Navigation | The Land of Thieves and Ghosts

April 10, 2010

Namaste: Vampires of the Sub-Continent

India is seen to be one of the centers for the origin of the vampire myth.  However, many attribute the origins of the vampire myth to Gypsies.  Muslims may have spread these early legends into India in the ancient caravans that used to travel along the great silk route.  However, each of these ideas on the origins of the vampire myth are merely theories and cannot be proven yet without further research.  India is the home to many vampire myths, with some of these myths and legends holding a closer resemblance to the western idea of the vampire than others. 

One of the first vampire myths from India that I encountered in my research is the legend of the Rakshasas.  Rakshasas are ogres and demons who lived in cemeteries and disrupted rituals and devotions concerning the dead.  These creatures were also known to slay infants and pregnant women, and came in a variety of forms.  The Rahshasa could be either male or female and either took the form of a humanoid or animal.  These supernatural creatures were described as vampiric because they were nocturnal and had a fearsome appearance along with a set of fangs.  The Rakshasa are also described as asra-pa or asrk-pa, meaning “drinkers of blood.”  I was conducting an image search for Rakshasas and found a lot of demons with tiger-heads and bodies.  I had not found any ties to tigers in my research on Rakshasas, so upon further sleuthing I discovered that there is a Rakshasa character in the popular game dungeons and dragons.  It seems that in an online version of the game there is a realm in which Rakshasas serve as the enemies whom the player fights to attain a goal.  The artists must have decided to assign a tiger-like appearance to these characters in the game. 

Above: A Rakshasa from the Dungeons and Dragons game.

A second vampire myth originating in India is the legend of the Bhuta.  Bhuta are souls of the dead, especially of those lost souls who suffered untimely deaths, had been afflicted with insanity or were born deformed.  The Bhuta wandered the night and appeared as shadows, flickering lights or misty apparitions.  Bhuta could enter a corpse and then use the corpse to devour the living.  Bhuta lived on or near cremation grounds, old ruins, abandoned locations or deserts.  These vampiric creatures could transform into either owls or bats.  Owls held particular significance in India, as it was considered unlucky to hear an owls hoot, especially when on was near a burial ground.  Owl flesh was also used in black magic rituals, so these animals already held supernatural attributes in Indian culture.  Bhuta ate filthy food and were always thirsty.  The Bhuta were especially fond of milk and thus craved babies who had recently fed, as they tasted of milk.  The Bhuta was generally seen as a malevolent being and does not have as many vampiric attributes as other myths and legends found in Indian folklore, but I thought they were worth mentioning. 

In some respects, the myth of the Bhuta is not so different from a few other legends explored in this blog.  There seems to be a theme in vampire folklore that sudden or violent deaths result in the person becoming a vampire, or some form of vampire.  The vampire myth at large appears to be a response to issues resulting from fear of death, as so many of these beings are a consequence of death or the fear death and loss instills in others. 

A third vampire legend in India is the myth of Chedipe.  Chedipe literally means prostitute, and these beings are a sort of sorceress from the Godavari area.  The Chedipe are often depicted as riding a tiger through the night, unclothed.  These sorceresses would enter the home of a sleeping man and would suck his blood from his toe.  The Chedipe used a sort of hypnotism to put others in the household of their victims into a trance-like sleep so they are unaware of the Chedipe’s presence.  The man would wake up in the morning after the Chedipe-attack and would simply feel drained of energy and somewhat intoxicated.  If the victim did not seek treatment the Chedipe would return.  On occasions the Chedipe would attack men in the jungle in the form of a tiger with a human leg. 


Above: Hindu Goddess Kali Ma

The final vampire legend from India is the legend surrounding the Hindu goddess Kali Ma.  Kali Ma is depicted as a dark goddess, usually having black skin and wearing parts of the human body as ornaments.  Kali Ma is associated with the battlefield, where she drank the blood of her victims.  The goddess also frequented the cremation and burial grounds in lore.  Kali Ma is said to have red eyes, like a drunkard, and a half-severed head, partly cut and partly painted.  She is often depicted sticking out her tongue, with long hair flowing to her knees.

Filed by ltello at April 10th, 2010 under Legends/Folklore
107 persons have commented this post

April 6, 2010

Hippity, hoppity…

Who knew the vampire myth scaled the globe in so many places? Apparently the Chinese also have a popular vampire myth called the Xiang Shi or the Chiang Shih. The belief in the Xiang Shi is derived from the Chinese concept of each person having two souls. One soul was seen as the superior, rational soul while the second was called the inferior, irrational soul. The former soul had the form of the body and upon separating, the soul could appear as the body’s exact double. This superior soul could wander the countryside and could even possess another body, sometimes taking the form of an animal. Negative repercussions could occur if accidents happened while this superior soul wandered about outside of its physical body.

The inferior soul, sometimes called the p’ai or p’o, sometimes lingered in the body following death, leading to unnatural preservation. When this inferior soul left the body, the remains disintegrated. Occasionally, if the inferior soul was strong it could inhabit the body for long periods of time and even use the remains for its own ends.

When the inferior soul took charge of the corpse it became the Xiang Shi. The Xiang Shi could take on a green phosphorescent glow and it also had serrated teeth and long talons. The Xiang Shi, along with many other vampire-like mythical creatures, may have originated to explain problems associated with death. The Xiang Shi arose following violent death by suicide, hanging, drowning, smothering and also if the person died suddenly or as a result of improper burial procedures. The dead were thought to become angry if the burial process was postponed too long and since the Xiang Shi could not dematerialize, they could not rise from the grave. Thus, transformation took place before burial. So, it is possible that the Xiang Shi myth acted as an impetus to hasten the burial process.


The Xiang Shi had several supernatural attributes. Cats were kept away from corpses, since it was believed that if the cat jumped over the corpse it would turn into a Xiang Shi. Xiang Shi, like the vampire Count Dracula, can transform into wolves. The Xiang Shi also had trouble crossing running water, and it had to surprise victims since it had few other powers to lure or entrance its prey. The Chinese Vampire was extremely vicious, since it would often rip off the heads or limbs of its victims, and it also had a strong sexual drive, leading it to rape or attack women. Over time the vampire would gain strength and would eventually develop a covering of long white hair, and it would be able to fly after this transformation. It was possible for an unburied body segment, like a head, to become reanimated and transform into a Xiang Shi. Salt was said to have a corrosive effect on the Xiang Shi’s skin, which lent its use as a protection against the vampire. Garlic was also used to protect against the vampire. Loud noises like thunder could disable or kill the Xiang Shi, and weapons like brooms could be used to sweep the Xiang Shi back into its resting spot, leaving it helpless. Iron fillings, rice and red peas were all used as barriers to the entry of the Xiang Shi, and were often placed around a vacant coffin to prevent the vampire from taking a new resting place. If this myth is very interesting to you, try reading the short story “The Resuscitated Corpse” written by P’u Sung-Ling.

Above:  An image depicting a “hopping” vampire from Chinese popular culture.

Chinese film gave new life to the myth of the Xiang Shi. Many of the Chinese vampire films focusing on this myth are comedies, based on the early failings of vampire horror films. Instead of trying to make the films actually scary, the film makers embraced the comedy and changed the myth into a comedic genre. These films featured what came to be known as hopping vampires, since the vampires depicted in the films wore loose robes and hopped about to move around. These hopping vampires were said to be subdued by magical talismans. Holding one’s breath could also temporarily stop the hopping vampire, and eating sticky rice was said to be an antidote against their bite. These comedic movies in essence created a separate vampire myth, loosely based on the earlier myth and legends told in China, which has surpassed the former myths in popularity. 

Above I have embedded a clip from a Chinese film called “Dragon Reloaded.”  The film is a comedy and this scene is a spoof off of a popular Chinese vampire series, called Mr. Vampire.  To learn more about the film check out this site!

Filed by ltello at April 6th, 2010 under Legends/Folklore
84 persons have commented this post


The Talamaur is a vampire-like monster from the Banks Islands in the South Pacific.  I chose to include a map  to show where the island is located, since I had never heard of the Banks Islands before and it tickled my fancy to see where these vampires originated from on the map. 


The belief in the Talamaur is said to be derived from the strong belief that natives on the island held of lively intercourse with the dead.  Some natives feared the dead while others welcomed the interaction with dead spirits.    Natives believed that the soul of a living person, called the tarunga, could separate from the body and wander about, which was verified in the dream experiences.  The Chinese held a similar belief to the Talamaur, since they believed that the superior soul could wander the countryside, and that the inferior soul, or p’o would linger in the body following death.  The Talamaur is the being that ate the tarunga or life still lingering around the body of a corpse or recently deceased person.  This belief resulted in the ghoul-like behavior of some natives who would eat a corpse with the hope of creating a bond with the dead person’s tarunga.  Natives believed that any tarunga the Talamaur devoured in this way would align themselves with the Talamaur, and fight alongside the Talamaur.  If people in the village felt afflicted or if they felt a sense of dread in the presence of someone that person was said to be a Talamaur.  There was no crime in being a Talamaur in native society, in fact some actually projected the image of being a Talamaur on purpose.

Most of the information I found about the Talamaur came from The Vampire Book: the Encyclopedia of the Undead, and the information there was attributed to R. H. Codrington.  I found some information on Mr. Codrington, whose full name is Robert Henry Codrington.  Mr. Codrington was an Anglican priest and anthropologist who made one of the very first systematic studies of Melanesian culture.  More information on Codrington can be found at this site.  If you’re really interested in learning more about the Talamaur and other aspects of Melanesian culture, check out Codrington’s books The Melanesians: Studies in Their Anthropology and Folklore and A Dictionary of the Language of Mota, Sugarloaf Islands, Banks’ Islands.

Filed by ltello at April 6th, 2010 under Legends/Folklore
161 persons have commented this post

March 17, 2010

The Real Vegetarian Vampires

Heads up Edward: you’re not the only vegetarian vampire anymore!  Surprising, I found in my research that Serbian gypsies believe that inanimate objects, like garden equipment and fruit (especially pumpkins and watermelons) can turn into vampires if left outdoors overnight on the eve of the full moon.  The vampire pumpkin or watermelon is known to shake on its own and make a rattling sound, like “brrl brrl brrl.”  Sometimes a trace of blood can even be seen on the vampire fruit.  The turned pumpkin or watermelon retains the same overall appearance of the original fruit.  These vampires are generally not feared as much as the walking, talking, blood sucking kind we’re more familiar with in popular culture.

vampire pumpkin

Some questions popped into my mind when reading accounts of this myth in Beresford’s From Demons to Dracula (more info can be found on the Bibliography page).  Why ground fruits?  This seems significant that the pumpkin and watermelon both grow on vines on the Earth’s surface…maybe this potentially had an impact on the myth? 

Also, the myth may have resulted from rotting fruits, since it was stated in my reading that fruits could also become vampires if left out for 10 days.  I’d like to do a bit more research on this phenomenon, perhaps pumpkins and watermelons are liable to shaking or making noises after being left out?  It’s possible that the seeds of the fruit cause the raucous “brrl brrl” sounds.  If anyone has past experience growing pumpkins or watermelons it would be really interesting to hear any accounts on whether or not this occurs.  I will make sure to post an update if I find any more research regarding this topic.

Finally, I think it’s a bit strange that pumpkins are so tied to the occult.  We carve jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, a holiday in which we celebrate witches and other supernatural beings.  What is it about pumpkins that the fruit has such ties to these darker and more mystical aspects of our culture?  Another thing to research further…

On a side note, I found some rather whimsical instances relating pumpkins and other inanimate objects like vegetables to vampirism.  Bunnicula is a vampire rabbit found in a series of children’s books, who sucks vegetables dry, turning them pale and un-appetizing. 


According to Amazon’s review of Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery:

This immensely popular children’s story is told from the point of view of a dog named Harold. It all starts when Harold’s human family, the Monroes, goes to see the movie Dracula, and young Toby accidentally sits on a baby rabbit wrapped in a bundle on his seat. How could the family help but take the rabbit home and name it Bunnicula? Chester, the literate, sensitive, and keenly observant family cat, soon decides there is something weird about this rabbit. Pointy fangs, the appearance of a cape, black-and-white coloring, nocturnal habits … it sure seemed like he was a vampire bunny. When the family finds a white tomato in the kitchen, sucked dry and colorless, well … Chester becomes distraught and fears for the safety of the family. “Today, vegetables. Tomorrow … the world!” he warns Harold. But when Chester tries to make his fears known to the Monroes, he is completely misunderstood, and the results are truly hilarious. Is Bunnicula really a vampire bunny? We can’t say. But any child who has ever let his or her imagination run a little wild will love Deborah and James Howe’s funny, fast-paced “rabbit-tale of mystery.” (Ages 9 to 12) 



Above:  Looks like Bunnicula has struck again!

I absolutly love that the family cat could tell something was up with the rabbit…haha.  Sounds like a fun story for kids.  I had never heard of the series before researching for this post, but when I brought up the series to some friends I was ridiculed for not being familiar with the fiendish rabbit.  I guess I missed out on something special in my childhood…

Anyway, if you feel like killing time playing mindless flash games, check out this Scooby Doo game called “Attack of the Vampire Pumpkinheads”. It may be a bit irrelevant (and I’m not quite sure why the villain is a vampire pumpkinhead…), but I thought it was pretty cute!  That’s all for now, but I will definitely update if I find out anything else regarding the questions I posed earlier in this post.  Have a great day, folks!

Filed by ltello at March 17th, 2010 under Legends/Folklore
189 persons have commented this post

March 16, 2010


Vrykolakas is a greek mythological creature with many attributes of the vampire.  It is one of the oldest vampire related myths, and the myth has shown an evolution from a supernatural form to a revenant form.  In history, vampire myths originated describing vampires as being supernatural beings, often demonic in nature.  Over time these myths changed, and the vampire was gradually seen to be a revenant, or an undead being.  The Greek vrykolakas originated as a demonic supernatural being but later grew into a revenant undead being.

        Supernatural:  Inhuman being, with demonic attributes, like a spectre.   Often has special powers over humans. 

        Revenant:  An undead entity; once a live human who has now returned to the world of the living after their death.

Vrykolakas is a term derived from the Romanian term vircolac.  Vrykolakas has connections to werewolves in its etymology, and is described as a creature that devours the sun and the moon.  Vrykolakas are seen as poltergeist like creatures that do not feed directly from humans by sucking blood, but the Vrykolakas did kill humans – by sitting on a sleeping victim’s chest and suffocating them.  The vrykolakas is said to knock on the doors of homes, and if the residents do not answer right away, the creature will pass on to the next residency.  Therefore, it’s a superstitition in Greece to wait until the second knock before answering a door, to avoid a sticky confrontation with a vrykolakas. 


A person can become a vrykolakas if they don’t receive a proper burial, if they die violently, or if they lived a sinful life.  Vrykolakas are active during the daytime, but are constrained to their coffins from Saturday evening to Sunday morning, so vampire slayers in Greece often performed their duties at this time.

And boy, were there vampire slayers!  The island of Santorini is said to have the most vrykolakas, as bodies were often transported to the island to prevent contamination of undead beings on the mainland (it was believed that the vrykolakas couldn’t travel over the sea, so once in Santorini, they stayed put).  Due to these legends of high vrykolakas activity on the island, many Greeks took up arms against the vrykolakas.  Vampire hunters achieved high status in Greek societies, nearly on the same footing as scribes and healers.   

For more information regarding this myth, check out this site.  The information I found here jived well with my other sources, and the article is an interesting read!

Filed by ltello at March 16th, 2010 under Legends/Folklore
97 persons have commented this post

« Previous PageNext Page »