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Michael Bell
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Posted By Michael Bell

Serbians and Wallachians even today might perform a ceremony of remembrance, a pomana, to ensure that dead relatives have what is necessary and thus have no need to return and haunt their living kin:

All food and drink consumed at a pomana as well as the songs sung and the music played, are regarded as sacrifices to the deceased in whose honour the ceremony is conducted. Accordingly, the more guests are invited to a pomana, and the more food and drink is consumed, and the more joy and music, the more the needs of the soul are catered for in the world beyond (Schierup 1986, 181).

Included in the protective acts and objects used for disabling a vampire, among the Gypsies of the Balkan Peninsula, are putting a sprig of hawthorne into the stocking of the deceased, covering the mirrors while the corpse is still in the house (thus preventing him from seeing himself), and placing a piece of iron (sometimes a file, small saw, or small axe) to the head of the corpse. Driving a nail into the ground beneath the death spot can also serve the same purpose. Frazer notes an Asian analog: "In Cochin China the troublesome ghost of a stranger can be confined to his grave by knocking a nail or other piece of iron into the earth of the grave at the point where his head reposes" (Frazer 1977, 3:29).

Despite the popular notion that driving a stake through the heart of a vampire is the method for killing a vampire, there actually are several ways to destroy it. Both burning the corpse or its parts and decapitation are widespread rites of riddance. Staking, itself, may suggest different theories: staking through the heart implies that the heart is the seat of the soul or spirit, so that driving a stake through it will decidedly kill the vampire. Staking the corpse to the ground, on the other hand, is an expedient means of immobilizing it, ensuring that it cannot leave the grave. Sometimes more than one method may be used. For "very obstinate cases of vampirism" in Romania, for example, "it is recommended to cut off the head and replace it in the coffin with the mouth filled with garlic; or to extract the heart and burn it, strewing the ashes over the grave" (Frazer 1977, 2:86-87). [Frazer might have found these practices in Emily Gerard’s Land Beyond the Forest (1888), used by Stoker for background to Dracula.]

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