By Suzanne Carré
Not all vampires have command of Nature’s forces. The reason is both a mixing of vampire lore from many mythological sources and modern interpretations of the vampire myth, particularly in the 20th century. In Eastern Europe, the vampire had connections with witchcraft but their powers are often limited. In Western Europe, before the Slavic mythology changed the vampire into its modern form, the entity we associated with the vampire was all-powerful, and equivalent in many cases to the Devil himself. The male “warlock” vampire was truly the “Prince of Darkness” and wielded unspeakable power.
The most common forms of the vampire before the 1700′s is in the incubus and succubus. Both are connected to the practice of witchcraft, and although associated with demons, are separate and distinct to them. In the Malleus Maleficarum (published 1487) both seduce women, regardless of the sex of the entity. It seems also that incubus and succubus are not guilty of “unnatural” sex—that is they conduct only heterosexual intercourse (which is interesting for female on female coupling) and this rule of “natural” may have also excluded oral sex. The problem with these sexy beasts of the night, is curiously not their sexual activity, but the demons that work through them to corrupt women in the seduction process. Via these liaisons, women commune with the demons and then practice witchcraft.
In the Dæmonologie of King James (1597), the incubus and succubus are now separately tempting men and women, according to the gender of the entity, and causing more evil in their sexual wake. Particularly bothersome to the Puritans is their seduction of men, seeing women are usually the victims of such night visits, and the corrupting effects of these demons. Separate to the nightmare, the incubus now extracts the “vitality” from the sleeper. Reference to the vitality is in later texts the most sinister consequence of masturbation, and when associated with the incubus, indicates the sexual role of the night-stalking beast.
By the 1700′s, the evil nature takes over from the sexual. Vampires become increasingly malicious, have supernatural powers of regeneration, and immortality to ensure they can derive the blood of the living they seek. But they mainly target women, even female vampires, and seduction for the sake of seducing is foremost their motivation.
Vampires and Werewolves
The werewolf, as an independent entity, survives in Western European mythology longer than a distinguishable vampire. The lycanthrope (literally wolf-man) either by witchcraft or possession has origins from ancient times. Assuming the guise of a beast, the wolf being most popular, the witch or warlock displayed fits of insanity and became bloodthirsty. The connection with witchcraft and the need to satisfy an insatiable blood lust soon associated with vampires, especially after the 1700′s. The wolf form also mixed in with the vampire lore, being as it was in the Middle Ages, the disguise of witches.
Prior to the 1700′s, the vampire was not known as such by name. The bloodthirsty nature of the vampire often had connections with ceremonial sacrifice in witchcraft, in blood and sex rituals (possibly the reason for targeting women), to satisfy the incubuses need for sex after midnight. With the lust for blood driving the werewolf, the vampire nature now had an incentive to hunt for its victims. It is therefore interesting, but not surprising then, how the infamous cruelty of the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathori originally classified her crimes as lycanthropy due to her insanity. In 1610 the term vampire was not known to Western Europeans, and she only became a “real vampire” in modern times. Did she bathe in blood? Not according to the official investigation, it is only part of the legend surrounding her. Would it have mattered? Not at her time, her cruelty and torture was still the nature of werewolves.
To add to the already overlapping myths, and further complicate the relationship between werewolves and vampires, there is the Victorian belief that when a werewolf dies, it rises as a vampire and continues its bloodthirsty habits forever. This is mainly due to the use of werewolf forms in witchcraft, and being mortal, the werewolf uses magic to ensure its immortality.
Dark Arts and Witchcraft
As entities of their own right, the vampire has always had access to supernatural power. The source of this power is in part innate and also imparted by greater demons, even the Devil. Because the witchcraft texts speak of a devil of fornication and the corrupting influence on the incubus by such demons, it is difficult in some cases to separate the supernatural vampire from the ultimate evil.
The source of a vampire’s supernatural powers don’t seem to come under question until the later Victorian period. By this stage, vampires are the hottest item, and with the fascination comes the investigation. Over 100 years ago, writers of the time were asking the same question we are now—what is it about vampires? In another 100 years, the same question will resonate with the writers of the 22nd century, and we hope they find a reason from their own experience.
But from the 1700′s the vampire has changed, from the pure incubus to the risen undead, and so the powers of these quickened dead required explanation. Where once the vampire conducted the powers of demons to witches, now the practitioners of the dark arts rise after death, as the vampire, fully versed in all their evil capacities. Most feared of these is the warlock, after the death of his human form he becomes a vampire, and so the pact with the Devil for immortality finds necessity.
Magic of the Undead
Vampires have supernatural powers but because it is possible to destroy a vampire, then correctly they are of the preternatural domain. Killing a vampire usually happens after spearing the heart, with a wood or metal stake, or by decapitation. The loss of blood, and then of life, seems to be the objective. Similar mutilation of a corpse, such as removing the head or pinning the heart to the soil, owe much to the superstitions of the Balkans and are necessary to stop a spirit from re-animating the dead. There existed such myths in Western Europe but these incarnations of the dead did not necessarily drink blood, and they were not the undead, but more a demonic possession of the deceased.
All these ideas amalgamated into the vampire we know today. The exception separating devils from vampires is the capacity of possession, because vampires are not spirits but have their own corporeal nature. Devils were believed to animate the undead because they have no substance but vampires once had a soul, when alive, although this soul is now lost, a reason given for the absence of a reflection. But since no soul has ever been recorded in a mirror, the mythology of mirrors being ancient, is it not a legitimate argument for the absence of an image. In magic texts, God is the ultimate mirror, and vampires being associated by this time with demons, are unable to look into or reflect from this analogy of pure good.
Another property separating demons from vampires is the sex they conduct. The demon having no body of his own, occupies the recently deceased, the possession intended in order to conduct fornication, particularly with witches. If the body so possessed is too cold, then the demon must steal sperm from a more fresh corpse. The result is cold sperm to the recipient, a sure sign the “man” was a conduit of the Devil. No such distinction is mentioned for the incubus, even when the vampire becomes associated with the undead. It seems vampire sex is hot (in more than one way). When the Devil uses a dead man’s sperm the result is a monster (conjoined twins and other birth defects) and later in the Victorian period, a vampire. When a women agrees to a vampire, she can give birth to a hybrid creature, according to some myths, or if already pregnant, she will abort (a tendency of the evil vampire).
Purification Against Vampires
The ritual, once called vampirism, involving cutting out the vampire’s heart, burning this, dissolving the remains in water, and then drinking of the ashes—all after the body had been properly dealt with to prevent the vampire from rising from its grave. This is a cleansing ritual—not of the vampire but the living population. It appears to be a corruption of the alchemists purification ritual. Ashes are base, they are of the earth, hence ashes and dust in burial rhetoric. Ordinary people can partake of the base ashes but if you were an adept of alchemy then you drink finely ground gold.
The purity of gold, over the vulgar form of ashes, is necessary to prepare the devotee for the ceremony of alchemy. The practice of alchemists is often believed a fruitless effort to make gold, but those who seriously conducted the art, treated their devotion as a form of religion. Alchemy goes back to ancient Egypt where much of the magic probably originated. A description of the gold drinking purification can be found in the Bible (here and here). Didn’t know there was the practice of magic in the Bible—well, now you do.
To completely destroy a vampire, the purification requires the ashes of the vampire’s heart. This drinking of the ashes purifies the living, not the dead, or undead in this case. The ritual seems to have originated in the Balkans and deals with the reason for the vampire rising from their grave. Wicked people died and rose up, as vampires, seeking vengeance against the living. The magic of the ritual requiring ashes involved the family of the deceased. By purifying the living, the hatred is vanquished, and the dead can finally rest in peace.
Lore of Vampires
Vampire lore is complex, originating from many sources, and involving many cultures, over thousands of years. The vampire has been with us from the beginning of human beliefs in the supernatural, and will survive our culture no matter how it develops, because of what vampires mean to us. While purists complain about any challenge to the so-called “traditional vampire,” remember these myths are only 300 years old. Vampire sex-goddesses bearing fangs, and demanding the blood of the living, have been with us for 10,000′s of years.
Vampires will continually evolve with us and reflect the darker side of human nature. It is then the responsibility of inventive minds to assist in the vampire development. The work of modern writers to strip the vampire into a minimalistic mode might give them immediate satisfaction, but it comes at a price. By reducing the vampire to a level comprehensible to the writer, the reader is left with a vampire that doesn’t deliver.
In the end, a compromised beast is a destroyed beast, and the most radically changed vampires quickly evaporate for lack of imagination (of the writer). A vampire surviving our changing perceptions, our technology, our scientific developments, and our personal relationships, is a vampire with the total package of pure vampire traits. Where ever I found a pure vampire characteristic, I have respectively included this into my vampires to make them as robust as possible. Additions to the vampire lore enhance but removal of vampire powers results in a weak vampire no one finds exciting.
With this topic, I end my discussion on what a vampire is. Next time, I return to the sex—the reason for my book—so join me please to open the manuals of love to learn their sexual secrets and how to be a vampire in your mind.