Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Bulgarian vampires

I have in my possession a Danish booklet from 1855 by B. Kneazjeskij called Bolgarernes Skikke og Overtro (The customs and superstition of the Bulgarians), translated from the Russian by E. M. Thorson. It is just 39 pages on weddings, births, funerary customs, and superstition. The latter chapter is of particular interest here as it describes various beings: Talasam, Samovid, Karakóndzjal, Vampire, Varkolak, Magésnitsa, Murá, Úrisnitsa, Tsjûma and Sípanitsa!

Vampires are described this way (in my translation):

In the bodies of those persons who have led a life full of sin, as e.g. robbers and the like, an unclean spirit finds an abode after their death, viz. they are transformed into vampires. The same is the case with the one over whose corpse, while it is still in the house of mourning, a cat jumps. To prevent this misfortune, the relatives of the deceased must keep a watch by turns by the body, until it is taken out of the house. After the course of forty days a vampire begins to walk about in the houses and suck the blood of children and at times even from the grown ups through their ears. As soon as it rumours that a vampire haunts, the Bulgarians stay the night several families together in one and the same room. Throughout the whole night two of the men alternately stand guard with a lit candle or dip in each hand, and if one of those asleep start snoring somewhat heavily or to moan while asleep, the guard immediately awakens everybody, and they set off to look for the vampire. In case there is the least suspicion that a deceased has been transformed into a vampire, the authorities and his relatives go to the cemetery, exhume the body, pour sour wine over it and drive a stake through it in the belief that they will thereby drive away the evil spirit that has taken its abode in it.

A footnote (written by the translator, one presumes) is added to the last sentence: According to other authors, such a corpse is finally cremated.

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