Thursday, 9 April 2009
De cruentationibus cadaverum
One of the 18th century texts usually referred to in books on vampires is the natural history of Poland, Historia naturalis curiosa regni Poloniæ, by the Jesuit Gabriel Rzaczynski (1664-1737) published in the Polish city Sandomierz in 1721. Apart from chapters on fossils, minerals and various other natural phenomena, Rzaczynski discusses the incorruptibility, flexibility and mobility of corpses, as well as other phenomena related to cadavers, like the belief that the corpse of a murdered person will start bleeding if it gets into contact with the murderer (‘Cadaver hominis violenter occisi, ad præsentiam occisoris, etiam in Provinciis nostris non semel sanguinem profudisse narratur.’).
Of particular interest here is the part on how malign spirits can appear in corpses and e.g. move its mouth, tongue and eyes. It can even make the corpse rise from the tomb and attack people: ‘etiam notatum est, quòd cadaver ejusmodi è tumulo exurgat, compita, domos obambulet, his & illis se conspiciendum præbeat, ac quosdam etia invadat, & suffocare nitatur’. Such a cadaver is called Upier if the corpse is male, and Upierzyca if female.
The full text of Rzaczynski’s natural history is available online at the Digital Library at Gdansk University of Technology.