The vampire is one of the most dreaded and feared creatures of the supernatural world. He can live forever, shape shift, travel under cover of night and seduce victims, drain them of blood and grow stronger. A vampire can be male or female and can be beautifully human looking or horrific and monstrous.
Dating prior to the sixteen hundreds, some of the earliest New World accounts of vampires were documented. The beliefs of vampires are different for each region of the world. The origin and details of vampires differ based on geography, but are similar in one fact: a vampire is an undead creature that drains the life out of the living.
In West Africa and other areas of Africa, blood is powerful and if a person sheds blood, it has to be cleansed or covered so an evil spirit can not taste of the blood and seek out the person to whom it belongs. Blood could enable the spirit to revitalize the body of the dead and destroy the body and soul of the living. Blood is also of great importance in Australia among the Aborigine. It is considered the best remedy for the sick, giving an ill person more life.
Accounts of vampires can be found in cultures across the world and across the centuries. The word vampire (vampir, vampyre) has its origins in Slavonic, but with similarities in Russian, Polish, Czech, Serbian, and Bulgarian. In addition, words for vampire are also found in the early Greek, Danish, Swedish and Hungarian languages.
The "creation" of a vampire, also differs with culture and beliefs. A human might become a vampire if they: practiced Black Magic, were of absolute evil, committed suicide, were a victim of a horrendous and violent death, were buried without proper rites, died excommunicated from their religion, were bitten by a vampire and lived or were bitten by a vampire and died. These origins of vampires instilled fear in many; fear enough to produce loyalty to the church and abstinence from anything deemed evil. Theories from religious experts suggest that vampires and other creatures of death were creations meant to put fear into the hearts of the people and bring them to religion. The fact that vampires exist with similar traits across the seas and from the earliest of recorded history, suggest other theories to other experts.
One thing that remains constant within vampire lore is that a holy or consecrated object or strong faith in a Supreme and good being, usually keeps the vampire away or at rest. In Greece the practice of placing a consecrated object on the lips of the deceased is still in practice. Other cultures sew the mouth shut and sprinkle the lips with blessed water. The mouth is thought to be the way the soul leaves the body, and also the way it, or another evil spirit, can reenter.
Vampires are great lead characters for stories, books and movies. Modern vampires have become more sensual and seductive and very alluring. Blood is known to be very powerful: it is the source of life and health and sexual passion. The sensations excited by the flow of blood are real and oftentimes intense. The image of a vampire embracing its victim, cradling the head and neck in strong hands while it gorges on the victim's blood can be an attractive scene in a movie or book. But a vampire that drinks blood is not the only vampire found in lore and literature. There are also psychic or spiritual vampires who draw the life energy of their victims and sometimes, the very soul.
The vampire with razor sharp fangs who gorges on blood and then sleeps all day closely resembles the habits and anatomy of a species of bat native in Central and South America: the vampire bat. It is evident that the vampire existed well before the vampire bat was discovered. The vampire in literature developed features resembling these bats and was even able to transform into a bat. The modern vampire is losing its fangs and the need to drink blood, transforming its image to mirror the times and culture. The vampire bat has remained the same with minor anatomical changes.
Dracula. He is a count and a man of richness and royalty who happens to drink the blood of the living. Based on the blood thirsty warrior or a myth which borrowed the ambiance of medieval royal life? Either way, Dracula has lived, risen, risen again and is continuing to make his immortal mark in literature and culture.
There are those who view the vampire as pure myth, a figure to explain events without obvious explanations or to scare children and adults into being good and pious individuals. There are those who believe that the vampire exists in similar form to the lore and myths and that just because we have yet to actually see one, does not prove that they don't exist.
Vampire lore and myth will continue, as will the books and movies. Our fascination with this creature will never end and as long as there are authors to create further reasons to be seduced by the vampire, we will be under its spell. Do vampires really exist? It is an age old question alongside the existence of werewolves, Big Foot and alien life forms. Do we really want to know? The mystery of the vampire is one of the biggest attractions to most things supernatural.