Friday, December 26, 2008

"The Vampire Days"

In his excellent book Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead, Prof. Bruce A. McClelland has this to say about the curious relationship which exists between vampires and the Christmas holiday…

“In Bulgaria, the ‘twelve days of Christmas,” from Christmas Eve through Epiphany, or Jordan’s Day (January 6), are known as the ‘Unclean Days.’ Other names for this period are quite revealing: they include ‘Pagan Days,’ ‘Ember Days,’ ‘Unbaptized Days,’ and even ‘Vampire Days.’ This brief midwinter period represents a time when, it is believed, evil spirits are able to roam the earth…In South Slavic belief, people who die during this period invariably become vampires. Also, children who are born or conceived during this period have special powers and may themselves become vampires.” (Page 56-57)

Prof. McClelland goes on to add that due to this heightened activity amongst evil spirits and the undead that all Christian rites were to be put on hold until after January 6th since such ceremonies only seemed to succeed in provoking the ire of such monsters. These ceremonies included birthdays, weddings, baptisms, and even funerals - the body, McClelland says, would still be buried, but the service would have to wait. In addition to this, sex and other pleasures of the flesh were also forbidden by the church, which was probably a good idea since according to tradition one of the vampires many powers include the ability to render human couples (especially newly weds) impotent or sterile.

It may also be of some interest to know that in Bulgaria vampires are traditionally disposed of via bottling. A sorcerer will drive the vampire into a bottle using an icon of a saint. Once the vampire is in the bottle, the vessel will be tossed into a raging fire and destroyed.

Also according to some medieval European traditions children born on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day are also equally susceptible to becoming werewolves later on in life.

At Top: "Cute Gothic Bat Christmas Card" by the Order of St. Nick.

Sources:
Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead (2006) by Bruce A. McClelland and Dracula: The Connoisseur’s Guide (1997) by Leonard Wolf.

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