Vampires in Other Cultures: Slavic and India

Vampires in Slavic Folklore

In Slavic folklore, there was a link between vampirism and the way someone was born or died. For example, people born with a caul, teeth or tail are thought to be a sign of the creature. If one was born on a certain day, there was suspicion. People who suffered ‘unnatural’ deaths or received improper burial rituals were candidates for becoming a vampire. Excommunication was also connected to vampirism. Having red hair led many Serbians to think you had a trait of a vampire.

The concept of vampirism was taken seriously by some, as they followed a host of preventive measures to make sure no vampires roamed the earth at night. Burial rituals reflected the fear of vampires. Crucifixes were placed in coffins and blocks situated under the chin to prevent the body from eating the shroud.
Corpses were sometimes pierced by thorns or stakes to prevent a vampire from leaving the coffin. Some believed that the stakes would pierce through the vampire and pin them down into the ground. If a person suspected of being a vampire was buried, scythes were placed above their necks, so that if they rose in the middle of the night, they would be decapitated.

Villagers believed that they were in the midst of vampire activity when cattle, sheep and people were mysteriously found dead. The Slavic believed that vampires were afraid of garlic and had a compulsion to count particles of grain, sawdust and similar materials. This is why sometimes, grains or sawdust were placed in the coffins of suspected vampires.

The Slavics believed you could kill a vampire by staking it, decapitation (with some people placing the head between the feet), burning, sprinkling holy water on the body, and repeating the funeral service. Others felt that a vampire could be exorcised. In Serbian folktales, the most well-known of vampires was Sava Savanovic, who appeared in a novel by Milovan Glisic.

Vampires in Indian Beliefs

Ancient text associated with Roma, India has some descriptions of vampires. The culture referred to such a creature as the Bhut or Pret, which was the soul of a man who had died before it was his time. The spirit was thought to roam about until it found a dead body to animate during the night. As a result, the dead body would attack the living , quite similar to what ghouls were believed to do.

In the northern part of India, the people believed in the Brahmarak Shasa, which was a creature with vampire-like characteristics. Its head was surrounded by intestines and a skull from which it drank blood. Another creature associated with Indian vampire beliefs were the Vetala. From Hindu mythology, Vetala was a ghost-like being that were seen as spirits that took over the bodies of corpses. When the Vetala inhabits the body, the corpse is able to move and the process of decay stops during this time. The spirit is able to leave when it wishes.