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Good To Know

Vampires -- Reality Behind the Myth Part II

Have you ever wondered about the phrase "God rest his soul?" How about "Rest in peace?" Where do you think they came from? One online site noted that it meant "May this person find peace in the afterlife." Why would a dead person's soul need peace? From stuff they did when they were alive, supposedly.  Another site noted that "In spiritual terms rest means primarily to cease from one's works with the idea of release from anxiety, worry and insecurity." So yes, we can rest now that we're dead, but isn't that a given? The phrase was found on some tombstones before the 5th Century, back when many were superstitious. Today, we just have fun with superstition on Halloween (well, most of us).

 

I would interpret that phrase as a restless soul, in Judeo-Christian terms, would belong to the devil. Since the vampire myth is nearly completely Christianized, then, the term "God rest his/her soul" simply means do not let the devil get hold, do not welcome that body back into life. Do not become vampiric. Rest in peace is the same. It's giving a blessing over the grave to keep them from coming back to life. Let none of what has happened to you anger you in the afterlife realm. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Here's from another source: "It possibly reflects the old superstition that if you said the deceased's name three times you could summon them from the grave - so you add the phrase to make sure they rest in the grave." This is probably due to how conversations at funerals would result in the deceased's name often being said. Remember that at the next funeral you attend.

 

Anyway, I use that kind of restless idea to show how and why Mikos returned from the grave and became Arabus Drake. But don't expect Journal of an Undead to hold any Christian connotations. What Arabus shares about the afterlife includes the fact that vampires do not fear crosses or holy water.

 

So I picked, to create Arabus Drake, which parts of the myth that would be the most interesting and unique for his development. You'll see some of the myths in Part One reflected in my short story "So the Legend Goes," coming soon.

 

With Arabus, burning is only effective if the corpse is completely burned. Because demons possess the corpse to make it rise and walk about and imprisoned the soul, any part of that corpse can reanimate. A walking skeleton is a half-burned vrykolakas. Whatever rules authors create, they need to be faithful to them; be sure to know the legends before creating or adding to them. If you didn't know burning killed a vampire you wouldn't use it. Fire didn't kill Lestat in Interview with a Vampire, the movie. If you do not treat a vampire as a physical creature you stretch credibility, and risk turning the vampire into a ghostly or non-corporeal figure, rather than a physical corpse. 

The Serbian vampire myth, where the word vampire comes from, became very real for local townsfolk, as shown in this story:

 

"In late 1731, Austro-Hungarian Regimental Field Surgeon Johannes Flückinger journeyed to the Serbian village of Medvegya (around 120 miles from Kisiljevo, on the Ottoman border) to investigate another series of mysterious deaths. This time the suspected "Vampire Zero" was an Albanian named Arnaud Paole. When he was alive, Paole claimed he had protected himself from a vampire's bite by eating dirt from its tomb and cleansing himself with its blood. Unfortunately, these precautions didn't prevent him from breaking his neck when he fell off a hay wagon. Forty days after his demise, four villagers declared the deceased Paole had returned "to torment them"— and then those four promptly expired. The local elders (advised by their administrator, or hadnack, who clearly had past experience in such matters) disinterred Paole's corpse and found it "complete and incorrupt," while "...completely fresh blood flowed from his eyes, ears and nose." Satisfied by the evidence, the locals drove a stake through the torso, "whereupon he let out a noticeable groan and bled copiously."

 

This reference to "on the Ottoman border" has significance for my own vampire creation. It might make its way into one of my future novels.

 

Hollywood and literary depictions of vampires are vastly different than of historical myths. Vampires were widely believed to be very old, tall, attractive, intelligent and aristocratic, sleep in coffins on native ground, have an insatiable thirst for blood, and must be staked through the heart to be killed. Think Bela Lugosi, Barnabus Collins, and the Christopher Lee versions. Folkloric vampires (before Bram Stoker) were usually peasants of low intelligence, recently dead, do not need their native soil, and were often cremated with or without being staked.

 

Note the Serbian myth and others demonstrate that the stake is driven through the body in order to pin it to the ground so it can no longer move. These myths do not specify the heart.

 

By the end of the twentieth century, over 300 motion pictures were made about vampires, and over 100 of them featured Dracula, name taken from a historical king of Wallachia who treated his Turk enemies in a very cruel way. Over 1,000 vampire novels have been published, most within the past 25 years (as of 2014). There are around a dozen new variations coming out in 2022.

 

Here are a few to look at the literary writings and the rules they utilized.

 

Vampyre – John Polidori (1819)

This is the first full work of fiction about a vampire in English. John Polidori was Lord Byron's doctor and based his vampire on Byron - in other words, turning Lord Byron vampiric. 

 

"His peculiarities caused him to be invited to every house; all wished to see him, and those who had been accustomed to violent excitement … In spite of the deadly hue of his face, which never gained a warmer tint … many of the female hunters after notoriety attempted to win his attentions, and gain, at least, some marks of what they might term affection."

 

Even here we see evidence that the man (and Byron) has this sexual attraction. Where did that come from? Did you see any of that in Part One?

 

"There was no color upon her cheek, not even upon her lip; yet there was a stillness about her face that seemed almost as attaching as the life that once dwelt there. Upon her neck and breast was blood, and upon her throat were the marks of teeth having opened the vein—to this the men pointed, crying, simultaneously struck with horror, "a vampire, a vampire."

 

Dracula by Bram Stoker

"It is the eve of St. George's Day (this is a bastardizing of the real day in April when all evil spells will be broken). Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?"

"I could hear a lot of words often repeated, queer words, for there were many nationalities in the crowd. So I quietly got out my poly-glot dictionary from my bag and looked them out. I must say they were not cheering to me, for amongst them were "ordog" – satan, pokol – hell, stregoica – witch, vrolok and vlkoslak – both of which mean the same thing, one being Slovak and the other Servian for something that is either werewolf or vampire."

 

He did his research here. Those are words for the vrykolakas.

 

"Having answered the Count's salutation, I turned to the glass again to see how I had been mistaken. This time there could be no error, for the man was close to me, and I could see him over my shoulder. But there was no reflection of him in the mirror!"

 

This is a literary addition; how could a physical body not have a reflection? Perhaps this is more related to what we learned of the poltergeist spiritual demon, how they grow stronger the longer they exist until they become corporeal. 

 

"But my very feelings changed to repulsion and terror when I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings … I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones …"

 

Here is a rule he's made that he will need to be consistent on. The vampire's unusual mode of travel. Arabus Drake has another that I illuminate in my short story being published, called "So The Legend Goes."

 

"Yes, I too can love, you yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so? Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will … one of the women jumped forward and opened (the bag) …if my ears did not deceive me, there was a gasp and a low wail, as of a half-smothered child. The women closed round, whilst I was aghast with horror, but as I looked they disappeared, and with them the dreadful bag."

 

Dracula here was talking to women he turned into vampires, and they needed to feast so he gave them a victim. But human emotion makes Dracula sound like a vrykolakas. I believe this was also the legend of the vampire in the movie Dracula where Gary Oldman was the vampiric legend -- oh the bad makeup!

 

"There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which—for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death—and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor; the lips were as red as ever. But there was no sign of movement, no pulse, no breath, no beating of the heart. I bent over him … but when I went to search I saw the dead eyes, and in them, dead though they were, such a look of hate, though unconscious of me or my presence, that I fled from the place" … (almost Poe-like isn't it?)

 

Doesn't describe it as a coffin but all movie versions show it that way. So perhaps our more current vampiric literature is more due to inspiration from movies. Arabus Drake was actually conceived from my love of Barnabas Collins, in the original Dark Shadows—so intense and piercing and yet so human-like. So desiring to be human again.  What as the first movie vampire? Nosferatu, and I've never seen it so I don't know if they use a coffin for him. Roger Ebert noted that this was played more appropriately, without the cliches: "The vampire should come across not like a flamboyant actor but like a man suffering from a dread curse."

 

INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE by Anne Rice (1973)

I never liked this one. I've read bits and pieces, and watched the movie. There are some differences in the legend, but Louis allowed Lestat, the vampire, turn him because he was despondent. The author made it a religious reason; the movie changed that. I have to believe, though, that the method of turning was the same in both – he drained Louis near to death and then fed him his blood. Where did we note this? Yeah, it was that Greek myth with Ambrogia. I also watched Lost Boys and they had the same turning method there. But until that new vampire killed someone, he was only half-vampire.

 

This idea that Lestat was not an ordinary vampire but a demon himself is another myth that might apply here. He simply could not be destroyed, not by burning or burying in a swamp. The demon inside a human corpse body could probably not be burned, but if that corpse is destroyed will "move on" to another.

 

TWILIGHT – Stephanie Meyer (2005)

Bella's viewpoint, after prologue:

"They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from where I sat as possible in the long room. There were five of them. They weren't talking, and they weren't eating, though they each had a tray of untouched food in front of them. They weren't gawking at me, unlike most of the other students…"

 

"And yet, they were all exactly alike. Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler than me, the albino. They all had very dark eyes despite the range in hair tones …"

 

"I'd noticed that his eyes were black—coal black. He continued to sit so still it looked like he wasn't breathing. What was wrong with him?"

 

Obviously this is young adult with the setting of a high school. We see the white skin and dark eyes and stereotypical features of a vampire. They weren't eating, as well they can't, and not breathing. If they can eat and/or breathe, they are not dead. That's gotta be at least one rule we all follow.

 

VLAD: The Last Confession (2011) CC Humphreys

"You repeat gossip, gleaned from tales of one Dragon—Vlad Dracula, your former prince. Yet part of what you say is true—it is his dark deeds that have tainted the Order to which he swore his oath. Tales that have all but destroyed it … until it is slain by St. Mihail's magic lance, a Dragon cannot die. It sleeps only. Sleeps perhaps one day to awaken…"

 

"On its front page a crude woodcut depicted a nobleman eating his dinner among ranks of bodies twitching on stakes. Before him a servant hacked limbs, severed noses and ears. "The story of a bloodthirsty madman."

"You asked me to accompany you on this journey, Count. You said I was needed to judge something …was it to listen to the tale of a monster? Was it to see if we can rehabilitate Dracula? And all this? Was it so that the secret fraternity he led, and buried with his horrors, can rise again? For the record … who cares?"

"He as the one who last rode under the Dragon banner against the Turks. And under it, nearly beat them. Would have beaten them, perhaps, if the Pope, my King and yes … his fellow Dragons had not forsaken him."

Yes, much of their research is from King Vlad Dracula. This one might deserve a further read for its historical references.

 

MIDNIGHT BITES (2016) by Rachel Caine

"What Guy was asking was whether I intended to pick myself a protector of my very own. It was traditional to sign with your family's hereditary patron, but no way in hell was I letting Brandon have power over me. So I could either shop around to see if any other vampire could, or would, take me, or go bare—live without a contract."

 

"Which was attractive, but seriously risky. See, Morganville vampires don't generally kill of their own humans, because that would make life difficult for everybody, but free-range, non-Protected humans? Nobody worries much what happens to them, because usually they're alone, and they're poor, and they disappear without a trace."

 

A common theme for vampires with souls is to go after those who are either criminal, or homeless, or who otherwise won't be missed. In her novel the vampires are dominant and treat humans like chicken. As long as your chicken gives you eggs – or blood – you're not going to eat it, right?

 

"That was the thing about Morganville. Nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live here. And honestly, Shane couldn't exactly define why it was he did live here. He could have left, he supposed. He had, once, and come back to do a job for his father, Fearless Frank the Vampire Hunter. But now he stayed because … because at least in here he understood things. He knew the rules, even if the rules were crappy and the game of survival was rigged."

 

Yeah, in this book the rules ARE crappy. It felt like anything goes. I did not sense that there was much that stopped these vampires. Like a universe without boundaries. For some reason that's not at all clear, the humans don't move away; cowards here forge a more or less normal way of life. The book is well written and enjoyable enough for its young adult audience. It's pretty hard to find a serious adult vampire novel, which is what mine is.

 

"Vampires, as Hannah well knew, had religion—often the same one they'd been born into. There were Catholic vampires and Jewish vampires and Muslim vampires. A couple of religious institutions in town catered to vampires as well as humans with night services. Still, it was unusual to see a vampire attending any kind of daytime human religious ceremony, except funerals."

 

This kind of ideology reflects the author's religious stance. If we were to analyze this, we'd say that since vampires are dead people who refuse to stay dead, then their souls remain trapped so they could arise with their religious beliefs intact. There's nothing in the original myth folklore that talked about religion in this way, but we can see religion developed as a way to fight them. How can a cross fight a vampire who wasn't Christian to begin with? Does the demon in him fear anything related to the Christian god?

 

"Maybe she didn't know. Maybe she'd never looked into the heart of the red and black tormented thing that lurked deep inside me. But looking at her now, at her utter sincerity and fearlessness, I couldn't help but think that maybe she did, after all. Know me and love me."

 

The author refers to something inside the human turned vampire that made them that way. Obviously the human still had the soul from their mortal life, as this character talking in first person had been mortal in the series and was turned, and retained many of his mortal traits.

 

There are elements that are not explained in history, and that I've had to create for Arabus. I call them my vrykolakas rules. For instance, the body does not decay once possessed by demons, as long as blood intake is sufficient in dead veins. The skin of a corpse cannot heal. When Mikos came back as Arabus, he still had the spear hole in his gut. Blood kept leaking out, making him always thirsty until he found a way to seal his wounds. Blood is taken specifically to keep the corpse in a human appearance, so that he can get close to its victims and relatives; that's a demonic talent. That he is able to get close to humans leads him to also seek acceptance in a world not of his choosing, and can choose who and when to kill with his trapped soul, but also destroys his victims to keep them from arising. This give the myth a more realistic feel to make the legend even more disturbing.

 

SANDS OF TIME: Fate of the True Vampires (2017)

"Father! Your ability to startle me has not waned in five-hundred years. One would think in all this time I would learn to sense you."

 

"And what of loving a mortal—watching them grow old … die. If I stay, how long shall we have to share life together?"

 

"One of few raised to recall a time when my people were seen as gods from the sky. When offering their blood to us was an honor."

 

"I have heard rumor that many thousands of years ago gods in human form emerged from the night desert, that they were, and gave birth to, a new race—blood drinkers. Night stalkers with superb strength and a lethal demeanor. Killers who fed on others."

 

And the origin?

 

"Perhaps one day humans will understand the concept of journeying beyond the stars, but for now it is too far a reality to grasp."

 

This is delicious material that is also used in some form in my legend of Arabus Drake. But it's also unrealistic, because if you keep creating new blood drinkers, eventually there will be no one left to drink from. This makes vampires no better than zombies. I believe those two worlds need to be completely separate. You could do a vampire/zombie legend, however.

 

VRYKOLAKAS: Book 1 (2017)

There was no mention of the vrykolakas anywhere in the sample, which, if you use a word or concept so foreign, you need to introduce it early in your book.

 

SUMMARY

So yes, you can do all this historical research and find things still don't necessarily make sense or even great story. The nice thing about fiction? We do get to make things up, but if you're creating a new "universe" of creatures, you might want to write your bible of rules first. It will help you to understand what your characters, can, can't and shouldn't do.

 

Let me leave you with this story:

 

"I've been a vampire for some seven-score years now, ever since that fateful night when I was drained of my humanity by a beautiful dark Goddess of the night. I left my mundane life behind and now I do great things like helping old ladies cross the street and then watching them shriek in horror as I empty their worthless veins and leave their lifeless husks in alleyways. Yes, being a vampire is all you've heard it is. Except for the part where nobody will hire me because I can only work at night and I can only kill people who are stupid enough to invite me into their homes. Do you know how hard it is to convince someone you're a Jehovah's Witness at two in the morning? Anyway, if you would like to become a vampire please send two dollars to this address …

 

What some people will conjure.  

 

Additional Sources:

https://www.thegothiclibrary.com/byron-and-polidoris-vampire-tale

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/God+rest+his+soul 

https://psichologyanswers.com/.../read/207991-why-do-we-say-may-his-soul-rest-in-peace 

https://www.quora.com/What-does-god-rest-his-soul-mean

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-nosferatu-1922

Karina Wilson, "Decomposing Bodies in the 1720s Gave Birth to the First Vampire Panic: How superstition collided with public health concerns to create a modern monster," https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/decomposing-bodies-1720s-gave-birth-first-vampire-panic-180976097/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20211029-daily-responsive&spMailingID=45861171&spUserID=MTA2NzA5NTYyMDU3NQS2&spJobID=2103219954&spReportId=MjEwMzIxOTk1NAS2  

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Vampires -- Reality behind the Myth

The most famous vampire is, of course, Bram Stoker's Dracula, though those looking for a historical "real" Dracula often cite Romanian prince Vlad Tepes Dracula (1431-1476). The characterization of Tepes as a vampire is a distinctly Western one; in Romania, he is viewed as a national hero who defended his empire from the Ottoman Turks. His name means "Son of Dracul, who was his father. Dracul means Dragon.

 

I give some background information on King Vlad in Journal of an Undead: Love Stories (formerly Adventures in Death & Romance), now being edited with more history from a Great Courses I got on the Ottoman Empire. Turning him vampiric was for good reason, as you'd see in studying about him.

 

The vampires most people are familiar with are human corpses that return from the grave to harm the living; these have Slavic origins only a few hundred years old.

 

One of the earliest accounts of vampires is found in an ancient Sumerian and Babylonian myth dating to 4,000 B.C. which describes ekimmu or edimmu (one who is snatched away). The ekimmu is a type of a spirit or demon who was not buried properly and has returned as a vengeful spirit to suck the life out of the living.

 

Folklore vampires became vampires not only through a bite, but also if they were once a werewolf, practiced sorcery, were an illegitimate child of parents who were illegitimate, died before baptism, ate the flesh of a sheep killed by a wolf, child of a pregnant woman who was looked upon by a vampire, a nun who stepped over an unburied body, had teeth when they were born or had a cat jump on their corpse before being buried (England and Japan); a stillborn; a bat flying over a corpse (Romania); being excommunicated by the Orthodox Church (Greece); being the seventh son of the seventh son; a dead body that has been reflected in a mirror; red heads (Greece); people who die by suicide or sudden, violent deaths; and people who were improperly buried.

 

There are suggestions that the vampire was born out of sorcery in ancient Egypt, a demon summoned into this world from some other. There are Asian vampires, such as the Chinese jiangshi (chong-shee), evil spirits that attack people and drain their life energy; and the blood-drinking Wrathful Deities that appear in the "Tibetan Book of the Dead." Another who teaches on the subject calls the Eastern Europe "upir" the first recognized vampire.  An Old Russian term, it was thought to appear at festivals of the dead around 1054.

 

Female vampires were also often blamed for spreading the bubonic plague or Black Death throughout Europe in the 1300s. I suppose this led to a fear of female witches in general, but why did they blame women?  Women and cats have long been associated, but it was the lack of cats to kill rats that led to the outbreak of that disease, or so legend goes.

 

Vampire legend today says they can turn into bats or wolves. Some don't cast a reflection. Holy water, garlic and sunlight are said to repel them. All drink blood. Vampires are successful because of their rich history. Writers play with the "rules" while adding, subtracting or changing them to fit whatever story they have in mind. Many don't follow some of these rules, like sleeping in a coffin. You'll see Arabus Drake breaking all of them, by sticking more closely to what was real myth in history.

 

The first recorded accounts of vampires follow a consistent pattern: Some unexplained misfortune would befall a person, family or town — perhaps a drought dried up crops, or an infectious disease struck. Vampires were one answer to the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people. They were responsible for disease, especially those where no explanation or cure could be found. Rabies was one, causing all sorts of odd behavior such as fear of water and foaming at the mouth that was at first attributed to a bite from a vampire. Pellegra was another, making you extra sensitive to sunlight.

 

Villagers combined their belief that something had cursed them with fear of the dead, and concluded that perhaps the recently deceased might be responsible, having come back from the graves with evil intent. Graves were unearthed, and surprised villagers often mistook ordinary decomposition for supernatural phenomenon. Laypeople assumed that a body would decompose immediately, but if the coffin is well sealed and buried in winter, putrefaction might be delayed by weeks or months. Intestinal decomposition creates bloating which can force blood up into the mouth, making it look like a dead body has recently sucked blood.

 

Because the vampire craze had such a profound effect on European culture, religion provided one of the solutions to how we can fight against vampires. In the original myth of Count Dracula, he was cursed by the god for twisting his faith and slaughtering thousands in god's name. This religious aspect of the story caused vampires to be repelled by holy ground, holy water, crosses or any other religious objects.

 

Then there's Judas Iscariot, thought to be a red head. There are many beliefs as to how exactly Judas becomes a vampire, the first belief and most common is that god cursed Judas and his family to walk the earth until the second coming of Jesus, and until that time he would thirst for the blood of Jesus, which of course he could only receive through Christians. The second belief is not as common, but goes along with the Last Supper, in that during the last supper Jesus was being quite literal when he said to drink of his blood and eat of his flesh. There are people who believe Jesus himself was a vampire. In reality, most vampire beliefs were created by the Church to keep people from robbing graves, roaming the streets at night, and to generally instill fear in a relatively ignorant people.

 

Another myth is of Cain and Adam's first wife, Lilith. She supposedly showed Cain the power of blood—also thought to be the tree of life. It is said that this is why the Jewish people drain all blood from their meat before cooking and eating it. From this union between Cain and Lilith came forth a host of demons and vampires in myths across the globe.

 

Before Christianity, methods of repelling vampires included garlic, hawthorn branches, rowan trees (later used to make crosses), scattering of seeds, fire, decapitation with a gravedigger's spade, salt (associated with preservation and purity), iron, bells, a rooster's crow, peppermint, running water, and burying a suspected vampire at a crossroads. It was also not unusual for a corpse to be buried face down so it would dig down the wrong way and become lost in the earth. Garlic has been used as a form of protection for over 2,000 years. The ancient Egyptians believed garlic was a gift from God, Roman soldiers thought it gave them courage, sailors believed it protected them from shipwreck, and German miners believed it protected them from evil spirits when they went underground.

Stake through the heart comes from the medieval times when medical knowledge did not account for the presence of gasses in the decomposing corpses. After driving a stake in a corpse's heart, people could witness the moans coming from the corpse's mouth and deflation of body, all providing proof that something unnatural was present.

 

In folklore, the vampire's first victim would often be his wife. In some cultures, when a husband died, the wife changed her appearance; she would cut her hair and wear black for the entire period of mourning. These things were done to deceive the vampire, should he return. A vampire may engage in sex with his former wife, which often led to pregnancy. This belief provided a convenient explanation as to why a widow, who was supposed to be celibate, became pregnant. The resulting child was called a gloglave (pl. glog) in Bulgarian or vampirdzii in Turkish. The child was considered a hero who had powers to slay a vampire.

 

Modern literature often states that vampires have many powers, from telepathy and mind control to the ability to communicate with and/or transform into animals. There is no historical lore that corroborate these concepts and seem to be recent developments in vampire mythology. Modern writers have literally pushed the coffin aside.

 

How I formed the Character of Arabus Drake

Vrykolakas is Greek for an undead or unnatural spirit. It was believed that a person could become a vrykolakas by living an immoral life, being excommunicated, die a violent death, buried without proper church rites, or being buried in unconsecrated ground. It was also thought that if you ate sheep that had been previously wounded by a werewolf, you would become a vampire.

 

Early accounts of these beings described those who arose from the dead to attend unfinished business, usually with a relative or close associate. There also were stories of those who stayed with family for long periods of time, and even one who went off and got married, and fathered children.

 

The word vrykolakas is derived from the Slavic word vǎrkolak, and can be found in other languages such as Lithuanian vilkolakis and Romanian vârcolac. The term is a compound word meaning "wolf" and (strand of) hair" and originally meant "werewolf." In the mid 17th century story Vrykolokas by Pitton de Tournefort, he refers to the revenant as a "werewolf" which may have also been translated as bug-bears, a strange word that has nothing to do with bugs nor bears, but is related to the word bogey, which means spook, spirit, hobgoblin. Pitton wrote about his experience witnessing the exhumation and slaying of a deceased individual suspected to be a vrykolakas.

 

Some archaeological excavations in Mytilene have uncovered what have been called "vrykolakas" burials, though the 20cm spikes placed through the ankles, groin, and neck of each body is reminiscent of Balkan folkloric burial processes used to prevent vampirism.

 

The word in the form vukodlak has been used in the sense of "vampire" in the folklore of Western Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Apparently, the two concepts have become mixed. Even in Bulgaria, original folklore generally describes the vârkolak as a sub-species of the vampire without any wolf-like features.

 

The first "typical" vampire that might be traced to Greek mythology is the story of a young Italian man named Ambrogio and love of his life, Selena. According to the myth, Ambrogio fell in love with Selena after visiting the legendary Oracle in the temple of Apollo, the sun god. He asked her to marry him, but little did he know the jealous Apollo wanted her for his own. Apollo cursed Ambrogio by causing his skin to burn whenever it was exposed to sunlight.

 

In desperation, Ambrogio turned to Hades, the god of the underworld, and then Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, for help. After stealing Artemis's silver bow to fulfill a deal made with Hades, Artemis cursed Ambrogio so silver would burn his skin. She later took pity on him, though, and gave him super strength, immortality, and fangs to kill beasts to use their blood to write love poems to Selena.

 

Eventually, the mortal Selena escaped Apollo's grasp and reunited with the immortal Ambrogio. Artemis told Ambrogio he could make Selena immortal by drinking her blood which would kill her body but make her spirit live on. Their combined blood could then turn anyone who drank it into a vampire.

 

The Island of Santorini became especially fertile ground for vampire beliefs, considered the home of the vrykolakas, because the volcanic soil preserves bodies, slowing decomposition, in case you're ever up for a vampire vacation.

 

Originally, when the dead came back, they weren't really malicious. There's a story of a shoemaker who came back and helped his family out by making shoes. Other dead people who were thought to have returned from the grave were seen out in the fields eating beans. But those are ancient-vintage legends, before the evil Slavic vampire overwrote them. But they demonstrate the legend of how a vrykolakas longs to be with family again after coming back to life.

 

Their bodies have the same distinctive characteristics as the bodies of vampires in Balkan folklore. They do not decay; they have a ruddy complexion when they are, according to one account, "fresh and gorged with new blood".   

One myth says that the creature is believed to knock on the doors of houses and call out the name of the residents. If it gets no reply the first time, it will pass on without causing any harm. If someone does answer the door, he or she will die a few days later and become another vrykolakas. For this reason, there is a superstition present in certain Greek villages that one should not answer a door until the second knock.

 

Since the vrykolakas becomes more and more powerful if left to roam free, legends state that one should destroy its body. According to some accounts, this can only be done on Saturday, which is the only day when the vrykolakas rests in its grave. This may be done in various ways, such as exorcising, impaling, beheading, cutting into pieces, and especially cremating the suspected corpse, so that it may be freed from living death and its victims saved.

 

END OF PART ONE: See part two coming October 30th.

 

Sources for both parts:

Vampires, Burial, and Death-Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber (1988) Vali-Ballou Press, Birmingham, NY

Matthew Beresford, "From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth" (Reaktion, 2008).

http://vampire-encyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Vrykolakas 

https://www.livescience.com/24374-vampires-real-history.html 

http://strangedaze.doomby.com/pages/judas-iscariot-the-first-vampire.html 

http://strangedaze.doomby.com/pages/judas-iscariot-the-first-vampire.html#riOcoUzvyBiFSHrc.99 

https://hellhorror.com/vampires/vampire-origin/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vrykolakas 

http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/greek-mythology 

http://www.history.com/topics/vampire-history 

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/vampire-disease-origins?utm_source=Atlas+Obscura+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=27c729ace4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_10_21&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f36db9c480-27c729ace4-67083697&mc_cid=27c729ace4&mc_eid=7f1fab795b 

https://voices.nationalgeographic.org/2010/02/22/where_do_vampires_come_from/ 

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