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Michael Bell
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Posted By Michael Bell

In the Golden Bough, Frazer provides other connections, in the form of ashes and heart burning, to curing consumption and ridding oneself of vengeful beings. One cure for consumption is to swallow the ashes of Midsummer fires (Frazer 1911-1915, 10:194-195). Burning or boiling the heart of a bewitched animal will compel the witch to appear (Frazer 1911-1915, 10:321-322). Montague Summers writes that burning a witch prevents hereditary witchcraft in subsequent generations (Summers 1928, 81). Burning the corpse, or selected parts, of the suspected vampire is a commonplace method of killing or laying the fiend. It is widespread and undoubtedly ancient. Voltaire described how Greeks dealt with vampire attacks: “The Greek corpses go into the houses to suck the blood of little children, to eat the supper of the fathers and mothers, drink their wine, and break all the furniture. They can only be put to rights by burning them when they are caught. But the precaution must be taken of not putting them into the fire until after their hearts are torn out, which must be burned separately” (Voltaire 1927, 7:145).

Among eighteenth-century Serbs, local gypsies served as the experts in vampire destruction:

In the year 1731 vampires disturbed the village of Medvedja. The High Command from Belgrade immediately sent a commission of German officers and others to the spot. They excavated the whole cemetery and found that there really were vampires there, and all those dead found to be vampires were decapitated by the Gypsies, their bodies cremated and the ashes thrown into the river Morava.

Vukanovic writes that “both Gypsies and other races in the Balakns believe that Dhampir, a magician created through the love relations between a vampire and its living wife, has the supernatural power of seeing, removing and destroying vampires” (Vukanovic 1960, 53). In some localities, this position is like an inherited trade that is passed down in families from father to son.  In others, it is the “posthumous” child (that is, born after its father’s death) who may serve as the vampire’s destroyer. There is a prescription, widely held throughout the Blakans, that absolute silence must be observed during the ceremony. Among the Balkan Gypsies, Serbs and Albanians, the successful magician is paid a sum of money in addition to being given a fine meal and traveling expenses (if needed).

Consistent with the dynamic nature of folklore, the up-to-date Dhampir often kills the vampire with a firearm. There is a Macedonian story about a woman named Karolinka “who became a vampire after her death and for a year haunted her living relatives frequently.  Once her family wanted to throw her into the water, but she sensed their intentions and immediately escaped.  The peasants told the whole affair to the administrative authrorities of the day, and when the police came into the village and used their guns against her, she fled; and nobody ever saw her again” (Vukanovic 1960, 47-48).

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