Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology

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The Irish Potato Famine lasted about six years,beginning in 1845. In those desperate times in the areas hit hardest, some people turned to the eating of relish cakes—a small cake made with oatmeal, turnip greens, and fresh blood let from the necks of animals. After the blight ended, it was believed that some people had developed a taste for relish cakes and did not give them up. It was only then, in the years after the Irish Potato Famine had ended, that the vampiric creature known as the fir gorta ("hungry man") came into existence, a skeletal being carrying a staff in one hand and a begging cup in the other. Stories of the creature warned that it would go to the back door of a home where these cakes were still being eaten. Then, in a weak and feeble voice, it would ask for money or food. If nothing was given, sickness befell the home's occupants.
Source: Curran, Vampires, 57; Macafee, Concise Ulster Dictionary, 119; Mc Lean, Event and Its Terrors, 73; Tuke, Visit to Connaught, 18­19

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