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Michael Bell
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Posted By Michael Bell

In Rumania, as elsewhere, the vampire does not cease its attacks after destroying its family, but continues in an ever-increasing circle of devastation:

If the vampire is not recognised as such, and rendered innocuous, it goes on with its evil ways for seven years. First it destroys its relations, then it destroys men and animals in its village and in its country, next it passes into another country, or to where another language is spoken (Murgoci 1926, 327-328).

Becoming a Vampire

European folk beliefs about vampires and other fiends frequently overlap—unlike the American situation. Why one becomes a vampire is another major distinction: In Europe, explanations abound. Indeed, as one scholar noted, “the causes expanded over the years until it became much easier to become a vampire than not to be one” (Thompson 1982, 151). While American folklore is oddly silent on this point, in Europe, suicides, excommunicates, perjurors, bastards, unavenged murder victims, those who died violently or drowned, the seventh child of the same sex, those born with a caul or with teeth, anyone who ate a sheep killed by a wolf, persons in league with the devil, or someone bitten by a vampire all may be candidates for vampirism. Among the Wallachians, “improper behavior towards the deceased in his or her lifetime, as well as disregard of proper rituals and precautions at death and afterwards, may impede the soul in its passage, and cause it to wander about in no man’s land between the two worlds, to seek its former house and to haunt close relatives” (Schierup 1986, 180).  (For a complete discussion on ways to become a vampire, see (Summers 1928, 77-170)).

Treating the Problem

Folk tradition has defined two major approaches to dealing with a vampire threat. The first line of defense is to prevent or at least hinder a corpse from becoming a vampire in the first place. Failing that, one must find and destroy the vampire. The practice of incapacitating a corpse to prevent it’s return is ancient and universal. Such restraints assembled by James Frazer (1977 2:63ff.) include breaking or tying together the limbs of a corpse, pegging the remains into the earth (probably related to the staking that most people associate with vampires), decapitation, burial face down, and weighing the corpse down with stones (Frazer 1977, 2:63ff.). Frazer collected many examples of “tying up or mutilating and maiming a corpse . . . to bar the return of the ghosts, or at all events to render them impotent for mischief” (Frazer 1977, 2:63).  The Dieri of Central Australia, for example, used to tie the large toes and thumbs of a corpse together to prevent it from walking.

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