Step 5--Vampire Folklore

Our traditional image of the vampire, though born from literature, is based on this folkloric vampire, which dates back as early as the eleventh century, and was (until the 1700's) found exclusively in the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe.

Use this outline as a map to this page; click on the topic that you want to see, or just scroll down to start at the beginning.

Vampire Characteristics

  1. How a person becomes a vampire
    1. vampire from birth
    2. vampire from evil deeds
    3. vampire at/with death
  2. Physical appearance
    1. while animate
    2. while inanimate
  3. Removing/ Preventing the vampire
    1. chuch methods
    2. preventive measures (non-violent to the corpse)
    3. final methods (corpse mutilation)
  4. Saving/ preventing a victim
    1. church methods
    2. "old religion methods"

Where do vampires come from?

The Natural History of the Vampire* gives these examples as possible people who might become vampires in death, as according to old legends:

Any of those things cover you? Admittedly, there are a lot of things there that define who might become a vampire when they are dead and/ or buried, but not all of them come from the same places. Though I tired to include specific countries or regions with their myths, when possible, so many of them have been shared and obscured that it is hard to tell where they come from. It is much easier to separate things out by regions, such as Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia, though by far the largest collection of vampire lore is centered in Europe. Most scholars seem to agree that this is because of the plagues and many famines that swept repeatedly across Europe. Where there were no answers, an illness could easily be blamed on a superstitious belief. Where people were starving and quiet acts of cannibalism were taking place, it was easier to create a myth of something that arose from beyond the grave to do horrible mutilations to other bodies, rather than own up to one's deeds. Or perhaps you could even go so far as to say that vampires were born out of the nightmares induced by the horrors people were facing. Or perhaps... it's none of the above, but truth that has been obscured by myth.

How to find that vampire

Once you have a few odd things going on in your local village-- unexplained deaths, often in rapid succession; people becoming pale and weak; people complaining of being attacked by someone or something unknown; having dreams about being attacked and waking up in a cold sweat or feeling weak; or misc. unusual signs-- and you have identified the person who has recently died under suspicion of being a vampire, you need to go seek them out in their grave. There are a few certain signs to be able to tell if that corpse you unbury is just Aunt Mildred or Aunt Mildred with a will to suck the very life out of you in your sleep!

These are a few of the signs of vampirism in a dead body:

And if you can't quite tell which grave contains the vampire (or you fear more than one), then there are two options:

  1. Have a virgin boy ride naked and bareback on a virgin stallion through the graveyard until the horse steps on a grave and goes no further. That marks a vampire's grave. Or...
  2. Lead a white stallion through a graveyard and the grave he will not step on is the grave of a vampire.

    (Not much difference between the two. I suppose it depends on how far you believe you have to take it for it to work, or the availability of virgin boys and virgin stallions in your area.)

What to do now?

Have you found that vampire yet? Yes? Great! Now, let's see what we can do to further mutilate Aunt Mildred to make sure she stays good and dead and in the grave this time.

If you should happen to get bitten...

There are a few things you can do if you suspect you are under attack or have been attacked by a vampire:

Drink the ashes of a burnt vampire to cure vampire-caused illnesses and to prevent further attacks.

Remedy for attacks against children (Italy):

  1. Gospel read over the child's head while his head rests on a priest's robe.
  2. Cross of wax, blessed on Ascension Day (40th day after Easter), hung over the doorway of the house.
  3. A linen bag containing a pinch of salt hung around the child's neck.
  4. Child's hair is cut and a lock is thrown into the fire.
  5. Hinges in the house are sprinkled with holy water.
  6. Credo recited aloud 3 times.
  7. Husband/ father watches for 7 nights for the witch/ vampire.

Or if you fear getting bitten...

Vampire Watchers of the World... Unite!

Where are you most likely to see Aunt Mildred and other vampires out dancing and having a good time? Check out these promising vampire siting times...

All Hallow's Eve (Halloween) is a given for the emergence of vampires, witches, warlocks and general evil doers. Other nights fall on the eves of religious holidays such as St. George's and St. Andrew's Days (Roughly April 23rd and November 30th, respectively).

And if those sights freak you out more than you thought they would, you can always take special precautions on those nights. Try lighting bonfires, tolling church bells, painting crosses of tar on your doors, covering your cattle stalls with roses, or garlanding your house with flowers, garlic and/ or thistles to keep away the vampires.


I now give you leave to go on and find out more on your own. There is nothing more I can tell you on this topic. Oh, but there is one last thing: my favorite legend of all. "A vampire bathing brings rain." So, if you're in the middle of a drought in your village, drive everyone out in the middle of the night to bathe in the river. Hopefully one person out of them all will be a vampire and they will bring you rain. Well, it isn't necessarily true that it has to be at night. In Poland and Russia, vampires are out between noon and midnight, whereas the rest of Europe has them out at only between sunset and sunrise. Okay, I swear, I'm not holding anything else out on you. That's all I know on this subject.

*All information contained on this page has been taken from:
The Natural History of the Vampire
By Anthony Masters
G. P. Putnam's Sons, pub.
New York, © 1972

I do suggest you take the time to find this book (I found it in my college library) and read through it. There is so much information in it that I cannot even begin to put it all in my web page. It is an extremely valuable tool if you really want to learn/ research more, especially with old legends and historical accounts.

The above picture was taken by myself. Jerpoint Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian abbey. Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland. © September 2001.

Celtic spacer bar reproduced with kind permission from: Karen Nicholas--Celtic Web Art

More Vampire Information

Paul Barber's commentary on the folkloric vampire vs. 'living' or literary vampires.
Vampires in Myth and History
Interesting (and little known) folklorc vampire characteristics

You are on: Step 5

Dictionary/Terms | Step 1, The History of Eastern Europe | Step 2, Pre-Vampire Entities | Step 3, Vampire Creation Myths | Step 4, How Vampires Are Made | Step 6, "Living" Vampires | Step 7, Medical Information | Step 8, Vampire Names | Step 9, Vampires in Modern Culture | Step 10A, Vampire Book Reviews | Step 10B, Vampire Movie Reviews | Essays | The End | Home