Good evening, what’s the matter are you afraid of vampires? Don’t worry I am not staying for dinner. I am here to guide you through a brief history of vampires illustrating how our image has changed for a shambling corpse to the dapper gentlemen you see on TV now a day. Have you ever wondered how it all started?
How old are we vampires?
We Vampires are nearly as old as you Humans. Stories about us revenants appear in cultures extending as far as the prehistoric times. But back then we weren’t called vampires and most of us did not even look the way you would imagine us today. For example, Uncle Lamashtu from Mesopotamian had a head of a lion and a body of a donkey. And aunty Striges from ancient Greeks was nothing more than a bloodthirsty bird. My distant cousins from the Philippines, Manananggal would sever her upper torso and sprout huge, bat wings to fly, a bit too dramatic don’t you think. My ex-girlfriend from Malaysia Penanggalan, Well she was a flying female head with dangling entrails Hehehe and Our Australian cousin Yara-ma-yha-who, you can say he was a little red guy with a big head, large mouth, and bloodsucker at hands and feet.
Oh yes, let’s not forget about my Caribbean and west African buddies Soucouyant and Obayifo and also my best friend from Mexican Tlahuelpuchi. Though we may look vastly different, but all of us have one thing in common, that is, we all sustain ourselves on the life force of humans. This shared trait is what makes us vampire all other attributes changes with the tides.
Wondering about our modern avatar?
Our modern idea emerges in 18th century eastern Europe. A Very grim place if you ask me. With the dramatic increase of vampire superstation’s, stories of bloodsucking shadowy became nightly bedtime terrors in every household. Popular folklore like the Moroi and the Lugat from Romanian and Albania, provide most common vampire traits known today. Such as we being nocturnal, undead and our ability to shapeshift.
Well Back in those days, eastern Europe was plagued by deaths. Unknown diseases and plagues ravaged the population. Without medical explanations, people searched for supernatural causes. Well, in short, they blamed us. When locals dug up the bodies of their dead to discern the causes of their mysterious deaths, surprisingly they would often find the cadavers looking very much alive, with longer hair and fingernails, bloated bellies and blood at the corner of their mouths. Heh heh Clearly these people were not really dead. They were vampires! and all this time they have been leaving their graves to feast on the living.
It terrified them. They quickly enacted various rituals attempting to kill the undead. These practices varied across the regions but usually included beheading, burning staking the heart and nailing the bodies with the coffins to prevent the dead from rising.
Hehe Grizzly stuff!!
But what the simpletons interpreted as unholy reanimation were nothing more than normal symptoms of death. When a human body decomposes, the dehydrating skin would cause nails and hair to extend, bacteria in their stomach would create gasses that fill the belly which forces out blood and matter through the mouth. Unfortunately, this science was not yet known, so the terrified villagers kept digging. In fact, so many bodies were dug up that the empress of Austria sent her physician around to disprove the vampire stories, and even made a law prohibiting grave tampering.
With passing time these vampire hunts would die down, but our stories and legends would survive in the local superstitions.This led to works of literature such as Polidori’s “The vampire”, the gothic novel “Carmilla” and the most famous Bram Stocker’s “Dracula”. Although stocker incorporated historical material, like virgin blood baths, and brutal execution of Vlad Dracul, it was these local myths that inspired the main elements of his story.By inventing new traits such as fear of crucifixion, weakness in sunlight or the vampire’s inability to see their reflection, Stocker perfectly enacted the age-old tradition of elaborating upon and expanding the myth of vampire.
A huge variety of creatures stalked the night before Count Dracula, and many more will continue to creep through your nightmares. Yet so long as they subsist of a living being’s life force, they are part of my tribe. Yes, even the sparkling ones too. After all, it’s the continued storytelling and reimagining of the vampire legend that allows us to truly live FOREVER ………