Sunday 14 July 2013

'Vampire skeletons' in Poland

See Dziennik zachodni for more photos
While constructing a ring road in Gliwice in South West Poland, formerly part of Silesia, four skeletons were found with their heads cut off and e.g. placed between the skeleton's legs. Archaeologist Dr. Jacek Pierzak says that it is hard to date the skeletons, but they are believed to come from the early modern period. Tests will date them and may provide a better understanding of whether they were e.g. victims of a cholera epidemic, executed criminals, or indeed people who the locals wished to prevent from becoming revenants.

The latter theory has made some Polish web sites write about incidents of vampirism in the areas that are now part of Poland, and, of course, Silesia was one of the areas where beliefs in magia posthuma was not uncommon in the early modern period. The press mentions a more recent example from the village Stare Mierzwice  Masovia, about 100 km to the East of Warsaw, where in 1914 a corpse was dug up, beheaded, and the head placed between the legs.

Thanks to Leon Aguilera Radford for notifying me of this news story.

Sunday 7 July 2013

A well-illustrated history of a modern myth

When in Paris a couple of months ago, I picked up a number of books at the Musée d'Orsay, including Jean Marigny's Vampires de la legende au mythe moderne published in 2011 by Éditions de La Martinière.

Large format, nicely bound with blood red edges, and fully illustrated in colour, it also includes three special booklets containing cover art, posters and stills from vampire novels and films. There are, in fact, a number of illustrations that you will probably not find elsewhere. The text, however, follows relatively traditional lines: 'Vampires' from various periods and regions across the globe, as well as listing Vlad Tepes, Elizabeth Bathory and Gilles de Rais as persons who inspired the vampire myth, and the main portion of the book traces the fictional vampire from John Polidori's Lord Ruthven to True Blood and manga.

Essentially, this is a colourful introduction to the subject, but those interested in vampires from a more historical or folkloric point of view, should rather seek out Marigny's Sang pour sang: Le réveil des vampires (translated into English as Vampires: The World of the Undead) or the volume Colloque de Cerisy: Les Vampires.

'Aujord'hui, le vampire est omniprésent sur nos écrans, dans nos libraires et dans le multiples manifestations. Cette vitalité exubérante est sans doute un signe de santé mais elle peut aussi mener rapidement à seuil de saturation. La mode actuelle des vampires a-t-elle des chances de durer? Nul ne peut le dire. On peut raisonnablement supposer que le vampire, devenu trop banal, connaîtra dans les années à venir une nouvelle période de récession - mais on sait aussi qu'il est immortel ...' (from Marigny's conclusion).

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