VAMPIRES, PART V: Buckets of Blood

Varneythevampire

PART I: In Which You Learn All Drunk People Are Secretly Undead Monsters

PART II: The Logic and Superstition of Vampire Watermelons. Yes, I Said ‘Watermelons.’

PART III: Corpse Desecration for Beginners

PART IV: Who’s in There, Anyway?

Now, one interesting thing you might have wondered about. In Part I of this series, I mentioned that in traditional lore vampires don’t have fangs. So you might be wondering how they drank blood.

The truth is that they often didn’t. When they did, though, it was often unexplained. When it was, it was gruesome. The Romanian strigoi bit into the chest just above the heart to drink blood, and then sometimes chewing his way down and eating the heart itself. In Croatia, they did something similar, but instead of eating your heart they just gnawed on your innards a little. The Russian/Polish/Ukranian vampire, the upir, ate flesh, but also drank blood.

An upir in a Russian folktale had one of my favorite methods. This upir carried a bucket around with him. He’d sneak into your house while you slept, yank you out of bed, force you to kneel with your head over the bucket, and then hit you so hard on the back that you coughed up blood, which would fall into the bucket. I’ve also seen another version of the story where he just stabbed you with a knife and caught the blood in his bucket as it flowed out. Either way, he’d do this until you died, and then drink the bucket dry.

Some vampires favored suffocation. In some regions they’d be confused with witches (again) or even succubi Perhaps you’ve heard of the “old hag” tradition? It’s a widespread belief that a demon or witch would enter your bedroom at night, sit on your chest, steadily growing heavier, until you couldn’t breathe. The same tradition has been applied to vampires. In fact, one other name for vampires in Romania, moroi, is related to “mora” which is the root of “mare” in “nightmare.” A mora was a hag or a succubi like demon that paralyzed you and suffocated you in this manner. In the same regions, the vampires might just shoke you to death. Sometimes the Bulgarian obour (another type of vampire) would hold your nose shut with one hand, clamp his mouth over yours, and suck out your breath for sustenance.

More often than not, the sign that a vampire was feeding was that people just died. It happened overnight, one by one, starting with the vampire’s immediate family (and any animals they owned), then spreading out to friends of the deceased, and then onto everybody else. In one account from Bohemia, the vampire just would go from house to house, knocking on the door, calling out the name of the person who he would kill. The next day, they’d be dead without explanation. In other cases they spread plague and disease, and somehow grew stronger from killing people with it. In a lot of ways, vampires were just personifications of disease. It simply stems from the fact that a vampire was blamed for mysterious deaths, especially many that happened in a row or within the same family, since no other explanation was available.

Keep in mind, that last category does not preclude the blood drinkers or the suffocaters. The whole point of vampires is that people don’t usually catch them in the act. That’s why they’re scary; they can kill with virtual impunity. Modern vampires often have a lot of superpowers, be it shapeshifting, super strength, what have you. With traditional vampires, the mystery and the supernatural quality comes primarily from how they kill. Everything else is secondary.

The great variety of how vampires consume the life of their victims is a boon for the writer. You could write a dozen different stories and never have your vampire kill a man in quite the same way in any of them. and the ways I’ve described here are just a jumping off point. You could have vampires that feed by stealing a person’s body heat, or who only eat human livers, or who magically siphon blood away by kissing a person on the skin without ever puncturing it… The possibilities are almost endless.

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