movie Bloodrayne.

Moroi and Strigoi

One of almost the birthplaces of the vampire, at least the romantic, novellised one, is Romania, and Stoker set his seminal novel near here, in the Carpathian Mountains. Not too surprising, when you hear the tales and beliefs that emanated from that area. Moroi were basically ghosts which left the grave to trouble the living, while strigoi were witches with two hearts and two souls, which could send out their spirits at night to meet up with others of their kind and attack and consume the blood of animals and humans. After death, strigoi would roam the night, attacking their living family, drinking their blood. Interestingly, in Romanian folklore there were several ways people could become vampires, and some were born fated to be nightcrawlers. A living strigoi would, when she passed away, become a revenant, a dead (or undead) strigoi, but any unbaptised child, anyone who was born with a caul, an extra nipple, a tail or extra hair was also doomed to become a vampire.

If you happened to be the seventh boy or seventh girl in a family of all the same sex, that was it for you: vampire in the making. Similarly, if your mother had the bad luck to have a black cat cross her path, if you were born too early, out of wedlock or had blue eyes and red hair your fate was sealed. A pregnant woman who didn’t eat salt, or one considered a strigoi was liable to give birth to a vampire, and anyone who died an unnatural death was also at risk.
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Old 03-06-2021, 08:26 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
Big Rice fan of course, also Brian Lumley (two very different vampire authors) but I've never heard of Hellsing. You'll have to link me, but I expect it's more recent, and I'm starting from the eighteenth century so, you know, might take some time...
1. I was big into Rice in my late teens/early 20s but I'm more mixed on her now. I still love the universe she created though.

2. I just read the first Necroscope novel and remember nothing about it. I think I remember it being... okay.

3. Hellsing is only twenty years old and I figure you've never seen anime in your life.

4. You know you can skip around right? There's something to be said for the reader being excited cause they don't know what you're gonna do next vs waiting for you to slog through two hundred years of content that may or may not be of any interest to anyone but people who are into creepy nerd clubs where people wear capes and don't even have the balls to exchange blood.
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Old 03-06-2021, 08:54 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Oh and Vampire: The Masquerade is a video game but it started as a D&D style table top RPG. And it's still going strong to this day.
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Old 03-07-2021, 09:33 AM   #10 (permalink)
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You know what the word history means, right?

It's quite possible I'll jump off the time line here and there to explore stuff that may be more contemporary or interesting sure - I don't want to die before my readers - but generally I do try to in so far as possible do these things chronologically.

Thanks for commenting by the way; population of Journaltown seems to have really shrunk. Was there some terrible natural catastrophe I never heard about?

Incidentally, you should stick with Necroscope as it gets really good, though to be fair the Vampire World novels are where it's at.
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