(Crucifix in Capella degli Scrovegni – Musei Civici (Padova))
According to Claude Lecouteux, protection against vampires involves three different times: when they just born, when they died or some time after they have passed away and have thus become host of an intermediate world between life and death. In this area, folk traditions mingle with romantic interpretations …
Precautions at death and burial
In European folklore, protection requires caution on the death and burial, the most common being the beheading. It is also necessary to protect his home. Many practices exist to prevent a death returns as vampire, including: bury the body upside down, piercing the skin of the chest (a way of “deflating” the vampire whose body was swollen) or place objects like a scythe or sickle at his side (the tradition requires burying sharp objects with the corpse, so that they can penetrate the skin if it starts to turn into ghost), or place them near the falls to divert the spirits. This is a practice reminiscent of the ancient Greeks who placed a penny to Charon in the mouth, chest, in the hand of or beside the deceased. This custom still persists in the early twenty-first century through the figure of vrykolakas. Other methods commonly practiced in Europe advocate cutting the tendons in the knees or placing poppy seeds, millet, or sand on the ground around the grave of a suspected vampire, in order to occupy the creature obliged to count the beans overnight.
Decapitation is particularly favored in Germany and in the eastern Slavic countries. This is called then to bury his head beside his body, between his legs, to accelerate the departure of the soul and thus prevent the creation of a ghost. One can also nail the head, body or clothing of the vampire supposed to prevent him rising. The gypsies believe that pierce steel or iron needles the heart of the deceased, and placing in his eyes, his ears and his fingers, pieces of iron (or hawthorn) at the funeral, avoids that he became a vampire. In 2006, at Lazzaretto Nuovo near Venice, the body of a woman dating from the sixteenth century was discovered with a brick in the mouth, an act that was interpreted by archaeologists as a ritual to prevent it from becoming a vampire. Other rituals use boiling water widespread over the grave or cremation of the body. In the German Duchy of Saxony, a lemon was placed in the mouth of the supposed vampire (the Nachzehrer).
Apotropaic objects and places
Folklore mainly refer to the use of particular objects: there are indeed several apotropaic objects supposed to repel vampires, including garlic, the smell of which antagonize them. A branch of wild rose, hawthorn or verbena, also going to be protections against the vampires in Europe, while aloe vera branches in the back or near the door are used in South America. Asperger mustard soil also repels them.
Sacred objects such as the crucifix, rosary, or holy water are able to repel or injure. Vampires could not walk on holy land like churches or temples, or even cross running water. The mirror in which the vampire can be reflected, if one believes the novelist Bram Stoker, is sometimes a way to push him away, but the ritual is not universal. In Greek tradition, for example, Vrykolakas (or Tympanios) has a reflection and a shadow.
The vampire is supposed to be able to enter for the first time in a home without being invited by the owner. Although it is considered that the vampire is more active at night, it is rarely considered vulnerable to sunlight, unlike the cinematic tradition where he can not bear sunlight (but not killed by it) .
Chinese narratives state that if a vampire accidentally discovers a bag of rice, it must count every grain. It is also an existing theme in myths from the Indian subcontinent as well as in South American tales of witches and other evil spirits. The vampire has to count all the seeds from a bag overthrown before him, and untie all the knots he meets, even if the day comes, and can not turn away until he has finished the count
Destruction of vampires
(The Vampire, lithograph by R. de Morainefor the Paul Féval‘ novel)
The means to destroy vampires are many and varied. The oldest relationship of killing a vampire, then called “leech”, appears in the Chronicle of William of Newbury, in the eleventh century. The vampire is an undead, he is already dead and can know eternal rest only through special practices, including a stake through the heart, a nail in the head, beheading or cremation. Popular tradition sometimes demanded four at a time, then burial at the corner of an intersection (with several variations). The body is sometimes dismembered, a practice that is frequently mentioned since 1593 in the vampirology. In Romania, the execution of a vampire is called the “great relief” and must take place at the crack of dawn. The officiant must push suddenly the pile, otherwise the vampire can resurrect.
The ash wood are deemed effective in destroying the vampire in Russia and the Baltic countries. In Serbia, it is rather hawthorn, and oak in Silesia. The vampire may also be felled by a sudden heart pilum in or through the mouth in Russia and northern Germany, or in the stomach in northeastern Serbia. In general, the killing of vampires is completely ritualized “kill the vampire is legal action, sometimes preceded by a trial in which the death is accused of unrest and killings.”
Fiction works relate other means. Abraham Van Helsing of Stoker says: “As for that stake driven into its heart, we know that it also gives him eternal rest, eternal rest he knows even if we cut off his head. It does not reflect in the mirrors and body makes no shadow.” In the first film inspired by the novel, Nosferatu, Murnau indicates only one way to eliminate the vampire: a woman pure in heart must forget the sunrise to count. This is how is derived the belief in the harmful effects of sunlight on vampires, which will operate in most films.