Saturday, 9 June 2012

Vampire Slayering Kit - Authenticity Thoughts

Somebody on one of the Forums I haunt commented on the Vampire Slayering Kit - that its probably not authentic. Citing the publication of Bram Stokers Dracula (1897) as a contradiction of it's believability.

Whilst I am not categorically saying its Genuine, made up of authentic bits and bobs from the period - I will point out a few things about that posters assertion.

"Professional" or semi-professional vampire hunters historically played some part in the vampire beliefs of the Balkans (especially in Bulgarian, Serbian, and Romani folk beliefs) as early as the 1300's. At some point in the Middle Ages the Church in its wisdom recognised the existence of vampires, recasting them from characters in pagan folklore into creatures of the Devil.  The belief in transubstantiation was already in place, that is, that in partaking of the bread and wine of the mass one was literally consuming the body and blood of Christ.  To people who held this belief, there was little difficulty in believing also in its Satanic mirror image; the drinking of blood by vampires.  This also helped promote the idea that vampires couldn't be effectively dealt with without the help of the Church.

In Bulgarian, the terms used to designate them included glog (lit. "hawthorn", the species of wood used for the stake), vampirdzhiya, vampirar, dzhadazhiya, svetocher etc.

"Hunters" were usually either born on Saturday (then called Sabbatarians or sâbotnichav) or were the offspring of a vampire and a woman (typically his widow), and called a "Dhampir" (yes - it's not a made up Fiction word) in Romani (vampirović in Serbian).

It was also believed that someone born on a Saturday could see a vampire when it was otherwise concealed (invisible, or glamoured to look normal) and sometimes other supernatural entities as well.In Croatian and Slovenian legends, the villages had their own vampire hunters that were called kresniks, whose spirits were able to turn into animals at night to fight off the vampire or kudlak.

In some traditions, the killing of vampires could ONLY be performed by such hunters. Aside from the well-known manners of execution (staking, burning, decapitation, etc.) that were normally entrusted to them, the hunters were also capable of using other methods such as enticing the invisible creature with music and then shooting it, or throwing its hat or head-cloth into the water and telling it to go fetch it (which caused it to drown - I know, weird right).

Of course when you reach the early 18th Century, the wonderfully superstitious Victorian British had embraced some of these beliefs as their own - the idea of Vampire Hunters, Hawthorn bushes round estates, Staking, Burning, immersing a Vampire in fresh running water, and (of course) decapitation.

A major vampire scare shook Eastern Europe in the eighteenth century.  It was precipitated by an outbreak of vampire attacks in Eastern Prussia in 1721 and in the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1725-1734.  The most infamous cases were those of Arnold Paole and Peter Plogojowitz.  Paole, an ex-soldier turned farmer who had been attacked by a vampire years before, died while haying.  After his death people began dying and it was widely believed that Paole had returned to prey on the neighbors.  The Plogojowitz tale was that he had died at 62 but returned to ask his son for food a few times after his death.  When the son refused, he was found dead the next day.  Not content to stop there, Plogojowitz again returned to attack some neighbors who died from loss of blood.  During the 1700s even some government officials had taken up hunting and staking.  The vampire panics did goad Western scholars to take a serious look at the subject of vampires.

These two incidents were extremely well documented.  The cases and the bodies were examined by government officials.  Reports were written and books were published afterwards of the Paole case and distributed around Europe.  The controversy raged for a generation.  The problem was exacerbated by an epidemic of, mainly rural vampire attacks.  People were digging up bodies all over the place.  Some scholars said vampires didn't exist - they attributed reports to premature burial, or to rabies which causes thirst.

However, Dom Augustine Calmet, a well respected French theologian and scholar, put together a carefully thought out treatise in 1746 which said vampires did exist.  This had considerable influence on other scholars at the time.  Eventually, Austrian Empress Marie Theresa sent her personal physician to investigate.  He said vampires didn't exist and the Empress passed laws prohibiting the opening of graves and desecration of bodies, quelling the vampire epidemics.

A direct relationship can be traced between these much publicised reports and England's current vampire myths.  It was actually an English translation of a German report on the Arnold Paole vampire staking in Serbia that first brought the word vampire into the English language in 1732.

So it's actually MORE than possible whoever put this Kit together did so some time before Bram Stoker later consolidated many of these myths and folklore beliefs with the publication of Dracula in 1897.

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