30 July 2009

Flying vampires in fiction & lore

"The air sparkled with glitter. Out of that scintillating cloud a vampire floated...I had seen vampires fly before, but not like this." I am quoting from Laurell Hamilton's Danse Macabre (Hamilton 442). The idea of floating or flying vampires is not a not a singular notion of Hamilton. Many vampire fictions include some form of floating or flying as a mode of transportation for vampires. Anne Rice creates the term 'Cloud Gift' to describe the ability of some vampires to levitate or soar.

Martin Riccardo asserts that "the novel Dracula first associated the undead vampire with the power to fly in the form of a bat, an ability not a part of the old legends," but this is not precisely true (Riccardo 38). While flying may not have been a popular attribute for pre-Dracula vampires, the ability was present in some folkloric accounts from various regions.

Most folklore involving flying vampires includes some element of transformation (or shape-shifting). "Vampires fly through the night in the shape of birds or bats; some can also cover great distances by changing into a mist, fog or storm" (Kamir 76). In Serbia, vampires can take the form of a butterfly. This insect also can represent the soul of a departed individual. The Adze from West Africa may appear as a firefly (Calista will write more about this topic). The tlahuelpuchi of Mexico take the form of a bird and fly while hunting (Vampires in Mexico). The head of Nukekubi from Asia can detach and soar through the night searching for human prey. Similarly, the Mananangall can split its torso and utilize the wings of a bat in order to fly.

However not all flying vampires take the form of an animal. The chiang-shih of China have the "ability to fly without the necessity of transforming into a bat" (Bush 193). "Vampirologists ascribe such accomplishments to supernatural vitality, a term that creates the vampire as a phantom" (Frueh 302). Konstantinos agrees with this notion, claiming that the "secondary power of the spectral [phantom] vampire is its ability to fly or levitate" (Konstantinos 9). Yet, "the European vampire, unlike the spectral vampires of antiquity, is an actual corpse in flesh and bone on the move" (Day 214).

Budai-Deleanu a Romanian author "introduces the female vampire, Strigoaica, in his plot" and according to him these "vampires fly" (Eminescu 19). The Strigoaica are usually considered Strigoi mort (dead/blood-drinking vampires), but some may claim that they are Strigoi vii (live witches/psychic vampires).

Witches themselves are often ascribed the ability to fly. "It was widely held (at least since the fourteenth century) that a witch could fly. She did not necessarily have (Artemis's) wings, but (like Lilit) she had other means to soar through the air...Like nocturnal predators, for example the owl, she flew mostly at night, when her powers were at full strength" (Kamir 53). Whether you believe them to be live 'witches' or 'reanimated' blood-drinkers, phantoms or physical bodies, there are plenty stories of airborne vampires.

But, can vampires fly? Answer this: Why should I give you that answer?

Horas ma ate,

Bush, Laurence C. Asian Horror Encyclopedia.

Day, Peter. Vampires.

Eminescu, Mihai. Jean Carduner, Lucian Rsu, University of Michigan Dept of Romance Languages, Karl Natanson. Eminescu, the evening star of Romanian poetry.

Frueh, Joanna. Monster/beauty: building the body of love.

Kamir, Orit. Every breath you take.

Konstantinos. Vampire.

Riccardo, Martin V. Liquid Dreams of Vampires.


  1. But, can vampires fly? Answer this: Why should I give you that answer? - now that's just teasing Miss Ana

  2. what is flight that is perceived, do we have to do it in the flesh, or can as some would suggest, we do it in spirit, or in dreams as the succubus comes, so do we the vampire if you will, with out a body fly.

    Ivan Turgenev wrote in his story "phantoms" (1861)of a man in love with a vampire that took him flying about the country in an attempt to hid from death.

  3. I did a paper on shape-shifters in mythology for a Religion Class, and there are many stories about people who have the ability to change their shape into animals of various types. When they change into a animal with wings, they are able to fly. Achilles' Father was able to "catch" his Mother this way, and the "Old Man of the Sea" Pontus, also had this ability.
    There are also numerous sightings in Mexico of flying humanoids... I will try and find the link.

    Fascinating and well-written as usual!

  4. Thank you for your comments. @Vodalok Thank you for including your source as well.

    @Lance Darnell: The tlahuelpuchi in Mexico hunt while flying. Often they assume the wings (or shape) of a bird. Is this the reference for which you are searching?

    Universal Vampire: http://vampires.monstrous.com/universal_vampire.htm

  5. Only the oldest of my vampires can fly. My 900yr old Romanian vampire twins prefer to because they can't drive. If my 500yr old Scottish vampire can, he hasn't told me. I think he just prefers driving his '68 'Cuda convertible LOL