Saturday, 2 February 2013

On Plogojowitz

If you're interested in the perfect companion piece to James Lyon's guest blog, pop over to Magia Posthuma and read Lyon's 'In search of Peter Plogojowitz’s grave'.

Plogojowitz—or Plogojovitz (or Petar Blagojević)—occupies a very special place in vampire lore: some contest (including me), that he was the first 'true vampire'. I'll clarify that position: the first 'true vampire' mentioned by name. After all, it's clear from reading the Plogojowitz account—recorded by the Imperial Provisor of the Gradisk District—that Peter was far from the first vampire:
And since with such people (which they call vampires) various signs are to be seen—that is, the body undecomposed, the skin, hair, beard and nails growing—the subjects moved unanimously to open the grave of Peter Plogojowitz and to see if such above-mentioned signs were really to be found on him.

. . . 

I could do what I wanted, but if I did not accord them the viewing and the legal recognition to deal with the body according to their custom, they would have to leave house and home, because by the time a gracious resolution was received from Belgrade, perhaps the entire village—and this was already supposed to have happened in Turkish times—could be destroyed by such an evil spirit, and they did not want to wait for this.1
The report also marks the first time the explicit use of the word 'vampire' ('Vampyri') was used in context with the folkloric attributes described above: an undead, bloodsucking corpse. However, that also isn't to say that there weren't precedents or parallels. 

For instance, certain issues of the Mercure Galant gave coverage to the upior and stryges in the late 17th century. Both terms have an etymological relationship with vampire—and both described bloodsuckers closely aligned with Plogojowitz's characteristics

1. Qtd. in P Barber, Vampires, burial, and death: folklore and reality, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1988, p. 6.

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