Blood has been a symbol of life since
very ancient times. The blood in our
veins has always been iconic of our
continuing life. To lose too much blood
is to lose consciousness, breath, and
eventually, our very lives. If a person or
animal is already dead and is cut open,
blood does not flow. Only the living
have blood that flows. Blood has been
used throughout the ages as a
ceremonial sacrifice. In pagan times
our forefathers worshipped their gods
with blood sacrifice. And today, indeed,
we are not so different. Even in modern
times, in our churches, there are those
taking communion or the Eucharist,
and drinking of the wine that
symbolizes Christ's blood.
It seems appropriate, then, that this
creature who is an antithesis of both
death and life should gain his strength
from feeding from the life's blood of
humans. For the Vampyre, the drinking
of blood is its life, its sustenance, and
the single thing that makes it
identifiable all around the world,
regardless of the culture in which you
were raised or the language you
As the ages progressed and new
modern technology and medicine
became available to the masses, the
exact nature of the Vampyre's need for
blood changed. In many literary
instances it was linked to anemia, and
blood loss. In Bram Stoker's Dracula,
Van Helsing prescribed a blood
transfusion for Lucy, in an attempt to
divest her of the Vampyre blood in her
Blood is what animates the Vampyre,
what gives him his life. Without it he
can dry up into a husk, much like a
starved human. Many theories have
been tested in fiction as to why it is so.
In Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, the
entire Vampyre race is infested with a
demon/spirit that makes them what
they are, and the demon needs blood
in order to retain his hold on their
collective bodies. Thus, the need to
feed on blood, particularly when the
Vampyre is a fledgling.
It seems appropriate, then, that this creature who is an antithesis of both death and life should gain his strength from feeding from the life's blood of humans. For the Vampyre, the drinking of blood is its life, its sustenance, and the single thing that makes it identifiable all around the world, regardless of the culture in which you were raised or the language you speak.
As the ages progressed and new modern technology and medicine became available to the masses, the exact nature of the Vampyre's need for blood changed. In many literary instances it was linked to anemia, and blood loss. In Bram Stoker's Dracula, Van Helsing prescribed a blood transfusion for Lucy, in an attempt to divest her of the Vampyre blood in her body.
Blood is what animates the Vampyre, what gives him his life. Without it he can dry up into a husk, much like a starved human. Many theories have been tested in fiction as to why it is so. In Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, the entire Vampyre race is infested with a demon/spirit that makes them what they are, and the demon needs blood in order to retain his hold on their collective bodies. Thus, the need to feed on blood, particularly when the Vampyre is a fledgling.
The Vampyre came by its supernatural strength through modern film and literature. Vampyres, historically, were not know for their great strength; they normally attacked only "weaker" victims, such as children or the elderly. They never attacked a group of people for fear of being overcome. However, the modern view of Vampyres have allowed them a certain arrogance, knowing that no mere mortal could overpower them. Many of the personality traits that we have come to so adore in the Vampyre today are a result of this arrogance, knowing that they are truly immortal but for a few weaknesses.
A Vampyre must drink blood in order to survive. And so, with our advancing understanding of how animal and human evolution works, Vampyre novels and stories in the late nineteenth century began to describe the Vampyre as having protruding or elongated canine teeth. This made it easier for the Vampyre to puncture the skin of the neck and the jugular vein while feeding. Up until that time, however, Vampyres were not thought to have fangs at all. But it is a fact that races of animals (we humans as mammals are included in this) evolve physically to make their tasks easier to perform. And so it is with the Vampyre.
As cinematic prowess increased and the movie industry was able to do more with special effects, a new vampiric ability evolved. In movies today it is common to see the Vampyre with retractable canine fangs. This allows him to circulate with humans more easily; with the fangs retracted, he is more easily perceived as human. In Forever Knight, the character Nick's fangs only protrude when his dark, vampiric nature is unleashed.
In European and Slavic history, fingernails were thought to be one of the tell-tale signs that a corpse was a Vampyre. Vampyres were thought to lose their old nails and grow new ones upon their entry to the vampiric world. An exhumed body that lacked nails or had grown new ones was summarily staked, and very often burned or reburied with garlic to seal the corpse within the ground.
In modern literature, only two major Vampyre novels have mentioned anything specifically about the fingernails. In Dracula, Jonathan Harker notices that Dracula's "nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point." When Dracula later opened a wound on his chest for Mina Murray to drink his blood, he did so with these sharp, pointed nails. In Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, Louis and Lestat both mention the glassy appearance of their fingernails, so different from that of humans. Many times it is something that they take care to hide.
The histories of both European and Slavic Vampyre hunts also show hair growth as a sign of vampirism, although this sign was generally not found unless the corpse also displayed many other traits thought to be associated with a Vampyre.
Anne Rice does discuss hair in her Vampire Chronicles, although she is one of the few. Her Vampyres are cursed with the same length of hair that they had when they died and were made into Vampyres. Regardless of how often they cut it, it will always grow back.
The term Dhampir refers to the offspring of a Vampyre and a human mate, traditionally a male Vampyre mating with a human female. This offspring was normally male. The dhampir was thought to have special qualities. He could sense where Vampyres hid themselves from the world, and therefore he had the ability to be a superb Vampyre hunter. These qualities would be passed down genetically to his offspring, and it was thought to last many generations.
As well, the terms incubus and succubus refer to Vampyres who perform a sexual attack upon their intended victims, and it was likely these types of Vampyres who produced offspring. However, references to exactly how this was accomplished is very scarce.
A Vampyre's sense of vision is thought to be very acute. This is largely due to the fact that they are a nocturnal creature, and therefore must be able to adapt to their environment. It also explains why sunlight is thought to be so painful to their eye. Their eyesight has often been attributed to a residue from their ability to change into bats.
Hearing is also heightened in a Vampyre body. This allows them to hear mortals from a great distance (far greater than human ears could pick up) and also to discern when another Vampyre draws near. This is evident in Forever Knight; Nick can hear over great distances, and this allows him to capture the criminals he chases. Their acute sense of hearing may also be attributed to their nocturnal nature; as night hunters, the ability to hunt quietly and hear well would be invaluable.
Although there was a small link between shape-changing and Vampyres for hundreds of years, it was not until Dracula that the true connection was made. In the novel, Stoker described Dracula as able to change into a rat, a bat, or the very mist itself.
Vampyre bats became by far the most common of these shapes a Vampyre could command at will. This could be because Vampyre bats, by their nature, are closely related to the Vampyre itself. They are nocturnal, and feed exclusively off the blood of various mammals and other vertebrates. They have very sharp teeth which they use to pierce the victim's skin, and then they lap up the blood as it flows. It has also been known as an emerging problem; it is a proficient carrier of rabies (not unlike the definition of Nosferatu, which itself mean plague-carrier).
The ability to transform at will into mist has brought many advantages to the Vampyre, allowing him to escape Vampyre hunters and other dangers quickly. In addition, mist (in some cases) has allowed the Vampyre to move great distances at one time.
Vampyre skin is by nature very white and smooth. This is likely due to the fact that these creatures are nocturnal, and never get to see the sun. Their skin therefore gets bleached over time. Also, the Vampyre is an undead creature, and unless he has recently fed, there is a lack of colour-giving blood in his body.
In The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice describes the Vampyre skin as nearly transparent when the Vampyre is starved for blood. After feeding, they attain a healthier, more human skin tone, but this is a temporary change. Lestat mentions on several occasions having to powder his skin to pass for human.
Most vampires are thought of as nocturnal creatures with great aversions to sunlight. But many times in most folklore, this was not the case. In the folklore of many countries, vampyres were able to carry on with everyday life and have some semblance of a normal life. In most ninteenth century literature, vampires were able to roam about freely during the day. For example, the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Christabel", mentioned how Geraldine the vampyre was discovered by Christabel late one night. She invited Geraldine to her room where the two spent the rest of the nigt in her bed. Geraldine awoke the next morning and was eager to meet Christabel's father. Lord Ruthven, Varney the Vampyre, and Carmilla could survive during the day even though they preferred the night.
Abraham Van Helsing noted about Dracula: "His power ceases, as does that of all things, at the coming of day. Only at certain times can he have limited freedom. If he be not at the place whither he was bound, he can only change himself at noon or at exact sunrise and sunset. These things are we told, and in this record of ours have we proof by inference".
Dracua once appeared during the daylight where harker attacked him with a knife and Van helsing attacked him with a crusifix. Dracula then escaped only by jumping out of a window and running away.
The belief of vampires being nocturnal seems to have originated from the 1922 silent movie Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Garuens. They hoped to bring Dracula to the screen but hoped to disguise it enough by making changes in the story. They moved the story to Germany and the character's names were changed. Graf Orlock (the vampire) was made into a completely nocturnal creature, and by sunlight, a new method of killing him was introduced. The director of the film, Freidrich Wilhelm Marnau wrote the mythical volume, The Book of the Vampires as a source of new wisdom concerning the creatures. The heroine of Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Garuens, Ellen Hutter (the Mina of Dracula) heard that if a pure woman spent the night with a vampyre, holding him at her side until dawn, the vampire would be destroyed due to the light.
The emphasis on sunlight made by Nosferatu was also mentioned by Jonathan Harker when he percieved the nocturnal activities of Dracula and noted them in his diary. " I have not seen the Count in the daylight. Can it be that he sleeps while others wake that he may be awake whilst they sleep!"
Unfortunately Nosferatu was not available until the 1960's and it has less of an effect on the sunlight beliefs than most imagine. The Return of the Vampire starring Bela Lugosi showed how the sunlight destroyed the vampire, Armand Tesla. The sunlight literally melted Tesla.
Having been introduced as a potent and deadly force, sunlight arose as the preferred instrument of death in the two most important screen adaptions of the Dracula legend. In The Horror of Dracula Abraham Van Helsing forced Dracula into the sunlight where the Count promptly disintigrated into a heap of ash.
While sunlight can be an instrument of death, it has been used primarily to define the realm of activity and set the boundary of action for vampyre characters in movies, novels, and everyday life. The rising and setting sun set the period of a vampire's activity and an approaching dawn created a moment of tension as the vampire rushed back to its resting place. Other ways of escaping the sun have been introduced in other movies. Anything from cloaks to skin lotions have been proposed, but the standard remains the same. Some vampyres find slight aversion to the sun while others do not fear it. Once again there is no set standard.
In Novels and in the movies, Vampires sleep in coffins, and as they travel, their coffins travel with them. The simple association of coffins and vampires is that vampires were dead people and the dead (at least in the 19th century when literature developed upon the vampire) were buried in coffins. It is quite evident though that vampiric lore is dated much earlier than the use of coffins. Until recent times, coffin use was limited to those wealthy enough to afford them. The deceased were usually wrapped in a burial shroud and placed in a shallow grave. In times of epidemics and plagues, the dead were simply burned or buried in massive shallow graves. Bodies that were hastily buried were subject to preditor damage. This is seemingly the origin of the naorthern european belief that vampires first devour their own extremities. Often times, to keep a predator away, a large stone was placed over the body, therefore preventing any critters from digging up the corpse. More problems with burial were winter frosts that delayed the burial for months until the spring thaw and Various beliefs that certain times were better to bury during than others.
Some believe that the practice of putting a stake through a vampires body was to secure a vampire to the ground before the use of coffins. Since keeping the corpse staked to the ground was the soul pupose of staking someone, the stakes did not need to be placed directly over the heart nor did the stake necessarily have to be made of wood.
When the great vampire epidemics came about in Europe it was then common practice to bury a corpse in a coffin. The only actions that might have been taken against a vampire were those to simply keep the deceased confined to the coffin. The coffin would be opened and the body would be staked. In some areas, cloths were used to secure the body into place. Nails were also often used to keep the limbs tacked to the side of the coffin so that the vampire would not devour them. The coffin would then be returned to the grave.
Early literaray vampires did not have coffins.Geraldine from "Christabel", Lord Ruthven, and Varney the Vampire had no casket. Carmilla brought no coffin with her, although she was eventually found resting in her own crypt. Otherwise, these vampires had perfectly comfortable rest wherever they might have been.
In Bram Stoker's Dracula, the vampire did not rest in a coffin, but needed to rest on his native soil. Thus Dracula transported large crates full of soil with him when he traveled to England. The desecration of his soil eventually forced him back to his native land. Towards the end of the novel, Abraham Van Helsing entered Castle Dracula to destroy the three vampiric brides that resided there. He found them in their tombs and destroyed them. He also found a large ornate tomb with "Dracula" enscribed upon it. He placed holy wafers there, thus destroying it as a resting place for the count.
The idea of vampires resting in coffins basically originated from the 1931 classic Dracula in which it was shown that vampires rose out of their coffins in the basements of dark castles. In other movies, the crates of soil that DRacula carried with him was replaced by a coffin partially filled with his native soil. Everyone is also familiar of at least one vampire movie in which the vampire thrusts his/her hand out of the coffin before awakening.
Throughout the twentieth century, The vampire was hardly associated with its native soil any longer. Through several movies and writings people simply associated the vampire more and more with coffins. The coffin was also used as a more protective device, shading the vampire from sunlight. It also helped to build the atmosphere in several movies. The vampire hunter was also more easily able to spot and destroy a vampire causing the coffin to become a weakness.
The opinion of coffins by modern day vampires vary. I know very few who insist upon it and say that resting on a bed serves the puropse as well.
A Gothic subculture has emerged across America. The gothic life centers on eerie, atmospheric goth rock music and thetres/night clubs at which these goth rock bands can play. Individual "goths" emulate the nocturnal vampiric life and take on the vampiric persona, oftentimes including dark clothing, pale makeup, and artificial fangs. They also emulate Lestat deLioncourt of Anne R ice's novels by advocating lifestyles including androgyny. Almost all forms of sexual expression among consenting adults (especially sado-masochism and blood fetishes) are welcomed. The gothic culture has risen to such great numbers that self-designed vampires can move freely without anyone questioning their nonconventional habits. But also, a lot of non-goths who profess to be vampires continue to be heard. Carol Page wrote the following in her book, Bloodlust: Conversations with real Vampires: "The Blood they drink has no effect on them pysiologically. It does not keep them young and they do not physically need it, although some vampires believe they do. It doesn't make them high except for psychologically, or give them nutrition, since human blood passes through the digestive system without being absorbed. They do not have superhuman strength. They cannot turn into bats or wolves. Some sleep in coffins during the day and dress in black capes or indulge in other affections inspired by fictional vampires." Vampires-Blood drinkers do exist and have described their world in some detail. Most will not reveal their nature to anyone that they do not fully trust.
i know that you would love for me to reveal what is true and what is not. but that wouldn't be very wise, now would it? no mortal will ever know the true nature of the kindred. there will be more and more stories to be told, but none shall ever know what to believe. and that's the way we like it.
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..And Then Perhaps..