Bizarre Ways to Become a Vampire

When you step outside the films and popular fiction, vampirism gets a little wonky. In Eastern Europe you don’t get bit to become a vampire. Often, you’re born a vampire. Say what? True, many people equate vampirism to a curse. And there are plenty of ways to get cursed.

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A child born with a caul (a piece of membrane that covers a newborn’s face) would become a vampire after dying. To prevent this, the caul needed to be removed, dried, and ground up. Then the child would eat the powdered caul on his or her seventh birthday.

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A very common cause of vampirism is to die without ever being baptized. This leaves the person vulnerable to malicious spirits.

Suicide is the number one cause of vampirism nearly everywhere (Europe, Africa, China). Similar to being unbaptized, suicide was considered a sin against God. The person was buried away from the village, not on hallowed ground. The English had an interesting tradition of interning the corpse at a crossroads with a steak through the heart. The stake prevented the body form being animated by evil spirits.

In Germany, people who died from an accident risked becoming a vampire. Just a little to the south, in Bavaria, simply leading an immoral life could turn you into a vampire after death. Werewolves were closely related to vampires. Therefore, anyone who ate meat from an animal killed by a wolf would become a vampire.

Finally, is anything disturbs your grave, you will rise as a vampire. If an animal runs across your grave, you’re a vampire. Strangely, if a nun crosses your grave, forget about it. Vampire. This begs the question, how many nuns are traipsing through the cemetery?

Be careful folks. Multiple mistakes with your life (or death) can transform you in to the living dead.

Tim Kane

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Vampire Apotropaics Part 1: How to Pacify Your Vampire

Learn how knots, dead dogs, and excrement can deter a vampire.

As a lover of all things vampire, my wife purchased me The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires. As I strolled through the expansive volume, I noticed that despite it’s generous supply of information, some details were scattered. I was immediately drawn to Aprotropaics. This is a term coming from the Greek word apotropai, which is something that averts evil.

This is four part series summarizing the four ways to combat evil (specifically vampires): Pacificaiton, Countering, Restraint, and Lethal Aprotropaics.

The goal with pacification was to remove the vampire’s urge to kill or drink blood. Generally this meant feeding the vampire something else to quell his thirst. This is old school vampire lore (non of that Twilight stuff). The kind of stuff Romanians still believe in.

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I discovered this with an article about vampires on the loose in Serbia. The date was December 1, 2012. Drinks are left on the grave of a deceased man, in the village of Zarozje, near the Serbian town of Bajina Basta

People thought the world of the dead was similar to that of the living. That means eating. All sorts of food were left in the grave to prevent that person from rising as a vampire. Seeds were common. In Germany alone, folk used to bury or scatter poppy seeds, mustard seeds, oats, linen seeds or carrot seeds. Some of this is related to eating, but it also went back to the believe that vampires were seriously OCD.

Many beliefs in vampirism (Eastern European and Chinese) felt that the undead were compelled to count. Therefore if there were seeds in the grave or sprinkled outside, the creature would have to count them all before rising. Now you might think this a task that could be accomplished in a day or so. Oh no. The Kashubs (in Poland) surmised that a vampire could only count a seed a year, thus keeping him busy for centuries.

Miniature Vile of mothers of millions seeds, dirt and moss. I found this on Etsy by chillerwhale

Miniature Vile of mothers of millions seeds, dirt and moss. I found this on Etsy by chillerwhale

Although not strictly food, knots were also used as a delaying tactic. The obsessive vampire would stop to count all the knots (or possibly untie the knots). Nets were often buried with corpses to provide them with years of entrainment.

The Macedonian Folklore by G.F. Abbot (1903) a story tells of how a hunter lured a vampire with a pile of millet grains. The vampire was so obsessed with counting that it didn’t resist when the hunter nailed him to the wall.

The OCD aspect of vampires is highly underused. This reminds me of an excellent episode (Bad Blood) on the X-Files where the FBI agent Mulder pacifies a vampire by strewing sunflower seeds. The vampire, aware of his own compulsion, states, “Ooo, I’m going to get you when I’m done.” This gives time for the agent to escape.

A pizza boy attacks agent Mulder. His shoes are also untied (a sign that he's a vampire).

A pizza boy attacks agent Mulder. His shoes are also untied (a sign that he’s a vampire).

A similar practice to pacify vampires was to lay a dead dog or cat on your doorstep. Yeah, I know. A bit macabre. The idea was that the undead must count all the hairs on the animal. I’m not sure how long you could pull off this particular protection. Seems a last minute thing to me.

My favorite pacification technique came with the belief in holes. In Eastern Europe, people thought vampires exited the grave via holes in the ground. In Bulgaria villagers would place bowls of excrement near grave holes (and you thought the dead dog was bad). The vampire would eat the excrement. I’m guessing this has to do with the undead being a foul and smelly creature. In any event, the vampire was sated and no longer longed for blood.

Finally, a pacification technique that works well with humans was wine. To keep a corpse happy, Romanians bury it with a bottle of wine. After six weeks, the bottle was dug up and drunk with relatives as a form of protection. Sort of the hair of the dog that bit you. One step further was to bury the dead with whiskey, believing that the vampire would become too drunk to find its way home and drink the blood of its relatives.

This is a detail of a work of art called 126 Whiskey Bottles by Tara Cooper

This is a detail of a work of art called “126 Whiskey Bottles” by Tara Cooper

On the next post, we’ll tackle countering apotropaics like garlic, lemons, and tar.

Tim Kane

Death: The Ultimate State of Self Sufficiency

This has been a joke of mine since high school. When you’re alive, such as I am now, many things can happen. Mostly injury and death. Yet being dead means you  can’t change any farther. You’re already at the dead end of existence. This brings in ideas of undead, such as zombies and vampires. Yet even those folk can be destroyed.

This gets me thinking about burial. What options are out there other than your typical RIP gravestone and green plot? Cremation is there, but it actually pollutes so badly, you’d make BP look like a green company. I’ve always wanted to have a tree planted above my grave so that it’s roots would grow through my body. Then I would fertilize the tree and ultimately live through it again (a sort of rein-tree-nation).

It turns out I’m not too far off from current trends. Green graveyards are springing up. The green here refers to environmentally sound rather than green grass. Deceased are buried in natural environments. No grave marker. Instead, they get a GPS marker that loved ones can seek out.

Another trend that fits the body-as-fertilizer trend is being worked out by the Swedes. A company called Promessa Organic freeze dries bodies and then turns this into fertilizer. The body weighs significantly less when freeze dried (the process removes the water—and we’re mostly water). It also allows for a cleaner decomposition. It turns out that rotting underground, though it may seem wonderful that the body remains intact for so long, actually produces some nasty chemicals that can sully local drinking water. A freeze dried body is interned in a biodegradable coffin. With a tree or bush planted above ground, the body and coffin become a high nutrient loam in about sixth months. That’s full circle baby.