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.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading about crazy myths. Thing i like most about the Mjetovjec, is it's OCD compulsion to count seeds. Quirky for a "monster".