Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology

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BAITAL

(Bay-TILL)
Variations: Baitala, Baitel, Baitol, Bay Valley, Katakhanoso, Vetal, VETALA
A divine vampiric race first mentioned in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the baital is described as being half man and half bat. It has a short, stubby tail and stands anywhere between four and seven feet tall. In ancient artwork the baital has been depicted as holding drinking cups to its mouth that are filled with human blood and made of human skulls. These beings are so horrific that to even look fully upon one will cause someone to lock up in fear, growing weak and dizzy; some people even faint. When not consuming the human flesh that is offered up to it in sacrifice, the baital can be found at rest, hanging upside down from trees in the jungle, usually near cemeteries. Despite their horrific appearance and taste for human flesh, the baital are not mindless monsters.
Capable of possession, they are known to animate corpses so that they can involve themselves in human affairs. The vampire from the Indian story Vikram and the Vampire is a baital. In the story, the vampire decided to help the hero, Rajah Vikram, by giving him a reminder that the giant's advice should be taken seriously and that the sorcerer should be slain. Vikram was frightened by the baital's attempt to help, as the vampire had possessed the body of a murder victim, causing the hero to think it to be a devil.
Source: Burton, Vikram and the Vampire, 11; Icon Group, Hanging: Webster's Quotations, 400; Making of America Project, The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 49, 69­72
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