Last time I counted I believe there were about a half billion vampire shows on TV and in the theaters. (rough estimate) Apparently they’re quite popular right now. Vampires hit “mainstream” back in France in the 1800’s so they come and go in popularity. What do all these recently made up vampires have in common? They’re all emo, metro sissy boys. I suppose I can go into the psychology of why society portrays vampires the way they do and what that means, but instead I’ll show you the history of vampires. They didn’t start with Stephany Myer or Ann Rice or even Bram Stoker. You kind of have to go a little further back than that. 1700’s? Nope. Further. 1500’s? No, still further. 1100’s? Umm…try WAAAAY further back, like how you can get a good photo of your girl friend. That’s right, we have to go all the way back to Mesopotamia and the dawn of recorded history.
We go back to ancient Persia and the ancient Hebrews where the legend of Lilith first appears.
Lilith is said to be the first wife of Adam before Eve came along. Apparently she didn’t like doing the dishes while Adam watched football and scratched himself so she left and started drinking blood which is totally not kosher.
Not only are stories of blood drinking critters very old, they’re also very common. They can be found all over the world. Don’t believe me? Alright, let’s try…China. There, they have hopping vampires. Their vampires are not sexy or even really smart. They have rigamortis and can’t move too good so they hop about with long fingernails and smell out the living.
The only way to protect yourself from these hopping vampires is to hold your breath and hope they go away before you have to breathe.
Next up is Lamia from Greek mythology. Lamia was a queen in Libya who had an affair with Zeus. (no surprise there.) Zeus’s legitimately jealous wife punished Lamia by forcing her to eat her own children. As a result, she grew into a monster that went around eating newborn babies, like Nancy Pelosi. Some stories say that she had children that were other monstrous Lamia creatures with serpent bodies below the waist. Okay, not really a vampire but close enough for now.
Let’s try Japan now. There the vampires’ heads detached at night and went flying around on their own to suck blood and strangle victims with its dangling intestines….okay, that one was kinda weird. I think I prefer Japan’s more modern take on Vampires.
Next up is India. In India, their vampires are called Vetalas. At least it starts with a “V” so we’re getting warmer. Vetalas are ghosts of people who are trapped in a timeless limbo-like state so they can see the past, present and future equally well. They inhabit corpses from cemeteries and go around causing trouble late at night: tagging their names on walls, driving really fast through stop lights and honking the horns to wake their neighbors. To get rid of them you can chant the holy mantras or perform their burial rites properly. See what happens when you don’t do something right the first time? They also hang upside down from trees in cemeteries. see? That’s more like it. Take a lesson Japan.
some say that the legend of the vampire comes to Europe from the East, but some areas like Romania have had vampiric legends since there were people to record them. The Moroi is a Romanian spirit of a dead infant that was killed before it could be baptized. It can shapeshift into a man, wolf, bat or other blood sucking critter and haunts its family’s village. Romania also has the Strigoi Morti, undead witches that can change shape and feed off of a person’s energy in similar way that Chinese Hopping vampires do. They’re usually female and are said to have ginger hair and blue eyes. Watch out for red heads, I knew it!
We can’t leave out those lovable Vikings. They had their own vampires to hunt called Drauger which means “Again-Walker.” They are undead corpses that guard the treasures of Viking kings. They can get really big and beefy like an undead Incredible Hulk and can also turn into smoke. They tend to drink blood and cause animals and people to go insane. Like any vampire worth his salt it could also shape change into a seal…wait…did I read that right? Yes, a vampire seal, a flayed bull, a horse with no ears, tail and a broken back and a cat. See? Cats are evil. And of course, they spread sickness.
We can’t leave out the Native Americans where they had the Bapet, a humanoid cannibalistic creature that ate children or seduced men and then ate them. They had poisonous breast milk….I’m not going to ask how they found that out and they could only be killed by an obsidian tipped arrow.
As tales of vampires spread they were blamed for plagues and professional vampire hunters would go digging up graves to find corpses with grown hair and fingernails. There were spirit vampires, zombie-like vampires, shape – shifters and more sophisticated undead. Even the government became involved and in the 1700’s in Germany there were several documented cases of vampires. One of them was a man who died and later came knocking at his son’s door begging for food. Frightened, the son refused and the next day was found dead. Other examples involve someone dying and then his neighbors dying later on. (I guess even outbreaks of plague needs scapegoats.) It got so bad with people digging up graves, writing medical journals and going crazy that Empress Theresa of Austria finally got sick of it and outlawed digging up graves and sent her personal doctor to go check out all this vampire stuff.
But, in the 1800’s the tales of Vampires from Eastern Europe hit the mass media and became very popular. There were scary tales of vampires all over the place! Varny and Camilla were popular pulp fiction vamps. This is where we get the term Vampyre, a relatively new French word, but it does sound pretty cool.
Then along came Bram Stoker and brought some class to this joint. He used the historical figure of Vlad Tepes, “The Impaler” and said that he was a vampire. Stoker set a real figure from history in his contemporary setting and created what we’d consider the modern vampire. It was also a pretty kick butt book.
Okay, so what did we NOT see? Did we see sparkles? Emo mopping about about how good looking and immortal they were? Falling in love with hair brained teenagers? I say we return to the good ole days of yor when vampires were horrible blood sucking corpses…that hopped or had floating heads… wait, that’s not quite what I meant to say.
Addition: The issue of red heads has been brought up. If you’re still in doubt, here’s Lucy from Dracula. Red head. Vampire. Trouble.
Addition 2: I forgot one of my favorite vampires. Aural Vampire from Japan!!