How Wolf Spirits Turned Into Vampires

How Wolf Spirits Turned Into Vampires

From spirit to undead, Eastern folklore melded with Greek beliefs to create Dracula.

When we think vampire, we think Count Dracula, and we have Bram Stoker to thank for that. During the vampire mania of Europe in the 17th and 18th century, folklore became grossly exaggerated and the vampire of the Victorian era was born. However, if you want to look at one of the first mentions of traditional vampirism, you have to go to Greece.

th to 17th centuries. Refugee folklore melded with local beliefs to create new monsters. Enter the Greek vrykolaka.

The very term vrykolaka is derived from the Romanian viraculac which roughly translates as ghoul, ghost, or demon. In fact, most Eastern European countries have a very similar name: in Serbian vukodlak, in Polish wilkołak, and Lithuanian vilkolakis. The Turkish word uber meaning witch is also similar.

It was an evil spirit or entity of supernatural origins which could possess a human form, but most often took the form of a wolf or dog. Think werewolf. This is where vampirism and werewolves intersect. They were correlated with the eclipse, a demon hound devouring the sun for an eternal night.

The Greek vrykolaka had roots in these stories. At its start, it was supernatural. Inhuman. A demon or specter, malevolent ghoul. But it wasn’t flesh. It appeared in the daylight. It didn’t drink blood. It harmed humans, yes, but by suffocating them. It was believed a vrykolaka would sit on a victim, smothering them or crushing the breath from their chest. No blood.

Then something changed. This Slavic/Romanian demon became human, the dead has risen. A revenant. That’s because the Greeks blended the viracolac with their own beliefs. And there were three. One: Blood contained power, a life force if you will. Two: a body could be brought back to life. Resurrected. And finally, three: supernatural beings drank human blood.

You can see the common vein of thinking here; a demon could possess a body, drink the life-force of the living, and become flesh. Look at the Greek tragedy, the Iliad. “Odysseus fills a pit with sheep's blood to feed the shade of the seer Tiresias. Once the ghost has drunk the blood, he is able to speak.” Blood gave the supernatural power. This was common knowledge to the Greeks, same as we believe vaccines cause autism.

So, how is a Greek vampire born? The most common way is an improper burial. But one could “turn” into a vrykolaka after death through suicide, a violent death, or a sinful life. A person is murdered. A family buries a relative quickly after dying of disease, not waiting for the priest and risking its spread. An alcoholic dies, he returns thirsty for more ale… and the blood of his neighbors.

These bloodthirsty revenants became a real crisis for the Greek peoples. The Isle of Santorini became a hub for exorcists and vampire slayers. The profession was as common as scribes and healers. It was believed a vrykolaka couldn’t swim across the sea. So, to protect the mainland, bodies believed to have turned were sent by boat to the Isle.

This blending of supernatural lore with Greek beliefs birthed the vampire. The malignant revenant of someone once dead began as a demon who wanted to steal the sun and smother people. And the superstition of the vrykolaka persists today. “The vrykolakas is said to knock on the doors of homes, and if the residents do not answer right away, the creature will pass on to the next residency.” A Greek will answer only if you persist with a second knock.

Cover Image Credit: Graham Ridgewell

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Are We Humans Or Are We Leprechauns?

Global warming —a battle for both on the Emerald Isle

The rumors are true; it’s as iffy as the Liffey.

I hate to be the breaker of bad news, but this St. Paddy’s Day was far from sunshine and rainbows. I bet even the leprechauns were upset when snow painted the island white instead of green this year. I hear they are in favor of a greener lifestyle.

Being of Irish heritage and spending my semester abroad in Dublin, you could say I had high expectations and hopes for what this holiday celebration would bring. This semester, I live next to St. Patrick’s Tower and a hop, skip, and a jump down the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. For Christ’s sake, I might as well have attended Finnegan’s Wake.

It pains me to report that I was underwhelmed by the lack of pride Dubliners showed on this day—the pride I know Irish people undoubtedly have. It was like telling a child Santa isn’t real. It defies the laws of preserving any drop of youth that is left in us. You just don’t do it.

This year’s turnout left me with an unsettling feeling, similar to the one I got when I was told cereal with milk was a soup. I know…debatable... let it sit. Just kidding, soggy cereal is most definitely one of the most unfortunate events that are a symptom of time, but I am not kidding when I went green to cope with the lack thereof on this March 17th.

I will say that the Americans who flooded the Dublin streets were enough to jumpstart my rudimentary excitement, and I did start and end the day at the infamous Whelan’s with a pint of Guinness in hand, so I can’t really complain. But if I were you, I'd save some money because no matter where you are in the world the festivities bestowed upon this lovely holiday are more or less the same. A word from the wise, Guinness is way better than green beer.

With my remaining time in the land of the leprechauns, I will continue my hunt for a four leaf clover or a pot of gold while eating potatoes and listening to The Script because neither of those is the least bit disappointing. I have seen a rainbow thus far, so I do have hope. It may be the leprechauns or just the luck of the Irish, but I couldn’t be prouder to say this place does feel like home.

Cover Image Credit: Taeghan Hagood

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"Keep Calm And Remember You Will Die:" A Play-By-Play Through The Catacombs Of Paris

A walk lined with the remnants of 6 million people taught me more things about life than I expected.

“STOP. YOU ARE ENTERING THE EMPIRE OF DEATH.” It says outside the entrance of the Catacombs. Well, at least that’s what I’m told – everything is in French, and I’d believe anything the Parisians tell me.

The moment I cross the threshold, it’s as if I interrupted a party – a 200-year-old party – where all eyes are on me – all 6 million pairs of them. Femurs are neatly stacked along the walls of the narrow tunnel, with two rows of deteriorating skulls lined at my hip and eye level. The wall stacks well above my height, with a piles of broken, misshapen bones thrown onto the top – from neatly curated to forgotten remnants. I make sure to not touch the browning relics. My eyes are drawn to the perfectly lined skulls that jut out of the wall. If only death were as dignified as this. And yet the crumbling faces of what used to be are so fragile. I try to take a photo of one side of the wall, but I’m too close. I inch back and lean against the wall behind me. I take the photo. I turn my head and see a skull, with half its face eaten off, 5cm from my nose. OH SHIT THAT’S NOT A WALL. My entire body flinches away from the barricade, and I almost fall onto the other bone-lined wall. Great. They say don’t touch, and you fucking lean your back against it. It feels like I’m drenched in the souls of these dead bodies. I shiver. Well, I might as well see what a 200-year-old bone feels like. I touch the curve at the end of a random person’s femur. Gaaahh! SORRY, I internally apologize. It’s cold. Smooth. Empty. I look up to barren eyes reminding me of the rules as if it were guarding its other bones. Okayyy, moving on. My eyes follow the line of skulls as if it were the glow-in-the-dark airplane safety lines that lead you to the exit. The skulls lead me to a bend in the path. Inhale. Exhale. Eyes forward. Walk.

I focus on the end of this straight tunnel, wondering where everybody is. I am alone. The further I go into the tunnel, the less I remember the beginning. I am trapped under the ground, the metro, the sewage system, the fossils. I have nobody to rely on but the lonely lights that dimly encourage me to keep on inching forward. All I can hear is the eerie music playing in my audio guide as the voice tells me dates I can’t imagine, names I can’t pronounce, and stories I won’t remember. Accompanying this is the crunching of the pebbles beneath my feet – which seem to get louder and louder, I might add. Gone is the smooth pavement. I’m transported to 1780 – pebbled floor, stone walls, and a low ass ceiling. Just keep walking forward, I tell myself. But the bones are getting closer and closer, the ceiling getting lower and lower, my steps seem to get smaller and smaller.

Time stops. The lights flicker. I don’t dare blink and lose a second of light, of security. I am going to die in here. Crunch. I keep walking. Water drips from the ceiling. It forms a puddle. Oh god, how deep underground am I? Crunch. Drip. What if water starts filling this tunnel? Crunch. Drip. Drip. Drip. Where the fuck is everybody?! Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Drip. Drip. WHY ARE ALL THESE SKULLS LOOKING AT ME??

I stop. I enter a breathing space, a room that’s cut out of a scene from the Flintstones (if they lived in a cave and used the dead bodies of their enemies as furniture). There is a notch in the wall with of a simple bench made out of stone. I step away from the empty-eyed heads. I feel less ogled at. Breathe. I step out of my haven to take a photo of a collection of skulls shaped like a giant barrel – yes, a barrel. I do this with my right hand as the voice in my left hand tells me that a party was once held in this space. No fucking way. So a party really was held in here. I smile. Inhale. Exhale. Eyes forward. I see stairs. I keep walking.

Climbing up a spiral staircase, I remember what it felt like coming down into this ossuary – as if I were drilling myself into a hole with every step I took. Climbing up, all I see is me surpassing all these layers of greening stone bricks. I’m beating them to the top. I powerwalk as gracefully as one can out of there and am hit with blinding light and wind. Wind. Yes. I am transported into another part of town. In the window of the Catacombs gift shop across the street is a t-shirt that reads,


Cover Image Credit: pixabay

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