Sunday 28 June 2009

Did Valvasor believe in vampires?

That is a question posed by Irmgard Palladino and Maria Bidovec in their book Johann Weichard von Valvasor (1641-1693): Ein Protagonist der Wissenschaftsrevolution der Frühen Neuzeit - Leben, Werk und Nachlass (Böhlau, 2008). They say that in principle he did not believe in these things and tried to explain them causally wherever possible, but there were instances where he could not refute the evidence and consequently had to accept them.

In a note on vampires in Die Ehre des Herzogthums Crain, the authors remind us of the legacy Valvasor has in the canon of vampire literature and web sites: 'Man findet sie in englischer Übersetzung auch im internet, wo diverse Websiten Valvasor als Vampirforscher apostrophieren.'

Lexikon '88

I don't seem to remember coming across this web site before, but Lexikon '88 is a very handy online edition of Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon from 1888. It works really fast in providing a lot of information on e.g. vampires, Haiduken, or historical maps of Balkan.

Flea market finds

Yesterday I went to a local flea market and came back home with a book of manuscripts from Carl Th. Dreyer's Vampyr and three other of his movies, as well as a 1963 Atlas zur Weltgeschichte. All for the price of approximately 2 Euros.

Below I have scanned two maps from the latter book, and you can click on them to view them in more detail.

The first scan is of a map of Hungary after the wars with the Ottomans. At the bottom is the extent of occupied areas between 1717 and 1739, including the areas of Serbia of particular interest to this blog. The Southern border, cf. earlier posts like this, this, and this, is here shown a few kilometers south of the Zapadna Morava and Krusevac (Kruschewatz).

To the East in Siebenbürgen (Transylvania) you find several places known from Stoker's Dracula, like Bistritz, and to the West is Steiermark (Styria) the scene of Le Fanu's Carmilla. Here is also Krain, the subject of Johann Weichard von Valvasor's Die Ehre des Hertzogthums Crain.

To the North West is Vienna and the Southern part of Mähren (Moravia). And North of Serbia Banat Temesvar, also the scene of some instances of vampirism in the 18th century. So there is really a lot of interesting locations and information shown in this map.

The second one is a map of Vienna ca. 1800. Much easier to take in than a map of modern day Vienna.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

St. John's Eve

Yesterday I carried some branches from our garden for a bonfire in a local park. It was set on fire earlier this evening to celebrate St. John's Eve or in Danish: 'Sankt Hans aften'. The tradition of midsummer bonfires is known in many countries, see e.g. Wikipedia's entry on Midsummer, but I think the Danish tradition has its own peculiarities as described here.On the one hand I find it interesting that our past is not so remote that we haven't forgotten midsummer bonfires and witches. On the other I find it really hard to sympathise with the idea of people of the 21st century burning a figure resembling a human being. It may be tradition, but I find it hard to understand why another generation teaches its children to burn witches, even though it is only in effigie.

But I like the bonfire itself!

The crypt of Javier Arries

Nicolaus Equiamicus has kindly made me aware of this Spanish web site about vampires by Javier Arries, author of a 2007 book about vampires. It is, however, all in Spanish, but there are some nice and interesting illustrations worth taking a look at. The book even has its own Facebook group.

Monday 22 June 2009


So next week I will be in Vienna for the conference on vampirism and magia posthuma. The next few days I will be working on my presentation on a certain weblog approach to the history of vampires. If at all technically possible, I may try to post a couple of reports from Vienna while I am there, but I had better not promise anything beforehand.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Un itinéraire intellectuel

Some time ago I mentioned the book Dom Augustin Calmet: Un itinéraire intellectuel. In the meantime I have obtained a copy of this surprisingly comprehensive book about Dom Calmet which contains several references to his book on revenants and vampires. Apart from Dom Calmet, "historiographe des vampires"? by Diego Venturino, Cédric Andriot writes about the controversy surrounding the Dissertation sur les Vampires, and in other parts of the book there are briefer passages concerning that work, in particular in Dom Calmet et ´l'"autre Europe" by Gilles Banderier. There is also an interesting selection of portraits of Calmet, including one of him as a child! The index contains several people related to the history of vampires, e.g. 'Flückinger (Johannes), médecin de Vienne'. So as I wrote in my earlier post, this is 'probably the best up to date book on Calmet'.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Conference abstracts

The abstracts for the forthcoming conference on vampirism and posthumous magic in Vienna are now online in German as well as English.


Monday 8 June 2009

'I can smell the sunlight on your skin...'

I am currently three episodes into watching the first season of True Blood which I received on DVD from USA the other day. I am not quite sure what to make of it, but somehow I tend to get involved in what's happening in these series - I recently watched the first season of another HBO series, The Wire, and initially thought it was unbearable to watch, but quickly got hooked! Certainly, True Blood is a humorous take on the vampire genre, as well as an unusual series with its explicit focus on sex, at least I am not used to seeing condoms in a TV series!

As an aside, I can also recommend the Mad Men series. Not that it has anything to do with vampires, but because it has something to do with history. Set in New York in 1960 it shows how many things that were just part of the everyday world back then have changed over the past five decades: They constantly smoke and drink at work, and don't mind driving a car after drinking an incredible amount of alcohol. Sexual harassment of female employees is almost obligatory, and women in general are either secretaries or house wives. Racial segregation, of course, is the norm. If we find it hard to understand the world of our ancestors a few centuries back, it is worth being reminded how things that were part of the social order just fifty years ago have become unacceptable today.


I have received this kind e-mail that I thought I might as well just publish here. I am sure some of you will be interested in the links courtesy of Cecil:

My name is Cecil and I'm an active contributor at German Wikisource, where we started our own collection of sources about Vampires a little more than one year ago ( Your blog is fascinating and in the last month it got my mayor source to expand our own page with more German public domain texts about the topic. Your blog helps me to find more texts previously unknown to me and also helps me understand the historical connections. I don't know how you do it, but thanks a lot. So I thought to tell you that at the beginning of this month, the ALEX-collection has finally published all the scans from the Theresianische Gesetzbuch ( Among them also the one law which Maria Theresia did against superstition ( So know everybody can read about it without needing to travel to Vienna or searching hard-to-get books which refer to it.

Friday 5 June 2009


I have been looking at a number of maps from the 18th century recently, and I noticed a nice online map of Northern Serbia around the time of the conquest of Belgrade in 1717. You will need a plugin for your browser to study the map.

The location of Medvedja, unfortunately, is just outside the map, but you can clearly see Gradiska and Ram in the vicinity of Kisiljevo by the Danube East of Belgrade. Then there is Ban(n)at, also the site of vampire cases as recorded by e.g. Ignaz von Born and Georg Tallar.

In the North Eastern corner you will find Lugos (Lugoj), the birthplace of Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó AKA Bela Lugosi.
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