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A History of Vampires

Vampires in Myth and HistoryVampires have never been such a major part of pop culture like it is today. From Twilight to Byzantium, vampires are known to be fearful, romantic and a popular Halloween Costume. But vampire myths have existed for thousands of years around the world, and historically, they were always scary.

From the aswang of the Philippines to the Greek Lamia, mythical vampires of endless variety exist. The variety most familiar in the U.S. originated from Eastern Europe. The legend of the vampire travelled from the Far East to the Balkans, Greece and the Carpathian Mountains including Hungary (and Sesame Streetís Count, who loved to count) from Translyvania.

There are basic commonalities in modern vampires that date back in history. The fact that they had returned from death and require human blood to live, for example, is a continued part of the legend.

The myth that they turn into bats to travel is relatively new. Also, vampires today are considered to be far more intelligent than before. For instance, in ancient times people placed poppy seeds at gravesites so that vampires would be engrossed counting the seeds, in this way forgetting to get his nightly ration of human blood. (We tend to wonder if Sesame Streetís Count was inspired by this legend).

Two types of Eastern European vampires are:

1. Slavic Vampires. These have the richest legends in Serbia, Poland and Russia. Some tie the myths to the history of these people. For example, the Slavs are closely related to Iran. Christianity reached Iran in 8 A.D. The Roman Catholic Church split from the Eastern Orthodox Church and with the split came differences in vampire beliefs. The Orthodox church believed in vampires, while the Roman Church did not. In fact, elements of vampire lore were considered biblical, such as Lazarus, and later, Jesus rising from the dead. Legend says vampires are killed by staking, decapitation, being washed in holy water, burning and exorcism.

2. Romanian Vampires. The Romanian vampire is called Strigoi, which is rooted in the Russian word strix. This translates to demon, witch or owl. Romanian vampires suck human and animal blood. They are killed by decapitation, placing garlic in their mouths or driving a wooden stake into their heart.

For additional information on vampire history go to:

A History of Vampires

Dracula: The History of Myth and Myth of History

Myth, Legend and History of Vampires

Gypsies and Vampires

Encyclopedia Mythica: Vampire

The Vampire Bat

Biologeography of Vampire Bat

Britannica Encyclopedia: Vampire Bat

The Eighteenth Century Vampire Controversy