Vampire Apotropaics Part 2: Back Off Foul Beast

We all want vampires to stay away. Who knew that lemons, clocks, and tar would do the trick.

There are many ways to counter a vampire using natural substances. Most repel the undead, keeping the creature at bay. The most common is garlic, but what fun is that. I dare say any vampire worth his fangs knows to keep away from that stuff. Let’s delve.

Lemons placed in the mouth of the corpse would dispose of Saxon vampires. The acidic properties (just like the strong smell of garlic) may be the reason for using this fruit. Likewise, the strong odor of tar would repel the undead. People would apply it to doors in the shape of a cross. Another item stuffed in the deceased mouth was wool. My guess is the prickly quality of the sheep’s hair would discourage the vampire.

Various types of wood had repellant qualities. In addition to carving stakes, juniper was kept in the house to keep the undead out. Like wool, this plant has sharp, needle-like leaves. Holly also keeps the vampires away with it’s pointy leaves. Millet, in addition to catering to the obsessive counting tendencies of vampires, could also repel them. It was rubbed on the face of the corpse.

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Blood bread was another tradition that provided protection in Poland. The blood of the corpse was mixed with dough and made into a bread. Partaking of the bread kept the vampire away. In Pomerania the blood was mixed with brandy and drunk.

I found this recipe for blood bread.

I found this recipe for blood bread. This uses cow’s blood. Click on the picture to check it out.

According to folklore in Europe, stopping the clock at the time of a person’s death will protect you from that person rising as a vampire. It puts the vampire in a sort of suspended animation. Also, placing a candle, a coin, and a towel in the corpse’s hand will keep it from rising as a vampire.

Iron is a common repellant for many magical creatures. However, you can protect against a vampire by simply keeping iron implements in by your bed. Scissors were common, but anything iron would do. Placing iron objects in the coffin kept the vampire from leaving the coffin.

The Telegraph reported that a skeleton was found in Bulgaria with an iron bar in his chest.

The Telegraph reported that a skeleton was found in Bulgaria with an iron bar in his chest.

Need fires were used all over Europe in plague times. All other fires in the town needed to be snuffed out. Then huge bonfires were lighted. Typically livestock were marched between the fires to imbue protection. Similarly this could provide protection against disease and vampirism.

Salt was another another excellent deterrent as it had the ability to preserve meats. People carried salt at night to ward off evil creatures or throw it over their left shoulder to blind whatever might be sneaking up behind (goes with the spilled salt superstition). Salt sprinkled around a cradle would protect the infant. In Romania, a woman who ate no salt in pregnancy would curse her child with vampirism.

In the next segment, we’ll look into ways to tying down your vampire, including, but not limited to: carpets, needles, and ignoring the undead.

Tim Kane

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One comment on “Vampire Apotropaics Part 2: Back Off Foul Beast

  1. […] a vampire at bay. Then there’s the folklore behind lemons, clocks, and tar that cause the vampire to back off. If you need to capture a vampire, don’t just use rope. Go with carpets, oil or a bowl of […]

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