01 July 2009

Vampires and Water (Part 1)

The protective qualities of salt water and running water are among the most ancient superstitions associated with blood-drinkers. Scholars assert that "the Vampire cannot cross salt water. Running water, too, he can only pass at the slack or flood of the tide" (Summers Kith 187). Salt water seas are reputed to be the most successful bodies of water at ceasing the advance of vampires since they combine both transient and saline attributes.

Ancient "Greeks would disinter suspected revenants and bury them on remote, uninhabited islands" (Gregory 123). Superstitious people believe that "running water dissolves all charms" (Summers Europe 308). The reason for this superstition is that "Water--and in particular, fast flowing water--has always been used to flush away wickedness and evil" (Gregory 126). Similarly, salt is a substance associated with purification and preservation.

In age of Christianity, this notion of purifying water evolves into the sacrosanct practice of baptism. All sins are washed away by the water (traditionally, of the Jordan River) and the participant emerges from the water fully cleansed. King James believed that vampires developed because they refused the holy traditions of The Church. He claims that "the water shall refuse to receive Them into her bosom, that have shaken off the sacred water of baptism."

Witch trials of the past millennium often employed the method of iudicium aqua--trial by water--to distinguish a pure human from an evil entity. The accused was vindicated if successfully drowned, but if the accused floated, he/she was considered a witch, vampire or other revenant. Murgoci supports this idea by claiming that "vampires never drown, they always float on top." His idea keeps in line with the physical truth that "dead bodies do in fact become extremely buoyant" (Barber). Since vampires were (and still are) considered dead, it is a logical designation between living and dead flesh. The spiritual significance of this is that "the water chooses not to take [the revenants] in, much as...Mother Earth rejects the unclean dead" (Barber 151). Supposedly, the vampire has risen from the grave--out of the earth. To superstitious peasants, this must seem as though the earth is casting out the vampire because of some fault. If the earth cannot restrain vampires, then why would the sea be able stop them?


NOTE: This is part one to a three part series on water and purification in regard to the vampire. In the near future, we will discuss Holy Water and the "wickedness" of blood-drinkers.

Barber, Paul. Vampires, Burial and Death.
Summers, Montague. Vampire in Europe.
Summers, Montague. The Vampire: His Kith and Kin.
Gregory, Constantine. Craig Glenday. Vampire Watcher's Handbook.

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