Grave Clothes to Black Leather: The Evolution of the Vampire (Part I)

The Vampire: immortal bloodsucker. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, a vampire is “the reanimated body of a dead person believed to come from the grave at night and suck the blood of persons asleep.”

Where was the vampire myth born? Stories about bloodsucking revenants were told in Ancient Greece and Egypt, but the word “vampire” originated in Europe during the Middle Ages. Romania (which contains Transylvania) was the main source of vampire myths in Europe.

The vampire of the Middle Ages was believed to be a person that had defied death and then drank the blood of the living for sustenance. Traditionally, they were peasants and not nobility. They wore grave clothes and were ruddy and bloated from blood consumption. These beings were believed to be the minions of the devil. That is why crosses and holy water were used as protection against vampires.

According to tradition, there were several different ways to neutralize a vampire. The popular method of driving a stake through a vampire was actually not originally meant to kill the vampire. Instead, the stake was intended to pin the bloodsucker and keep it from rising from the grave.

During the Middle Ages, the church had a large problem with grave desecrations because mobs would dig up “vampires” and mutilate them.

The book Dracula changed the vampire myth forever. Written by Bram Stoker, the 1897 novel brought the blood-thirsty revenant into popular culture. The Stoker vampire was a mix of tradition folklore and the author’s own ideas.

The lead vampire in the novel was Count Dracula, a Transylvanian nobleman. The elegant count did not wear dirty grave clothes, instead, he wore stylish black clothes that matched his social status. In contrast to folklore vampires, Dracula was thin and pale.

Since Dracula, vampires have been strongly linked to sexuality and romance. Many modern scholars claim that there are deep sexual undertones in Stoker’s novel. Regardless, vampires are now regarded as sexual beings.

For further reading on the evolution of the vampire myth, I recommend Vampires: a casebook and the link below.

I also posted a YouTube video about vampires. Here’s the link:

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  1. jonathan

     /  November 24, 2009

    Do you guys have any vampire questions that you would like me to answer?

  2. Anonymous

     /  November 30, 2009

    where did the garlic come in?

    • jonathan

       /  December 1, 2009

      One theory that I’ve heard links vampires to the blood-sucking misquitoes. In the past, garlic was used effectively as a misquitoes repellent. Take the thinking one step further and you’ve got a repellent for blood-sucking vampires.

    • Garlic is a natural blood-thinner and blood pressure regulator. It also expells pests and parasites, like pinworms, because the high germanium content in it kills them. If one were to think of a vampire as a parasite, it would be easy to see how garlic would effect them, both in the thinning of blood and the parasitic repellant garlic provides would be harmful to them. Vampire bats, for instance, will not drink the blood of a person who has eaten garlic recently.

  3. marty

     /  November 30, 2009

    oh, that was me above…I guess I didn’t need a name like FB. 🙂

    There also was a soap opera in the 70’s…”dark shadows” which had one or more vampires in it. My girl friend’s mom always watched it. As you can guess…it was never on at my house!

    Is there a way to make vampire smile faces?

    • jonathan

       /  December 1, 2009

      I don’t know if there is a way to make vampire smile faces. But if I knew how to make one, I would use it. 🙂


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