Vampiric Demons And Creatures And Beasts, Oh My!
For the first in this series on legendary creatures/spirits/demons I’ll be looking at one of the most loved beasts we have, vampires.
In comparison with other creatures, vampires seem to interest people more highly than other supernatural entities. I think the reason may be that vampires do indeed exist and the natural world abounds with them. Leeches, some bats, many insects, and even people (think black pudding) survive off of the consumption of blood directly. So when people go to choose a book to read, a story to listen to or a movie to watch, those dealing with vampires have a higher degree of reality underlying them than most other monsters, like werewolves, ghosts or trolls and what have you. Even as I sit here typing, I just mashed a vampire on my arm, mosquito season has arrived once again. (proof vampires don’t exist can be found here. okay, okay so it’s not really proof of anything because they use assumptions of what vampires are, but its a fun read, have a look)
Today, the word vampire conjures up images of sexy women, handsome men and likely homosexual, shimmering teen novel characters (those damn Twilight books are ruining the genre). However, the good looking sultry vampires we think of are recent inventions, the vampires of old, from all around the world are much different. They are in general, malformed, darker, scarier and not in the least anything you would consider inviting into your house were one to come calling. They are true monsters and their history is long, perhaps as old as humanity itself.* Rather than try and trace a timeline, which would be difficult because every culture has their own vampires, and they don’t appear to be linked in any obvious or likely way, I’m just going to list out some of the more curious, interesting and horrible ones from around the world, and in alphabetical order no less. (I’ll include hyperlinks if I can find decent ones)
Abhartach – This appears to be the oldest recorded vampire story in Western Europe. Abhartach, is a small man or dwarf in various accounts. A tyrant and sorcerer, Abhartach was also very jealous and died after falling from a ledge while trying to check on his wife by looking in her window. As has been common at various times, the locals buried him as a king, that is, standing upright in the grave. As you might expect, he refused to stay dead and the very next day he shows up demanding that every inhabitant of the local village give up their own blood for him to consume and live on.
Obviously no one was happy about this and so they did the sensible thing and killed him a second time. Just as happened the last time he died, he showed up once more demanding a tribute of blood from each person. Depending on the version, the villagers had him killed a various number of additional times, each with the same result. Eventually he was “killed” by a Druid, and was again buried vertically, but upside down. An interesting piece of this story is that there is actually a grave site in the town where this took place, a large boulder a top the grave and a thorn tree currently imprison the beast, successfully it seems. (UK)
Aoroi (a type of fay or ghost)- Contrasting with the most common descriptions of vampires, Aoroi are not made by other vampires, nor are they created by improper burial or other mistakes made by the living. Instead, they are created when a man or woman dies prematurely, before their appointed time. Another curious thing is that while most vampires are said to be immortal (without intervention, like a stake in the heart), Aoroi can’t be destroyed, but they will eventually die of natural causes once the time it was supposed to die had the person not died before they were supposed to. (Ireland and Greece, as a fay and ghost respectively)
Baital – Like Aoroi, a Baital does not fit with the usual stories. Baital are first mentioned in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and are not and never were humans. Instead the Book of the Dead identifies them as an entire race/species of divine origin. Half man, half bat, they even come complete with a tail and a set of wings. They are not mindless killing machines though, they enjoy meddling in our (human) business by reanimating and possessing human corpses. They are not even universally evil or malevolent, capable by at least one account of actually helping people if they so choose. However, in their natural form they are said to be almost indescribably hideous, similar to Nancy Pelosi. (Tibet/India)
Blood Dogs – In Northern England, these big grey bogs with red eyes dig down into the ground soon after a battle takes place and lick up the blood of the dead. They leave no footprints (some sources say they also cast no shadow) and their breath is supposed to be hot enough to actually scorch the earth. They don’t bite though, so they might not make bad pets. (UK)
Impundulu – A rather diminutive vampire at only 3 inches tall in it’s natural form, they are said to have the power to shape shift (usually a bird with a red bill and tail). Impundulu also spread TB and has a flying machine powered by human blood (no kidding). At night it seeks out humans and cattle as its prey. A unique feature of Impundulu (aside from the flying machine) is that this creature is often found as a witches familiar, and can even be (actually, it must be) passed down through a family line. If that doesn’t happen (the line ends) the Impundulu is free to do as it pleases. (South Africa)
Incubus (the female version is called a Sucubus)- This is one of my favorites, as the beast drinks, not blood, but the sexual energy of humans. Often the Incubus “locks on” to a nun, which it prefers to other women, it sexually assaults while they sleep and steals her sexual energy. It may even sire children. (All over Europe)
Invunche – Perhaps the most pitiable vampiric creature, a witch kidnaps a first born male infant, takes him back to her underground lair, and proceeds to do horrible things to the boy. She would break a leg and twist it behind the baby, the other limbs are disjointed and contorted into unnatural positions, and a slash made on the infants back, through which one of its arms is inserted. A magical ointment then applied, the baby is created an Invunche. It is then fed nothing but human flesh and serves as a guardian for the witches lair. (Chile)
Mavky – Another fay/fairy, this time from the Ukraine. They live in the forest and attract their prey by playing beautiful music and singing. It’s victims are killed in a very peculiar way, by being tickled to death. I bet you didn’t see that shit coming did you? During the tickling torture, the Mavky feeds of the persons joy, not blood, and so is another member of the minority of energy vampires. (Ukraine)
Mermaids – Were not always the gorgeous sex symbols they are today, and they inhabited not only the ocean, but lakes and rivers as well. Luring mariners onto rocks, after which they would drain the crew of their blood while they were still alive, but only after dragging them into the depths. These creatures are of English and French origin, but bear a striking resemblance to the Sirens of Greece, and may have the same origin. (England, France, Belguim, Greece and many others)
Moribund – These were vampires created when a human is killed by a werewolf. Their attributes are far too varied, depending on the locale, that it’s not possible to list them with any kind of thoroughness.
Volkolak – To finish the list off, I have another of my favorites. While there are a wide variety of ways different vampires are created, few, perhaps none, are as particular as the creation of a Volkolak. First, a man who is also a werewolf must be living with a woman, to whom he is not married. He must then get her pregnant and he must die prior to the birth of his child, but it doesn’t end there, the baby is not born as a vampire. When the child eventually dies, whether it be immediately after birth, or 80 years later, the child will rise after 40 days as this type of vampire. (you would think the US government has written the rules.) (Dalmatia)
To end this post, you might have noticed that none of the vampires I listed are killed by sunlight. You may also have noticed that none of them are created by the bite of another vampire, nor are they put off by garlic, piles of sand (it is sometimes said in the modern day that vampires have OCD and must stop and count each grain of sand), crosses or holy water. It is true that there are legends that encompass all or some of these things, but they are extremely rare and are usually fairly modern, the last 150 to 200 years or so. Bram Stoker is usually credited with mainstreaming these ideas and personally invented many of them himself.
Humans fear these things naturally, and for good reason. As you will see in future posts on the creatures that bump in the night, these things have always been with us, and I personally credit our shitty night vision, hearing, sense of smell and swimming ability, for these fears. Given the Theory of Evolution, it is pretty reasonable to assume humans who were afraid of the dark, deep water, etc., would have been far more likely to survive and pass on not only any genetic predisposition for these fears, but also by word of mouth making future generations afraid of the same things. Thus ensuring those generations will have fewer drownings and not become meals for nocturnal predators.
But that is just what I think, it isn’t really something that is scientifically testable or historically re-searchable, and so we can only guess. But I do like to think I am right.
*Judging by cave paintings that suggest blood sucking entities. There is quite a lot of discussion on the matter of whether some of these depictions may in fact be another, since extinct, species of human. Not that there may have been a real species of vampires, but rather “propaganda” regarding contemporary competitors like Neanderthals, other tribes of the same species – Homo Sapiens – or even surviving pockets of divergent or ancestral species like Homo Heidelbergensis. You get the idea at any rate.