Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Gypsies were perhaps the original bohemians. In 1423, King Sigismund of Bohemia gave a band of “outlandysshe” wanderers from “Egypt” the letter of safe conduct—and a name and reputation—that they carried all over Europe.

They had long been blacksmiths, tinkers, knife grinders, and horse traders, as well as dancers, musicians, and fortune-tellers. Black of eye and black of hair, gypsies (or Romani, as they call themselves) entered 15th-century Europe from Asia Minor just ahead of the Ottoman wave. Though they would eventually spread as far as the British Isles and then around the world, they roamed the Balkans and eastern Europe in such numbers that an 18th-century traveler to Transylvania compared them to “locusts” swarming over the land. Their clannish, secretive ways lent them an aura of superstition; they gained a reputation for being a caste apart, masters at harnessing or propitiating occult forces. And despite the widespread belief that they had come from Egypt, their original home was India.

For good reason—they once were enslaved in Romania and were nearly exterminated by the Nazis in World War II—the Romani have remained reclusive and wary. Their kris, or unwritten code, and their ever-changing Romani tongue have been constant bonds shared by widely dispersed bands. At the same time, their wanderings have accentuated the human tendency to diversify, making gypsies a challenge to linguists and anthropologists alike. Additionally, many of their customs are imbued with—perhaps contaminated by—those of the lands in which they sojourned.

The gypsy attitude toward the dead became less diluted than their other beliefs. They recognized two categories of dead people: Suuntsé were “saints” in paradise and need not be feared, whereas mulé died unnaturally, unexpectedly, or prematurely. In the animistic world of the gypsies, however, all death resulted from deliberate evil, so the latter category included just about everyone.

Never mind other people’s ghosts or vampires; gypsies could pass untroubled nights in outsiders’ graveyards. It was the mulo they feared. After a death in a gypsy camp, the tent where the corpse was laid would be carefully guarded so nothing untoward could affect it; meanwhile, the campfires outside were stoked high to scare off any ghosts. Every burial rite was observed to the letter, with the dead man’s possessions—even his money—being destroyed to rob a potential ghost of any reason to pursue its former clan members and to exact its revenge for negligence or theft. The destruction extended even to the departed’s home: The ritual of the burning wagon was once a spectacular gypsy custom.

Some say the mulo walks abroad by day; others that he moves only at night and must return to his grave by cockcrow. Either way, he can also be active precisely at noon, when nothing casts a shadow—a sort of witching hour in reverse. Not quite a reanimated corpse but not exactly a ghost either, the mulo is something in between—a kind of posthumous double that, though tethered to the grave, can nonetheless wander at will. Though the mulo is greatly feared for his often brutally sexual depredations, he is almost never a bloodsucker. In fact, his adventures are comically folkloric. Many aspects of his legend have been gathered from those of the vampire—the sharpened hawthorn stake, decapitation, and burning, to name just a few of the various methods used to well and truly dispatch him. This makes it likely that, as far as vampires are concerned, the gypsy got more than he gave.

On the other hand, there are those offerings. Yes, the mulo can wander, but he must always return to the grave—there to be propitiated with offerings of food and milk in a rite that might be as old as India. So, too, might be the belief in its universality. Vampirism, to the gypsy, is a principle of nature, as applicable to animals and plants as it is to humans. Pumpkins and melons, to name the two most famous examples, often turn into vampires.

All things, it seems, are full of more than just gods.

Vampires in Hungary

Hungary, Bela Lugosi’s native country, has a special place in the history of vampires. Vampire historian Montague Summers opened his discussion of the vampire in Hungary by observing, “Hungary, it may not untruly be said, shares with Greece and Slovakia the reputation of being that particular region of the world which is most terribly in fested by the Vampire and where he is seen at his ugliest and worst.” Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) opened with Jonathan Harker’s trip through Hungary. Harker saw Budapest as the place that marked his leaving the (civilized) West and entering the East. He proceeded through Hungary into northeast Transylvania, then a part of Hungary dominated by the Szekelys, a Hungarian people known for their fighting ability. (Dracula was identified as a Szekely.) In the face of Stoker and Summers, and before Dom Augustin Calmet, Hungarian scholars have argued that the identification of Hungary and vampires was a serious mistake of Western scholars ignorant of Hungarian history. To reach some perspective on this controversy, a brief look at Hungarian history is necessary.

The Emergence of Hungary
The history of modern Hungary began in the late ninth century when the Magyar people occupied the Carpathian Basin. They had moved into the area from the region around the Volga and Kama rivers. They spoke a Finnish- Ugrian language, not Slavic. Their conquest of the land was assisted by Christian allies and, during the tenth century, the Christianization of the Magyars began in earnest. In 1000 C.E., Pope Sylvester crowned István, the first Hungarian king. Later in that century, when the Christians split into Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches, the Hungarians adhered to the Roman church.

István’s descendants moved into Transylvania gradually but had incorporated the area into Hungary by the end of the thirteenth century. The Hungarian rulers established a system by which only Hungarians controlled the land. A Magyar tribe, the Szekleys were given control of the mountain land in the northeast in return for their serving as a buffer between Hungary and any potential enemies to the east. The Romanian people of Transylvania were at the bottom of the social ladder. Above them were the Germans, who were invited into cities in southern Transylvania. In return for their skills in building the economy, the Germans were given a number of special privileges. By the fourteenth century, many Romanians had left Transylvania for Wallachia, south of the Carpathians, where they created the core of what would become the modern state of Romania. Following the death of the last of István’s descendants to wear the crown of Hungary, it was ruled by foreign kings invited into the country by the nobles. The height of prosperity for the nation came in the late fifteenth century when Matthias Corvinus (1458–1490), a Romanian ethnic and contemporary of Wallachian prince Vlad the Impaler, ruled. He built his summer capital at Visegrád one of the most palatial centers in eastern Europe. Hungarian independence ended essentially at the battle of Mohács in 1526, which sealed the Turkish conquest of the land. During the years of Turkish conquest, while Islam was not imposed, Roman Catholic worship was forbidden. The Reformed Church was allowed, however, and remains a relatively strong body to the present. Transylvania existed as a land with an atmosphere of relative religious freedom, and both Calvinist Protestantism and Unitarianism made significant inroads. Unitarianism made significant gains at the end of the sixteenth century following the death of Roman Catholic Cardinal Bathory at the Battle of Selimbar (1599). The Szekelys were excommunicated and as a group turned to Unitarianism.

The Turks dominated the area until 1686 when they were defeated at the battle of Buda. Hungary was absorbed into the Hapsburg empire and Roman Catholicism rebuilt. The Austrian armies would soon push farther south into Serbia, parts of which were absorbed into the Hungarian province.

The eighteenth century was characterized by the lengthy rulerships of Karoly III (1711–1740) and Maria Theresa (1740–1780). Hungarian efforts for independence, signaled by the short-lived revolution in 1848, led to the creation in 1867 of Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary survived for a half century, but then entered World War I on Germany’s side. In 1919 Austria-Hungary was split into two nations and the large segments of Hungary inhabited by non-Hungarian ethnic minorities were given to Romania, Serbia, and Czechoslovakia. Most importantly, Transylvania was transferred to Romania, a matter of continued tension between the two countries. Hungary was left a smaller but ethnically homogeneous land almost entirely composed of people of Hungarian ethnicity but with a small but measurable number of Gypsies. After the wars, Hungary was ruled by Miklós Horthy, a dictator who brought Hungary into an alliance with Hitler and Germany as World War II began. After the war, in 1948, the country was taken over and ruled by Communists until the changes of the 1990s led to the creation of a democratic state.

The Vampire Epidemics
Following the Austrian conquest of Hungary and regions south, reports of vampires began to filter into western Europe. The most significant of these concerned events during 1725–32, their importance due in large measure to the extensive investigations of the reported incidents carried on by Austrian officials. The cases of Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paul especially became the focus of a lengthy debate in the German universities. Different versions of the incidents identified the locations of the vampire epidemics as Hungary rather than (more properly) a Serbian province of the Austrian province of Hungary. The debate was summarized in two important treatises, the first of which, Dissertazione sopre I Vampiri by Archbishop Giuseppe Davanzati, assumed a skeptical attitude. The second, Dom Augustin Calmet’s Dissertations sur les Apparitiones des Anges des Démons et des Espits, et sur les revenants, et Vampires de Hingrie, de Boheme, de Moravie, et de Silésie, took a much more accepting attitude.

Dom Augustin Calmet

Calmet’s work was soon translated and published in German (1752) and in English (1759) and spread the image of eastern Europe as the home of the vampire. While Calmet featured vampire cases in Silesia (Poland), Bohemia, and Moravia (Czechoslovakia), the “Hungarian” cases of Paul and Plogojowitz were the most spectacular and best documented. The image of Hungary as a land of vampires was reinforced by Stoker and Summers, and later by both Raymond T. McNally and Leonard Wolf, who suggested that the Hungarian word vampir was the source of the English word vampire. That theory has more recently been countered by Katerina Wilson, who argued that the first appearance of the word “vampir” in print in Hungarian postdates the first published use of the term in most Western languages by more than a century (actually by some 50 years). The question remains open, however, in that it is highly possible that someone (for example, a German-speaking person in Hungary in the early eighteenth century) might have picked up the term in conversation and transmitted it to the West.

Meanwhile, Hungarian scholars confronted the issue. As early as 1854, Roman Catholic bishop and scholar Arnold Ipolyi assembled the first broad description of the beliefs of pre-Christian Hungary. In the course of his treatise he emphasized that there was no belief in vampires among the Hungarians. That observation was also made by other scholars, who wrote their articles and treatises in Hungarian destined never to be translated into Western languages. In current times, the case was again presented by Tekla Dömötör, whose book Hungarian Folk Beliefs was translated and published in English in 1982. He asserted, “There is no place in Hungarian folk beliefs for the vampire who rises forth from dead bodies and sucks the blood of the living.” The conclusions of the Hungarian scholars have been reinforced by the observations of Western researchers, who have had to concede that few reports of vampires have come from Hungary. Most also assert, however, that in Hungarians’ interaction with the Gypsies and their Slavic neighbors, such beliefs likely did drift into the rural regions.

Vampirelike Creatures in Hungary
Having denied the existence of the vampire in Hungarian folk culture, the Hungarian scholars from Ipolyi to Dömötör also detailed belief in a vampire-like being, the lidérc. The lidérc was an incubus/succubus figure that took on a number of shapes. It could appear as a woman or a man, an animal, or a shining light. Interestingly, the lidérc did not have the power of transformation, but rather was believed to exist in all its shapes at once. Through its magical powers, it caused the human observer to see one form or another. As an incubus/succubus it attacked victims and killed them by exhaustion. It loved them to death. Defensive measures against the lidérc included the placing of garters on the bedroom doorknob and the use of the ubiquitous garlic. Hungarians also noted a belief in the nora, an invisible being described by those to whom he appeared as small, humanoid, bald, and running on all fours. He was said to jump on his victims and suck on their breasts. Victims included the same type of person who in Slavic cultures was destined for vampirism, namely the immoral and irreverent. As a result of the nora, the breast area swelled. The antidote was to smear garlic on the breasts.

Sources: Calmet, Dom Augustine. The Phantom World. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley, 1746, 1850. Dömötör, Tekla. Hungarian Folk Beliefs. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1982. Kabdebo, Thomas. Hungary. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1980. 280 pp. McNally, Raymond T. A Clutch of Vampires. New York: Bell Publishing Company, 1974. 255 pp. Summers, Montague. The Vampire in Europe. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1961. 329 pp. “Vampires in Hungary.” International Vampire 1, 4 (Summer 1991). Wilson, Katherine M. “The History of the Word ‘Vampire.’” Journal of the History of Ideas 64, 4 (October–December 1985): 577–83.

Transylvanian Society of Dracula

Red Tower.

Monument which defines the old border between Transylvania and Walachia.

The Transylvanian Society of Dracula (TSD), a cultural historical organization, was founded in the early 1990s by a group of leading Romanian historians, ethnographers, folklorists, tourist experts, writers, and artists, as well as non-Romanian experts in the field. Its goal has been the interpretation of Romanian history and folklore, especially as it relates to the fifteenth-century ruler Vlad the Impaler (the historical Dracula) and Romanian folklore concerning vampires. The group also attempts to identify dracularian traces of the myth in the folklore of other countries around the world. The founding president of the society was Nicolae Paduraru (1932–2009), who for many years had been an official with the Romanian Ministry of Tourism. He also was the general administrator of Count Dracula Treasures, Ltd.

The society organizes tours of various sites in southern Romania associated with Vlad the Impaler and those in Transylvania (in the northern area of Romania) associated with the novel Dracula (1897). Some 300 people attended the World Dracula Congress sponsored by the Society in Romania in 1995, an event that marked its worldwide expansion. The American and Canadian chapters were founded during that week, headed by Drs. J. Gordon Melton and Elizabeth Miller respectively. Dr. Massimo Introvigne, who attended the Congress subsequently formed an Italian chapter. There is also a chapter in Japan and several chapters in other European countries.

In 1997, the American and Canadian chapters, along with the Count Dracula Fan Club, sponsored Dracula ’97: A Centennial Celebration the international Dracula commemorative event, August 14–17, 1997, in Los Angeles. Some 20 countries, including a delegation from Romania, attended and more than 90 scholarly papers were presented on Dracula and vampire studies. The various chapters sponsor different events, among which, the several Romanian chapters organize a symposium international Society sponsored the second Dracula World Congress, Dracula 2000, held at Poiana Brasov, Transylvania, the site of Vlad the Impaler’s attack upon the German Transylvanian community during his reign of Wallachia in the fifteenth century. The theme of the Congress was “Redefining the Diabolic from the Perspective of Contemporary Society.” The Society has continued to sponsor conferences in Romania at least annually in the years of the new century, as well as promoting tours of Dracula sites each October around Halloween through the Company of Mysterious Journeys, http://www.mysteriousjourneys.com/. It offers a variety of Dracula-related products through Count Dracula Treasures, http://www.draculatreasures.com/.

Outside of Romania, the most active chapter has been the Canadian chapter headed by Dr. Elizabeth Miller. It issues the Journal of Dracula Studies, and may be contacted through its webpage at http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller/trans_soc_dracula.html or its mailing address, 2309-397 Front St W., Toronto ON, Canada M5V 3S1. The Italian chapter can be contacted by writing to Dr. Massimo Introvigne at cesnur_to@virgilio. it. It posts the electronic news bulletins of the TSD on its website at http://www.cesnur.org/Dracula.htm#Anchor-49575.

Battle of the Sajó River [Battle of Mohi]

Béla IV flees from Mohi, detail from Chronicon Pictum

Date April 11, 1241

Location Muhi on the Sajó River in northeastern Hungary

Opponents (* winner)
*Mongols Commander Subotai
Hungarians King Béla IV

Approx. # Troops
*Mongols As many as 120,000
Hungarians More than 100,000

The Mongols ravage eastern Hungary and Transylvania and gain access to all central Europe
The victory over a Hungarian army led by King Béla IV at Muhi on the Sajó River gave the Mongols access to all of Central Europe. Genghis Khan died in 1227, but his son and successor, Ogatai Khan, continued Mongol expansion. The Mongols conquered Korea in 1231 and defeated the Chin Empire during 1231–1234. In 1235 in the course of a conference with Mongol leaders, Ogatai outlined a plan of expansion in four areas: China, Korea, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.

The offensive against Eastern Europe began in 1236–1237, when Ogatai sent 130,000 Mongols into the region. Batu Khan had nominal command, but Subotai exercised real command. Subotai defeated the Bulgars and then led his army across the frozen Volga River in December 1237. In the course of their winter campaign the Mongols destroyed the northern Russian principalities, culminating in the defeat and death of Grand Prince Yuri II of Vladimir in the Battle of the Sil River on March 4, 1237. At the same time, Mongol forces to the south entered the Ukraine, where they reorganized and reequipped their forces.

During the next two years Subotai consolidated Mongol control over eastern and southern Russia. While the states of Central and Western Europe knew little about Mongol conquests or intentions, the Mongols gathered accurate intelligence about the political situation to their west. Subotai began the offensive in November 1240 with 150,000 men, again campaigning in winter to achieve maximum mobility on horseback in the marshlands and across frozen rivers. When Kiev rejected surrender demands, Subotai captured it on December 6.

Leaving behind 30,000 men to control the conquered territory and maintain his lines of communication, Subotai invaded Central Europe with 120,000 men. The Mongols moved on four axes. Kaidu, grandson of Ogatai, commanded the northern flank; Batu and Subotai had charge of the two central forces; and Kadan, son of Ogatai, protected the southern flank. The two middle forces were to pass through the central Carpathians into Transylvania and then meet at Pest, on the east bank of the Danube.

Kaidu meanwhile moved into Silesia, defeating a Polish army under King Boleslav V at Kraków (Cracow) on March 3, 1241. To meet Kaidu, Prince Henry of Silesia put together a mixed force of some 40,000 Silesians, Germans, Poles, and Teutonic Knights. King Wenceslas of Bohemia marched north with 50,000 men to join them. However, Kaidu struck before the two opposing forces could join. In the hard-fought Battle of Legnica (known as the Battle of Liegnitz in German and also called the Battle of Wahlstatt) on April 9, 1241, Kaidu smashed Prince Henry’s army. Kaidu then halted, having achieved his aims of devastating North-Central Europe and preventing its armies from moving south.

The Mongol southern advance had gone well. In mid-April the Mongols secured Transylvania, and Kadan drove north through the Iron Gates to join Subotai. On March 12, 1241, Hungarian king Béla IV, informed of the Mongol advance, called a conference of nobles at Buda, on the west bank of the Danube, to discuss how to meet the threat. On March 15 the conferees learned that the Mongol advance guard had already arrived at Pest, just opposite Buda.

Sure that the Pest defenses could hold the attackers, Béla IV gathered some 100,000 men over the next two weeks. At the beginning of April he set out from Pest to meet the invaders, confident that he had sufficient strength to defeat them. The Mongols withdrew before Béla’s cautious advance. Late on April 10 about 100 miles northeast of Pest, the Hungarians encountered and defeated a weak Mongol force defending a bridge at Muhi on the Sajó River, a tributary of the Tisza. Béla IV then established a strong bridgehead on the east bank of the Sajó and camped for the night with the bulk of his force on the west bank in a strong defensive position of wagons chained together.

The Mongols attacked the Hungarians before dawn on April 11, 1241, striking the bridgehead with arrows and with stones hurled by catapults, followed closely by an infantry assault. The defenders fought fiercely, and the Hungarians sortied from the main camp to their aid.

They soon discovered that the attack was only a feint. Subotai had led 30,000 men across the river some distance south of the bridge, and this force now came in from the south and rear of the Hungarians. The Hungarians found themselves packed in a small space and devastated by Mongol arrows, stones, and burning naptha. King Béla IV managed to escape with some of his men to the north toward Pozsony (Bratislava). Although Mongol losses in the battle were heavy, the Hungarian force was virtually destroyed. It suffered between 40,000 and 70,000 dead, including much of the Magyar nobility.

With this Hungarian defeat, only the Danube River prevented a further Mongol advance. The Mongols held Eastern Europe from the Dnieper to the Oder and from the Baltic to the Danube. In a campaign lasting only four months, they had destroyed Christian forces numbering many times their own. Following the victory, the Mongols ravaged all eastern Hungary and Transylvania. With a majority of its settlements having been destroyed and a large portion of the population slain during the Mongol occupation, which lasted until 1242, the Hungarian state had to be completely reconstituted.

ReferencesAllsen, Thomas. Mongol Imperialism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. Grousaset, Rene. The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1970. Nicolle, David. The Mongol Warlords: Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, Hulegu, Tamerlane. London: Brookhampton, 1998.

Wallachian Prince Michael the Brave & his Victories over the Ottoman Turks 2/2

 I got this film yesterday about 'Mihai Viteazul' aka Michael the Brave, Prince of Wallachia, Transylvania & Moldova, and i really liked it, especially the parts were he continuously defeats the Ottoman Turks vastly outnumbering him. The film is made in 1971, directed by Sergiu Nicolaescu & written by Titus Popovici and its packed with great battles, such as the Battle of Călugăreni 1595, the Battle of Şelimbăr 1599 & other great Victories of Michael the Brave.

Wallachian Prince Michael the Brave & his Victories over the Ottoman Turks 1/2

 I got this film yesterday about 'Mihai Viteazul' aka Michael the Brave, Prince of Wallachia, Transylvania & Moldova, and i really liked it, especially the parts were he continuously defeats the Ottoman Turks vastly outnumbering him. The film is made in 1971, directed by Sergiu Nicolaescu & written by Titus Popovici and its packed with great battles, such as the Battle of Călugăreni 1595, the Battle of Şelimbăr 1599 & other great Victories of Michael the Brave.

'Vlad Tepes' Prince Vlad III Dracula The Impaler vs Sultan Mehmet II 2/2

From the film 'Vlad Tepes' I decided to post these 2 vids showing the fighting scense of Prince Vlad III of Wallachia aka Vlad Dracula the Impaler of the Order of the Dragon against Sultan Mehmet II of the Ottoman Empire. He was nicknamed 'Vlad the Impaler' because of the 20,000 Turkish prisoners & other 1000s of Bulgarians he Impaled on pikes. Vlad was known & feared for his cruelty & nightraids harassing the Ottomans, even entering the Turkish camp dressed as a Turk in an attempt to kill the sultan & causing panic by burning their tents & equipment.

'Vlad Tepes' Prince Vlad III Dracula The Impaler vs Sultan Mehmet II 1/2

From the film 'Vlad Tepes' I decided to post these 2 vids showing the fighting scene of Prince Vlad III of Wallachia aka Vlad Dracula the Impaler of the Order of the Dragon against Sultan Mehmet II of the Ottoman Empire. He was nicknamed 'Vlad the Impaler' because of the 20,000 Turkish prisoners and other 1000s of Bulgarians he Impaled on pikes. Vlad was known and feared for his cruelty and night raids harassing the Ottomans, even entering the Turkish camp dressed as a Turk in an attempt to kill the sultan and causing panic by burning their tents and equipment.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hungarian Civil Wars (1526–1547)

Ottoman Cannon battery at the Siege of Esztergom 1543

Wars between rival claimants of the Hungarian throne, ending in the division of the country between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires and the dependent Principality of Transylvania. The death of Louis II at the Battle of Mohács (1526) left the Hungarian throne vacant. A majority of the nobles elected the Transylvanian Vajda János Zápolyai king in October 1526; a smaller number, joined by the chancellor, supported Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Habsburg, brother of Emperor Charles V. Reinforced by German mercenaries after Charles’s conquest of Rome (1527), Ferdinand quickly drove Zápolyai out of the country.

Rather than abdicate, Zápolyai appealed to Sultan Süleyman I for aid. Süleyman recognized Zápolyai as the legitimate king and led an army into Hungary to reestablish his position. The Ottoman army easily pushed Ferdinand’s forces out of central Hungary but failed to capture Vienna (1529). A second campaign by Süleyman against Ferdinand’s capital in 1532 was stopped by the determined resistance of the town of Köszeg (Gün).

In the following years, while the two kings’ armies competed for control of the country, the Ottomans expanded their base in Hungary by occupying Slavonia and placing a garrison near Buda. As it became evident that the Ottomans alone stood to profit from the continued division of the kingdom, Ferdinand and Zápolyai worked to negotiate a settlement. By the Treaty of Várad (1538), Ferdinand recognized Zápolyai’s claim and pledged to support him with imperial forces; in return, Zápolyai named Ferdinand his heir to the throne. At Zápolyai’s death in 1540, however, his treasurer György Martinuzzi, bishop of Várad, refused to honor the agreement and had Zápolyai’s infant son elected King János II. Ferdinand’s forces were too small to occupy the kingdom and failed in two attempts to capture Buda.

In August 1541 Süleyman marched to the capital, declared himself János’s guardian, and occupied the castle. He made Buda the administrative center of a new Ottoman pashalik and gave Transylvania and the lands east of the Tisza River to János to hold as a dependent principality.

After a failed attempt by Ferdinand to recapture Buda in 1542, Süleyman carried out another campaign in Hungary, conquering Siklós, Székesfehérvár, Esztergom, and Szeged (1543).Unable to break Süleyman’s hold on the country, Ferdinand and Charles V, in the Treaty of Edirne (1547), finally extended de facto recognition of the Ottoman conquest of Hungary by agreeing to pay Süleyman an annual gift of 30,000 gold florins for possession of the northern and western portions of Hungary still in Habsburg control.

References and further reading:Perjes, Géza. The Fall of the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary:Mohács 1526-Buda 1541. Ed.Mario Fenyö. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1989.

Hungarian-Turkish Wars (1437–1526)

The battle of Mohács in 1526. Hungarian National Museum, Budapest

Series of wars between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, beginning with the Ottoman occupation of Serbia (1438–1439) and ending with the collapse of Hungary in the Hungarian Civil Wars (1526–1547). The failure of Hungarian king Albrecht’s crusade in 1437 introduced a new phase of the Ottoman wars of European expansion in the Balkans, which were now waged up to and across the borders of Hungary. To support deposed Serbian despot George Brankoviæ, Hungarian general János Hunyadi counterattacked into Wallachia in 1442. In the winter of 1443–1444 Hunyadi invaded Bulgaria, forcing Sultan Murad II to agree to the restoration of Serbia to Brankoviæ. Assured by the pope that promises made to infidels need not be honored, Hungarian King Ulászlo I broke the peace and launched another crusade in 1444. The crusading army was cut off and destroyed by Murad at Varna, where Ulászlo was killed. Hunyadi escaped but was defeated again at Kosovo Polje in 1448. A continuing succession crisis left Hungary too weak to intervene in the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (1453). Hunyadi gathered sufficient forces to break the siege of Belgrade (1456), but the Hungarians were unable after his death to prevent the Ottoman conquest of Serbia (1457–1458).

Though Hunyadi’s campaigns against the Ottomans ultimately failed to recover any territory, they did revitalize and provide leadership for the resistance of the Balkan peoples fighting against the Turks, encouraging Skander Beg (George Kastriota) to renounce Ottoman suzerainty and launch the Albanian-Turkish wars for independence.

In 1463 Mehmed II invaded and occupied Bosnia, prompting a winter counterattack by Hunyadi’s son, Matthias Corvinus, who recaptured the strategic fortress of Jajce. From 1464–1466 the Hungarians and Ottomans fought ineffectually in Bosnia, eventually dividing the kingdom between themselves.

Subsequently, Matthias focused on strengthening the line of fortresses established by King Sigismund along the southern borders of Transylvania and Slavonia through Bosnia to the Adriatic while the Ottomans consolidated their Balkan conquests. The following 50 years were marked by repeated border incursions and raids from both sides, over time weakening the fortress system. A large raid by Ali Beg of Smederevo in 1479 was followed by a campaign by Matthias into Wallachia, Serbia, and eastern Bosnia in 1480, capturing Srebrenica and briefly restoring the frontier defenses.

After Matthias’s death, the Hungarians successfully repulsed an attack on Belgrade in 1494,but by the first decades of the sixteenth century Ottoman raiders were penetrating deeper into the frontier zone and inflicting defeats on Hungarian counterattacks inside Croatia and Hungary, notably at Sinj (1508), Knin (1511), and Dubica (1520). The recurrent raids devastated the frontier regions, leaving the fortresses isolated and unsupported in the deserted land. Srebrenica was recaptured by the Ottomans in 1512, completing the Turkish conquest of Bosnia. The border defenses were fatally breached with the capture of Belgrade by Süleyman I in 1521 and the fall of Orsova and Knin the following year.

With the lower Danube firmly in his control, Süleyman invaded Hungary in force, defeating the Hungarian army in the Battle of Mohács (1526), at which King Louis II was killed. Louis’s death marked the end of the medieval Hungarian kingdom, which was subsequently divided among the Ottomans, Austrian Habsburgs, and the dependent principality of Transylvania.

References and further reading:Sugar, Peter. Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule: 1389–1814. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977. Szakály, Ferenc.“Phases of Turco-Hungarian Warfare before the Battle of Mohács.” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 33 (1979): 65–111.

Vampires in Romania

No country is as identified with vampires as Romania. A land of rich folklore concerning vampires, its reputation was really established by Bram Stoker, whose novel Dracula (1897) began and ended in Transylvania. Though at the time Transylvania was a part of Hungary, it is now a part of Romania. Recent scholarship has confirmed that the title of Stoker’s novel was a reference to Vlad the Impaler, a fifteenth-century prince of Wallachia, a section of modern Romania that lies south of the Carpathian Mountains. Stoker derived much of his knowledge of Transylvania, where he located Castle Dracula, from Emily Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest (1888). Gerard was a Scottish woman who had married a Polish officer serving the Austrian army. As a brigade commander, he was stationed in Transylvania in the 1880s. The couple resided in Sibiu and Brasov. In describing the several supernatural entities encountered in her research on practices surrounding death, she wrote:

More decidedly evil is the nosferatu, or vampire, in which every Romanian peasant believes as firmly as he does in heaven or hell. There are two sorts of vampires, living and dead. The living vampire is generally the illegitimate offspring of two illegitimate persons; but even a flawless pedigree will not insure anyone against the intrusion of a vampire into the family vault, since every person killed by a nosferatu becomes likewise a vampire after death, and will continue to suck the blood of other innocent persons till the spirit has been exorcised by opening the grave of the suspected person, and either driving a stake through the corpse, or else firing a pistol-shot into the coffin. To walk smoking around the grave on each anniversary of the death is also supposed to be effective in confining the vampire. In very obstinate cases of vampirism it is recommended to cut off the head, and replace it in the coffin with the mouth filled with garlic, or to extract the heart and burn it, strewing its ashes over the grave. (p. 185)

Romanian concepts concerning the vampire are strongly related to folk beliefs of the Slavic vampire in general, though the Romanians, in spite of being largely surrounded by Slavic peoples are not themselves Slavic. Romanians locate their origins in ancient Dacia, a Roman province that emerged in Transylvania and the surrounding territories after Trajan’s capture of the land in the second century C.E.. He also brought in thousands of colonists in the sparsely settled area. As the colonists and the indigenous people intermarried, a new ethnic community was born. This new community spoke a form of Latin— the basis for modern Romanian. Their subsequent history, especially over the next century is a matter of great controversy between Romanians and their neighbors, a controversy difficult to resolve due to the paucity of archeological evidence.

Following the abandonment of the territory at the end of the third century, Transylvania became the target of various invaders, including the early Slavic tribes. In the seventh-century it was absorbed into the Bulgar Empire. Though some Romanians had become Christians as early as the fourth century, the systematic conversion of the land began in the ninth century soon after the conversion of the Bulgarians under the brothers Cyril and Methodius. The Romanian church eventually aligned itself to Eastern Orthodoxy under Bulgarian Episcopal authority.

At the end of the tenth century, the Magyars (present-day Hungarians) included Transylvania in their expanding kingdom. The Hungarians were Roman Catholics, and they imposed their faith in the newly conquered land. They also encouraged immigration by, among others, the Szekleys, a branch of Magyars, and Germans. During the thirteenth century, seizing upon a moment of weakened Hungarian authority in Transylvania, a number of Romanian Transylvanians migrated eastward and southward over the Carpathian Mountains and found the kingdoms of Moldavia and Wallachia. An Eastern Orthodox bishop was established a century later in Wallachia. From that time to the present day, Transylvania would be an item of contention between Hungary and Wallachia (which grew into the present-day Romania). Ecclesiastically, both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox would compete for the faith of the people.

No sooner had Wallachia and Moldavia been established than a new force arose in the area. The Ottoman Empire expanded into the Balkans and began the steady march across the peninsula that would carry it to the very gates of Vienna in the early sixteenth century. During the fourteenth century Hungary and the Turks vied for hegemony in Wallachia, thus providing a context for a prince of Wallachia by the name of Vlad to travel to the court of the Emperor Sigismund where he would join the Order of the Dragon, pledged to defend Christian lands against the invading Muslims. The Wallachian prince would become known as Vlad Dracul (1390?–1447). He in turn would be succeeded by his son, Vlad the Impaler (1431–1476), known as Dracula.

Vlad the Impaler is remembered today in Romania as a great patriot and a key person in the development of the Romanian nation. After Vlad’s death, Wallachia fell increasingly under Turkish hegemony, and Moldavia soon followed suit. Through the 1530s the Turkish army moved through Transylvania to conquer the Hungarian capital in 1541. The remainder of the Hungarian land fell under the control of the Austrian Hapsburg Empire. The incorporation of the Romanian kingdoms into the Turkish Empire allowed a degree of religious freedom, and Protestantism made a number of inroads, particularly in Transylvania. Contemporary scholars have emphasized that none of the vampire legends from Romania or the surrounding countries portrays Vlad the Impaler as a vampire. In the German and some Slavic manuscripts, Vlad’s cruelty and his identification as Dracula and devil was emphasized, however, Dracula as a vampire was a modern literary creation.

In the seventeenth century, the Hapsburgs began to drive the Ottomans from Europe, and by the end of the century assumed dominance of Transylvania and began to impose a Roman Catholic establishment. Transylvania remained a semiautonomous region until 1863 when it was formally unified with Hungary. For over a century Moldavia survived amid Russians, Greeks, and Turks, each fighting for control until a united Romania came into existence in 1861. Through a series of annexations at the beginning and end of World War I, including that of Transylvania in 1920, Romania, in roughly its present size, came into existence. The Romanian majority exists side-by-side with a significant Hungarian minority in Transylvania, and the Romanian Orthodox Church competes with a strong Roman Catholic and persistent Protestant presence.

The Vampire in Romania

The Romanian vampire, in spite of the distinct ethnic origin of the Romanians, is a variation of the Slavic vampire. However, like the vampire in each of the other Slavic regions, the vampire in Romania has acquired some distinguishing elements. That distinctiveness begins with the major term used to label vampires, as found by Harry Senn in his field work in the 1970s. Strigoi (female, strigoaica) is closely related to the Romanian word striga (a witch), which in turn was derived from the Latin strix, the word for a screech owl that was extended to refer to a demon that attacked children at night. A second term, moroi (female, moroaica), also spelled murony in older sources, seems to be the common term in Wallachia, as strigoi is in Transylvania. The Romanians also distinguish between the strigoi vii (plural, strigoi), or live vampire, and the strigoi mort (plural, strigoi morti), or dead vampire. The strigoi vii are witches who are destined to become vampires after death and who can send out their souls and/or bodies at night to cavort with the strigoi mort.

The live vampires tend to merge in thought with the striga (witches), who have the power to send their spirits and bodies to meet at night with other witches. The dead vampires are, of course, the reanimated bodies of the dead who return to life to disturb and suck the blood of their family, livestock, and—if unchecked—their neighbors. The strigoi mort was a variation of the Slavic vampire, although the Romanians were not Slavs and used a Latin word to designate their vampire. The strigoi was discovered by an unusual occurrence either at their birth or death, and a living strigoi was a person who was born with either a caul or a little tail. A strigoi vii may become a strigoi mort, as well as other people who died irregularly by suicide or an accident. Romanians also use the term vircolac, but almost exclusively to describe the old mythological wolflike creature who devoured the sun and moon.

The closely related terms pricolici or tricolici were also wolves. Virolac is a variation of the Greek vrykolakas or the Serbo-Croatian vukodlak. Agnes Murgoci, who worked in Romania in the 1920s, found that they still connected the term with its pre-vampiric mythological meaning of a creature who devours the sun and moon. At times when the moon appears reddish, it was believed to be the blood of the vircolac flowing over the moon’s face. More definitive work was pursued by Harry Senn in Transylvania in the 1970s. He found that popular use of the vircolac distinguished it from the strigoi. The term vircolac described a person who periodically changed into one of several animals, usually a pig, dog, or wolf. As such it was much closer to the popular concept of werewolves than vampires. Nosferatu is an archaic Old Slavonic term apparently derived from nosufuratu, from the Greek nosophoros, “plague carrier.”

From the religious context, the word passed into popular usage. It has been variously and mistakenly cited as a Romanian word meaning either “undead” (Wolf) or the devil (Senn). Through the twentieth century it seems to have dropped from use in Romania. Stoker’s use of the term derived from Gerard. It was used by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau in his attempt to disguise his movie, Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens from Dracula. He tied the story to the great plague that hit Bremen, Germany, in 1838.

In Romania the vampire was believed to come into existence first and foremost as the product of an irregular birth, and any number of conditions have been reported that could predispose a person to become a vampire. Children born out of wedlock, born with a caul, or who died before baptism could become vampires. Pregnant women who did not eat salt or who have allowed themselves to be gazed upon by a vampire could bear a vampiric child. The seventh child of the same sex in one family was likely to have a tail and become a vampire. Though children with an irregular birth were the prime candidates of vampirism, anyone could become a vampire if bitten by one. Other potential vampires included people who led wicked lives (including men who swore falsely), witches (who had relations with the devil), a corpse over whom a cat had jumped, or a person who committed suicide.

The presence of vampires was usually first noticed when several unexpected deaths in a family and/or of livestock followed the death of either a family member or of someone suspected of being a vampire. The vampire might, on occasion, appear to the family, and female vampires were known to return to their children. The home of a suspected vampire often was disturbed by the its activity, either in throwing things around (poltergeist) or getting into the food supplies. The vampire would first attack the family and its livestock and then move on to others in the village. If not destroyed it might move on to more distant villages and even other countries, where it could reassume a normal role in society. Vampires were especially active on the eve of St. George’s Day (either April 23 or May 5), the day witches and vampires gathered at the edge of the villages to plan their nefarious activities for the next year. Villagers would take special precautions to ward off the influences of supernatural beings on that evening. Stoker’s character Jonathan Harker made the last leg of his journey and finally arrived at Castle Dracula on St. George’s Eve. Vampires and witches were also active on St. Andrew’s Day. St. Andrew was the patron of wolves and the donor of garlic. In many areas of Romania, vampires were believed to become most active on St. Andrew’s Eve, and continued to be active through the winter, and ceased their period of activity at Epiphany (in January), Easter, or St. George’s Day.

St. George’s Day was and is celebrated throughout much of Europe on April 23, hence the Eve of St. George would be the evening of April 22. St. Andrew’s day is November 11, and the eve immediately precedes it. Romania which was on the old Julian Calendar, was 12 days behind the modern Gregorian calendar. Thus in Stoker’s day, St. George’s Day would have been celebrated in Romania on what was the evening of May 4 in western Europe. Likewise, St. Andrew’s Eve would have been the evening of November 23–24. The lag time between the Julian and our Gregorian calendar increases one day every century.

The grave of a suspected vampire would be examined for telltale signs. Often a small hole would be found in the ground near the tombstone, a hole by which the vampire could enter and leave the coffin. If there was reason to believe someone was a vampire, the grave was opened. Those opening the coffin would expect to find the corpse red in the face. Often the face would be turned downward and fresh blood on it or, on occasion, cornmeal. One foot might have retracted into a corner of the coffin. Senn reported that a vampire in the community could be detected by distributing garlic at church and watching to see who did not eat.

It was the common practice of Romanians to open the graves of the deceased three years after the death of a child, four or five years after the death of a young person and seven years after an adult’s death. Normally, only a skeleton would be found, which would be washed and returned to the grave. If, however, the body had not decayed, it was treated as if it were a vampire.

There were a wide variety of precautions that could be taken to prevent a person either from becoming a vampire or doing any damage if they did become one. A caul might be removed from the face of a newborn and quickly destroyed before it was eaten. Careful and exacting preparation of the body of the recently dead also prevented their becoming a vampire. The thorny branch of the wild rose might be placed in the tomb. Garlic was also very useful in driving away vampires. On St. Andrew’s Eve and St. George’s Eve, the windows (and other openings of the house) were anointed with garlic, and the cows would be given a garlic rubdown. Once the vampire was in the tomb, distaffs might be driven into the ground above the grave upon which the vampire would impale itself if it were to rise.

On the anniversary of the death of a suspected vampire, the family walked around the grave. Once a vampire began an attack on the community and its identity was discerned, the vampire had to be destroyed. Emily Gerard, author of The Land Beyond the Forest, found the emergence of a relatively new tradition in nineteenth-century reports in which a vampire might be killed by firing a bullet into the coffin. The preferred method, however, was to drive a stake into the body, followed by decapitation, and the placing of garlic in the mouth prior to reburial. This method was adopted by Stoker in Dracula as a means of destroying the vampiric nature that had taken over Lucy Westenra’s body. In Romania, the staking could be done with various materials, including iron or wood, and the stake was impaled either in the heart or the navel. Instead of decapitation, the body could also be turned face downward and reversed in the coffin. Millet seeds might be placed in the coffin to delay the vampire, who must first go through a lengthy process of eating the millet before rising from the grave. An even more thorough process might be followed in the case of a vampire resistant to other preventive measures. The body might be taken from the grave to the woods and dismembered. First, the heart and liver were removed, and then piece by piece the body was burned. The ashes could then be mixed with water and given to afflicted family members as a curative for the vampire’s attack.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Romanian Vampire Folktales

The Romanian vampire has also become the subject of a number of folktales. Folklorists have noticed that many relate to the cases of couples in which one has recently died. Frequently reprinted was the story of “The Girl and the Vampire” (which also exists in a Russian variant) in which the boy committed suicide following his failure to gain the marriage blessing of his girlfriend’s parents. As a result of his manner of death, he became a vampire and began to visit the girl at night. The girl spoke with a wise elder woman in the village who instructed her to attach a thread to his shirt. She then traced the thread, which led to the graveyard and disappeared into the grave of her late boyfriend.

The vampire continued to visit the girl, and they continued their sexual liaison, when her parents died. She refused the vampire’s request for her to tell what she had seen the night she followed him to the graveyard, and the girl soon also died. She was buried according to the wise woman’s instruction. A flower grew from her grave, which was seen by the son of the emperor. He ordered it dug up and brought to his castle. There, in the evening, it turned into a maiden. Eventually she and the emperor’s son were wed. Sometime later, she accompanied her husband to church and had an encounter with the vampire. He followed her into church where she hid behind an icon, which then fell on the vampire and destroyed him. The story served as a discouragement to out-of-wedlock sexual relations while at the same time reaffirming the wisdom of older people and upholding the church as a bastion against evil. Similar values were affirmed in other stories.

It was once the case, according to one folktale that “vampires were as common as leaves of grass, or berries in a pail.” They have, however, become more rare and confined to the rural areas. In the mid-1970s Harry Senn had little trouble locating vampire accounts in a variety of Romanian locations. Admittedly, however, the vampire suffered during recent decades from both the spread of public education and the hostility of the government to tales of the supernatural. The importance of vampires in the overall folk belief of Romanians was also demonstrated in a recent study of a Wallachian immigrant community in Scandinavia.

The strigoi morti, the Romanian vampire conformed in large part to the popular image of the vampire. It was a revenant of the deceased. It had powers to product poltergeist-like phenomena, especially the bringing to life of common household objects. It was seen as capricious, mischievous, and very debilitating. However, the vampire’s attack was rarely seen as fatal. Also, it rarely involved the literal biting and draining of blood from its victim (the crux of the distortion of the vampire’s image in films in the eyes of Romanian folklorists). The strigoi usually drained the vital energy of a victim by a process of psychic vampirism. The description of the strigoi’s attack, described in vivid metaphorical language, was often taken in a literal sense by non-Slavic interpreters who then misunderstood the nature of the Slavic vampire.

Of contemporary note, Mircea Eliade, the outstanding Romanian scholar of world religion, was fascinated with vampires, and among his first books was a vampire novel, Dominisoara Christina (“Miss Christina”). This obscure work was rediscovered years later by Eliade fans in France and Italy and republished in both countries.

In the 1990s, Romania became the focus of vampire tourism, and several tour companies emerged to support vampire related visits, especially in October. A new Dracula hotel in the Borgo Pass was created to serve Dracula-thirsty visitors. Attempting to provide a more nuanced appropriation of Romania’s vampire-related culture was the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, which annually sponsors a scholarly seminar on a folklore-related subject. The country has also tried to promote itself as the site for movies, the most notable ones being the half dozen Subspecies vampire movies produced by Full Moon in the 1990s.

Sources: Eliade, Micea. Domnisoara Christina Bucharest, 1935. French edition as: Mademoiselle Christiana. Paris: Editions de l’Herne, 1978. Italian edition as: Signorina Christiana. Milan: Jaca Book, 1984. Gerard, Emily. The Land Beyond the Forest. 2 vols. London: Will Blackwood & Sons, 1888. Kreuter, Peter Mario. Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa: Studien zur Genese, Bedeutung und Funktion. Rumänien und der Balkanraum. Berlin: Weidler, 2001. Murgoci, Agnes. “The Vampire in Romania.” Folk-Lore 27, 5 (1926): 320–349. Perkowski, Jan L. The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism. Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers, 1989. 174 pp. ———, ed. Vampires of the Slavs. Cambridge, MA: Slavica Publishers, 1976. 294 pp. Schierup, Carl-Ulrik. “Why Are Vampires Still Alive?: Wallachian Immigrants in Scandinavia.” Ethnos 51, 3–4 (1986): 173–198. Senn, Harry A. Were-Wolf and Vampire in Romania. New York: Columbia University Pres, 1982. 148 pp. Summers, Montague. The Vampire in Europe. 1929. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1961. 329 pp.

Vampires in Bulgaria


Bulgaria is one of the oldest areas of Slavic settlement. It is located south of Romania and sandwiched between the Black Sea and Macedonia. In the seventh century C.E., the Bulgar tribes arrived in the area of modern Bulgaria and established a military aristocracy over the Slavic tribes of the region. The Bulgars were only a small percentage of the population, and they eventually adopted the Slavic language.

Christianity arrived with force among the Bulgarians in the ninth century when Pope Nicholas I (r. 858–867) claimed jurisdiction over the lands of the former Roman province of Illyricum. He sent missionaries into Bulgaria and brought it under Roman hegemony. The Bulgarian ruler, Boris-Michael, was baptized in 865, and the country officially accepted Christianity. The pope sent two bishops but would not send an archbishop or appoint a patriarch, causing Boris to switch his allegiance to the eastern church in Constantinople. A Slavic liturgy was introduced to the church and has remained its rite to the present.

Among the many side effects of Byzantine influence in Bulgaria was the growth of a new rival religious group, the Bogomils. The Bogomils grew directly out of an older group, the Paulicians, whose roots went back to the dualistic Maniceans. The Paulicians had been moved into Bulgaria from Asia Minor in order to prevent their alignment with the Muslim Arabs. The Bogomils believed that the world had been created by the rejected son of God, Satanael. While the earthly bodies of humans were created by Satanael, the soul came from God. It was seen by the church as a rebirth of the old gnostic heresy. Jan L. Perkowski has argued at length that it was in the conflict of Bogomil ideas, surviving Paganism, and emerging Christianity that the mature idea of the Slavic vampire developed and evolved. However, his argument was not entirely convincing in that vampires developed in quite similar ways in countries without any Bogomilism. When the Christian Church split in 1054, the Bulgarians adhered to the orthodoxy of Constantinople.

The Bulgarians gained their independence at the end of the twelfth century, but were overrun by the Ottomans in 1396. They remained under Ottoman rule until 1878, when Turkish control was restricted by the Congress of Berlin, but they did not become independent until 1908.

The Bulgarian Vampire
The Bulgarian words for the vampire, a variety of the Slavic vampire, derived from the original Slavic opyrb/opirb. Its modern form appears variously as vipir, vepir, or vapir), or even more commonly as vampir, a borrowing from Russian. The modern idea of the vampire in Bulgaria evolved over several centuries. Most commonly, the Bulgarian vampire was associated with problems of death and burial, and the emergence of vampires was embedded in the very elaborate myth and ritual surrounding death. At the heart of the myth was a belief that the spirits of the dead went on a journey immediately after death. Guided by their guardian angel, they traveled to all of the places they had visited during their earthly life. At the completion of their journey, which occurred in the forty days after their death, the spirit then journeyed to the next life. However, if the burial routine was done improperly, the dead might find their passage to the next world blocked. Generally, in Bulgaria, the family was responsible for preparing the body for burial. There were a number of ways in which the family could err or become negligent in their preparation. Also, the body had to be guarded against a dog or cat jumping over it or a shadow falling on it prior to burial. The body had to be properly washed. Even with proper burial, a person who died a violent death might return as a vampire.

As in other Slavic countries, certain people were likely candidates to become vampires. Those who died while under excommunication from the church might become a vampire. Drunkards, thieves, murderers, and witches were also to be watched. Bulgaria was a source of tales of vampires who had returned to life, taken up residence in a town where they were not known, and lived for many years as if alive. They even married and fathered children. Such people were detected after many years because of some unusual event that occurred. Apart from their nightly journeys in search of blood, the vampire would appear normal, even eating a normal diet.

Among the Gagauz people—Bulgarians who speak their own language, Gagauzi— the vampire was called obur, possibly a borrowing from the Turkish word for glutton. As with other vampires among the southern Slavs, the obur was noted as a gluttonous blood drinker. As part of the efforts to get rid of it, it would be enticed by the offerings of rich food or excrement. The obur was also loud, capable of creating noises like firecrackers, and could move objects like a poltergeist.

James Frazer noted the existence of a particular Bulgarian vampire, the ustrel. The ustrel was described as the spirit of a child who had been born on a Saturday but who died before receiving baptism. On the ninth day after its burial, a ustrel was believed to work its way out of its grave and attack cattle or sheep by draining their blood. After feasting all night, it returned to its grave before dawn. After some ten days of feeding, the ustrel was believed to be strong enough that it did not need to return to its grave. It found a place to rest during the day either between the horns of a calf or ram or between the hind legs of a milch-cow. It was able to pick out a large herd and begin to work its way through it, the fattest animals first. The animals it attacked—as many as five a night—would die the same night. If a dead animal was cut open, the signs of the wound that the vampire made would be evident.

As might be suspected, the unexplained death of cows and sheep was the primary sign that a vampire was present in the community. If a ustrel was believed to be present, the owner of the herd could hire a vampirdzhija, or vampire hunter, a special person who had the ability to see vampires, so that all doubt as to its presence was put aside. Once it was detected, the village would go through a particular ritual known throughout Europe as the lighting of a needfire. Beginning on a Saturday morning, all the fires in the village were put out. The cattle and sheep were gathered in an open space. They were then marched to a nearby crossroads where two bonfires had been constructed. The bonfires were lit by a new fire created by rubbing sticks together. The herds were guided between the fires. Those who performed this ritual believed that the vampire dropped from the animal on whose body it had made its home and remained at the crossroads where wolves devoured it. Before the bonfires burned out, someone took the flame into the village and used it to rekindle all the household fires.

Other vampires, those that originated from the corpse of an improperly buried person or a person who died a violent death, were handled with the traditional stake. There were also reports from Bulgaria of a unique method of dealing with the vampire: bottling. This practice required a specialist, the djadadjii, who had mastered the art. The djadadjii’s major asset was an icon, a holy picture of Jesus, Mary, or one of the Christian saints. The vampire hunter took his icon and waited where the suspected vampire was likely to appear. Once he saw the vampire, he chased it, icon in hand. The vampire was driven toward a bottle that had been stuffed with its favorite food. Once the vampire entered the bottle, it was corked and then thrown into the fire.

The folklore of the vampire has suffered in recent decades. The government manifested great hostility toward all it considered superstitious beliefs, which included both vampires and the church. As the church was suppressed, so was the unity of village life that provided a place for tales of vampires to exist.

Sources: Abbott, G. F. Macedonian Folklore. Chicago: Argonaut, Inc., Publishers, 1986. Blum, Richard, and Eva Blum. The Dangerous Hour: The Lore of Crisis and Mystery in Rural Greece. London: Chatto & Windus, 1970. 410 pp. Brautigam, Rob. “Vampires in Bulgaria.” International Vampire 1, 2 (Winter 91): 16–17. Frazer, James G. The Golden Bough. Vol. 10. Balder the Beautiful: The Fire-Festivals of Europe and the Doctrine of the External Soul. London: Macmillan and Co., 1930. 346 pp. Georgieva, Ivanichka. Bulgarian Mythology. Sofia: Svyet, 1985. Nicoloff, Assen. Bulgarian Folklore. Cleveland, OH: The Author, 1975. 133 pp. ———. Bulgarian Folktales. Cleveland, OH: The Author, 1979. 296 pp. Perkowski, Jan L. The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism. Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers, 1989. 174 pp. St. Clair, Stanislas Graham Bower, and Charles A. Brophy. Twelve Years Study of the Eastern Question in Bulgaria. London: Chapman & Hall, 1877. 319 pp. Summers, Montague. The Vampire in Europe. 1929. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1961. 329 pp

Origins of the Vampire

The vampire is a powerful undead monster that spawns its own followers from living humans. Those followers can gain power of their own and eventually break free of their master to become their own vampire lords. This endless chain of loathsome reproduction has carried the vampiric races into the present day. But what first set the chain in motion?

Vampires are fundamentally created by hatred and violence. They are the product of unnatural concentrations of negative energy, generated through war, famine, cannibalism, or great injustice. The standard vampire that we know as the common variety is far removed from this first cause, but it still thrives on the same negative energy. The first vampires were basic, plant-like creatures formed from corruption of the natural world. In places of great death and depravity, negative energy coalesces. If this energy reaches a certain critical point, Veldrane mold form spontaneously. This mold, which is considered extraplanar in origin, affects living creatures (both plant and animal). Those who consume it or stay too long in its presence become Veldrane mold vampires, who thrive on the moisture of living creatures the way standard vampires thrive on blood. Veldrane mold vampires in turn spawn others of their kind, but a small fraction of their spawn are mutants: They are standard vampires.

These standard vampires, at first small in number, gradually usurped the place of their weaker Veldrane brethren. Now, many eons later, standard vampires are the most common. But as they have expanded to the ends of the earth, they have multiplied and rarified. Sukko vampires, immune to cold, now inhabit the polar wastes. Inferno vampires thrive in the tropics. Magebane vampires come into existence when powerful magic users become vampires, while moglet vampires can only exist in places of legendary art.

All vampires maintain their connection to the hatred and violence that create them. They are fundamentally creatures of negative energy. Like all undead, negative energy heals them and positive energy harms them. Vampires have a natural sensitivity to places where negative energy pools, and this is why they are often found at the center of wars, revolutions, and corruption. Just as a human thrives on blue skies and sunny days, a vampire thrives on bloodshed and conquest. But there is more to this negative energy sensitivity than meets the eye. Unbeknownst to all but the most erudite sages, vampires are a necessary byproduct of the natural order of things. They are the only undead whose origins can be traced to spontaneous formation from negative energy alone. The process that forms a vampire spawn from a creature slain by a vampire actually sucks ambient negative energy out of the prime material plane, concentrating it in the undead life force of the newly revived spawn. Vampires act as living conduits of negative energy, channeling it into themselves through their own actions, then feeding off it and destroying it in the process. If they were removed from the world, the negative energies they focus would be released. Unchecked, mankind’s endless atrocities would form great concentrations of negative energy. Eventually this energy would pool into concentrations so great that portals to the negative energy planes would appear. These in turn would release creatures far, far more terrible than vampires.

Thus, the deities that govern good and law allow vampires to exist. Their followers are sent to defeat the vampires, but the scales can never tip too far. By their very nature, vampires act as lightning rods for negative energy; as they feed off it, they reduce its concentration in the world, and they absorb the foul byproducts of human conflict that would otherwise attract far greater evils.

A few vampires gain true insight into their natural position in the world. They learn to manipulate negative energy in a way no others can match. They ascend to the status of arch-vampires, and begin to challenge the gods themselves. Rather than accept that the gods “allow” vampires to exist so that a natural balance is preserved, the arch-vampires challenge that the gods should even govern such things. They set centuries-long schemes into motion, and strive to expand the role of vampires in the world. The most powerful arch-vampires become demi-gods. These quasi-deities travel to the outer planes, where they maintain constant connections to the negative energy planes and the prime material plane. From there, they direct armies of minions and sponsor other arch-vampires. Vampire clerics who still receive spells may wonder from whence they come. It is these ascendant arch-vampires that provide them.

For generations, the old gods regarded the arch-vampire demi-gods as a natural correction mechanism, much like wolves who feed on overpopulated deer. But now the wolves seek to become king. Two powerful arch-vampire demi-gods have grown to such stature that the old gods are wary. Vlad the Immortal and Suthrikorn the Red now actively sponsor other arch-vampires, encouraging them to break free from the “game of balance” and expand their rightful claim to the world. The vampire armies are becoming more active, and the forces of good have stepped up their efforts against them. For the first time, the scales are tipping toward the vampires’ favor...