Wednesday, April 9, 2008

They Be Huntin' Vampires!

As I was scouring the Internet after Buffy week, I came across an interesting article from The Independent, which is a newspaper from the United Kingdom. The article is entitled, “The Real Vampire Slayers”. Alright, are you interested? Here’s a link:

For those of you who have decided not to actually read the article, let me summarize it now. The article talks about the filming of a documentary for the discovery channel, called “Real Vampires”. I had never heard of it before, so maybe you haven’t either. An archeologist, Dr. Timothy Taylor, who studies visceral human behavior (such as cannibalism, or human sacrifice – hey, remember that?), had been studying the culture in the Romanian town of Transylvania (for those who don’t know, yes, it really exists) for several years. He had been drawn there, as many people often are, by the stories of Count Dracula. As many often do, when they travel to this part of the world, they want to learn about the REAL Count Dracula, Vladislav the Impaler. No, folks, that’s not just a nickname, it was also a hobby of his. If you want to learn more Vladislav, here’s a link to a wikipedia article on him.

Getting back to the article, Taylor decided to venture to Transylvania with his partner, Kathryn Denning, and a film crew. They wanted to study not only Vladislav, but also the vampire beliefs that are ingrained in the culture there. You see, the vampire slaying came out a period when there was sickness in the world (there was an outbreak of rabies at the time), and a great fear of dying. Somehow this fear of dying turned into a fear of those who seemed to not die. At the time, not much was understood about death, particularly of corpses. Certainly strange things can occur in a dead body that has not been properly cared for (it can even explode).

They are very ritualistic in the caring for the dead. They may present gifts of food for the dead for up to seven years after a death. If someone is determined to have become a strigoi, which is basically like a demon (or vampire), then there is also a ritual for that as well. The chest of the body must be opened in a specific way, and the heart cut out. The heart is then taken outside of town and burned. The ashes from this are then ground up into a powder and put into water. The victim who is being haunted by the strigoi must then drink this mixture. Ew.

The strigoi are the real world equivalent of vampires. They don’t actually suck blood, but are believed to feast on the heart (in other words, the soul) of the victim. Since this culture has such a strong believe that blood is like the energy or power of the soul, it is not hard to see how the legend turned into actual blood sucking.

The article reminded me about the stories of real zombies several years ago. Apparently the real world equivalent comes from a Voodoo practice. A Voodoo witch would use a substance from a puffer fish, which would paralyze the victim to the point that they appear dead. As is often found in third world areas, bodies are usually buried very quickly, as there isn’t the kind of preservation available, like we have in the U.S. Soon after the body was buried, the witch would retrieve the body and wait for it to come to life. There is the thought that sometimes the oxygen deprivation may have caused brain damage. However, most who have studied the supposed (yet, mostly unfounded) practice think that it was more likely that the when the victim woke up, the witch would brainwash them into slavery. You can check out more information for yourself here.

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