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Vampire Folklore

Besides physically destroying or mutilating a vampire corpse, other remedies exist to assist with the process.  These remedies include the exploitation of holy relics and devices.  The most commonly used of these is the cross.  The cross is one of the oldest amulets against evil, and contrary to what most people understand, the cross predates Christianity by many centuries.  For example, the cross has been used to associate sun deities, to symbolize the heavens, and to represent divine protection (Guiley 88).  When employed by the Christian faith, the cross represents Jesus as he was executed on the original Good Friday.  One will notice how Roman Catholics regularly use a cross with the corpus while Protestant and Free churches do not (Melton 138).  Regardless of faith or path, however, the cross has been employed to exorcize demons, ward off incubi or succubi, to prevent curses and bewitchments of all shapes and sizes, and to force any vampire to flee (Guiley 89).  The cross is also readily accessible because it can be quickly improvised from any source, including one’s own fingers.  More specific uses for crosses in vampire prevention or hunting include painting a cross of tar or resin on the lid of a coffin or door to prevent the undead from passing (Gregory 122).  Crosses can be buried with a corpse to make sure a vampire does not arise from it, and these relics can be used to inflict physical pain upon a vampire if placed upon a vampire’s skin (123).  On the other hand, in some folklore, stronger vampires are immune to such relics altogether (Guiley 89).  In any case, some form of the cross is usually carried by those who supposedly want to vanquish vampires (Gregory 123).

In addition to the cross as a holy weapon, water may be used to combat a vampire as well.  Water has always been an element that defeats any force of evil, and many evil beings cannot cross running water because it is a symbol of life (Guiley 315).  Its usage in regards to battling evil dates back to the fourth century (Gregory 126).  In Russia, any corpse that was suspected to be a vampire was immediately thrown in a river much in the same way witches were tried for their evil deeds.  In Germany, suicide victims, which could be the next potential vampire problem, were also tossed into running water.  Furthermore, water was poured on the road between one’s resting place and the place one had called home to prevent any return in that manner (Melton 673).  Holy water, such as water taken from a church or that had been blessed by a priest, carried with it an inherent sacred quality because it was consecrated for religious use.  Since holy water was implemented in all Christian funeral services, it was no surprise when the bodies of suspected vampires were exhumed and doused with the blessed liquid (674).  Hence, any good slayer would carry a cross and holy water.

Another way to hinder a vampire is to carry around a bulb from the lily family called garlic (Melton 249).  This herb has been utilized since ancient times, and ancient Egyptian papyri present at least twenty-two garlic remedies for a wide variety of ailments.  Roman legions were supposedly more empowered after eating a dinner of garlic cloves (Gregory 118).  Because of its healing qualities then, garlic was a protection agent against plague and evil. Another theory in garlic’s application in vampire folklore can be found in its potent odor.  The theory is such a potent herb can repel anything with a similar foul odor (119).  Nevertheless, when garlic was integrated into the vampire hunter toolkit, it came with a variety of strategies.  In Slavic countries and Romania, garlic aided in the detection and prevention of attacks.  In those specific areas, those who refused to eat garlic were immediately suspected of vampirism (Melton 249).  Garlic could also be worn around the neck or hung in any house entryway, and it was often stuffed in the mouths of corpses for precautionary measures.  Doors, windows, chimneys, livestock, and even children were rubbed in the herb for safety’s sake (Guiley 133).  Thus, the weapon of garlic had a variety of operations.

Some believe the best time to solve a vampire problem is during the day.  A belief exists in which sunlight can harm or destroy a vampire.  European lore dictates that vampires are creatures of the night and will only cause mischief at that time.  Other reports claim the exact opposite.  Other reports argue the point in which vampires can be present during the daylight hours, but their powers are diminished.  To go straight to the heart of the matter, there is no real record or precedent of any vampiric folklore stating how or why sunlight affects these undead beings.  This sort of folklore is more recent and exploited by the entertainment industry (Guiley 272).  Sunlight, then, should not be readily relied upon as a destructive tool in regards to any supposed vampire incident.

Many cases of vampiric folklore explain the numerous ways in which any vampire should be handled.  These include forms of destroying or hindering the body, and several methods can be used to do just that.  While some would prefer to stake, mutilate, or burn the supposed vampire, others would use a combination of holy relics and garlic.  One should be cautioned not to rely on the dawn for any major assistance since folklore does not set any specifications in regards to sunlight.  Regardless of the manner in which a vampire is slain, each method has its roots in ancient history or in supernatural belief.


Works Cited

Gregory, Constantine.  The Vampire Watcher’s Handbook:  A Guide For Slayers.  New York:  St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen.  The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters.  New York:  Checkmark Books, 2005.

Melton, J. Gordon.  The Vampire Book.  Detroit:  Visible Ink Press, 1994.