Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire

Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Lord Byron, vampire, vampires, The Giaour, Fragment of a Novel, A Fragment, Byronic Hero, goth, goths, gothic, John Polidori, The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven

“The Giaour”

lines 757–768:

But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.

Lord Byron, 1812 (published in 1813)

Happy World Goth Day! To celebrate, I’m exploring the life and work of George Gordon Byron, better known as Lord Byron: poet, adventurer, freedom fighter, the original celebrity, cursed soul, granddaddy of goths, and the first modern vampire (probably not literally).

If you weren’t aware, vampires weren’t always the charismatic, sexy, human-seeming creatures we know them as these days. The vampires of times past were generally monstrous, charmless, and often more like zombies than what we now consider vampires to be (take a look at my post A Further 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of). That all changed with Lord Byron.

When Byron was born in 1788, he had a caul over his face. There are many superstitions about cauls. Some believe being born with one is lucky and the child is destined for greatness, some believe the child will have second sight. In Romania the belief is that those born with a caul become vampires after death.

Byron’s childhood was fairly traumatic by any standards. His father was rarely around (and when he was, his presence didn’t improve anything), his mother was an alcoholic, and his governess abused him. At age 10, he inherited the title Baron Byron of Rochdale, along with the family’s ancestral home, Newstead Abbey, which incorporated the ruins of a Gothic monastery. At some point he found a human skull in the building and took to drinking from it in front of friends, who he’d then dare to do the same.

Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Lord Byron, vampire, vampires, The Giaour, Fragment of a Novel, A Fragment, Byronic Hero, goth, goths, gothic, John Polidori, The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven
Portrait of Lord Byron by Théodore Géricault, 1811

As his popularity grew, Byron cultivated a “cult of personality” based on his invented romantic and heroic image. He had portraits painted of himself as different characters: Le Corsair, Scottish sailor, Egyptian bandit. He adapted his personality, his clothing, and even the way he spoke, to suit the occasion or who he was with. He presented himself as a tragic outsider with a mysterious past, a character out of his own books, and made sure never to let the persona slip.

Byron was one of the first to write about vampires in English. In his poem”The Giaour” (quoted above) he tells of a man cursed to become a vampire and destroy his own family. In notes with the poem, Byron comments on the belief in the Levant, Greece, and Hungary of the Vroucolachas (or Vardoulacha). After its publication, some expressed fear about Byron’s hypnotic, or vampiric, ability to control his admirers with his poetry.

This image Byron created of himself as the archetypal “Byronic Hero” would influence future literary characters such as Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), Count Dracula, Batman, and Severus Snape, to name a few, as well as real-life celebrities and rock stars like Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain.

In his unfinished work “Fragment of a Novel” (also known as “A Fragment” or “The Burial: A Fragment) from 1819, Byron’s character, Augustus Darvell, brings vampires into the modern age. Darvell is wealthy, attractive, and blends easily into human society. Although Byron never completed the story, according to a letter by his doctor and ‘frenemy,’ John Polidori, Byron was planning on having Darvell’s friend bury him according to strange and ritualistic instructions, only to come back later and find Darvell alive and wreaking havoc (including seducing and killing the man’s sister).

Speaking of Polidori, Byron didn’t just write about vampires. he was portrayed as one in the works of others. Polidori’s story “The Vampyre” was strongly influenced by Byron’s ideas for the continuation of “Fragment of a Novel” (Byron was also wrongly given credit for “The Vampyre,” and Polidori struggled to correct the mistake). Besides Byron’s influences, the main character “Lord Ruthven” was an unflattering and exaggerated portrait of Byron. Ruthven is a sexual predator who is calculating and cruel. He revels in sin and degradation. Although he looks sickly and cadaver-like, he’s also compelling and hypnotic. In the end Ruthven gets away with everything, while those around him suffer.

Lady Caroline Lamb, a married woman Byron had an affair with and then ignored, got back at him through her novel, Glenarvon. Again, a barely disguised Byron is portrayed as a vampiric (and somewhat ridiculous) character, howling at the moon and dressing as a monk. He seduces and ruins every woman he meets and betrays everyone close to him. Unlike Ruthven, he gets his comeuppance when he’s confronted by the ghosts of all the women he’s destroyed, and then throws himself into the sea out of remorse. Lady Caroline is credited with describing Byron as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”.

Byron and Polidori transformed vampires from the grotesque undead to attractive and charming almost-humans. Bram Stoker was likely influenced by Byron when he wrote Dracula, and ever since, vampires in both print and onscreen are overwhelmingly “Byronic”: tragic, mysterious, dark, brooding, and embodying (or inducing) lust. Literary critic Tom Holland wrote in his 1999 essay “Undead Byron” that “vampires remain recognizably Lord Byron’s descendants.” He also comments, “…the modern genre of vampire fiction may be seen as perhaps the most vital and enduring of all the varied expressions of Byronism.” As violent and bloodthirsty as the modern vampire can be, fans are under their spell, as much as Byron’s fans were under his.

Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Lord Byron, vampire, vampires, The Giaour, Fragment of a Novel, A Fragment, Byronic Hero, goth, goths, gothic, skull, human skull, skull cup, John Polidori, The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven
Lord Byron’s skull cup (Photo: devonlive)

Even in his own time, it didn’t go unnoticed that Byron had more than a few vampiric qualities. People around him complained that he was draining the life from them, and overshadowing them with his “almost supernatural magnetism.” Critics claimed he hypnotized and subjugated his followers. Byron himself felt he was cursed, pointing out that many of the people closest to him suffered misfortune, or died tragically.

Amelia Opie, a woman Byron had charmed, claimed he had “such a voice as the Devil tempted Eve with; you feared its fascination the moment you heard it.”

And like a true vampire, Byron was immune to conventional life and the rules and judgments of polite society.

He was seductive and insatiable, not unlike vampires, although his appetite was for sex, not blood. He was openly bisexual and had a particular taste for married women, but not so particular that he didn’t also sleep with admirers, servants, prostitutes, and his half-sister. It was rare that anyone turned him down.

In a letter from 1819, Byron claimed to have no interest in vampires:

“I have besides a personal dislike to ‘Vampires,’ and the little acquaintance I have with them would by no means induce me to reveal their secrets.”

Reading this, I can’t help thinking that “little acquaintance” indicates that there was some acquaintance. And what secrets of theirs was he keeping, exactly? It’s not difficult to imagine that as he toured Europe and came into contact with many of the cultures that had strong vampire folklore, he might have encountered a creature that wasn’t quite human. At one point in his travels, he was claiming that “spies” were following him through Geneva and Flanders. Were they journalists looking for hot gossip to publish, or maybe something more?

In 1823 Byron went to Greece to fight for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. He spent 4,000 pounds (equivalent today to about 477,000 USD or 382,000 GBP) of his own money to refit the Greek naval fleet. He also took command of a Greek unit of elite fighters. Unfortunately, he fell ill with a “fever” on 15 February 1824. Ironically, doctors bled him to treat the illness, which most likely led to his death.

Byron died on 19 April 1824, aged 36. Some say his heart was cut out and kept in Greece, where, to this day, he’s a national hero. In any case, his body was returned to England. He was supposed to be buried in Westminster Abbey, but the Dean of Westminster refused on the grounds of Byron’s “questionable morality.” (They did add a memorial plaque to Byron in 1969.) He was instead buried in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall.

Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Lord Byron, vampire, vampires, The Giaour, Fragment of a Novel, A Fragment, Byronic Hero, goth, goths, gothic, John Polidori, The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven, Westminster Abbey
Lord Byron memorial
This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library
Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

His death didn’t end the vampire rumours about Byron. Because people kept insisting that his coffin was empty, in 1938– more than a century after his death– the vicar of Hucknall agreed to open the casket. Byron was inside, naked and well-preserved, The vicar stated:

‘Reverently, very reverently, I raised the lid and before my eyes lay the embalmed body of Byron in as perfect condition as when it had been placed in the coffin … his features and hair easily recognisable from the portraits with which I was so familiar. The serene, almost happy expression on his face made a profound impression on me … I gently lowered the lid of his coffin – and as I did so, breathed a prayer for the peace of his soul.’

And so Lord Byron rests in peace…or maybe not.

What do you think? Did Byron become a vampire, or just play one on the page? Share in the comments…

Celebrate World Goth Day with some new books:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

Further Reading

Wikipedia: Fragment of a Novel

Was Lord Byron England’s 1st Vampire?

On the Very Scary Rise of the First Literary Vampire

Lord Byron’s Image Inspired Modern Take on Vampires

Lord Byron in Popular Culture

“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know”

Biography: Lord Byron

Lord Byron: Westminster Abbey

A Further 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

A Further 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Vampire, vampires, Krasue, penanggalan, manananggal, sasabonsam, asanbonsam, pricolici, vrykolakas
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Chances are when you think of vampires you’ll think of Spike, Nick Knight, Miriam Blaylock, or any of the other fanged creatures-of-the-night that populate modern culture, including Mara from Love Lies Bleeding. The vampires we’re familiar with are (generally) human looking, powerful, often charismatic and attractive, with a thirst for blood and a dislike of stakes. But that wasn’t always the case. History and folklore are full of types of vampires that are nothing like what we’ve come to expect. Here are five examples…

Krasue

A Further 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Vampire, vampires, Krasue, penanggalan, manananggal, sasabonsam, asanbonsam, pricolici, vrykolakas

Similar to the penanggalan of Malaysia, the krasue is a type of ghostly vampire from Thailand that preys on chickens and cattle. The krasue has the face of a beautiful young woman (or sometimes an old woman), but instead of a body she has hanging organs and entrails. She’s also luminescent, and can be considered a form of will o’ the wisp. Like most vampires, she has fangs, and like most ghosts, she moves by floating. A common belief is that women who live sinful lives are cursed to become krasue after death (or that the curse will be passed on to their daughters and granddaughters). Another belief is that eating food contaminated by krasue saliva or flesh will turn someone into a krasue. And, as has been the case countless times throughout history, women in small communities acting “strangely” were/are suspected of being witches and monsters, or in this case– of becoming krasue at night. Krasue are always hungry, seeking out blood or flesh to consume. If blood isn’t available they’ll settle for rotting food, corpses, or feces. The krasue needs to reattach to her headless body before dawn, so destroying the body also destroys the krasue. Other ways to kill krasue include cutting the organs and entrails off or burning her. A krasue can be prevented from entering the home by surrounding it with something spiky, like bamboo, which the krasue will avoid in order not to get her entrails caught. There have been several krasue sightings in Thailand in recent years, most– but not all, debunked.

Manananggal

A Further 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Vampire, vampires, Krasue, penanggalan, manananggal, sasabonsam, asanbonsam, pricolici, vrykolakas

The manananggal is from the Philippines and is similar to the penanggalan and krasue in the way it separates from the lower half of its body, trailing intestines behind. Unlike the other two, the manananggal has large, bat-like wings, and can be either male or female (although they’re usually female). Another name for manananggal is “tik-tik,” which is the sound the tiktik birds make as they accompany the manananggal when they’re flying. Apparently the sound gets fainter the closer they get, a tactic meant to confuse their victims. One becomes a manananggal either by inheriting the condition, performing a ritual, or surviving a manananggal attack. While they have fangs, manananggal perch on roofs and use their long, proboscis-like tongues to suck the blood from sleeping victims. They’re also known to eat flesh and organs. Preferred prey is pregnant women, fetuses, and newlyweds (particularly the grooms, as manananggal is said to have been left at the altar). Like many vampires, manananggal hate garlic and holy water; unlike most vampires they also can’t stand salt, vinegar, spices, daggers, and the tails of stingrays. To keep a manananggal away from your house, leave pots of uncooked rice, salt, or ash around. To kill a manananggal, spread salt, ash, or crushed garlic on the detached lower half. The top half won’t be able to reattach and will then die at sunrise.

ETA: a commenter let me know that the manananggal can also transform into a wild pig (!), and that “Oftentimes, a woman suspected of being one is asleep during the day.” Thanks for the extra info!

Sasabonsam

A Further 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Vampire, vampires, Krasue, penanggalan, manananggal, sasabonsam, asanbonsam, pricolici, vrykolakas
Ashanti Sasabonsam/Asanbosam figure, via Into the Wonder

Sasabonsam, also known as Asanbosam, is a vampiric being in the folklore of the Akan people of southern Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo. Instead of feet they have iron hooks, which they use to dangle from trees in order to attack from above. They also have iron fanged teeth and bat-like features, including pointed ears and 6 metre- (20 foot-) long wings. Sasabonsam are territorial creatures, feeding on anyone who enters their forests. They eat flesh, as well as drinking blood, and they can infect people with a wasting illness (a common theme in vampire lore) with just a look. There is a claim that a man killed one by “fatally injuring it,” but I can’t find more details about it. Because of their hook feet, they can’t move well on the ground, so in theory you could get away from a Sasabonsam if you can run fast enough to get out from under the trees before they can grab you. Then again, it’s said that they like to play with their victims, like cats sometimes do with mice, so running might not help much.

Pricolici

A Further 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Vampire, vampires, Krasue, penanggalan, manananggal, sasabonsam, asanbonsam, pricolici, vrykolakas

A creature from Romanian folklore, the pricolici is a hybrid vampire-werewolf (together at last!) Some claim they are undead souls risen from the grave in wolf form. Others say that pricolici are werewolves in life, who then rise after death as vampires. Men who are cruel or violent in life are likely to become pricolici after death. In any case, pricolici are especially vicious undead that enjoy hurting the living.

Vrykolakas

A Further 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Vampire, vampires, Krasue, penanggalan, manananggal, sasabonsam, asanbonsam, pricolici, vrykolakas
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Greece (influenced by the myths of neighbouring Slavic countries) brings us our final (for now) vampire: the vrykolakas. Interestingly, while vrykolakas is generally considered to be a vampire, its name (from the Bulgarian vǎrkolak) means werewolf, and by modern definitions it’s closer to a zombie than a vampire. Vrykolakas don’t decay after death, but their bodies become swollen with blood, giving them lifelike ruddy complexions. They generally roam around wreaking all sorts of havoc, including causing epidemics. Vrykolakas sometimes sit on victims as they sleep, crushing or suffocating them. It was also believed (and still is in some places) that they would knock on doors, calling the names of people inside; if anyone opened the door, they themselves would die within a few days and become a vampire. One could also become a vrykolakas by living a sacrilegious life, being buried in unconsecrated ground, or eating the meat of a sheep that had been injured or killed by a wolf. Like the pricolici, it was also thought that a werewolf could become a vampire after death, retaining wolf-like fangs, hairy palms, and glowing eyes. The vrykolakas eats flesh rather than drinking blood, and it has a particular fondness for livers (possibly with a nice Chianti). The longer they are allowed to roam and feed, the stronger they become. To kill a vrykolakas, the body needs to be destroyed, which is done by impaling, beheading, dismembering, or cremation. Destroying the body has to be done on a Saturday, which is when the vrykolakas is believed to rest. During the Great Famine of 1941-1942 in Greece, so many people died that burial on consecrated ground became impossible. Families started pre-emptively destroying bodies so that their loved ones wouldn’t become vrykolakas.

Have you heard of these vampires? Which do you think is scariest? Tell me in the comments…

Read my previous posts on this subject:

5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

Yet Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

Can’t get enough vampires? Download my books!

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
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If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Further Reading

Krasue

Ghostly Beings

Manananggal

17 Facts About the Manananggal

Philippine Folklore: Meet the Vampiric, Cannibalistic Manananggal

Asanbosam

Sasabonsam

10 Places Where Vampires May Exist

Pricolici

Vrykolakas

Vampires in Greece

Astonishing Legends: Vrykolakas

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Happy new year 2022, recipe, loukoumades, greek doughnuts
Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

I don’t think it’s too much to hope for a better year in 2022, so I’m sending you all my best wishes for good things ahead!

There are a few different New Year’s traditions in my family that come from our Greek culture. The one I’ll be indulging in tomorrow is making Loukoumades, or Greek doughnuts. These were a highlight of the holidays growing up, and I thought I’d share my mom’s recipe. Enjoy!

Loukoumades (Greek Doughnuts)

This recipe makes enough for at least 6 people. Feel free to halve the amounts to make less.

Loukoumades, Greek Doughnuts, Greek Pastries, greek honey doughnuts, honey doughnuts, greek honey pastries, honey pastries honey, cinnamon, syrup, recipe, how to pronounce loukoumades
Like with clouds, it can be fun to try to figure out what the different shapes remind you of

(Apologies for the lack of precise measurements– my mom was one of those cooks who just knew how to make things. Luckily the recipe doesn’t need to be too precise.)

2 highball glasses/tall drinking glasses of warm water

3 soup spoons yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 soup spoons vegetable oil (or olive oil, if you want to be authentic)

2 to 3 highball glasses/tall drinking glasses all-purpose flour

Mix together water, yeast, salt, and oil in a large bowl. Add flour, mixing in thoroughly. Batter should have a similar consistency to pancake batter (not too thick nor runny). Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let sit until mixture has doubled in bulk.

Once the batter is ready, pour vegetable oil several inches deep into a saucepan (don’t fill the pan more than halfway). Heat oil over high heat. To test if it’s hot enough, carefully drop a small amount of batter in; if the batter floats and oil bubbles around, you’re ready to start making the loukoumades. (If the batter immediately turn brown, the oil is too hot. Turn it down and test again in a few minutes.)

Lower heat to medium-low. Carefully drop in scant tablespoons of batter (the loukoumades puff up, so you don’t want to make them too big). Don’t crowd the pan. Fry loukoumades, turning them until they are lightly golden and crispy. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl or large dish lined with paper towels. Continue until you’re out of batter, adding more oil to the pan, if necessary.

SYRUP

2 cups unpasteurized honey

3/4 cup to 1 cup water (depends on whether you prefer a thicker or thinner syrup)

Simmer water and honey together in a small saucepan for 3 to 4 minutes. Lower heat to minimum and keep warm.

TO SERVE:

If you prefer crispy loukoumades like I do, pour some syrup into an individual bowl, sprinkle with ground cinnamon, and dip loukoumades into the syrup as you’re eating them.

If you prefer softer/sweeter loukoumades, place them in a serving bowl. Pour the syrup over them and sprinkle with cinnamon. Eat while still warm.

You can also reheat loukoumades in the oven at 350F (175C) for about 15 minutes. Loukoumades are best eaten the same day.

How to Pronounce:

Wishing you a sweet 2022,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Yet Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

Yet Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of. blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. aspasiasbissas.com. Soucouyant, strigoi, impundulu, gallu, empusa
Photo by Daria Sannikova on Pexels.com

Chances are when you think of vampires you’ll think of Carmilla, Drusilla, Akasha, or any of the other fanged creatures-of-the-night that populate modern culture, including Mara from Love Lies Bleeding. The vampires we’re familiar with are (generally) human looking, powerful, often charismatic and attractive, with a thirst for blood and a dislike of stakes. But that wasn’t always the case. History and folklore are full of types of vampires that are nothing like what we’ve come to expect. Here are five examples…

Soucouyant

Yet Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of. blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. aspasiasbissas.com. Soucouyant
Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

A cross between a vampire, shapeshifter, and witch, the soucouyant (also known as soucriant, lougarou, Die-Higue, Asema, or simply hag) is known throughout the Caribbean, as well as parts of South America, and Louisiana in the U.S. During the day the soucouyant appears as an old woman, but at night she sheds her skin and takes the form of a fireball. In this form the soucouyant can enter any home through the smallest opening. Soucouyants suck the blood from sleeping victims, leaving telltale blue-black marks. Besides these marks, their victims become pale, weak, and tired. If she drinks too much blood from a person, they will either become a soucouyant themselves, or will simply die, allowing the creature to move into their skin. Soucouyants also practice black magic, exchanging blood for demonic powers. Evil monster or enterprising #girlboss? You decide. To temporarily stop a soucouyant, pile rice or salt in the house or at a crossroads– she will be forced to stop and count every grain. To kill a soucouyant, her skin must be destroyed with coarse salt (although some claim the rising sun will destroy her skinless body).

Strigoi

Yet Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of. blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. aspasiasbissas.com, strigoi, nosferatu, dracula
Image from Nosferatu, 1922

Thanks to Bram Stoker, our modern ideas about vampires stem in large part from the Romanian strigoi, or restless spirits that rise from the grave at night to drink fresh blood. Strigoi can also be living witches or sorcerers, but with the same thirst for blood (especially infants’ blood). Far from being mere folklore, actual people have been accused of being strigoi, starting with the first known case: Jure Grando, a 17th century villager from what is now Croatia. Locals, including his widow, claimed Grando terrorized his village for 16 years after his death. When his coffin was finally opened, revealing his perfectly preserved body (apparently with a smile on his face), he was exorcised and decapitated. When Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu was executed in 1989, he wasn’t given a proper burial, putting him at risk of becoming a strigoi, so his apartment was carpeted with braids of garlic. In the early 2000s, Romania banned the practice of digging up suspected vampires, so some areas started preemptively staking the dead before burial. There are a few things that can lead to someone becoming a strigoi after death, including living a life of sin, never getting married, or dying by suicide or execution. To prevent a strigoi from rising, nail their coffin securely shut; stake the dead through the chest or belly; or behead the dead and put the head in the coffin facing down. To get rid of a strigoi on the loose, exhume their body and destroy their heart before placing them face-down in the coffin. Staking or burning the body also works. If all else fails, place thorns across the threshold, fill the room with garlic, leave the lights on, and pray.

Impundulu

Yet Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of. blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. aspasiasbissas.com. impundulu, lightning bird, vampire bird
Photo by Tejas Prajapati on Pexels.com

Those of you with a bird phobia might want to skip reading about the impundulu, also known as the lightning bird, a vampiric bird from southern Africa. Taking the form of a human-sized black and white (or possibly iridescent) bird, the impundulu is usually a witch’s familiar that can summon thunder and lightning to attack the witch’s enemies. It also has an insatiable thirst for blood. Sometimes it takes the form of a beautiful man so that it can seduce and feed on women. Like most vampires, the impundulu is immortal, being passed down from witch to witch, serving each in turn. Impundulu without a witch to serve are known as Ishologu, monsters that spread chaos and destruction without anyone to control them. When in human form, the impundulu will feed on human blood, but when in bird form, it feeds on animals. Although it rarely kills its victims, it harms them in other ways, notably by infecting them with tuberculosis, or leaving them infertile (victims that do die must be buried a special way; otherwise, a drought will follow). The only way to destroy it is with fire.

Gallu

Yet Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of. blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. aspasiasbissas.com. gallu
Cylinder seal impression portraying the Underworld. Source.

Gallu is a type of demon originating in Mesopotamia, closely associated with Lilith and the Lilitu. They never stop drinking blood, although unlike most vampires, they also eat human flesh (fun fact: their name is where we get the word “ghoul”). In Ancient Greece they were known as gello (later pluralized to gelloudes) and were exclusively female and preyed on children. By the 11th century CE they were described as sucking the blood and vital fluids of infants. Over time they were also blamed for the deaths of pregnant women and fetuses. Early methods of repelling gallu/gello involved amulets and charms, such as red coral or a head of garlic. As the belief in gallu/gello persisted over the centuries, new methods of protecting against them developed, including baptizing infants and placing religious symbols in their cribs. Since they are demons, gallu/gello can also be exorcised (or invoked!)

Empusa/Empousa

Yet Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of. blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. aspasiasbissas.com. empusa, greek mythology, "Love and Pain (The Vampire)" by Edvard Munch
“Love and Pain (The Vampire)” by Edvard Munch, 1894

Like so many creatures in Greek mythology (including Gello, above), Empusa (also spelled Empousa) started out as an individual woman (or in this case, the daughter of the Goddess Hekate, known for biting children, or possibly even the Goddess Herself in disguise), but ended up morphing into an entire group of beings over time. Empusa (plural: empusae) take the form of beautiful women to seduce and feed on men. It’s also claimed that they wait by roads to harass and attack passing men. In her true form, Empusa has a single leg: either a brass, bronze, or copper prosthetic leg, or a donkey leg (some sources say one of each); and flaming hair (which, let’s be honest, should have been the form she kept because– awesome!) Empusa targets sleeping men, enticing them before drinking their blood and devouring their flesh. The only references I could find to repelling empusae involve insulting them. According to one relatively recent source, Zeus killed an (or The) Empusa when she attacked Him while He was disguised as a traveller. The only advice for protecting oneself from empusae is to resist their advances, no matter how tempting.

Have you heard of these vampires? Which do you think is scariest? Tell me in the comments…

Read my previous posts on this subject:

5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

Another 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

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Further Reading

Soucouyant

The Mayaro Soucouyant

Strigoi

Vampire Legends in Romania

Lightning Bird

South African Lightning Birds

Lightning Bird (Impundulu/Inyoni/Yezulu)

Gello

Empusa (Wikipedia)

Empousa and Lamia

Empusa

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

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