According to the ancient Slavic folklore, vampires are dead people or corpses that come alive at night, or simply, are said to rise from their graves to feed on the blood of the living. It is also said that they visit the vicinity of where they lived when they were alive. Vampire legends have been recorded in almost all the cultures and regions of the world. However, in modern times, these myths have been believed to be fictitious. Various reasons like porphyria, premature burial, and contagion are said to be the cause of such vampirism among people. Bram Stoker's Dracula is considered as a quintessential vampire novel that was published in 1897, from which the modern legend of Dracula, the most popular of all the vampires, was born.
Origin of Vampire Myths
Although, there have been many superstitions and beliefs about the origin of such theories, the Slavic vampire myths interpenetrate all the others. Such beliefs in Slavic culture stem from practices and beliefs during the pre-Christian era. People have sustained these pagan spiritual beliefs even in the modern times, though no written records are available. One such example of these pagan beliefs is believing in the soul after death.
In Slavic culture, some ghosts and spirits were considered beneficent, while some were considered harmful. These demons could appear in any animal or human form. The malevolent activities in which they were said to be involved in, included harming the harvest, or sucking the blood of livestock and human beings. Hence, because of these activities, the Slavs were often obliged to placate the spirits. They believed that a vampire was a person who abducted a decomposing dead body and sought to feed on the blood for their own survival.
To clear these superstitions and ghost stories, several explanations were made. A major explanation was that vampires suffered from a disease of porphyria, which caused pale skin, sensitivity to light and made the incisors look bigger. However, the theory has been snubbed, as it was said that these symptoms were based on the misunderstandings of the disease. Sometimes, the dead body did not decompose as quickly as expected, and vampire hunters concluded that this was a sign of vampirism. Also, there are theories which suggest that these legends were influenced by the fact that people were buried alive, due to lack of medical knowledge.
Vampire legends have existed all around the world. The famous Dracula is thought to be from the Transylvania region of Romania. Different vampires from different regions differed in their appearances. For example, the ones from Bulgaria had one nostril; whereas, those from Transylvania were pale and had long fingernails. In Chinese culture, it was believed that if a cat or dog jumped over a dead body, the body would turn into an undead. In Russian folklore, vampires were witches who once rebelled against the church, when they were alive. In Indian mythology, there have been mentions of ghoul-like beings in Baital Pachisi and Goddess Kali, who wear a garland of skulls and are said to drink blood. In Egyptian mythology, Goddess Sekhmet was said to be blood thirsty. The Persian civilization was the first to have had stories of blood-drinking creatures.
Popular Facts Related to Vampires
They have always been portrayed in the human form, but with some unique physical features like long incisors, red eyes, etc. Some of their characteristics are as follows:
They hate sunlight and fire.
They are immortal and can be killed, only if beheaded.
They have no reflection.
They are afraid of crucifixes, holy water, etc.
People turn into vampires, if they are bitten by one.
A wooden stake through a vampire's heart will kill it.
They sleep during the day.
They are said to be charming.
Movies like Blade: Trinity, Interview with the Vampire, and TV serials like Buffy the Vampire Slayer are the pop culture associated with the belief. These beliefs and stories have been around for a long time, and will continue to fascinate people in the future too.
Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/vampire-myths-and-legends.html