Right now, there is probably no bigger topic in the world of teenage entertainment than vampires. Furthering that, we are approaching Halloween, a time when vampires typically garner more interest anyway. And yet, much of what the modern world knows about vampires, comes from the mind of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. Is there more to the history of the story, though, than the classic count, draining the blood of unsuspecting people in Transylvania and London?
The story actually begins during the ancient Sumerian culture. The world’s very first culture had stories about a “vampire” like creature. There are actually several different pseudo-vampires in Sumerian myth. The most famous may be the Akhkharu, female demonic creatures that haunted pregnant women and babies. Many Sumerian demons, mentioned in cuneiform tablets, have vampire characteristics though. Some were believed to be the remains of recently deceased individuals. Others were described as sucking blood from the veins of the victims.
The Aztecs, Indians, and Egyptians both worshipped blood sucking and/or drinking gods and goddesses. For example, Sekhmet, an Egyptian goddess connected with Hathor, drank the blood of victims, when she attempted to wipe out all life on Earth. Similarly, Kali, the Indian goddess of destruction, was often featured holding a goblet of blood, much like the modern vampire craze. And as a recent episode of Vampire Diaries implied, the Aztecs had several vampire like beings, famous for dying when exposed to sunlight.
Still, the most famous vampires are found in Eastern European legend. The Romanians believed a person would become a vampire if they were born too early or under a bad sign. When a person died, they often placed the branch of a rose bush in the coffin to prevent the person from becoming a vampire. They would also dig up the bodies of the dead to make sure they were still in their caskets, if they had a reason to believe a vampire might be roaming the countryside. If the local wildlife began dying mysteriously, they would often place garlic in the meals at church, and see who refused to eat it.
And then, Bram Stoker wrote his classic book. In his attempt to create the perfect horror book, he researched folklore. He combined the noted dictator, Vlad the Impaler and combined some of the stories told about him, with the English monarch Mary, popularly known as “Bloody Mary.” He wrote his book, which became an almost instantaneous success, and the world would never sleep as peacefully again. Happy Halloween!