Vampires Origins: Pagan Goddesses, Revenants and Hungry Ancestors
What are the vampires‘ origins? The concept of the vampire and its true beginnings is debated by folklorists. There are many interesting theories, but it makes sense to recognize the modern-day vampire as an amalgamation of ancient myths, legends, and folklore from all over the world. Here, we discuss the ancient secret truth about vampires including their complex origins.
The Hollywood Vampire’s Origins
One of the most well-known monsters dominating literature, movies, and television is the vampire. Since Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was written in the late eighteen hundreds, hundreds of vampire books have been published. Some have been turned into movies and TV shows. Vampires are depicted as attractive people who are undead, who seduce and feast on the blood of the living. Some of them sparkle in the sunlight, some ride motorcycles. Some loathe the fact they are vampires and long to be among the living. But are these illustrations of vampires purely the result of modern imagination? And if they are, where did the first vampire originate?
Ancient Vampires Origins: Goddess and Demons
Most scholars believe the vampires origins stem from the belief in evil spirits. Since the beginning of time, people have believed in spirits. Many of those spirits were beneficial like ancestors and angels, while others were malevolent. These were evil spirits and later called demons. Ancient civilizations, such as the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Hebrews, and Phoenicians had their legends of demons who fed on the life-force of the living.
Lilith: Queen of the Vampires
In Mesopotamia, the vampires’ origins was the goddess Lilith. She was the first wife of Adam, who was kicked out of Eden then lay with fallen angels to create a legion of demons. Following her fall from Eden, legend says she drank the blood of mothers and babies. These tales were distorted to show Lilith as an demon rather than her original goddess form. We see this happening time over throughout history—mother goddesses become evil, bloodsucking or child-eating demons.
Blood Sucking Goddesses-Turned-Demons
Another example is the Germanic/Celtic goddess Berchta, who once guided children’s souls to the afterlife and eventually became a kidnapping, child-eating hag. Other blood-sucking ancient “demons” include the Sumerian goddess Dime, Lamashtu, the Greek Empusa and Striges, and the Indian creatures akin to wraiths known as vetalas. As the church came into power, the old tales of goddesses and gods faded and new terrors overwhelmed the people. Revenants and wraiths were just the beginning…
Vampires Origins: Revenants
We believe the main origin of the vampire trickles down from the belief in the revenant. A revenant is one of two things: a ghost or an animated dead body. Typically, there was no way to tell if it was a ghost or corpse. Nevertheless, in the Middle Ages a revenant was a revenant and had to be destroyed. But why were revenants feared so? Revenants weren’t just undead, they were creatures who sought to drain human life-force to fuel their existence. In some sources, they drank blood.
Beowulf & A Famous Revenant
One famous example of a revenant, according to Claude Lecouteux, is the tale of Beowulf. Beowulf is a Medieval epic poem that tells the story of the warrior Beowulf who defeats the monster Grendel. Grendel and Grendel’s mother are theorized to have been revenants, because Beowulf finds the corpses and cuts off their heads. This was the only known way to destroy a revenant.
How a Revenant Was Created
A revenant was created when a person’s body was buried off holy ground. Revenants were evil people in life including murderers and traitors. Additionally, they committed suicide or didn’t believe in God. These people entered a state of unrest following death and stick around to torment the living. Those who became revenants were cursed and thwarted because of their sins. In Ukraine, it was thought when a witch mated with a werewolf, a vampire was born.
Terrifying Vampire Origins: Buried Alive!
People were buried alive in Medieval times because no one knew how to tell if a person was truly dead. It happened so often, in fact, bodies in coffins were buried with a string leading to a bell above. In case the individual was still alive, he or she could pull the string, ring the bell, and be saved. “Saved by the bell”, indeed. Some criminals were buried alive as a means of capital punishment. There were instructions to stake the criminal through the heart after exhumation. Scholars don’t know whether this was part of punishment or whether this tied into the belief of the revenant.
The New England Vampire Scare
Fear of vampires was brought to the Colonial United States by European immigrants. Following the Salem Witch Trials by two hundred years, dread of the undead ran rampant in New England. There are documented accounts of bodies being exhumed to have a stake put through their hearts and their heads chopped off. One such case is the sad story of Rhode Island’s Mercy Brown in 1892. She was a young woman who died of consumption, whose father thought she’d become the undead. Her body was exhumed and decimated because of her family’s vampire superstition. You can visit her grave in Exeter, RI.
Psychic Vampires, Night Hags, and Sleep Paralysis
Let’s look at the psychic vampire. The psychic vampire is essentially a person who steals another person’s energy in a spiritual or psychic manner. If you’ve ever come in contact with a psychic vampire, you’ll leave feeling drained without explanation. Another type of psychic vampire is a disembodied spirit that feeds off the energy of sleeping humans. Psychic vampires are the same as the folkloric “night hag”, a demon that sits on the chest of a sleeping victim.
These life-force sucking spirits could also be the cause for sleep paralysis in which an individual “wakes” from his sleep to find they can’t move. While in a perceived-paralyzed state, the person often has strong hallucinations with their eyes wide open. Sometimes people see creatures sitting on their chests and choking them, keeping them from moving or screaming out. Science explains this away as a sleep disorder or condition, but those who have suffered it say otherwise.
Ancestor Worship & Blood Offerings
Vampires could also have arisen from the ancient worship of ancestors in Eastern European countries. Certain cultural groups believed strongly in their ancestors’ return to earth from the land of the dead. To prepare for their ancestors’ return, some gave offerings of blood. Sometimes the blood was menstrual, other times from elsewhere. The blood offering was put in a pot or it was buried in the ground. The idea that hungry spirits fed off blood offerings could be the origin of vampires.
What Is a Vampire and Does it Exist?
A vampire in today’s terms is quite different from the past. The fear of blood-sucking demons mixed with fears of revenants and hungry ancestors to make the vampire. Still there are those who claim they’re actual vampires: they need to drink human blood to live. Others claim to be psychic vampires: they must feed off life-force of other humans. There are vampire clubs and meetings in urban areas all over the United States. In this regard, yes vampires exist. In the Hollywood form where they sparkle and drink blood from teenage girls, perhaps not. But one cannot deny the fact our ancestors had a deep-seated fear of the undead.