by Denise Golinowski
Hi! Welcome back to Myth Perceptions where I explore myths, fairy tales, fantasy, and mystical motifs. Lately, I've been drawn into several vampire series, in book and television formats, and it got me seriously reviewing my knowledge base on Vampires.
Research on the web revealed that my understanding is less than complete and that modern writers are, as they are wont to do, playing fast and loose with the established tropes. Spinning, stretching, morphing them into directions the original story-tellers would find unsettling and bedazzling--just before they dove in to put their own takes on same, I'm sure. It is a professional weakness.
The vampire that we all know and love is usually based upon the framework provided by Bram Stoker's Dracula--dead, blood-sucking, night-walker, sensitive to religious icons, and virtually immortal, etc. However, popular movies have raised this deadly hunter from a pasty-skinned recluse to a suave and debonair hunter-about-town. Indeed, vampires weren't always so very seductive. Oh, no, siree.
Dig a bit deeper in the family vault, and you'll find descriptions of a less appealing nature. Vampires were portrayed as bloated, ruddy-skinned, and sadly lacking in basic hygiene skills. And as for fashion sense, you could describe it as "none." Most early vampires staggered about the 18th century southeastern European neighborhood graveyard in their burial shroud.
Ah, and there's an interesting point--European. The popular vampire is based on the European model, but other cultures have older and unique bloodsuckers of their own. Spoiler--I'll be trotting them out in a later post or two.
The vampires of folklore were more home-bodies than world-travellers, preferring to visit, torment, and feed upon family and friends. Though they weren't above purloining a random bit of livestock and or small animals. Vampires were often the result of suicide, witch-hunts, or malevolent spirits taking a local corpse out for a little joyride.
Since visitors with such poor social skills were less than welcome, the locals went to great lengths to ensure that their deceased loved ones remained peacefully interred. One of the more quaint routines was to bury the dead face-down in the ground so that if they took a mind to dig themselves out, they'd actually only dig themselves deeper. Religious icons also featured heavily in burial rituals not only in respect of beliefs, but to remind the dead to remain dead.
Regretably, emotions about vampire sightings would run so high in places that corpses would be unearthed to be staked, beheaded, burned, and even hamstrung. Anyone acting suspicious might run afoul of a ravening mob and end up staked.
Well, like the inside of the lids of some exhumed coffins, I've only scratched the surface, so please, come back next month when I'll be delving deeper into the world of vampires.
Denise Golinowski is a reader and writer of fantasy and romance. Her newest enovella, Collector's Item, is available from The Wild Rose Press.