His Kith and Kin
"The Philosophy of Vampirism"
1880 - 1948
THE VAMPIRE'S KITH AND KIN
Amongst the elaborate demonology of Babylonia and Assyria the vampire had a prominent place. From the earliest times Eastern races have held the belief in the existence of dark and malignant powers which is, we cannot doubt, naturally implanted in the heart of man; and which it remains for the ignorance and agnosticism of a later day to deny. The first inhabitants of Babylonia, the Sumerians, recognized three distinct classes of evil spirits, any one of whom was always ready to attack those who by accident or negligence laid themselves open to these invasions. In particular was a man who had wandered far from his fellows into some haunted spot liable to these onsets.
Of the Babylonian evil spirits the first class were those ghosts who were unable to rest in their graves and so perpetually walked up and down the face of the earth; the second was composed of those entities who were half human and half demon; whilst the third class were the devils, pure spirits of the same nature as the gods, fiends who bestrode the whirlwind and the sand-storm, who afflicted mankind with plagues and pestilence. There were many subdivisions, and in fact there are few evil hierarchies so detailed as the Assyrian cosmorama of the spiritual world.
The evil spirit known as Utukku was a phantom or ghost, generally but perhaps not invariably of a wicked and malevolent kind since it was he whom the necromancers raised from the dead. In an ancient Epic when the hero, Gilgamesh, prays to the god Nergal to restore his friend Ea-bani the request is granted, for the ground gapes open and the Utukku of Ea-Bani appears "like the wind"; that is, a transparent spectre in the human shape of Ea-bani, who converses with Gilgamesh.
The Ekimmu, or Departed Spirit, was the soul of a dead person which for some reason could find no rest, and wandered over the earth lying in wait to seize upon man. Especially did it lurk in deserted and ill-omened places. It is difficult to say exactly in what respect the Ekimmu differed from the Utukku, but it is interesting to inquire into the causes owing to which a person became an Ekimmu. Here we shall find many parallels with the old Greek beliefs concerning those duties to the dead that are paramount, and for which a man must risk his life and more.
It was ordinarily believed among the Assyrians that after death the soul entered the Underworld, "the House of Darkness, the seat of the god Irkalla, the House from which none that enter come forth again." Here they seem to have passed a miserable existence, enduring the pangs of hunger and thirst, and if their friends and relatives on earth were too niggardly to offer rich meats and pour forth bountiful libations upon their tombs, they were compelled to satisfy their craving with dust and mud. But there were certain persons who were yet in worse case, for their souls could not even enter the Underworld. This is clear from the description given by the phantom of Ea-bani to his friend Gilgamesh:
The man whose corpse lieth in the desert -
Thou and I have often seen such a one -
His spirit resteth not in the earth;
The man whose spirit hath none to care for it -
Thou and I have often seen such a one;
The dregs of the vessel - the leavings of the feast
And that which is cast out into the street are his food.
The Ekimmu-spirit of an unburied corpse could find no rest and remained prowling about the earth so long as its body was above ground. This is exactly one phase of the vampire, and in the various magical texts and incantations are given lists of those who are liable to return in this manner.
If the spirit of the dead man be forgotten and no offerings made at the tomb, hunger and thirst compel it to come forth to seek the nourishment of which it has been deprived; and since, according to the old proverb, a hungry man is an angry man, it roams furiously to and fro and greedily devours whatsoever it may. "If it found a luckless man who had wandered far from his fellows into haunted places, it fastened upon him, plaguing and tormenting him until such time as a priest should drive it away with exorcism." This is clear from a cuneiform tablet which has been translated as follows:
The gods which seize upon man
Have come forth from the grave;
The evil gusts of wind
Have come forth from the grave;
To demand payment of rites and the pouring of libations
They have come forth from the grave;
All that is evil in their hosts, like a whirlwind
Hath come forth from their graves.
Even as the vampire of Eastern Europe today, the Babylonian Ekimmu was the most persistent of haunters and the most difficult to dislodge. If he could find no rest in the Underworld he would speedily return and attach himself to anyone who during his life had held the least communication with him. Man's life was certainly surrounded with dangers when the mere act of just once sharing food, oil or garments with another person gave the spirit of this individual a claim to consort with the friend or casual acquaintance who had shown him some slight kindness. It was even held that if a man but looked upon a corpse he established a mysterious psychic connection which would render him liable to be attacked by the spirit of the deceased.
Among the Assyrians the Ekimmu might appear in a house. Just as the vampire, it would pass through walls or doors and whether it merely glided about as a silent phantom, or whether it gibbered unintelligible and mocking words with hideous mop and mow, such an apparition was terribly unlucky. The direst misfortunes followed, certainly involving the destruction of the house, and it was seldom that the owner, if not many of his family as well, would not die within a very short space of time. It seems indeed that the Ekimmu would drain the life out of a household, which is purely a vampirish quality, although it does not appear that this was always a physical operation, the actual sucking of blood.
The earliest vampire known is that depicted upon a prehistoric bowl, where a man copulates with a vampire whose head has been severed from the body. Here the threat of cutting off her head is supposed to frighten her away from the act represented. A vampire is depicted among the Babylonian cylinder seals in the Revue d'Assyriologie, 1909, concerning which Dr. R. Campbell-Thompson has given me the following note: "The idea is, I presume, to keep off the nocturnal visits of Lilith and her sisters. Just as the prehistoric or early people showed pictures of enemies with their heads cut off, so will the man troubled by nightly emissions attributed to Lilith depict on his amulet the terrors which are in store for these malignants."
The Hebrew Lilith is undoubtedly borrowed from the Babylonian demon Lilitu, a night spirit. This night ghost is mentioned in Isaias xxxiv, 14 which Douay translates: "And demons and monsters shall meet, and the hairy ones shall cry out one to another, there hath the lamia lain down and found rest for herself." In classical Latin lamia is defined by Lewis and Short as "a witch who was said to suck children's blood, a sorceress, enchantress."
Rabbinical literature is full of legends concerning Lilith. According to tradition she was the first wife of Adam and the mother of devils, spirits and lilin, which is the same word as the Assyrian Lilu. From Jewish lore she passed to mediaeval demonology in which she was the princess who presided over the succubi.
As has been remarked, the earliest known representation of a vampire shows her in the act of copulation with a man. In modern Greece it is quite commonly held that the vrykolakas will visit his widow and know her, or he even seduces other women whilst their husbands are away. Or what is more striking still, he will betake himself to some town where he is not recognized and will even wed, children being born of such unions. Mr. Lawson (Modern Greek Folklore) informs us that in Thessaly he was actually told of a family in the neighbourhood of Domoko who reckoned a vrykolakas among their ancestors of some two or three generations ago. By virtue of such lineage they inherited a certain skill which enables them to deal most efficaciously with the vrykolakas who at intervals haunt the countryside. Indeed, so widely was their power esteemed that they had on occasion been summoned as specialists for consultation when quite remote districts were troubled in this manner.
In ancient Egypt we can trace certain parallels to the Assyrian beliefs. The ancient Egyptians held that every man had his ka, his double, which when he died lived in the tomb with the body and was there visited by the khu, the spiritual body or soul which at death departed from the body; and although it might visit the body, could only be brought back from heaven by the ceremonial performance of certain mystic rites. Yet from one point of view the soul was sufficiently material to partake of the funeral offerings brought to the tomb for the refreshment of the ka. One of the chief objects of these sepulchral oblations was to maintain the double in the tomb so that it should not be compelled to wander abroad in search of food. As in Assyria, unless the ka were bountifully supplied with food it would issue forth from the tomb and be driven to eat any offal or drink any brackish water it might find.
The ka occupied a special part of the tomb and a priest was appointed specially to minister to it therein. The ka snuffed up the sweet smell of incense when this was burned on certain days each year, with the offerings of flowers, herbs, meat and drink in all of which it took great delight. The ka also viewed with pleasure the various scenes which were sculpted or painted on the walls of the tomb. In fact it was not merely capable, but desirous of material consolations. It would even appear that in later times the khu was identified with the ka.
In Arabic tradition the Ghoul appears as a female demon who feeds upon dead bodies and infests the cemeteries at night to dig open the grave for her horrid repasts. Sometimes she would seem to be half-human, half-fiend, for in story she is often represented as wedded to a husband who discovers her loathsome necrophagy. She can bear children, and is represented as luring travellers out of the way to lonely and remote ruins when she falls upon them suddenly and devours them, greedily sucking the warm blood from their veins.
The Ghoul is familiar from The Thousand and One Nights, as is the story of Sidi Nouman, a young man who marries a wife named Amine. To his surprise when they are set at dinner she only eats a dish of rice grain by grain, taking up each single grain with a bodkin and "instead of partaking of the other dishes she only carried to her mouth, in the most deliberate manner, small crumbs of bread, scarcely enough to satisfy a sparrow." The husband discovers that Amine steals out at night and on one occasion he follows her.
Sidi Nouman is relating these adventures to the Caliph Haroun Alraschid and he continues: "I saw her go into a burying place near our house; I then gained the end of a wall, which reached the burying place, and after having taken proper care not to be seen, I perceived Amine with a female Ghoul. Your Majesty knows that Ghouls of either sex are demons, which wander about the fields. They commonly inhabit ruinous buildings, whence they issue suddenly and surprise passengers, whom they kill and devour. If they fail in meeting with travellers, they go by night into burying places to dig up dead bodies and feed upon them. I was both surprised and terrified when I saw my wife with this Ghoul. They dug up together a dead body, which had been buried that very day, and the Ghoul several times cut off pieces of the flesh, which they both ate as they sat upon the edge of the grave. They conversed together with great composure during their savage and inhuman repast; but I was so far off that it was impossible for me to hear what they said, which, no doubt, was as extraordinary as their food, at the recollection of which I still shudder. When they had finished their horrid meal, they threw the remains of the carcase into the grave, which they filled again with the earth they had taken from it."
When they are next at dinner Sidi Nouman, remonstrating with his wife, asks if the dishes before them are not as palatable as the flesh of a dead man. In a fury she dashes a cup of cold water into his face and bids him assume the form of a dog. After various adventures as a mongrel cur, he is restored to his original shape by a young maid skilled in white magic, and this lady also provides him with a liquid which when thrown upon Amine with the words: "Receive the punishment of thy wickedness" transforms this dark sorceress into a mare. The animal is promptly led away to the stable.
This is an extremely typical legend of an Oriental vampire, and we find the same details repeated again and again, both in Eastern stories and those imitations which were so popular throughout Europe when once Antoine Galland had given France his adaptation of The Arabian Nights.
Throughout the ancient Empire of China, and from the earliest times, the belief in vampires is very widely spread. Sinologists have collected many examples, some of which occur in myth and legend and some of which were related as facts, showing us that the Chinese vampire lacks few if any of the horrible traits he exhibits in Greek and Slavonic superstition.
The Chinese vampire, Ch'ing Shih, is regarded as a demon who by taking possession of a dead body preserves it from corruption owing to his power of preying upon other corpses or upon the living. The Chinese believe that a man has two souls: the Hun, or superior soul, which partakes of the quality of good spirits; and the P'o, or inferior soul which is generally malignant and may be classed among the Kuei, or evil spirits. It is thought that whilst any portion of the body, even if it be a small bone, remains whole and entire the lower soul can utilize this to become a vampire, and particularly should the sun or moon be allowed to shine fully on an unburied body the P'o will thence acquire strength to issue forth and obtain human blood to build up the vitality of the vampire.
In appearance the Chinese monster is very like the European vampire for he has red staring eyes, huge sharp talons or crooked nails. But he is also often represented as having his body covered with white or greenish-white hair. In The Religious System of China, Dr. de Groot suggests that this last characteristic may be due to the fungi which grow so profusely on the cotton grave-clothes used by the Chinese. In some cases, if he be particularly potent for ill, the vampire is able to fly with speed through the air, which may be compared with the faculty ascribed to vampires in Serbian legend, that of vanishing away in a swiftly floating mist or vapour.
A few anecdotes, which I owe to Mr. G. Willoughby-Meade's Chinese Ghouls and Goblins, will show the close similarity of vampirish activities in China to those in the tales of other lands.
A tutor named Liu, who was resident in a family that lived at some distance from his native place, was granted a holiday in order that he might perform his devotions at the tomb of his ancestors. On the morning he was to resume his duties, his wife entered his chamber very early to call him so that he might set forth in good time on his journey. But to her horror when she approached the bed she saw stretched thereon a headless body, although there was no spot or stain of blood.
Half mad with fear, she at once gave the alarm, yet the circumstances were so surprising that the magistrate gave orders for her to be arrested on suspicion of having murdered her husband. In spite of her protested innocence, she was detained in custody till the fullest inquiries had been made. However, nothing immediately transpired to throw light upon the mystery. It was not until two or three days later that a neighbour who was gathering firewood on a hillside hard by perceived a great coffin with the lid partly raised, that seemed to have been curiously placed near an old and neglected grave. His utmost apprehensions being aroused, he called a number of persons together from the village before daring to investigate the cause of this unusual circumstance.
They approached the coffin and quickly removed the cover. Within reposed a corpse which had the face of a living man, unspeakably brutish and horrible. Its angry red eyes glared fiercely upon them, long white teeth champed the full red lips into a foam of blood and spittle, and within its lean bony hands, armed with long nails like the claws of a vulture, it held the missing head of the unfortunate Liu.
Some at once ran to the authorities, who upon hearing the report hastened to the hill with an armed guard, reaching the place well before sunset. It was found impossible to detach the head without severing the arms of the corpse, and when this was done the crimson gore gushed out in a great flood swilling the coffin. The head of Liu was found to be desiccated, sucked dry and bloodless. Command was forthwith given that the coffin and its contents should at once be burned to ashes on a mighty pyre, whilst the tutor's widow was immediately released from custody.
In the year 1751, a courier called Chang Kuei was sent express from Peking with a most urgent government dispatch. Late one night after he had passed through Liang Hsiang a fierce storm arose, and the gusts of wind completely extinguished his lantern. Fortunately he perceived at some little distance a humble khan whither he made his way as it was absolutely impossible to proceed in the darkness. The door was opened by a young girl who ushered him in and led his horse to a little stable.
That night she admitted him to her bed, promising to set him well on his way at dawn. But he did not in fact wake until many hours after, when he was not only benumbed with cold but to his surprise found himself lying stretched upon a tomb in a dense thicket, while his horse was tied to a neighbouring tree. His dispatch was not delivered until twelve hours after the time it was due, and accordingly, being asked what accident had delayed him, he related the whole circumstance. The magistrate ordered that inquiries should be made locally and they discovered that a girl named Chang, a common strumpet, had hanged herself in the wood some years before, and that several persons had been led aside to enjoy her favours, and so been detained in the same way as the imperial courier.
It was presently ordered that her tomb be opened, and when this had been done the body was found therein perfectly preserved, plump and of a rosy complexion, as though she were but in a soft slumber. It was burned under the direction of the authorities, and from that spot ceased to be haunted.
A story which is referred to the eighteenth century tells of a Tartar family living at Peking, a house of the highest importance whose son was betrothed to a lady of lineage equally aristocratic and ancient. Upon the wedding day, as is the Chinese custom, the bride was brought home in the ceremonial sedan-chair and this according to wont was carefully curtained and closed. It so happened that just as they were passing an old tomb there sprang up for a moment a sharp breeze which raised a cloud of thick dust. When the cortège reached the bridegroom's house there stepped out of the sedan two brides identical in every detail.
It was impossible at that point to interrupt the nuptials, but later in the evening the most piercing screams were heard from the bridal chamber. When the door was broken open the husband sprawled unconscious on the ground, while one of the brides lay with her eyes torn out and her face covered in blood. No trace of the second bride could be seen, but upon search being made with lanterns and torches a huge and hideous bird, mottled black and grey, armed with formidable claws and a beak like a vulture, was discovered clinging to a beam of the roof. Before they could fetch weapons, the monstrous thing disappeared swiftly through the door.
When the husband recovered his senses he related that one of the brides had suddenly struck him across the face with her heavily embroidered sleeve, and that the jewels had stunned him for the moment. A second afterwards a huge bird had swooped upon him and pecked out his eyes with its beak. So this horrible vampire blinded the newly married pair. The circumstance of the dust-cloud is exactly similar to the mist wherein the Slavonic Vampire conveys himself, but the transformation of the vampire into a bird is scarcely to be met with in European tradition.
It will be seen that the Chinese beliefs are linked with the Babylonian ideas, for as the Ekimmu was driven from the Underworld by hunger and thirst when no offerings were made at the tomb, so ghosts enduring the Buddhist purgatory of physical want are obviously imagined to seize living persons that they may refresh and energize themselves with human blood. Again, as in Europe today, so in China the vampire is most powerful between sunset and sunrise. His dominion commences when the sun sinks to rest, and he is driven back to the lair of his grave with the first rays of dawn.
One prominent feature of the European vampire, a circumstance which affords an additional reason why he is dreaded and shunned, is that he infects with his pollution his luckless victim who in turn becomes a vampire. In China this does not appear to hold. Something of the kind, however, may be traced among the Karens of Burma. For a Karen wizard will snare the wandering soul of a sleeper and by his art transfer it to the body of a dead man. The latter, accordingly, returns to life as the former expires. But the friends of the sleeper in their turn engage another sorcerer who will catch the soul of another sleeper, and it is he who dies as the first sleeper comes to life. Apparently this process may be continued almost indefinitely, and so it may be presumed that there takes place an indeterminate succession of death and resuscitation.
The Indian vampire, which may now be briefly considered, lacks those features in common with the Western vampires that are so strikingly to be noticed in the Chinese variety. Indeed, it may be said that the Indian vampire is practically a demon, and that only in a few minor details does he approximate to the true European species.
Mr.N.M.Penzer in a note upon The Ocean of Story says: "The Demons which appear are Rakshasa, Pisacha, Vetala, Bhuta etc. Of these, that most resembling the European Vampire is probably the Rakshasa." In a private letter to myself he writes: "It is the Rakshasas who are the more prominent among malicious demons. Their name means 'the harmers' or 'destroyers' as their particular delight is to upset sacrifices, worry ascetics, animate dead bodies etc. They date in India from Rig-Vedic days. They are described as deformed, of blue, green or yellow colour with long slit eyes. Their nails are poisonous and dangerous to the touch. They eat human and horse flesh, the former of which they procure by prowling around the burning-ghats at night. They possess great wealth and bestow it on those they favour. Their chief is Ravana, the enemy of Rama."
In his Preface to Vikram and the Vampire, London 1870, Sir Richard Burton says: "The Twenty-five Tales of a Baital - a vampire or evil spirit which animates dead bodies - is an old and thoroughly Hindu repertory. It is the rude beginning of that fictitious history which ripened to the Arabian Nights Entertainments." Baital is the modern form of Vetala. When the Raja encounters the Baital it was hanging "head downwards from a branch a little above him. Its eyes, which were wide open, were of a greenish-brown and never twinkled; its hair also was brown and brown was its face - these several shades which, notwithstanding, approached one another in an unpleasant way as an over-dried cocoa-nut. Its body was thin and ribbed like a skeleton or a bamboo framework, and as it held onto a bough like a flying-fox, by the toe-tips, its drawn muscles stood out as if they were ropes of coir. Blood it appeared to have none, or there would have been a decided determination of that curious juice to the head; and as the Raja handled its skin, it felt icy cold and clammy as might a snake. The only sign of life was the whisking of a ragged little tail much resembling a goat's. Judging from these signs the brave king at once determined the creature to be a Baital - a Vampire."
A belief in vampires is firmly established among the Malays of the Peninsula, and there are a number of magic rites which must be performed to protect both women and children. Probably the spirit most resembling a European vampire is the Penanggalan, which is supposed to resemble a trunkless human head with the sac of the stomach attached thereto, and which flies about seeking an opportunity of sucking the blood of infants.
There are, however, other spectres which are dangerous to children. There is the Bajang, which generally takes the form of a polecat and disturbs the household by mewing like a huge cat. The Langsuir is seen as an owl with hideous claws which perches upon the roof and hoots in a most melancholy way. Her daughter, a still-born child, is the Pontianak who is also a night-owl.
The Bajang is generally said to be a male demon and the Langsuir is considered as the female species. Both these spirits are supposed to be a kind of demon-vampire, but they can be tamed and are often handed down in certain families as heirlooms. Sir Frank Swettenham gives the following account of the Bajang: "Some one in the village falls ill of a complaint, the symptoms of which are unusual; there may be convulsions, unconsciousness or delirium, possibly for some days together or with intervals between the attacks. The relatives will call in a native doctor and at her (it usually an ancient female) suggestion, or without it, an impression will arise that the patient is the victim of a bajang. Such an impression quickly develops into certainty, and any trifle will suggest the owner of the evil spirit. One method of verifying this suspicion is to wait till the patient is in a state of delirium, and then to question him or her as to who is the author of the trouble. This should be done by some independent person of authority, who is supposed to be able to ascertain the truth.
"A further and convincing proof is then to call in a 'Pawang' skilled in dealing with wizards (in Malay countries they are usually men), and if he knows his business his power is such that he will place the sorcerer in one room, and, while he in another scrapes an iron vessel with a razor, the culprit's hair will fall off as though the razor had been applied to his head instead of the vessel! That is supposing that he is the culprit; if not, of course, he will pass through the ordeal without damage.
"I have been assured that the shaving process is so efficacious that, as the vessel represents the head of the person standing trial, wherever it is scraped the wizard's hair will fall off in a corresponding spot. It might be supposed that under these circumstances the accused is reasonably safe, but this test of guilt is not always employed. What more commonly happens is that when several cases of unexplained sickness have occurred in a village, with possibly one or two deaths, the people of the place lodge a formal complaint against the supposed author of these ills, and desire that he be punished. Before the advent of British influence it was the practice to kill the wizard or witch whose guilt had been established to Malay satisfaction, and such executions were carried out not many years ago."
The same authority tells us: "Langsuior, the female familiar, differs hardly at all from the bajang, except that she is a little more baneful, and when under the control of a man he sometimes becomes the victim of her attractions, and she will even bear him elfin children."
The original Langsuir, legend says, was a woman of the most superb beauty who died from the shock of hearing that her child was still-born, and had taken the shape of the Pontianak. When this terrible news was reported to her, she "clapped her hands," and without further warning "flew whinnying away to a tree, upon which she perched." She always wears a robe of exquisite green. Her tapering nails are of extraordinary length, which is considered among the Malays a mark of distinction and beauty, and which may be compared with the talons of the European vampire. She has long jet black tresses which flow down even as far as her ankles, but these serve to conceal the hole in the back of her neck through which she sucks the blood of children. Yet her vampirish qualities can be destroyed if the right means are adopted. In order to effect this she must be caught and her nails and flowing hair cut quite short, the tresses being stuffed into the hole in her neck, in which case she will become quiet and domesticated and be content to live a normal life for many years together.
Story relates that the Langsuir returned to civilization until she was allowed to dance at a village festival, when for some reason her savage nature re-asserted itself and with wild screams she flew off into the depths of the dark forest from whence she had come. To prevent a woman who dies in childbirth becoming a Langsuir, a quantity of glass beads are put into her mouth, a hen's egg is put under each arm-pit, and needles are placed in the palms of the hands. It is believed that if this is done the dead woman cannot become a Langsuir as she cannot open her mouth to shriek, or wave her arms as wings, or open and shut her hands to assist her flight.
The Penanggalan is a sort of monstrous vampire who delights in killing young children. One legend says that long ago, in order to perform a religious penance, a woman was seated in one of the large wooden vats used by the Malays for holding the vinegar which proceeds from draining off the sap of the thatch-palm. Quite unexpectedly a man came along and, finding her seated there, asked: "What are you doing here?" She replied shortly: "What business is that of yours?" But, being very much startled, she leaped up and in the excitement of the moment kicked her own chin with such force that the skin split all round her neck, and her head with the sac of the stomach hanging to it actually became separated from the body and flew off to perch upon the nearest tree. Ever since that time she has existed as a malign and dangerous spirit brooding over the house, screeching whenever a child is born, or trying to force her way up through the floor in order to drain its blood.
The following description by a Malay native which is almost entirely parallel to that of the most deadly European vampires is quoted by Dr. Skeat in his Malay Magic, London 1900: "Sir, listen to this account of the penanggalan. It was originally a woman. She used the magic arts of a devil in whom she believed, and she devoted herself to his service night and day until the period of her agreement with her teacher had expired and she was able to fly. Her head and neck were then loosened from her body, the intestines being attached to them and hanging down in strings. The body remained where it was. Wherever the person whom it wished to injure happened to live, thither flew the head and bowels to suck his blood, and the person whose blood was sucked was sure to die. If the blood and water which dripped from the intestines touched any person, serious illness followed and his body broke out in open sores.
"The penanggalan likes to suck the blood of women in childbirth. For this reason it is customary at all houses where a birth occurs to hang up thistle leaves at the doors and windows, or to place thorns wherever there is any blood, lest the penanggalan should come and suck it; for the penanggalan has, it seems, a dread of thorns in which her intestines may happen to get caught. It is said that a penanggalan once came to a man's house in the middle of the night to suck his blood, and her intestines were caught in some thorns near the hedge, and she had to remain there until daylight when the people saw and killed her.
"The person who has the power of becoming a penanggalan always keeps at her house a quantity of vinegar in a jar or vessel of some kind. The use of this is to soak the intestines in, for when they issue forth from the body they immediately swell up and cannot be put back, but after being soaked in vinegar they shrink to their former size and enter the body again. There are many people who have seen the penanggalan flying along with its entrails hanging down and shining at night like fire-flies."
It may be remembered that the Greeks thought that branches of buckthorn fastened to doors and windows kept out witches. At the time of woman's delivery also they smeared pitch upon the houses to keep out the demons who are wont to attack mothers at that period. The Serbians today paint crosses with tar on the doors of houses and barns to guard them from vampires. On Walpurgis Night the Bohemian peasant never neglects to strew the groundsel of his cow-sheds and stables with hawthorn, branches of gooseberry bushes and the briars of wild rose-trees, so that the witches or vampires will get entangled amid the thorns and can force their way no further.
In Polynesia we pretty generally find the tu, who under some aspects is a kind of vampire-demon. Dr. R. H. Codrington in The Melanesians: studies in their Anthropology and Folk Lore says: "There is a belief in the Banks Islands in the existence of a power like that of Vampires. A man or woman would obtain this power out of a morbid desire for communion with some ghost, and in order to gain it would steal and eat a morsel of their flesh. The ghost of the dead man would then join in a close friendship with the person who had eaten, and would gratify him by afflicting anyone against whom his ghostly power might be directed.
"The man so afflicted would feel that something was influencing his life, and would come to dread some particular person among his neighbours, who was therefore suspected of being a talamour. This latter when seized and tried in the smoke of strong-smelling leaves would call out the name of the dead man whose ghost was his familiar, often the names of more than one, and lastly the name of the man who was afflicted. The same name talamour was given to one whose soul was supposed to leave the grave and absorb the lingering vitality of a freshly dead person."
In his Ashanti Proverbs Mr. R. Sutherland Rattray speaks of the Asasabonsam: "a monster of human shape, which living far in the depths of the forest, is only occasionally met by hunters. It sits on tree tops, and its legs dangle down to the ground, and have hooks for feet which pick up anyone who comes within reach. It has iron teeth. There are male, female and little asasabonsam."
Mr. Rattray also describes the obayifo. This is "a kind of human vampire whose chief delight is to suck the blood of children, whereby the latter pine and die. Men and women possessed of this power are credited with volitant powers, being able to quit their bodies and travel great distances in the night. Besides sucking the blood of their victims, they are supposed to be able to extract the sap and juices of crops. Cases of coco blight are ascribed to the work of the obayifo. These witches are supposed to be very common, and a man never knows but that his friend or even his wife may be one. When prowling at night they are supposed to emit a phosphorescent light. An obayifo in everyday life is supposed to be known by having sharp, shifty eyes that are never at rest, also by showing an undue interest in food and always talking about it, especially meat, and hanging about when cooking is going on, all of which habits are therefore purposely avoided."
A striking similarity to the beliefs of the Malay Peninsula is to be traced among the horrible superstitions of ancient Mexico. The true Mexican vampires were the Ciuateteo, women who had died in their first labour. They were also known as the Ciuapipiltin, or princesses, in order to placate them by some honourable designation. Of these Sahagun says: "The Ciuapipiltin, the noble women, were those who had died in childbed. They were supposed to wander through the air, descending when they wished to the earth to afflict children with paralysis and other maladies. They haunted crossroads to practise their maleficent deeds, and they had temples built at these places where bread offerings were made to them, also the thunder stones which fall from the sky. Their faces were white, and their arms and hands were coloured with a white powder."
The representations of the Ciuateteo in ancient paintings are extremely hideous and repulsive. They often wear the dress and are distinguished by the characteristics of the goddess Tlazolteotl who was the goddess of all sorcery, lust and evil. The learned friar who interpreted the Codex Telleriano-Renensis certainly speaks of the Ciuateteo as witches who flew through the air upon broomsticks and met at crossroads, a rendezvous presided over by their mistress Tiazolteotl. It may be remarked that the broomstick is her especial symbol, and that she is often associated with the snake and the screech-owl. Under one aspect she is also regarded as a moon-goddess and may, indeed, be fairly closely parallelled with the Greek Hecate.
Those animals which were considered unlucky also often accompanied the Ciuateteo, upon whose garments crossbones were painted. They were essentially malignant and sought to wreak their vengeance upon all whom they might meet during the dark hours. In the native huts the doors were carefully barred and every crack or cranny carefully filled up to prevent them from obtaining entrance. Occasionally, however, they would attack human dwellings and if they obtained ingress, the children of the household would pine and dwindle away. Accordingly, in their shrines at crossroads men heaped up enticing and substantial food offerings, in order that these malignant dead might so satisfy their hunger and not seek to make an onset upon the living.
One explanation why the shrines should be at crossroads was in order that the Ciuateteo might be confused and, not knowing the way to the nearest human habitation, be surprised by dawn before she could set out to seize her prey. We find this exact reason given in Greece and other countries for burying the body of a suicide, who will almost certainly become a vampire, at four cross-roads.
It would, perhaps, be hardly too much to say that in ancient Mexico all magicians were regarded as vampires, a tradition which long survived even after the conversion of the country, so that one of the regular questions which the Spanish priests put to those of whose faith they were suspicious was: "Art thou a sorcerer? Dost thou suck the blood of others?" The Mexican sorcerer seems to have been credited with taking the shape of a wer-coyote, the prairie-wolf, as well as to have practised vampirism. So here too in Mexico we find a close connection between the wer-animal and the vampire. It appears that these sorcerers lived in separate huts built of wood very brightly painted, and that those who wished to bargain with them were wont to resort to these accursed houses under the cover of dark.
Of all the many dark superstitions that prevail in the West Indies none is more deeply rooted than the belief in the existence of vampires. In Grenada, particularly, the vampire is known as a "Loogaroo," a corruption of loupgarou, and the attributes generally assigned to the loogaroo, as well as the current stories told of these ghastly beings, show that the demonology of the French colonists of the seventeenth century was soon welded with Negro witchcraft and voodoo.
The West Indian natives hold that loogaroos are human beings, especially old women, who have made a pact with the devil, by which the fiend bestows upon them certain magic powers on condition that every night they provide him with a quantity of rich warm blood. So every night the loogaroos make their way to the occult silk-cotton tree, often known as the Devil's tree, and there, having divested themselves of their skins which are carefully folded up and concealed in the form of a ball of sulphurous fire, they speed abroad on their horrid business.
Even today visitors to Grenada have been called out of the house late at night by servants to see the loogaroos, and their attention is directed to any solitary light which happens to flash through the darkness. Until dawn the loogaroos are at work, and any native who feels tired and languid upon waking will swear that the vampire has sucked his blood. Doors and shutters are no barrier to the monster who can slip through the tiniest chink, but if only rice and sand are scattered before a cabin the loogaroo must perforce stay until he has numbered every grain, and so morning will assuredly surprise him ere the tale is told.
It is said that the human skin of a loogaroo has been found hidden in the bushes under a silk-cotton tree. In this case it must be seized fast and pounded in a mortar with pepper and salt. So the vampire will be unable to assume a human shape again and will perish miserably.
Now and again Negroes have been discovered bold enough to play the loogaroo to cover up their nightly depredations. Two confederates will plan the robbing of a cocoa piece, and whilst one fellow will climb the tree to strip off the pods, his friend will pass softly up and down in the vicinity waving a lantern fashioned from an empty calabash cut to imitate grotesque features, and lighted by a candle set in a socket. The tradition, however, has its more serious sides and obscene, if not bloody, rites are practised in secret places where the white man will hardly dare venture.
The loogaroo is particularly obnoxious to dogs, and any person at whom apparently without cause dogs will bark furiously, or even endeavour to attack, is accounted infected with the vampire taint. It is supposed that the loogaroo will frequently molest animals of all kinds, and indeed in Trinidad and especially on the Spanish Main the horses suffer greatly from the attacks of large vampire bats. It is necessary that all the windows and ventilation holes of the stables and cattle pens should be firmly secured by wire netting to prevent the entrance of the bats, which are greatly able to harm any animal in whose flesh they manage to fasten their teeth.
By a comparison of the beliefs in these many lands, in ancient Assyria, in old Mexico, in China, India and Melanesia, it will be seen that the superstition and tradition of the vampire prevail to an extraordinary extent, although details differ. It is hard to believe that a phenomenon which has had so complete a hold over nations both young and old, in all parts of the world and at all times of history, has not some underlying and terrible truth, however rare this may be in its more remarkable manifestations.
THE VAMPIRE IN LITERATURE
UP TO BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA
His Kith and Kin
"The Philosophy of Vampirism"
1880 - 1948