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Vampire mythology, literature, and religious beliefs yesterday and today

Vampire mythology, literature, and religious beliefs yesterday and today

Last week archaeologists uncovered a group of “vampire graves” in an area, which they are more accustom to uncovering the graves of dead soldiers.  The find was near a railway construction site, but instead of finding soldiers, they found bodies with severed heads, placed on their legs, a practice that dates back earlier centuries when people believed that the dead rose from their graves as the undead or vampires and superstitiously mistook decomposition as a sign of vampirism.  However, there is no consensus as to when the bodies were buried due to no items, such as jewelry, belt buckles, or buttons, to identify the time period the skeletons were buried.

Besides severing their heads, people from previous centuries would also place a brick in the dead person’s mouth, and even garlic, to prevent them from rising from the grave and feeding on the living.  In other cases, the living would sometimes use a stack to hold the dead body to the ground, but the practice of severing the head and placing it on the dead’s legs started in Slavic countries, during the early Christian era, when pagan beliefs were still wide spread.

In 2012, archaeologists in Bulgaria found two skeletons with iron rods piercing their chests, indicating they may have been considered vampires.

In earlier centuries, people’s fear of the dead, superstition, and lack of knowledge concerning decomposition contributed to these strange rituals and belief in vampires.

"For example, though laypeople might assume that a body would decompose immediately, if the coffin is well sealed and buried in winter, putrefaction might be delayed by weeks or months; intestinal decomposition creates bloating which can force blood up into the mouth, making it look like a dead body has recently sucked blood," writes LiveScience's Bad Science columnist Benjamin Radford."

Some say the belief in vampires started as early as ancient Egypt, long Before the Common Era (BCE), even stating that Jesus allegedly cured some of vampirism, except humans did not coin the word ‘vampire’ until centuries later.  Some even point to various religious texts, such as the Greek story of Ambrogio, the Scriptures of Delphi, the seven demons mentioned in Mesopotamian scriptures, and the story of Lilith, that refer to vampires, or at least fit the definition of a vampire, before humans coined the word.

VladThen there was Vlad the Impaler, a member of the House of Drăculești, who actually lived and ruled Bulgaria in the 1400s, during the time when the Ottoman invade the Balkans.  He impaled his enemies on a wooden stake and is allegedly the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

In the year of his birth, Vlad's father, known under the nickname Dracul, had traveled to Nuremberg where he had been vested into the Order of the Dragon.[2]

Vlad and Radu spent their early formative years in Sighișoara. During the first reign of their father, Vlad II Dracul, the Voivode brought his young sons to Târgoviște, the capital of Wallachia at that time.

The Byzantine chancellor Mikhail Doukas showed that, at Târgoviște, the sons of boyars and ruling princes were well-educated by Romanian or Greek scholars commissioned from Constantinople. Vlad is believed to have learned combat skills, geography, mathematics, science, languages (Old Church Slavonic, German, Latin), and the classical arts and philosophy.

The victims of Vlad the Impaler are allegedly in the thousands (40,000 to 100,000), but people in Bulgaria consider him a hero for protecting the country and Christianity, but some people today mistranslate the word ‘Drac’, in Dracul, on his grave sight and in his writings to mean devil or devilish.

During his life Vlad wrote his name in Latin documents as Wladislaus Dragwlya, vaivoda partium Transalpinarum (1475).[5]

His Romanian patronymic Dragwlya (or Dragkwlya) Dragulea, Dragolea, Drăculea is a diminutive of the epithet Dracul carried by his father Vlad II, who in 1431 was inducted as a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order founded by Sigismund of Hungary in 1408. Dracul is the Romanian definite form, the -ul being the suffixal definite article (deriving from Latin ille). The noun drac "dragon" itself continues Latin draco. Thus, Dracula literally means "Son of the Dragon". In Modern Romanian, the word drac has adopted the meaning of "devil" (the term for "dragon" now being balaur or dragon). This has led to misinterpretations of Vlad's epithet as characterizing him as "devilish".

Vlad's moniker of Țepeș ("Impaler") identifies his favourite method of execution. It was attached to his name posthumously, in ca. 1550. Before this, however, he was known as "Kazikli Bey" (The Impaler Lord) by the Ottoman Empire after their armies encountered his "forests" of impalement victims.

He also allegedly dined among his impaled victims’ corpses, which he also used for psychological warfare, and allegedly fed on them.  Bram Stoker did not portray his character as sadistic as Vlad, who did go to a castle in Romania 500 hundred years ago, according to the video below.

What is interesting to note, is that Stoker's vampire, while being loosely based on Vlad the Impaler, is nowhere near as threatening, nor as sadistic.  Stoker's Dracula is a mysterious, somewhat sensual character who kills and feeds to survive, much like any being in nature.  In fact, as much as there is reference to the evil of Dracula, it can be reasoned that all of his actions were motivated by survival. Vlad the Impaler, on the other hand, killed not justto feed, but to revel in his own power, and just for the sheer pleasure of seeing the suffering of his numerous victims. We will attempt to put together as accurate a portrait of the man as available documentation permits, his life, loves, enemies, and all of his infamous deeds.

Vlad the Impaler  probably caused more rivers of blood to flow than any other tyrant in the history of the world. Bear in mind that there are many versions of Vlad the Impaler's life story, and there are no entirely accurate ones.

Today, some Christians still believe in vampires and demons who take over teenagers via Occult practices and stories, such as Harry Potter and Twilight.  According to some Christians, such fiction can open the door to demons, quoting scripture to back their statements of such legends.

It depends on the spiritual state of the person whose interest is piqued by such subjects. A weak, emotionally fragile young girl, for example, whose life is characterized by family stress, self-esteem issues, and a lack of strong role models, could be at risk for developing an unhealthy interest in the occult. Such an interest can be an open door for demons to infiltrate her mind and spirit. Satan, as we know, is the enemy of our souls, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). This is why God, in His wisdom, forbids occult practices, describing them as an “abomination” and “detestable” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).

How is the Christian to think about vampires and vampire fiction? We are reminded in Philippians 4:8 to fill our minds with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.”

Accordingly, girls and women should seek beauty and perfection in Christ, not in vampires from stories like Dracula, Harry Potter, and Twilight.

Allegedly, the idea of Purgatory came from the Pagan belief in the Otherworld to attract Celtic and other Pagans to Christian dogmas.  The Church incorporated these ideas and called it Purgatory and through prayer, a soul could be released from Purgatory.  The Church once taught that God permitted the dead returned to the earth on the night of before All Souls Day and if not correctly buried according to Christian burial rituals, the dead could return to the earth and kill the living as punishment.

The notion of the vengeful dead caught on, the idea that the undead would return to prey upon surviving family members, cattle and livestock. They would suck blood from the animals, leaving the weak and useless. And sometimes, in an act of extreme punishment, they would drink the blood of humans. So, the myth of blood-drinking undead was created and the mass hysteria spread, with countless frightened people paying priests for protection.

Other Christian authors started writing vampire stories.  Tracy Bateman wrote the book Thirsty, portraying an alcoholic woman feeling haunted and bloody animal corpses begin appearing.  The woman starts to examine her inner battle between obsession and love.

However, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) producer, Hannah Goodwyn, warns parents to explain to their children that the occult is real and mentions that the Bible does not mention vampires, but does talk about the significance of blood as she quotes scripture.  She adds that the desire to become god-like can cripple a person’s soul and advices parents to make sure vampires do not cause their children to doubt God.

Those who say they are "vampires" and drink blood are committing a grave sin.

Other sites, such as Christianity Today (CT), claim “there is power in the blood” and warn against vampire stories, in favour of the “blood of Christ”.  They also accuse some authors of finding their source material in the Bible.

While Meyer and the authors following her lead borrow heavily from Romeo and Juliet and other archetypal romances, traditional vampire folklore found much source material in Christian theology. The idea of achieving immortality through blood is central to both traditions—the Christian, through the life-giving blood of Christ, and the vampire, through drinking the blood of victims. Vampire legends are rich with Christian symbols, most notably the crucifix (believed to protect mortals) and the consecrated bread and wine of Communion.

The author of the article in CT describes vampire stories a “ghastly parody of Christianity”.

While the Christian believer attains eternal life by accepting the blood freely shed on his or her behalf, the vampire achieves immortality by sucking the life out of another.

Even so, Christians are concerned that interest in Christian Vampire stories, such as Thirsty, could lead to dark places.

If Christian vampire fiction is a trend to embrace, though, Felker Jones says it will require more discernment. "After my initial interest in Twilight and its popularity, I have peeked at some of the other vampire stuff out there, and I do worry that it leads to dark places." Many of the books dwell too heavily on the "disordered and grotesque connections between vampire lore and fallen sexuality," she says.

However, Anne Rice, author of various vampire stories, turned Christian, and then renounced Christianity again, feels the concern over vampire fiction is overblown.  She also feels vampire myths are very compatible with Christianity because such stories explore the idea of redemption through blood.

"Readers know perfectly well what is fantasy and what is reality," she says. "They don't gravitate to vampires because vampires are evil. They gravitate to them because of what they can reveal about us and our suffering and our desires."

….

"Since the vampire starts out as a human being," she says, "it's quite natural to explore the idea of his wanting redemption or to put an end to his cursed existence of drinking human blood. In other words, the myth is very compatible with Christian ideas and can obviously be developed well in that direction.

"The real evils in this world are not vampires," Rice says. "They are hunger, injustice, genocide, war. Vampire stories are a relatively safe way to explore human nature."

Others believe the drinking of blood in vampire stories is a “perverse facsimile of the Lord's Supper”.

 "It does not take much of a leap to see the vampire as a kind of dark Christ," Schnoebelen says, "who offers immortality through his blood but without all the moral standards." Yet [William] Schnoebelen doesn't take umbrage at Christian vampire novels. "I am a living example of someone in vampirism who was redeemed and came to Christ."

Thus, Christians today seem to debate as to whether or not vampire stories are demonic, a perverse description of Christianity, or complete fantasy and a means to explore human nature.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • krisf03

    I saw some videos of Schnoebelen confessing that he was once a vampire and lived like a real vampire. According to him, Jesus saved him from darkness after long time of dwelling on it. The power light offered him a better life.

    I think the story of Schnoebelen's vampirism is merely psychological and he was not a real vampire. He just did what vampires supposed to do so his mindset allowed him to believe that he was a vampire.

    That leaved vampires as merely products of mythical and imaginary legends.

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