Vampires have been our dark companions in literature art, myth, and religion from the early centuries of civilization. Everywhere in the world there was belief in vampires, whether it was a walking corpse animated by a demon, or a bloodsucking ghoul, the vampire was always there in the dark, ready to strike.
As you explore the myths and legends of vampires in this article, you will come to better understand these mysterious, powerful, dangerous, exotic creatures and may even find the roots of your own fascination with them.
The majority of vampires of folklore aren’t pristine, white-skinned, radiant beings. Most are reanimated corpses in various states of disarray and decay. Since the vampiric creatures of lore were often hideous bloodsucking beasts, it’s easy to see why the mere thought of them instantly evoked fear.
The term vampire did not exist in ancient times, it did not appear in English until 1734, when it was used in an Anglo-Saxon poem titled “The Vampyre of the Fens”.
One of the earliest pieces of writing archeologists ever discovered, was a magical spell written in around 4000 B.C that would protect children from an attack from the Ekimmou. The Ekimmou is a type of vampiric spirit that would stalk the earth, attacking humans and possessing the body. Similar vampire myths then spread to the Ancient Egyptians, Babylonians and Inuits.
Many myths surrounding vampires originated from Eastern Europe between the 17th and 18th century. These tales formed the basis of vampire legends which later spread to Germany and England.
During the 18th century there was mass vampire hysteria throughout most of Europe. Vampire sightings were common, there were frequent grave diggings and staking in order to identify and kill the potential revenants. During this time the belief in vampires increased dramatically.
The first case in history that a real person was described as a vampire came from a village in Croatia, in 1672. The legend tells of a young man named Jure Grando, who lived in the village of Kringa. Jure died due to illness in 1656, however after his death locals claim to have seen Jure wandering around the village. The village priest, Giorgio, who had buried Jure, discovered that at night somebody would knock on the doors around the village, and on whichever door he knocked, someone from that house would die within the next few days.
The village leader ordered that his body be exhumed and a stake be driven into his heart, so one night nine people went to the graveyard and dug up Jure’s coffin, they attempted to piece his heart with the stake but were unable to penetrate his flesh. They then took a saw and sawed the head off the corpse. Once the saw tore through his skin, the vampire screamed and blood began flowing out from the cut. According to folklore, peace finally returned to the region after Jure’s decapitation. Today, it is commemorated by the Vampire coffee bar in the center of town.
Jure Grando's Tombstone.
In 1607, the British ship Cormorant sailed from Portsmouth, England, to the Caribbean island of Nevis. The story goes, that one of the crew, Andrew Oglethorpe, was infected by a vampire’s bite which he received in Portsmouth. During the ship’s voyage, Oglethorpe had infected all members of the crew with the vampire’s bite, and overpowered and killed the captain. When the ship landed, the undead crew were quick to spread vampirism to their new home.
One tale from the twelfth century, in the county of Buckinghamshire, tells the story of a recently deceased man who returns from the dead in the form of a spectre, and haunts his widow and relatives. To combat this, they stayed up during the night and made noises to frighten him away.
This only made matters worse, as he began to appear during daylight hours. The Bishop of Lincoln became involved and ordered the body to be exhumed, whereupon it was found to be as fresh as the day it was buried. They then cremated the body, and the haunting ceased.
One vampire case involved a man named Petar Blagojevich of Serbia in 1725. Blagojevich was reported to have died at the age of 62, but allegedly returned after his death and killed several people. It is said that Blagojevich came back to his house demanding food from his son, and when the son refused, Blagojevich murdered him. The villagers decided to disinter the body, and examine it for signs of vampirism, they did find the characteristics associated with vampires in local belief, were indeed present.
The body was undecomposed, the hair and beard were grown, there was “new skin and nails”, and blood could be seen in the mouth. After that, the distressed people proceeded to stake the body through the heart, which caused a great amount of “completely fresh” blood to flow through the ears and mouth of the corpse. Finally, the body was burned.
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