Friday, 30 December 2011

Three discoveries

In the last few days, I've stumbled on a few items which challenge my views on vampire 'history'. For instance, I thought the 1991 role-playing game—Vampire: the Masquerade—was the first attempt at linking Cain with vampires.

Cain—son of Adam and Eve—murdered his brother, Abel, and was subsequently cursed by God: 'And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth' (Genesis 4: 11–12).

After Cain protests his punishment as something more than he can bare; fearing he could be killed in turn, he is 'protected' thusly: 'And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him' (v. 15).

Cain's curse and vagabond status morphed into vampirism within Vampire: the Masquerade's mythos. Indeed, according to the game's backstory, he's the world's first vampire.

As it turns out, the link between vampires and Cain was made much earlier. More than a hundred years before, J. Theodore Bent's assessment of the Greek Βρονκόλακες mentioned: 'In Karpathos they call these beings "Cains," affirming that Cain, who slaughtered Abel on his death, became the first wandering vampire.'1

Not only that, but there's also a link between them and the vampire 'species' featured in the previous post: 'They here mix them up with another species of hobgoblin, evil spirits formed like men, with asses' or goats' feet, which appear on the earth for ten days only, from Christmas to Epiphany, during which time they subsist, like the Amazons of old, on snakes and lizards.'2



Our modern conception of vampires stems largely from Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). One notable aspect includes vampires turning into bats. Everyone knows that trope, but they probably don't know it originated with Stoker's novel—or did it?

Earlier this year, I found a pre-Dracula reference to vampires turning into bats in an 1892 newspaper article. That is, an article reproduced in a book by Christopher Rondina. But, I had my suspicions and double-checked the original source. It turned out to be a hoax, as its author confirmed: 'As an avid vampire fan, I was also disappointed to see the absence of bats in the original folklore, and I inserted the reference into the 1892 article as a vanity "enhancement" for my own satisfaction.'

No need for disappointment. I found a vampires-into-bats reference pre-dating his own 'enhancement'—by nearly 20 years: 'The belief that human beings were sometimes changed into the bats called vampyres is found in India, and was also Magian.'3 This isn't quite the same thing, though. The passage refers to people changing into vampire bats, not that they were vampires, per se. However, I suspect that, too, is a misnomer: vampire bats are not native to India.

The article's anonymous author may have conflated vampire bats and their supposed morphic capabilities with a popular retelling of Baital PachisiRichard F. Burton's Vikram and the Vampire; or, Tales of Hindu devilry (1870). The so-called 'vampire'—baital or vetala—is actually an 'evil spirit which animates dead bodies'.4 No mention of blood-drinking.

The bat connection's found in its appearance: 'Its body was thin and ribbed like a skeleton or a bamboo framework, and as it held on to a bough, like a flying fox,'5 on which Burton elaborates, 'A large kind of bat ; a popular and silly Anglo-Indian name.'6

Far from vampiric, the flying fox's diet is given away by its other name—fruit bats. 'They live in the tropics and subtropics of Asia (including the Indian subcontinent)', whereas vampire bats are notably smaller and found in 'the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.'

What's the connection between flying foxes and vampires? The Indian Flying-fox is a member of the Pteropus vampyrus species.



A popular theory explaining the origin of the vampire belief concerns plagues. One proponent, Olga Hoyt, wrote, 'A more cogent reason for the spread of vampirism throughout Europe, beginning in the Middle Ages, however, was the was the terrible plague [Black Death] that began in the thirteenth century and lasted until the eighteenth.'7

Vampirism acted as a sort of supernatural epidemic, spreading from village to village, as seen in the Plogojowitz and Paole cases. It's not hard to see parallels, but few have established direct connections between vampire belief and the plague.

Well, I found one. A missing link. The Daily Gazetteer (6 September 1738)8 covered the movement of Turkish troops 'posted near Inharlick' towards Raskow, to head off a Russian contingent marching towards a strategically important river. Here's what happened next:


Podolia, no longer a Polish territory, 'is an historical region in the west-central and south-west portions of present-day Ukraine, corresponding to Khmelnytskyi Oblast and Vinnytsia Oblast.'



1. JT Bent, ‘Personification of the mysterious amongst the modern Greeks’, The National Review, April, 1887, p. 233, 26 December 2011, retrieved from British Periodicals.

2. ibid.

3. ‘Demonology’, Fraser’s Magazine, December, 1872, p. 701, viewed 27 December 2011, retrieved from British Periodicals.

4. RF Burton (adapt.), Vikram and the Vampire; or, Tales of Hindu devilry, Longmans, Green, and Co., London, 1870, p. xiii, viewed 20 August 2010, retrieved from Internet Archive.

5. ibid., p. 46.

6. ibid., fn. 3.

7. O Hoyt, Lust for blood: the consuming story of vampires, Stein and Day, New York, 1984, p. 56.

8. 'Yesterday arrived mail due from Holland', The Daily Gazetteer, 6 September 1738, p. [2592], viewed 27 December 2011, retrieved from British Periodicals. The section is titled 'Warsaw, Aug. 19. O. S.'

7 comments:

Yvette said...

Very interesting. I did the exact same research but did not go further after the role playing game. The reason I did the search was because I got sick and tired of being told they don't exist! I've been attacked by them bald headed bastards! Plus I can see them in visions.

bshistorian said...

Great work Anthony - I'd wondered about this one. I doubt WW were aware of the historical precedent.

Now, was 'Dracula 2000' the first attempt to link Judas with the first vampire?

HighPriestesschar said...

Cain was marked for his brothers death ,and all the Canaanites but this was not the true origin of the Vampire from a biblical stand point. this may be what they used later to have the idea of the mark of the beast ,but it was that these people have to work harder to get gods love and approval and that people should treat them with kidgloves because they have that violence in them. If you know about the apocryphal or hidden books. the first vampire was Lilith (who was al so a Babylonian goddess).here's some links to read more and you see.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilith http://www.pantheon.org/articles/l/lilith.html

HighPriestesschar said...

Cain was marked for his brothers death ,and all the Canaanites but this was not the true origin of the Vampire from a biblical stand point. this may be what they used later to have the idea of the mark of the beast ,but it was that these people have to work harder to get gods love and approval and that people should treat them with kidgloves because they have that violence in them. If you know about the apocryphal or hidden books. the first vampire was Lilith (who was al so a Babylonian goddess).here's some links to read more and you see.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilith http://www.pantheon.org/articles/l/lilith.html

Anthony Hogg said...

Yvette,

Hate to break it to ya, but...I don't believe they exist, either. In terms of the game, I posted that stuff about 'Cains' to show there was a folkloric precedent for linking vampires to the first murderer. Indeed, I posted a follow-up, which shows how the Greeks infused Biblical sources with their own, native beliefs.

If by 'bald headed bastards', you mean the Nosferatu, then that's a relatively modern concept, too, derived from F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922).

bshistorian,

To my knowledge, yeah, but there's certainly been previous attempts at linking Judas with vampires, namely, Julian Osgood Field's 'A kiss of Judas' (1893).

HighPriestesschar,

The Bible gives no real credence to vampires at all, little alone their origin with Cain, which is why the belief has been condemned by Christians of various denominations.

The Cainite connection is derived from folklore and enhanced by White Wolf - though, like bshistorian, I'd be surprised if they were actually aware of this link.

I disagree that Lilith was the first vampire - or her predecessor, Lilitu (sp?). Remember, our conception of vampires is derived from Slavic lore, namely, an undead, bloodsucking corpse. Lilith, on the other hand, was more of a demon. A succubus.

However, there may be some precedent in linking bloodsucking night hags - like Lilith - with the vampire belief, especially when you find the origin of 'strigoi' is the Roman 'strix'.

dbaymiller said...

On Vikram and the Vampire: Given the prevalence of all thinks East/India in the British Empire at the time period,and the popularity of Burton, one wonders if Stoker took his notion of Dracula and bats from the Vikram tale. Surely he was at least familiar with the tale.

Anthony Hogg said...

It's quite plausible he did. Even Elizabeth Miller considers it a possibility in Dracula: sense & nonsense (2000; 2006).

But she still credits Stoker with inventing the vampire's ability to bat-morph.

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