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The vampire.

Mostly associated with three things at the time of this post: either Buffy, Mila Jovovich, or Twilight. The vampire has certainly changed from its older roots—something has happened since the writing of the classic Dracula.

What happened? Was it prohibitive makeup costs?

Or was it something  more far-reaching—a cultural revolution?

DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

In this blog post, I’ll take a look at the history of vampires, and throw in some Jungian psychology to sorta spice it up a little bit.

The vampire legend has its first origins in civilizations as old as Rome and Greece, where demons and spirits with vampire characteristics popped up in legends and folk tales.

But the first true vampires come from western Europe.

There, in the 18th century, folklore tells of vampires as bloated, distended corpses,  rising from the grave to drink blood–often wearing only the tattered remains of their funeral shroud.

Afterward, they would return to the coffin, leaking blood out of their mouth and nose.

Artist’s Impression.

Vampirism could be caused by witches, suicide, infected wounds, a bad temper, demons, evil spirits, or letting an animal walk or jump over the corpse before it was buried.

Killing a vampire could be accomplished in myriad ways—essentially, removing a major organ or essential section of the body or taking any household object and inserting it into or near a vampire would have a deleterious effect on said non-living entity.

The transformation of the vampire myth from ‘bloated gibbering corpse’ into ‘handsome and perfectly coherent semi-dead person’ started, perhaps, with an 1829 book written by Dr. John Polidori entitled, wait for it… The Vampire.

This book, partly intended as an insulting portrayal of Lord Byron, was instantly welcomed by the public, and the aristocratic, charming vampire arrived on the scene. A second tale, Carmilla, tied the vampire irrevocably to forbidden aspects of human emotion (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more).

Only 25 years later, in 1897, the vampire climbed to one of the greatest heights of horror literature in Brahm Stoker’s Dracula. Inspired by a particularly brutal prince of Wallachia, Stoker rewrote the vampire into a cunning, brilliant, seductive, and psychotic character, taking all the personality of The Vampire and the twisted seduction of Carmilla into one individual, Count Dracula.

As 1900 came rolling around, the notion of the vampire took off, dissolving into countless novels particularly in the age of cinema and television. After countless re-imaginings and dozens of historical tweaks, the vampire finally came to rest where it is today—simultaneously ghoul, vague personification of upper class fear, symbol of the dangers of reckless hedonism, and the ultimate incarnation of the teenage “bad boy” fantasy.

Yes, vampirism has morphed in an interesting way over the last three centuries, from a disgusting thing to be feared to a thing to be idolized or even something you’d want to date.

Oh, and the chupacabra.

Pictured: The essence of suave charm.

So how is this relevant? In what conceivable context could vampires be linked to anything at all useful in modern society?

Can’t guess?

Well, that’s what I’m here for.

Through the wonderful world of Jungian psychology.

Carl Jung, psychologist? OR VAMPIRE HUNTER?

The aforementioned world of Jungian psychology is a fascinating one, specifically in its approach to legends and mythology.

Carl Jung saw patterns in mythology, recurring characters and ideas, which lead him to present the concept of the ‘archetype.’

‘Jungian’ archetypes vary in their scope and impact, but clearly something in the vampire myth resonates very definitely in the human mind.

In the first place, vampires are connected very closely—through every culture—to two things: religion and blood.

Perhaps, if we wanted to chase the issue of archetypes in religion, we might argue that these tie back to the same thing, but my fingers are getting tired and so I will ignore that subject for the moment.

Vampires have always been parasitic, draining creatures—consuming blood, flesh, (and sometimes other, less pleasant things) in order to prolong their existence or right some wrong.

They have been associated with damnation in many ways, sometimes going so far as to be demons themselves, or even corpses directly possessed by the devil.

Another interesting point (to me) is the fact that the modern vampire is a very quiet creature.  S/He is calm, collected, and intelligent, slowly and gently sucking the life out of his victims by repeated visits.

.In the ‘truer’ modern retellings of vampire tales, the largest amount of pain is usually visited upon the vampire, with guns, knives, stakes, crosses, fire, and all manner of other barbaric, generally bladed objects.

The vampire’s victim does not necessarily suffer, nor do they even always realize that they are the victim.

(If we look at it this way, Twilight becomes the horrific tale of a young woman who is all too terribly blind to the emotional damage wreaked upon her by a cruel vampire)

In this way, the vampire as it stands now bears an interesting resemblance to addiction, which any online subscription medical paper can tell you is one of the major problems of our time: addiction to drugs, to alcohol, to gambling, to the internet, to World of Warcraft.

Perhaps the vampire’s evolution from barbaric, disgusting monster (in the 1700s, when war was still a common thing and violent death by sword was much more common and even expected in some cases) to life-draining seducer (through the age of rapidly multiplying addictive things and increasing fear of the aristocracy) is not an accident of public opinion, but rather the product of the evolving human subconscious.

The next step in the evolution of the human psyche.

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One Comment

  1. I’ve always been terrified of Vampires, but I think I’m beginning to appreciate them.


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