Sunday, September 13, 2009

Let The Right One In

After watching The Vampire Diaries, and being extremely pleased that they employed a few of the most common vampire myths, such as needing permission to cross the threshold, I wondered what that particular myth was all about.

It's one of my favs.  The evil vampire lurking outside your home cannot enter unless you give him permission.  All the power is in your hands.  Unless...he hypnotizes you with his eerie gaze.  I've used it in my own stories, allowing that vampires can enter any public place, but need permission to enter a privately-owned home.

So I searched the Internet and didn't come up with much.  Basically, vampires can't cross the threshold because, well, it's the 'rule'.  But a little deeper digging dig came up with a few more details.

Threshold is a medieval word.  Wooden blocks were set down in the doorway and before the floor to keep the 'thresh' or strewn straw on the floors from getting out.

The house is a temple or sanctuary and thus the people living there represent its power.  They have the option of retaining the power of the household by refusing a vampire entry, or opening it to evil by inviting the vamp in.  It's also a symbol of the soul, so if you say yes, you are basically opening your soul to the evil that wishes entry.

Also in medieval times, crosses of tar or pitch were painted on windows and doors to prevent vampires from entering.  Belief was that the vampire who came knocking in the middle of the night would get stuck on the tar and when daylight arrived then he would be rendered powerless.

Another myth, (and this one seems like a LOT of work) is that to prevent a dead body from becoming vampire and returning to the home, it must be removed from the home in a manner which would prevent return.  So the corpse would be carried out feet first (it's eyes often covered so it could not see the way back in).  Or it could be carried through a window.  Or a hole would be opened in a wall to push the corpse through then mortared back up so it could not then discover where it had been brought out.  And the one that would require the most work was taking the body out underneath the threshold (which would require some heavy lifting and heck, major construction, if you ask me.)  Thus, the vampire could never cross over the threshold because he'd gone out under.

Any other reasons behind the myth you've heard of?  Or are you like me and just happy with the reason that it's a 'rule'.

I've seen the device used in most movies and many books, but what's the most unusual or original means of employing the 'crossing the threshold' myth you've seen or read about?



RKCharron said...

Hi :)
I love the title of your post.
(wasn't Lina Leandersson amazing as Eli?)
I love how she stood there with blood oozing out everywhere as she showed what happens when a Vampire crosses a threshold uninvited.
All the best,

ParaJunkee said...

There is power in thresholds. I can see this in every day life as I watch my cat slink up to the door, peer out and then make a flying leap (after much consideration) from inside to out or vice versa. She has always been very wary of thresholds - I always blamed it on the fairies that are supposed to be able to grab you if you linger in thresholds. Maybe they are the ones that actually protect the household from evil.

Great post, got me thinking.

Michele Hauf said...

I haven't had a chance to see the movie yet! Is it out on DVD? I must check.

I agree with the cat and the threshold thing. Same with my cats. Hmm.... Makes me do some thinking as well. :-)

Anonymous said...

I think it's just the difference between feeling safe and secure in your home, and the great, big scary world out there. Brides are carried over the threshold to their new homes (as it's considered bad luck if they trip), and it's often advised to keep rosemary sprinkled (or growing) at your threshold to keep out unwanted visitors/spirits. And isn't there something about being caught in a threshold at midnight -- that fairies or goblins can get you?

The ancient romans had their own god of thresholds -- Janus.

I like the myth and kept it for my book, too. In Release, vampires are outcasts of the human race, so they need to be invited back in to the homes of the humans.

Don't know if I added anything, but I'm definitely buying one of those doormats!

Erica Hayes said...

Jenna Maclaine's Cin Craven series uses this myth. I believe it's in Sookie Stackhouse too, yes?

Both those series use it to good effect. But on the whole, I reckon it's kinda... well... naff. It really limits the power of the vampire. All you have to do is stay inside and he can't get you. Not so tough.

More interesting to me is the seduction and subterfuge the vampire has to use to get you to ask him in the first place! Now there's some story material...

Taliesin_ttlg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Taliesin_ttlg said...

I see Nicole (Hadaway) as already commented (so sorry for doubling up) but I have to say I liked her reasoning, in her book Release, that as they were outcast from mankind (being the descendants of Lilith and Sammael) it was right that they were outcast from the domiciles.

I liked the idea in Salem’s Lot (and forgive me, but I can’t remember in which versions it was included) that not only did they have to be invited into a home but they had to be invited into the town – hence the plague wouldn’t spread from town to town.

In the Monsters episode Pool Shark, the lore went a step further and the vampire had to be invited to feed. A pool hustle and a bet were used to extract the invitation.

My personal thought on the source is that the moving of the house entrance, as you mention, had a lot to do with the inception of the modern myth.

39 Cent Stamp said...

Awesome! I was just sitting here and all of a sudden i wondered "why do vampires have to be invited in" and i found your article.