The Writings of Ingrid Pitt

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Vampires - The Beginning

Everybody wants a Vampire. Trouble is, once you have one what do you do with it? A few suggestions?
Ersebet Bathori

Ersebet Bathori - Loved to bath in blood of Virgins. Remember Virgins when they weren't an Airline?

When I was a Vampire I did it not for the blood but for the money. Which makes me a Vampire Whore I guess. Which is a mild appellation compared with the labels the blood-sucking, corruption dealing reps of the Undead have been trading under for millennia. It is hard to understand why the Vampire has such a bloody hold on our imagination. By repute they are foul smelling, fester popping, halitosis sharing, un-fun loving, party pooping nerds with the flimsiest, most tenuous grip on life - or if you prefer - Undeath. Well at least that is the bag of the classic Vampire. Lord George Byron’s creation, Lord Ruthven, named by Dr. Polidori, his leech bearer and pill pusher, and filched from Lady Caroline Lamb, his whip wielding enamorata, was more robust than the pathetic creature dreamed up by Bram Stoker after a surfeit of Stilton. At least the usually accepted cinematic version. Ruthven could go for a promenade during the day although he was inclined to the shadier side of the street, and mixed on equal terms with the raffish dilettantes and society hostesses of the day. In comparison, although imbued with super-human strength, Dracula was really a push-over. He was confined in a semi-comatose state for the daylight hours. If he was kept from his bed of native, Transylvanian , soil in his coffin or tempted our for some manufactured reason he could be reduced to nothing more than a heap of dust and a gold ring in a matter of seconds by a chink in the chintz curtains. If it was one of those days when Dracula decided that he would be safer tucked up in his shroud by first cock crow he was even more vulnerable. Anyone with a hickory stake and a smattering of dog-Latin could nail him through the starched shirt dickie and it was ‘good bye sucker’. Some Vampire Dispatching Instructions also recommend slicing off the head, just to be certain. And then there is garlic. Garlic has the same effect on Vampires as Krytonite has on Superman. It jangles the synopses and renders the victim incapable of doing anything but wave his hands in front of his face and show his unflossed teeth and shrinking gums in an unbecoming snarl. The effect of Holy Water, another prescribed Vampire deterrent, is to produce an acidic hissing, steam and much cavorting. If Dracula accidentally slides through ice into running water - he’s a goner.

So what has made the Vampire one of the most popular villains of reading, writing and rampaging? And what hold does it have over all sorts of people, professional and amateur, who follow the exploits of the Stygian Master and can be easily led into conversation long on spurious facts and short on forensic evidence, at the chomp of a fang. I personally know three University professors who are sworn Vampire Lovers. One of them, Professor Elizabeth Miller of the Memorial University of New Foundland in Canada has even been honoured by the Romanians as ‘Baroness of the House of Dracula’. Her latest book, DRACULA, published by Parkstone Press, is a masterpiece and goes into much detail of the works of art, music, films and authoritarian tracts written by scholars over the centuries. From Mexico University Professor Victoria Amador lectures all over the world on the subject and Dr. Bob Lima, Pennsylvanian State University, is an authority on churches and has written several books dealing with the religious side of the Undead. And it isn’t just the academics who rally to the stake.

So just when and where did the Vampire in all its variant forms, first see the light of the moon? Probably the blood sucking temptation is an inbred part of the human psyche. For one thing blood makes a very sustaining meal. For another, taken straight from the vein, still warm, it is, hopefully, guaranteed to be free of corruption. Cannibalism is not a proposition taken lightly by most passengers going over London Bridge on an Omnibus. ‘In extremis’ modern, fun loving omnivores have been thrust into situations where it became a matter of eat your mate or die. If the mate of the piece happens to be dead at the time it makes the choice easier. Although, it must be said, either Voltaire or Rabelais, I can’t remember which, recommended slicing off the buttocks of any women which might be handy.Evidently a well endowed cheek is very sustaining. But let’s assume that we are talking thousands of years ago. A group of hunters are cut off by the sort of snow that screwed up the Underground in the winter and they are going nowhere. There is no food and the prospects for a reunion under the bearskin are not good. What is needed is nourishment. And in the group are body temperature, fast food packages of nourishment that can save the majority of its members. I guess the runt of the pack would go first. The first priority would be to get it while it’s hot. Cutting up the reluctant fodder would take too long. Leeching onto various parts of the body and sucking is the only viable alternative. The frozen meat can be kept for later. This probably comes under the heading of ‘force majeure’ but once the blood is out of the vein and seen to be extremely efficacious it wouldn’t be long before the act of exsanguination was enshrined on the cave wall and ritualised. Of course this is not what being into the cult of the Vampire is all about. For one thing the only member of the lost hunting party who has qualified, at this point, for the first condition of Vampirism is the victim. He’s dead!

The word ‘Undead’ can easily be siphoned from the belief of the Pharaohs of Egypt and their immortal sidekicks - the Priests. The Pharaohs had a fastidious dislike of the after-death trail of corruption and obscurity. They wanted to enter a Paradise exactly like the one they were leaving behind - only better! They were a little disconcerted by the generally held belief that you couldn’t take it with you so they went into a huddle with the group with the greatest incentive to rubber-stamp their divinity - the Priesthood. It was unanimously decided that embalming was the business. This way the body could survive the decay and the chattels, handmaidens and servants dispatched along with them would show, in the Undead Kingdom, that this was no common slouch coming up the broad white way but a fellow God on a State Visit. Although Priests and their Pharaohs spent many generations assuring each other of the After-life waiting for them it was a graphic case of little fellahs shouting in the dark. There was never any evidence that anything remotely blood enhancing happened to the desiccated bodies waiting for an invitation to cross the Styx or that Osirus, the god of life amongst other job descriptions, ever popped round to borrow a cup of nectar or quaff a refreshing chalice of chai. It seems that the darker brother of Osirus, the evil and noisome Set, had the dying game all wrapped up. Until the Babylonians came on the scene at least. They managed to edge the plot slightly in the direction of fully integrated Vampireship by bringing in the ‘Ekimmu’. This addition to the Undead society was definitely ‘declasse’. The After-life suddenly became open to everyone - God and fellah alike. Basically all you needed to do was drop down dead and have no well disposed friends to scrape out a hole and cover your body with sand. Unburied it was not long before the departed and deserted would leap up, reembodied and ready for anything. Especially of a salacious nature. The bonus for being a member of the Ekimmu set was that you entered your new vocation massively endowed. If you are skeptical about this I suggest that next time you are sauntering around the temple at Karnak on the Nile, take time out to visit the forbidden wall round the back. Life will never be the same again. It is said that the maidens subjected to the advances of the Ekimmu and his sacred weapon were at first terrified and then overwhelmed by his mighty phallus. And this is where the Vampire thing kicks in. Once the Ekimmu had had his warped way with the girls he whipped out their entrails and gorged on their blood. I know it’s not what you might call standard Vampire practice but more elements have been added to the lore. The wannabe Ekimmu Vampire has died , come back in an Undead form, penetrated his victim and drank the blood. Purists might argue that the penetration and blood imbibing are separate actions - but we’re getting there.

Across on the far shore of the sea at the centre of the world, the Greeks were not happy that the Egyptians-cum-Babylonians had come up with a Mr. Fixit, a uniquely Undead Monster. They were proud of the Pantheon of Gods, goddesses, Ogres and superior humans they had thought up and didn’t like being up-staged by what they looked on as an upstart from a dying society. They did have a Vampire of sorts. A ‘Vrykolalos’. A lycanthrope, a shape changer more closely connected to the Werewolf than the Vampire. Then one of the poets remembered the tale of Queen Lamiai of Lydia. Lamiai children were eaten by the minor goddess, Hera. This sent Queen Lamiai on a crazed path of destruction. She roared around the ancient world feasting, in a frenzy of blood, on innocent men and children. Why that should be I leave to a Freud adherent to explain. She wasn’t perfect for induction into the sepulchre of Vampires but Stavros the Priest was in no mood to complain. He called in a minor hack poet and copy editor and began broadcasting the news of their newly invested monster - ?the Lamiai!. Originally the Lamiai wasn’t too subtle. Little more than a wolf-size leech in an ill-fitting frock. Before long every little taverna and amphitheatre had its own domestic Lamiai. It was great to give the customers a thrill but soon the Lamiai’s success became Pyhrric. Customers didn’t fancy meeting the monster on the way home so decided that staying at home was safer, Financial considerations called for something to be done. The solution was found in a recommended course of action guaranteed to rid the infested place of any over-active Lamiai. The guidelines for dispatch were specific but simple. Initially the Lamiai was spread out on the crossroads, chopped into quarters and a bit buried on each of the four roads leading outwards. This was to confuse the departed in case it had thoughts of getting together again and continuing the reign of terror. The Greeks weren’t too keen on the heavy graft of hole digging and a later and less exhausting innovation was that the grisly quarters were burned on a bonfire and the ashes scattered on the wind.

Vlad Tepes

Vlad Tepes, known to his friends as Vlad the Impaler. Said, in desperation, to be the role model for Dracula.

Now the Undead were on the loose the Priests became latterday Buffys. And they didn’t just confine themselves to the smelly business of digging up graves. Cats were believed to be particularly bad news. If a cat should happen to walk across the body of someone awaiting interment it was the cause of a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. If the offending animal couldn’t be caught and its blood dripped over the cadaver, the body would reanimate after a while and go home to annoy the folks. A sure-fire way to end up attracting the attention of the dedicated Vampire Hunter was suicide. In Greece suicide had always been considered a social counter option to dinner at the mother-in-laws’. Now the public were warned against it - unless you happened to be Socrates and then it was OK. But the Greeks had now added their two drachmas to the Vampire Lore.

Around the same time the Indian sub -continent was jacking up its Vampire industry. In fact the number of the Undead in India was only slightly less than the living. Every village had a variation on the theme, every pub and curry house boasted an association with something dead and gruesome. Top of the heap was the goddess Kali. Although venerated she was hardly popular. She has two oversized incisors which make Dracula’s look like milk teeth. In the middle of her forehead she had a third eye and instead of hands she had real, flesh-ripping claws - on each of her four arms.In one blood steeped claw she holds the head of a giant who has just been a victim of her charms, a second arm raised in a Pope-like gesture, a third holds a weapon and the fourth is empty in case of a need to butcher some one in an emergency crops up.. Her necklace is made from the heads of her children . As a demon Kali sets a trend for less successfully adapted demons to aim at when they grow up.

Of all the India contenders in the Vampire Stakes my favourite is the Penangalan. When at home huddled around the fire she can be quite beautiful. A home-maker even. But when the family have settled down the Penangalan quietly separates her head from her body and disappears into the moonlight trailing intestines and blood. Her main source of sustenance is a pregnant woman. The head of the Penangalan flits into the birthing bed and gorges itself until the sun breaks the distant horizon. Then she makes her way to the marital home in time to reunite head and body before packing her mate’s lunch box and seeing the children off to school. Unfortunately her lust for blood doesn’t stop there. She is irresistibly drawn back to the labour of her victim and finishes her off. If the baby has now been born she can’t resist draining it dry as well before again returning to her wifely duties.

The recommended procedure for ridding the birth place of a Penangalan is well tried and tested. Around every door, window and crevice, roses and other plants with sharp thorns are placed. The Penangalan tries to enter and the trailing entrails get caught on the thorns. The thrashing about and cursing attracts the attention of the other people in the house and they rush to the rescue. First they secure the head in a basket. Then they cut off the intestines. Two large boulders are found and the head is held by the hair and pounded between the stones. What is not clear is what happens to the headless body sitting by the family hearth at home? The husband is hardly likely to miss a thing like this. Or does the body function separately and as long as he is getting serviced the husband is content to live with the silence?

The case for the well qualified Vampire is made.

  1. You have to die.
  2. You have to be reanimated to an ‘Undead’ state.
  3. There has to be penetration.
  4. Blood must be sucked.
  5. Flying is an asset for getting around.

Decapitation, cross roads and burning were added to the litany and there has to be strong sexual connotations.

All the ingredients for a Hammer Film when you come to think about it.

The Writings of Ingrid Pitt