Tuesday 7 May 2013

Vampires in the Middle Ages - why then?

Medieval people believed in ghosts and in evil necromancers, using devilish arts to re-animate the dead or to control demons. They believed in witchcraft and charms and magic. They believed in succubii and incubii. Vampires, however, do not really make an appearance until the fourteenth century. Why then?

In 1348 the Black Death struck Europe. Thousands died and thousands of rotting corpses had to be buried, often in mass graves. Sights of these bodies was often grisly and bloody, and so the idea of the vampire, feeding on the blood of the living, came into force.

Recently a body in a medieval Italian mass grave on the Venetian island of Lazzaretto Nuovo was found with a slab of rock slammed between its jaws – a crude anti-vampire measure. The dead woman was suspected by the grave-diggers of being a vampire, possibly because of gruesome sights around her decomposing body when they had re-opened the mass grave to bury more plague victims. So the frightened grave-diggers put a brick in her mouth to stop her chewing through her shroud and escaping the grave to infect others. A very grisly measure!

In my medieval historical romance, The Snow Bride, I don’t mention medieval vampires but I do deal with witchcraft and necromancers. My heroine, red-haired Elfrida, is a witch and wise-woman and through the ‘magic’ of love she helps my scarred hero Magnus. Both Elfrida and Magnus must battle against an evil necromancer – a medieval wizard who summoned spirits and demons – and, in a desperate race against time, recover Elfrida’s younger sister. In 'The Snow Bride' I show medieval magic and beliefs, but not medieval vampires.

I do touch on vampires in my latest medieval historical romance, Dark Maiden. My heroine, Yolande, spends a lot of time persuading others that the spirits or supernatural creatures they are dealing with are not vampires, mainly because she knows they are not and because the ways of dealing with vampires is very violent and would be distressing to bereaved families. I do have her fighting vampires however, if only in her dreams, and then she shows what a medieval exorcist would have to do.

Read Chapter One

[Vampire image published Paris, 1820. Sourced from Wikimedia Commons.]

1 comment:

Linda Acaster said...

Good article, Lindsay. Considering what gives us the willies, I'm very sure that being surrounded by the recently dead must have been enough to send folks crackers. [shudders, and noteven for effect!]