So, I'm nearly finished with Tina Folsom's book, Samson's Lovely Mortal, which is about a super hot vamp and his mortal lady love. I'm really enjoying the book and it made me think about our fascination with everything vampire.
Thinking of that got me interested in where the myth (or truth, depending on your take) of the vampire eventuated so (drum roll) here it is!
First off, the idea of the vampire may go back to prehistoric times according to Wikipedia but the term "vampire" dates to the 18th century and came from Eastern Europe. The word "vampire" first shows up in English in 1734, taken from the German which was taken from the Serbian.
Although Bram Stoker's, Dracula, really encapsulates our modern understanding of the vampire, in history the vampire really gained attention with Polidori's book, The Vampyre, circa 1819. This work influenced Stoker in his creation of Dracula. Dracula, though not the first book on vampires, is considered the foremost book relating to vampires and really led to the consummation of everything vampire.
The notion of vampirism has existed for millennia; cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of demons and spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. However, despite the occurrence of vampire-like creatures in these ancient civilizations, the folklore for the entity we know today as the vampire originates almost exclusively from early 18th century Southeastern Europe,when verbal traditions of many ethnic groups of the region were recorded and published. In most cases, vampires are revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but they can also be created by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire. Belief in such legends became so pervasive that in some areas it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.
So, why did people think other people were vampires? Following is a test to deduce if you might be a vampire:
a. You were buried prematurely. People would report sounds coming from graves and when they unearthed the recently buried, they might find blood on the fingers and mouths of the 'dead' from attempting to claw and bite their way out of the coffin. Ick!
b. A bunch of people kicked it for no apparent reason: If there were an outbreak of some mysterious disease that killed a group of people, vampirism could be to blame. This was especially the case with tuberculosis.
c. If you're foaming at the mouth, you just might be a vampire: Rabies was also associated with vampirism. The susceptibility to light and garlic in one with rabies might have attributed to the notion of the vampire liking neither of these in common mythology today.
So, there's a short and sweet history lesson on vampires. Gotta love 'em!