Vampires

Vampires have hovered over Bulgaria since ancient Slavic times. In fact, the Bulgarian word "vampir" comes from Latin, which means that the "genealogy" of this evil creature dates back to much earlier times.

In its 19th century version, a vampire is the incarnated soul of a dead person that had been jumped over by a cat, dog or some other animal. That is why before being buried, each dead person's body is closely guarded by the relatives - lest even a human shadow falls on the corpse, which can prove to be fatal too. Moreover, those who have been hanged, stifled or cursed, while still living, may also become vampires.

 

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Vampir-platenik (incarnated vampire)

(Illustration taken from: Krassimir Mirchev. Vampiri, gunduratzi, zmey. Sofia,  Panorama Publishing House, 1998. Illustrated by Viktor Paunov)

The appearance of a vampire is not specific, all the more that it is invisible. According to some people, it looks like a "shadow of a human being, a cat, a dog, a hen", etc. Some other people believe that a vampire resembles the dead person, whom it has come from, but has no bones or flesh, and is made only of skin, full of blood. In a modern book for children, it is described in the following picturesque way: "In the thorn-bushes near the graveyard a skin is squatting - with short legs, small claw feet, black holes instead of eyes, with a bony nose and iron teeth. The skin is full of blood, it is a vampire."

How terrible!... The monstrous thing comes out of its grave at night. It often comes back to the house, where it had lived before, squeezes and strangles its dear people in their sleep, raves in the attic, sweeps the bowls off the shelves, soils the milk and the water. The vampire drives the cattle away to the fields, sometimes sticks to the cattle's abdomens and sucks their blood, which makes its victim grow weak. But on the other hand, it is also rather silly - if the owners of the house have sprinkled millet on the floor, it is carried away and begins to count the millet grain by grain. Besides, it can be cheated in a countless number of ways. And as soon as the cocks begin to crow, it hurries to retire to its grave.

In fact, a vampire is as frightful as it is faint-hearted and vulnerable. It is afraid not only of light, but also of fire, water, thorns, and iron, of wolves, of animal sculls. Lightning would easily kill it.

If it manages to survive till its fortieth day, and has sucked enough blood, a vampire stops running wild, gains power and becomes embodied, it becomes 'platnik' (embodied vampire). It looks like every other human being, but has no fingernails, its bones are soft like cartilage, and its eyes - red. In such cases it usually leaves for some far off village, where gets married and has children. This 'platnik' can also be transformed into a dog, a wolf or some other animal, it is disposed to attacking its wife, biting and torturing her in broad daylight.  Still, the embodied vampire never stays too long in the human world, since if only it pricks itself, all the blood that fills up its skin leaks away.

It is interesting to note that the offspring born of such marriages, have also red eyes, and not only can see vampires, but are their most severe hunters. They are known as 'vampirdzhii' (vampire-chasers).  Vampire-chasers are also people endowed by Heaven with the power of disclosing (as a rule, with the help of an icon) and killing vampires. Vampire-chasers of the two types would catch the monsters, boil them in large cauldrons, or kill them with a briar picket, only a jelly stuff or some clotted blood being left of them. The grave of someone who has turned vampire can be known by its sunken surface, or the hollow in it. Such grave should be opened, and the corpse, the abdomen or the head of the dead person, pierced with a hot spike. This should be made only on Saturday - when the souls of the dead do not leave their bodies.

All these beliefs were still current among many a superstitious Bulgarian in early 20th century. Researchers, who deal with this subject, point out that many locations in the country have their 'own' vampire stories. They are always related with a particular person, who, while still living, had been known to everybody.

 



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