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- Vampire - New World Encyclopedia
Beliefs regarding death and mortality may also have played an important role. Often in old folklore, those who committed suicide or were brutally murdered were susceptible to becoming vampires, since the natural course of their life was interrupted. It is difficult to make a single description of the folkloric vampire, because its properties vary widely between different cultures.
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However, here are some of the more common characteristics among vampire legends:. In Slavic lore, causes of vampirism include being born with a caul the remnants of the amniotic sac seen as a shimmery coating of the head and face immediately after birth , teeth, or tail, being conceived on certain days, "unnatural" death, excommunication , and improper burial rituals.
Many Serbians believed that having red hair was a vampiric trait. Preventive measures included placing a crucifix in the coffin, placing blocks under the chin to prevent the body from eating the shroud, nailing clothes to coffin walls for the same reason, putting sawdust in the coffin so that when the vampire awakens in the evening he is compelled to count every grain of sawdust, which occupies the entire night, so that he will die at dawn or piercing the body with thorns or stakes.
In the case of stakes, the general idea was to pierce through the vampire and into the ground below, pinning the body down. Certain people would bury those believed to be potential vampires with scythes above their necks, so the dead would decapitate themselves as they rose. Evidence that a vampire was active in a given locality included death of cattle , sheep , relatives, or neighbors; an exhumed body being in a lifelike state with new growth of the fingernails or hair; a body swelled up like a drum; or blood on the mouth coupled with a ruddy complexion.
Vampires, like other Slavic legendary creatures , were afraid of garlic and were compelled to count particles of grain, sawdust, and the like. Romania is surrounded by Slavic countries, so it is not surprising that Romanian and Slavic vampires are similar. Romanian vampires are called Strigoi, based on the ancient Greek term strix, for screech owl, which also came to mean demon or witch.
There are different types of Strigoi. Live Strigoi are live witches who will become vampires after death. They have the ability to send out their souls at night to meet with other witches or with other Strigoi, which are reanimated bodies that return to suck the blood of family, livestock, and neighbors. Other types of vampires in Romanian folklore include Moroi and Pricolici.
Romanian tradition described a myriad of ways of bringing about a vampire. A person born with a caul, an extra nipple, a tail, or extra hair was doomed to become a vampire. The same fate applied to someone born too early, someone whose mother encountered a black cat crossing her path, and someone who was born out of wedlock. Others who became vampires were those who died an unnatural death or before baptism , the seventh child in any family presuming all of his or her previous siblings were of the same gender , the child of a pregnant woman who avoided eating salt , and a person who was looked upon by a vampire or a witch.
Moreover, being bitten by a vampire meant certain condemnation to a vampiric existence after death. The vampire was usually first noticed when it attacked family and livestock, or threw things around in the house. Vampires, along with witches, were believed to be most active on the Eve of St George's Day April 22 on the Gregorian, and May 6 on the Julian calendar , the night when all forms of evil were supposed to be abroad. A vampire in the grave could be discerned by holes in the earth, an un-decomposed corpse with a red face, or with one foot in the corner of the coffin.
Living vampires were identified by distributing garlic in church and observing who would refuse to eat it. Graves were often opened three years after the death of a child, five years after the death of a young person, or seven years after the death of an adult to check for vampirism. Measures to prevent a person from becoming a vampire included removing the caul from a newborn and destroying it before the baby could eat it, careful preparation of dead bodies, including preventing animals from passing over the corpse, placing a thorny branch of wild rose in the grave, and placing garlic on windows and rubbing it on cattle, especially on St George's and St Andrew's day.
To destroy a vampire, a stake was driven through the body, followed by decapitation, and placing garlic in the mouth. By the nineteenth century, one would also shoot a bullet through the coffin. For resistant cases, the body was dismembered and the pieces burned, mixed with water, and administered to family members as a cure. Belief in vampires was common in nineteenth century Greece.
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If the body was fully decayed, the remaining bones were put in a box by relatives and wine poured over them, a priest would then read from scriptures. However, if the body had not sufficiently decayed, the corpse would be labeled a vampire. According to Greek beliefs, vampirism could occur through various means: Excommunication or desecrating a religious day, committing a great crime , or dying alone.
Other more superstitious causes include having a cat jump across the grave, eating meat from a sheep killed by a wolf, or having been cursed. It was also believed in more remote regions of Greece that unbaptized people would be doomed to vampirism in the afterlife. The appearance of vampires varied throughout Greece and were usually thought to be indistinguishable from living people, giving rise to many folk tales with this theme.
Vampires could be harmless, sometimes returning to support their widows by their work. However, they were usually thought to be ravenous predators, killing their victims who would be condemned to become vampires. Vampires were so feared for their potential for great harm that a village or an island would occasionally be stricken by a mass panic if a vampire invasion were believed imminent.
Nicholas Dragoumis records such a panic on Naxos in the s, following a cholera epidemic. Varieties of wards were employed for protection in different places, including blessed bread antidoron from the church, crosses, and black-handled knives. To prevent vampires from rising from the dead, their hearts were pierced with iron nails whilst resting in their graves, or their bodies burned and the ashes scattered. Because the Church opposed burning people who had been baptized , cremation was considered a last resort. Traditional Romani beliefs claim that the dead soul enters a world similar to their own, except that there is no death.
The soul lingers next to the body and sometimes wants to return to life. The Roma legends of the "living dead" have indeed enriched the vampire legends of Hungary , Romania , and the Slavic world. The ancient home of the Roma, India , describes many vampiric entities. It wanders around animating dead bodies at night, attacking the living much like a ghoul. Vetala and pishacha are other creatures who resemble vampires. The most famous Indian deity associated with drinking blood is Kali , who has fangs, wears a garland of corpses or skulls, and has four arms.
Her temples are located near cremation grounds. 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 him. Sara, or the Black Goddess, is the form in which Kali survived among Roma. They still hold a ceremony every May 24, in the French village where this is supposed to have occurred.
How is “Nosferatu” different from later vampire films
One form of vampire in Romani folklore is called a mullo one who is dead. Female vampires could return, lead a normal life, and even marry, but would eventually exhaust the husband. Anyone who had a horrible appearance, was missing a finger, or had appendages similar to those of an animal, was believed to be a vampire. If a person died unseen, he would become a vampire, likewise if a corpse swelled before burial. Dogs, cats, plants, or even agricultural tools could become vampires.
Vampire - New World Encyclopedia
Pumpkins or melons kept in the house too long would start to move, make noises or show blood. To get rid of a vampire, one could hire a Dhampir the son of a vampire and his widow or a Moroi to detect the vampire. To ward off vampires, gypsies drove steel or iron needles into a corpse's heart and placed pieces of steel in the mouth, over the eyes, ears, and between the fingers at the time of burial. They also placed hawthorn in the corpse's sock or drove a hawthorn stake through the legs. Further measures included driving stakes into the grave, pouring boiling water over it, as well as decapitating or burning the corpse.
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