Vampire - ( Image by Dr. Blog )

Throughout the vast shadowy world of ghosts and demons there is no figure so terrible, no figure so dreaded and abhorred, yet dight with such fearful fascination, as the vampire, who is himself neither ghost nor demon, but yet who partakes the dark natures and possesses the mysterious and terrible qualities of both.

Rev Montague Summers

Vampire myths go back thousands of years and occur in almost every culture around the world. Their variety is almost endless; from red eyed monsters with green or pink hair in China to the Greek Lamia which has the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a winged serpent; from vampire foxes in Japan to a head with trailing entrails known as the Penanggalang in Malaysia.

Perhaps the most well-known fiction-based character in the history of literature is that of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel simply yet descriptively titled “Dracula”. The main character in the story, Dracula, is actually a play off of the romanian prince Vlad Tepes and his father’s name Vlad Dracul. Despite his infamously slight popularity, Vlad may have never become the cult icon that he is today had that novel not been written.Though the novel does add many attributes not directly related to Vlad himself, the cruel and remorseless personality of the twisted prince is perfectly kept intact as he is shown sending masses of wolves after a woman begging for her child whom he had stolen for supper and of course the mental and physical torture he places upon Jonathan Harker as he tries to escape from Dracula’s hell house. The novel takes place in what was then modern-day London, Bistritz, and many other locations including the fantasy realm named “Transylvania”. Obviously we already find a connection between CastleVania (...Transylvania) and Vampiric history. The country of Transylvania is undoubtedly based off of a real life country side called Transilvania.

Dracula is described in many ways, perhaps the most odd was that of Bram Stoker who compared his knowledge to that of a child. Another counterpoint is that of the author of many vampire and horror books named Anne Rice who stated that Dracula (the fictional character) is over-written and requires more than necessary to prove you’re a vampire. Her vampires are allowed to walk in daylight, with the protection of sunglasses, they are not killed by simply driving stakes through their hearts, they can stare at crucifixes, but oddly enough, they must sleep within a coffin.

Aside from the public opinion and speculations, there was the real “Dracula” as you might call him. Vlad Tepes III was born the son of a crooked man, Vlad Dracul Tepes around the years 1428-1431. His name “Dracul” makes quite an eerie reference to the words “Dragon” and “Devil” when translated in Romanian. Dragons symbolized as horrific demons in Transylvania, adding the “a” to Dracul converts the name to mean “The son of the Dragon or Devil”. Therefore, Dracul’s son was given the name Dracula, the “a” of course meaning “the son of”.

When Vlad was born, his father gave him a necklace with a Dragon on it, tying in with the association he belonged to “The Order of the Dragon” wherein the purpose of that cult was to ultimately wipe out the Turks who were at the time opposing Dracul’s heritage in wars. Either it was in the blood or the twisted childhood Vlad III (we’ll call him “Dracula” from here on) led that gave birth to his brutal adult lifestyle. Many a time Dracula and his family were imprisoned by the Turks as they were sent to Raid Dracul’s palace in search of gold. Afraid of encountering more experiences such as this one, Dracula’s father turned is son over to the Turks as a useless slave. Dracula ran away from this life and he was caught on his quest home wherein his brother, who was also with him, was killed…

Reputation and Legacies

Dracula returned home and having no one else to take up the empty throne, he happily took charge of his father’s city. Dracula ruled rather peacefully until the year 1460. On Easter Sunday of that year, Dracula sent his henchmen after an innocent family that was also related to the same people who killed of his father. When the victims arrived, Dracula ordered them to build his fortress, later called “Castle Dracula”, out of huge stones heavy even for giants. The family was not fed or given water, but simply sent to a cell under the palace until the next morning when they’d go back to work. Once the construction was complete, Dracula drove each member through a stake and watched as their bodies slid down leaving fresh blood on the wood. Whilst eating his dinner, Dracula dipped his bread in a cup of their blood and soon an infatuation with torturing people was developed.

The Castle Dracula was built near his father’s previous residence. The tower shown at right is the one at which Dracula would look out of as he watched his victims on the courtyard below become tortured and impaled. A few years after having gained his reputation of an evil ruler, he became, out of fear no doubt, highly respected by the people of the towns. Legend has it that Dracula had a pure golden chalice placed in the middle of his courtyard with nothing around it of warning danger, just looking as if it could be easily stolen. Even in a time where the beggars roamed the earth in great masses, there was never a single hair to touch the chalice due to fear of death by impalement. There were countless deaths due to the short temper and cruelty of Dracula, including those of mothers and their babies whom he would stick razor sharp stakes through their breasts and then do the same to the babies, left to die gasping for air or by the sickening smell of dead blood. One of the only occasions that showed Dracula’s tender, caring side was set when two traders of money came to visit Dracula at his palace. Right off, due to their status, Dracula was going to kill them both. Dracula had a spear delivered to him at the diner table. He first stated his plans to them of their death. One of the traders said that if he had done anything to upset Vlad, he’d commit suicide himself. The other trader begged for forgiveness. Within a few minutes, the trader begging for forgiveness received just the opposite and so another body was added to the forest of impaled bodies. However, the merciful trader was rewarded gifts and huge sums of gold.

On an ancient pamphlet, the following was written describing some of the ways Dracula tortured his people: “He impaled them , roasted them and hacked them into pieces like cabbage. He skinned them alive and boiled their heads in a kettle. He also roasted children and made their mothers eat them.”

Dracula’s impaling has since become his most notable trait. This manner of his torture has been seen in many different sources including the CastleVania games wherein the song “Dance of Pales” is actually named after it. Also, in CastleVania 64 you are able to view a “forest” of impaled people. Oddly enough, this part of Dracula was left out in Stoker’s novel and replaced with what you might call cleaner forms of death in comparison. Dracula actually doesn’t directly kill or slaughter anyone in the book. Rather, he often calls forth a pack of wolves to do the job for him. Despite his harshness, Dracula was, as recorded, legally married to two women, one of which held the conception of the unknown birth that can be assumed was Alucard of CastleVania.

Exactly where the true origin of the name Alucard lies is unknown, but Konami was not the creator of it. The earliest and first record of the name Alucard that I’ve ever known is the 1940’s film title “Son of Dracula” wherein “Count Alucard” is played by silent monster film master’s son, Lon Chaney Jr. That seems quite accurate, as the movie itself was rather cheaply made, so is turning around the letters of a name to get another (Dracula...Alucard, backwards compatibility!).

Death of the Tragic Prince

It was recorded that the Prince of Darkness perished in the year 1476. Having said that, he died a very young man, in his perhaps late 40’s, with almost half a life ahead of him. Imagine how devious he would have become as an old, stubborn man! However, the death of the Prince is where fiction and CastleVania pick up. Dracula, the father of Vampires, arose from his early death only to continue his reputation as a mortal to seek out the lives of innocent victims so he’d not be the only one of his cursed kind. While there is no true account of his assent ion from the grave, there are speculations that, in the world of far-fetched vampirism, doesn’t seem too unbelievable. In the 1992 flick, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” a somewhat antichrist performance unfolds to show how he became a vampire. Though he doesn’t start out dead in the movie, his wife does. Having given up hope and faith in God, Dracula steeps into a rage and slashes his sword at a cross in the cathedral when a trail of “unholy blood” splirts out of it. He drinks it and bathes in its unholy juices, therefore turning himself into a vampire.

Rather vague is the death of Dracula. Who knows, maybe things like this really do happen. Much evidence is shown to support that there is a 1 in 3 chance Dracula is either not dead (via rising as a vampire) or is simply buried in a secreted tomb somewhere. Searches have been performed, but not a one successful. The remains of Vlad’s body is not to be found anywhere on the grounds of his castle or under any tombstones of his. There is of course the possibility of body-snatchers, or “grave thieves” who may have taken his body.

SLAVIC VAMPIRES:

The Slavic people including most east Europeans from Russia to Bulgaria, Serbia to Poland, have the richest vampire folklore and legends in the world. The Slavs came from north of the Black Sea and were closely associated with the Iranians. Prior to 8th century AD they migrated north and west to where they are now.

Christianization began almost as soon as they arrived in their new homelands. But through the 9th and 10th centuries the Eastern Orthodox Church and the western Roman Church were struggling with each other for supremacy. They formally broke in 1054 AD, with the Bulgarians, Russians, and Serbians staying Orthodox, while the Poles, Czechs, and Croatians went Roman. This split caused a big difference in the development of vampire lore - the Roman church believed incorrupt bodies were saints, while the Orthodox church believed they were vampires.

The origin of Slavic vampire myths developed during 9th C as a result of conflict between pre-Christian paganism and Christianity. Christianity won out with the vampires and other pagan beliefs surviving in folklore.

Causes of vampirism included: being born with a caul, teeth, or tail, being conceived on certain days, irregular death, excommunication, improper burial rituals etc. Preventative measures included: placing a crucifix in the coffin, or blocks under the chin to prevent the body from eating the shroud, nailing clothes to coffin walls for the same reason, placing millet or poppy seeds in the grave because vampires had a fascination with counting, or piercing the body with thorns or stakes.

Evidence that a vampire was at work in the neighbourhood included: death of cattle, sheep, relatives, neighbours, exhumed bodies being in a lifelike state with new growth of the fingernails or hair, or if the body was swelled up like a drum, or there was blood on the mouth and if the corpse had a ruddy complexion.

Vampires could be destroyed by staking, decapitation (the Kashubs placed the head between the feet), burning, repeating the funeral service, holy water on the grave, exorcism.

ROMANIA:

Romania is surrounded by Slavic countries, so it isn’t surprising that their vampires are variants of the Slavic vampire. They are called Strigoi based on the Roman term strix for screech owl which also came to mean demon or witch.

There are different types of strigoi: strigoi vii are live witches who will become vampires after death. They can send out their soul at night to meet with other witches or with Strigoi mort who are dead vampires. The strigoi mort are the reanimated bodies which return to suck the blood of family, livestock, and neighbours.

A person born with a caul, tail, born out of wedlock, or one who died an unnatural death, or died before baptism, was doomed to become a vampire. As was the seventh child of the same sex in a family, the child of a pregnant woman who didn’t eat salt or was looked at by a vampire, or a witch. And naturally, being bitten by vampire, meant certain condemnation to a vampiric existence after death.

The Vircolac which is sometimes mentioned in folklore was more closely related to a mythological wolf that could devour the sun and moon and later became connected with werewolves rather than vampires. The person afflicted with lycanthropy could turn into a dog, pig, or wolf.

The vampire was usually first noticed when it attacked family and livestock, or threw things around in the house. Vampires, along with witches, were believed to be most active on the Eve of St George’s Day (April 22 Julian, May 4 Gregorian calendar), the night when all forms of evil were supposed to be abroad. St Georges Day is still celebrated in Europe.

A vampire in the grave could be told by holes in the earth, an undecomposed corpse with a red face, or having one foot in the corner of the coffin. Living vampires were found by distributing garlic in church and seeing who didn’t eat it.

Graves were often opened three years after death of a child, five years after the death of a young person, or seven years after the death of an adult to check for vampirism.

Measures to prevent a person becoming a vampire included, removing the caul from a newborn and destroying it before the baby could eat any of it, careful preparation of dead bodies, including preventing animals from passing over the corpse, placing a thorny branch of wild rose in the grave, and placing garlic on windows and rubbing it on cattle, especially on St George’s & St Andrew’s days.
To destroy a vampire, a stake was driven through the body followed by decapitation and placing garlic in the mouth. By the 19th century people were shooting a bullet through the coffin. For resistant cases, the body was dismembered and the pieces burned, mixed with water, and given to family members as a cure.

GYPSIES AND VAMPIRES:

Even today, Gypsies frequently feature in vampire fiction and film, no doubt influenced by Bram Stoker’s book “Dracula” in which the Szgany gypsies served Dracula, carrying his boxes of earth and guarding him.

In reality, Gypsies originated as nomadic tribes in northern India, but got their name from the early belief that they came from Egypt. By 1000 AD they started spreading westward and settled in Turkey for a time, incorporating many Turkish words into their Romany language.

By the 14th century they were all through the Balkans and within two more centuries had spread all across Europe. Gypsies arrived in Romania a short time before Vlad Dracula was born in 1431.

Their religion is complex and varies between tribes, but they have a god called O Del, as well as the concept of Good and Evil forces and a strong relationship and loyalty to dead relatives. They believed the dead soul entered a world similar to ours except that there is no death. The soul stayed around the body and sometimes wanted to come back. The Gypsy myths of the living dead added to and enriched the vampire myths of Hungary, Romania, and Slavic lands.

The ancient home of the Gypsies, India has many mythical vampire figures. The Bhuta is the soul of a man who died an untimely death. It wandered around animating dead bodies at night and attacked the living like a ghoul. In northern India could be found the brahmaparusha, a vampire-like creature with a head encircled by intestines and a skull from which it drank blood.

The most famous Indian vampire is Kali who had fangs, wore a garland of corpses or skulls and had four arms. Her temples were near the cremation grounds. She and the goddess Durga battled the demon Raktabija who could reproduce himself from each drop of blood spilled. Kali drank all his blood so none was spilled, thereby winning the battle and killing Raktabija.

Sara or the Black Goddess is the form in which Kali survived among Gypsies. Gypsies have a belief that the three Marys from the New Testament went to France and baptised a Gypsy called Sara. They still hold a ceremony each May 24th in the French village where this is supposed to have occurred.
One Gypsy vampire was called a mullo (one who is dead). This vampire was believed to return and do malicious things and/or suck the blood of a person (usually a relative who had caused their death, or not properly observed the burial ceremonies, or who kept the deceased’s possessions instead of destroying them as was proper.)

Female vampires could return, lead a normal life and even marry but would exhaust the husband. Anyone who had a hideous appearance, was missing a finger, or had animal appendages, etc. was believed to be a vampire.

Even plants or dogs, cats, or farm animals could become vampires. Pumpkins or melons kept in the house too long would start to move, make noises or show blood.

To get rid of a vampire people would hire a dhampire (the son of a vampire and his widow) to detect the vampire. To ward off vampires, gypsies drove steel or iron needles into a corpse’s heart and placed bits of steel in the mouth, over the eyes, ears and between the fingers at the time of burial. They also placed hawthorn in the corpse’s sock or drove a hawthorn stake through the legs. Further measures included driving stakes into the grave, pouring boiling water over it, decapitating the corpse, or burning it.

In spite of the disruption of Gypsy lives by the various eastern European communist regimes, they still retain much of their culture. In 1992 a new king of the Gypsies was chosen in Bistritz, Romania.

References:

VAMPIRES IN MYTH AND HISTORY by Beverley Richardson
A Cultural History of Vampires in Literature and Film by Dr. P. Gflz
The Historical Dracula by Ray Porter, 1992
Dracula: The History of Myth and the Myth of History by Elizabeth Miller

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