- Education and Science
You CAN keep a bad Vamp down! OR How to kill a vampire
There are as many vampire myths as there are countries. Even America has its own Native American vampire mythology. This being the case I hardly know where to begin. I suppose one must first establish whether or not the person one suspects to be a vampire is in actuality the undead. Unfortunately, as stated above, this isn't going to be a picnic.
Most vampires are not able to walk about in sunlight. I'm not talking movies here, that's Hollywood and has nothing to do with legend. Vampires, by and large, are night bound creatures but there are those who can travel in the day. The Polish Upier rises at mid-day to work his or her mischief, not retiring until midnight. There is a significant method of identifying the Upier however...it sleeps in blood rather than the grave dirt preferred by most vampires. That's right, they don't need their coffins. Just a good mound of dirt from the location of their grave. The coffin just supplies an extra measure of security.
Other ways of identifying vampires are universal between countries. Vampires often wield a heightened attraction for the opposite sex. This is a survival trait to attract victims. If you suspect a vampire, be aware and watch for it. Vampires, especially females, often have very nice, very long fingernails. The males could as well but will probably trim them in order to fit into society. Often vampires' skin will be very cool - even cold yet they will avoid fireplaces and any open fire. (Fire is the one way to kill them that seems to span the species.) Bright lights will bother them, some to the point of wearing sunglasses under fluorescent lights.
If you invite them over for dinner don't be surprised if they refuse politely, after all they don't eat cooked food. If they do come over pause at the door way to see if they wait for you to issue a direct invitation before crossing the threshold of your home. Some vampires cannot enter without a direct invitation. Don't bother looking for fangs, you won't see them unless they want you to and then it's too late. Paleness too, isn't the dead giveaway you might think. Vampires myths from some countries such as Serbia tell of positively ruddy vampires!
There is rather bad news about killing a vampire. Though it is indeed possible, it is quite difficult and very dangerous as most of them are very strong. One might be better off defending oneself from them than trying to kill them off in the long run. Protection objects are known as ”Apotropes" 1 and consist of most of the things you may have heard about and a few you may have not! Garlic, crosses, rosaries, holy water, wild rose (hawthorn), salt, rice, tar, and not silver but instead iron.
Unfortunately, these objects are unique to the vampire type that they protect against. For instance, the Roman Stryx will often accept a sacrificed pig in exchange for you. Hawthorn sprigs placed in the windows of homes as well as garlic are also apotropes of the Stryx. The Chinese Ch'ing Shih have a bad case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and are forced by their psyche to count every grain of rice or salt in a pile should they pass one, giving a potential victim plenty of time to either escape or mount an attack! These are just examples. If you should happen across a vampire, you would need to observe carefully and establish its type to determine its' apotropes.
The one consistency
Once you have firmly established that you are confronted with a vampire and decided that you have no choice other than to attempt to end its life/afterlife, there seems to be only one method that crosses the species barriers. Fire. Cremation or otherwise totally destroying the heart of the vampire is one method. Apparently it's the heart that counts. Putting the ashes in water and drinking them was also advised as a cure for family members thought to have possibly have been exposed to vampirism.
The other method is total cremation of the entire vampires body. This is often preceded by incapacitation with a hawthorn (wild rose)stake through the heart. The ashes must be either scattered over an extended area to prevent the reformation of the vampire or mixed with water and administered as a cure to those suspected of having been "infected".
There are of course other possible ways to kill vampires if you want to try a trial and error method and hope for the best. Decapitation sometimes works, especially if the head and heart are cremated separately from the body and their ashes scattered separately as well. Dismemberment is used in some countries but again, this entails burying the parts of the body far, far apart from each other because if they should be reunited the vampire is fully capable of rising once more; and again, the heart is cremated.
A few less grisly measures that might be taken with a vampire corpse to simply keep it in its grave might be possible. For the Irish Dearg-due it was as simple as building a nice solid cairn of stones over their grave. Another method was to nail the deceased's clothes and shroud to the coffin using iron nails so that it would not be able to wrench free before dawn, thus preventing it from rising as a vampire. Some thought that scattering a goodly amount of seeds, rice or salt in the coffin of any vampire would compel the creature to count them (much like the Chinese Ch'ing Shih) before rising. Since this would take up all the time before dawn it would prevent the creature from rising at all.
There were also legends that burying a vampires corpse under running water would prevent it from rising, as some species apparently have an aversion to it. The legend of staking the heart goes back all the way to Egyptian times and should be done with a stake of hawthorn(wild rose), whitethorn, or iron. The thorn philosophy is based on the belief that thorns repel evil and that of the iron on the belief that it weakens those no longer of this world. Either way it should be driven through the heart and all the way into and through the coffin. It is meant to release the soul as well as pin the vampire to the coffin.
A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION
There were a few in legend such as the Scottish Baobhan Sith, and the Gypsy Mulo who could be destroyed by such simple means as cold iron, meaning a simple bullet or sword would kill them as effectively as it would a human. With this knowledge should come caution. Be sure of what it is you are stalking, that no human lives are lost.
Finally, I will say this. According to legend, not all vampires are out for blood. Not all are evil. In Assyrian myth there are the Ekimmu, these lost souls wander the world looking simply for peace, not blood. One type of Gypsy Mulo from the Balkan countries remains extremely loyal to its clan even after death and feeds exclusively on the blood of sheep and cattle. It sometimes returns after rising a vampire and continues to support a beloved wife or lover just as it would have done in life. Also, if you have become a fan of a recent vampire book series that was recently made into a movie you will be happy to know that the author did her homework. Legend tells us that Italy did indeed have a race of "good" Vampires, the Stregoni Benefici whose task it was to fight evil among vampires.
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