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  • The A-Z of isms... vampirism.

  • What is vampirism?

  • The dictionary definition is that it refers to the habits and characteristics of vampires.

  • We might think that that means rising from the dead to prowl through the night while wrapped in a voluminous black cloak, and possessing long, sharp canine teeth with which to bite the necks of victims and suck their blood.

  • But modern vampires are less likely to be found in graveyards than in books and films such as the Twilight series, or in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

  • When the term first emerged, though, things were rather different.

  • Vampires were first discovered in the early 18th Century at the borders of Austria-Hungary.

  • Reports of witches, ghosts, and various demons sucking human blood go back to earliest times, but it was not until 1725 that vampires first appeared, in a report written by an army medical officer on the activities of Serbian soldiers.

  • Over the course of eight days in that year in the village of Kisilova, nine people had been strangled and then had their blood sucked.

  • The man believed responsible had been dead and buried for ten weeks, but he had apparently risen from the grave to do so.

  • The soldiers dug up his corpse and found it to be quite fresh with blood in its mouth.

  • They drove a stake through his heart, and cremated the body.

  • It was the first reported case of vampirism.

  • A newspaper in Vienna carried the report, and the phenomenon spread.

  • Within a few years, vampirism seemed to be rife in Eastern Europe.

  • The Emperor sent teams of military surgeons to investigate and perform autopsies, and they found that the cases were remarkably consistent.

  • Dozens of articles and books were published on the subject by medical researchers, and vampires became a hot topic of debate in the Enlightenment.

  • Vampirism was a recognised condition attested by large numbers of witnesses and had characteristic signs and symptoms, such as corpses having fresh blood running through their veins.

  • Some researchers put the appearances down to mass trauma and delusion.

  • Some to diet or accidental drug use causing hallucinations.

  • Some to unusual chemicals in the earth affecting decomposition.

  • Some to highly contagious diseases.

  • Others, however, argued that the phenomenon really was rampant and needed to be dealt with by the authorities.

  • Theologians joined the fray, arguing that vampires were physical beings that proved the existence of an afterlife.

  • Philosophers meanwhile were concerned as the widespread evidence supporting the existence of vampires cast the whole value of testimony and eyewitness verification into doubt.

  • Having begun among Serbian villagers, vampirism now spread through European society as a way to describe politicians, landlords, businessman, and even theatre critics--it was as if vampires were moving up the social scale.

  • It was not until a century had passed that the aspiring writer Dr. John Polidori wrote the first vampire tale in English.

  • He made the vampire an aristocrat, and paved the way for Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula, published 78 years later.

  • It is to Polidori and Stoker, and dozens of Victorian vampire tales, that we owe the fanged and stylish creature familiar to us today.

  • But remember that vampirism was first investigated by doctors, government officials, and philosophers.

  • It therefore has much to teach us about what it is--and is not--to be human.

  • About how far we are simply flesh and bone and blood.

  • About exploitation and bleeding others dry.

  • And how we should treat those who, despite appearances, may be not like us at all

The A-Z of isms... vampirism.

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B2 UK vampire blood serbian phenomenon existence published

Why do we have vampires? | A-Z of ISMs Episode 22 - BBC Ideas

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    Seraya posted on 2020/08/20
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