» Vampire Legends
by Heidi Keller - July 5, 2003
Immortals who climb castle walls, but run from garlics and crosses; are inhumanly fast and strong, but can easily be caught by certain hunters; they are walking corpses, apparently mindless, but they can fall in love with mortals - especially the beautiful ones; and last but not least, a mortal version of them apparently exists and seemingly is no legend.
It seems that the vampires have always been embodiments of ambiguity!
When it was decided that the subject of this month would be about vampires, I just new the basic and popular facts about the legends, but then I started making the researches and the superstitions that gave place to the pop fantasy that we have now sickened me.
Plus, my friend Marion told me about something she read on the net, that true vampires exist and it astonished me a lot, as you must be now in reading about it, if you're not acquainted with this knowledge already.
However, read on and meet the facts with me.
4000 Years Ago...
Things started back in Ancient Egypt, and apart from their well-known belief in post mortem life, the Egyptians believed also that the souls of the dead could return as vampires. Then it seems this belief passed on to the people of Asia Minor, for they believed their goddess Ishtar, when she went to the Underworld searching for her son Tammuz said that she would cause "the dead to arise and devour the living", and the Chinese had legends about hungry spirits too.
But the first real vampire legends started in ancient Greece, where the term "lamia" is still used meaning "blood drinkers". The lamia originally were spirits of the underworld who were tormented and who used to drink the blood of small children. This legend certainly went to the Romans and later acquired more power and a certain level of veracity with the general superstition that burdened the miserable people of the Middle Ages.
All human societies have some kind of ritual used to quiet the dead or to avoid angering them, especially when these died in violent or despairing situations. The dead souls were accused of bringing plague, disease, famine, war and other problems to their families or to the cities in which they lived before.
But also the living could become vampires, when they were witches, and during the Inquisition many people, especially women were killed accused of drinking the blood of animals or of humans.
A true aspect of blood drinking is that the Phoenicians in Asian Minor and the Pre-Colombian peoples used to promote rituals in which their priests sacrificed children or war prisoners and drank their blood, or used it in their magic to appease the gods and avoid maladies.
Also African tribes and certain Black Caribbean societies, which practice Voodoo, make use of blood in their ceremonies and some witches are even said of becoming vampires and drinking the blood of their victims to weaken them.
In Eastern Europe there's even a link between vampires and werewolves, which says that those who are shape-shifters when they die they become vampires.
From the Middle Ages up to the 19th century, in the small villages, the bodies used to be dug up and analyzed in order to find traits of living death in them. But these traits were exaggerations whether caused by superstition or by ignorance of medicine.
Also many people who suffered from catalepsy, were buried still alive, because they were considered dead and when eventually their bodies were dug up, there were evidences of their desperate last moments that were considered as living death too.
And The First Light Came In...
These foolish misunderstandings became fantasy by the end of the 18th century when the first dark tales were written. Lord Byron's doctor John Polidori created his vampire, then came the famous Bram Stoker, who turned all the vampire folklore of Eastern Europe into attractive fiction for the masses.
With the success of the first silent movies in the beginning of the 20th century, the vampire tales and other such stories were revitalized and gained a new dimension. All the other improvements in the cinema technology, like sound and color only added more thrill to the genre, although one of the most well known and loved Dracula versions is still Bela Lugosi's black and white one.
Anne Rice and John Carpenter were two of the late 20th century's writers who modified the legends a little more, bringing them to our present times. And don't forget the comics illustrators like Jim Ballent, who worked on Holly Golightly's Vampfire stories, and those who created Vampyra, Rogue, etc.
Still, there's another detail to be pointed out, and this one isn't much talked about: it's the fact that mortal vampires seem to exist, are still marginalized and the knowledge about their "disease" or health attribute is scarce.
Back To Real Things
Real vampires would be common people, who develop their traits in the puberty and who start feeling the need for blood ingestion since then.
They would be sensible to strong light, sensitive to people's behavior, would have periods of greater physical disposition, but would age and die like everybody else and can't be considered "living legends".
Also this wouldn't be a mental illness, and they wouldn't be superhuman. It would only be an organic difference like diabetes that they have, and as humans are generally so very prejudiced, the vampires or 'sanguines' (as they call themselves sometimes) can't even try to understand what they are in a scientific way, because how are they going to contact some doctor and tell him/her about this without sounding mad?
Do these people really mean what they say, or are they fantasizing things?
Well, take your own conclusions...
This is it for this month. I hope to have you here next issue, reader! Bye, bye!
If you want to know more about it:
Vampire History & Fiction
Copyright © 2003 Heidi Keller