VAMPIRE MYTHOLOGY: PREFACE
I am a vampirologist—a mythologist who specializes in crosscultural vampire studies. There are many people who claim to be experts on vampire lore and legend who will say that they know all about Vlad Tepes and Count Dracula or that they can name several different types of vampiric species. I can do that, too, but that is not how I came to be a known vampirologist. Knowing the “who, what and where” is one thing, but knowing and more importantly understanding the “why” is another.
Throughout history, every culture of man has had an incarnation of the vampire, a being responsible for causing plagues and death. A hobbyist or enthusiast may know that the hili is a vampiric creature who hunts the Xhosa people of Lesotho, South Africa, and to be certain it is a rather obscure bit of trivia. But knowing the “why” of the hili is what a vampirologist does. Why did the Xhosa people of that region of South Africa develop their vampire the way they did? Why does the hili look the way it does? Why is it an indiscriminate killer, attacking anyone at any time of the day or night? Why are the vampires that live due west completely different in every way? Why do they not cross into each other’s territories? I know the answers to all these questions because I have delved into the history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and religious studies of just about every culture I could get my hands on.
One of the questions I am frequently asked is how I ever came to be interested in vampires. I am always hesitant to answer because as simple a question as it may seem, the answer, like the vampire itself, is complex. For me, there was no single event that sparked a sudden interest, no chance meeting with someone who inspired me. As best as I can trace it back, my parents were people who encouraged learning and valued education in their children. At least once a week we would go to the library, returning home with a hodgepodge of books on various subjects. Each night around the dinner table we discussed what we learned that day and it seems to me that nothing brought my parents greater joy than when the whole family became deeply involved in a conversation where all of our cumulative knowledge was pooled, compared, and debated.
Obviously at some point in my youth I discovered the mythology of the vampire went beyond Bram Stoker’s Dracula, although I cannot honestly say when it happened. I had always wanted to be an author, and some years ago I set out to write a trilogy of vampire novels. I knew then that I did not want my vampires to be just like all the fictional vampires that were already out there; I wanted my vampires to be less like Ann Rice’s vampires and more like the original mythology.
What started out as what was going to be just a little bit of looking into the subject matter quickly became a fulltime endeavor lasting five years. At the end of my research what I had written was not a trilogy of books about a fictional vampire but rather a compendium of vampire lore.
Through self-examination, I can say that I love the vampire because there is always something new to discover, that its mystery still exists. Every time an ancient piece of parchment is found or newly translated there is the potential for an undiscovered species of vampire to be named or for a new story to be told about a type we already know to exist. In the past there have been books both rare and expensive that have been kept out of the reach of most researchers either because the researchers lacked the clout to have access to them or because the books were locked up tight in a distant library. However, with today’s technology these books are being transcribed and scanned into electronic documents so that everyone, no matter his reason, income level, or academic credentials, can have access to them. What was once forbidden or lost knowledge is now posted in PDF format on the Internet. I love the idea that there will always be one more book to read and a new discovery to be made. As a researcher this excites me—this is why I love the vampire.
To take on the task of writing an encyclopedia, on any subject, is tremendously exciting and daunting. My very first order of business had to be how I intended to establish what specific information it was going to contain as well as how inclusive it was going to be. My intent was to make a reference book that pulled together the disseminated knowledge from all over the world, from all cultures of people, from our ancient ancestors to our modern kinsmen.
Additionally, I wanted my book to not only be useful to the seriousminded academics that would need my book for their own varied research but also something that could appeal to fans. To achieve this goal I committed myself to not exclude any culture, religion, or people from any historical time period and to report the facts for each entry without any personalization, dramatization, emphasis, or hyperbole. In doing so, I could ensure that each entry would be treated equally with a measured level of professional d?gag?.
My next task was perhaps more difficult, for to write an encyclopedia about vampires one has to have a clear definition of what a vampire is. Most interesting, there is not a pre-existing or commonly accepted idea, let alone a singular, allencompassing definition that clearly says what a vampire is, specifically. That being the case, I would have to create one and apply it evenhandedly against all potential entries for the book. This was more difficult than it sounds as what is considered a vampire in modernday Brazil would not in sidebyside comparison be considered a vampire by the ancient Celts of Ireland—and yet, each of these mythical beings are by their people’s standards every bit a vampire.
For starters, not all vampires are undead, that is, the animated corpse of a human being, such as the brykolakas of Greece. There are mythologies where a living person is a vampire, such as with the bruja of Spain. Not all vampires are considered evil; the talamaur of Australian lore is not only a living person but may choose to be a force of “good.” Not all vampires survive on human blood; the grobnik of Bulgarian lore feeds strictly on cattle and animal carcasses. Not even blood is a requirement; the algul of Arabic lore consumes rice while the gaki from Japan can feed off either samurai topknots or the thoughts generated while one meditates. It is a popular misconception that vampires can only come out at night as the light of day is said to be most deadly; however, this is hardly the case for the sixtysome species of vampire that are said to originate on the Greek isles. There it seems that many of their vampires are particularly deadly at noon, when the sun is at its apex. The Aztecs of ancient MesoAmerica had vampiric gods as well as vampiric demons in their pantheon, and so do the Hindus, whose religion is just as old but still practiced today throughout the world. Nor is the vampire a stagnant creature, as the pishtaco of Peru has been evolving in appearance and hunting tactics throughout the written history of the Andean people.
What, then, do all these different species of vampires, from all around the world, have in common? The answer is simple: basic human fear. No matter when or where, how it hunts or what it hunts, the vampire attacks that which man considers most precious. The reason that there is no single definition of a vampire is because each culture of people, from their various time periods and from their various locations, has feared different things. The vampire has become man’s fear manifest; as man has evolved, so too has the vampire. What is culturally important to one people is not necessarily so to another. Because of this, I used the definition that each unique and diverse culture throughout history used; I let the people who lived with their fears dictate to me what a vampire is.
With my definition of a vampire as fixed as it ever could ever be, I had to determine if fictional vampires were to be included. A “fictional” vampire is, for the sake of classification, a vampire that is the creation of an author or group of creativeminded individuals. These fictional characters were deliberately not included. As fond as I am of Joss Whedon and his vampires, they will not be represented here. It would be impossible to publish a book containing those creations considered the most popular fictional vampires, let alone all of them. Only time will tell what, if any, vampire characters from various forms of entertainment will one day be considered “historically relevant.” I do not believe that the time has come to make that call.
Also not included in this encyclopedia are those homicidal individuals, mass murderers, cannibals, sadists and serial killers who have displayed vampiric tendencies. These types of people are not only irrelevant to the vampire as a mythological being but are themselves not vampires. The tag “vampire” is often applied to individuals who consume human blood, like Fritz Haarman, the “Vampire of Hanover,” most often by the media in an attempt to sensationalize a story. People who have a blood fetish and kill to fulfill it, like Elizabeth Bathory, the “Blood Countess,” for instance, are not considered vampires. She did not consider herself a vampire. Her peers did not consider her a vampire. She had nothing in common with how a vampire is created, lives, or hunts. She had no powers or special physical abilities that one would consider vampire-like. She was a living, breathing, historical person and clearly not a vampire.
I also did not include cryptozoological creatures, such as the Vampire Beast of Greensboro which is alleged to be an A.B.C. (alien big cat) that attacks livestock, draining them of their blood. Pumas, or mountain lions as some people call them, were once native to North Carolina. The state’s Department of Wildlife Management stands firm on the fact that there are no big cats living there in the wild. Isaac Harrold, a section manager for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, has assured me that although the NCWRC continues to investigate numerous reported cougar “sightings” every year, “there is no documented physical evidence to suggest that a population of wild eastern cougars continues to exist in North Carolina. In the absence of any physical evidence to the contrary, it is our position that wild cougars do not exist in the state.” Regardless of the NCDW’s stance, scores of hunters and eyewitnesses report seeing these cats every year; often these claims are accompanied by blurry photos of the beast itself or of its tracks. On the one hand, it would seem ridiculous to argue that there are panthers in the mountains and piedmont of North Carolina. On the other hand, eyewitness reports and blurry photographs do make one wonder if they are indeed real. The standard, as it were, must be maintained. Furthermore, the Vampire Beast of Greensboro has only been sighted and reported since the early 1950s, and although it is most certainly a part of local history, it is neither culturally significant nor mythologically relevant. (The complete story of this vampiric creature can be found my book Haunted Historic Greensboro.) I did, however, include those vampiric creatures, such as the chupacabra of Mexico, that are culturally noteworthy and historically pertinent. This species of vampire has been sighted since the 1500s and has long been part of the history and mythology of its people.
Whenever possible, at the end of each individual entry I have included the source material I used so that it may be referenced by others. I went back to the oldest source I could find to confirm what was written and tried to consult the most authoritative works available. Much of the information I discovered about vampires was taken from a wide array of sources on different subjects that appeared in scholarly studies and folklore journals, not the New Age or the occult section of the bookstore. It took me five years of intensive research to gather the information I would need to sit down and write this book. Sometimes a single piece of information came from one book and another tidbit from another. No one entry came from any single book. A complete bibliography is provided at the back for the reader who wants to learn more or start his or her own research.
For ease of readability, I have used SMALL CAPS for cross-references. I find that crossreferencing is important, particularly when it comes to the reader’s desire to learn more. Crossreferences let them know that additional information is available and that it is right there at their fingertips. To complement this, there is a thoroughly exhaustive index that can be found at the very back of the book. Compiled here, in this one place, is a list of terms any researcher would ever need to look up in this encyclopedia.
There are an untold number of nonfiction books about the vampire, and although I cannot personally vouch for even the smallest percentage of them, there are several books that I consider to be relevant and worth reading. All are nonfiction and the information that they contain is fairly timeless. For example, the history of ancient Rome has been written and is well established. Although new bits of information may come along or a new understanding of situations may be brought to light, Edward Gibbon’s book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, first published in 1781, is still a valid historical reference book.
Matthew Bunson’s The Vampire Encyclopedia offers readers a good mixture of mythological and fictional vampires as does J. Gordon Melton’s The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s The Complete Vampire Companion: Legend and Lore of the Living Dead covers mythological and fictional vampires as well as the real or living vampires, those who live the “vampire lifestyle.” As mentioned, these books present varying amounts of information about fictional vampires from books, movies and television. While it is interesting and entertaining, this material is irrelevant to the mythology and history of the vampire and not appropriate for this encyclopedia. Naturally, Montague Summers’ books The Vampire, His Kith and Kin, The Vampire in Lore and Legend and The Vampire in Europe are “mustreads” for anyone who takes their vampire lore seriously. Be advised, however, that Summers was a very religious individual and oftentimes conveyed his feelings when not adding outright his own Christian opinion. I am personally fond of Orenlla Volta’s The Vampire, although it does not go into great depth on the various species of vampires; what it does offer, however, is wonderful insight into the human psyche as it relates to the vampire. A similar comment can be made for the book written by Ernest Jones, On the Nightmare. Perhaps I am especially fond of these two books because they dwell less on the “who, what and where” and focus more directly on the “why.”
I am frequently asked the ageold question “Do you believe that vampires are real?” and time and again my answer is an unhesitating and unwavering “No, I do not.” My rational and scientific self cannot accept their existence. I do not believe that there are animated corpses wandering the countryside and dark alleys looking for suitable prey to lure into a quiet shadow so that they may sustain their life by consuming a human’s blood. That is not to say that I do not experience the same cultural fears as my fellow man; I just do not lay the blame for the manifestations of those fears on the vampire.
All the same, just in case I am wrong, don’t take candy from any strangers.
On that note, I would like to express my appreciation to those in the field who went before me, a list too long to present in its entirety but is comprised of those editors, artists, and historical experts who work in occult research, paranormal investigation, psychology, parapsychology, and translation. Also I would like to thank Gina Farago, my beta-reader extraordinaire; June Williams, who was instrumental in my pronunciation guides; and especially my husband, Glenn, who makes my writing and being an author possible. To you all I extend my heartfelt thanks. I couldn’t have done it without you.