Tuesday 31 July 2007

Das grosse Handbuch der Dämonen

During a visit in Hamburg I tried to look for books of value for my interest in the Magia Posthuma. In fact, I only found two books, and I wasn't quite sure about one of them, Das grosse Handbuch der Dämonen compiled by Helmut Werner (tosa/Verlag Ueberreuter, Vienna). A few vampires encyclopedias have been published, but I must confess that I rarely use them, because they mainly focus on the fictional vampire. So I feared the worst when I unwrapped this hardcover book, but was delighted to find entries on early authors on vampires and vampire related topics like Phillip Rohr, Michael Ranft and Johann Christoph Harenberg.

In his foreword the author describes the book's themes:

"In über 1.200 Stichworten bietet dieses Nachslagewerk für den Laien und den Fachmann eine übersicthliche und umfassende Übersicht nach dem neuesten Forschungsbestand zu folgenden Themen: Monster (Luft, Land, Wasser), monströse Dämonen und Geister, Mischwesen, Fabeltiere, rätselhafte Tiere, Missgeburten (Mensch und Tier), rätselhafte Menschen und menschliche Ungeheuer wie die Blutgräfin Bathory, Kürten etc., Vampire, vampirartige Dämonen, Werwölfe, Biografien bedeutender Gelehrter, die sich mit dieser Thematik beschäftigten, und die zentralen Begriffe dieser Themen."

As for these creatures being demons or not, the first page of the Handbuch actually contains this entry:

Bez. für Anhänger einer Vampirtheorie, welche davon ausgeht, dass der Teufel, böse Dämonen, unkörperliche Substanzen wie Astralkörper (→Unverweslichkeit) und →Incubus nicht zur Erklärung des →Vampirismus herangezogen werden dürfen. Im Gegensatz zu ihren Gegnern, den Dämoniaken, glauben sie zwar an die Existenz des Teufels, sie lehnen aber seine Leiblichkeit ab. Der Teufel untersteht Gott und seine Fähigkeit, mit Erlaubnis Gottes in die Schöpfung einzugreifen, ist nur begrenzt."

So, obviously, it is debatable whether this is really an encyclopedia of demons or not, and it is probably a matter of taste whether you like the mix of themes. Personally, I would have preferred it done differently, e.g. making it easier to find the sources behind each entry, but I still find the encyclopedia both useful and enjoyable. Certainly, this book made the trip from Germany to Denmark by train feel shorter.

Unfortunately, errors can be found, and I can't help wondering why there is no entry about Peter Plogojowitz, when there is one about Arnont Paole?! I certainly don't understand how Werner has come to rename Karl Ferdinand von Schertz "Karl-Friedrich Schertz"?!

So some caution is required when using Hemut Werner's Handbuch, but I am sure that this book will be enjoyed by others interested in Magia Posthuma, and it will probably also attract some new attention to the old vampire cases and the 18th century vampire debate. The bibliography is also worth studying, so at the price of €9.95, there is no need to hesitate in ordering this 316 page Handbuch.

Friday 27 July 2007

Vampire lectures

Laurence A. Rickels, professor of German literature at the University of California, has lectured on vampires for a number of years. The lectures were taped and made into a book, The Vampire Lectures (University of Minnesota Press, 1999). The book contains 26 lectures, mainly on vampire fiction and film. It may appeal to people with an inclination towards Freud who want an introduction to the fictional vampire, but to those of us who are interested in the more historical aspects of Magia Posthuma, there is no reason to spend time on these lectures. Curiously, a German translation will be published later this year: Vampirismus Vorlesungen (Brinkmann U. Bose).

Thursday 26 July 2007


Speaking of illustrations, it is remarkable that whereas contemporary illustrations of werewolves and witches exist, I know of no attempt to show a vampire per se in the eighteenth century literature. So usually you have to rely on more recent material if you wish to illustrate a book on vampires, if only for a cover.

As the covers of the four books below show, the Nightmare paintings of Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1741-1825) are particularly popular. Their imagery is definitely striking, and I doubt that anyone can be quite unaffected by it. Fuseli painted two different paintings on this theme, the first of which was exhibited in 1782. Three of the covers shown are based on the early painting whereas the one on the cover of Die Geschichte der Vampire is from the later version. The paintings have also inspired movie makers, in particular Eric Rohmer (Die Marquise von O... , 1976) and Ken Russell (Gothic, 1986).

However, Fuseli had a close friend, the Danish painter Nicolai Abildgaard (1743-1809), whom Fuseli met in Italy in the 1770'ies. Both painted themes from e.g. mythology, Homer and Shakespeare, and somehow Abildgaard got inspired by Fuseli's Nightmare, because he painted his own version in 1800.

Abildgaard's Mareridt (Nightmare) can be seen at Vestsjællands Kunstmuseum which is located in a small town in central Zealand (Sjælland) in Denmark, Sorø. It's a small painting (approximately 35 cm x 42 cm) and can best be seen on the internet on the museum's own web site. You will notice that Abildgaard's version is probably more daring. There are two women on the bed, one naked and the other only partially covered. There is no horse in Abildgaard's version, only a moonlit night and the shadow of the creature (the mare) in the background.

One interesting detail, which I have attempted to make more clear by enhacing the contrast in the above excerpt, is that it looks like the woman at the back has blood trickling down her leg and foot. I can't remember noticing this when I visited the museum sometime last year, so it may be the reproduction that is playing a trick on me!

It is not clear precisely how Abildgaard was inspired by Fuseli's Nightmare. He probably never saw any of the original paintings, but they inspired numerous variations and pastiches (an example can be seen here), including a political satire published in Denmark in 1797, so the theme was well known. A print similar to Fuseli's second painting is known from 1794, so Abildgaard could have seen it.

Interestingly, there is a drawing by Abildgaard from 1805 in which Odysseus (Ulysses) and Calypso are drawn on a bed in postures very similar to those of the two women in the Mareridt painting.

James B. Twitchell reproduces a few examples of other works that have been inspired by Fuseli's paintings in The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature (Duke Univ. Press, 1981), which by the way has a very nice jacket design in which Fuseli's lady gets two punctures in her neck revealing the red colour of the bookbinding. Twitchell's book is shown in the lower left corner of the photo above. The other three books are: Markman Ellis: The History of Gothic Fiction (Edinburg Univ. Press, 2005), Claude Lecouteux: Die Geschichte der Vampire (Artemis & Winkler, 2001), and John William Polidori: 'The Vampyre' and other writings (Carcanet Press, 2005).

Addendum: Here is a very interesting drawing by Fuseli titled The Nightmare Leaving Two Sleeping Women dated 1810. The (night)mare leaves the two women on the horse (mare). Obviously, the idea of the (night)mare visiting more than one woman at a time was known to Fuseli. Certainly, the women are no longer sleeping, but they are naked like in Abildgaard's painting.

Troublesome Corpses

I received David Keyworth's Troublesome Corpses the other day. Naturally, I will return to the book when I have read it, but in the meantime I will post a few facts about it, as very little is available on the internet (even the publishers mention only the basic data on their web site).

On the back flap it says that Keyworth has 'extensively revised' his thesis for this book, 'making it accessible to both an academic and a lay audience.' As for the contents, Keyworth summarises it briefly this way:

"Broadly speaking, in the initial chapters of this book, I present a historical survey of the undead-corpses that supposedly existed in Western Europe from antiquity to the eighteenth century and explore the evolving typology, phenomenology and comparative folklore of such revenants, so too the burial customs and prophylactic practices associated with the undead. The remaining chapters delve into the supposed aetiology and metaphysical mechanics of revenants and the theological explanations cited for their existence, the socio-religious history of the vampire infestations of the eighteenth century and the declining belief in revenants thereafter, and the increasingly popular notion of astral vampirism in the nineteenth century, noting that occasional reports of flesh-and-blood vampires continue to emerge in the twentieth century."

The paper on the uniqueness of the eighteenth century vampire I mentioned in a recent post is a summary of the first four chapters.

I have added an update to the post on 'Illustrating Keyworth'. Incidentally, there are no illustrations in Keyworth's book.

Monday 23 July 2007

Leptirića revisited

By far the most popular search topic that leads people to this blog is 'Leptirića', which is a testament to the 'cult' surrounding this rare Yugoslavian TV film mentioned in one of my first posts. Now someone has placed another small extract from it on youtube showing the miller being attacked by the vampire.

Utile dulci miscere

Like I mentioned in a previous post it was important for writers and publishers of the 18th century to mix the useful with the pleasant and entertaining. "Care will be taken to mingle Use and Pleasure through the whole Collection," says Dr. Johnson in the introduction to the Harleian Miscellany, and the same seems to be the case for another 18th century book which is currently available in a Swedish translation from a Swedish antiquarian book seller:

The book is Peter Adolph Boysen's Neue und vermehrte acerra philologica: Oder Grundliche Nachrichten aus der Philologie, und den romischen und griechischen Antiquitasten, darinn die schwersten Stellen aller Autorum classicorum der studirenden Jugend zum besten in einer angenehmen Erzehlung kurtzlich und grundlich erklaret werden which in the Swedish translation is: Ny och Förmehrad ACERRA PHILOLOGICA, Det är: Siuhundrade Utwalde, Nyttige/ Lustige och Märkwärdige Historier och DISCOURSER, Utur De Berömligaste Grekiske och Latinske Scribenter sammendragne; Deribland Poeternas fläste Dichter om Gudar og Gudinnor; De fordna Romares och Grekers förnämste Handlingar; Någre brukelige Ord-Språk, samt åtskillige naturlige Saker finnas månde: Allom Historie-Älskarom til Nöije; Men i synnerhet den studerande Swenska Ungdomen til Tienst och Nytto, från Tyskan på wårt Modersmåhl öfwersatte Af P. B. The Swedish translation is from 1737.

I mention this book because, although this blog is not dedicated to the study of Dracula, the book seller thinks that this book could be the first book in Swedish to mention the Wallachian ruler Vlad Tepes Dracula. It seems that apart from the Roman and Greek classical tales mentioned in the title, the book contains a few stories from a later period, including one about a ghost from Stockholm. As the Acerra philologica was intended to educate children and youngsters, we can conclude that more terrifying stories were considered both useful and entertaining for children. I suppose that the title itself refers to the twin purposes, as Acerra philologica means "philological censer".

Sunday 22 July 2007

Before the internet

Long before internet connections and hyper text became part of everyday life, state of the art journals on vampires and related topics could look like those in the figure. Journal of Vampirism was published by the Vampires Studies Society and edited by Marty Riccardo who had compiled the bibliography Vampires Unearthed: The Complete Multimedia Vampire & Dracula Bibliography (1983). In the top left corner is the very first issue of the journal from august 1977, and the editor starts the issue on green paper with a quote from Hamlet before asking:

"What is the world coming to when something called the Journal of Vampirism hits the scene? A publication about vampires and other grisly creatures!?! We must plead guilty, for that is exactly what we've created. Furthermore, we've accepted our task as a grave responsibility, in all honesty. We recognize that it is an unusual subject, to say the least, but still one that deserves serious investigation. For example, the large number of old accounts about vampire attacks in eastern Europe and elsewhere fit a consistent pattern -- someone dies, a specter or revenant of the deceased is seen which attacks the living, those attacked become pale, weak and anxious (and may die), the body of the revenant is unearthed and found to be in a fresh, ruddy condition even when buried for a long period of time (with blood sometimes on the mouth or in the coffin), and when the corpse is staked or burned the vampire visitations cease. What does it all mean? Was it pure hysterical superstition, or are there other possibilities that go beyond most rational explanations? That's one of the things we hope to explore in the Journal of Vampirism, which will provide an outlet for many ideas related to various unearthly predators of the dark."

The first issue contains a few articles on superstitions concerning cats, an extract from Varney the Vampyre, a couple of photos from Highgate cemetery in London and various other short texts. In further issues there were a few papers by Jan L. Perkowski.

The other magazine shown is the Journal of Vampirology published by John L. Vellutini in the Eighties, which e.g. dedicated a whole issue to 'The African Origins of Vampirism'.

Saturday 21 July 2007

Illustrating Keyworth

There are two figures in the Keyworth paper on the uniqueness of the 18th century vampire. Both are contributions from Rob Brautigam, but I think there are a couple of errors in the captions. Anyway, one of the figures is by Albert Decaris and is called Le Vampire transfixé according to the French web site L'universe du gothique. The caption describes the illustration as: 'Soldiers destroying a vampire'. Now, I can't remember the details of every vampire case, but I find it hard to believe that e.g. Austrian soldiers of the 18th century would be very keen on actually staking a corpse. The illustration is probably from a fictional vampire tale, and it is truly a remarkable depiction of the staking of a vampire, but from my point of view the act seems apocryphal.

Update: Rob Brautigam has kindly told me that the captions got interchanged at the editors. He also mentions that the Albert Decaris etching has no title or caption in the book where it was originally printed, Jean Mistler's novel Le Vampire (Editions du Rocher, 1944). The other illustration is from L'Echo des Feuilletons (ca. 1866-7).

Keyworth and the Uniqueness of the Vampire

Now I have obtained and read a paper by G. David Keyworth, who was mentioned in one of my recent posts. It seems that Keyworth wrote a thesis on 'the socio-religious beliefs and nature of the contemporary vampire subculture' before completing a PhD thesis on 'the unnatural history of troublesome corpses and vampires in Europefrom the medieval period to the twentieth century'. The paper I refer to, Was the Vampire of the Eighteenth Century a Unique Type of Undead-corpse? published in Folklore 117 (December 2006), p. 241-260, is obviously based on his work for the latter thesis.

Augustin Calmet in his Dissertation on revenants and vampires claimed that “in no history do we read anything similar, so common, or so decided, as what is related to us of the vampires of Poland, Hungary, and Moravia.” ("Mais en nulle Histoire on ne lit rien d'aussi commun ni aussi marqué que ce qu'on nous raconte des Vampires de Pologne, de Hongrie & de Moravie." II, vii). In his paper Keyworth aims to “test the validity of Calmet’s notion that eighteenth-century vampires were a unique type of revenant.” Consequently, Keyworth compares and contrasts the vampires of the 18th century with tales and cases of revenants and other 'troublesome corpses' from the 12th century and onwards.

Some of his examples will be well known, e.g. those from William of Newburgh and Henry More, whereas others are more obscure. The older sources are mainly from England, Iceland and parts of northern Europe, and Keyworth seems to be fascinated by the old Norse draugrs. He refers to various writings on the Greek vrykolakas (e.g. Allatius and Tournefourt) before coming to the oupire and vampire of the 18th century, which are described via quotes from Harleian Miscellany, Mercure Argent, the Lettres Juives, and the reports from Kisiljevo and Medvedja.

Further on he refers to writers on theosophy and spiritualism, who had notions of 'astral' and 'posthumous' vampirism. He also mentions von Görres' mystical views in Die Christliche Mystik (1836-42), and finally compares the New England 19th century 'vampires cases' with those of the 18th century.

All in all this makes for an interesting peek into the historical development of notions about revenants.

As for Keyworth's question: 'Were the Vampires of the Eighteenth Century Unique?', he concludes that:

“The Slavic vampire of the eighteenth century remains a unique type of revenant, given its supposed thirst for human blood.” (p. 256)

I feel that the paper is much too biased towards England and northern Europe, whereas in my opinion it is particularly interesting to know if the same trend can be found if you incorporate material from various continental European countries. Quite a few books have been written about the revenants and apparitions of the medieval period, so material should be readily available.

Furthermore, I am a bit wary of the use of e.g. the Harleian Miscellany as evidence, because this text is mainly based on other sources. In general I prefer to try to go to the most original sources, in particular those written by people who were present when examining cases of purported vampirism. Keyworth mentions two examples (and his source is obviously Paul Barber's Vampires, Burial, and Death), but there are others. In particular the military physician Georg Tallar's examination of 'vampire victims' is important.

These sources are also important when considering the 'blood sucking' of 18th century vampires. Were they really supposed to suck blood and how? In many cases the victims complained of other symptoms than losing blood, e.g. suffocation.

Keyworth does however note that the notion of blood sucking could be inferred from the post mortem effects on the human body:

“Slavic culture, however, as we have seen emphasised the apparent accumulation of blood within the organs and bodily cavities of such corpses, this being taken as supposed evidence that the deceased had been sucking the blood of the living.” (p. 257)

But is this enough evidence to claim the uniqueness of the 18th century vampires?

In my opinion there are still unanswered questions. Keyworth touches upon important aspects of the history of vampires and revenants, but I do not feel convinced by his conclusion, or perhaps I just view things from a different perspective? However, now I have even more reason to look forward to reading Keyworth's book!

Friday 20 July 2007

In search of von Schertz

In one of my earliest posts I wrote about my failure in locating a copy of Carl Ferdinand von Schertz's famous book Magia Posthuma that Augustin Calmet quoted in his Dissertation. Well, I have been spending a lot of time in search of the book, and now there's hope, because I believe that I have located a copy! So watch this space to find out if I can get my hands on the (Latin) text of the book. Actually, I am trying to find out if there are other copies of it somewhere, and I even intend to collect all the information I have (and can get) on von Schertz and his books. However, I am, of course, still interested in getting in contact with anyone who has information on von Schertz, his books and his life!

Below is the short 'biography' of von Schertz in Johann Heinrich Zedler's Grosses vollständiges Universallexicon aller Wissenschaften und Künste published between 1732 and 1754.

Monday 16 July 2007

Von Born's Curious account

I mentioned Ignaz von Born and his letters on Banat in a recent post. Although his Briefe über mineralogische Gegenstände auf seiner Reise durch das Temeswarer Bannat, Siebenbürgen, Ober- und Niederhungarn, an den Herausgeber derselben, J. J. Ferber, geschrieben, does not contain much material on vampires, it is an interesting read because of its general description of the customs of the people in the area, where a few known cases of Magia Posthuma took place.

The online edition of the Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek contains a review by P. D. Giseke of the Briefe from 1777, in which Giseke notes that:

"So klein auch die Zahl der Seiten ist (und auf Einer Reise drey und zwanzig solche Briefe zu schreiben, ist in der That genug:) so voll Merkwürdigkeiten sind sie." (As small as the number of pages is (and to write twenty three letters like these on one journey should suffice), as full of curiosities they are).

Giseke mainly discusses the mineralogical content of the book, but briefly comments on the wildness of the customs of the people living in Banat:

"Sollten die Stubenphilosophen es wohl glauben, daß in Europa Leute gefunden würden, die so malabarisch dächten, daß sie Sonnenfinsternisse für Streite des hollischen Drachen mit der Sonne halten? - Hr. v. B. hat sie im Temeswarer Bannat gefunden." (Should the parlour philosophers really believe that in Europe people could be found, whose thinking is so wild, that they believe that the solar eclipse is caused by a hellish dragon fighting the sun? Mr. von Born has found them in the Banat of Temeswar).

Ignaz von Born
A very nice paper has been written on Born and his Briefe by Alex Drace-Francis: A Provincial Imperialist and a Curious Account of Wallachia in European History Quarterly vol. 36 (2006), p. 61-89. Drace-Francis is particularly interested in how 'East European' areas, in particular those of present day Romania, were represented by Born and other writes. From the above quote, it is quite obvious that some of them were considered as wild, superstititious, and uneducated. He traces von Born's journey, and the various editions of his Briefe and finds that:

"The Habsburgs' conquest, colonization, exploitation and representation of their south-eastern frontier is, I argue, best understood not as part of a process of defining Eastern Europe, nor as a 'semi-' or 'para' imperial enterprise, but one that bears legitimate comparison with colonial experiences elsewhere."

It is, I hope, obvious that this is interesting for us who wish to understand the context of the Magia Posthuma. The cases of vampirism reported to the Vienna court of Charles VI and Maria Theresa usually took place on the borders of the empire, in the military buffer zones occupied by Austrian military forces or in mining towns, so in most cases we have encounters between representatives of the empire and the locals and their beliefs. The curiosity about these parts of Europe was increasing in these years, travelogues were avidly read. This included an anonymous and abridged version of Born's Briefe published in London in 1779 under the title A very entertaining, comical and curious account of the manners and customs of the inhabitants of Wallachia, with a particular description of that country.

The word 'entertaining' is telling, because entertainment and amusement were very important to the people of that day. Even many of the more learned periodicals of the 17th and 18th centuries aimed to entertain, and it is to some extent in that context that we should see the printing of news on vampires and other curiosities in a number of these journals. In fact, a reviewer of von Born's Briefe even reminds his readers of the old Horatian dictum "Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci." (He gets every vote, who mixes the useful with the pleasant).

Anyway, Drace-Francis finds that Born's representation of the people of Banat should be seen in the light of a tension between province and empire. He finds that there are some similarities between Born's work and that of contemporary German scholars who define Jews and Gypsies in what we term as a racist way, but he ensures us that "it would be reductive to identify him with any movement towards theories of immutable ethnic distinction."

Although Austria considered taking over more areas of present day Romania, it seems that Maria Theresa decided not to. Drace-Francis quotes her for this view:

"Unhealthy provinces, without culture, depopulated or inhabited by perfidious and ill-intentioned Greeks, would be more likely to exhaust than to augment the forces of the monarchy."

One would, in fact, also think that she had plenty to do with reforming the empire than to expand it with further "malabarisch" people and their outlandish beliefs in e.g. vampires and revenants.

Sunday 15 July 2007

Shroudeater and other troublesome corpses

I have been in touch with Rob Brautigam a couple of times. He has been interested in vampires for about four decades and currently has a nice web site which is devoted to the study of vampires in a way that is in many ways similar to my own interest in the subject. For a long time, the web site, which is called Shroudeater, hasn't been updated, but I just happened to notice that he has updated it a few days ago.

Among the updates are new books that have been added to the bibliography, including a brand new book in the Desert Island Books Dracula series, which I was unaware of. Desert Island Books has otherwise specialised in books by, about or related to Bram Stoker and Dracula, but with the new book called Troublesome Corpses written by David Keyworth, it seems that they have published a book that focuses on vampires and other revenants. This is what Brautigam has to say about it:

"Excellent study by a brilliant Australian scholar about undead corpses in Europe. David Keyworth has discovered an amazing lot of absolutely fascinating material, and he has managed to present it in such a way that it actually makes sense, even to someone as shallow as myself. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED."

So I have just ordered it and look forward to finding out more about this book, which is probably based on Keyworth's 2006 thesis, The Undead: An Unnatural History of Vampires and Troublesome Corpses in Western Europe from the Medieval Period to the Twentieth Century that carries this ambitious abstract:

"In this thesis, I undertake a multi-disciplinary survey and descriptive analysis of vampires and other types of undead-corpse in Europe from the medieval period to the twentieth century. Broadly speaking, the first three chapters of the thesis discuss the typology and folklore of vampires and undead-corpses, and so too the burial practices associated with such revenants. The remaining chapters delve into the etiological explanations for the existence of undead-corpses, the vampire infestations of the eighteenth century, the reasons for declining belief in walking-corpses thereafter, and the increasingly popular notion of astral vampirism in the nineteenth century. In the early eighteenth century, popular belief in the existence of undead-corpses was fuelled by numerous reports of vampire outbreaks across Eastern and Central Europe. In his Treatise on Vampires and Revenants (1746), Augustin Calmet argued that although there may have been troublesome undead-corpses and ‘vestiges of vampirism’ in the past, the vampires of eighteenth-century Europe were inherently unique. In the first chapter of this thesis, I investigate Calmet’s assertion and compare/contrast the distinguishing features of the various types of undead-corpse that supposedly existed in Europe from the medieval period to the Enlightenment, and argue that the outstanding characteristic of eighteenth-century vampires was their implied thirst for blood, and that the vampire is indeed a unique type of undead-corpse. In the second chapter, I assess to what extent undead-corpses like the vampire acquired the characteristics formerly attributed to other folkloric beings. Subsequently, I undertake a folkloric analysis of vampires and undead-corpses in Europe from the twelfth to the eighteenth century and compare/contrast their features with that of other folkloric entities like ghosts, incubi/succubi, witches and fairies. I demonstrate that a distinction can be made between the folkloric vampire and ‘historical’ vampires of the eighteenth century like Arnod Paole. And argue that although medieval revenants were very corporeal beings, subsequent undead-corpses like the spectrum of sixteenth-century Silesia, and so too the vampire of folklore, took on a more semi-corporeal nature, indulged in all manner of supernatural activity and acquired many features formerly attributed to other folkloric beings. In the third chapter, however, I delve into the various burial practices associated with vampires and revenants, the prophylactic measures used against them, and the methods employed to dispatch the undead. I argue that the main reason for impaling vampires with a wooden stake and other such practices was simply to hasten the decomposition of the deceased, given that there was no guarantee that a corpse was actually dead until the flesh had rotted from the bones. In the next chapter, I discuss eschatological notions like Purgatory and excommunication, and argue that by the end of the seventeenth century, three main theological/metaphysical notions had developed to explain the existence of undeadcorpses. Firstly, undead-corpses were inhabited and enlivened by the actual soul of the deceased individual and empowered by some sort of remnant energy or vestigium vitae, which took on a life of their own until the body had decomposed and the remnant energy had dissipated. Secondly, it was the Devil that reanimated the corpse, rather than the deceased soul, in the same manner that the Devil could possess and manipulate a living body. Furthermore, necromancers could raise the dead through sorcery, albeit with demonic help. Thirdly, the Devil could create a semi-corporeal body of congealed air and appear in the guise of someone recently deceased in order to torment the living. I argue that it was the earthbound soul of the deceased that supposedly animated the vampires of the eighteenth-century. In the fifth chapter, I outline the socio-religious topography of the vampire outbreaks in eighteenth-century Europe and discuss the reactions of the Austro-Hungarian authorities, under whose jurisdiction the outbreaks occurred. Similarly, I discuss the response of the intelligentsia and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the state religion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the vampire infestations. I demonstrate that official belief in undead-corpses had waned by the Enlightenment, and that the civil authorities were keen to enlighten and re-educate the populace, and initiated official investigations into further outbreaks of vampirism, and introduced legislative measures to eradicate such beliefs. In particular, I review the various natural explanations furnished by the educated elite at the time to account for vampires. I argue that it was difficult for the authorities and educated elite to eradicate belief in undead-corpses largely because the masses and lower echelons of the Church at the time were fuelled by a pre-modern belief-system that had itself promoted belief in revenants. In the final chapters, I note that although the occasional vampire outbreak still arose in nineteenth century Europe and undead-corpses were reputedly responsible for consumption in late nineteenth-century New England (USA), popular belief in walking corpses per se had largely ceased. Nonetheless, the rise of spiritualism, theosophy and popular occultism at the time encouraged a reinterpretation of the traditional vampire and fuelled the notion of ‘astral’ vampires. Finally, I elaborate upon the importance of the vampire to our own lives and note that occasional belief in flesh-and-blood vampires still occurs today, and that a contemporary Vampire subculture has arisen of ‘living’ individuals who claim to be the ‘real’ vampires."

The Fantastic Vampire

The Fantastic Vampire: Studies in the Children of the Night (Greenwood Press, 1997) is a pretty expensive book that I have had the opportunity to borrow. It has nothing of particular value for the historical study of Magia Posthuma, as it is mainly about Bram Stoker and various themes related to the vampire in film, fiction and popular culture. However, I found Elizabeth Miller's discussion of Stoker's 1901 abridged edition of Dracula interesting, and there are a few other papers on Stoker that might be worth reading. The editor, James Craig Holte, writes about Christopher Lee and the Hammer Dracula films, and Raymond T. McNally reviews a few classic examples of 'Irish gothic'. The table of contents and an excerpt are available at amazon.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Abhandlung des Daseyns der Gespenster

I recently referred to Mayer's Abhandlung des Daseyns der Gespenster, nebst einem Anhange vom Vampyrismus published in Augsburg in 1768, because it contains a German translation of van Swieten's commentaries on vampirism and Magia Posthuma. Interestingly, two reviews of this book can be found online in the digital version of Allgemeine deutsche Bibliotek as part of the online Schriften der Erklärung at the web site of the
Universitätsbibliothek Bielefeld. The reviews are from 1770 and 1771 and have very little to say about van Swieten's commentaries, but are worth reading for their general thoughts on the subjects of "Gespenster".

Monday 9 July 2007

An der Türckischen Granitz III

So how close was Medvedja actually to the "Granitz"? My own best source for material on the geography of Serbia as occupied by the Habsburgs is the old Serbien unter der kaiserlichen Regierung 1717-1739 by Langer published in Mittheilungen der K. K. Kriegs-Archivs Neue Folge III. Band in 1889. For some reason most of the books I have been able to get hold of concerning the "Militärgrenze" contain little material on the Serbian area, so for many purposes I have had to content myself with the information in Langer's paper. Fortunately, it is very interesting, and the appendices are very useful for establishing the whereabouts of the places mentioned in some of the old vampire related documents, including "Kisilova" and "Medved".

However, a map of the area can be found on German Wikipedia in an entry concerning the treaty of Passarowitz (Požarevac). Below I have linked to the map, which is from a 1900 German historical atlas, and you will notice that in this map the Turkish border is drawn somewhat south of the Zapadna Morava river, where Medvedja is situated.

As a curiosity here is an extract from a ca. 1720 map of Serbia and the surrounding areas attributed to J. B. Homann which is currently for sale on ebay at the price of € 320.

Previous posts on the subject: Granitz I & Granitz II.

The Phantom World

Apropos antiquarian book sellers, a first edition of the American edition of Calmet's The Phantom World translated by Henry Christmas is currently for sale on ebay to US citizens. It looks very nice, and the bidding starts at $ 99. The paperback reprint from Wordsworth is of course available at a much lower price, currently from £ 5.00.

Sunday 8 July 2007

An der Türckischen Granitz II

Curiously, I stumbled upon this blog called Languagehat that quotes one of my posts for a discussion of the etymology of the German word "Grenze". It is in fact pretty interesting, so go and read it. Languagehat is interested in the location of Medvedja (Medveđa), and it should be pretty easy to find on a reasonably good map of Serbia, as it is located along the Zapadna Morava between Kraljevo and Kruševac, very close to Velika Drenova and Trstenik. Below is a map from Wikipedia of the area. There are two other places called Medvedja which are sometimes confused with the one relevant to the history of vampires!

Van Swieten's Vampyrismus (almost) on line

The Italian translation of Gerard van Swieten's notes on vampires have recently been made available on books.google.com. Unfortunately, access to the book is restricted, which means that you can search in the text but only view it in 'snippet view'. As yet there is no easy way to buy access to the text, so you have to find a copy that you can buy, if you need to study the text.

The 18th century German translation is unfortunately only available from the few libraries that own a copy of the original book which contains van Swieten's text as an appendix.

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with it, below I present a scan of the front page of the 1768 German translation. In fact, wealthy people can currently obtain a copy of the original book, Andreas Ulrich Mayer's Abhandlung des Daseyns der Gespenster nebst einem Anhange vom Vampirismus for the sum of € 1.250,00 at the Italian antiquarian book seller Libriantichi.it!

Van Swieten Vampyrismus 1768

Mozart related trivia

Oh well, June passed by quickly and there were so many other things on my mind, that I didn't get around to writing much in this blog. Perhaps there will be time for a few more entries this month? Certainly, I keep searching for new material and studying various sources for information on the Magia Posthuma, so the lack of new posts only reflects that I have had to concentrate on other matters than writing Magia Posthuma posts.

Anyway, here is a bit of trivia that can relate Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) to persons who are somehow relevant to the history of Magia Posthuma.

Viewers of Amadeus may have noticed a sensible character at the court of Emperor Joseph II called Baron van Swieten who is played by Jonathan Moore in the film version. This van Swieten was the son of Gerard van Swieten whose name should be well known to readers of this blog because he played a key role in establishing the Austrian law against Magia Posthuma put forth by Maria Theresa. Joseph II himself was, of course, the son of Maria Theresa.

Amadeus: Baron van Swieten and SalieriThe baron van Swieten was a patron of many composers in Vienna of that day, including Haydn and Mozart. His full name was Gottfried van Swieten, and he lived from 1733 to 1803. His name and legacy is commemorated today by e.g. The Van Swieten Society. The photo above is from Amadeus with van Swieten in the background and F. Murray Abraham as Salieri in the foreground.
Ignaz von Born Another link between Magia Posthuma and Mozart is Ignaz von Born (1742-1791) who was an Austrian mineralogist. He traveled through Banat, parts of present day south western Romania, researching mining and mineralogy, and wrote letters about his findings in 1770. The letters were published in 1774 as Briefe über Mineralogische Gegenstände. Some of the letters describe the habits and culture of the people living in the area. Here von Born includes a short description of burial practices carried out to prevent the dead from returning as vampires:

"Man scharrt ihn [den Todten] ein, setzt ihm ein Kreutz und einen großen Stein zum Kopfe, damit er kein Blutsäuger (Vampyr) werde, gießet Wein und räuchert um das Grab, um die Unholden und Zauberer zu vertreiben, und dann geht man nach Hause." (They scratch the corpse and put a cross on him and a big stone on his head to prevent him from becoming a bloodsucker (vampire), pour wine and burn incense around the grave to drive away witches and sorcerers, and then they go home.)

Like Mozart, von Born was a freemason and is usually considered to be the inspiration for the character Sarastro in Mozart's famous opera The Magic Flute.

On his travels Mozart also visited places that play a role in the history of the Magia Posthuma, e.g. Olomouc (Olmütz), where 11 year old Mozart got infected with smallpox in 1767, just 12 years after Viennese court physicians investigated a case of Magia Posthuma in the vicinity. It was also at Olomouc that Karl Ferdinand von Schertz published his Magia Posthuma.

So Mozart obviously lived an age when vampires were not quite a terror from the past. In fact, it seems that an author of popular fiction even has imagined Mozart as a vampire. In I, Vampire by Michael Romkey, not only Mozart turns out to be a vampire, the same goes for Cesare Borgia and Hitler!
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