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Who Was the First Vampire? Discover Truth From Legend:Part 2
Vlad and Judas
In this article I am going to discuss the legends and facts regarding Vlad the Impaler and Judas Iscariot. Why do people believe Vlad or Judas could have been the original vampire? The answers are here. Maybe you've heard of these two infamous characters, but I am certain you'll learn some interesting new things about them after reading this article. Before you read, try testing your knowledge of Vlad and Judas in the quiz.
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Original Vampire: Vlad the Impaler?
Everyone knows the famous story of Dracula, especially by Bram Stoker’s novel. But what is truth and what is myth? Here is the real story of Dracula. The legend of Dracula originated from a man named Vlad the Third. He was born in Sighisoara, Transylvania in the year 1431, and was the second son to his father Vlad Dracul and his mother Princess Cneajna.
Vlad Dracul, his father, belonged to the” Order of the Dragon,” and was referred to as “Dracul,” hence the last name, which means "devil" in Romanian. Now the name Dracula is actually a term that means "son of Dracul" and therefore "son of the devil". So this explains why Vlad would be referred to as Dracula son of the devil, because his father was dubbed “Dracul” meaning devil. Ironically, for a family referred to as “devil” and “son of the devil,” the family established 50 monasteries over 150 years. As a matter of fact, the Order of the Dragon was an organization which fought the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Although the Vatican praised the Dracul’ family for defending Christianity, it disapproved of Vlad Tepes’ infamous methods.
So what does Tepes mean? Tepes in Romanian means "impaler". Vlad the impaler earned that name by his execution style being impaling, and his infamous reputation of killing thousands this way. Throughout Vlad’s life, he killed anywhere from 20,000 to 300,000 people. It is said he showed no mercy and often tortured his victims before killing them.
So what exactly is impalement? Impalement is when a person is tied up with their hands and feet spread and a stake is driven through their rectum. They were then lifted and left to die in agony. The rank of the victim determined how high the stake was positioned. Servants were impaled only a few feet above the ground, just tall enough so when their feet reached the soil, they'd already be dead. One time, Vlad ordered 20,000 enemy soldiers to be impaled, but he left their bodies rotting on the stakes. When another army came looking for them, they were shocked and appalled at what they saw and returned home immediately.
However, it gets even more sickening. Vlad enjoyed watching people tortured and killed, he even feasted in celebration while he watched them die. In one story, when Vlad was feasting he asked a noble member if he liked the smell of the rotting men outside. When the man answered no, Vlad ordered him impaled that very instant. He ordered him to be impaled higher than anyone else so the "smell wouldn't reach him". Vlad especially enjoyed torturing women. He enjoyed cutting their sexual organs. Sometimes it was because they committed adultery, and other times they were killed for no reason at all. According to some members of Dracula's castle, Vlad the impaler was said to make a meal out of the blood and flesh that he collected from his impaled victims, such as eating bread dipped in blood.
Vlad was very powerful, but there was record of him being captured. He was once held captive by order of Matthias Corvinus, the Hungarian king, near Buda in a royal tower, for ten to twelve years. His first wife committed suicide by leaping from the towers of his castle into the waters of the Arges River rather than surrender to the Turks. While in captivity, Vlad often captured birds, mice, and insects in which he proceeded to torture and mutilate, some were beheaded or tarred-and-feathered and released, most were impaled on tiny spears. So even in captivity, he couldn't resist to indulge in his love of torture on any creature that crossed his path.
Vlad died at age 45 in a battle against the Turks, somewhere around Bucharest, in the year of 1476, however, the cause of his death still remains unknown. It is certain however that he was beheaded and his head was taken to Constantinople where it was preserved in honey. Ironically, his head was shown impaled in a stake as proof to the Turkish leader that he was dead. What happened to his body is full of myth; nobody knows for certain where he was buried and some insist that he wasn't buried at all and that he still lives to this day.
So what is the connection to Vlad being the first vampire? There are multiple accounts of him dipping bread in his victim’s blood, and some even say he’d incorporate body parts of his impaled victims into his “feasts.” Plus there is so little known about his death, as well as the account of his body not being found in the tomb it was supposed to be buried in. These are the gruesome facts that lead to the rumors of Vlad being the first vampire.
Fun Facts About Vlad the Impaler
- Myth: Dracula's castle is BranCastle. Dracula stayed there a couple of times, but his real castle is located at Poenari and is now in ruins. It was built in a very strategical position surrounded by numerous trees so as to make it difficult to reach.
- Vlad's first wife committed suicide, his brother was buried alive and his father was assassinated. Vlad was surrounded with murder and tragedy which may be why he was so bloodthirsty through his reign of Romania.
- Vlad was even bloodthirsty as a prince. One day he noticed there were many beggars, cripples and people with mental disabilities living in his land. He called for a big feast in the great hall of Tirgoviste. Many people attended the feast, the elderly, the poor, and the disabled. As the story goes, Vlad appeared just before the celebration was about to end. He asked the people if they wanted to live comfortably for the rest of their lives without having to work anymore. The people cheered and praised Vlad as a savior since they could not make a living due to their illnesses. However, Vlad had no intention to help them, he believed in “survival of the fittest.” When he left the castle he ordered it burnt to the ground with all the people inside it. Tragically, there were no survivors.
- Vlad Dracula once had a mistress that loved the prince and was always anxious to please him. Once, when he was particularly depressed, the woman told him she was pregnant to cheer him up. Vlad ordered the bath matrons to examine her to see if it was true. When Vlad heard it was a lie, he drew his knife and cut her open from the groin to her breast, leaving her to die in agony.
- Vlad was very particular with upholding honesty throughout his Kingdom. He enforced harsh consequences for all crimes, even small ones such as steeling. The punishment for steeling was impalement. Vlad even placed a golden cup in the center of a public plaza where thousands passed through daily. The kingdom had so much fear and respect for Vlad that the cup remained there throughout his reign.
- There was no exception for children. Punishment for everyone was the same, whether they were old or young, man or woman, healthy or ill, child or adult. One time, a group of kids was caught stealing apples. The poor kids were taken to Vlad himself. Vlad ordered that the children be buried alive with holes for air with nothing but some water. But the punishment was given this way not so the children would suffocate buried alive. He intended it to be far worse. He said he gave this punishment so that the kids could "eat each other and live longer." Those were his exact words. He ordered that the last survivor be set free and given some gold.
- There was one instance when Vlad was trying to build an alliance with the Turks, he invited two ambassadors to his castle. When Vlad asked them to remove their Phrygian caps, both ambassadors refused stating that it was their fathers' tradition and they couldn't break it. Vlad was so angry that they refused his request he ordered their caps fixed to their heads so they could never again break such an excellent tradition.
- One time a merchant went to Vlad claiming 160 golden coins had been stolen from him. Vlad caught the thief and ordered him to be impaled. When he came to return the coins to the merchant, he didn`t return 160, but 161 coins. When the merchant counted the coins, he told Vlad that he had received an extra. Vlad told the merchant that if he hadn`t been honest and told the truth, he also would have been impaled for fraud.
- In folklore, the reason many Dracul wives were driven into madness was the women were said to be haunted by the collected lives and souls of those killed by the hands of their husbands. More than 5 wives of the Dracul cousins committed suicide, not including Vlad Tepes' first wife.
Original Vampire: Judas Iscariot?
The story of Judas can be found within the book of Matthew. That is the story from where the legends of Judas being the original vampire were created.
Judas was overcome with guilt, struggling with the shame by his betrayal. This guilt drove him to suicide. In some Christian religions suicide is considered the “ultimate sin,” by being ungrateful and throwing away the lord’s gift of life bestowed upon you. It is said Judas walked up a hill and hung himself on the tree called Genus Cercis, since then renamed the “Judas Tree” for obvious reasons.
Legend has it that because of Judas’s betrayal to Jesus, and his following choice to commit suicide, he and his descendants were cursed “to walk the Earth forever.” The book of Agulah, written in the 843 A.D. by a catholic monk named Aed, states that God punished Judas by restoring his life after he had hanged himself. Aed writes that God in his fury condemned Judas to walk the earth until the final days. Judas would fear the sun and be cursed to roam the land in darkness. Judas would never again know the comfort of death and would be damned to feeding on the blood of living humans for eternity.
This curse led to the beginning of the vampire legend, with Judas dubbed the original vampire. Subsequently, it was also legend that anyone who committed suicide joined Judas, becoming a vampire themselves as well. Some stories claim Satan attempted to recruit Judas, but Judas refused him. That Judas accepted he had to bare his curse, but swore he would hunt evil, destroy it, and protect people from Satan’s harm, in the hopes of earning redemption and acceptance from Jesus.
It is also said that a strange vampiric bloodline arose. Those in the bloodline call themselves Iscariots and believe they are the children of Judas Iscariot, called to be the protectors of Christianity. So, instead of hunting humans, they follow Judas, hunting other vampires and demons in an attempt to redeem Judas’s ultimate betrayal. Also, the legend states that vampires descended from Judas could be identified from sharing a same feature as Judas; his red hair. Did you know the Greeks believed red hair to be a mark of vampirism?
Legend claims that vampires are scared of silver, crosses, and can be vanquished with a stake of aspen wood. This also connects to the story of Judas. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and as a result, Jesus was crucified on an aspen-wooden cross. So, in other words, Judas and his descendants were repelled by anything that reminded them of the betrayal.
Stay Tuned For Part Three!
So who's the original vampire? Judas Iscariot? Vlad Tepes? Or is it Lillith or Countess Bathory? Stay tuned for part three when I will discuss the legends of Lillith and the Countess of Blood, as well as reveal the answer of the original vampire!
© 2013 Amber