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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mythical Creatures: An Introduction to Vampires (Part 1)

by Yona Williams

Lately, there has been an explosion of vampire interest – from the Sookie Stackhouse 'True Blood' books to the remake of the movie, 'Fright Night.' The concept of a supernatural being with a thirst for blood has created faithful followers looking for the next character to go for the jugular. In this article, you will learn information regarding the vampire and its place in the world of mythical creatures.

What is a Vampire?

A vampire is considered a member of the 'undead.' They drink the blood of the living in order to survive and are typically portrayed as not being able to come in contact with the sunlight.

Origin of the Vampire

The history of vampires dates back thousands of years with a variety of cultures embracing the notion that bloodsuckers thrived among the living. From vampire foxes in Japanese myths to ancient Greek mythology, endless forms of the vampire concept have emerged. Over the years, the characteristics and features of vampires and vampire-like creatures have evolved. The creatures associated with ancient civilizations are much different than what we hear about today – most of the characteristics that are prominent when speaking about vampires come from early 18th-century descriptions and accounts from southeastern Europe.

Vampires of Ancient Civilizations

Early cultures and ancient civilizations have told tales of vampires and creatures that are described as being similar to a vampire. Most of the stories involve the dead or undead that feeds or kills the living. The Babylonians believed in the Lilu – vampire-like demonic spirits. Sumerian mythology spoke of the Akhkhar – bloodsuckers from ancient times. The female demons roamed the earth when it was dark. They hunted and killed newborn babies, as well as took the lives of pregnant women. One of the demons in old tales was named Lilitu. She was later adapted by the Jewish culture and renamed Lilith.

In India, there were the ghoul-like vetalas that inhabited the bodies of the dead and were found in old Sanskrit folklore. One popular story includes King Vikramaditya and his nightly missions to capture a vetala. The legend is found in a book called Baital Pachisi, which speaks of an undead creature, who had a link to the bat. The creature hung upside down in trees situated close to cemeteries and cremation grounds. The Chinese spoke of the 'hopping corpse,' which had some of the same characteristics as the vampire. The creature was described as taking the life essence of a human (known as the chi) instead of draining the blood from a body.

The ancient Egyptians spoke of a goddess that turned bloodthirsty after slaughtering humans. The only thing that satisfied Sekhmet was to drink blood-colored alcohol. The ancient Romans spoke of the strix – a nocturnal bird that fed on the flesh of humans and their blood.

Different Kinds of Vampires

Vampires are known for their immortality. Books and movies portray the creatures as assuming endless identities and living through the centuries – adapting and changing with the times. In some circles, they are known by a more scientific name – Home Wampyrus. There are different classifications to note, as mentioned in this article.

Homo Wampyrus Draco

The most well-known type of vampire is called the Homo Wampyrus Draco. This is the kind of vampire that appears in tales told by Bram Stoker. They mostly lead the life of a count and emerge in many different accounts from around the world – from North America to the western part of Europe. The appearance of the vampires is closest to humans. It is rare that people would notice that they have retractable canine teeth in their upper jaws. Their tolerance to light is medium to poor, and will die if they are exposed to a couple of hours of direct sunlight. The Homo Wampyrus Draco socializes well with humans and often takes jobs at night in their presence.

The Draco variety often gets their fill of blood with the help of willing participant who think they are dealing with mortal blood drinkers. However, when they place fear in the hearts of humans, they enjoy a boost in adrenaline that makes taking blood by force a pleasurable adventure. This kind of vampire is shown in movies, such as 'Blade' and 'The Lost Boys.' They often recruit humans to further their cause because they make life as a vampire as being fun. Some humans will do anything for the chance to become a vampire after 'helping', 'serving' or 'proving themselves'.

Homo Wampyrus Chiroptera

Considered the rarest type of vampire, Homo Wampyrus Chiroptera is the 'bat' vampire, where they are mostly found in Africa, New Zealand and South America. The majority of the population were also found dwelling in China and India. The vampires look quite human, but have slightly pointy ears. Some of the creatures feature a lantern jaw. They can mix in the social setting of humans, but avoid crowds. Out of all the vampire types, it is said that this kind is the most sensitive to sunlight. When in the sun for a period of time, they develop blisters and pain. The vampires have the ability to shift into other shapes and change into the iconic vampire bats. This transformation occurs when certain conditions are in place, such as racial background, length of time being a vampire, and eating the right food.

What is a Mortal Vampire?

A mortal vampire is one who is fascinated with drinking blood and adopting the lifestyle of what they believe a vampire to be. They may drink blood because they believe they are a vampire or feel sexually excited when they engage in the typical behaviors. Many people with this fascination will buy blood from blood banks in states that allow such a practice or seek willing "donors" to live out their vampiric lifestyle.

Not all vampires look as similar to humans as the ones you see in popular films. Some display deformities that keep them out of public view. Others have the characteristics of other creatures. In this article, you are introduced to a couple of types of vampires that do not look like the Dracula you are used to seeing.

Homo Wampyrus Nosferatu

Some vampires do not look like humans, but are 'deformed' in appearance. The Homo Wampyrus Nosferatu variety was highlighted in the movie called "Nosferatu," which debuted in 1922. Transforming into this type of a vampire is not a smooth one. Their immune system has fought the virus associated with vampirism and as a result, the virus mutates to survive. Because of this, the vampire is disfigured with unpleasant physical characteristics. Their head is usually high and domed in shape. They are bald with a visible system of veins. Their face is long and thin – drawn in with deep creases. The eyes sink in the head and they have large, pointy ears. The nose turns upwards and reveals their nostrils.

On the hands of the vampire, there are long, tapered fingers with discolored nails. The twisted features of their body extend to their spine. They must stand with a hunch to avoid pain. Straightening out the back is extremely painful and could cause a slipped disc. Their physical appearance leads them to live a life that is often separate from humans, as well as other vampires. Farm animals, small children and sleeping humans are the source of blood for the Homo Wampyrus Nosferatu. Accounts of this type of vampire have appeared in Africa, South Africa, the Caribbean, and Japan. In Puerto Rico, the Chupacabras they speak of are thought to be a form of the Nosferatu vampire.

Homo Wampyrus Sauria

With reptilian or lizard-like features, the Homo Wampyrus Sauria is a type of vampire that possesses teeth with sharp points that are quite similar to large lizards. They are considered to be the most social out of the most popular types of vampire – probably because they can take exposure to sunlight for extended periods of time. Some can stay in the sun for a great deal of time when slathered in sunscreen or wearing sunglasses. Their appearance is rather similar to that of a human with the exception of their teeth.

In the past, it is said that the Sauria use horrifying methods to attack their victim when they feed, such as ripping away large pieces of flesh. They often go after the upper arm, thigh, or throat. As they eat the flesh, they drink the blood that spills from the leaking wound until the victim dies. Nowadays, this rarely occurs, as they now purchase blood or use willing donors that are cut with razors instead of ripped apart using their teeth.


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