VAMPIRES FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
Stories about vampires or vampire-like creatures can be found in cultures throughout the world. The monster itself is called by many names. The Slavs call vampires moroi, in the Philippines they are danag, on Java they are known as sundal bolong, and as kuang shi in China. Even the ancient Romans had a name for them: strigas (note the similarity to the Italian word for witch, strega). Although they also have varying characteristics, the creature is always human, or at least human-like in appearance, and always feeds on human blood. Belief in vampires is so varied and widespread that some suspect a common origin, although a more likely reason is the universality of the kinds of observartions made by people all over the world that lead them to suspect the existence of vampires in the first place. Each culture develops its own kind of vampire independently.
CHARACTERISTICS OF VAMPIRES
Listing all known vampire characteristics would require an entire book devoted to the subject. The points they have in common, however, can be briefly summarized here. Nearly all ‘traditional’ vampires can transform their victims into vampires with a bite or by drinking their blood. Most vampires are described as young and attractive, and their stunning appearance is usually achieved by means of magic. Sometimes they have the ability to transform themselves into a different animal, such as a bat or a wolf. Vampires are frequently described as aggressive and endowed with supernatural physical strength. Finally, vampires are, of course, only active at night.
The question as to whether a vampire is a living, superior variety of the human species, a member of the walking dead, or a supernatural demon is not easily answered. Likewise, it is not always clear whether vampires can actually be killed. In some traditions it isn’t possible at all, while in others they succumb to sunlight, fire, Christian symbols, and having a stake driven through their heart. Water and strong-smelling plants, like garlic, are often thought to keep vampires at bay.
Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614), the ‘Countess of Blood.’ She led gruesome rituals in which more than 600 women died, leading some to believe that she was a vampire. (Source)
THE ORIGINS OF BELIEF IN VAMPIRES
The belief that those who are presumably already dead might climb out of their graves and feed on human blood is very likely out based on the observation of a number of unrelated phenomena. Some descriptions of how vampires behave correlate to the symptoms of rabies, as does the fact that vampires are created by another vampire’s bite. The vampire’s ability to transform itself also comes into play, since people infected with rabies, having been bitten by animals, take on beast-like characteristics as the disease runs its course.
In the past, it was frequently observed that the dead had undergone inexplicable changes after burial that could be interpreted as supernatural. Perhaps they had been drinking blood? Today these changes are better understood as a natural part of the decomposition process.
Prince Vlad III was the ruler of Wallachia in the 15th century. He served as a model for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula (Source)
jUST A MYTH?
That blood is the sap of life is a central belief in many cultures. Nearly everywhere in the world there are rituals, some religious and some secular, which revolve in the some way around blood. Symbolizing life, strength, and frequently, youth, blood often serves as a kind of sacrificial offering. There are also reports of people intentionally drinking the blood of animals or of other people so as to take on their characteristics.