Friday, August 27, 2010

Origins of the Vampire

Greetings to you during this fine week of the Vampire.  I would like to wrap up the week with a brief discussion about the origin of the vampire:  where the myths originated, the beliefs that led to the legends, and the rise of the vampire in popular culture.  There is a ton of information out there, and this post will primarily serve as a summary and a starting point for your own research.  Feel free to check out the links at the bottom of the page for more information.  And without further delay, let us begin our journey...

Although the term "vampire" is a relatively new one, ancient cultures have all had their own way of describing evil entities who survived off of the life and essence of others.  These were classically monsters or demons that fed off of the blood of living people.  The ancient Persians described men who drank the blood of their fellows.  Gods and goddesses of religions were known to drink the blood of their worshipers; both Sekhmet of Egyptian lore and Kali of Indian legend are examples of this.  Even the Old Testament of the bible describes Adam's first wife, Lilith, as giving rise to demons who would drink the blood of men, women, and children.

The first manifestation of what we would now consider a vampire legend occurred in ancient Slavic culture.  Through a mix of pagan worship and the new influence of Christianity, these individuals strongly believed in the separation of the body and the soul, and that if a malignant soul was buried improperly, it would rise again and take the form of an animal or human to destroy its former loved ones.  The evil spirit, called a vampir would be so jealous of life and beauty that it would strip all things of these boons.

As these legends began to spread to Western Europe during the Medieval period, new stories of horror began to spring up.  In a grim preview of the ignorance that would fuel the witch trials of early America, hysteria swept throughout Europe and countless innocent citizens were murdered and maimed in the name of slaying possible vampires. 

The romanticism of the vampire myth began as a result of John Polidori and his short story, The Vampyre, in 1819.  In it, Lord Ruthven is a suave vampire who seduces and kills innocent women.  Vampires popped up in plays and serial publications for the next few decades until Bram Stoker published the quintessential vampire tale, Dracula, in 1897.  This novel has served as a jumping-off point for countless movies, novels, comic books, and television shows.

Despite this period of marketing the vampire, legends and paranoia still abound in some parts of the world.  In the early 2000's, accusations of vampires in Africa led to at least one man being stoned to death.  There have also been urban legends in England that a series of murders occurred in which the victims were bitten on the neck.  In 2004, a Romanian family dug up the corpse of a man and burned it under the assumption that he may become a vampire.  It is clear that the legend still lives on.

I hope you enjoyed this stroll throughout the history of the vampire.  For more information, feel free to follow these other leads:

The Watcher's Zone
The Mythology of the Vampire

Head on over to The Maiden's Court for Heather's long-awaited review of Dracula in Love, by Karen Essex

And today is your last day to enter the giveaway for Dracula by Bram Stoker!  The winner will be announced tomorrow.


  1. Interesting. I started to read the links you provided...there is more reading than I have time for at the moment, but will keep them in mind. I never, ever heard of one thing you mentioned.

    "Even the Old Testament of the bible describes Adam's first wife, Lilith, as giving rise to demons who would drink the blood of men, women, and children"

    Never heard of a Lilith. Where in the Old Testament does it say this? So far, as I am reading through the Old Testament, I have not heard her mentioned. I am thinking this is a myth of sorts, and am curious as to how it was originated. I did a small search on this, but here again, at this moment, I don't have the time to sift through stuff. I will though.

    Thanks for the fun week! All your posts were very interesting.

  2. Actually, that was a little bit of a mistake on my part, ibeeeg. Lilith is from Jewish folklore. So she is more of a myth who "lives" in the time of the Old Testament.