What is a Vampire?
A Guest post by Meredith Allard
What is a vampire? An odd question perhaps, but I have become intrigued by these fascinating, elusive creatures and I wanted to learn more about them. I was surprised to discover that vampires legends have been told for as long as there have been people to tell them.
What were the first vampire legends? In early Hebrew tales, Lilith was depicted as a winged demon. She was reported to be the first wife of Adam, and since she considered herself his equal she was banished to the demon world. Some believe that the mark of Cain may be the mark of the vampire. Since then, legends of the undead have abounded across the globe, some merely ghost stories, but some as an attempt to understand strange physical anomalies before science could explain them. One such condition is porphyria, a hemoglobin issue that causes extreme sensitivity to sunlight, and another is catalepsy, a suspension of animation where the person appears dead but then apparently comes to life again.
For the Cherokee, the Kalona Ayeliski or “raven mocker” is a powerful evil spirit, so powerful other spirits and witches fear it. The raven mocker tortures and torments a dying person to hasten their death. Once dead, the raven mocker consumes the person’s heart to bolster its own life force.
For the Greeks, there’s a vampire named Andilaveris. He isn’t a scary vampire, only an annoying one. At night he roamed into villages and dined off their food and destroyed their plates and glasses. One night he stood on the roof of a church and urinated on anyone who passed below. He had to stay in his grave on Fridays, so one Friday a priest, a sexton, and others opened his tomb and sent his body to a deserted island, Daskaleio, where he was trapped.
Eastern Europe was, and is, a hotbed for vampire legends. In 1730s Serbia, numerous murders (of people and farm animals) were attributed to the undead. A number of corpses were exhumed and found to be rosy-cheeked with fresh blood in their mouths. The Serbians saw it as proof of the existence of vampires. And of course Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula hails from there.
I highly recommend Mark Collins Jenkins’ book Vampire Forensics, a scientific, anthropological, and archaeological search into the origins of these vampire stories that have fascinated me, and so many others, through the years.
Happy Halloween. And happy vampire hunting.
Meredith Allard, author of Her Dear & Loving Husband