Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The origins of Vampire

by Lou Gagliardi

The vampire is a creature of many tales, twists, and paths. To truly dig down and take a bite (pun intended) out of the vampire mythos, is to look at humanity, and its strange fascination with Death. More importantly, vampirism is the fascination of NOT dying. While many vampires are indeed the dead walking the Earth, they represent a metaphorical and metaphysical thumbing at the Grim Reaper. “Oh, how wrong we were to think immortality meant never dying,” says Gerard Way, the leader singer of My Chemical Romance. And he’s right. Or at least so say modern scholars.

But well, for this blog post at least, we’re going to buck the current trend of what modern scholars, and romance writers, think of the nosferatu. We’re going to back in time to the very beginning of vampiredom. We’ll start with the name first.

I could go into a long, boring history of the word itself. I’ll say this. The word started as the Turkish ubir, then became the Serbian/Slavic/Old Russian/Ukraine upir (also spelled upyri in 11th-13th century in the anti-pagan treatise "Word of Saint Grigoriy” according to Wikipedia), which became the Germanic Vampir, then the French VampYre, then to English in the form of Vampire. Of course, now we call them bloodsucker, or nosferatu, nightwalker, etc. The reason the French used, and later Emo kids/Goths stole, the word with a “y” is because of the funeral pyres they would light to finally be rid of the bloodsucker. Okay, well that’s not the reason the kids stole…but it’s still a cool story.

The vampire story is the most common kind of myth, with the werewolf coming in at second and ghosts/ghouls coming in third. Vampires are found literally in every part of the world, excluding the Arctic and Antarctic. From Australians to North Americans. From the Aztecs to the proto-Europeans. From King Arthur…to…
Gilgamesh, as well as the Jewish stories relate of Lilith as a vampire (or a type of vampiric demon.

Yes, that’s right. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Jewish demonology.
From a talk by giving at the Jungian Society
        “However, in 2000 B.C., the early Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh clearly described         vampires. The Ekimmu or Departed Spirit was the soul of a dead person who for some reason could find no rest and wandered over the earth seeking to seize the living. As in later vampire tales, the Ekimmu and its victim had some mysterious psychic connection, which made the victim particularly vulnerable to attack. The Ekimmu could walk through, doors or walls to take up residence in house. It would then drain the life from the household, usually killing the owner and many of his relatives and servants. The epic tells us that among those likely to return as vampires were those who had died violent deaths; those whose corpses had remained unburied or uncared-for, and those who had left certain duties undone.”
The Epic Gilgamesh sounds like most modern myths, and most religious talk of the vampire from the Middle Ages, doesn’t it? And yet, this is from the year 2000 B.C, or the 3rd Millennium B.C.

Lilith, for those who don’t know, is supposedly the first wife of Adam, taken from the dirt as he was. The story goes that as they went to have sex, she wanted to be on the top—but so did Adam! Naturally, Adam gets the right of being on top. Lilith, being a wise woman, decided that they were equals, and thus she deserved to be on top. Well Adam, definitely not being created by a romance authoress, said NO flat out. Lilith got mad, said the true name of GOD, and quickly vanished from the Garden of Eden.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. As she’s walking, she comes to the Red Sea and meets some demons; even possibly Satan. She lays with them (re: have sex) and bears children—also known as demons. She, and her children, later grew to have a craving for blood. As Lugosi would put it, “For the blood is the life.” (which is taken from the Bible), and she saw a way to get revenge on Adam—she’d drain his children dry, and cause them to die. Some scholars also think this is myth to explain SIDS.

Now, there are some “myths” created by WhiteWolf, Inc. the creators of World of Darkness that says Cain after being cast from his home, found Lilith who taught him blood magic and made him a vampire. Of course, that’s made up by WhiteWolf.

Judas Iscariot will come up much, much later. If the readers of this blog want me to write another entry, of course.

My name is Lou Gagliardi, and I am no expert on these myths. I have been studying them since I was twelve, and the nice thing I found is that you can twist and turn these until you find something you like. Maybe next time I’ll go from the beginning of time, to the dark ages and we’ll talk of the middle ages, and later. If you would like to hear of a particular myth, or aspect of a myth talked about, please email me at:


Ana Revenant said...

Hello there, and thank you for the interesting read. I'd love to see your sources, if you have any in particular. I always find it fascinating how myths evolve from the general to the particular or vice-versa. Lilith can be a night demon (or terror) or she can be, as you say, the rebellious mate to Adam. Similarly, the Empusa can be any of many seductresses or it can name a singular servant of Hecate.

Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more from you.

Anonymous said...

Well for Gilgamesh, all you have to do is read. It's there. Just gotta to know what to look for.

Lilith is an interesting case..because she can be found in Jewish mythology, and yet not carried over to Christian Mythology. She is also found in Shedim cults, Greco-Roman mythology, Mesopotamian mythology, as well as the Classical German period.

So it really is interesting. As for sources, I unfortunately didn't save the links..but I could point out some books as soon as I unpack them.

For my next post; i was thinking of doing hollywood vs the classical myths; but then I had another idea. So stay tuned.