Vampires have held our fascination for hundreds of years. They have gone from something people believed were real, to a fictional creature to fear in the night, to lost souls, to lovers.
To celebrate the opening of submissions for Triskaidekaphilia 2: Ravenous, Pen and Kink Publishing is hosting a series on vampires to get you in the mood.
This week, Dea Poirier gives us a look at vampire myths from different places.
Many creatures haunt the night, but none quite as iconic as the vampire. Vampires are known throughout the world, though their mythos and origins vary by country. We’re enraptured by vampires, they appear in our literature, our films. They’re glamorized, romanticized. But what is it about them that fascinates us? The promise of immortality. A chance at a life of excess, with no restraints of typical life. Maybe all of the above. But when did our fascination with vampires begin? The origins of vampires go back hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Most modern day vampire stories originated from tales that circulated in Romania (Transylvania). These tales arose from Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory, spreading through Europe and the rest of the world. These stories fueled hysteria about alleged vampire attacks and sightings. But what’s the most interesting, is that many tales of vampires existed long before Vlad, Dracula, and Lestat.
It’s hard to tell where the very first vampires originated in folklore, there are mentions in Greek, Jewish, and Turkish stories. As I’ve had zero luck identifying the one specific origin stories for vampires… I will cover a few of the other ones I’ve found!
In many of today’s tales, we see Vampires as paranormal creatures, akin to werewolves, ghosts, and shapeshifters. But long ago, many believed the origin of vampires was magical or spiritual. Witches, sorcerers, even the Devil himself could be responsible for the creation of vampires.
In China, vampires were blood drinking spirits, or corpses raised from the dead to do the bidding of sorcerers. But it doesn’t seem as though they were as feared by the populous as they were in Europe. Southeast Asia is home to a spirit called the Bhūta or Prét, a man who died at a young age, that has come back to life to feed off the living.
Romania, Russia, and other Slavic countries have some of the richest vampire mythos in the world. The legends here run deep. While some of the vampires in these countries are created by witches, or other supernatural forces — there are said to be characteristics that make you more likely to become a vampire: Being born in the caul, having blue eyes and red hair, birthmarks, extra appendages, or being the seventh child born to a family.
There are also many signs that appear that can warn those in a neighborhood that a vampire might be nearby: death of livestock or pets, changes near grave sites, changes in corpses themselves.
Albania in particular has a creature called the Shtriga, a vampiric witch that feeds on newborns, and can take the form of an insect.
During the middle ages, the hysteria about vampires reached a fever pitch, and thousands of graves were exhumed. Corpses were staked or beheaded, and checked for signs that it might have risen during the night. Many lived in constant fear that their loved ones would rise from the grave, and feed on their blood during the night. In some countries, certain customs are still observed to ward of vampires, and make corpses less likely to rise.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of years have passed since the first stories of vampires began to circulate. And here we are, as fascinated by them as we were the first time we heard the stories about them. Even if vampires don’t exist, their stories, their legends will grant them immortality.
Dea (D.H) Poirier was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she got her start writing in creative writing courses. She attended The University of Central Oklahoma for Computer Science and Political Science. Later, she spent time living on both coasts, and traveling the United States, before finally putting down roots in Central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp, with her husband, son, two dogs and two cats.
She spends her days at her day job as an Internet Marketing Manager, and her nights writing manuscripts.
D.H. Poirier is represented by Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.