Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology

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VETALA

(Vee-TA-la)
Variations: BAITAL, Baitala, BETAIL
In India, there is a vampiric spirit that is calleda vetala. One is created every time a child dies and does not receive proper funeral rites. When a vetala possesses a corpse it causes a hideous transformation to take place: the feet and hands twist backward; the face twists about until it resembles a fruit bat with slitted eyes; the skin becomes discolored by turning either GREEN, light brown, or white; and the fingernails grow long and carry a poison on them. While the vetala possesses the corpse, it is able to animate it and will use its magic to find human blood to drink, for as long it does so regularly, the body that the vetala is possessing will not decompose. It will call to it a GREEN horse that it will use as its mount.
Using its magic, the vetala will enter into a home by use of an enchanted thread being fed down a chimney. Typically it preys on those who are asleep, using the opportunity to drain them of their blood, but it will also take advantage of a person who has passed out drunk. Women who have gone insane are also fed upon, the idea being no one would believe them if they reported it. But above all, its favorite prey is children. Regardless of whom it attacks, the vetala mostly feeds on intestines and excrement.
Vetalas can cause insanity and miscarriages,and anyone who survives one of its attacks will first suffer through a severe illness before he can begin to recover. However, because of the vetala's ability to see into the past, present, and future, as well as its deep insight into human nature, it is often the goal of a sorcerer to capture one and use it for his own intent.
When not seeking out prey, vetalas are at rest hanging upside down from trees in cemeteries, dark forests, or any deserted place. They may be appeased with offerings of gifts, but should that not work, they can be driven off with the use of magical spells. Should all else fail, the body of the child that caused the creation of the vetala must be found. Then proper funeral rites must be performed over it, essentially destroying the vetala.
Source: Crooke, Introduction to the Popular Religion, 67, 97, 152; Cuevas, Travels in the Netherworld, 95­97; Saletore, Indian Witchcraft, 83
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