Lurking in the shadows throughout history, there have been creatures who exist in legends and myths who feed on the blood of the living. The names and attributes of these creatures may vary as do the countries of their origins, but they all have at least two common denominators. They are returning spirits or the undead, and they feed from the living in some form.
Some Hebrew legends claim that Adam had a wife before Eve, and her name was Lilith. Unlike Eve, Lilith was said to have been made at the same time as Adam and she refused to be subservient. Because of her constant disobedience to God, she was banished to the demon realm. Naturally, Lilith was pissed and was just waiting for her chance to get even with Adam.
But according to this same Hebrew legend, when Cain killed his brother, God cursed him to walk in darkness for eternity. And because Cain had wanted his brother’s blood, God cursed him with an eternal craving for blood. Hence, two vampire myths were born.
Later, Lilith became a succubus, a female demon who seduces men in their sleep. And so she seduced Cain, taking his blood and giving him hers in exchange, thus awaking him to his immortal nature.
Afterward, Cain spent years wandering the desert, ashamed of what he had become. Then he returned to the mortal realm and built the city of Enoch. He chose three mortals and created a second generation of vampires. In turn, those vampires created a third generation, but fearing God’s wrath, Cain forbade the creation of other vampires.
Years later, a great fire destroyed Enoch and Cain left his fledgling vampires behind. Without leadership, his vampires created a fourth generation who rose up against their elders and destroyed all but a few. Those who were left swore they would never kill mortals needlessly nor create others of their kind.
It is said, that if a vampire repeatedly breaks either oath, Cain himself will rise up from his self-imposed tomb and destroy him.
And so, the modern legend of American vampires has its roots in Hebrew mythology, complete with built-in explanations as to why there are so few vampires running amok throughout major cities around the world.
They’re obviously afraid of the Wrath of Cain.
But there are so many legends and so many creatures similar to vampires in other countries.
The Upior is an undead creature from Poland who consumes blood through his forked tongue rather than via enlarged incisors. The Upior has an insatiable thirst for blood. He even sleeps in blood. To avoid becoming an Upior, Polish people would bury their dead face down with a willow cross under the armpits, chest or chin. The body was also buried deep to prevent the dead from rising. And family members of the deceased who might become Upior would eat blood bread, made by mixing the vampire blood with flour and baking it. Eating this was thought to make them immune to vampire attack.
In Germany, the vampire is known as a Nachtzehrer or Night waster in the Northern provinces and a Blutsauger or bloodsucker in Southern Germany and Bavaria. One usually became a Nachtzehrer by one of three ways. The main way was by an unusual death such as violent accident or suicide. But if there was an epidemic of some sort that claimed many lives, the first to die was branded a Nachtzehrer and accused of sucking the life from subsequent victims. And the third and most bizarre way to become a Nachtzehrer was for the family not to remove the deceased’s name from his burial clothes.
Upon death, villagers in Northern Germany would place clumps of earth under a potential vampire’s chin, place a coin or stone in his mouth, or tie a handkerchief around his mouth to prevent the deceased from becoming a Nachtzehrer. In extreme cases, the corpse would be beheaded or a spike would be driven through his head to pin him to the ground so he could not rise from the dead.
Those not baptized Roman Catholic, witches, and anyone who’d committed suicide or lived an immoral life in Southern Germany and Bavaria were in danger of becoming a Blutsauger. Others in danger of becoming the undead were those who ate an animal killed by a wolf or had a nun jump over their grave.
Of course, I have to wonder if grave jumping was something nuns did a lot of in Germany…
At any rate, to protect themselves from these bloodsucking creatures of the night, the villagers smeared garlic over their doors and windows and placed hawthorn around the house. To kill a Blutsauger, one had to drive a stake through the creature’s heart and stuff garlic in his mouth.
The Hungarians, Turks and Romans all had myths about vampires and vampire-like creatures but Romania gives us our most famous legends. In regions like Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia, where Vlad the Impaler was once known as Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, vampire tales are more abundant than in any other country.
Romanians believed a child born with a caul over his face was cursed from birth to become a Strigoi (male) or Srigoaica (famale) better known as a vampire. They also believed children born out of wedlock and those who died without being baptized could become vampires. The seventh son of the seventh son or the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter was also at risk.
Of course, being bitten by a vampire could transform a person and those who committed suicide or practiced witchcraft were in danger of becoming the undead upon their death.
To prevent the endangered dead from becoming the undead, garlic was placed in the deceased’s mouth and a stake driven into the ground above the grave, in the hopes that the creature would impale himself should he rise from the dead. Sometimes, an iron or wooden stake would be driven into the deceased’s heart or navel.
There are as many legends about vampires as there are names for these walking dead. And whether you like your vampires hideous and homicidal or heroic and hunky you’re bound to find a vampire story to your liking.
OUT OF THE DARKNESS just happens to have a heroic, hunky vampire seeking a cure for his dark hunger. You can read about Vincent this summer when my book is released from The Wild Rose Press June 18, 2010.