So I wasn’t sure I could tell you anything new about a Vampire, but when I decided to research this creature, I set out to find something. Anything. And if I’m to be honest, I actually found out things I didn’t know. For instance, did you know that the Vampire showed up in Greek Mythology long before Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Or, that a Hungarian Countess was arrested for vampire behavior in the 1600s? Me either!
According to the History Channel, the main characteristic of a vampire is that they drink human blood. Their sharp fangs do the trick to open a vein, and draining the victim of blood can turn said victim into a vampire as well. Sunlight weakens their powers so they hunt primarily at night and according to general beliefs, they can’t see their image in a mirror or cast shadows. As I did some more digging, I found that the myths varied depending on the timeframe and region it was told in.
In Greek Mythology, there is a story of an Italian man named Ambrogio who traveled to Greece to visit the Oracle at Delphi. He was given a few cryptic phrases, “The Curse. The moon. The blood will run.” Confused by the message, he visited the temple again and met Selene, the Oracle’s sister, and started meeting with her each morning. He quickly fell in love and asked her to marry him.
Apollo was so enraged that anyone would dare take one of his maidens, that he cursed Ambrogio so that the touch of the sun would burn his flesh. It prevented Ambrogio from leaving with his love, and he fled to the caves to seek the protection of Hades. They made a deal, since that is Hade’s thing, and Ambrogio used his soul as a down payment. Hades armed him with wooden arrows to destroy Apollo’s sister, Artemis, and while he didn’t kill Artemis, he did manage to steal her silver bow and arrows, which was required to buy his soul back from Hades. When Artemis found out she had been stolen from, she cursed Ambrogio so that the touch of silver would burn him like the sun.
Forced to drop the bow and caught between two curses, Artemis took pity on Ambrogio and gave him a new deal. She gave him immortality and made him a powerful hunter, and because Hades still had his soul, he was unable to spend eternity with his love Selene. When she aged and eventually fell ill, Ambrogio once again sought out his beloved Goddess Artemis who had been pleased with his loyalty and service. She told him he could touch Selene just once to drink her blood, which would kill her mortal body but guarantee that they could stay together forever. Upon drinking her blood, he watched as Selene’s spirit rose to the heavens and met with Artemis at the moon. Selene became the Goddess of moonlight and every night her rays reach down toward her beloved Ambrogio.
Even though Ambrogio was described as handsome, most of the original vampires were bloated and had dark features, much like you would expect a corpse to look like in the early stages of decay. It wasn’t until they were fictionalized in the 1800s that we got the Vampire we think of today. In 1819, a man named John Polidori published The Vampyre which redefined the Vampire’s physic. He transformed the Vampire into a suave and sophisticated creature of the night, which made them all the more frightening since seemingly an everyday man or woman could seduce someone into becoming their prey. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was not released until 1897, and it is thought that many of his ideas came from Mr. Polidori’s novella, however, there were many pieces of fiction that were published at the time that could have flavored his imagination.
In more ancient beliefs, blood drinking and similar activities were attributed to demons or spirits, and even the devil was linked with the vampire. The Persians were one of the first cultures to have tales of these creatures depicted on pottery and ancient Babylonians had tales of Lilitu who was often depicted as subsisting on the blood of infants. Those tales gave rise to Lilith and her daughters the Lilu from Hebrew demonology. Estries were female shape-changing, blood-drinking demons that roamed the night in search of victims, which are also reminiscent of the vampire myths we are familiar with today.
Many people were accused of vampire behavior; one of the most well known is Vlad the Impaler who was said to dip bread into the blood of his victims and feast on it. But another that caught my eye was the Countess Elizabeth Bathory who lived from 1560 to 1614 in Hungary. There were reports of her torturing and killing female victims, and she was purported to bite the flesh of her victims and bathe in their blood as a beauty treatment. A Lutheran minister took his concerns to the Hungarian authorities and an investigation into her behavior was started. She and four of her staff members were arrested, three of whom were executed and one who received a life sentence for being her accomplice. Because of her standing, the Countess spent the remainder of her life in Csetje Castle held in a walled-up room in solitary confinement until she died there in 1614 at the age of 54. She has been described as the most vicious female serial killer in all history.
There is so much more to unpack when it comes to Vampires, such as preventive measures to keep them from harming you (like tossing a bag of rice on the ground which they would be compelled to count), or even things to do to corpses to prevent them from coming back (like burying them upside down). Perhaps one day we can come back to the Vampire and learn more, but for now, these posts are meant to give you a little “nibble” with the thought that if you would like to learn more you could do some “digging” on your own. Pardon the puns, just couldn’t help myself.
Here are some websites I came across when doing my research, there is some really great stuff out there and if you find anything interesting that you would like to share, be sure to put it in the comments below! In the meantime, Happy Writing and don’t let any strangers into your house at night! If you do, be sure to eat lots of garlic!
Happy Writing! XO