- Religion and Philosophy
A short note on vampires
Just about every culture has tales about entities that drain humans. Sometimes they are humanoid, sometimes not, sometimes material, sometimes not. Sometimes they drink blood, other times they want other things. Most times they were once human. Ever since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula the vampire concept has had had an erotic undertone and the earlier picture of the vampire as closer to a ghoul has faded into the background.
There are indications that some humans are actually vampires in that they have physiological need to drink blood and get benefits from doing so, but they lack the magical powers ascribed to the vampires of literature and legend. The older type of vampire is still around but may be an unknown type of animal, a projection of archetypal fears or a collectively created thought form.
Indian and Indonesian Vampires
Every culture has a story about something supernatural that preys on humans. Sometimes, like werewolves, they will rip their victim to pieces.
In Indonesia the Pontianiak, the spirit of a woman who died while pregnant ( or possibly the ghost of a child that died while being born: wikipedia mentions both possibilities) will take on the appearance of a pale skinned and beautiful woman in order to prey on men, and either rip out the victim's stomach or tear out their genitalia with their hands. The Indonesian kuntilanak takes the form of a bird and sucks the blood of virgins and young women. The Lang Suir, the ghosts of women who suffered from laboring sickness (meroyan) which resulted in the death of both mother and baby during childbirth take the form of an owl to travel and suck the blood of pregnant women. Like the revenants or walking dead of the European Middle Ages or the possibly fictitious Vampire of Croglin Grange, the Lang Suir has red eyes and long nails Each of these malignant beings takes something from humans, and in two cases takes the form of a bird.
The Talamaur, a creature on Banks Island (between Australia and Fiji) would eat the life essence that lingered round a fresh corpse: it was believed that the soul of a living person, a tarunga, could separate from the body and wander about. The talamaur was a soul or tarunga that went out and ate the soul or life still lingering around the body of the corpse of a recently deceased person. Note the similarity to the medieval european belief in revenants, where the corpse could leave the grave and wonder round, usually attacking people.
India, where Gypsies originally came from, has many mythical vampire figures. The Bhuta is the soul of a man who died an untimely death. It wandered around animating dead bodies at night (again like the medieval revenant) and attacked the living like a ghoul. Northern India had the brahmaparusha, a vampire-like creature with a head encircled by intestines and a skull from which it drank blood.
The most famous Indian vampire is Kali who had fangs, wore a garland of corpses or skulls and had four arms. She and the goddess Durga battled the demon Raktabija who could reproduce himself from each drop of blood spilled. Kali drank all his blood so none was spilled, thereby winning the battle and killing Raktabija. There is a similarity here to the way Hercules killed the Hydra, which sprouted new heads whenever one was cut off: he simply burned the stump before the new head could regenerate. Kali survived among Gypsies as Sara or the Black Goddess.
Some Gypsies believed in a type of vampire called the mulo or mullo (“one who is dead”). Gypsies viewed death as unnatural, so untimely deaths and suicides were especially bad in Gypsy culture and might result in a vampire that would hunt down those who caused their death or against whom they held a grudge. Gypsy vampires generally appeared quite normal but might have a slight marker of their state on their physical body, either a lost appendage like a finger or perhaps an animal-like appearance. Some viewed these creatures as strictly nocturnal. They might attack relatives and suck their blood, or, like poltergeists, destroy property and throw things around at night. Male vampires were said to return from the dead to have sex with their wives, girlfriends, or other women. Female vampires could assume normal lives and possibly even marry, though the husband of a female vampire would be exhausted, as these ladies were very demanding in bed.
Perhaps the strangest vampires are those that prey on Serbian gypsies, who believe that inanimate objects left out overnight on the eve of full moon can turn into vampires (so now you now when you HAVE to take in the Laundry, and the lawnmower). The vampire pumpkin or watermelon is known to shake on its own and make a rattling sound, like “brrl brrl brrl.” Sometimes a trace of blood can even be seen on the vampire fruit. The turned pumpkin or watermelon retains the same overall appearance of the original fruit.
The transformation only happens if the vegetable is kept for more then ten days, or kept after Christmas. These vampires are generally not feared as much as the walking, talking, blood sucking kind we’re more familiar with in popular culture ( and presumably you have to be near them for them to be dangerous). It seems the way to deal with a vampire water melon is to boil it alive, scrub it with a brush and burn the brush. At least that is what a Professor Vukanovic reported in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore society as being told to him by Balkan Gypsies. Apparently the vampire vegetables go round houses and stables at night on their own and harm people. It is unclear whether the gypsies were pulling the professor's leg.
Classical medieval and later vampires
The Greeks seem not to have known about vampires, creatures like the Lamia or Empusa are only mentioned as vampires by Aristophanes. In the Balkans werewolves reincarnate as vampires and vampires reincarnate as werewolves and the same word is used for both in modern Greek.
The Romans considered owls, not bats, as vampires and used the word strix to refer to either, and they preyed on infants. No mention of garlic but water repelled them. There were apparently stories of English vampires in the 12th Century and an archbishop excommunicated in the 16ht century was posthumously suspected of being a vampire. Between 1730 and 1750 belief in vampires became feverish in hungary at about the time the word entered the English language and Marck used the Vampire metaphor at least three times in Das Kapital. And investment bank Goldman Sachs is known, after the 2008 recession, as the Vampire Squid, leading to protests from vampires and squid alike.
In the middle Ages in Europe it was believed that a corpse could be reanimated and come back to terrorise the living. They share a lot of characteristics with the classic vampire: Living in coffins for example. Unlike zombies revenants were people who had recently died. Sometimes they were considered to be animated by demons but mostly to be reoccupying their own body.
Some stories suggest the sucking of blood, but medievalists do not equate them with vampires since vampire legends are thought to have come from Eastern Europe in the 18th century.
Some of the stories of revenants describe symptoms suggestive of a combination of premature burial and decomposition, for example blood pooling and being expelled from the mouth of the corpse.
The cure for a revenant resembled that for a vampire. Decapitation and cremation.
The medieval stories seem incredible and the chroniclers went to great lengths to check the character and reliability of the witnesses. Perhaps sometimes something did emerged from the graveyard and prowl the village. But it is more comforting to assume the witnesses were mistaken.
Vampires and UFOs
While vampires most often drink blood it is possible they are part of what John Keel called The Phenomenon and are used to distract us from something else. UFO abductions may be a case where the Vampire has grown up and adopted high technology, abducting men and women for sex (which allegedly drains athletes of their powers if they enjoy it too close to an event) or “medical” tests. Some abductees seem to have lost a lot of energy. There seems to be a line here from the medieval idea of a succubus, a demon that took the form of a woman and seduced men at night, to the vampire draining the life from a victim to the UFO that acts as an extraterrestrial brothel draining the sexual energy of abductees. A touch of scepticism arises when one reads of the man who was divorced by his wife after being abducted by UFOs for sex: Three times a week for five years as I recall and UFO abductions have also been explained as reliving the trauma of birth, though this is not firmly established.
There are people who claim to be vampires. Generally they are fantasists. They may pursue their fantasies alone, in groups or as part of the Otherkin movement.
Stephen Kaplan spent decades researching the existence of real vampires and eventually decided there were a small fraction of the population (He estimated 850 worldwide) who needed to drink blood every day and suffered withdrawal symptoms if they could not do so. They believed drinking blood kept them from ageing, a belief shared by Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614) who (allegedly) abused and killed girls then bathed in their blood to preserve her beauty- though this was not mentioned at her trial. If such real vampires do exist they would seem to be an endangered species and should become a protected species. Kaplan's Vampire research Centre still exists, according to at least one source, but has no web presence.
In 1991 Australia had a “Lesbian Vampire” trial. A group of women had been drinking in a gay bar and decided on a random killing so one of them, Tracey Wiggington, could drink the victim's blood. Wiggington lived as a vampire avoiding sunlight and mirrors, going out only at night and livong on pig and goat blood purchased from a local butcher. Wiggington's lover was convinced Wiggington could read minds and make people disappear except for their eyes. Under hypnosis she revealed four different personalities. The account in Fortean Times notes that Multiple Personality disorder plays a part in the psychology of many people central to paranormal phenomena such as poltergeist activity or UFO abductions. Wiggington was released in January 2012. There is no indication whether she continued to consider herself a vampire.
Vampires have stalked or flown through the world from ancient times and still do. They maybe collectively created thought forms, genuine demons or unknown creatures. There is a possibility that there are some real human vampires. All in all much more research is needed.
Fangs for reading. ( Sorry, I could not resist that).
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