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.