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Sunday, 12 June 2011

Supernatural Sunday: A brief look at... Vampires

Every Sunday I'll post about something related to the paranormal world. It's a topic I love, and everything paranormal has fascinated me since I was knee-high to a leprechaun.


This week's post - Vampires.


Vampires have existed in one form or another in every culture on the planet for centuries. The traditional western image of the vampire shot into popularity with John Polidori's The Vampyre. Then along came Bram Stokers creation of Dracula, and when cinema came along Hollywood picked up the ball and ran with it.





Nowadays, the image of a vampire with cape and lisping accent is considered an overdone cliché. In fact, it's pretty recent. Even the word vampire only became popular around the 18th century, so historically it's in its infancy.


Stoker actually has quite a lot to answer for. Instead of drawing on the traditions of vampirism, such as the bloated rotting corpses (not quite so pretty) that inspired the myth in areas such as Eastern Europe and the Balkans, he envisaged an elegant count, with abilities cobbled together from werewolf myths and demonology. He gave him the name of a man many in his home country consider a national hero, and started a fan following that still exists to this day. (Most Transylvanian's are not impressed by the  legions of tourists that pitch up looking for Dracula's grave, considering the whole legend disrespectful and dreadfully inaccurate). 


Thanks to Stoker, we have vampires with sex drives (Anita Blake), vampires that sparkle (Twilight), angst-ridden, whiny vampires (pick a recent mainstream series) and comedy vampires (Fright Night, Once Bitten). 


Around the world in 80 000 vampires
If you define a vampire as something that lives on the life force of others, and don't get stuck purely on the whole blood-drinking thing, there are so many other cultures out there, and they all have vampire myths.


The Adze is a vampiric spirit from the Ewe trip found in parts of Ghana and Togo. It looks like a fire fly, and feeds on coconut water, palm oil and the blood of children. (Guess which one it prefers?)




The Ekkimu was described by ancient Sumerian's as "evil wind gusts" had no physical form at all, and was feared throughout Mesopotamia. This purely psychic vampire later developed a physical form in the Inuit culture and was described as being rotting corpses who retained their mind and personality from when they were living people.





The Kyūketsuki comes from Japan, and can be persuaded to live on honey instead of blood, while the Baital from India is a short (about one &  a half meter tall) half-man half-bat creature. 






These are just a view of the vampires that are found around the world, and the similarities and differences never fail to fascinate me, even though they don't fit the sanitised, sexy version currently popular.

The astounding thing is that every single culture has a version of this myth. That's a lot of people, considering the age of these stories and the fact that cross-contamination between cultures can't account for all of them, it does make you wonder - what happened to start it all?

How did a tribe in Africa come up with a myth that bears a startling similarity to a legend in Japan?

And do we insist that these tales are myth and legend because we are rationalists, or because part of us is very afraid they might be grounded in truth?

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