20 December 2009

Vampires in uniform

If a vampire were to choose a profession, what should it be? Fiction has offered many options: vampires adopt the roles of skilled artists, nightclub owners, and medical doctors. Only one of these professions has viable roots.

Vampires in colonial Africa were nearly indistinguishable from witches. And, the witch could be a revered medium or a "cannibal who consumes the life-force of victims". It often occurs that "accusations of witchcraft arise from incidents of sickness and death" (Stewart 81).

In colonial Africa, "rumors tended to fix on allegations that the European colonists used indigenous minions to collect blood from Africans, which they then consumed to augment their own life-force. Europeans in this image were therefore seen as similar to vampires. The clusters of rumors that formed around this theme fall under the category of urban legends. A central feature in these legends is that firemen in Nairobi, who traveled in red trucks, were ordered by their superiors to catch victims and bring them to fire stations where they were suspended over pits and drained of their blood." This practice created "the terrifying image of draining blood from people as if they were carcasses of meat" (Stewart 81).

Researchers suggest that these rumors originated from a linguistic confusion. The term for 'fireman' existed in Swahili before the institution of the fire brigades. Bestowed upon the health department personnel "in charge of yellow fever control", the term wazimamoto carried with it a "connotation of blood-extractor or vampire". According to researcher Luise White, these rumors serve as a "fairly obvious metaphor for state-sponsored extraction" (White 18). In this way, it is easy to see how vampires became associated with European immigrants and health professionals. "The image of the vampire...straddles the connection between medicine and violence and between indigenous ideas of the supernatural and introduced kinds of scientific technology such as dealing with public health and hospital procedures of taking blood donations" (Stewart 81).

"Vampire rumors purported to unmask the true malevolent intent behind colonial public services" (Stewart 81). It should be mentioned that the term 'vampire' was used loosely, and that neither "Europeans nor their supposed minions were thought directly to suck blood or other bodily fluids, hence the emphasis on the professionalized image of the wazimamoto, as vampires in uniform" (Stewart 81).

What career should a vampire choose? It's a question that even after all these years I cannot answer for myself. If I were to mold myself into a folkloric vampire, I would be forced to walk in the fictive footsteps of Stephenie Meyer's Doctor Cullen. But, we all know that's not going to happen. So, I am left torn between two positions: that of an elf in Santa's workshop (he's a vampire, you know) and that of a totalitarian dictator. Which is more discrete?


Stewart, Pamela. Et al. Witchery, Sorcery, Rumors and Gossip.
White, Luise. Rumor and History in Colonial Africa.

07 December 2009

Mistaken Identity

But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race... (Byron)

"Eight decades before anyone had heard of Dracula, the vampire Lord Ruthven" was unleashed "the world in the first vampire short story, 'The Vampyre,' published in 1819." Initially attributed to Lord Byron, 'The Vampyre' "was an immediate popular success" (Polidori vii). The true author, John Polidori had "accompanied Byron on a continental journey" and modeled his story after that sojourn. Lord Byron became Lord Ruthven, "a mysterious stranger who entered London society" and was eventually revealed to be a vampire.

Described as "the first story successfully to fuse the disparate elements of vampirism into a coherent literary genre", 'The Vampyre' "took the crude entity of European folklore and transformed it into a complex and interesting character, the first vampire in English fiction" (Frayling, Melton 589). The story "exploited the gothic horror predilections of the public" and helped establish a literary fascination that would last centuries (Polidori vii).

In 'The Vampyre', the creature exploded from the folkloric mold. "No longer was the vampire simply a mindless demonic force unleashed on humankind, but a real person--albeit a resurrected one--capable of moving unnoticed in human society and picking and choosing victims. He was not an impersonal evil entity, but a moral degenerate dominated by evil motives, and a subject about whom negative moral judgments were proper" (Melton 589).

In his story, Polidori transforms Lord Byron, the poet, into Lord Ruthven, the vampire, and he transposes the vampiric being from the scapegoat for natural and moral ills to the embodiment of evil. In this case of Polidori's tale, who is the victim of the greatest misidentification? Is it Polidori himself, whose initial glory was usurped by the name of Byron? Is it the romantic poet who was equated with a devilish creature? Or, is it the vampire who was forever transformed into Evil incarnate?

So long,

Byron, George Gordon. "The Giaour."
Frayling, Christopher. Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula.
Melton, J Gordon. The Vampire Book.
Polidori, John. 'The Vampyre'.

30 November 2009

How many vampires does it take?

Warning: this article includes vampire jokes that have been adapted from Polish jokes. Don't be offended; at least no one sparkles.

How do you get a one-armed vampire out of a tree?
--Wave to him.

"The Polish vampire is a variety of the Slavic vampire," but due to the power of Roman Catholicism in Poland, "many of the beliefs about death and burial that pervaded the mythology of the southern Slavs were absent from Polish folklore".

In Poland, the "future vampire was destined to its fate from birth. Infants born with a membrane cap (caul) on their heads would become a vjesci and those born with two teeth would become a upier/upierzyca". The "vampiric career of the future vjesci could be diverted by removing the cap, drying it, grinding it into a powder (or burning it), and feeding it (or its ashes) to the child when he or she was seven years old". If that process did not scar the child emotionally, the barrage of jokes that followed might.

"Those destined to become vampires led otherwise normal lives," all things considered, "but they were noted to have a hyperactive personality and a red face." The saying "as red as a vampire" was used to describe those whose faces flushed with anger or embarrassment during life.

The vampire accepted his destiny at "the critical period, the time of...death" when "the future vampire would refuse final rites." The body of an individual "suspected of becoming a vampire had to be watched carefully, for it was believed that the person did not truly die." It was believed that "the body cooled very slowly, retained its color, and did not stiffen. Spots of blood often appeared around the face and/or fingernails."

After midnight, the vampire "awakened and began to eat its own clothes and flesh." Then, the vampire would visit relatives and consume their blood. Finally, it would enter "the local church and ring the church bell. Those who heard the bell were destined to be the vampire's next victims."

In Poland, a vampire could be prevented from rising by the presence of a crucifix or coin in the mouth, and a block under the chin. These foreign objects prevented the vampire from eating himself. Furthermore, sand or seeds could be added to the coffin. The belief that a vampire must count all the seeds or sand grains before continuing is echoed in this practice. Nary a vampire could succeed alone in this task, for only a genius knows the number that follows ten.

Should the vampire be exceptionally gifted, the community would dispose of him immediately. The tomb was opened and the body was laid to a final rest. Since the heart could be difficult to find, the slayer drove a nail through the forehead of the vampire. Alternatively, the corpse was decapitated, "after which the severed head was placed between the corpse's feet. At the time the head was severed, blood from the wound would be given to any who had fallen ill as a result of the vampire's attack. The blood caused their recovery", unless the individual had died of some infectious disease, in which case...well...oops.

Na razie & przepraszam,

Melton, J Gordon. The Vampire Book: The encyclopedia of the undead.

25 November 2009

Breast implants

I was asked a ridiculous question the other day. Can vampires get breast implants?

Photo source

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea. I imagine that the answer to the question is yes, but let's examine the circumstances closer. If our vampire pal was sculpted from Anne Rice's imagination, the feat of enhancing one's breasts would be impossible due to the unnatural ability to heal from all natural wounds. In Blood and Gold, Mael looses his head (literally), but regains it by supernatural graft. "The gush of blood was appalling, and I could swear that I heard the ripping of preternatural flesh...[the helper] laid the head down in the gushing blood, pushing it ever closer to the gaping neck, until suddenly the head seemed to move of its own volition, the ligaments once more like so many little snakes as the made to meet with those of the trunk, and the whole body gave another lurch and the head was firmly fixed as it should have been" (101). Rice attributes this dramatic healing process to all changes of vampiric body after death, including those that are purely cosmetic. Who can forget the scene in the film version of Interview with a Vampire in which young Claudia discovers that her hair will quickly regrow to its former length, despite lopping it off in the preceding scene? In Rice's vampiric world, breast implants may simply ooze from the animated corpse as it heals itself to its former figure.

But, we don't exist within Anne Rice's imagination, and there are other sources of vampire fiction. In Varney the Vampire, magical properties of moonbeams heal the undead creature, and without his lunar salve the vampire will remain injured. According to the author, the European vampire is a "being which can be killed, but is restored to life again by the rays of a full moon falling on the body...and that the hideous repast of blood has to be taken very frequently, and that if the vampire gets it not he wastes away, presenting the appearance of one in the last stage of consumption, and visibly, so to speak, dying" (71).

To my knowledge, I've never expounded on the notion of vampiric, rapid healing or need to feed. Why should I bother to explain such things? But, in this discussion, I find it necessary to review. The general belief is that vampires heal more quickly than humans. Some believe in the magical restoration of the corpse to the initially undead form, while others believe in a more natural, but still supernaturally quick, restorative process.

In stories in which vampires exhibit a rather natural healing process, foreign objects enter the vampiric body and are then expelled. Humans have a similar healing process when it comes to foreign objects, albeit it happens much slower and on a smaller scale than the expulsion in vampire movies. In humans, a foreign object (think of a splinter) in the flesh may be removed by the shedding of dead skin, the rejection of the foreign object by the body, or by the body's response to an issuant infection. However, when a human receives breast implants, the body reacts by producing a particular variety of cells that encapsulate the implant in order to protect the body from the foreign object. The "persistent presence of a biomedical implant, splinter, particulates, or other foreign bodies inhibits full healing" within humans. "Rather than the resorption and reconstruction that occurs in wound healing, the foreign body reaction is characterized by the formation of foreign body giant cells, encapsulation of the foreign object, and chronic inflammation" (UWEB).

If that is what happens with humans, what happens to vampires who are the recipients of breast implants? Logic may rule out predicted paths. I might assume that the vampiric body reacts in a similar way that the human body would, only faster; however, the human body's reaction requires the construction of a new type of cell. Would the vampiric body produce "foreign body giant cells" in a location where they did not previously exist? Truthfully, I have no idea.

Maybe the vampiric body would reject the breast implant, leading to a rather gruesome expulsion of silicone from the chest. But, I would say, that is the risk a vampire would have to take in order to enhance her cup size. So, if a doctor wants to peel back the pallor flesh and flush out the chest with a pair of silicone beanbags, I don't see why the medic should fear. It isn't as if a vampire is likely to sue for malpractice, anyway.


My twitter followers may already know that I am not well-endowed in certain regions, yet I have not felt the need to dabble in cosmetic surgery. It's just not that important to me. Instead of reading this dribble about vampires and breast implants, visit the blog site of gals who are actively raising awareness of breast cancer. It is important to them.

11 November 2009


Gathered beside the funeral fire, friends of the dead man whisper. Was that noise real, or is imagination playing tricks with their grieving minds? There it is again: an eerie scratching like the talons of a hawk grasping at bare bones. With a vicious growl, the corpse's brother blindly hurls a stone into the dark. Wounded, the darkness shrieks. The obstructed missile thuds to the spongy ground.

As dawn burns the charcoal sky into the ashy grey of morning, the skittish guards examine the dead. Along the ribs of the corpse, a new wound has opened as if by magic. Wailing, the watchers alert their neighbors, who clamor to spew their judgment. In the back of the crowd, a wrinkled woman feebly clutches her arm. She narrows her dark eyes at the brother of the deceased and rubs the swollen strike of his stone weapon. Dread falls heavily upon the crowd, quieting them into a stifled silence. Returning the glare, the distraught relative recalls a threat issued the evening before: On this, the very night of his death, I will feast upon his body.

"Talamaur," he groans. "What power have you gained over my brother?"

"The talamaur was the vampire[-]like creature of the Banks Islands in the South Pacific... described as a soul or tarunga," this creature "went out and ate the soul or life still lingering around the body of the corpse of a recently deceased person" (Melton 664).

"R.H. Codrington, the main source of information on the creature," reported one woman who "bragged that she would visit and eat the corpse" of each dead neighbor on the evening of his death (Melton 665). Individuals such as this woman are regarded as mediums "who possess the ability to speak with the dead" (Codrington 275). Codrington explains that the people of the Banks' Islands believe "in the existence of a power like that of Vampires. A man or woman would obtain this power out of a morbid desire for communion with some ghost, and to gain it would steal and eat a morsel of a corpse. The ghost then of the dead man would join in a close friendship with the person who had eaten, and would" afflict anyone "against whom his ghostly power might be directed" (Codrington 222). "If people in the village felt afflicted" or if they "developed a sense of dread in the presence of one of their neighbors, that neighbor would be suspected of being a talamaur" (Melton 664).

"To be a Talamaur is not a crime, and some even advertise this service in order to make a living. However, being a Talamaur is risky because whenever something unlucky or disastrous occurs in a villagers the Talamaur is generally blamed, fairly or not, which results in the somewhat traditional throng of angry villagers with torches and pitchforks...Those Talamuar who work for the good of their fellow men are in the minority, however, and the darker-natured ones use this otherworldly ability to contact the dead in order to control them and enslave them, using these servant ghosts to do all manner of mischief" (Maberry 275).

Read about another fiend in this region.

Mbae mi lukem yufala,

MELTON, J. Gordon. The Vampire Book.
MABERRY, Jonathan. Vampire Universe
CODRINGTON, Robert Henry. The Melanesians

02 November 2009

Full Moon

"As the moonbeams, in consequence of the luminary rising higher and higher in the heavens, came to touch the figure that lay extended on the rising ground, a perceptible movement took place in it. The limbs appeared to tremble, and although it did not rise up, the whole body gave signs of vitality" (Rymer, chapter 5).

In the early vampire fictions, the moon called the vampire from the ground and restored animation to its corpse. "Because the vampire is a nocturnal creature," it was expected to have "special relationship to the moon" (Melton 469). Moonbeams contained restorative powers, and the magic salve of lunar light healed all wounds.

In John Polidori's story The Vampyre (c.1819), "the vampire was killed in the course of the story" (Melton 469). After the "first cold ray of the moon that rose after his death" struck his body, the vampire revived (Polidori).

James Malcolm Rymer built vampiric healing on the same principle as Polidori in Varney the Vampyre (alternatively attributed to Jonathan Preskett Prest; published 1845-47). In this penny dreadful (a pulp-fiction story that was published as a series of short articles), the moon is so pivotal to healing that vampires "always endeavor to make their feast of blood, for the revival of their bodily powers, on some evening immediately preceding a full moon, because if any accident befalls them, such as being shot, or otherwise killed or wounded, they can recover by lying down somewhere where the full moon's rays will fall upon them" (Rymer, chapter 4).

Your logical question is: Does it work? And, for that I say: Bah. I've never been the type to howl at the moon imploring it to save me from my ailments. Full moon equates more light than normal, and superior luminescence encourages humans to risk nocturnal strolls. I harbor no ill-will against the moon goddess, but I'll leave the lunar worship to the wolves.

After Bram Stoker associated the moon with Dracula's "command over the wolves", "the moon became much more associated with werewolves" than with vampires in fiction (Melton 469).

Salud y vida,

Melton, J. The Vampire Book.
Polidori, John. The Vampyre.
Rymer, James Malcolm. Varney the Vampire.

27 October 2009


What do Harry Potter and Dracula have in common? For starters, they both attended wizardry school.

Dracula learned the secrets of nature and magic at the Scholomance, an occult school that is described to lay nestled "amongst the mountains over Lake Hermannstadt, where the devil claims" every "tenth scholar as his due" (Stoker 383).

"In the novel Dracula...Dr. Van Helsing says that Count Dracula...studied at a school run by the devil himself known as Scholomance" (Stevenson 4). The "Scholomance was an occult school situated in a labyrinth of underground caves where men would make a pact with the devil to gain occult knowledge" (Ramsland 19). The headmaster was paid with the flesh and soul of one pupil who would become a servant to his evil ways. This sinister school remains "hidden at an unknown location variously said to be located in the mountains, the underground, or the other world" (Melton 604).

The scholomance reference in Stoker's Dracula "is important because it associates Dracula, hence Slavic vampires, with witchcraft and Satan, as well as with occult philosophical learning...In her papers, folklore researcher Emily de Laszowska-Gerard talks about the Scholomance as a school where people learned 'the secrets of nature, the language of animals, and all magic spells,' as taught by the devil" (Ramsland 20).

"Very little is known of the" origins of the "Scholomance legend. Bram Stoker read about it in a book about Transylvania called Land Beyond the Forest (1888) by Emily Gerard." Some scholars suggest that Gerard misunderstood the term 'Solomonari' as "spoken by a local with a German accent." Was this a case of a foreigner miserably failing to grasp the clear diction of the local region? Perhaps...If the assertion is true, 'scholomance' "is a misnomer." Its appearance "in no other known source, nor in Romanian folklore" leads me to believe that the fantastical label was conjured by the befuddled mind of Gerard (Ramsland 19-20).

Regardless, some society of magical tradition existed, and from the mists of enchantment surrounding the magic men, Gerard spun her article. "Traditional Romanian society recognized the existence of solomonari, or wise ones, considered successors of the biblical King Solomon and bearers of his wisdom...The solomonari were basically wizards whose primary ability was affecting the weather, which they accomplish[ed] through their power over the balauri, or dragons. By riding the dragon in the sky they [brought] rain or drought. The solomonari were thus the Romanian equivalent to shaman" (Melton 603).

A solomonari is recognized as a "large person with red eyes," [possibly permanently swollen from ceaseless studying for the impossible final exam] "and red hair and a wrinkled forehead. He will wear white clothes and will arrive in a village as a wandering beggar. Around his neck will be the 'bag of the solomonari' in which he keeps his magical instruments, including an iron ax (to break up the sky ice thus producing hailstones), a bridle shaped from birch used to capture the dragon, his magical 'book' from which he 'reads' the charms used to master the dragons" (604).

"Legend has it that the Scholomance would admit students ten at a time", and that some of these would become solomonari. "Upon acquisition of the devilish insight" nine would be freed from apprenticeship and one would be retained by the Devil as payment (Leatherdale 107). The students' "final examination involved copying all that they knew about humanity into the Solomonar's book" (Ramsland 20). "Students received their own 'book' at the end of their training, described as a stone talisman with nine mysterious letters in it. In any given situation, the solomonari concentrates on the book, and from it discerns what he should do" (Melton 604). Once initiated, they become full-fledged alchemists with the power to maintain the balance of nature and to preserve order" (Ramsland 20). Stoker's Dracula boasted such powers. Mina Harker writes in her journal, "he can, within his range, direct the elements, the storm, the fog, the thunder, he can command all the meaner things, the rat, and the owl, and the bat, the moth, and the fox, and the wolf, he can grow and become small, and he can at times vanish and become unknown" (Stoker).


Leatherdale, Clive. Dracula: the novel & the legend
Melton. The Vampire Book.
Ramsland, Katherine M. The Science of Vampires.
Stevenson, Jay. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vampires.
Stoker. Dracula.

19 October 2009


Feature this: A dark, dank, fetid, widly overgrown place dominated by alligators and snakes, by tall tupelo trees marching on stilts that, on closer inspection, turn out to be exposed roots. Imagine a dripping, insect-humming monotony of sound that's eerily akin to the uneventful stillness of a mausoleum. This is a place where death is lazy, primitive and anonymous, and thus, vastly more terrifying in its pitilessness (Jakubowski 107).
This is an excerpt from a fictional account of the habitat of a loogaroo in the story Cry of the Loogaroo by John Edward Ames. Loogaroos are "old women, who [have] made a pact with the devil. In return for certain magical powers, they [agree] to bring the devil some warm blood each night" (Melton 431). "The loogaroo is a vampire...Each night she rids herself of her skin, hides it under a tree, and flies off in search of blood, flames shooting from her armpits and orifices, leaving a luminous trail through the sky" (Welland 66).

This "vampire entity [is] found in the folklore of Haiti and other islands of the West Indies, including Grenada. The word loogaroo is a corruption of the French loup-garou, which refers to werewolves. The loogaroo " is a mixture of French demonology and African vampirology. "The loogaroo [is] quite similar to the obayifo of the Ashanti and the asiman of Dahomey" (Melton 431).

The loogaroo "can take on different forms and gain entry" to a home "through the slightest crack, but she has...a weakness: she is an obsessive counter" (Welland 66). Although loogaroos could enter any dwelling, some protection was afforded by scattering rice or sand before the door." Like many other folkloric vampires, the "loogaroo, supposedly, had to stop and count each grain before continuing on its way" (Melton 431). "Compulsive counting appears to be a traditional failing of vampires in a wide range of cultures--presumably Count von Count from Sesame Street is not simply a play on the word" (Welland 66)."

Read the article about malaria in Haiti


Jakubowski, Maxim. The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica
Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire Book.
Welland, Michael. Sand: The Never-Ending Story

14 October 2009


Previous articles expounded upon the topics of sexuality and the female vampire and cross-dressing vampires. Following that train of thought, we reach the topic of homosexuality and the vampire.

In literature, the vampire "mixed elements of horror and sexuality. To many, it became a symbol of the release of the powerful emotional energies believed to be bottled up by restrictions on sexual behavior common to many societies" (Melton 341). Samuel Taylor Coleridge introduces the lesbian vampire relationship in his poem "Christabel". In the following verses, we read how "Geraldine leapt upon the bed, and with sudden vehemence enfolded Christabel in her arms".
She took two paces and a stride
And lay down by the maiden's side
And in her arms the maid she took (Coleridge 10).

In the short story "Carmilla", Sheridan Le Fanu draws out the idea of lesbian vampires: "Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, "You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever" (Le Fanu, Ch 4).

These early works introduce female homosexuality into vampire fiction; however, nearly a hundred years pass before male homosexuality rears its head. "Not until the sexual revolution of the 1960s did a male homosexual vampire appear...During the 1970s several...titles with gay vampires appeared," but "only Tenderness of Wolves was released to the general public. The movie was devoted to the case of Fritz Haarmann [Graphic violence warning], a homosexual serial killer who murdered a number of young boys and drank their blood" (Melton 342).

After the 1970s, homosexual vampires became common place. Most vampires were regarded as ambiguous in gender and sensual in nature. The product of these notions is the homosexual or bisexual vampire. However, the "most significant expression of a vampiric gay relationship" may be contained within Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, in which vampires are unable to consummate sex. Their sexual expression is translated to the sharing of blood, which is, according to Rice, "far superior" to sexual intercourse.

Whether or not blood transfer is more pleasing than a purely sexual connection, I will not say. However, it is important to note how the vampire in literature spearheads the evolution of social norms. The vampire rejects society's taboos and acknowledges alternative lifestyles. The creature of the night, who is considered dark and dead, acts as a guiding light for liberal lives.

I acknowledge that the above post contains a (quite obvious) pun. It's not meant to be offensive. I'm trusting that you have and exercise a sense of humor in the same way that I laugh off the stereotypes that seek to constrain me.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "Christabel"
Le Fanu, Sheridan. "Carmilla".
Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire Book.

10 October 2009

Cross-dressing vampires

"I saw her as if she were a vision when I looked up--a flawless young boy with porcelain cheeks...Oh what a divine guise it was--Bianca as the young nobleman known to the few mortals who mattered as her own brother" (Rice).

The act of cross-dressing exemplifies the mixing of gender roles, whereby one individual trades the socially-conscripted role for the reverse, through the guise of the opposite gender. The previous article [Sexuality & the Female Vampire], discussed how the vampire exemplifies what is taboo in the society. In traditional society, the woman should be a submissive wife or daughter and a sacrificing mother. The converse of the woman's role is that of the female vampire--the sexually aggressive, dominant, and powerful female who not only fails to be a mother but is also accused of destroying children. The female vampire of folklore and literature does not fulfill the social role of the woman; instead, she is the perfect antithesis.

"Many writers realize that it is not enough to reverse the gender roles: the roles would remain the same, only the ascribed gender would change" (Hamilton 7). Females would be as males, and males would be as females, but the dualism of gender roles would still exist. Therefore, literary vampires are described to "transcend gender when they leave humanity behind" (Hamilton 7).

Janet Golding comments on this dissolution of gender in regard to Anne Rice's Louis and Lestat by saying, "I don't think they're so male- or female-looking. I think they sort of cross both lines" (Williamson 157). "Rice voices this directly in the tale of Gabrielle...When Gabrielle becomes a vampire, she turns her back on the social expectations. She also shows her freedom in appearance by dressing up in male clothing, commenting to her son, Lestat: 'But there's no real reason for me to dress that way anymore, is there?'" (Hamilton 7). In truth, there is not. The vampire exists outside or on the fringes of normal society, so there is no reason that a vampire should conform to the physical manifestation of a gender as mandated by society.

Once social skins peel away, the vampire is free to become the pure predator. Blood drinking is a physical pleasure that replaces or accompanies sexual relations. "As sucking is gender-neutral, sexuality becomes freed from gender rules and heterosexual norms. Therefore,...what was the ultimate social evil--crossing genders--has become the ultimate act of liberation" as exemplified by the vampire (Hamilton 7).

Dos besos,

[Note: Examples of cross-dressing vampires in literature are most poignant in Anne Rice's -Vampire Chronicles-. I have used examples from Rice's work exclusively, but this is not to mean that she is the only author to use this convention.]

Hamilton, Richard Paul; Margaret Sonser Bree. This thing of darkness: perspectives on evil and human wickedness

Williamson, Milly. The lure of the vampire

Rice, Anne. Blood and Gold.

06 October 2009

Sexuality and the female vampire

The fool was stripped to his foolish hide, ...
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside--...
So some of him lived but the most of him died--
"The Vampire" by Rudyard Kipling

Vamp, "a term coined in the 1910s to refer to a woman who uses her sex appeal to seduce and exploit men", "is derived directly from vampire. The image of a wily woman "sucking the blood...out of her unknowing, naive victim is an enduring misogynist trope of twentieth-century popular culture" (Winokur 345). But, we know that the idea far predates the development of this term.

A majority of the traditional vampires were female. Lilith, Lamia, the Langsuyar, and others make up the legions of female vampires in traditional tales. The Aztec ciuateteo and Greek empusa stand as other examples of how the female vampire victimizes males. These creatures would wait by the roadside to prey on the male travelers who might pass. They may also seduce young men into their beds by promising sex and delivering death. The "female vampire illustrates...cultural anxieties about women and hunger, in which hunger is symbolically related to women's predatory sexuality and aggression" (Silver 117).

"Some post-Freudian theorists have suggested that the vampire signals an end to gender distinctions" (Willimason 157). "The gender of the vampire is ambiguous, he is male and female at once" (Lorey 264). However, the issue of gender and the vampire is more complex than the simple abandonment of gender roles. The vampire "represents what lies beyond the norms and strictures imposed by conventional society and culture" (West-Settle 19). The female vampire contradicts motherhood and the passive female role in sex and relationships. "In addition to their anti-maternal proclivity for feeding upon children, female vampires are overtly and aggressively sexual, using their beauty and seductiveness to prey on both men and other women; in each case, the female vampire's hunger is inseparable from her sexual desire" (Silver 117). In folklore, the female vampire is a tool that can be used to reinforce traditional roles through the fear of disgrace and rejection.

Just as the vampire can be used as a scapegoat for social ills, it also provides an image of the taboo or socially rejected. "Strong, independent vampire women do not suffer dominant males gladly" (Hamilton 9). When applied to society, the "vampire is a subversive borderline figure", who "problematises representation and destabilises the boundaries of gender" (Williamson 157). To encourage socially appropriate behavior, the strong female is aligned with evil, thereby encouraging women to repress their own desires to break free from their gender. Even in the Victorian era literature, vampires "can be male or female, but, except for the figure of Dracula himself, the female vampire, not the male, dominated the late nineteenth-century literary imagination, thereby placing female hunger at the center of literature of horror" (Silver 117).

In the age after the sexual-revolution (socio-political movement in the 1960s and 70s), the Western world has embraced the vampire. Humans are allured by the sexually aggressive vamp; they idolize the vampire for the ability to reject social norms and to live outside the constraints of tradition. What was once feared for being different is now admired and romanticized.


Alternate Film Guide. http://www.altfg.com/blog/film-reviews/a-fool-there-was-theda-bara-frank-powell/ [PHOTO]

Hamilton, Richard Paul; Margaret Sönser Bree. This thing of darkness...

Lorey, Christoph; John L. Plews. Queering the canon: defying sights in German literature and culture.

Silver, Anna Krugovoy. Victorian literature and the anorexic body.

Williamson, Milly. The lure of the vampire: gender, fiction and fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy

Winokur, Mark, & Bruce Holsinger. The complete idiot's guide to movies, flicks...

02 October 2009


A curse upon your enemy: "May the earth spew you forth."
Many of the creatures commonly considered as vampires from Greece "were not vampires in the same sense as those of Eastern Europe. They were spirit beings rather than revivified corpses. The ancient Greeks, however did have a class of revenants, vrykolakas, which would develop into true vampires" over the years (Melton 305).

Leo Allatius "described the vrykolakas, the undecomposed corpse that has been taken over by a demon, and noted the regulations of the Greek Church of the discernment and disposal of a vrykolakas" (Melton 9). In the earliest legends, the identity of the vrykolakas was known, and cremation of the body could stop its nocturnal visits. "It was necessary to burn up the vrykolakas entirely" in order to ensure its permanent riddance of the creature (de Tournefort).

"The ancient revenant was, however, not yet a vampire, or even an object of much fear. The revenant often returned to complete unfinished business with a spouse, a family member, or someone close to him or her in life...In later centuries, stories would be told of....vrykolakas who resumed life in the family. Occasionally, there would be a report of a revenant who...remarried and fathered children" (306).

"Early in the twentieth century, John Cuthbert Lawson spent considerable time investigating the vrykolakas in Greek folklore. He noted its development in three stages, beginning with that of pre-Christian times." In the ancient stories, "the return was by divine consent for a specific purpose," and at times, the "revenant status" was "punishment for human failure." Some myths note instances "when people were cursed with an incorruptible body, meaning that in death the individual would be denied communion with those on the other side of the grave."

After the rise of Christianity, and the development of the Greek Orthodox Church, the idea was framed in the context of religion. The "church taught that a curse could ...prevent the natural decay of the body which at the same time became a barrier to the progress of the soul....[A]s the church came to dominate Greek religious life, it proposed that the dead might become vrykolakas if they died in an excommunicated state, if they were buried without the proper church rites, or if they died a violent death...To these it added two other causes: stillborn children or those who were born on one of the great church festivals" (307).

As the Eastern Orthodox Church spread into other lands, foreign beliefs entered Greece "and began to alter...the understanding of the revenant, transforming it into a true vampire. The significant concept was that of the werewolf...Some Slavic people believed that werewolves became vampires after they died." Scholars argue that "the Slavonic term came into Greece to describe the werewolf..., but gradually came to designate the revenant or vampire" (307). Although it's a point of contention, most believe that the term vrykolakas "was derived from the older Slavic compound term vblk'b dlaka, which originally meant wolf pelt wearer" (305). This compound word is still in use as "the exact equivalent of our 'werewolf'...[T]he reason for the transition of meaning" from 'were-wolf' to 'vampire' lies "in the belief current among the Slavonic peoples...that a man who has been a were-wolf in his lifetime becomes a vampire after death" (Lawson 378).

As the Greeks adopted the Slavic word, they also "absorbed a Slavic view of the possible vicious nature of vampires. The ancient Greek revenant was essentially benign...on occasion it committed an act of vengeance, but always one that most would consider logical. It did not enact chaotic violence" (308). The bloodthirsty and wonton vampire of the Slavs was contrary to the passive Greek revenant. "Gradually, the view that vampires were characteristically vicious came to dominate Greek thought about the vrykolakas" (308).


De Tournefort, Pitton. Vrykolakas.
Lawson, John Cuthbert. Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion...
Melton, J Gordon. The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia...

28 September 2009

Hypnotic powers of vampires

"I watched [the vampires] with a sense of soothing, and a sort of calm stole over me...I felt myself struggling to wake to some call of my instincts; nay, my very soul was struggling, and my half-remembered sensibilities were striving to answer the call. I was becoming hypnotized" (Stoker 44).

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, "contains countless instances of vampires using hypnosis to overpower their victims" (Abbot 39). "The vampire's hypnotic hold on a person" intensifies and evolves after a blood exchange (Melton 357). "In Dracula, it becomes clear that after Mina is bitten, she has a subliminal awareness of her attacker's whereabouts. Under hypnosis, she can describe what she sees and hears as if she were inside the monster" (Ramsland 73). Van Helsing, the vampire hunter, dabbles with "hypnosis but in comparison with the vampire's inherent mastery of these forces, he is a novice." (Abbot 39). Exploiting the hypnotic link between vampire and victim, Van Helsing "hypnotized Mina, and while in a trance she was able to give him information on Dracula's progress on the return trip to his castle" (Melton 357).

"All of Dracula's characteristics" including "his use of telepathy and hypnosis...are products of a nineteenth-century reexamination of science and the supernatural, and suggest the entrance of scientific study into a period of extraordinary science where all systems of belief are challenged and anything is possible" (Abbot 40). Mind-control defied the autonomy of the individual and terrified in the populace by threatening to use their own bodies against themselves.

Approximately a hundred years before Stoker wrote his novel, the public heard the early whispers of hypnotic induction. "Franz Anton Mesmer late in the eighteenth century...first brought hypnosis to popular awareness," although scholars and a majority of the masses regarded it as quackery. In 1843, "John Braid coined the term hypnosis...in reference to Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep." (Ramsland 74). Around the time that Stoker wrote Dracula, the medical community investigated hypnosis as a possible alternative or supplement to medical procedures and as a treatment for psychiatric disorders.

However, "the use of hypnosis as a tool of a vampire" may not have originated "with Stoker. Many eastern European vampire legends suggest that the vampire could hypnotize the living in order to overpower their victims" (Abbot 37). Whether the idea of forced sleep or mind control is an authentic element of the folklore, or if it was attributed to the legends post-eighteenth century, is a mystery. Some experts assert that true "hypnotic powers were not evident in the accounts of the folkloric vampire," instead claiming that since the vampire "often attacked at night while its victims slept" hypnosis was not necessary. Victims who reported sleep-walking or waking with "the vampire hovering over them" may have simply been in deep, natural sleep.

To my loyal followers and faithful readers:
If you are brazen, take a stab at the answer to this question: Do I lure people with hypnosis?



Abbot, Stacey. Celluloid vampires: life after death...
Melton, Gordon J. The Vampire Book: The encyclopedia of the undead.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula.
Ramsland, Katherine. The Science of Vampires.

23 September 2009

Vampires in Belarus

"In films a vampire and werewolf are distinctly different monsters, but in folklore they are sometimes very much alike" (Maberry, Vampire 313). An interesting case emerges in Belarus with the Mjertovjec. Fabled to be the son of a werewolf, a witch, or a dead bridegroom, this creature "has qualities of both monsters" during its prolonged existence (May 10. Maberry, Vampire 213). Apart from birth and death, an individual can transform into a Mjertovjec by following the path of "an apostate...[someone who deliberately abandons faith or defies the church], heresy, or [commits] other crimes against God." (213)

"At the core of the legend is one of the strangest and most frightening twists of supernatural folklore: In Belarus, when a werewolf or witch dies, the spirit does not dissipate or 'move on'; instead it returns to Earth" "as a vampire" (Maberry, Vampire 213, Maberry, Bad 248). This is not an ordinary vampire, but a very powerful one who terrorizes people from midnight until morning. "The Mjertovjec is a night-hunter and must return to its grave once a rooster has crowed three times. If it does not, it loses its ability to fly and then flops to the ground, where anyone with a torch and some kindling can kill it" (Maberry, Vampire 214). The creature is only susceptible to fire, but a sharpened iron spike driven through its heart can immobilize it in the grave for a short while.

"[N]ot all of the Mjertovjec rises from the grave: Only its head and upper chest tear free of the corpse and float through the air to hunt for blood. This peculiarity is rarely seen...among vampires of Europe" although, it is a common phenomenon in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia (214).

Curiously, "the Mjertovjec does share in" the quintessential "obsessive-compulsive need to stop and count seeds left outside" (214). Berliner Gesellschaft fur Anthropologie reports that the way approaching the grave in Small Russia [Belarus] is covered with seeds, which the vampire (Mjertovjec) must pick up before it can return.
Der Weg zum Grabe wird in Kleinrussland mit Mohnkornern bestreut, welche der Vampyr (Mjertovjec) aufzulesen hat, ehe er wiederkommen kann (Berliner 143).

Among other European vampires, the Mjertovjec is particularly grotesque with a purple face and a mutilated body. During all stages of its existence, it proves itself to be an enemy to the Church and to the populace, and it continues to curse the villages even after its mortal death.

Berliner Gesellschaft fur Anthropologie, et al. Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie.
Maberry, Jonathan. Bad Moon Rising.
Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings...
May, Heinrich. Die behandlungen der sage von Eginhard und Emma.

15 September 2009

Malay Vampires

Pain from child birth crumples the face of a young woman. Sweat saturates her glossy hair, matting it into stringy, dark locks. Shuddering, she lets out a final groan before collapsing from exhaustion.

The midwife whispers, "The child is already dead."

Malay vampires emerge into the world through sorrowful suffering like this. "The vampire has two manifestations in Malaysia: the langsuyar [langsuir] and the pontianak" (Bush 195). These 'undead' creatures are intimately related, and often confused in the folklore of Malaysia and the surrounding regions.

"Any woman giving birth who died upon discovering that her child was stillborn was thought to become" a langsuyar (Konstantinos 24). The original "langsuyar was a very beautiful woman who had a stillborn baby. The woman flew off into the trees. She is denoted by her ankle-length black hair, green robe and her long fingernails, a Malaysian indicator of female pulchritude" (Bush 195). "The langsuir was not described as having fangs like other vampires, rather," she "sucks the blood of infants through a hole in the back of her neck, hidden by her copious hair" (Konstantions 24, Bush 195).

Malay folklore provides a way that the langsuir "can be captured and cured of her curse in such a way that she can once again live an almost normal life" (Konstantinos 8). This revival may be "accomplished by a mortal who would cut the vampire's nails and hair, and stuff them into the hole in her neck" (24). The task is not easy, but it will return the woman to the mortal condition prior to her miscarriage and subsequent transformation into a langsuyar.

"The pontianak is curiously complimentary to the langsuyar. It's a stillborn child that transformed into an owl-like creature" (Bush 195). "In the Malay Peninsula the Pontianak (or Mati-anak) is usually distinguished as the ghost of a child who has died at birth." This ghost may take possession of living humans and impart impossible powers upon them. "There are many references in Malay literature to the flying performances of Malayan heroes" who were supposedly under the influence of the childlike creatures (Folklore 135).

"Before we move away from Malaysia, one more vampire (not a species, but an individual, legendary creature) deserves mention--the penanggalan. That creature was also believed to be female; a woman who was interrupted in the middle of a penance ceremony. From her great shock and rapid movement, her head became separated from her body and flew off as an evil spirit. The creature was later heard whining on the roofs of houses where children were being born. She apparently wished to get inside the houses to drink the children's blood." (Konstantinos 24). They are also known to be "evil spirits that take possession of women and turn them into predatory witches" (Stevenson 96).

"Just to confuse matters, it is also believed that sorcerers can often raise bodies from the dead and command them to do their bidding...such beings could drink blood or spread disease. Malaysia was a case in point for many of these vampires" (Curran128). Vampires in Malaysia are terrifying and mournful creatures. "Such demons may have served in part to frighten women into upholding the responsibilities of wifedom and motherhood, lest they, too, become monsters" (Stevenson 84).

Kopiruba kawagu,

Read the blog article about Malaysia, monkeys, and malaria.

Bush, Laurence C. Asian horror encyclopedia: Asian horror culture in literature...
Curran, Bob. Vampires: a field guide to the creatures that stalk the night.
Folklore Society (Great Britain). Folklore.
Konstantions. Vampires: the occult truth.
Stevenson, Jay. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vampires.

10 September 2009

Vampire hunters

A reader requested this topic. I am not an expert on vampire hunting, and I do not know the 'secrets' associated with the -sport-. The tradition of the vampire hunter is as complex and detailed as vampire lore. I can only give you a brief glimpse at this sinister world. Undoubtedly, someone will respond that vampire hunters and blood-drinkers are fictional. To that dear one I say: I wish you were right.

"Into each generation a slayer is born. One girl in all the world, a chosen one. One born with the strength and skill to fight the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers" (Buffy). Aficionados of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will recognize this legend, but vampire hunters are much older and much more prolific than you may imagine.

"The vampire slayer is cut from the same cloth, is the product of the same social or religious violations, as the vampire" (McClelland 107). "The vampire and the vampire slayer are similarly marked as 'non-Christian'; they are in a sense related to each other and in all likelihood reenact a mythological struggle that pre-dates Christianity. In other words, where Christianity finds the vampire, it also finds his slayer" (105). "The notion of a vampire slayer has a very ancient precedent, which existed in a time and place where it was socially more useful to produce a vampire as a guilty criminal than to incriminate one's friends and neighbors" (29).

As is often the case, the vampire is the scapegoat for socially shunned actions, ills, and evils. "Ordinarily, no one would admit to being a vampire of any sort (since to do so would be to acknowledge one's marginal or negative social status, as well as to confess that one was in fact dead)"; however, the same is not true for the vampire hunter (104). Like the vampire, the slayer operates outside of society and is not inhibited by law, yet often, the slayer is excused from immoral or questionable activities by the virtue of their abilities. Furthermore, "while the vampire slayer is marked by a connection to the demonic, this special status is not something that must be hidden" (104).

Surely, there are those hunters who prefer to hide their identity to maintain safety and sanity, but nondisclosure is not conscripted. Generally, vampire hunters know and abide by the rules of society provided that they do not interfere with their mission. Educated or well-trained individuals set the bench-mark for vampire hunters in fiction. Van Helsing appears "to represent the epitome of the vampire hunter: an older man experienced in both science and the occult who knows what to do but who remains fairly secretive" (157). Anne Rice transforms the idea of a vampire hunter into a semi-secret society that studies vampires--the Talamasca. In Rice's Vampire Chronicles, "the idea of the vampire hunter...is rather curiously inverted: it is the vampire protagonist who must tell the vampire hunter" (in the case of Interview with the Vampire, "the reporter-narrator-interlocutor) of his actions and therefore his evil identity" (28). The would-be hunters are not slayers in traditional sense, so much as they are watchers.

The notion of a watcher, who is very familiar with the legends and histories of vampires, resurrects in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Here, the watcher fulfills the "wise old-man" role from Van Helsing. Buffy takes on the aggressive violent role and "restores some sense of the original power relationship between vampires and vampire slayers by establishing a fairly simple superhero who acts outside the rule of law...the structure also mimics the centuries-old folkloric idea that only someone who possesses special powers can see or destroy a vampire" (28).

Vampire hunters go by many names in folklore. Some of the more common are the dhampir, the glog, the vampirdzia, and the sabotnik. Each individual of these types has the possibility of becoming a vampire. The dhampir, glog, and vampirdzia are the hybrid offspring of humans and vampires. The individuals can awaken to their vampiric nature by consuming blood or they can transform into a "vampire hunter who had extraordinary powers" that are "derived from the vampire" (Ramsland 161).

The sabotnik is not necessarily the child of a vampire. These individuals are distinguished by the day of their birth. "Saturday, especially the Saturday before Easter, is a dangerous time to be born: if the native does not become a vampire, (s)he may become a sabotnik" (McClelland 100). A sabotnik is a seer of vampires. Often, these individuals regard their gift-of-sight as a curse.

All vampire hunters in folklore "can recognize vampires" easily and are in that way predisposed to acting as slayers, although they are often regarded as sinister individuals by average society (Handeland 131). "In order to quell the dead intruder without reinforcing the deceased's alienation, a special person is identified to take care of the social problem. That person becomes a vampire hunter or slayer, a surrogate and mediator who battles violence with counteractive violence" (McClelland 29).

An intriguing duality between the vampire and the slayer emerges in folklore. A vampire is brought into the world by violence, whether it be a violent death, the rape of a human mother, or the grisly bite of vampiric monster. Once the revenant exists in the mortal world, it can only be disposed of through violence by the hand of the slayer, "who has the capacity to become a vampire" by virtue of birth. In essence, the slayer "ritually reverses the vampire's coming into existence by reenacting the violent scene that promoted a victim to a villain" (McClelland 98).

In this dualistic scenario, who represents Evil, and who represents Good? Is the vampire, who struggles to survive against all odds, evil? Is the hunter, who tortures and murders an already abused victim, good? Obviously, I may be slightly biased...


Celebrity Wonder. (image)
Handeland, Lori. Doomsday Can Wait.
McClelland, Bruce. Slayers and their vampires: a cultural history of killing the dead.
Ramsland, Katherine M. The Science of Vampires.

08 September 2009

Commercial Break

Consider this a public service announcement that interrupts your normally scheduled programing. [Don't worry; I will not use the disturbing routine of a ghastly, child narrator who was killed by a drunk-driver.]

It has been brought to my attention on numerous occasions that my ambiguous identity arouses suspicion. My face is obscured in photos for security. I interact with people on a daily basis, and I cannot have my neighbors holding exorcisms outside my house.

However, my choice to remain partially hidden should not be interpreted as trickery. I connect with you on twitter for a single purpose (Read it here). I am NOT a role-player. I do not operate multiple twitter accounts in the attempt to drum up extra support.

Also, I am not @WhoisJonathon8, @MTMK102, @CalistaThan, @LucRevenant or @LordBarren. I cannot tell you their whereabouts, current dispositions, political ideology, or speak with authority on whatever other concerns they pose to you. Sure, the voices in my head are often contentious, but I do not air my internal dialogue on twitter [read with sarcasm].

Furthermore, if someone other than @AnaRevenant is tweeting under my name, then they are doing so without my permission, and they should consider choosing a more reputable individual to impersonate. Seriously, you won't get far by using my name.

One more thing: Don't take this message too harshly, if you were one of the individuals who asked if I maintained multiple online-personalities. The question has been posed several times by several different people. You are not alone, but do not make the same mistake again.

Dic mihi solum facta,

05 September 2009

Vampires in Guyana

In April of 2007, "A crowd of Guyanese villagers lynched an elderly woman," who "they accused of being an evil spirit who drinks the blood of human babies." She was beaten to death after authorities handed her over to villagers "who apparently believed she was an 'Old Higue' --the equivalent of a vampire in the local Obeah religion that blends folk magic with African rituals" (Guyana).

The "Old Higue are women, and...It is believed that Old Higue starts to roam at the time when people have settled in for the evening and thus the place is quiet" (Gibson 28). Some Guyanese "expressed surprise at the persistence of [the] belief in Higues, a creature said to take the shape of an old woman who can shrink herself to enter victims' homes through a keyhole" (Guyana).

"The word higue ['haig] derives from the English word hag, here meaning a 'witch'" (Le Page 97). The Old Higue most frequently sucks blood from the back of the neck of young boys and babies. "Dressing a child in blue nightclothes is said to be a means of repelling an Old Higue attack" (Gibson 28).

A Creole poem, transcribed by Martin Carter, explains some strange attributes of the Old Higue and reveals her critical weakness.
Old Higue in the kitchen
peel off her skin--
mammy took up old higue skin
and pound it in the mortar
with pepper and vinegar.
"Cool um water cool um
cool um water cool um."
Old Higue come back to the kitchen
"Cool um water cool um"
She grab the skin out of the mortar
"Cool um water cool um"
She danced meringue when the pepper
burn up her skin--
dance meringue when the pepper burn up her skin
"skin skin you na know me
skin skin you na know me"
she danced meringue when the pepper
burn up her skin. (Gray 27)

Shibuye ba,

Read also: Malaria & Antibiotics in Guyana

Gibson, Kean. Comfa religion and Creole language in a Caribbean community.
Gray, Cecil. Bite in 1.
"Guyana woman accused as vampire lynched." WorldWide Religious News. 30 April 2007.
Le Page, Robert Brock. Tabouret-Keller, Andree. Acts of identity: Creole-based approaches to language and ethnicity.

02 September 2009

Vampires in South Florida

Miami: "The happy hunting ground of the devil."

South Florida sets an idyllic stage for quite a few vampire dramas in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. "Miami beckons;" she offers "victims just waiting" to be ensnared(Rice: Queen; 491). It is "the vampires' city".

What an attractive opening scene is "South Beach at sunset, in the luxurious warmth of the winterless winter, clean and thriving and drenched in electric light, the gentle breeze moving in from the placid sea, across the dark margin of cream-colored sand, to cool the smooth broad pavements full of happy mortal children" (Rice: Tale; 9). South Florida provides a paradise for all who dwell near the Atlantic shore. Vampires stroll beneath the fronds of coconut palms, silhouetted in the moonlight. From perches in al fresco cafes, they watch the scantily-clad humans as they march down the promenade. Translucent sarongs cling to the oiled thighs of women from every nation. Men, fresh from the gym and glazed in sweat, gawk at halter-bound breasts as their bearers bounce between bars and nightclubs. Miami Beach is a market for flesh--in more ways than one.

"Most people have no idea how many vampires are out there" (Mooney). In South Florida a "community of vampires" thrives. These individuals "sometimes spell [the word] vampyre to differentiate" themselves "from the fictional...forms. They identify with the lonely, torn spirits in vampire stories, but these folks are not your typical goth kids. Nor are they role playing. Some of them claim to be psychic vampires with an ability to drain energy with their minds. And some are sanguine - vampires who lust after and feed on human blood."

The community in South Florida "consists of circles of like-minded vampires and donors, often called 'black swans,' who are willing to let a vampire drink from them." And, wherever vampires thrive, vampire hunters lurk. These "slayers" are "deranged individuals who sometimes try to harm or kill the vampires" (Mooney). Inspired by tales like Van Helsing and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, these glory-seekers arm themselves with arsenals of ridiculous weapons and gallop off, unthinking, like tragic heroes. But, the "slayers" are not heroes and the vampires are not demons incarnate.

"As vampires become pop-culture icons...it's important for the public to understand the truth about this large, mostly unknown segment of society." Vampires are not necessarily devil-worshipers. "There are a lot of Christian vampires. There are Jewish vampires, Buddhist vampires, vampires of every religion. It's just about a philosophy on energy" (Mooney). "It's not Satanism, and we are not evil," declares Evan Christopher, who hosts a Vampire Gathering in Florida. In truth, most vampires of South Florida do not believe themselves to be evil, and they adhere to a strict code of ethics that protects the individuals and the community.

In Miami, the curtain opens in the real "Theatre Des Vampires," but whether you attend a comedy or a tragedy is a matter of perspective (Rice: Vampire).

Mooney, Michael J. "South Florida's underground vampires lust for more than your heart." New Times. 03 Feb 2009.

Rice, Anne. The Tale of a Body Thief.

Rice, Anne. The Queen of the Damned.

27 August 2009

Vampires & The Tibetan Book of Death [Graphic]

He "will tie a rope around your neck and lead you away. He will cut off your head, rip out your heart, pull out your guts, lick your brains, drink your blood, eat your flesh, and gnaw your bones." He is Shinje, the Tibetan Lord of Death, who is also called Yama in nearby regions (Thurman 175) [Excerpt from the Tibetan Book of Death].

In the article about vampires of India, I mentioned the wrathful deities of Tibet and Nepal. You will recall that these deities were among the first named vampiric creatures (Konstantinos).

"Vampire qualities" may have first appeared "in the fang-like teeth of the carved images of...the Tibetan devil Yama" (Varma 13). "Stories of these weird gods who subsisted by drinking the blood of sleeping persons originated with the Hindus of ancient India. And Tibetan manuscripts concerning vampires were held in such high regard that they were embalmed to increase their sanctity...The vampire motif is an anthropomorphic theme, a human-animal, life-death configuration. The vampire kills and re-creates. He is the Destroyer and the Preserver, for the passive vampires of life turn into active ones after death" (Stuart 13).

In Tibet, "vampire folklore...followed their religious beliefs"(Konstantinos 24). Shinje is maintained as a true deity in Tibetan religion. "The King of Existence is also the Lord of Death, Shinje, the husband of Kali. Shinje drinks human blood as well as consumes both human and horse flesh. It is said he 'rests on the great flames of existence and subdues even the tortures of hell', thus Shinje is both dark and light" (Ford 86). The Tibetan incarnation of this god possessed a green body and carried the Wheel of Life in his clawed hand. He is also considered the Judge of the Dead.

However, Shinje is not the only vampiric entity to reside in Tibet. "Tibet, like India and China, possessed a rich pantheon" of "Wrathful Deities who appeared in The Tibetan Book of the Dead" (Melton 852). "In it fifty-eight blood-drinking deities are described. Those Wrathful Deities, as they were called (actually the description in the Tibetan Book of the Dead makes them seem more like entities than deities), inhabited the land of the dead. The Tibetans also believed that the spirits of the dead could inhabit corpses and cause them to rise and attack the living." (Konstantinos 24-25).

A dead body became a liability to neighbors, who often could not bury the body because the ground was "frozen hard during the winter" (Bell). Timber and other fuel was also in short supply, so bodies may have been dismembered to prevent them from changing into a dakini (also called khandro or khandroma in Tibet), which is "a type of Tibetan vampire" (Muses). Measures were taken to ensure complete destruction of a corpse after death. "Excarnation would seem one of the more effective methods of body disposal...In Tibet the process is particularly gruesome: the flesh is separated from the bones of the body by workers with knives rather than the birds that consume the flesh." "Here we see what an eternal embarrassment corpses can be" (Barber 171).

As in many vampire legends, the name, Dakini, may have originally referred a single entity, which was "the feminine energy principle, associated with knowledge and intelligence". This force could have been "either destructive or creative." The lofted Dakini was paired with Vidyadhara, as in this poetic passage: "Vidyadhara...will appear, white in colour, with a radiant smiling face, embracing his consort the White Dakini, dancing with a crescent knife and a skull full of blood, gesturing and gazing at the sky" (Purjavadi 107). "Iconographic representations tend to show the dakini as a young, naked figure in a dancing posture, often holding a skullcup (kapala) filled with menstrual blood or the elixir of life in one hand, and a curved knife (kartika) in the other. She may wear a garland of human skulls, with a trident staff leaning against her shoulder. Her hair is usually wild and hanging down her back, and her face often wrathful in expression, as she dances on top of a corpse, which represents her complete mastery over ego and ignorance" (Campbell 138).

Eventually, the image of dakini morphed to include a number of blood-drinking individuals. Legends describe "countless crowds of dakinis...wearing the six bone-ornaments, with drums, thigh-bone trumpets, skull-drums, banners made from the skins of youths, canopies made from human skin, ribbons of human skin and incense made from human flesh...filling all the regions of the universe so that they rock and tremble and shake" (Purjavadi 54-55). The dakinis are called Khandroma, which "means Sky-goer or Sky-dancer" (Nus-Idan-rdo-rje 224). They move in the air and cover the earth, spreading with them the tales of vampires. "Westerners have" often "viewed vampire lore as a fascinating but unsolved enigma, but the origins of" these myths may "lie in the mystery cults of Oriental civilizations" (Stuart 13).

Tingla thugen,


Barber, Paul. Vampires, burial, and death: folklore and reality

Bell, Charles. Illustrations of the Great Operations of Surgery: Trepan, Hernia, Amputation, Aneurism, and Lithotomy. (1821)

Campbell, June. (1996). "Traveller in Space: In Search of the Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism". George Braziller. ISBN 0-8076-1406-8 p. 138

Ford, Michael W. Adamu. Luciferian Tantra and Sex Magick.

Konstantinos. Vampires: the occult truth.

Melton, J Gordon. The vampire book: the encyclopedia of the undead.

Muses Realm. Vampires. 27 August 2009.

Nus-Idan-rdo-rje, Stag-sam. Sky dancer: the secret life and songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel.

Purjavadi, Nasr Allah. Peter Lamborn Wilson. Kings of love: the poetry and history of the Ni'matullahi Sufi order

Stuart, Roxana. Stage blood: vampires of the 19th century stage.

Thurman, RAF. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, trans, of Padma Sambhava.

Varma, Devendra. Varney the Vampire

26 August 2009

Which one of these things...

Which one of these things is more likely than the other?
1. a vampire that teaches you grammar
2. a vampire that teaches you to count

24 August 2009

Blood Tears

Calista is exasperated by the barrage of questions about vampiric bodily fluids.

I say:
People, that's gross! And, leave Calista alone. She doesn't want to answer these ridiculous questions.

I absolutely refuse to discuss the finer points of vampiric digestion [EVER]. It's not going to happen, so get over it. Having said that, I will address a trait that frequently arises in modern fiction--the myth of blood tears.

In Interview with a Vampire, Anne Rice effortlessly describes "the stain of tears, tinged with mortal blood" (Rice 258). The reader cannot help but envision a pale, porcelain cheek striped with the trails of crimson tears. The imagery is beautiful.

Rice is not the only author to describe blood-tainted tears. Raven Hart's vampire narrator says, "One of my tears fell onto her fine skin. The tear was tinged pink with the blood that animates my body" (Hart 212). Cecilia Tan's vampire feels the need to explain his clear tears "If I had been feeding on people, they would be blood tears," he says (Tan).

Like most dramatically romantic characteristics, "the notion that vampires cry blood tears" is a "new and unique development, but not one that makes biological sense. Presumably, vampires" must "have other fluids inside their bodies" and if tears were affected, then liquids like "saliva would be blood as well" (Ramsland 66-7).

Can you imagine every drop of sweat, snot, and saliva being reduced to blood? You would be left with no other way to describe a vampire than to say that he is "a bloody mess." It's not a pretty picture anymore, is it?

"Why the ingestion of blood would produce blood tears any more than the ingestion of wine would make [humans] weep red zinfandel is a mystery" of fiction (Ramsland 67). Certainly some authors have tried to make excuses for this medical marvel. Erin McCarthy offers this solution: "the vampire trait of crying blood tears...is usually chalked up to sinus infections" (McCarthy 164). While bacterial conjunctivitis can cause an individual to cry blood-stained tears, you can't believe that vampires have perpetual sinus tract infections. What an existence that would be!

Now, I'm not saying that Haemolacria [definition: physical condition whereby a person produces tears which are partially composed of blood (wikipedia)] is impossible; I am saying that it is not a trait that arises from vampirism. If haemolacria and vampirism were linked, then you would certainly no longer see vampires as the sexy, suave creatures of modern fiction.

That is all,

Abstract Desktop Nexus. Tear for a vampire. [Picture]
Hart, Raven. The Vampire's Seduction.
McCarthy, Erin. High Stakes.
Ramsland, Katherine M. The Science of Vampires.
Rice, Anne. Interview with a Vampire.
Tan, Cecilia. A Taste of Midnight: Sensual Vampire Stories.
Wikipedia. "Haemolacria". 24 August 2009.

21 August 2009

Vampires in Ethiopia

I prefer to write parallel articles for the malaria and revenant blog whenever I can, but in Ethiopia I found a problem. There are certainly blood-drinker legends that circulate in Ethiopia, but few are of "true" vampires. Instead, we have the Bouda, which "is a hard creature to classify because its evil qualities are many and they overlap. For example, it is a living vampire, and a shape-shifter, a bloodsucker, and a flesh-eater" (Maberry 51). They are rumored to live in the "Devil's Cave, somewhere near Nek'emte, in the Welega division of Ethiopia" (Eberhart). They are "unique among the world's theriomorphs" as they take the form of a "were-hyena". Originally from Morocco, this creature is "also found in Tanzania". It "is a living vampire--a bloodsucker that has the nature while still alive, as opposed to one who becomes a monstrous predator after rising from the grave. The Bouda is also a deliberate theriomorph and uses sorcery to transform itself." "Most Boudas are blacksmiths by trade, and they labor in their forges to make amulets and charms of enchanted metals that will enhance their own inherent preternatural strengths" (Maberry 51).

"Without the charm two things happen: first, the Bouda is unable to regain human form, and second it eventually becomes a true hyena, losing all of the human cunning it...possesses even when in animal form". "Though fierce, the Bouda does not possess supernatural strength and has no powers of invulnerability, and can therefore be killed by any ordinary means either in human or animal shape" (Maberry 51).

With the legends of Bouda, we find the myths of an Ethiopian vampire bat that is "said to feed on the blood of animals and humans, causing puncture wounds and debilitating sickness" (Eberhart). The myths of Bouda and mysterious vampire bats intrigued Byron de Prorok, who in the 1930s "explored a cave said by the locals to be haunted by hyena-men and a death bird. The hyenas proved real enough, and so did the death birds, in the form of a huge swarm of bats." In truth, "the only known sanguinivorous bats are found in Mexico, Central, and South America," yet Prorok referenced illness in relation to them and the cave he explored (Eberhart). Eberhart speculates that "infected bites from parasites carried by the bats might be mistaken for bat bites" themselves.

As any reader of my blog knows, parasites can cause particularly debilitating illnesses. Ethiopia has not yet escaped the blight of parasites and is still contending with the assault of malaria.

Dehna hunu,

Byron Khun de Prorok, Dead Men do tell tales.
Eberhart, George. Mysterious creatures: a guide to cryptozoology.
Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings...
Wikipedia. Spotted Hyena [Photo].

17 August 2009

Vampires in Nigeria

"In pre-colonial Africa, among the polygamous Yoruba in Nigeria, the vampire tale took the form of witch-wives. These women were described as jealous witches who secretly sucked the blood of their husbands and of the children of the other wives. The local folklore even said women could be turned into bloodsucking witches against their will if they were tricked into eating human flesh or drinking human blood" (Tyree). "Indeed in Nigera, the main type of vampires is an obeyifo [also obayifo] who is a living person dwelling in the local community who uses his or her vampire powers against neighbors" (Curran 174). "The Obayifo is a living vampire, usually a sorcerer or witch, who actually sheds its skin at night and rises into the air in the form of a blazing fireball. The Obayifo is born with these abilities rather than being the result of a curse; and the sorcerer-vampire revels in the vast powers it possesses. The Obayifo is malicious and though it is a blood-drinker, it apparently also feeds off of the pain and misery caused by its attacks, making it an essential vampire as well" (Mayberry 238).

"The Obayifo only takes a small amount of blood, but either its bite is poisonous or its saliva carries disease germs. The loss of blood is marginal, but the onset of disease is often fatal" (Mayberry 239). "To this end, the effects of diseases such as tuberculosis are put down to malefic and vampiric witchcraft" (Curran 173-4). "If a village suspects that the Obayifo is preying on the children, spells and charms can be used to seal the house against invasion; and denied its food the Obayifo can bide its time by feeding on fruits and vegetables. Apparently it does not need blood for its survival, and the Obayifo is a patient monster" (Mayberry 239).

"Besides sucking the blood of victims, they are supposed to be able to extract the sap and juices of crops" (Williams 175). "To amuse itself it may wither the plants and bring on a crop blight that will do as much harm as the blood-borne disease would have done" (Mayberry 239). "Drowning or strangulation were the preferred methods of execution, so as to avoid spilling the 'contaminated' blood of the obayifo" (Allman 260).

"It was even held that if a man but looked upon a corpse he established that mysterious psychic connexion which would render him liable to be attacked by the spirit of the deceased. Among the Ibo people in the district of Awka, Southern Nigeria, one of the most important taboos which has to be preserved by the priest of the Earth is that he may not see a corpse, so terrible is held to be the spiritual contagion. Should he by an unlucky chance meet one upon the road he must at once veil his eyes with his wristlet" (Summers 269). "The Ibgo people of southern Nigeria wear a protective bracelet that binds the soul to the body and thus prevents an evil spirit taking possession" (Glenday). "This wrist-band or bracelet is a most important periapt or charm since it is regarded as a spiritual fetter keeping the soul in the body, and to bind such a talisman upon the wrist is particularly appropriate, since many peoples believe that a soul resides wherever a pulse is felt beating" (Summers 269).

"Obayifo are essentially at enmity with the priests"(Alleyne 46). "It was as a matter of fact, the exalted religious spirit that principally gave to the various tribal units the cohesive power that formed the Ashanti into a warlike people, and tended to crush down the antagonistic magic of the Obayifo" (Williams 210).

"In Ashanti, the Okomfo [priest with political power] openly combated the Obayifo as a matter of principle, and he had the whole force of Ashanti religious traditions and public sentiment to support him" (Williams 145). "Deaths were often attributed to the watchful god, with the deceased identified either as an obayifo or someone who otherwise had contravened the laws of the cult. To suspicious outside observers, however, the 'sacred water' was believed to be a poison targeted at preordained victims." So strong was the political power of the priest that in 1931 "the deity identified the queen mother as an obayifo responsible for the death of members of the local adontenbene's family" (Allman 129).

"The Yoko people of Nigeria...believe that disembodied witches (sometimes travelling as spheres of burning light) could draw the heart and liver from sleeping victims, or that witches, perched on the roof of a house, could draw up and devour the heart of an individual, simply by magic." "Alternatively, if a witch can obtain a specimen of a prospective victim's excrement, he or she can use it to draw the vitality from that person, leaving them a pale and withered husk" (Curran).

"The obayifo is discovered by a process analogous to the 'smelling out' of witches among the Zulu, i.e. the 'carrying of the corpse'." Some meat is placed at the entrance of the village. If an individual eats but does not offer some to the neighboring priest or passerby, then he/she is an obayifo. "When prowling at night they are supposed to emit a phosphorescent light from the armpits and anus. An obayifo in everyday life is supposed to be known by having sharp shifty eyes, that are never at rest, also by showing an undue interest in food, and always talking about it, especially meat, and hanging about when cooking is going on, all of which habits are therefore purposely avoided" (Williams 175).

Ka odi,

Allman, Jean Marie. John Parker. Tongnaab: the history of a West African god.
Alleyne, Mervyn C. Roots of Jamaican culture.
Curran, Bob. Ian Daniels. Vampires: a field guid to the creatures that stalk the night
Glenday, Craig. Constantine Gregory. Vampire Watcher's Handbook.
Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings...
Summers, Montague. The Vampire, His Kith and Kin.
Tyree, Omar. Omar Tyree Donna Hill. Dark Thirst.
Williams, Joseph. Voodoos and Obeahs: Phases of West India Witchcraft.

13 August 2009

Vampires in Britain

Great Britain is the home to many vampire stories. So many accounts exist that it would be ludicrous to repeat (or even mention) them all in this blog article. "The island nation had few original vampire traditions but nevertheless made significant contributions to the development of the vampire" fictions of modern times (Bunson 85).

"Let us look first at general information about vampires that would have been available in the late nineteenth century" (Day 3). During this time, Stoker was writing his famous (or infamous) book Dracula and the idea of romanticized vampirism was born. "In 1847 was published Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood...a very lengthy but well written and certainly exciting romance..." by Thomas Preskett Prest (Summers 103). "Prest definitely states that his romance is founded upon incidents which were alleged to have taken place in England in the last years of the reign of Queen Anne [circa 1712-1714]. No such record has been traced, but if the statement be correct it is exceedingly interesting to find a case of vampirism in England at this date where the tradition had almost, if not entirely, died out". "It is quite possible, of course, that Prest threw out these suggestions to give his work an extra spice, but, however that may be, he has certainly studied the Vampire legends and traditions with some care, and he introduces into his chapters several telling touches which can be authenticated by parallel circumstances in vampire legends" (105).

Legends of vampires were not completely unknown in England during this time. Certainly remnants of ancient tales existed, and imported stories most likely peeked native interest. In fact, "the word "vampyre" entered the English language in 1732, its first appearance (in a London periodical) occasioned by a rash of vampire sightings documented in several parts of central and eastern Europe" (Day 3). It is more likely, however, that vampires were considered unreal and archaic during the period of enlightenment and industrial revolution. "Pieces of folk-lore in the remoter countries, half-forgotten oral tradition (now almost entirely dying out), and the persistence of a few old customs,...which are casually maintained owing to some vague idea of thereby warding off some indefinite ill-luck...afford evidence of a widespread and deeply-rooted belief in Vampires, even if such manifestations were comparatively few in number" (Summers 78).

Ralph Shirley wrote, "It may be doubted, indeed, in spite of the lack of records, whether vampirism in one form or another is quite as absent from the conditions of modern civilization as is commonly supposed. Although we are not to-day familiar with the Slavonic type of vampire that sucks the blood of its victims, producing death in two or three days' time, strange cases come to light...the vampire in these cases being an entity in human form who indulges in intercourse with someone of the opposite sex" (Summers 115). Whatever the truth, by the 19th century interest in vampires and the occult revived.

"A curious case was reported in the Gentleman's Magazine, July, 1851, belongs to the reign of King Charles I, but this concerns the old idea that a dead body if touched by the murderer will bleed, and cannot strictly be said to be pertinent to Vampirism" (Summers 99). Over a few decades, this general resurgence of occultism morphed into new vampire legends which spread through Britain and to Ireland. The Irish author, Patrick MacGill wrote "In my sleep I had gone with the dead man from the hut out into the open. He walked with me, the dead man, who knew that he was dead. I tried to prove to him that it was not quite the right and proper thing to do, to walk when life had left the body. But he paid not a sign of heed to my declamation." MacGill's work shows the social constraints of the time and how they affected vampire fiction. "Like a vampire the dead man walks 'when life had left the body.' The phrase 'right and proper' demonstrates an anxiety to reassert boundaries and borders and the narrator risks his own life in order to bury the dead man....he recounts a stinking corpse "'uggin' me, kissin' me" inevitably suggesting the threatening embrace of the vampire" (Day 71).

The vampire had become a creature that could exist both within and outside of society. Ancient and Slavic accounts do not conscript the vampire to social norms or regulations, but during this period in the British isles vampires were given a place in society. Stoker's Dracula repeats this idea in the sentence, "I long to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is" (Stoker 28). "With this statement, Dracula not only expresses his desire to go to London but to share in the experience of the modern city, suggesting that in this novel, Stoker sought not simply to relocate the gothic tale to a new location but rather to reconfigure it for the modern world. Dracula yearns for more than blood but the 'whirl and rush of humanity.' Since Stoker's novel, vampires, particularly on film, have been increasingly attracted to cities in which they are free to hunt amongst the crowds." (Day 125).

Vampires were not always city dwellers. "William of Newburgh [1136? - 1198?] and Walter Map [born 1140, died c. 1208-1210]...note thence how prominent was the belief in earlier times" (Summers 92). In their time, they had most frequently appeared in small rural villages. In more ancient legends, "when a Vampire revisits some unfortunate town...his ravages are, owing to the appalling fetor of the corpse, in every case apparently followed by an outbreak of the plague" (Summers 88). "William of Malmesbury [c. 1080/1095-c. 1143] says that in England it was commonly supposed and indeed certainly known that evil men returned to walk in the world after they are dead and buried, inasmuch as their bodies are re-animated by the Devil, who energizes them and compels them to act as he desires: nequam hominis cadauer post mortem daemone agente discurrere" (78). Vampires and revenants at this time acted contrary to society not within it. The conflict between vampires and social norm, then mandated by the Church, was so strong that a supposed revenant would be exhumed, burned, and disposed of in a manner that is not fitting of a Christian parishioner.

In this period, vampires were evil creatures who were considered the enemy of the Church and of God, and they returned to animation in order to harass the living or unleash plague. "Walter Map has...narratives which ...nearly resemble the Vampire [Slavic] stories...and which show the idea of a re-vitalized dead man returning to molest the living" (92). In harmony with Eastern tales, the vampire most frequently visited and coupled with his former spouse. Clearly, this notion may indicate one way that a lonely widow could explain away the child born after her husband's death, and throughout history the vampire has served as the scapegoat for many social sins.

Whether the vampire is blamed for sin or created by sin, it is clear that a line was drawn between the Church and the revenants that walked the earth. Their graves were disturbed and their bodies were relinquished to be the subject of rites that resembled witchcraft. "If the living were haunted by the constant return of the dead, who vampire-like refused to remain dead, there was also a sense in which the dead were haunted by the living, refused the possibility of a final peace" (Day 73).

Beoedh ge gesunde,

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Day, Peter. Vampires.
MacGill, Patrick. The Great Push. 118-9.
Map, Walter. De Nugia Curialium.