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Measures against Vampires:

I will attempt to present you with a short summary of the many ways in which people have tried (and in some places are still trying) to take care of the traditional type of vampire. Measures meant to protect the living from the attacks of the dead. But first, let us have a quick look to see which people are likely to become vampires after their death.

Generally speaking, we can all become vampires. Depending on your personal ideas about what it would be like being a vampire, this means that there is hope for you. Or reason to worry... Whatever your ideas, it is thought that there are people among us who run a greater than average risk of becoming a vampire.

Babies who are born with a 'caul' or born with teeth, children who happen to have an extra nipple or a harelip, children who are born with a 'tail'. They are all said to run the risk of becoming vampires after their death. Usually, however, this kind of risk can be counteracted through the appropriate kind of magic.

People whose cheeks are extraordinary red, those whose eyebrows connect, people who have red hair and blue eyes, people who have a double row of teeth, but also people who are extremely old. Supposing that the tales are true, they may all turn into vampires. And in case you have not yet recognised yourself between the above, we will continue our list.

Heretics, arsonists, those who have been excommunicated, drunks, prostitutes, robbers, witches, magicians, suicides, werewolves, those who have died in a violent manner, dead people whose corpses are possessed by a demon, seventh sons or daughters, people who have died without receiving the last rites. And, of course, let us not forget those people whose shadow has been 'stolen'. This list is by no means all-comprehensive, but I think it should be sufficient to give you a general idea.

Bulgarian friends of mine tell me that - as a child - when they had been misbehaving they were told by parents and teachers alike to be good or else they would turn into "varkolaks". In the USA (where it first started) but also in a growing number of other places, things appear to be different. Writers like Anne Rice (bless her) seem to have corrupted the kids into a slightly different appreciation of what it is like to be a vampire. If I need any evidence, I only have to look at the number of requests that I receive from juveniles, informing me that they want to become a vampire and could I please get them in touch with one who would be willing to bite them... For of course - as we all know - there are also those who turn into a vampire simply because they have become "the victim of another vampire".

At the time of the great outbreak of vampirism in 18th Century Europe, there was nothing particularly 'romantic' about the vampire. No Dracula or Lestat, no castles or opera-cloaks. The vampire was an undead corpse, often a dead relative, rising from its tomb to attack the living. Daddy, come back from the graveyard. Now where is the 'glamour' in that ?

Understandably, from our point of view, posthumous activity of a vampirical nature is something undesirable that should not be encouraged. For all the dead are supposed to patiently stay in their graves until the Day of Judgement. On that day the noise of heavenly trumpets is going to notify them that the time has come to rise from their graves. Any corpse leaving its grave prematurely will be severely punished for its unseemly behaviour.

1. Measures against the Dead becoming Vampires.

To make sure that the dead will not return as vampires, the burial has to take place in such a manner that it ensures a successful transition of the soul to the place where it is meant to go. Which means that the proper procedures have to be observed before, during and after the funeral. Especially if, according to the local belief, there is a risk that the deceased might become a vampire. Objects or substances that are used to ward off vampires (see 3.) may be put into the coffin.

2. Measures against the dead leaving their graves.

In case something does go wrong - before or during the funeral - the soul of the deceased is thought to run the risk of staying earthbound. There is also the danger that a demon may enter the corpse and turn it into a vampire.

Fortunately, for those who believe in such things, it is possible to take advance measures against the corpse leaving its grave. The limbs of the corpse may be bound together. The corpse can be nailed to the coffin. Nails or needles may be used to pierce the heart or the brain of the corpse. Personal objects belonging to the deceased may be put into the coffin, to make sure that they won't come back to fetch them. Things may be given along to help them on their journey. Money, a torch-light to help them find their way into the next world.

3. Defensive measures against Vampires.

Supposing that the vampire has managed to leave its grave, there is still no reason to panic. For there is a large variety of objects and substances that are thought to ward off vampires. There is garlic, there are religious symbols, there are special amulets. Another trick, which we can find all over the world, is to keep the vampire busy until the break of day. To this purpose small seeds, flour, sand or rice, are thrown around the doorstep.

4. Detection of the Vampire's resting place.

When people start showing signs of being vampirised, it is necessary to locate the vampire's grave so that it will be possible to take proper measures against it. Suspect graves are checked to see if there are small holes in the ground. Animals (horses, oxen, dogs, geese and others) may be lead through the graveyard until they halt at the vampire's grave.

5. Measures to stop the vampire's activities.

After the right grave has been found and opened, it will be easy to tell by the condition of the corpse if it has become a vampire or not. Sometimes it is sufficient to turn the corpse face down to put an end to the vampirical activity. The head of the corpse may be chopped off and put at the bottom of the coffin. A sickle may be placed over the vampire's neck, so that it will decapitate itself when it tries to leave its resting place. Or a stone may be placed in the vampire's mouth so that it will break its teeth. Also, the vampire's heart may be removed. And of course there is the well known method of hammering a stake through its heart.

6. Destruction of the Vampire.

If none of this helps, people will try to destroy the vampire's body in such a manner that it won't be able to return again. I know of a case where the corpse was cut into pieces and fed to the wolves. I have read about a vampire who was boiled in wine. But the most effective method to put a stop to the vampire's activities, the one thing that always seems to work, is to cremate the corpse. This is generally thought to finish off a vampire once and for all.

© 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last update 28 July 2009
Photo "Fairground Skull" © 2005 by Rob Brautigam - "Holy Water" © 2005 by Rob Brautigam

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