The Slavic Vampire

The Slavic vampire was not always the symbol of evil that it came to be in the nineteenth century European literature.

The Slavic vampire was originally the product of an irregularity within community life, such as problems with burial practices, death, or birth. People who had a violent death, people who committed suicide, or people who died of an accident became vampires.

Most Slavic cultures had a set of ritual activities that were to be followed after a death for for days following the death. Deviation of that ritual could result in the deceased becoming a vampire.

People who were excommunicated or deviated from the church would cause vampirism.

Problems at birth could also cause vampirism. In the Slavic culture, certain days of the year frowned upon intercourse, and children conceived on these days would become a vampire. Bulgarians believed that children who died before baptism would become an ustrel, which is a vampire who would attack and drink the blood of livestock. The Kashubs believed that children born with teeth or a caul would become a vampire after death.

The Slavic society offered many causes of vampires, and the belief the community members could become a vampire after being attacked or brought on by waves brought about vampire hysteria.

If a person is suspected to become a vampire, the community could take pre-burial actions to prevent the vampire from awakening. Religious objects were placed in the coffin. Plants such as the mountain ash would be left in the grave. Seeds were spilled in the grave, on top of the grave, and on the road from the graveyard. In extreme cases, the body was pierced with thorns or a stake. A wooden block may be placed under the chin to prevent the vampire from eating its burial clothes, or the clothes may be nailed on the outside of the coffin.

If a dead person was thought to be a vampire, the body would be dug up and examined for signs of a vampire. If the dead was a vampire, the body would appear lifelike, the joints would be pliable, blood would ooze from the mouth or other body openings, hair and fingernail growth would be seen, and the body may appear bloated (being filled with blood).

In order to destroy a vampire, the body would be staked with wood or metal. The object would be driven into the head, heart, or stomach of the body. In severe cases, the body would be decapitated. A priest, would also, repeat the ritual activities of the funeral service, sprinkling holy water on the body, or performing an exoricism.

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