What powers do vampires have in mythology?


Vampires (also Vampyre) (from Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian: vampire) are blood-sucking night figures in popular belief and mythology, mostly resuscitated human corpses that live on human or animal blood and have supernatural powers. Depending on the culture and myth, the vampires are ascribed different properties and magical powers, sometimes they are also non-human figures such as demons or animals (e.g. bats, dogs, spiders).

Vampires: Reality and Myth


The templates for today's most widespread conception of vampires (in Western Europe) originally come from popular belief in Southeastern Europe. The belief in vampires has spread from the Carpathian region to Romania (Transylvania), Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece. The scientifically proven belief in vampires is primarily to be understood as a social anthropological phenomenon in which a person is sought for the harm to individuals or the village community through diseases, poor harvests or the like. The vampire's "blood-sucking" activity is not one of the elements that are primarily passed on in popular belief; more important is leaving one's own grave, which had to be tracked down by the affected village communities. Found in a suspicious grave (Peter Kreuter names a crooked cross or a mouse hole as a clue) a non-decomposed corpse, it was killed again in various ways and then burned, which is still the end of a vampire in most films, etc. The relatively large distance in the Christian Orthodox faith in Southeastern Europe of priests in the process of dying and the lack of a sacrament of death can be seen as favoring a blurring of the line between the living and the dead. The idea of ​​vampires is not only widespread in the Balkans. Almost all over the world there are myths about vampires or beings that have important properties share with these, for example:

* Asanbosam (Ghana, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire)
* Aswang (Philippines)
* Baobhan-Sith (Scotland)
* the lamias (Greece, since ancient times)
* Wrukolakas (also Greece)
* Chiang-Shih (China)
* Dhampir (or Vampire) (Albania)
* Vampire (vampire), Vukodlak (werewolf) Serbia or Kudlak (werewolf) (Croatia, Dalmatia)

Most of the international media coverage of the vampire types and their names were identified by the British occultist Montague Summers (1880-1948). The occultist was convinced of the existence of vampires and werewolves and declared every conceivable haunted creature to be a vampire as proof of his thesis, if the folk tradition of the country in question said that he was sucking blood or something similar, even if this being was the definition developed by Summers himself of an undead completely contradicted. It is customary in circles of Internet vampirologists to quote Summers unchecked, mostly from a second or third hand, and so now known errors are diligently passed on. However, Montague Summers' books are not easy to read, but require some language skills (especially Latin).

Likewise, the vampirism derived from the vampire myth also goes back to the superstition that drinking blood, as the essence of life, is also life-giving. In this context, Erzsébet Báthory (Elisabeth Bathory), who is notorious as the "Blood Countess" and comes from a Hungarian noble family, is very well known. After the death of her husband, she is said to have bathed in the blood of over six hundred virgin maids who were lured to her castle by promises to keep herself young. However, this assumption has never been substantiated or proven. The activities of Countess Báthory did not contribute anything to the emergence of the vampire myth in Eastern Europe either.

"Occupied" vampires

The first known vampire came from Croatia, from the small village Kringa (Istria) and is said to have died there in 1652. He was a farmer and was named Jure Grando. He is said to have climbed out of his grave in 1672 and terrorized the village several times. This vampire is mentioned for the first time in European literature in the book by Johann Weichard Valvasor. Johann Joseph von Gorres adopts this story in his book “La Mystique divine, naturelle et diabolique”, which was printed in Paris in 1855.

The best-known vampire, who supposedly exists in Romanian folk mythology, is probably Dracula (Vlad III. Drăculea), who is based on Vlad Ţepeş (German: "The Impaler"). It seems to be the product of a mistranslation that was brought into the world by a Scottish-American author in the 19th century and given all sorts of fantastic properties by relevant non-fiction authors in the 20th century, until it became an indispensable part of the vampire lexicons.

To this day there seems to be a belief in vampires or vampire-like figures among various ethnic groups (Asia, Africa, South America; but also Eastern Europe), for which there is no scientific evidence whatsoever. The internet in particular has emerged as a popular medium of dissemination.

Vampires in German-speaking countries

In the 18th century in particular, many vampire cases were reported, mostly from villages in south-eastern Europe. After the end of the last Turkish war in 1718, some parts of the country, e.g. B. Northern Serbia and part of Bosnia fell to Austria. These parts of the country were settled with Greek Orthodox refugees who had the special status of duty-free military farmers. They took care of the agricultural development as well as the border security, so that for the first time vampire reports reached the German-speaking area. Outright vampire epidemics were reported from the Eastern European villages between 1718 and 1732. One of the first and best known reports is from 1724/25 and concerns the village of Kisoslova in northern Bosnia. The provisional camera Frombald was charged with clearing up the vampire cases. His report was published on July 31, 1725 in the Austrian state newspaper. Frombald described what he experienced in Kisoslova. In this village, for no apparent reason, the population was dying more often, nine people of different ages died within eight days after a one-day illness that they had allegedly had already suffered. Peter Plagojevic (also: Plogojovitz or Blagojevic), who had died ten weeks earlier, was made responsible for this. On the death bed, all the sick testified that they had been strangled in their sleep by Plagojevic, which was later interpreted as the act of a vampire. The grave of Plagojevic was opened and the corpse was allegedly found in the state of a vampire: it was still quite undecayed, had a fresh color and had hardly any odor of rot. In addition, the skin, hair and nails had grown back after the original skin and nails had peeled off. Fresh blood, believed to be the blood of the victims, was also found in the orifices. The villagers therefore decided to stake the body and then burn it. The report caused a lot of sensation, but the belief in vampires in Eastern Europe was quickly forgotten in German-speaking countries. Most of the time, medics or clergy were sent to the affected villages to clear up the vampire cases. They exhumed the alleged vampires and wrote - often detailed - reports about the plague. They also made sure that all suspicious corpses were beheaded and cremated.

From 1732 onwards, the numerous vampire reports were viewed from a different point of view and, above all, scientifically and medically examined. Numerous dissertations on this topic were published. In 1732, the reports on the vampire myth were also heard by the French and Dutch public through the publication of reports from the fortified villages in various newspapers. The doctors and theologians sent to the corresponding regions often attributed the deaths to a previously unknown epidemic. If victims of the epidemic were buried too superficially, it could still be transmitted, which should explain the increased deaths in the villages. All the characteristics typical of a "vampire" can be traced back and explained to natural causes of the body, according to Michael Ranft, who was the first to react to the report from 1725 from Kisoslova. He composed various treatises, such as B. the "Dissertatio historico-critica de masticatione mortuorum in tumulis or of the chewing and smacking of the dead in graves". He explained all vampire characteristics rationally, e.g. B. the chewing and smacking with processes of putrefaction and noises of animal feeding, the incorruptibility with the dependence on environmental influences and the constitution of the deceased as well as the fresh blood on the body orifices of the alleged vampires with reddish colored water and secretions. He attributed the traits supposedly recognized by doctors and other people to fear, superstition and an exaggerated imagination. Augustin Calmet, a French Benedictine scholar, explained in his 1745 book "Scholars negotiating the matter of the apparitions of spirits and vampires in Hungary and Moravia" that there were reports of vampires as early as 1680, especially from Serbian and Slavic language area. He too found natural causes for the vampire marks. In 1755 Gerard van Swieten was sent to Moravia to clear up the vampire situation there. Van Swieten was the personal physician of Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia. He examined the alleged vampire cases thoroughly and wrote a sober report on the subject, in which he - like Ranft - gave natural causes as an explanation for the vampire belief.

Thus Gerard van Swieten is probably one of the most important fighters against the so-called superstition of the "simple" people. On the basis of his report, Maria Theresa issued a decree on the subject of vampires, which forbade all traditional defensive measures such as staking, beheading and burning. In addition, she decreed that references to so-called resurrected dead should no longer be reported to the church, which was still promoting superstition, but to the authorities. In addition, in 1756 she sent the German surgeon Georg Tallar to the areas affected by the belief in vampires to re-examine the situation and write a new report. Eastern Europe in particular was viewed as backward and in need of civilization at the time. In the 18th century it was considered the opposite of Western and Central Europe, which described itself as enlightened. The Enlightenment saw it as a scandal that such a "superstition" could even arise.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau also aptly described the vampire myth of the 18th century: "S'il y eût jamais au monde une histoire garantie et prouvée, c'est celle des vampires. Rien ne manque: reports officiels, témoignages de personnes de qualité, de chirurgiens, de prêtres, de juges: l'évidence est complète. " (Translated roughly: "If there was ever a proven and tested history in the world, it was that of the vampires. Nothing is missing: official reports, testimony from informants, from surgeons, from priests, from judges: the evidence is complete." )

Interestingly, it was precisely the church that supposedly encouraged superstition - so z. B. the opinion of Maria Theresa - at least partially astonishingly enlightened and opposed the "measures" against vampires. Pope Benedict XIV wrote a letter in response to a Polish archbishop's request on how to proceed against the "vampires", in which he was able to fall back on van Swieten's report. The Pope, who was considered progressive and promoter of the Enlightenment, made it clear in his letter that he considered the vampire belief to be nonsense and indicated to the Archbishop that it was up to him to eradicate this "superstition". He also advised him to remove those priests who still promote superstition from their office.

In Germany, the term "vampire" has been used since around 1720, i.e. since the first reports on the so-called "Serbian vampires" (Kisolova, Medveca). Earlier evidence, such as the farewell speech circulating on the Internet ("You call us vampires") by a French nobleman named Villain de Boaz, who was allegedly executed in Münster in 1643, has retrospectively proven to be a pseudopoetic forgery. Goethe's ballad The Bride of Corinth (1797) used the vampire myth - at least in echoes - literary, because his undead bride does not suck blood, but takes her lover with her to the grave.

In German-speaking countries, the vampire belief in its pure form has not been proven, although there are numerous indications, for example parallel beliefs and measures that could be taken against a revenant. According to the idea in large parts of Germany, the undead continued to lie in the grave and, as a so-called after-eater, sucked the life force from its survivors. Already in the 14th to 17th centuries there was a belief in the so-called "Nachsterben", in killing revenants and after-eaters in Europe. They should sit upright in the grave and suck out the life energy of their relatives by chewing on the shroud or on their own extremities and bring them to their grave. The deaths continued until the shroud was consumed; During this time a smacking sound could be heard from the grave.

The "Neuntöter" (Pomerania, East Prussia) and the "Doppelsauger" (Wendland) are figures that come very close to the figure of the classic vampire and their fight is similar to that of the Southeast European vampires down to the last detail. There is, as some vampire handbooks report, in South America the idea that vampires can turn into bats. The specific source evidence that the concept of metamorphosis is actually widespread there are never included. If these reports of metamorphosis correspond to reality, this would probably be due to the fact that there is a group of bats in South America (vampire bats) that feed exclusively on blood, but mostly on animal blood. The reports of vampire bat attacks on humans are partly speculative or sensational fantasy products, but something like this actually happens occasionally. This already shows the historical relationship between the subject of the vampire and the belief in were-beings (also called lycanthropes).

Real vampires

The common vampire (Desmodus rotundus) is a species of bat that lives on the American continent. This species is the best known - and also the best researched - of the three species of vampire bats (Desmodontinae), the only mammal group that feeds exclusively on the blood of other animals. Common vampires are feared as carriers of diseases such as rabies to livestock and humans. At the same time, an anticoagulant enzyme in their saliva provides important impulses for medical research.

Attributed properties

The different traditions of the vampire myth describe various special characteristics and properties that make up today's concept of the vampire. Such marks have been handed down to this day from a wide variety of sources, which turn out to be quite different in detail. It is estimated that only a fraction of the myths of that time has survived today, but still allows the description of a vampire to a certain degree.

Accordingly, vampires are undead creatures in human form who lived in their tombs and slept in their coffins during the day. They were distinguished by their pale appearance and fed exclusively on blood. This is probably why vampires have abnormal teeth, which are said to be characterized above all by their pointed canines, which are used as biting tools. In many ancient depictions there is talk of two, less often four, canine teeth. With these, vampires inflict a bite wound on their victims, who are primarily human, which is mostly in the neck area of ​​the artery. They then soak in the blood of their victims to quench their thirst for blood. According to other representations, vampires are said to be human, but they can transform into bats or giant bat-like creatures. You can also go up walls.

Immortality is ascribed to the vampire as an essential characteristic, which - combined with his usually superhuman physical strength and blood hunger - makes up a large part of the horror of the vampire myth.In addition, vampires are said to have a pronounced sex drive. Vampires are said to have a strong attraction for the opposite sex and to be seductive artists.

Those bitten by vampires would become vampires themselves. In some legends, however, several types of vampire bites are documented. Some say that the vampire can decide whether to turn his victim into a vampire or a ghoul, a kind of serving zombie. It is known that the ghoul has nothing to do with the traditional vampire myth, because it has its origins in the Arab-Persian myth circle and is a corpse-eating demon. Still other stories say that a vampire victim could only become a vampire if an unclean animal, such as a cat, jumped over its corpse or open grave. Another variant says that the vampire victim only becomes a vampire after drinking blood that has flowed through the vampire's veins.

In some legends, vampires can turn into bats or (less often) into wolves, although it has now been proven that the bat mutation does not occur at all in Romanian folk mythology. Vampires are nocturnal - but don't have to be, but they are said to dissolve in dust or burn on contact with the sun's rays, but that seems primarily to be an invention of the director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (Nosferatu). It is also often said that they do not have a mirror image. It is also reported that vampires are unable to cross flowing water or are generally afraid of water.

Vampires are also often said to have the ability to recover from injuries very quickly.

Many other details about vampires are very little widespread, such as compulsive counting (see The Count from Sesame Street), untying knots (e.g. from fishing nets) or the practice of putting silver coins in the vampire victim Stuffing his mouth to prevent him from turning into an undead.


The legends have provided passive protective measures against this, some of which were used in the 18th century. Garlic and any representations of a crucifix should serve as a deterrent. Furthermore, consecrated water is said to cause harm to vampires. The latter in particular underlines the contrast between the idea of ​​the "demonic character of a vampire" and the idea of ​​the "holy church". Direct ways to destroy a vampire are beheading and, above all, staking (striking a wooden stake through the heart). In some representations, however, the stake only leads to a kind of rigor mortis, which can be ended by pulling out the stake. A combined method of these two practices (heads and stakes) is also supposed to prevent the vampire from returning as undead. In this method, the vampire is staked and the creature's head is severed with a gravedigger's spade. The dead man's mouth is then filled with garlic. The latter is the "safest" method, as removing the stake will bring the vampire back to life.

In other stories it is told that the vampire from whom all others are descended can only be killed by a werewolf, while his bride (s) are also to be killed by a stake; his offspring automatically die if he is killed himself (all, those bitten by it die too.) When vampires mate, a dragon or bat-like creature comes out, but it can transform into a human. The offspring are stillborn and must be resuscitated with a violent electric shock.

Vampires are also afraid of sunlight or other bright light, which is why they are only active at night. Vampires are said to burn on exposure to sunlight. It is also said that vampires can move extremely quickly, also known as "blinking", "beemen", "Disapparate", and "Apparate".

In other faith regions, people placed objects in the coffins of the dead to prevent the dead from getting out of their graves again. This should be done by "dealing" with these objects in their grave, such as B. Fishing nets or poppy seeds in the graves. The dead should open a knot or eat a poppy seed each year and be occupied with it.

It is also said in some legends that vampires can only enter the house of their victims if they have been invited. Vampires suffer from convulsive counting behavior. If you have to flee from them you tell yourself that you have to throw something on the floor because the vampire first counts everything because of a compulsion before he can continue.

Medical attempts at explanations

Rabies according to the neurologist Juan Gomez-Alonso

The neurologist Juan Gomez-Alonso hypothesized that infection by rabies was the model for the idea of ​​a vampire. Just as vampires are always portrayed, rabies sufferers also move very woodenly, they are sexually excessively active and even so aggressive that they often bite each other. They are also often attacked by muscle spasms, during which they bite their tongue, causing blood to trickle out of their mouths. Rabies victims also become extremely sensitive to light and odor under the influence of the virus. Gomez-Alonso noted other parallels

* the urge to bite other people,
* the ability to infect other people with the "vampire disease" through the bite.
* Difficulty swallowing, referred to as hydrophobicity - note the ambiguity of the term: hydrophobicity (psychology)

He would like to support his hypothesis by claiming that the Balkans were ravaged by a rabies epidemic in the 16th century, when he believed the legend of vampirism arose. However, he does not provide any usable or verifiable information about the specific location or the exact time of this epidemic.

Dr. However, Gomez-Alonso cannot explain how the belief came about that these infected people were vampires. Above all, he fails to provide an explanation on the question of how and, above all, why the rabies patients, whose chances of survival after the outbreak of the disease were not very good, climbed out of some graves in the evening and returned to them before sunrise - and that according to information the folklore sources from Serbia (not Transylvania!) over weeks and months. An end-stage rabies sufferer has a maximum of ten days' chance of survival. The common properties that the neurologist claims to find in rabies patients and vampires are nowhere documented in folk mythology, but are all taken from the film cliché and can therefore never have contributed to the development of vampire fear or belief.

Porphyria according to the microbiologist Dr. Dolphin

Canadian microbiologist Dr. Dolphin put forward a theory for which he received a lot of press coverage in the 1980s. Dr. According to Dolphin, another real disease is said to have led to the belief in vampires, porphyria. Blood preparations are now administered to patients to treat this disease. However, the question arises here why such a rare metabolic disease should have given rise to the belief in vampires that is widespread in many parts of the world.

Furthermore, it is incomprehensible how simple farmers in the Balkans came up with the idea that one could drink blood to stop this disease. Blood preparations are now administered, but the development of such remedies required years of pharmaceutical research that was certainly not carried out in the villages of Transylvania and elsewhere three hundred years ago. Perhaps the earlier superstition that blood is the essence of life also plays a role here.

Psychiatric statement

Psychiatrically, a person whose fetish blood helps to increase sexual pleasure can also be called a vampire (vampirism as paraphilia). In the past, attempts have also been made to describe people as vampires who, through their presence with others, withdraw life energy, which can lead to sleep disorders or nervousness.

Vampires in the media

Formative works

The vampire first became famous through its romanticized portrayal in literature and film. The novel Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897), but also the story Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu (1872) and John Polidoris The Vampyre, 1819, laid the foundation for this and gave the dangerous monster longings and soul. The name of Stoker's vampire, Dracula, became the epitome of the original vampire. The Romanian prince Vlad III was named after Stoker's Dracula, albeit only partially a historical model. Drăculea also called "Vlad Ţepeş" (Vlad, the Impaler), because in Romanian tradition the prince is never portrayed as a bloodsucker or undead, but he is said to have occasionally drunk the blood of killed enemies in bowls.

Movie and TV

Since Friedrich Murnau's film Nosferatu, numerous other filmic and literary works on the subject of vampires have been created, including Nosferatu - Phantom of the Night, Roman Polanski's Dance of the Vampires, the feature films Wes Craven presents Dracula, Blade, Underworld, Queen of the Damned, Interview with a Vampire and the TV series Buffy - The Vampire Slayer and Angel - Hunter of Darkness as well as the Novels by Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyers Till Dawn, Leif Jonkers Darkness and "Bram Stokers, Dracula '". Mel Brooks also parodies Dracula in his film Dracula - Dead But Happy. There are two main lines of tradition to be distinguished:

1. The elegant, aristocratic Dracula type associated with the wolf (elongated canines)
2. The rodent-like, repulsive, plague-causing Nosferatu type (elongated incisors).

Van Helsing (Steven Summers)

Vampires in other media

The vampire theme is the topic of several role-playing games, see Vampires (role-playing game). In these Cain is described as the father of most vampires, the Cain's mark imposed by God is vampirism.

Another term: the "Upir"

As an alternative to the term “vampire”, the Ukrainian and Polish name “Upir” (Ukrainian: упир) was used in the early modern times. The suffix "pir" stands for a "winged or feathered being". Certainly an indication of the assumed ability of the vampires to fly. The term Upir did not make it into our time, it was superseded by the vampire, which is also used at the same time, probably also because the origin is more likely to be in Southeastern Europe than in nearby Poland. The Romanian term "Strigoi" is related to this, but it is derived from the Latin "strix (witch)".

Real "vampires"

The term Real Vampires or Modern Vampires encompasses people of all ages who pay homage to the (presumed) lifestyle of a vampire - mostly in terms of clothing, demeanor, false teeth, etc. - but also with extremes such as drinking blood. The scene should not be confused with Satanism, although there is also some overlap. The followers of this scene are very often equated with the Goths, since the "vampire cult", as it is called in the scene, can also be found in the Gothic scene. Nevertheless, the real vampire cult is an independent culture.

Secondary literature

* Norbert Borrmann: Vampirism or the longing for immortality, 1999 ISBN 3-4240135-1-X
* Harald Gebhardt and Mario Ludwig: Of dragons, yetis and vampires - on the trail of mythical animals. BLV-Verlag, Munich, 2005, ISBN 3-405-16679-9
* Peter Kremer: Dracula's cousins. On the trail of the vampire belief in Germany. Düren 2006.
* Peter Mario Kreuter: The vampire belief in Southeast Europe. Studies on genesis, meaning and function. Romania and the Balkans, Berlin 2001
* Thomas Schürmann: The belief in after-consumption in Central Europe, Marburg 1990
* Dieter Sturm, Klaus Völker (ed.): Of those vampires and people suckers. Seals and documents, Hanser, Munich 1968
* Montague Summers: The Vampire. His Kith and Kin. London 1928.
* Basil Copper: The vampire in legend, art and reality. Leipzig 2007 ISBN 978-3-86552-071-5.
* Montague Summers: The Vampire in Europe. London 1929 (as reprint and d. T. The Vampire in Lore and Legend. New York 2002)
* Gottlob Heinrich Vogt: Kurtzes cover of those acts-like relations because of their vampires, or people and cattle suckers. Martini, Leipzig 1732 (digitized version)
* Britta Radkowsky: Modern Vampires. UBooks-Verlag 2005. ISBN 3866080069
* Michael Ranft, Nicolaus Equiamicus: Treatise on the chewing and smacking of the dead in graves 1734, German translation from Latin 2006 by UBooks-Verlag. ISBN 3866080158
* Grothe, Stefan: The influence of epidemics on the emergence of the vampire myth as reflected in the Leipzig vampire debate 1725-1734. Cologne 2001.
* Harmening, Dieter: The beginning of Dracula. To the story of stories. Würzburg 1983.
* Hamberger, Klaus: Mortuus non murders. Documents on Vampirism 1689-1791. Vienna 1992.
* Silberschmidt, A .: From the blood-sucking dead. Or philosophical writings on the Enlightenment on vampirism. Hexenmond-Verlag, 2006. ISBN 978-3980964555
* Augustin Calmet: Scholarly negotiation of the matter of the apparitions of spirits and vampires in Hungary and Moravia. Red Dragon Edition, 2007. ISBN 978-3939459033
* Van Helsing (Steven Summers) 2004 - Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh

(Source: Wikipedia, as of 08/08/2007)