Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Origin of the Vampire

              Of course we’ve all heard of vampires. Those tall, dark and mysterious creatures of the night who seek to suck the blood of us humans and even other immortals. But where exactly did the idea of this all-black wearing, sunlight hating, overly attractive and alluring species come from? They weren’t always the sexy beings we think of today. They were first seen as disgusting and inhuman beings who would rise from their graves at night, drink the blood of innocent humans and then return to the cemeteries before the sun could rise and destroy them. Some say that the legend and history of vampires is as old as our own history! Hmmm a vampire caveman? I wonder what that would look like. History reveals that the first appearance of the word vampire  in English, was in the 1700’s, but even then vampires had already been discussed in so many other cultures.

       So… does someone became a vampire exactly? Ancient cultures believed in things like, if a cat or dog jumped over you then you were of the undead. In Ancient Greece, the practice of placing a coin in the mouth of a corpse to get them through the River Styx in the underworld was to ward off demons from entering the body of the corpse. This led to the idea of vampires because many times the people believed that not all corpses could be protected from the evil demons that would seek to enter their bodies, thus created the undead, or vampire. Finally, any human bitten by a vampire would then become one themselves.[Vampires were pretty much the scapegoat for any unexplained diseases, so whenever someone would pass on the easiest explanation was that they had become one of the un-dead.]

Over the centuries, the folklore of demons who would steal away the lives of humans continued to turn a world-wide belief but it wasn’t until the 18th century that vampires were popularized and became a fear of the Victorian patriarchy. One reason was that because the Victorian era was a time of acting proper and for women to be maternal and well-behaved members of society. The era was always very strict with ideas of sex and sexuality and anything having to do with the two, was feared and looked upon as taboo (sex was only needed as a way to reproduce). Vampires were an enemy of these ideals. They were the symbols of seduction and sexuality and therefore able of corrupting any human and luring them into their grasp. [Bram Stroker’s Dracula (published in 1897) continued the idea of vampires being creatures of alluring beauty and so it led on to the idea that vampires would forever be the irresistible and mysterious  beings that they have turned into up to now.
There is definitely a lot more to the history of vampires. Like a vampires desire to find a mate, or bride to become his and continue the species of vampire, along with how the beliefs of how to kill them came to be. For example, holy water and crosses were used since a vampire was known for being an evil and undead demon from hell, so holy water and crucifixes seemed the best for battling against these demons.  And Garlic? Well in Romania it was always believed that garlic was used to ward off evil because of its horrible smell and it would be used on everything. So one of the reasons that it is linked with repelling vampires is because of a vampire’s strong sense of smell and a garlic strong sense of….well stink. 

Now then, let’s go over the rules of vampires that history (along with the novel Dracula) has set out for us J

  • A vampire cannot exist in the sunlight. A vampire can change into a wolf or a bat. (why? Because wolves and bats were the two creatures known strongly for lurking in the night, they were also seen as the most dangerous and so linked with vampires. Especially bats since they were animals who sucked the blood of cattle; people believed that they also sucked the blood of humans as well.
  • A vampire sucks the blood of the living, and doing so turns the living into vampires as well (unless the vampire chooses to kill its victim).
  • Since the vampire is undead, he is essentially immortal and does not age. (which is how we get the hot male vampires who appear to be in their 20’s or 30’s but are probably somewhere in the thousands?....hmm.
  • A vampire may not enter a home unless invited. A vampire is afraid of Holy Crosses, Holy Water and garlic.
  • Finally, a vampire may be killed by the act of driving a wooden stake through its heart. (or the more effective method: beheading the vampire, taking out their heart and burning the body.)

Oh, and for all your vampire hunting needs, you could always stop by your local antique shop and buy yourself a vampire hunting kit! (I’m serious! These were sold a lot in the 18th century, mostly to tourists who believed that places such as London, Paris, and Romania were practically crawling with vampires.)

So, anyone interested in buying one? J (unless you’re dating a hot and sexy vampire yourself)

Comes fully equipped with holy water, stakes, crucifixes, a bible and of course the knives and ax you'll need for chopping off that vampire's head and stabbing out its heart. Happy Hunting!

[P.S: No vampires were harmed in the making of this post, nor were they hunted with the hunting kit listed above. I'm a fan of vampires and I will continue to be for many years to come :)]

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