SLAVIC HISTORY OF VAMPIRES
Though history of vampires and vampire related creatures appeared in almost all countries and continents in the world, each with versions of their own. Nowhere were vampires more prevalent and more believed than among the Slavs and Slavs include people from Eastern Europe, Russia to Bulgaria, Serbia to Czech Republic and Poland.
Slavs, due to their strong belief in vampires, often panicked on so called “vampire outbreaks” in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which resulted to opening and vandalism of graves. Slavic vampire beliefs led to the development of the modern-day vampire beliefs.
Jan L. Perkowski, author of The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism , says that Slavic vampires originated from the Balkans around the ninth century.Vampire speculations evolved out of the conflict and confrontations between Christianism, Pre-Christian Paganism, and Bogomilism beliefs.Christian beliefs later won over the beliefs of pagans and Bogomils resulting to their beliefs, including the belief in vampires, associated and survived through time only as elements of demonic beliefs.
As the concept of vampires evolved and gained grounds on Slavic history of vampires and myths; terms to name the “vampire” started popping out as well. Following are the most widely used terms to name the Slavic vampire, origins of the modern world “vampire” term:
Obyri or Obiri
Up’r (Byelo-Russian, Czech, Slovak)
Vampir (Bulgarian) – also vbpir, vepir, or vapir
There were lots of opinions on the origin of the root word “opyrb”, an issue unsolvable ‘till date because of the lost of the early history of Slavic Tribes which may have played an important part on Slavic history of vampires and the evolution of the word "vampire".
The Slavic Vampire isn’t anything like the ones portrayed in twentieth century vampire novels and movies.
A Slavic vampire, based on the Slavic history of vampires, never had any prior contact with another vampire.
It is a result of irregularities in community life. Omissions or additions on beliefs and traditions in Slavic communities. Most commonly, violations of processes of death, burial, and birth – For example people dying from violent accidents which prevent them from the normal completion of their lives could become vampires.
Slavic cultures, usually had a set of rituals to be followed after someone’s death and deviations from these procedures might cause the dead to become a vampire. Slavic Communities had certain days of the year were intercourse isn’t allowed. A baby conceived on such days may become a vampire – an ustrel (Bulgarian), a vampire that attacks and drinks blood of cows and sheep. Solution for this is not to have intercourse during such days. A wide variety of pre-burial actions were also taken by Slavs as precautionary measures for deceased suspected to turn into vampires…
The most usual was the placing of various stuffs in the coffin to hinder vampire activity. Crucifixes were the most common.
Plants, like mountain ash was supposed to stop the vampire from leaving its grave.
Seeds like poppyseed and millet spilled in, on top and around the grave would keep the vampire occupied counting the seeds slowly as vampires are fascinated with counting as per Slavic vampire myths. This defers the vampire’s engaging with vampiric activities.
On some extreme cases, the body may be pierced with a stake (or thorns) – Hawthorn, iron, aspen or oak are among the favorites. Vampire Art – Stake Through the Heart
A wooden block may also be placed under the chin of the deceased as it was believed that the vampire will first attack or eat its burial clothing
clothes are sometimes nailed on the sides of the coffin to keep the garments away from the vampire’s mouth.
In some cases, decapitation appears.
Kashubs would place the head of the dead person between its feet then reburial is performed.
When reports of vampire attacks spread, like unexplained deaths of cattle or sheep are usually attributed to vampires. The community panics and would usually end up in a haste “chase for the vampire”.
And when they find it… The vampire is destroyed!