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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mythical Creatures: An Introduction to Vampires (Part 2)

Identifying and Killing a Vampire

In the movies, one of the most popular ways to identify a vampire is to see if the suspected casts a reflection in a mirror. If they did not, then they are viewed a creature of the night. In this article, you will learn about ways that people identified vampires

In the past, some believed that you could find the grave of a vampire by leading a virgin boy through a graveyard or church grounds on a virgin stallion. The horse would feel uneasy in the cemetery. Black horses were used for this test, although Albanians were known to use a white horse. If holes were seen in the ground over a grave, it was seen as a sign of Vampirism.

The way a vampire was identified varied from culture to culture. Nature also played a role in keeping vampires away, such as the branches of wild rose, the hawthorn plant, and hanging the aloe vera plant backwards behind a door (according to a South American superstition). Roman Catholics believed that true vampires could not enter a church or holy place because they were servants of the devil. Someone who had an aversion to church and religion was a suspect for being a vampire.

People would dig up graves to prove their theories. Typically, the dead body belonging to a vampire was described as having a healthier appearance than it should – give the rate of discomposure. Sometimes, fresh blood was thought to have been covering the face of the suspected vampire. Villagers would suspect the handiwork of a vampire when the number of deaths among cattle, sheep, relatives and neighbors increased. Some believed that vampires were also connected to activity often associated with poltergeists. If objects moved on their own in a home or if someone felt their skin being touched or pressed in the middle of the night, a vampire could have been behind the actions.

How Can You Kill a Vampire?

One of the most commonly seen ways to kill a vampire is to drive a wooden stake or something similarly sharp through the heart. It has been a long-held belief that you can protect yourself from a vampire by wearing garlic, splashing holy water on the creature, using crosses, and carrying around a Bible. In many books and movies, the home is a safe haven, as vampires need an invitation to enter. It is when a victim unwittingly gives the OK for one to come in that they are placed in danger.

The need to kill a vampire was believed avoided if they were kept from rising from a grave. Some people buried suspected corpses upside down. Some severed the tendons at the knees to keep them from moving. Others placed poppy seeds on the ground around the gravesite so that the vampire would spend all night counting the seeds and find they were helpless against the rising sun. Many believed that vampires had a preoccupation with counting small grains, seeds, or sawdust.

Vampires in Other Cultures: Slavic and India

Vampires in Slavic Folklore

In Slavic folklore, there was a link between vampirism and the way someone was born or died. For example, people born with a caul, teeth or tail are thought to be a sign of the creature. If one was born on a certain day, there was suspicion. People who suffered 'unnatural' deaths or received improper burial rituals were candidates for becoming a vampire. Excommunication was also connected to vampirism. Having red hair led many Serbians to think you had a trait of a vampire.

The concept of vampirism was taken seriously by some, as they followed a host of preventive measures to make sure no vampires roamed the earth at night. Burial rituals reflected the fear of vampires. Crucifixes were placed in coffins and blocks situated under the chin to prevent the body from eating the shroud.
Corpses were sometimes pierced by thorns or stakes to prevent a vampire from leaving the coffin. Some believed that the stakes would pierce through the vampire and pin them down into the ground. If a person suspected of being a vampire was buried, scythes were placed above their necks, so that if they rose in the middle of the night, they would be decapitated.

Villagers believed that they were in the midst of vampire activity when cattle, sheep and people were mysteriously found dead. The Slavic believed that vampires were afraid of garlic and had a compulsion to count particles of grain, sawdust and similar materials. This is why sometimes, grains or sawdust were placed in the coffins of suspected vampires.

The Slavics believed you could kill a vampire by staking it, decapitation (with some people placing the head between the feet), burning, sprinkling holy water on the body, and repeating the funeral service. Others felt that a vampire could be exorcised. In Serbian folktales, the most well-known of vampires was Sava Savanovic, who appeared in a novel by Milovan Glisic.

Vampires in Indian Beliefs

Ancient text associated with Roma, India has some descriptions of vampires. The culture referred to such a creature as the Bhut or Pret, which was the soul of a man who had died before it was his time. The spirit was thought to roam about until it found a dead body to animate during the night. As a result, the dead body would attack the living – quite similar to what ghouls were believed to do.

In the northern part of India, the people believed in the Brahmarak Shasa, which was a creature with vampire-like characteristics. Its head was surrounded by intestines and a skull from which it drank blood. Another creature associated with Indian vampire beliefs were the Vetala. From Hindu mythology, Vetala was a ghost-like being that were seen as spirits that took over the bodies of corpses. When the Vetala inhabits the body, the corpse is able to move and the process of decay stops during this time. The spirit is able to leave when it wishes.


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