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Dracula and Other Vampire Beliefs

Belief in vampires and the power of blood is as old as mankind

by David Johnson

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Belief in vampires and the power of blood is as old as mankind. Early man smeared himself in blood and sometimes drank it. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans all believed in vampires. The Jewish Talmud tells of Lilith, Adam's disobedient first wife, who was transformed into a monster roaming the night.

In the Americas, the early Indians of Peru believed in devil worshippers who sucked blood from sleeping youths to get their life, while the Aztecs sacrificed victims to ensure the sun would continue to rise, removing the beating hearts from their victims and holding them high in the air.

In Transylvania, with its blend of Hungarian, Romanian, and Gypsy beliefs, belief in vampires has been particularly strong. Orthodox Christians believe the soul does not leave the body for the afterlife until 40 days after burial. When an Orthodox Christian is excommunicated, or converts to another faith, it is said that the earth will not receive his body, forcing him to wander.

Some Mongolian peoples of Central Asia believe in the vampire and a bat god. Since Hungarians migrated to Europe from the steppes of Asia, it is probable they shared this belief. However, vampire bats, which fly at night and suck blood from animals, primarily oxen, are only found in parts of Mexico and Central America.

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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