Vampire Apotropaics Part 3: Undead Bondage

In this segment learn how carpets, oil or a bowl of cold water can keep a vampire in his place.

This segment of vampire aprotopaics deals with constraint or restrictive measures. The goal is to make sure the undead cannot move or leave its grave. The most obvious implement were ropes. In some areas of Eastern Europe the knees were bound or the whole body tightly tied with rope. Finally, binding the corpse in a carpet completely immobilized it, thus preventing the vampire from rising from the dead.

Sharp items, meant to injure or weaken the vampire were also common. Many corpses were buried with knives or the more infamous sickle (possible the reason we associate death with a sickle). Usually the sharp item was positioned to cause damage to the undead. With the sickle, it was placed over the neck so that if the vampire should rise, he would slice off his head.

A 19th century image of the reaper

A 19th century image of the reaper

In Morocco steel, iron, or silver daggers were left in the grave while the Slavs used hairpins. Thorns also did the job, though being much smaller, these were inserted in key points: under the tongue or in the navel. Some corpses were bound with thorny briars. On possible reason for this was to keep the body from swelling (a key sign of vampirism). In Eastern Prussia, a bowl of cold water was placed under the boards were the corpse lay in rest. Additionally, tin spoon were laid on top to weigh the body down.

Explorer VI:Vampire ForensicsNGC US- Ep Code: 4816

In 2006, a team excavated a mass grave from the 16th century in Venice. They discovered a skeleton with a brick jammed between it’s teeth. Possibly another restraint to keep the vampire from attacking.

Iron has always been though to repel evil. In Romania, iron forks were sometimes stabbed into the heart, eyes, and breast of the deceased while the Bulgarians drove a red-hot poker through the heart. Boiling oil, poured around the grave, was believed to prevent the vampire form leaving. So too, bowls of of excrement and poison.

Sometimes just ignoring a vampire was enough to protect yourself. In Romanian lore, it was believed that vampires could only ask a question one time. The superstition arose that you should only answer someone if they call upon you three times. If you answer a vampire’s request, then he will have power over you.

In Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me Mustafa (played by Will Ferrel) must be asked a question three time for him to answer it. Not really a vampire, but it sprang to mind. Click the picture for a link to the scene on YouTube.

In “Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me” Mustafa (played by Will Ferrel) must be asked a question three time for him to answer it. Not really a vampire, but it sprang to mind. Click the picture for a link to the scene on YouTube.

In the final segment, we explore ways to destroy the vampire, including but not limited to drinking ashes, a needle, and a sock (yes, a sock).

Tim Kane

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.

hh7y6

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