Wednesday, January 20, 2016

History of the Vampire by Lewis Spence 1920

History of the Vampire by Lewis Spence 1920

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Vampire: (Russian Vampir, South Russian upuir, probably from the root pi, to drink, with the prefix va, or av.) A dead person who returns in spirit form from the grave for the purpose of destroying and sucking the blood of living persons, or a living sorcerer who takes a special form for the same purpose. The conception of the vampire is rifest among Slavonic peoples, and especially in the Balkan countries, and in Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, and in these territories from 1730-35 there was a well-marked epidemic of vampirism, but it is by no means confined to them. In White Russia and the Ukraine it is believed that vampires are generally wizards or sorcerers, but in Bulgaria and Serbia it is thought that any corpse over which a cat or a dog jumps or over which a bird has flown is liable to become a vampire. In Greece (q.v.) a vampire is known as a broncolaia or bourkabakos, which has been identified with the Slavonic name for "werewolf" (q.v.), vikodlak, or vukodlak. The vampire, too, is often supposed to steal the heart of his victim and to roast it over a slow fire, thus causing interminable amorous longings.

Marks of Vampirism.—Vampirism is epidemic in character. Where one instance is discovered it is almost invariably followed by several others. This is accounted for by the circumstance that it is believed that the victim of a vampire pines and dies and becomes in turn a vampire himself after death, and so duly infects others. On the disinterment of a suspected vampire various well-known signs are looked for by experienced persons. Thus, if several holes about the breadth of a man's finger, are observed in the soil above the grave the vampire character of its occupant may be suspected. On unearthing the corpse it is usually found with wide-open eyes, ruddy and life-like complexion and lips and a general appearance of freshness, and showing no signs of corruption. It may also be found that the hair and nails have grown as in life. On the throat two small livid marks may be looked for. The coffin is also very often full of blood, the body has a swollen and gorged appearance, and the shroud is frequently half-devoured. The blood contained in the veins of the corpse is found on examination to be in a fluid condition as in life, and the limbs are pliant and flexible and have none of the rigidity of death.

Examples of Vampirism.—Many well-authenticated examples of vampirism exist. Charles Ferdinand de Schertz in his work Magia Posthuma printed at Olmutz in 17o6 relates several stories of apparitions of this sort, and particularises the mischief done by them. One, among others, is of a herdsman of the village of Blow near the town of Kadam in Bohemia, who appeared for a considerable length of time, and visited several persons, who all died within eight days. At last, the inhabitants of Blow dug up the herdsman's body, and fixed it in the ground with a stake driven through it. The man, even in this condition, laughed at the people that were employed about him, and told them they were very obliging to furnish him with a stick with which to defend himself from the dogs. The same night he extricated himself from t the stake, frightened several persons by appearing to them, and occasioned the death of many more than he had hitherto done. He was then delivered into the hands of the hangman, who put him into a cart, in order to burn him without the town. As they went along, the carcass shrieked in the most hideous manner, and threw about its arms and legs, as if it had been alive; and upon being again run through with a stake, it gave a loud cry, and a great quantity of fresh, florid blood issued from the wound. At last, the body was burned to ashes, and this execution- put a final stop to the spectre's appearing and infecting the village.

Calmet in his Dissertation on Vampires appended to his Dissertation upon Apparitions (English translation, 1759), gives several well authenticated instances of vampirism as follows:—

"It is now about fifteen years since a soldier, who was quartered in the house of a Haidamack peasant, upon the frontiers of Hungary, saw, as he was at the table with his landlord, a stranger come in and sit down by them. The master of the house and the rest of the company were strangely terrified, but the soldier knew not what to make of it. The next day the peasant died, and, upon the soldier's enquiring into the meaning of it, he was told that it was his landlord's father, who had been dead and buried above ten years, that came and sat down at table, and gave his son notice of his death.

"The soldier soon propagated the story through his regiment, and by this means it reached the general officers, who commissioned the count de Cabreras, a captain in Alandetti's regiment of foot, to make an exact enquiry into the fact. The count, attended by several officers, a surgeon, and a notary, came to the house, and took the deposition of all the family, who unanimously swore that the spectre was the landlord's father, and that all the soldier had said was strictly true. The same was also attested by all the inhabitants of the village.

"In consequence of this the body of the spectre was dug up, and found to be in the same state as if it has been but just dead, the blood like that of a living person. The count de Cabreras ordered its head to be cut off, and the corpse to be buried again. He then proceeded to take depositions against other spectres of the same sort, and particularly against a man who had been dead above thirty years, and had made his appearance three several times in his own house at meal-time. At his first visit he had fastened upon the neck of his own brother, and sucked his blood; at his second, he had treated one of his children in the same manner; and the third time, he fastened upon a servant of the family, and all three died upon the spot.

"Upon this evidence, the count gave orders that he should be dug up, and being found, like the first, with his blood in a fluid state, as if he had been alive, a great nail was drove through his temples, and he was buried again. The count ordered a third to be burnt, who had been dead above sixteen years, and was found guilty of murdering two of his own children by sucking their blood. The commissioner then made his report to the general officers, who sent a deputation to the emperor's court for further directions; and the emperor dispatched an order for a court, consisting of officers, lawyers, physicians, chirurgeons, and some divines, to go and enquire into the cause of these extraordinary events, upon the spot.

"The gentleman who acquainted me with all these particulars, had them from the count de Cabreras himself, at Fribourg in Brisgau, in the year 1730."

Other instances alluded to by Calmet are as follows:—

"In the part of Hungary, known in Latin by the name of Oppida Heidonum, on the other side of the Tibiscus, vulgarly called the Teyss; that is, between that part of this river which waters the happy country of Tockay, and the frontiers of Transylvania, the people named Heydukes have a notion that there are dead persons, called by them vampires, which suck the blood of the living, so as to make them fall away visibly to skin and bones, while the carcasses themselves, like leeches, are filled with blood to such a degree that it comes out at all the apertures of their body. This notion has lately been confirmed by several facts, which I think we cannot doubt the truth of, considering the witnesses who attest them. Some of the most considerable of these facts I shall now relate.

"About five years ago, an Heyduke, named Arnold Paul, an inhabitant of Medreiga, was killed by a cart full of hay that fell upon him. About thirty days after his death, four persons died suddenly, with all the symptoms usually attending those who are killed by vampires. It was then remembered that this Arnold Paul had frequently told a story of his having been tormented by a Turkish vampire, in the neighbourhood of Cassova, upon the borders of Turkish Servia (for the notion is that those who have been passive vampires in their life-time become active ones after death; or, in other words, that those who have had their blood sucked become suckers in their turn) but that he had been cured by eating some of the earth upon the vampire's grave, and by rubbing himself with his blood. This precaution, however, did not hinder him from being guilty himself after his death; for, upon digging up his corpse forty days after his burial, he was found to have all the marks of an arch-vampire. His body was fresh and ruddy, his hair, beard, and nails were grown, and his veins were full of fluid blood, which ran from all parts of his body upon the shroud that he was buried in. The hadnagy, or bailiff of the village, who was present at the digging up of the corpse, and was very expert in the whole business of vampirism, ordered a sharp stake to be drove quite through the body of the deceased, and to let it pass through his heart, which was attended with a hideous cry from the carcass, as if it had been alive. This ceremony being performed, they cut off the head, and burnt the body to ashes. After this, they proceeded in the same manner with the four other persons that died of vampirism, lest they also should be troublesome. But all these executions could not hinder this dreadful prodigy from appearing again last year, at the distance of five years from its first breaking out. In the space of three months, seventeen persons of different ages and sexes died of vampirism, some without any previous illness, and others after languishing two or three days. Among others, it was said, that a girl, named Stanoska, daughter of the Heyduke Jotuitzo, went to bed in perfect health, but awoke in the middle of the night, trembling, and crying out that the son of the Heyduke Millo, who died about nine weeks before, had almost strangled her while she was asleep. From that time she fell into a languishing state, and died at three days' end. Her evidence against Millo's son was looked upon as a proof of his being a vampire, and, upon digging up his body, he was found to be such.

"At a consultation of the principal inhabitants of the place, attended by physicians and chirurgeons, it was considered how it was possible that the plague of vampirism should break out afresh, after the precautions that had been taken some years before: and, at last, it was found out that the original offender, Arnold Paul, had not only destroyed the four persons mentioned above, but had killed several beasts, which the late vampires, and particularly the son of Millo, had fed upon. Upon this foundation a resolution was taken to dig up all the persons that had died within a certain time. Out of forty were found seventeen, with all the evident tokens of vampirism; and they had all stakes drove through their hearts, their heads cut off, their bodies burnt, and their ashes thrown into the river.

"All these several enquiries and executions were carried on with all the forms of law, and attested by several officers who were in garrison in that country, by the chirurgeon-majors of the regiments, and by the principal inhabitants of the place. The original papers were all sent, in January last, to the Imperial council of war at Vienna, which had issued out a commission to several officers, to enquire into the truth of the fact."

Methods of Extirpation. —The commonest methods of the extirpation of vampires are—(a) beheading the suspected corpse; (b) taking out the heart; (c) impaling the corpse with a white-thorn stake (in Russia an aspen), and (d) burning it. Sometimes more than one or all of these precautions is taken. Instances are on record where the graves of as many as thirty or forty persons have been disturbed during the course of an epidemic of vampirism and their occupants impaled or beheaded. Persons who dread the visits or attacks of a vampire sleep with a wreath made of garlic round the neck, as that esculent is supposed to be especially obnoxious to the vampire. When impaled the vampire is usually said to emit a dreadful cry, but it has been pointed out that the gas from the intestines may be forced through the throat by the entry of the stake into the body, and that this may account for the sound. The method of discovering a vampire's grave in Serbia is to place a virgin boy upon a coal-black stallion which has never served a mare and marking the spot where he will not pass. An officer quartered in Wallachia wrote to Calmet as follows, giving him an instance of this method:—

"At the time when we were quartered at Temeswar in Wallachia, there died of this disorder two dragoons of the company in which I was cornet, and several more who had it would have died also, if the corporal of the company had not put a stop to it, by applying a remedy commonly made use of in that country. It is of a very singular kind, and, though infallibly to be depended on, I have never met with it in any Dispensatory.

"They pick out a boy, whom they judge to be too young to have lost his maidenhead, and mount him bare upon a coal-black stone-horse, which has never leaped a mare. This virgin-pair is led about the church-yard, and across all the graves, and wherever the animal stops, and refuses to go on, in spite of all the whipping they can give him, they conclude they have discovered a vampire. Upon opening the grave, they find a carcass as fleshy and fair as if the person were only in a slumber. The next step is to cut off his head with a spade, and there issues from the wound such a quantity of fresh and florid blood, that one would swear they had cut the throat of a man in full health and vigour. They then fill up the pit, and it may be depended on that the disorder will cease, and that all who were ill of it will gradually get strength, like people that recover slowly after a long illness. Accordingly this happened to our troopers, who were attacked with the distemper. I was at that time commanding officer of the troop, the captain and lieutenant being absent, and was extremely angry at the corporal for having made this experiment without me. It was with great difficulty that I prevailed with myself not to reward him with a good cudgel, a thing of which the officers of the emperor's service are usually very liberal. I would not, for the world, have been absent upon this occasion, but there was now no remedy."

A Bulgarian belief is that a wizard or sorcerer may entrap a vampire by placing in a bottle some food for which the vampire has a partiality, and on his entry in the shape of fluff or straw, sealing up the flask and throwing it into the fire.

Scientific Theories of Vampirism.—The English custom of piercing suicide's bodies with a stake would appear to be a survival of the belief in vampirism. Such demons are also to be seen in the Polynesian tii, the Malayan hantu penyardin, a dog-headed water-demon, and the hephn of the Karens, which under the form of a wizard's head and stomach devours human souls. Tylor considers vampires to be "causes conceived in spiritual form to account for specific facts of wasting disease." Afanasief regards them as thunder-gods and spirits of the storm who during winter slumber in their cloud-coffins to rise again in spring and draw moisture from the clouds. But this theory will scarcely recommend itself to anyone with even a slight knowledge of mythological science. Calmet's difficulty in believing in vampires was that he could not understand how a spirit could leave its grave and return thence with ponderable matter in the form of blood, leaving no traces showing that the surface of the earth above the grave had been stirred. But this view might be combated by the theory of the precipitation of matter.

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