Live Long and Prosper

Any research of vampires or vampirism throughout history inevitably leads to what's considered to be the genesis of the bloodsucker as we know it today — Bram Stoker's seminal 1897 novel, Dracula. While much of the hoopla born of Dracula is deserved in its conception and the brilliance in which the vampiric genre has evolved, it must be noted that there exists a much richer history surrounding the legends of what are commonly referred to as revenants — individuals who return from the dead.

Like the revered Greek and Egyptian gods of mythology, there are numerous legends, superstitions, and beliefs highlighting a dark contingent of vampiric creatures that tour the underworld and play to our most basic fears. What brings the beasts of folklore to the forefront — aside from the telling of their terrifying escapades — is the fact that it's precisely their legacy that humans have followed in real life to expunge themselves of alleged vampires by digging up and defacing corpses.

Given that most vampiric folklore rarely uses the word “vampire,” does the traditional vampire evolve from these auspicious actions fueled by stories of the undead? You bet they do.

The incubus of ancient folklore was believed to be a male demon who forced unwanted sexual relations with a sleeping woman. In female form, the demon is known as a succubus. Both apparitions are often linked to early European vampiric entities, including the German alp and the Hungarian lidéric. Even Brazil has its own form of incubus with the boto, who seduces women and leads them to the river. Of course, the incubus made for a handy — and plausible — excuse for unwanted pregnancies.

Tales of vampiric revenants vary greatly depending on their country of origin, their subsequent incarnation, and which folklorist or historian is telling of their exploits. After all, the very aspect of folklore is that it's based on scant documented writings and loads of stories handed down throughout the centuries from one generation to the next.

The majority of creatures now cited as vampires or vampiric in nature are typically human and/or animal hybrids, zombielike beasts, and birth demons. That said, it's time to delve into the origins of the folkloric vampire by focusing on some of the more popular bloodsuckers in mythological and folkloric history.

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