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...