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Mythical Creatures: An Introduction to Vampires
Posted In: Information and Theories  10/11/11
By: Yona Williams

Lately, there has been an explosion of vampire interest – from the Sookie Stackhouse 'True Blood' books to the remake of the movie, 'Fright Night.' The concept of a supernatural being with a thirst for blood has created faithful followers looking for the next character to go for the jugular. In this article, you will learn information regarding the vampire and its place in the world of mythical creatures.

What is a Vampire?

A vampire is considered a member of the 'undead.' They drink the blood of the living in order to survive and are typically portrayed as not being able to come in contact with the sunlight.

Origin of the Vampire

The history of vampires dates back thousands of years with a variety of cultures embracing the notion that bloodsuckers thrived among the living. From vampire foxes in Japanese myths to ancient Greek mythology, endless forms of the vampire concept have emerged. Over the years, the characteristics and features of vampires and vampire-like creatures have evolved. The creatures associated with ancient civilizations are much different than what we hear about today – most of the characteristics that are prominent when speaking about vampires come from early 18th-century descriptions and accounts from southeastern Europe.

Vampires of Ancient Civilizations

Early cultures and ancient civilizations have told tales of vampires and creatures that are described as being similar to a vampire. Most of the stories involve the dead or undead that feeds or kills the living. The Babylonians believed in the Lilu – vampire-like demonic spirits. Sumerian mythology spoke of the Akhkhar – bloodsuckers from ancient times. The female demons roamed the earth when it was dark. They hunted and killed newborn babies, as well as took the lives of pregnant women. One of the demons in old tales was named Lilitu. She was later adapted by the Jewish culture and renamed Lilith.

In India, there were the ghoul-like vetalas that inhabited the bodies of the dead and were found in old Sanskrit folklore. One popular story includes King Vikramaditya and his nightly missions to capture a vetala. The legend is found in a book called Baital Pachisi, which speaks of an undead creature, who had a link to the bat. The creature hung upside down in trees situated close to cemeteries and cremation grounds. The Chinese spoke of the 'hopping corpse,' which had some of the same characteristics as the vampire. The creature was described as taking the life essence of a human (known as the chi) instead of draining the blood from a body.

The ancient Egyptians spoke of a goddess that turned bloodthirsty after slaughtering humans. The only thing that satisfied Sekhmet was to drink blood-colored alcohol. The ancient Romans spoke of the strix – a nocturnal bird that fed on the flesh of humans and their blood.


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