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Legendary First Vampires
The Origin of Vampires
One of the most well-known monsters, dominating literature, movies, and television, is undeniably the vampire. Since Bram Stoker's famous classic novel Dracula was written in the late eighteen hundreds, hundreds of authors have written books on the blood-sucking undead. Some of these books have been turned into movies and TV shows in modern times: Interview with the Vampire, True Blood, Salem's Lot, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and Vampire Academy (to name a few).
Vampires are often depicted as being attractive men and women who are undead, who seduce and then feast on the blood of the living. Some of them sparkle in the sunlight, some ride motorcycles. Some even loathe the fact that they are vampires and long to be among the living again.
The concept of the vampire and its true origins is debated by folklorists and scholars. There are many interesting theories, but perhaps it makes more sense to recognize the modern-day vampire as an amalgamation of ancient myths, legends, and folklore from all over the world. Some say vampires stem from one original source - the first vampire. There is more than one theory of the first vampire, going all the way back to the biblical times. Read on to learn about some of the legendary "first" vampires.
Lilith: Mother of Vampires
Lilith was said to be the first wife of Adam from the Old Testament of the Bible. She was Adam's wife before Eve was created from Adam's rib. Lilith was a woman who didn't want to obey and denied the request of her husband, which ultimately got her kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Or so says the old Hebrew legends. Following her exile, it was said that she lay with the fallen angels and bred thousands of demons - half demon and half human. These demons were said to be the first vampires, and so Lilith was said to be the Queen or Mother of Vampires.
If we subscribe to this theory, that Lilith created the vampires and the undead by breeding with the first fallen angels, we would confirm that vampires are not undead humans but actually demons of the blood-sucking kind. Some say that Lilith was not a demon-breeding Mother of Vampires, but she was an ancient goddess of the Hebrews who was demonized after the Abrahamic religions rose to power. When the divine feminine was pushed out of the major world religions, any ancient goddess associated with creation was demonized so as to allow the divine masculine to be at the forefront of the people's worship.
Stories were told of Lilith being angry with God and his angels because God had threatened to punish her by killing her children. She retaliated by saying she would kill human children. This is where the idea of Lilith as a vampire began. Some also equate Lilith to the ancient Mesopotamian demon (once a goddess) Lamashtu. Lamashtu was said to suck the blood from the living, particularly from babies and children. This theory seems to stick to many of the ancient goddesses...when the Church rose to power, these goddesses became distorted into children-killing witches and demons.
Judas Iscariot: Traitor and Vampire
Anyone who has ever read the New Testament or learned the story of Jesus of Nazareth knows how he was betrayed in the end and handed over to the Romans - through one of his own followers Judas Iscariot. Judas was one of Jesus' original twelve disciples, who betrayed Jesus with a kiss. This action led to Jesus' crucifixion, and according to the Bible, Jesus' resurrection. Because of Judas' outright betrayal, most people hear the name as synonymous with the word "traitor". Often people will call traitors "Judas". The Bible portrays Judas in Matthew, Luke, and John as a greedy, evil man; however, in other texts outside of the Bible he is said to have been honored because he performed the act that eventually led to the world's salvation.
But how does Judas relate to the legendary first vampires? After Judas betrayed Jesus, three books in the New Testament claim he hung himself out of guilt. There are theories that people who commit suicide were more likely to become the undead, so Judas' end fits the mold. The actual legend of Judas being a vampire was written in the Dark Ages by a man named Aed. Aed wrote that after betraying Jesus, Judas was condemned to walk the earth until Jesus' return. This included the curse of Judas never walking in the sunlight. The bizarre legend spawned the claim of Judas being the Father of Vampires.
Another interesting note, Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Following, Judas tried to return the silver to Jesus' captors out of guilt, but they refused. Legend has it that vampires cannot touch silver, lest they be burned by it. Do these legends correlate? Is Judas the Father of Vampires?
Stephenie Meyer: Her vampires are sparkly, which I think we can all agree is wrong.”— Christopher Moore
Vlad the Impaler: Count Dracula
Many people have heard of the inspiration behind Bram Stoker's Dracula as being Vlad the Impaler. But who was Vlad? Why was he wrapped into the vampire legend?
Vlad the Impaler was a prince of Wallachia (which was a kingdom in modern-day Romania) during the Middle Ages and was known mostly as Vlad Dracula III. Vlad Dracula acquired his name because he was a part of a chivalric order of Christianity known as the Order of the Dragon. Dracul means dragon. The Order of the Dragon swore to defend Christianity against those who would destroy it such as the Ottoman Empire. This was during the time of the crusades. Vlad Dracula became known as Vlad the Impaler because of his reputation of impaling his enemies on stakes. There were German stories of Vlad dining among corpses on stakes, though some say this was a story made up by the Saxons (one of the empires he fought in the Middle Ages).
How did the cruelty of Vlad Dracula turn him into a blood-sucking vampire? Bram Stoker was inspired by the story of Vlad but also had a second story of inspiration - Mercy Brown. Mercy Brown was a girl who had died of consumption in Rhode Island in the United States. Her father and townsfolk believed a demon had inhabited her body upon death and would return to feed on the lives of her brother (who also had consumption). They dug up her body, cut out her heart, burned it, then fed the ashes to her living brother in a tonic because they believed it would cure him. The brother died anyway, and the story went on to inspire Bram Stoker to write Dracula.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory: Blood Bather
Some say the story was made up just to kill the Countess off, while others say it was true. Countess Elizabeth Bathory was a woman who reigned in what is now Hungary, Slovakia and Romania during the Middle Ages, following the time of Vlad the Impaler. She was accused of killing hundreds of young women in a period of twenty years. Documents claim there were over three hundred eyewitnesses to the murders, plus the evidence of mutilated bodies at the time of her trial in the early sixteen hundreds. One of her servants claimed Elizabeth Bathory brutally tortured and killed over six hundred young women because she believed it would help her retain her youth and beauty.
Stories of Elizabeth Bathory bathing in the blood of virgins motivated the legend of Countess Bathory being one of the undead. Whether she actually did this is unknown, but the stories of her torture and the evidence on the bodies was confirmed during the time. It was said she starved, froze, and burned them to death, along with other terrible tormenting atrocities which included counts of cannibalism. The cannibalistic nature of Bathory also contributed to the theory of her vampirism. Bathory was tried and convicted and served her time in solitude in a room in her castle until her death five years later.
Some call her the Mother of Vampires, some call her the Countess Dracula. But whatever you call her, one thing was for sure - she was a convicted murderer and goes down in history as the most famous female serial killer of all time. Whether this makes her a vampire, I am unsure.
Some claim the entire story of Bathory was a lie...
© 2017 Nicole Canfield