I had someone ask me about the origins of the vampire myth after my post about Vampires & Garlic. And, of course, there’s a huge debate about this between paranormal fanatics. The roots of the legend are as varied as the legend themselves, but a few key points tend to turn up over and over.
Lilith, Evil Mom Incarnate
A lot of people like to blame Lilith as the mother of vampires and demons. According to legend, she was the first wife of Adam (before Eve) but that doesn’t seem to start figuring in literature and stuff until the Middle Ages, which was a long time after Adam. Now, the Bible doesn’t mention her directly, but she’s a pretty prominent figure in mythology. In some myths, she’s a goddess that drinks the blood of babies. She’s supposed to be unable to bear children of her own, so she’s kind of obsessed with creating her own race. It never turns out well.
There’s a lot of good stuff about her and some external links on her wikipedia page.
In a lot of the old belief systems and religious systems are centered around blood and death. Aztecs used to sacrifice young girls and dedicate their blood to the gods. China, Europe, and Greece all had their varying bloodthirsty religions, and that may be part of where the bloodsucking legends come from. If nothing else, they eased the people’s minds into the whole blood thing. The Greeks & Romans especially were a bloodthirsty lot.
Diseases & Other Nasties
From a more scientific perspective, a lot of paranormal legend hunters look to disease. Now, if you have a weak stomach, this section probably isn’t for you.
Porphyria, the “Vampire Disease,” is a common one. This resulted in severe abdominal pain, a sensitivity to light, constipation, and seizures. The light sensitivity can get so intense that it actually causes severe blisters and burns. The bad blood and lack of blood problems would also cause the gums to dry up. Imagine grape -> raisin. Here’s where the fang legend might come in.
The disease has to do with the irregularities in production of heme, or blood, which cause the symptoms. There’s some history that says ancient doctors would actually feed patients blood as a way to replace their nasty blood with good stuff. Hence, vampires.
There’s more about that with links here on HowStuffWorks.
There are other diseases that might mimic corpse-like moments. Seizures and the like. We know how to treat them now, but imagine back in the day when someone would freeze up and have a fit and be frozen for a while, everyone else would freak.
The Biting Thing
Of course, most modern legends include the biting thing. A vampire creates more vampires by biting them. This legend takes many forms from the Twilight version where a single bite by a vampire and you become one to the slightly harder Vampire Diaries version where you have to die with vamp blood in your system and everything in between.
If you want a good read on the subject, I’d recommend the book From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth. Or you can do your own google search. The lore is somewhat overwhelming.
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