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Vampires and vampirism: pathological roots of a myth



Many cultures have developed myths and legends about vampires and hematofages with different features and behaviours. These tales have many common elements, as the dualism between "life" and "death". According to some anthropogical currents, these symbols don't come up from nothing, but follow a process of transformation drawing elements from real experience, which are intersected in the cultural tissue and are transformed depending on the message they are meant to spread.Vampires include several characteristics referable to those illnesses and diseases which have mostly marked human history, both from the psychological and the physical point of view.
The unknown is frightening. Diversity is
frightening. When these two fears gather
in front of real or imaginary phenomena
with no apparent explication, irrationa-
lity prevails over rationality. Vampires
and other hematofages are part of this
process. The features of vampires change
depending on the period and on the cul-
ture of reference, but they are always
oscillating between a diabolic and wic-
ked aura and one of fascination and cha-
risma. In any case, all these aspects
represent a synthesis of the attitude
towards the life/death dualism in a
human group culturally homogeneous.
Many cultures have developed myths
and legends about hematofages with dif-
ferent features and behaviours (Atwater
2000). These tales have many common
elements and in all of them the invisible
border between the two states of life and
death is part of a search for intelligibility
ever coveted by all human beings, even
though often with little success.
When death shows itself in anomalous
ways and situations, the fear for the unk-
nown joins the sense of disorientation and
it is exorcised by the creation of myth and
the related symbology. According to some
anthropogical currents, these symbols
don't come up from nothing, but follow a
process of transformation drawing ele-
ments from real experience, which are
intersected in the cultural tissue and are
transformed depending on the message
they are meant to spread.
The lack of knowledge about the decay
of corpses and the transmission of illness
have given way to the proliferation of
myths about these characters and in some
cases have breeded collective hysteria.
As a matter of fact, the haematofage
cathegory, of which the Vampire is only
one of the representatives, includes seve-
ral characteristics referable to those ill-
nesses and diseases which have mostly
marked human history, both from the
psychological and the physical point of
view. Plague, rabies (hydrophobia),
pellagra, catalepsy, anaemia, tuberculo-
sis, porphyria and schizophrenic syndro-
me are some of the possible rational
explanations put forward in the course of
time to understand such a widespread
folk phenomenon, where blood is the
junction between life and death, but also
where the relationship between eros and
thanatos shows itself.
If observed from a different perspective,
the evolution of this character can never-
theless represent the conscious and
unconscious desires of an age, or people-
's perception of their own time. The vam-
pire as an outcast, an ill person, as the
eccentric sum of shameful instincs has
also become a picture of the old tradi-
tions which, since the Enlightenment
Age, had to give way to the Modern Age,
when the countryside was drawing back
in front of the city, the peasant social
organization was yielding ground to the
bureaucracy of the National States, and
superstition was fading in the light of
In short, all hypothesis about vampirism
do not get to outline it entirely. They
seize only some more or less impressive
aspects of the myth, and this is a confir-
Vampires and vampirism: pathological roots of a myth
Antrocom 2009 - Vol 5- n. 2 133-137
mation both of its complexity and espe-
cially of the variety of cultural and envi-
ronmental elements of the whole picture,
and of its deepness in a diachronic sense.
On the other hand, the search for such
explanations does not escape the fascina-
tion of the very myth, which is inherent
in culture. The documentation, be it his-
torical, ethnological, bioarchaelogical, or
medical, put forward to support a hypo-
thesis, has to be considered as related to
the sociocultural environment which pro-
duced it, and decontextualized in a criti-
cal way. Keeping alive a dimension of
the myth, or trying to destroy it, is the
same as slowing down or accelerating its
changement, asserting a certain will of
independence which may cast its roots in
the old or offer new reasonings.
The figure of vampire between reality
and folklore
The description and behaviour of vam-
pire, as it is known in the western coun-
tries, comes out especially from the lite-
rary genre, born at the beginning of the
Nineteeth Century. "The Vampire" by
John Polidori and "Dracula" by Bram
Stoker are the finest examples, and later
on the cinema, one of the Twentieth
Century's inventions, has amplyfied the
popularity of that literature, windening
its horizons (Teti 1994, 89; Atwater
Nevertheless, folklore has always been
populated by hematophage characters, in
some ways better constructed and more
complex than the literary ones, linked to
myths and superstitions far more older,
Abstract. Many cultures have developed myths and legends about vampires and hematofages with different features and behaviours. These tales have many common
elements, as the dualism between "life" and "death". According to some anthropogical currents, these symbols don't come up from nothing, but follow a process of trans-
formation drawing elements from real experience, which are intersected in the cultural tissue and are transformed depending on the message they are meant to spread.
Vampires include several characteristics referable to those illnesses and diseases which have mostly marked human history, both from the psychological and the physi-
cal point of view.
Keywords: Vampire, Vampirism, pathology, myth, folklore
Riassunto. Molte culture hanno sviluppato miti e leggende che narrano di esseri ematofagi, con sembianze e comportamenti differenti tra loro. Vi sono elementi che
accomunano tutti questi racconti, come il dualismo tra "vita" e "morte". Secondo alcune correnti antropologiche, tali simboli non sono generati dal nulla, ma seguono
un percorso di trasformazione che attinge da esperienze reali, i cui elementi sono inglobati nel substrato culturale di una popolazione e trasformati in funzione del mes-
saggio che devono veicolare. I vampiri riassumono diverse caratteristiche associabili a quelle patologie e stati al limite del patologico che hanno maggiormente segna-
to la storia dell'umanità, sia dal punto di vista fisico che psicologico.
Parole chiave. Vampiro, vampirismo, patologia, mito, folclore
ancestral. These figures have been long
and wrongly considered less interesting
than the literary vampire, more "roman-
tic" and recurring in recent fashion, espe-
cially the fashion starting from the
Nineties of the XX century.
The iconic connotation of the "modern"
vampire is set against the complexity of
the "ancient" vampire, which is not pos-
sible to describe on the basis of a single
model for all the popular beliefs. In fact
there are pale and emaciated vampires,
but also plump and ruddy ones; there are
vampires which cannot suffer daylight
and other which go around during the
day, vampires which can turn into some
animals while others cannot.
Generally speaking the vampire is a
being who comes back from its grave,
and who lead a dissolute life, even vio-
lent, who committed suicide or was
buried with no religious rite. It's not by
chance that people are still debating
about its definition, and not all the scho-
lars agree on what a vampire is exactly
(Introvigne 1997). Among the ancient
civilizations in the Mediterranean area,
the hematophages were mostly associa-
ted with demonic and incorporeal figu-
res: if in the Mesopotamian cultures there
was the myth of Lilitu, later revived,
even though with different characteristics
by the Hebrew tradition, Greeks and
Romans described Empusa and Lamia,
semidivine beings with their own iden-
tity, which name was later associated
with a category of wicked spirits; and
also the Striges, winged beings which
were later associated with demonic figu-
res (Corradi Musi 1995, 9).
As far as it is true that at their origins
these ancient figures present those vam-
pire-like elements amplified in the fol-
klore in the following centuries, it still
has to be proved that their characteristics
have been transmitted to the Slav vampi-
re, which has mostly influenced the ori-
gin of the "modern" vampire. The classic
civlizations, sensitive to the Oriental
beliefs, but not as much as to modify
their own well-established ones, conside-
red the hematophages as incorporeal
beings linked to a pantheon of minor dei-
ties, as opposite to the "corporeal" vam-
pires of the Slav area (Corradi Musi
1995, 26). Neverthless, if we either deal
with the most ancient hematophage figu-
res, or the most recent, the central ele-
ment in the myths linked to them is the
vital energy taken from the victim, parti-
cularly its blood, ever considered a syno-
nim of death and life at the same time
(Teti 1994, 58-60). There is plenty of
ancient references. In the Deuteronomy
(XII, 23) we read that "blood is life"; the
dead have to drink blood to be able to
talk to Ulysses, in the Odissey; the
Etrurians devoted cruel fightings to the
dead, to transfer their own vital energy to
them (Corradi Musi 1995, 14).
Even a sort of "medical vampirism" was
making its way, unwinding from the flo-
kloric medicine: so the physicians in the
ancient Rome advised weak or sick peo-
ple, especially epileptics, to drink gladia-
tors's blood in order to gain strenght
(Sugg 2000); during the Renaissance,
Marsilio Ficino recommended blood
rather as an elixir of life than as a medi-
cament; a monk was famous for his
blood jams in the XVII century (Sugg
2008); and until some decades ago peo-
ple believed that drinking blood was an
effective remedy to fight anaemia.
The hereafter, or the reign of the superna-
tural, which makes part of a bivalent atti-
tude towards the dead's spirits, is the other
pillar on which the myth of vampires is
founded and we find it in most cultures.
The corpse is respected, but also feared,
and it is often thought that the spirit
remains close to the body for some time
and it is necessary to drive it away.
Freud in Totem and Taboo (quoted in Teti
1994, 55), remarked that the dead are
considered as enemies by their survivors.
The dead are envious of the living, try to
go back to their family to share their ple-
asures; the survivors feel someway
guilty, not being at the dead's place, and
they both cherish and fear them. Even
though this attitude is diluted in the piety
towards the dead, many of the rituals
related to mourning and burial reveal the
fear of the return of the dead. This is pro-
oved by some customs present since the
dawning of human history, such as the
double burials, which take place no soo-
ner than the decay of the body is comple-
ted. Therefore, moving the bones to a
final burial is the same as driving away,
symbolically, the danger represented by
the dead: better, it is the same as making
it a guardian spirit of the community.
Other methods included the custom of
burying the body prone, or of cutting the
tendons of its legs to prevent it to come
back (Brelich 1995, 23-24).
Recently in Trani (Bari, Italy) they disco-
vered two graves dating back to the XI-
VIII century b.C., containg four corpses,
probably inhumed with no particular
ritual ; this seems a further evidence of
these beliefs. In fact the four individuals
Antrocom 2009 - 5 (2)
were interred prone and crushed by a
stone slab. The lack of traces of recogni-
zable burial rituals and the slabs on the
bodies make us think of some outcasts
rejected by the community, which acted
in order to prevent them to go back
among the living. (Annibaldis 2002).
In short, the idea of the dead longing to
go back to life is a projection of the
living, which lays its own thougts on the
dead. Coming back to life, the dead does
not only represent a violation of the bor-
der between life and death, but brings
along other meanings, which gain subs-
tance in the several oppositions between
the typical figure of the vampire and that
of the victim. Usually the first one is
ruddy and stout, while the second one is
pale and emaciated, following a strongly
symbolic dichotomy typical in traditio-
nal societies, such as the dichotomies
between fat and lean, handsome and
ugly, strong and feeble. As a matter of
fact, the hard life conditions of peasants
in the past have remarkably influenced
the spreading of legends, myths and
supernatural dealing with vampires. The
lack of food and the exhaustion may also
have caused psychic decompensations
and nervous deseases. To support this
hypothesis it should be noted how most
cases of "vampiric contagion" and its
consequent repression often broke out at
the same time as virulent epidemics, or
strong social distress involving the whole
community (Teti 1994, 67-69). Anyway,
it is certain that the link between possi-
ble pathological causes , rising of myth
and life conditions should be considered
very carefully, without overlooking the
sociocultural and historical indicators of
the given period, which greatly influence
the value of the vampire. For instance,
even a greedy trader can be defined as a
"vampire" by the critics of the capitalist
system (Teti 1994, 66).
The vampire epidemics
One of the best known vampire epidemic
dates back to the XVIII century (Teti
1994, 29; Gomez-Alonso 1998): as a
matter of fact, the period which akno-
wledged the rising of the Age of
Enlightenment also marks the shift from
witch-hunt to vampire-hunt, starting a
scientific debate taken up in that time's
chronicles and salons. That epidemic was
not only the ground on which flourished
the vampire literature of the following
century, but it also outlined the typical
characteristics of western vampire all
over Europe.
During the epidemic mass fear and hyste-
ria lead to the violation of several graves
and to the profanation of the buried
bodies. Among the methods to get rid of
the vampire menace, the beheading and
the cremation were mostly used, along
with the extirpation of the heart, as long
as there was evidence of fluid blood in it
or elsewhere in the body, undeniable
proof of life beyond death. The authori-
ties tried to relent the spreading hysteria
commanding scientifical research works
about what was happening. It was one of
those times when superstition was giving
way to the explanations of science,
which won't stop crowding on the pheno-
menon in the following centuries.
On the other hand, even today the vampi-
re keeps on arousing spell and fear, but
also inspiring it, and it's not difficult to
understand the reasons for epidemics,
slaughters and repressions of the past if
considered in the light of even recent
events. Between 2002 and 2003 the
African state of Malawi was shattered by
violent episodes generated by the belief
that vampires were going around amidst
the population assaulting people of any
age. The rumour had political repercus-
sions, as the Government was accused to
be colluding with the humanitarian agen-
cies to get food aids in exchange for
blood (Tenthani 2002). In 2004, in
Romania, the family of Petre Toma disin-
terred his body, fearing he was a vampi-
re. Once they extirped his heart, the
family cremated the corpse and drank its
ashes mixed with water, following a local
apotropaic ancient rite especially aimed
against vampires (Taylor 2007).
While vampirism keeps on feeding irra-
tionalism, of course the rational explana-
tions reject beforehand the possibility
that vampirism has got supernatural cau-
ses. On the contrary they search for any
possible physical interpretations of phe-
nomenons which have got an obscure
origin only at first sight. In this sense, the
primary explanation of vampire beliefs
resides in the poor knowledge about the
corpse decay (Barber 1994). The decay
varies with the composition of the soil,
the climate, the temperature and the kind
of burial, so it's not that uncommon to
find corpses still in a good state, even
after a long time (Canci & Minozzi 2005,
66-50). In particular, the absence of oxy-
gen prevents the dissolution of tissues,
while humidity, in certain conditions,
changes the lipides by saponification,
making them similar to wax and giving
them a "still living"look. The making
and shifting of gas due to the putrefaction
would be the explanation for the noises
and the wheezings heard by the witnesses
in the graves of the presumed vampires,
and also of the flourishing and plump
aspect reported in the description of cer-
tain exhumations. Ironically, the putre-
faction would also explain the presence
of "live" blood observed on the mouth of
the presumed vampire, since the body
fluids tend to get out of the cavities.
More, the breaking of tissues, caused by
tuberculosis and lung plague, would
make it easy for the blood to emerge
towards mouth and nose, while because
of skin dehydration nails and hair look
like they were still growing (Teti 1994,
Moreover, the non-dead tends to move.
Sometimes the reports of exhumation for
vampire contagion mention strange
positions of the body in the coffin, as an
unquestionable sign of movement: there-
fore of vampirism. Actually, corpses tend
to shift their position because of cadave-
ric spasmuses, if the rigor mortis is still
taking place (Canci & Minozzi 2005, 66-
50). But the shift of corpses can also be
caused by the activity of animals, or by
attempts to steal any objects considered
as belonging to the dead and interred
with it. Similarly, during epidemics and
plagues the dead were interred immedia-
tely, and this prevented from properly
ascertaining their clinical picture. In this
context, it may even happen to bury a
living in a cataleptic state, even though
as long as catalepsy may last, from some
minutes to several hours, it is difficult to
think that one can survive in a grave
without oxygen nor food until its "awa-
kening". Besides, when plagues occu-
rred, it was likely to happen that if a
family member was infected, it would
have been soon joined by its kindred. So,
in "vampire" cases, which especially
occurred in such periods as those ones,
once they re-opened the graves they
found the body in unnatural positions, or,
as legends used to tell, it happened that
the non-dead were ruthless especially
about their own family.
The pathologies of vampirism
From this point of view, anaemia, as a
condition due to very low hemoglobin or
hematocrit levels, can be considered as
one of the other factors involved in the
origin of the vampire myth, even though
this does not complete the whole picture
of the genesis of the myth, as it is for the
other explanations suggested. In a situa-
tion of heavy food shortage, anaemia is a
common and weakening condition. On
the other hand, we have to note that in
most cases the clinical picture connected
with the symptoms of this disease does
not explain the characteristics of vampi-
res as much as those of their victims.
Moreover, this interpretation of the phe-
nomenon is rather referred to "literary"
vampirism. The same can be said about
tubercolosis, which on one hand leads to
a wasted aspect typical of victims, on the
other hand can make people suppose that
the sick person is a vampire on his way to
be exhumed, as mentioned above. Also in
this situation, it was very likely to have
more cases of tubercolosis in the same
family, and this fostered the suspicion
that the dead kept on acting cruelly
against their kindreds (Bell 2006).
In these situations it was necessary to
officiate an apotropaic rite to appease the
past. Speaking of which, the scientific
literature reports the bioarchaeological
analysis of a grave dating from the XIX
century, found in nowaday's Connecticut
(Sledzik & Bellantoni, 1994). Back then,
the Walton Cemetery was used by fami-
lies distributed in a rural environment.
The bone finds mostly show evidence of
hard labour involving both men and
women. The remains of an adult male
aged 50-55 show out among the others;
his grave has been rearranged and his
bones show clear signs of lung tubercolo-
sis. Moreover, his thigh-bones had been
crossed on one another and the skull put
in the middle. On the basis of paleopa-
thological, archaeological and historical
evidence, the research workers suppose
that his kindreds, thinking that he was a
vampire or anyway a non-dead, had per-
formed an apotropaic rite similar to the
rite performed by Petre Toma's family.
One of the most widespread explanations
about vampirism - and a mistaken one -
aknowledges in vampires the origin of
the myth of people affected by some
form of porphyria (Teti 1994, 36).
Porphiryas are a group of rare metabolic
diseases, subdivided into acute and non-
acute, mostly hereditary, due to the par-
tial or total lack of one of the several
enzymes in charge of the synthesis of
heme, one of the elements making the
red blood cells (Guyton 1995; Casella &
Taglietti 1996). In some of these forms
the symptoms follow closely some of the
characteristics ascribed to vampires, such
as strong sensibility to light and ulcera-
tion of skin if exposed to sunbeams.
What's more, garlic contains substances
Antrocom 2009 - 5 (2)Vampires and vampirism: pathological roots of a myth
which accelerate the photolytic reaction,
while the teeth take an odd fanglike
shape (Malik 2003). Even though there
aren't any reports about this subject, it's
not unlikely that the disease was more
widespread in the past, especially in
remote villages where crossbreeds may
have preserved the genes of this patho-
logy. It has to be noted that, due to the
existence of several forms of the disease,
its symptoms were rather various and
sometimes even confused. Nevertheless,
the hypothesis of a connection between
porphyria and vampirism, put forward
since at least the 1960s, has had a strong
relaunching, especially in the Eighties,
although nowadays it has been discredi-
ted. It is based on a mixture of naturalism
and influences of the literary and film
figure of the vampire, and not on folk tra-
ditions, even though it is possible that
some occasional characteristics of this
pathology group have converged into the
It is more likely to assert that the origin
of the myth is a disease which the ancient
rural population knew well from the
point of view of its symptomatology, but
not from an etiological perspective. The
metabolic pathologies due to food shor-
tage have pursued the human species and
are well known. Among these, pellagra
presents several symptoms compatible
with the figure of vampire. Described
and aknowledged only in 1735 (which is
to say in the period of the vampire epide-
mic), it is caused by the lack of niacine
vitamin (or of its precursor, the trypto-
phan). Among its symptoms they report
a severe dermatitis, which becomes more
acute in sunlight, but also dementia,
insomnia and dysphagia, the latter cau-
sed by the rupture of tissues in the diges-
tive system, which in its turn causes
anaemia and blood regurgitation. Blood
staunching in the tongue and lips gives
innatural turgor and a vermilion colour
and due to the edema the toothmarks
often remain on the tongue surface,
giving the impression that the subject has
got teeth out of proportion. These are
such syptoms which might be connected
to the figure of vampire, even though
they are still subject to the literary mea-
ning, and they explain how come that
these figures do show themselves at the
same time as periods of epidemic and
death. Probably those who died from
pellagra used to share their diet with the
other members of the same group, espe-
cially of the same family (Hampl &
Hampl 1997).
Antrocom 2009 - 5 (2) 136MORENO TIZIANI
Insomnia and hypersensibility towards
garlic are also the syptoms of another
disease fairly widespread: rabies. From a
folk point of view, a connection with this
disease may explain the reasons why in
certain traditions the vampire interacts
with dogs and wolves both positively and
negatively, and in different forms and
conditions: these animals may help the
vampire, which can also turn into them,
but he may also be their fiercest enemy.
Usually the virus of rabies is passed by
the bite of an infect animal. The incuba-
tion may last several days with non spe-
cific symptoms, such as temperature,
anxiety, lack of appetite and weariness
(Gomez-Alonso 1998). When the disease
becomes clear, in some cases there may
be paralysis, while most times an ence-
phalitis breaks out. Due to this occurren-
ce, the sick person undergoes behaviour
disorder, sexual hyperactivity, state of
dread, hypersensibility to stimulus, ten-
dency to bite and hydrophobia. In some
cases the symptoms look like the charac-
teristics of vampires: the spasms cause
the contraction of the lips and the teeth
become more evident, there may be an
emission of blood from the mouth and
anxiety turns into fear of water and light.
Seeing oneself in a mirror can cause
dread in a patient. As a matter of fact, one
of the methods to understand if the
patient was affected by rabies consisted
in watching his reaction in front of his
reflected image.
In past centuries several rabies epidemic
have been reported among wild animals
which have probably infected domestic
ones. Domestic animals are very likely to
have transmitted the disease to man,
while they even report some cases of
transmission from man to man by means
of biting (Gomez-Alonso, 1998).
Clinical vampirism
Clinical vampirism is also known as the
Renfield syndrome, from the name of
Count Dracula's assistant in Bram
Stoker's novel. By this name they espe-
cially mean those cases of pathological
criminality which seem to draw straight
on the vampire myth. Based on tho-
roughly schizoprhrenic attitudes, the
syndrome shows itself by deviant and
obsessive behaviours. This pathology
itself is quite rare and it rather consists of
behaviours belonging to pathologies
associable to cannibalism, even though
the press seems to prefer the "vampire"
The most remarkable historical example
of this pathology is represented by the
case of Elizabeth Bathory (Corradi Musi
1995, 194-195), the noblewoman from
Transilvania who, between the XVI and
the XVII century, obsessed by a morbid
cult for eternal beauty, devoted herself to
the sacrifice of victims - especially
young women - in whose blood she used
to bathe. We can't exclude, even though it
is not prooved, that she didn't only use
the women's blood as a beauty balm, but
she also used to drink it.
Another famous vampire, one of the XIX
century's most famous ones, was
Vincenzo Verzeni, guilty of strangling
two women in order to suck their blood
(Teti 1994, 107).
All along the XX century, there is plenty
of such reports, which lead to the subdi-
vision into four categories of clinical
vampirism (Havely, Levi & Shnaker
1989). The first kind is the complete
vampirism, when blood ingestion,
sadism and necrophiliac activity are
reported; The second one is the kind of
vampirism without blood ingestion, but
distinguished by sexual or erotic activity
performed onto the corpses. The third
one is a kind of vampirism not connected
with necrophilia and can be defined as
autovampirism; it is subdivided into
voluntary autovampirism when there are
self-driven bleeding and ingestion of
one's own blood, and auto-hemofetis-
hism. The sexual characterization of this
practice is evident, and in it we can cle-
arly see the link between eros and thana-
tos which runs through the forming of the
vampire myth, although it is exaggerated
and diverted by the literary version
which focuses on certain characteristics.
Therefore is is quite clear that the charac-
teristics attached to vampires and other
hematophage beings are so various that is
fairly impossible to get to a so called
archetype, a protopype of these figures.
The possible pathological causes connec-
ted to them do not entirely explain the
success of the myth in folklore, but only
some more or less impressive aspects
following the particular historical and
social conditions. So the choice of exa-
mining the possible physical causes at
the origin of the success of the myth,
however desirable, cannot occur without
considering the wider anthropological
and cultural aspects which come along
with their forming and development.
Anyway a research is still needed, about
the historical conditions which all along
the XX century have permitted the evo-
lution of the hematophage figure, from
the most ancient incarnation of the super-
natural negative to a highly romantic
figure recalling in itself the subversive
drama. The extirpation of its superstitious
component seems to have ended in its
spontaneous return, otherwise disguised,
so to reaffirm that man is not able to inter-
pret reality without it. In fact, reality can
be described in scientific terms, but in this
way it really doesn't seem to suit him.
Annibaldis Giacomo 3 marzo 2002. 'Vampiri' a
Trani - Metti un masso sul morto iapigio.
Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno.
Atwater Cheryl 2000. Living in Death: The
Evolution of Modern Vampirism. Anthropology
of Consciousness 11:1-2, 70-77, American
Anthropological Association (published for: The
Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness),
Arlington, VA, USA.
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Antrocom 2009 - 5 (2)Vampires and vampirism: pathological roots of a myth
Moreno Tiziani both works as a web manager and a physical anthropologist for Antrocom Onlus, Association for the Anthropological Research and Divulgation, which
he is president and foundation member of.
In his activity as a web cunsultant he joins a propensity towards the application of new technologies to the anthropological interpretation of the interfaces and the social
dynamics in firms. As an anthropologist he has taken part in the X Architecture Biennial Exhibition 2006 of Venice, has written for the Journal of Anthropological
Sciences and for Antrocom, Online Journal of Anthropology.
... Manananggal is the spirit of a beautiful old woman who is able to cut her upper body to fly at night with large bat wings to prey on victims of pregnant women in their homes. Meanwhile, McClelland in [7]states that in the popular culture of Western Europe and North America today, palasik is known as vampire and dracula. Almond [8], Harney [9] describes four of the most common types of vampires. ...
Full-text available
We all have heard about vampires. Many cultures have developed myths and legends about vampires with different features. These tales have several common elements, as the dualism between life and death. Vampirism is one of the most enduring, universal, popular myths of all times, being one of the most archaic images that society has feared. Popular tales, folk legends and mythological stories about beings that prey upon others to drink their blood have been told for centuries across myriad peoples all over the world. Over the past few centuries, modern vampire myths emerging out of Europe have outlined the bloodsucking monsters as those who have risen from the dead to feed on human blood by night, sleeping in coffins by day to avoid the effects of the sun. Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula provided us with the now iconic archetype. Vampires are deeply associated to blood, the vital fluid whose consumption has been a curse both for such a being and for the peoples. According to social, anthropological conceptions, these symbols do not come from nothing, but follow a process of transformation, emerging from real experience, intertwined with the cultural tradition. We intend to show and analyze the reason for such a linking.
Full-text available
Blood transfusion in Bram Stoker's Dracula serves as a vital component to life for characters who have been bitten by vampires. But blood transfusion can mean much more when comparing it to the narrative's structure. While characters contribute to the narrative, parallels between blood transfusion and narrative assembly emerge, which thus grants characters within the novel immortality as their writing lives on while they slowly die from the vampire disease. Although transitioning into a vampire can also grant these characters immortality, vampires and other supernatural creatures during the Victorian Era were frowned upon by nineteenth century values and religious beliefs. Therefore, seeking immortality through narration allows these characters to abide to Victorian values while also living eternally.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, New England was in the grip of a terrible tuberculosis epidemic. During the 19th century, this disease was the leading cause of death in the Eastern United States, accounting for nearly 25 percent of all deaths. Despite an abundance of cures offered by an eclectic mix of practitioners, a diagnosis of consumption-as pulmonary tuberculosis was then called-was the equivalent of a death sentence. Not willing to simply watch as, one after another, their family members died, some New Englanders resorted to an old folk remedy whose roots surely must rest in Europe. Called vampirism by outsiders (a term that may never have been used by those within the communities themselves) this remedy required exhuming the bodies of deceased relatives and checking them for “unnatural” signs, such as “fresh” blood in the heart. The implicit belief was that one of the relatives was not completely dead and was maintaining some semblance of a life by draining the vital force from living relatives.
Folk beliefs associated with death and disease can impact on the bioarcheological record. Unusual postmortem actions by humans and distinctive paleopathological evidence may be clues to these beliefs. This report presents bioarcheological and paleopathological evidence in support of a 19th century New England folk belief in vampires with a particular reference to a colonial period burial. The New England folk belief in vampires revolves around the ability of a deceased tuberculosis victim to return from the dead as a vampire and cause the “wasting away” of the surviving relatives. To stop the actions of the vampire, the body of the consumptive was exhumed and disrupted in various ways. Twelve historic accounts of this activity indicate that the belief was not uncommon in 19th century New England. This creative interpretation of contagion is consistent with the etiology of tuberculosis. Three pieces of evidence are important in this case. The skeleton of a 50- to 55-year-old male from a mid-19th century Connecticut cemetery exhibiting pulmonary tuberculosis rib lesions are discussed. In addition, certain bones in the skeleton were rearranged after decomposition was complete. A historic vampire account from the same time period and geographical location place the belief within the parameters of the cemetery.
In the 18th century, belief in vampires--allegedly dead persons who left their graves and killed people and animals--raised great concern in the Balkans and an extensive debate in Europe. This historic phenomenon still awaits a comprehensive explanation. This article proposes that rabies may have played a key role in the development of the vampire legend, given the coincident time of the phenomena and the striking similarities between them.
Living in Death: The Evolution of Modern Vampirism for: The Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness)
  • Atwater Cheryl
Atwater Cheryl 2000. Living in Death: The Evolution of Modern Vampirism. Anthropology of Consciousness 11:1-2, 70-77, American Anthropological Association (published for: The Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness), Arlington, VA, USA.
Vampiri: sepoltura e morte
  • Barber Paul
Barber Paul 1994. Vampiri: sepoltura e morte. Pratiche, Parma.
Vampiri europei e vampiri dell'area sciamanica
  • Corradi Musi
Corradi Musi Carla 1995. Vampiri europei e vampiri dell'area sciamanica. Rubbettino, Catanzaro.