A vampire is a being from folklore that subsists by feeding on the vital force of the living. In European folklore, vampires were undead beings that often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighborhoods they inhabited while they were alive. — Wikipedia
Throughout human history, the word vampire spread around the world since the dawn of humankind. Legends and myths from different civilizations nowhere near connected, share the same type of creature. Originally meaning: forceful bite, in my cultures, the creature itself seems to share common grounds. Its number one being the taste for blood.
We can blame the existence of vampires on the lack of knowledge around the deceased. Often people that were dead were accused of vampirism. Recently deceased people would show blood around their mouths, bloating, blush, and growth of hair and nails.
Today we know those signs are typical and the bloating is due to build-in methane and other gases, nails and hair keep growing after death for several days, and blood rushes against the skin. All of those, quite normal reactions. Back then, not so much.
Curiouser and Curiouser
The legends of vampires throughout medieval Europe didn’t seem to pose a threat like witches and werewolves did. During the time of the inquisition, vampires were present in the folklore, yet, we only hear about the witch hunts and werewolf huntings. What is it about vampires that didn’t get as much attention?
When Gothic Bite Magazine held their 300 Years of Witch Hunt in the Vol. 1 of their Halloween Special, nowhere did the word vampire come up. We are talking about pre-modern times. Witches, hunted by the hundreds and yet, no vampire in the horizon. While doing research, I thought about True Blood and how vampires were actually in power in the church itself so that they could ensure their enemies to be persecuted and not the other way around.
It almost makes sense.
Well, vampires became more popular following the end of the witch hunt. Their popularity gained after the infamous Salem Witch Trial. The New England Vampire Panic. It seems like every so hundred years a paranormal being would be a target by ordinary people — someone to blame for bad weather, disappearance, plagues, and what not.
The Vampire Witch
In Venice, Italy, in the year 1550, a woman lived and was found in 2006 by archeologists. She had a stone forced in her mouth, dislocating her jaw. It was an exorcism method known to end a vampire. She is an “alleged vampire” or so is the declaration of the forensic archeologist, Matteo Borrini when the skull made its public appearance in 2009.
Borrini explained that in Italy, during the time of plagues or spreading diseases, often tombs would be reopened to drop in more dead bodies. Those were times of massive burials. Often, gravediggers would see decomposing remains and confused purge fluids—bloating mentioned above, and blood, hence the myth of vampires.
Adding the corpse’s mouth looking like it’s been chewing on its shroud, and you have a vampire panic. Many believed, in Medieval times, that vampires were responsible for plagues. The shroud-chewing being their way to infect people. That is how the ritual of putting bricks or stones inside the mouths of alleged vampires came to life.
While doing scientific research, this particular 16th-century woman’s remains showed sign of a lower-class diet — no traces of animal protein, mostly vegetables, and grains. More in-depth analysis of her DNA even supported the fact that she died between the age of sixty years old and seventy years old. That fact alone raised some questions.
Women in medieval Europe at the time of the witch hunt were not expected to live long. The belief of witchery went as far as stating that witches were capable of cheating death. A woman of this age would have raised brows at the time.
It is most likely that while alive she went through accusations of being a witch and a vampire after her death.
In the 1500s, lifespan usually revolved around forty to fifty years old. However, do not believe all people died in their forties, that would be untrue. It is mostly due to people surviving their childhood. That is the line to cross. Once a child survived its childhood, often they would reach their sixties.
However, when it comes to our alleged witch-vampire, we’re talking about an older woman during the 300 years of witch hunting. Middle Age Europe, often misogynistic, linked older women to witchcraft. This was because of the assumption of them being widows, poor, lonely, weak, and more.
The idea alone, prone men to say those women succumbed to temptation by evil to become witches in exchange of wealth, sex, power, and of course, beauty. How convenient. When the witch hunt was at its prime, mist 16th century to the mid 17th century, over a hundred thousand people, men, women, and children suffered medieval imprisonment. Out of those hundred thousand people of all sexes and ages, sixty thousand died. We call it the Dark Ages for a reason, however, those centuries represent the: Renaissance. How quaint.
While Italy was not half as bad as Austria or Germany, many countries in Europe believed witches ate children, hence the tale of Hensel & Gretel. Add to this the “zombie flesh-eating” belief of vampire, and you have this old woman’s skull stuffed with a stone in her mouth.
Once the investigation on the skull ended, a 3D Artist reconstructed the face of the sixty or so, older woman. She happened to be quite healthy and no sign of paranormal anything. The forensic archeologist confessed his sadness because he believed she was a vampire due to many boxes she checked.
Back then, life was harsh. Your neighbor could accuse you of anything if he or she didn’t like the way you looked or walked. Many met their deaths way before they should have because of the witch hunt.
However, now we know that people only received accusations of vampirism when dead. So, witch by day and vampire by night?