Thursday, 21 July 2011

The 'first' vampire

Anthony Hogg, in a comment to a recent post, asks: Who was the first vampire? Giure Grando, Peter Plogojowitz, or perhaps the vampires mentioned in Mercure Galant as quoted by Calmet.

As I wrote in an earlier post, there is a museum dedicated to Giure (or: Jure) Grando, commemorating him as the first vampire. As it says here: 'Jure Grando (1656) was the first classical Vampire to be mentioned in documented records.' Still, I would myself refer to Peter Plogojewitz (or however you prefer to spell his name) as the 'first' vampire, because that term is used in Provisor Frombald's report from Kisiljevo.

As for bloodsucking, well, most of these revenants tend to either strangle or by other means affect the living, and blood itself generally first turns up on the corpses that are exhumed, and it is then interpreted as blood drawn from the unfortunate victims of the revenant. But some kind of bloodsucking is actually mentioned in connection with the Mercure Galant article on the Polish Upiertz that Hogg also refers to in his comment. Still, the term 'vampire' is apparently not used, although Calmet claims that the articles 'parlent des oupires, vampires ou revenants'. There appears to be an excerpt from the 1693 issue in question on the web site of this author of a book on vampires, i.e. here, and it actually says that this Demon draws blood from the body of a living person or of cattle.

A Google search, of course, provides a number of other answers like Cain, Lilith, Vlad Tepes, George Bush...

4 comments:

bshistorian said...

Thanks Niels, very interesting.

I mistakenly thought that there was a blood-sucking reference in the Valvasor original. I'd even saved copies of the document that you had linked to at the Wolfenbuttel Digital Library - http://diglib.hab.de/wdb.php?dir=drucke/gm-4f-522-2&image=00339

Looking again at this, your transliteration and Rob's, even with my non-existent German I can see that the only reference to blood is the bloated corpse and the blood-filled grave.

Now, one can still infer blood-drinking, as did the English writers and many since. But Anthony and you are both quite right to say that we cannot describe Guire Grando as a 'vampire', only a revenant.

Niels K. Petersen said...

Honestly, one should consider why one is asking this question, i.e. what is the purpose?

In terms of how our modern understanding of the term developed, I would point to the events in Kisiljevo.

But if you compare it with various other events or tales, there are many similarities. Michael Ranft and other people debating the matter back in the early 18th century clearly regarded the events in Serbia as belonging to a category that included the masticating dead, the Greek revenants described by Leo Allatius etc.

What was particular about the Serbian instances were that they were contemporary events documented by officials and published in papers, books and journals. At the same time the events raised questions that a) some people felt needed to be answered, and b) concerned matters that played a role in contemporary scholarly debates.

In the broader sense of that debate, neither Plogojowitz nor Grando was the 'first' one. On the other hand, it is unlikely that they had fangs, as well as it is unlikely that they actually sucked blood in a way similar to what people nowadays would associate with vampires.

bshistorian said...

Hi Niels,

For me, it's about connecting the popular conception of a 'vampire' with the historical reality. The vampire in pop culture (as opposed to subculture) is pretty well wholly blood-drinking. That's its 'thing'. Same goes for the dictionary definition.

It's also about 'debunking' what Anthony recently referred to as the 'universal vampire' - though as I said in reply, as you point out, and as Barber's entire book shows, there certainly is a 'universal revenant'.

Both of which lead to my interest, entirely through the work of others, in pinpointing the earliest references to bloodsucking revenant. I do agree that the application of the word 'vampire' and its etymological relatives is also important, but in a more academic sense, I feel, than the general question of 'who was the first?'. It's a question I have been asked, naturally enough, and been unable to definitively answer. No longer, thanks to you and Anthony.

Nicolas Barbano said...

Thanks for the insights. I agree with the comment from bshistorian.

I'm curious about the origin of the idea that Lilith was "the first vampire". Who was the first to interpret this Jewish/Babylonian figure in those terms? (the name Lilith was apparently translated as "vampire" in a 1922 Bible translation)

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