Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fantastic Creatures & Other Magical Monsters Part 2

by Susan A. Sheppard


It may come as a surprise that originally vampires were neither romantic nor attractive. Vampires were hideous graveyard creatures in the process of decomposing, cold, clammy, oozing with gore and with the stench of decay on their breath. But unlike the Zombie, another reanimated corpse, the vampire retained some consciousness of his former life. Originally vampire tales can be traced to places like India, Greece, the Middle East, most 
especially Scythia (northern Middle Eastern countries) that made their way into Eastern Europe, brought by the Gypsies or Romani peoples migrating out of India, where the vampire saga gained momentum, unfolding its legend like the multi-petals of a blood-red rose.

In the beginning the vampire was little more than a shade or a ghost, or at least an energy thief coming in the guise of a vexing spirit. Usually this ghost was thought to be someone who had recently died, one who missed his family and tried to return by leaving his grave at night.But after one died, the spirit of the deceased could change into something much more malevolent. Often, the vampire would attack those who were sleeping, feeding upon their vital energies, crushing and paralyzing his victims with supernatural strength. Since the walking dead or the vampire had become a demon of sorts, crucifixes were placed above headboards of beds, and garlic wreaths were put in strategic spots in the home, such as over doorways or in windows to ward off the afflicting fiends.

Sleep Paralysis, or the Old Hag Syndrome as well as beliefs in “Elf pressing” and being “Hag ridden” may explain what is really behind ancient tales of vampirism, when its victims woke up tired and depleted of energy while remembering the presence of an evil spirit having visited upon them the night before.
At the same time, vampires were capable of transforming very much like witches and fairies that are transformed through their fairy-witch glamoury powers. The vampire was thought to turn himself into a bat, a wolf, a rat or a mist that could seep under doors or through openings in the windows. Also, like the living, the vampire needed sustenance, preferably human blood.

Yet, it is implied that it's the vampire’s control over his victim that is most important. The vampire is a monster who has gained mastery over himself and his urges. He is not an emotional wreck of a monster like the werewolf He chooses his victims to suit his purposes. The vampire may be cursed but he is not at the whim of his curse and really rather likes being a vampire.

Like most parasites, the vampire is mostly concerned with self-preservation, at least in the tales that have developed around his legend. As a preternatural being, the vampire is only vulnerable while he is sleeping. Somewhere between a ghost and a ghoul, vampires are commonly referred to as revenants, from the French word revenir meaning “to return.” In this way, it is easy to see how the vampire remains a type of carnal ghost.
In India, the Churel is a malefic ghost of a woman who dies in childbirth. Typically, the woman is from a lower caste and suffers from resentment toward other classes whom may not have been as poor as she once was. The Churel ghost is recognized by her reversed feet, her lacking of a mouth and she haunts areas that are in ruins and places that are filthy. Some sources say that if the Churel does have a mouth, she has fangs and a long, lashing black tongue.

The Churel can sometimes project the image of a beautiful, seductive siren, capturing men and never releasing them until their hair is completely gray or white. She feeds upon the men she was once in love with and then moves on to others. In this way, the Churel is somewhat like the European vampire and can be gotten rid of similarly, by breaking the ankles of the corpse, fixing an iron nail in the four corners of the burial ground or placing seeds on the road between her grave and home.

(The idea of placing beans or seeds with a corpse is a universal one – it is believed the ghost will spend the night compelled to count them, and thus, will NOT be able to haunt or bother human beings.)

In parts of India, women who die on the streets are buried face down so they, or rather their spirits, will not turn into the dreaded Churel ghost.


“Clootie” is a Scottish name for the Devil or some other diabolical imp that is intent upon pestering human beings. Clootie simply means “cleft-footed” alluding to the Devil’s hoof. Also called “Auld Hornie” it is likely Clootie is a remnant of the older god Pan or other pagan gods denigrated by the church as fallen angels or demons. However, the Scottish believed Clootie was the Devil himself.

Interestingly, “clootie” is also the name of prayer rags tied to Hawthorn trees near holy wells in Ireland and Scotland. It is theorized the clootie rag is derived from the old Scottish word for cloth, however, in common folklore God and the Devil as actual beings that are never very far apart.

The cloven-footed god Pan was the one who tended flocks and sheep in early mythology. With his horns and pointed beard, the one who peacefully herded sheep, just like Christ, otherwise known as Clootie, or Pan in the Mediterranean world, came to be a symbol for the Christian Devil.

The “Clootie Croft” in Scotland is an untilled area of land that is left over as a gift to the Devil to occupy him so he won’t cause trouble for humans.
Old Bloody Bones

“Old Bloody Bones” is the tale of a Lancashire or Yorkshire, England spook or wraith that hides in deep ponds and other dark, murky waterways. With his long white fingers Old Bloody Bones will pull and tug unsuspecting children (especially those who misbehave) under the water, sometimes drowning them in the process.
“Old Raw Bloody Bones” is also an African-American folktale from West Virginia that tells of a disobedient boy named John who brings bad luck on his family. As John continues with his mischievous antics, Old Bloody Bones soon appears and turns him into a spot of jam on the tablecloth. The boy then promptly goes to sleep but awakens when he hears his mother come into the room ready to wipe the table. He yells and his mother hears him before the table is wiped clean. Soon John springs back to his original form and promises to always obey his mother from then on. After that, he is no longer afraid of “Old Raw Bloody Bones.”

“Dhampir” is what the Romani, or Gypsy peoples called their vampires or walking dead. Dhampir differed from other vampires because they were born from the union of an actual vampire, or revenant, and a human mother.

Dhampir boys born became the vampijerovic and the girls were lampijerovic. The Dhampirs were not completely vampires because they were mortal and did not live forever like the preternatural vampires.The Dhampir’s humanness made him an excellent vampire hunter who was able to detect other vampires by using his shirtsleeves for a telescope, whistling in the dark and other hidden techniques to seek out the undead.

Once a vampiric family was detected, the Dhampir would conduct a ceremony where he would wrestle with the invisible fiends, and eventually, after a great struggle, he would declare he had killed the vampires and set their souls free. In most instances, the struggle with the vampire was an invisible one. Afterwards, the Dhampir would collect his fee until another vampire invasion prompted his skills of vampire killer of being needed again. In Kosovo in 1959 a public Dhampir ceremony was held. Performed by Yugoslavian Gypsies, it was the last one on record.

The Chepi is a type of a ghost or fairy believed in by the Algonquin Indians, Narragansett tribe of what is now Connecticut and Massachusetts. The Chepi, like fairies once were, were also thought to be potentially jealous spirits of the dead. However, it was believed that if they were placated by the right offerings and rituals they would impart wisdom and special blessings upon the living.

The Chepi spirits most often appeared in female form. They could sometimes seek vengeance upon those who commit evil acts therefore those who do bad things should always fear the eventual wrath of the Chepi. These spirits usually communicated through the pawwaw, or rather, a spirit medium.


Lemure” was the Roman name for their ghosts. However lemures were graveyard spirits more similar to vampires or ghouls. Greatly feared, the Romans held rites to banish or appease the lemures – thought most active in the month of May. Lemures were also thought to haunt their own descendents and neighborhood graveyards. It was speculated that the lemures were human souls that had died tragically and were bitter about it.
The Romans celebrated a “Feast of the Lemures” held on May 9th, 11th or 13th was called Lemuria. During the festival, the Romans performed banishing rites to rid their houses of spirits of the dead. The larvae were especially a malignant form of the Lemuria, having some similarity to vampires and pretas or “hungry ghosts.” Salt cakes were eaten to banish malevolent ghosts. Black beans were also burnt in the home to keep the lemures away. The Romans believed in evil spirits which they called lares and other ones they called manes. It was not determined if the manes were good or evil, but they were considered ghosts of individuals who had died.

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