We explore these beliefs in an attempt to ascertain where the myth of the vampire began and how it is viewed in modern terms with the knowledge we now have about spirituality and physiology. We also explore the myth in modern media culture with reference to popular film and literature and explore modern beliefs about this ancient entity. 2. The Origins of Vampirism. One belief about the origins of vampirism stems from the oldest cultures in the world, that of Persian and Aramaic world.
The Persian history has only a vase unearthed revealing a blood-sucking creature struggling with a man while the Hebrew belief is one of a woman named Lillith who sucked the blood from infants (VAU, date unknown). This had been a Babylonian myth believing that she had been the wife of Adam who had left him due to unfulfilled sexual appetites (VAU, date unknown ). If the films such as Blade and Interview with a Vampire are taken into account, we see that sexuality and the myth of vampirism are entwined deeply, making it all the more sensational.
With numerous historical artifacts leaning towards vampirism, tow are extremely interesting but only one is founded on actual evidence. They are Lilith and the Elizabeth Bathory. The Rabbinical myth of Lilith is complicated but loosely translates to the opposition of good, which is naturally evil. She is believed to be the other half of Adam, the very root of creation of humanity itself (Smith, date unknown). Some even believe her to symbolize Babylon in its entirety but either way she is interwoven with infancy and child-bearing, hence the belief that she fed off the blood of children.
Furthermore, Lilith or Lilit as Adams shadow bears his children as demons and evil spirits while Eve produces children that are good in the eyes of God. She is not impregnated by normal means but by unclean thoughts of men (Ibid). We see a number of reasons for this, including that since her children are not born of flesh and blood, the need to for blood would make it necessary for them to feed off of it. Elizabeth Bathory or Erzsebet was known as the Blood Countess and her story comes much later in history than Lilith probably around (1560-1614) (Monstrous, 2008).
She was of a wealthy family, owning vat expanses of land and she was inextricably related to the famous Vlad Dracula of Transylvania who later became the subject of vampirism himself, but it was Elizabeth who truly exemplified the legend (Ibid). Extraordinarily beautiful and known for her complexion, it was this beauty that led to the blood-lusty narcissism. She was sadistic and also had lesbian tendencies (Ibid). known to have murdered and tortured anyone from peasant girls to nobility, and it was believed that upon seeing the effect of blood on her skin, the Baroness began to bath in the blood of her victims (BBC, 2001).
This is not proved, but her innumerable crimes against humanity are well documented. She is known to have tortured her young victims to the point where pools of blood were gathered on the floor (Ibid). She may well have used this blood to bath it but it is known that she bit some of her victims when too ill to torture them herself (Ibid. ). 3. Vampires Examined in Todays Society The two stories above are disturbing in the extreme, but modern explanations may pass off vampirism as a form of chemical imbalance or psychosis and not being more than psychopathic behavior rather than lending to the perception that vampirism is supernatural.
In more modern terms the idea of vampirism was explained in terms of the dead returning to seek revenge for injustices (Richardson, 2008). It was also likened to rabies which causes excessive thirst, but one noblewoman of Austria Empress Marie Theresa forbade the opening of graves or the desecration of bodies and the attacks in that area appeared to cease (Ibid. ). We do know a lot more about human functioning today and we know that to human beings blood is indigestible, causing toxicity inside the body.
This would mean that no normal human would be able to survive the drinking of blood for any length of time. We know that blood rusts or oxidizes within the body making it useless to the body if consumed in raw form. Porphyria, a rare blood disorder was put forward as a possible reason for vampirism, and that is could be treated with blood in order to alleviate symptoms (Wikpedia, 2008). 4. Vampire Domestication Modern films make it seem possible that the diseased person can be treated and therefore rehabilitated into society.
Blade and Underworld see outright war between good vampires and bad vampires and Interview with a Vampire inspires the belief that vampires are trapped within their fate of living forever on blood but that they only really seek to be normal. A domesticated vampire would indeed be one that can function normally in society under the influence of special (fictional) drugs that suppress the blood-craving in the same way nicotine patches suppress cigarette cravings. Innana Arthen explains the difference between blood-sucking and true vampirism.
Vampirism according to Arthen is a person is extraordinarily endowed by the planets cosmic resources and it is their bio-rhythms that cause them to function better at night (Arthen, 2008). Rehabilitating or taming the true vampire is not only unnecessary but also irrational in terms that they are not psychotic serial killers who torture animals and humans for stimulation. 5. Fictional Stories We all grew up with Count Dracula and Frankenstein as classical stories. We also studied the Portrait of Dorian Gray and Wuthering Heights as so-called Gothic horrors, but what influence if any have they had on the way we view myths such as vampirism?
Previously it was believed that vampires simply bit and sucked the blood from victims. Now it known that if indeed vampires exist, then they are people with heightened psychic senses, are highly photosensitive and have a greater need for blood than others. We also believe that vampires are immortal, but again, if they exist this would simply mean a longer lifespan but not immortality (AngelFire, 2008). Films such as Blade and Near Dark purport that vampires can be treated with some form of serum to reduce blood-lust.
Bram Stokers famous Dracula was based on the relative of the formerly discussed Elizabeth Bathory, and the man in question was known for severe cruelty and torturous actions but not for drinking blood itself. 6. Traditional and Modern Vampires Modern vampires are almost culturally defined. They are often perceived as being Satanic or evil and in terms of the modern Goth culture, they are almost counter-cultural. They openly flout the norms of society, attempting to be everything that society tells us is bad and unhealthy.
Religious Tolerance websites explain that due to their black clothing, obsession with bondage and strange make-up allow them to be seen as violence and death-obsessed but this is untrue (Robinson, 2007). In most cases their appearance belies a devout religious belief, Christian or otherwise and express a profound interest Medieval history which would include the Germanic Gothic era from which many of the most beautiful Cathedrals in history (Ibid). Contrary to the popular belief that they try to be vampires, it is not necessarily part of the equation (Ibid).
In other words, being Goth does not mean they are part of any particular sect or group, they merely express themselves differently. 7. Vampires and Family The Interview with a Vampire showed a family life not dissimilar to our own. The definition of family in these terms was a convergence of people with common needs and common problems. All three of the family members were vampires by default or by fate and having no other group into which they fitted, came together to support and understand one another.
They were simply a group of outsiders that formed their own little family. The film itself also relates to the above section on Goths where they come together out of common beliefs and situations. When we are children we are inducted into a common vein of thought, we give them ideals, norms and values that are the same as the group into which we are born. For instance, if you are born in Spain, you grow up with bull-fighting and annual bull-runs, however if you are born in Sweden this practice may seem abominable.
Family is not only something we are paternally or maternally related to, but a common thought particularly surrounding differences that the outside world does not understand. 8. Conclusion Vampirism is shrouded in misconception, misunderstanding and fear, and all this when the world is not even certain that they exist. Modern films have created somewhat of an enigma surrounding out bloodsucking kin, but the fact is that evil people such as Elizabeth Bathory and Count Vlad Dracula exist among us not necessarily making them super-human or abnormal beyond mere psychosis (BBC, 2001).
There are evidently people who believe themselves to be vampires, but they dont run around biting other people; there are people with rare blood-disorders causing them to behave in strange or violent ways but they too are not vampires. Humans have this innate and complicated relationship with fear, both hating it and needing it. This is why we create these unknown creatures and terrifying realities, to feed our imagination and sometimes¦to alleviate boredom.
Angel Fire. (2008). FAQs About Real Vampires. Retrieved June 27, 2008, from
Arthen, Inanna. (2008). Real Vampires. Retrieved 8 July 2008.