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Horror Vacui/Caleb Muse Forum

A message board to discuss the vampire character Caleb Morley (from the ABC-TV daytime drama "Port Charles"),  other vampires in fiction and myth, the supernatural,  the arts, and various dark muses.   

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Re: Re: Some Stray Thoughts About the Origin of the Vampire Mythos

Wolfy, though I like brakula's 'stray thoughts' I also like the idea of spirits existing past conventional 'death' of the human form. Perhaps I'm more 'curious' than anything else because I honestly DON'T know the answers even though there is 'proof' of the existance of 'spirits' in whatever form they are called.

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Thanks for this very informative post. It makes a lot of sense that the ignorant peasants would interpret things literally, just as the ignorant religious bigots today interpret their "holy books" literally. I tend to think, however, that there could be some metaphorical truth to the vampire myths since they seem to be almost universal. And perhaps, as some shamanic religions believe, the spirits of the dead do exist in some other realm and do sometimes feed off the psychic energy of the living. I believe in some aspects of what we term the "supernatural"; I think there is much more to the world than what we can perceive with our finite senses. To me, shamanism comes the closest to describing all dimensions of existence than any other religious or philosophical system.

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Some thoughts about some of the origins of the Vampire Mythos:

It comes from the world of the Feudal System, where large tracts of land were governed by designated noble “Lords”, “Counts”, etc. In fact, these nobles were warriors who were in effect paid by the serfdom that worked the land to protect them from outside invaders, roving bands of thieves, etc. However, this payment took the form of taxes—and was no doubt regarded as a “necessary evil” by the peasants and common folk, who on the one hand needed the protection but on the other hand resented the fact that they did. The relationship was full of tension, and it often became unclear whether these Lords were actually “protecting” the people or in fact practicing a subtle form of robbery themselves. These Lords lived isolated from the people in very high style, occupying immense castles, “living like Kings”.

Now let us remember that the myth of the Vampire, like all myths, comes from the superstitions of “the people”, the stories of the “common folk”—who have an unconscious talent for changing fact into fiction, and then fiction into “fact”. We may begin by imagining these people talking amongst themselves about these Lords and “Counts”, whom they simultaneously resent and stand in awe of. Exhausted by their toil, in moments of resentment, we can picture them using the spiteful language of the “worker” to describe these nobles as “bloodsuckers”, as “parasites”, as “sucking the lifeblood out of us”. Anyone who has studied the mind of the superstitious peasant knows how easily a metaphorical statement such as this can be altered into a literal meaning, how by “word of mouth” what began as a figurative description of something ends up being a literal one. One may picture these descriptions being passed along in fearful whispers about aloof individuals around whom there is already an aura of “mystery”. The descriptions, begun by a more intelligent sampling of the peasantry, find their way through ruder and ruder, less and less intelligent samples—of which the peasantry is never lacking—until they become “believed in” as factual accounts. Cretinous men, absurdly superstitious women, peasant children overhear these descriptions in passing and misinterpret the meaning, in turn passing it on as “fact” to others like themselves. The perfect example of this process is the Myth of Jesus, surrounded as he was in his life by the “common folk”, his own “disciples” being lowly “fishermen” and what not—one can see how his every word, his every action would be constantly subjected to this process of reinterpretation until nothing resembled the actuality out of which it really began. Christianity itself is a tradition of misunderstandings.

Now add to this the original, actual “Count Dracula”, who was a noble warrior of that aloof caste. It is known that this individual did in fact drink the blood of his fallen enemies (as well as leaving them suspended in the air on gigantic spikes)—this was not in fact an uncommon practice among certain castes of noble warriors and other primitive “barbarians”, who believed that by consuming physical aspects of their enemies they could usurp their spiritual qualities, in a sense, possess their “powers”. One can imagine the fear these types of activities inspired in the docile “common folk”—fear was in fact the means by which they were kept in check and dependent upon their “lords”. Word of this “blood drinking” could further act upon the above superstitions to transform them into a “reality”.

Add to this another aspect, what might be called the erotic dimension of the myth. Stories from these times are plentiful about the noble Lords and “Counts” who would descend upon the villages of the peasants from their castles in search of “beautiful virgins”. This is a motif that is found in many works of art from those times up until the beginning of the twentieth century. These Counts would “corrupt” the “innocence” of these young women by seducing them with their power and wealth, convincing them that they were “in Love” when in reality they were engaged in predatory sexual behavior outside of their arranged social realtions with noble women. Once they had obtained their goals of deflowering these women, the latter would be discarded as mere objects of pleasure no longer of interest to their “Master”. This whole scenario was often depicted by the villagers as something akin to kidnapping. In any case, once these women had been thus deflowered henceforth they were regarded unanimously as “shamed women”, as “diabolical” creatures with no place in society. They generally had two choices, and likewise, two fates: Suicide, or Madness. In the latter case they were often found wandering as insane rejects in the forests. They were viewed essentially as “monsters”—and often as a result of the violent awakening of their sexual natures, they would express their insanity sexually, in nymphic behaviors, attempting to seduce those who stumbled upon them and fluctuating between strongly sexual urges and shame regarding them. They have in some sense become a reflection of those “blood drinking Counts”—at least in the way they are perceived. The strange ethos of these times put a double blame on these women—first for being seduced, and then, for what they become as a result of it. They were “she-devils”—in my opinion the actual archetypes of the female vampire. Examples of this whole scenario in art abound—two examples are “Giselle”, an absolutely haunting ballet wherein the “ghosts” of “shamed women” inhabit the forest and “come out at night” and “dance to death” any man they come across; and Goethe’s “Faust”, an excellent study of the social outcasting of a woman thus seduced by a nobleman. Gretchen’s story from this drama also brings up another element of the Vampire myth—that of these vampire women “stealing babies” and “drinking their blood”. For Gretchen becomes pregnant as a result of her seduction by Faust, and in the end, unable to bear the social stigma of her actions and the consequence of them, drowns the child in a lake. We may assume that many of these “shamed women” were likewise thus impregnated. We may imagine them wandering insanely in the forests after having given birth secretly, quite possibly without anyone’s help—for no one helps the pariah—and being seen carrying their “illegitimate” offspring. It is easy to understand how those spotting these “demons” in the forest might conclude that the babies had been “stolen”, having no knowledge of the birth; and how they could interpret the bizarre behavior of the women as having predatory motivations. Again these “sightings” would be reported back in the villages among the “common folk” and then blown out of proportion in the same manner as the other “stories” were. Murders of these children, such as that performed by Gretchen, wherein however the murderess is not discovered but only the corpse of the infant, could further “fuel the fire”.

One final note: Those noble “Counts” were notorious for their non-religion—it’s easy to understand how the superstitious religion of the peasants would come to be regarded as the only thing having “power” over those nobles. Hence the myth about the crucifix and other things Christian having the power to paralyze the “devilish” powers of those Lords. Nietzsche’s estimate of the Christian religion as being a “resentment morality” of the “chandala” classes who wanted to gain power through it over the Aristocratic castes is of great significance here.