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From the shadowy coffin of Dracula to the high school hero Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the love story of Edward and Bella of Twilight fame, vampires have fascinated humans for centuries. The Wesier Field Guide to Vampires provides a handbook not only to mythical and historical legends, but also to the modern vampire, their community, and the science behind modern vampire feeding. Learn how to recognize a true vampire, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to tell if you are a vampire. Includes a glossary of ...
From the shadowy coffin of Dracula to the high school hero Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the love story of Edward and Bella of Twilight fame, vampires have fascinated humans for centuries. The Wesier Field Guide to Vampires provides a handbook not only to mythical and historical legends, but also to the modern vampire, their community, and the science behind modern vampire feeding. Learn how to recognize a true vampire, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to tell if you are a vampire. Includes a glossary of who's who in the vampire world, and top vampire terms.
The Vampiric World
developed and grown by leaps and bounds, but always under the watchful eyes of certain "others." Human art, architecture, literature, and even technology have all been influenced by these creatures as they have both led the human world and followed in its shadow. Though they go by many names, the most common one used today is simply vampire. Whether they are reviled or revered, the world cannot be rid of them, for stories of their kind have haunted humanity through the entire course of recorded history, culminating in a modern age in which every medium of entertainment is dominated by their influence—from literature to television, from the vastly popular novels of Anne Rice to children's programs like Sesame Street, with its Count character. Novels, horror movies, and scary video games with vampires—not to mention gothic, punk, and rock music— are all creations of this new vampire age. But these fictions tell only half the story.
Take, for instance, the Celtic legends of the Sidhe. Ancient and modern historians alike find these legends to be at least in part true histories of the ancient peoples of Ireland. The ranks of those historians have included the monks that recorded the only existing copies of these legends of the wars and lineage of the first races of Ireland as well as the Victorian writer Elizabeth A. Gray, who translated the history of the Second Battle of Mag Tuired into English. This history records the political and military struggles between the Tuatha De Danaan, a race of powerful human magickal practitioners and warriors, and the Fomoire, the warrior caste of the Sidhe—Sidhe being the Celtic word for what today are called vampires. According to these histories, the Sidhe once dominated Ireland, existing in such great numbers that there were armies of them.
According to Celtic legend, the Sidhe were one of the oldest peoples of Ireland, having emigrated there from a faraway land. Existing in relative peace and harmony with various other peoples that passed through the land, these people opened their territories freely to the Tuatha De Danaan. Conflict arose between these two peoples, and war broke out.
According to Gray's translation, the Tuatha De Danaan were fully aware that a fight with these powerful and intelligent beings would amount to group suicide. (In fact, Gray's translation likens such an act to thrusting one's hand into an asp's nest or dashing one's head against a cliff.) So the Tuatha De Danaan used their powers to put four curses upon the Sidhe. Only two seem to have worked: one that would cause the light of day to scorch their skin and burn their eyes, and one that would allow no water to quench their thirst. Although in the end the Tuatha De Danaan won the battle, they lived in fear that they had created monsters that would eventually destroy them.
The Tuatha De Danaan passed from the land, and the descendants of Scota, the legendary Gallic Queen who took the island to create a kingdom for her sons, became the current residents of Ireland. Some believe that the Sidhe made a deal with Queen Scota and her people to take the island for her in exchange for being allowed to live there in peace and solitude because, apparently, the Sidhe remained in Ireland long after the Tuatha De Danaan disappeared. Later era legends describe the Sidhe as a tall, powerful, and beautiful people. Their fair skin eventually earned them the name fairies, and they were most often seen strolling along the beach or dancing in forest clearings at twilight.
An encounter with one of these gorgeous and seductive people always promised to be memorable. All who reported meeting them claim to have had similar experiences. A traveler finds himself alone in the woods or at the edge of the beach when he notices the most beautiful person he has ever seen off in the distance, in no particular hurry to be anywhere and usually wearing green—a color so associated with the Sidhe that it was long considered dangerous to wear lest it be an incorrect shade of green and thus offend the Sidhe. The Sidhe, when they notice they are being watched, often shy away, disappearing without a trace. A few approach, though, beginning a seduction that will leave the human alive but, upon waking up the next morning, deeply drained of energy and perhaps nursing a few well-bled cuts. Some stories claim that the human recalled the seduction and subsequent sensual bleeding process by Sidhe, but many more claim that the human blacked out during a frightening draining of his or her life's essence.
In Genesis 6, the Christian Bible mentions a race born of the copulation of angels and human women. According to the Bible, the angels chose the most beautiful of human women to have children by, and those children were giants among men—tall, attractive, intelligent, and strong. The King James version of the book says that "these were the great ones of old, men of renown." But Genesis 6 also seems to suggest that these were not good and kind people, but predators of humanity. The book suggests that their every thought was evil, and chapter 13 of the book of Numbers suggests that wherever these people—the Nephilim—lived, humans were devoured.
It is no wonder that this race is so often characterized as villainous, since these people were actually the deities of much older religions. The term Nephilim comes from the Sumerian root Nfl, which was another name for their gods, the Annunaki. An, the sky god, and Ki, the earth goddess—the progenitors of the Annunaki—were said to have been created by the joining of a human woman and a powerful spirit being. This oddity of birth was supposed to explain why these two deities and their descendants possessed such great intelligence, wisdom, and spiritual powers.
The Annunaki were teachers and healers, and they were thought to be the earliest rulers of Sumer and Akkad—the heroes of all Babylonian tales. Each member of this race carried the combined symbol of the sun circle (representing An) and the flat line of the horizon (Ki) as a charm on a necklace or a large symbol carried in the hand for ceremonial purposes (such as in the surviving stone carvings of the creature thought to be Lilith). In this symbol, the sun circle sits atop the flat horizon line—an image of sunset or sunrise, and a perfect representation of the twilight nature of what the Hebrew and Christian peoples would later call the Nephilim, a people that likely both led humanity and fed on it.
In fact, many of the descendants of An and Ki—such as the Ekimmu, the Uruku, and the Seven Demons—are reported in Babylonian mythology as needing to feed upon human blood or energy to nourish themselves. The most famous of all these divine descendants, though, is Lilith.
Modern fiction, including the comic book Crimson, is fond of portraying Lilith as the mother of all vampires— the first of her kind and the progenitor of the race. Hebrew mythologies describe her as Adam's first wife, rejected due to a lack of submissiveness; in revenge for her rejection, she swore a curse upon Adam and all his descendants, damning herself to giving birth to a race of half demons who would prey upon all of humanity. However, the original story of Lilith suggests that she was a lesser child of An and Ki, and relatively insignificant. She played a minor role in the hero epic of Gilgamesh, being nothing more than a harmful spirit taking up residence in a tree.
The real Dracula was not the first of the vampires nor was he the origin of vampire myths. In fact, Vlad Dracula grew up in a beautiful land rich with vampiric folklore, and he likely used that folklore intentionally to encourage the myths that surrounded him. The peoples of the region of eastern Europe near the Carpathian Mountains are known for their folktales, the most famous of which are about vampires—creatures that they call the Strigoi.
The Strigoi Morte are the vampiric spirits who roam and hunt without bodies, feeding on the energies of living humans, sometimes when the humans are sleeping or dreaming, and sometimes while they are wide awake and simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unlike the vampires of modern legends, the Strigoi Morte are not considered demons or the angry spirits of those who were murdered or not buried properly. The people of this region, even today, simply believe that the Strigoi Morte are the spirits of Strigoi Vii—living vampires—and are no longer in possession of a physical body.
The Strigoi Vii, sometimes also called Moroii, are thought to be a race similar to humanity but different in their need to feed on human energy or human blood. Although there are thought to be other types of vampires in the region, they are the most well known, particularly among the Gypsies who live there.
The Gypsies—or Roma, the term some prefer— remain an often nomadic people, spread through many countries, but with a long history in Romania in particular. They have a great love of fantastical stories and scary tales, but behind each of their fictions is a backbone of facts—even their stories of vampires. According to them, the Strigoi Vii were a tall, beautiful, pale, strong, intelligent, well-mannered, regal, and often wealthy people—usually landowners, businessmen, and, historically, even royalty and nobility.
Like the Strigoi Morte, the Strigoi Vii primarily fed upon the life energies of humanity, picking a single volunteer to feed from for a length of time. According to the Gypsies, the Strigoi Vii could also feed on human blood, but it was only the young and inexperienced who chose to do so. Much as was suggested in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, the Gypsies and vampires in this region, especially in Romania, have a long history of working together amicably. The wealthy, landowning Strigoi Vii could provide the Gypsy caravans with fair pay for manual labor or entertainment, as well as safe passage through their land, in particular protecting the Gypsy people from discrimination and potential attackers. The Roma would also provide one valuable service that the discreet vampires of the region could not do without: food.
The Gypsies and vampires of the region practiced a tradition they referred to as lording, whereby one Gypsy, usually a female volunteer, would be chosen to go live with the Strigoi for the time her family was on the land. The vampire was generally allowed to feed upon her at his leisure, and her family was protected in return. And though it was not an actual part of the bargain, the vampire would always treat the guest with the utmost respect and often bring gifts to the family as a show of traditional vampiric gratitude. According to members of the Carbone de Travois Gypsy family, this arrangement was still in common practice not even eighty years ago in Romanian lands. One member of that family professes that her greataunt Piranda was lorded out to a wealthy vampire in the 1910s and '20s.
Piranda's younger sister Nia described the vampire as very tall with light brown hair, always immaculately dressed, and perfectly clean shaven, with a lithe, masculine physique. Nia added that he smelled "pretty." In 1918, when Piranda spent the summer with him, he had the first car Nia had ever seen. Among other things, he gave the family oxen and cows, blankets, clothes of all kinds, and permission to cut his trees and hunt the wild game on his land. Nia said he seemed to genuinely care about Piranda, inviting her back to his home every summer when the family passed through, going so far as to keep a special campground cleared for them, with a well that only they were allowed to use. Nia said her sister returned to the family at the end of each summer looking "fit and fine like old wine."
Piranda's vampire, whose name has been lost to time, is far from the only Strigoi Vii to have been reported in the area. Most everyone has heard of Prince Vlad Dracula, "the Impaler." Born in Transylvania in 1431, he ruled Romania during a difficult time. The Turks were attacking in waves, and with his forces completely outnumbered, he used his intelligence to wage psychological warfare on his enemies, which also served to keep his own people in line and instilled confidence that they would prevail. As long as he lived, he kept peace in his land and kept the enemies on the run. However, not so many people know about this famous vampire's brethren, or even about his master.
Prince Vlad Dracula was the son of Vlad Dracul, "the Dragon," and his name literally meant "Vlad, son of the Dragon." Both he and his father were members of the Ordo Dracul, the Order of the Dragon—an organization made up of eastern Europe royalty. Surviving Gypsy families claim that, throughout the history of this region, most of the nobility were Strigoi Vii, which lends some credence to the claims some make that the membership of the order was exclusive to vampires, the term dragon being used as a code word for vampire. Oddly, this fact was most likely well known at the time, since Christians of the period, particularly in that region, would often refer to vampires as devils, demons, or dragons. And in the case of the Romanian language, one word, dracul, meant all three of those things at the same time. A case in point: the incubi and succubi of medieval folktales are interchangeably called both "vampires" and "demons."
Prince Vlad not only had underlings among the other vampires; he also had a master. Few stories mention Dracula's lord and master, the king of the region in that day, and it is doubtful that many even wonder about his existence. His name was Matthias Corvinus. Likely a Strigoi Vii himself, King Matthias was far from intimidated by the Impaler. In fact, he once had the prince imprisoned for three years, or possibly longer, due to various political motivations and his need to have a less independent prince in Vlad's position. A wise and peaceful man, Corvinus was far from the warlord he is claimed to have been in the popular cinematic depictions of the underworld, finally committing his armies to the defense of Romania only after Vlad had fallen in love with and requested the hand of a relative of his, likely the sister of the king—Vlad's request, incidentally, having been made during his captivity in the king's castle.
The Strigoi Vii type of vampire certainly has a deep history in the region of the Carpathian Mountains, documented by writers such as the monk Montague Summers and recounted in the stories of Gypsy families like the Carbone de Travois band. It is probably because of this history that modern vampires often use the term Strigoi Vii when describing themselves, especially when trying to avoid the stigma that often accompanies the term vampire.
Much like the vampires that Buffy slays, the "vampires" of the Korowai people of Papua New Guinea are thought to be demonic spirits who have taken up residence in a human body. Known as khakhua, or "witchmen," these men—for it is only the men that can be possessed—are thought to be monsters from the world of the supernatural who have taken over human bodies by vampirically consuming and replacing their spirits. Once it has done so, a khakhua proceeds to kill the human's closest relatives by attacking them in their sleep, consuming their organs and replacing them with fire ash, and eventually finishing the victim off by shooting a magical arrow into her heart. Like the vampires of other cultures, the khakhua are thought to spread disease and discomfort in those around them.
The Korowai believe that the only way to defeat these vampiric spirits is to hunt them down, fill them full of arrows, and eat the flesh they inhabit. Children are generally kept away from these cannibal feasts because they are particularly susceptible to the evil spirits that are freed there. For the sake of decency, children who are accused of being khakhua are allowed to age to adulthood before they are turned into a tribal feast.
Similar to the organ-consuming khakhua of Papua New Guinea are the ghouls of Arabia. Considered to be a type of djinn, ghouls are thought to be half human and half demon and generally to feed on the flesh of the freshly dead, though they are occasionally known to lure travelers to remote ruins, where they attack them and suck their blood. But ghouls are not the only djinns with vampiric tendencies. In fact djinns, often known in the West as genies, get their reputation for granting wishes from the idea that they could use their immense powers to help or serve humans in exchange for the chance to slowly siphon energy from their souls.
Excerpted from The Weiser Field Guide to vampires by J. M. Dixon. Copyright © 2009 J. M. Dixon. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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Chapter 1. The Vampiric World
Chapter 2. Modern Vampires
Chapter 3. Basics of Vampire Feeding
Chapter 4. Psychic Feeding
Chapter 5. Blood Feeding
Chapter 6. Vampiric Abilities
Chapter 7. Vampiric Weaknesses
Chapter 8. False Vampires
Chapter 9. Am I a Vampire?
Posted January 21, 2011
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