During the Middle Ages, the scientific study of vampirism was tangled up in religious notions of good versus evil. Vampires were the Devil's foot soldiers, and victims of vampirism were thought to have had some sort of moral failing which left them vulnerable to attack. The large number of prostitute-victims was held up as proof of this. The church, at perhaps the zenith of its power, had a vested interest in keeping this notion afloat, as nervous worshipers tended to spend more time in church and give more money. But the dawn of the Renaissance gave rise to a number of visionary scientists who, at their own peril, began to question previous assumptions about vampirism. And one of them, an Italian named Ludovico Fatinelli, paid for it with his life.
Fatinelli was a native of Florence whose father was employed in the relatively new profession of making eyeglasses. The young Fatinelli took an interest in his father's trade and made his own magnifying glasses to study the world around him. As his lenses got more sophisticated, he was able to discern a world previously unknown to science. His notes from a look at a sample of water from the Arno River capture the excitement of discovery: "I then saw, with great wonder, that in the water were very many little animalcules, very prettily a-moving. The animalcules were in great number, and oft times spun around like a tail." Fatinelli had taken the first recorded look at bacteria.
The young Florentine went on to study medicine at the University of Padua, where one of his teachers was the great scientist and philosopher Galileo Gallilei. While there, Fatinelli, through the use of increasingly more sophisticated microscopes, discovered that "animalcules" also appeared to live in human tissue. From these observations, the young scientist developed the radical theory that it was these microscopic entities, not moral failures, that were the real source of vampirism. Experiments on animals seemed to bolster his hypothesis, and he set to work on a treatise that would summarize his findings and, he hoped, establish his reputation as a great scientist.
The trial of Fatinelli
In Januay, 1616, Fatinelli published his findings under the title, Treatise on Vampires. Alas, his timing couldn't have been worse. Pope Paul V, worried about the rise of Protestantism, had been taking a hard line against any new interpretation of church dogma and decided to make Fatinelli an example. The young man was brought up for the Inquisition, and when he refused to recant the conclusions in his treatise, he was charged with heresy and brought to trial. Though a simple recantation probably could have gotten him off the hook, Fatinelli stood behind his findings. Judgment was swift: the verdict was guilty, the sentence, death.
Signoria the morning
of Fatinelli's execution
On April 23, 1616, a huge crowd gathered in Florence's Piazza Signoria to witness the execution. Fatinelli was tied to a pole atop a pile of logs, which were then set ablaze. The fire ate through the rope securing Fatinelli to the pole, and his left arm flew up in the air. A shriek went through the crowd; many fainted, thinking that the Devil was passing a curse from Fatinelli's body onto them. But the man on the pyre was only flesh and blood. Once the spectacle was over, one of the most important scientists of the time was ignominiously heaved into a pauper's grave, where the church hoped he would be forgotten forever.
It was not to be. Though Fatinelli was gone, his research lived on. For years after his death, illicit copies of his banned treatise made their way through Europe's scientific communities and helped pave the way for important work by scientists like the Englishman Edward Jenner, who created the first vaccine in 1795. Fatinelli had indeed been far ahead of his time: too far ahead, for the church's comfort.
According to the classical definition that reigned in the middle-age, a vampyre is an animated corpse that survives by drinking the blood of the living. It also has a demonic nature and is a servant of Satan, dedicated to spreading its evil throughout the world.
In the Chapter 18 of Dracula from Bram Stoker, we found an interesting description from Professor Van Helsing
The nosferatu do not die like the bee when he sting once. He is stronger; and being stronger, yet have more power to work evil. This vampyre which is amongst us is of himself so strong in person as twenty men; he is of cunning more than mortal, for his cunning be the growth of ages; he have still the aids of necromancy, which is, as his etymology imply, the divination of the dead, and all the dead that he can come nigh to are for him at command; he is brute, and more than brute; he is devil in callous, and the heart of him is not; he can, within limitations, appear at will when, and where, and in any of the forms that are to him; he can, within his range, direct the elements; the storm, the fog, the thunder; he can command all the meaner things: the rat, and the owl, and the bat - the moth, and the fox, and the wolf; he can grow and become small; and he can at times vanish and come unknown. .
But to fail here, is not mere life or death. It is that we became as him; Take it, then, that the vampyre, and the belief in his limitations and his cure, rest for the moment on the same base. For, let me tell you, he is known everywhere that men have been. In old Greece, in old Rome; he flourish in Germany all over, in France, in India, even in the Chernosese; and in China, so far from us in all ways, there even he is, and the peoples fear him at this day. He have follow the wake of the berserker Icelander, the devil-begotten Hun, the Slav, the Saxon, the Magyar. So far, then, we have all we may act upon; and let me tell you that very much of the beliefs are justified by what we have seen in our own unhappy experience. The vampire lives on, and cannot die by mere passing of time; he can flourish when that he can fatten on the blood of the living. Even more, we have seen amongst us that he can even grow younger; that his vital faculties grow strenuous, and seem as though they refresh themselves when his special pabulum is plenty. But he cannot flourish without his diet;
In the records are such words as 'stregoica' - witch, 'ordog,' and 'pokol' - Satan and hell; and in one manuscript this very Dracula is spoken of as 'wampyr,' which we all understand too well. There have been from the loins of this very one great men and good women, and their graves make sacred the earth where alone this foulness can dwell. For it is not the least of its terrors that this evil thing is rooted deep in all good; in soil barren of holy memories it cannot rest.
Vampyres don't exist- LIE
Ask any given number of people whether they believe in vampyres and the overwhelming response will be in the negative. There are two main reasons for this. The first reason is fear. Not the fear of the common man for Vampyres but quite the reverse. As we are all quite aware humans are prone to mass hysteria and violence against anything they cannot understand. Because of this, Vampyres over the millenia, have feared the human race and what it may do if the existence of Homo wampyrus were confirmed as scientific fact. Vampires therefore keep themselves well hidden and do all they can to propagate the Vampire as a myth and Hollywood invention. One classic example is the popular fantasy role-playing game by White Wolf, Vampire: The Masquerade. This game describes a rich history of Vampyre 'clans', each with it's own back story and complex interactive culture; all presented as a made-up gaming environment. In reality, the book is based on fact with only some embellishments to make it 'more exciting'.
The second reason is connected closely with the first. Remember, Vampyres are people too which means any survey will include a proportion of Vampyre participants who will naturally vote 'no' in order to discourage belief.
Vampyres are evil- LIE
Most Vampyres were human once and therefore have the same capacity for good and evil as any member of the human race.
There are evil vampires of course, just as there are evil humans but Vampires are also as capable of as much good as humans.
Vampyres are often portrayed as evil because of the nature of their food but Vampyre drinking blood is no more evil than a lioness tearing a zebra to pieces for to feed her cubs.
In today's society, most Vampyres discreetly advertise for willing 'donors' or purchase from blood banks in those countries that allow it, therefore avoiding the need for any stereotypical neck biting.
Vampyres only feed on blood- LIE
Haemavorous Vampyres, those that feed on blood, are by far the most fascinating and varied, however there is another kind that feeds on the life-force generated by every living thing and especially humans. Most of these Vampyres, known as Psychic Vampires are outwardly indistinguishable from humans and many do not share other Vampire weaknesses like aversion to sunlight of garlic. Many Psychic Vampires feed on the life-force or 'psychic energy' of those around them without ever knowing that they are doing so and remain blissfully unaware of their true nature.
This web site mainly deals with the haemavorous types but further reading on intentional and unintentional psychic Vampyres is available in a book entitled 'Vampires: The Occult Truth' by Konstantinos and published by Llewellyn
Vampyres can shape-shift- TRUTH
The shape-shifting capabilities attributed to Vampyres by popular fiction and the movies have some basis in fact. For most Vampyres shape-shifting skills are limited to the extension of fangs, claws or a lengthening of the ears. However there are some individuals, particularly amongst older members of the Wampyrus chiroptera group who have advanced abilities in shape-shifting. They are able to affect a transformation all the way into a huge bat-like creature which, while unable to perform actual powered flight, is capable of gliding over long distances in the manner of a hang-glider.
The transformation takes a huge toll on the Vampyre's energy levels and can take upwards of twelve extremely painful hours to perform. Because of these limitations the shape-shifting Vampyre rarely uses it's talent during it's usual feeding routine.
Vampyres are only active at night- LIE
It is true that the Vampyre condition makes them extremely and painfully sensitive to sunlight, or more precisely ultra-violet radiation. However this does not mean they cannot move about during the daylight hours. Humans have evolved as diurnal (daytime) animals but, despite poor night vision and a strong urge to sleep, we still spend a great deal of our night-times fully active. The same is true for Vampyres in reverse. As long as the Vampyre takes care not to expose his or her self to full on sunlight they are quite capable of acting out a life style approximating that of their human neighbours. Given a choice, most Vampyres would choose to sleep during the day and use the night-time hours to feed and socialise but this is in no way a rule. For most Vampyres it's a matter of choice and factor 40 sunblock!
Vampyres are repelled or hurt by garlic- TRUTH
In fact most haemavorous Vampyres are allergic or at least sensitive to the entire allium family which includes onions, chives, leeks, shallots and of course garlic. The degree of reaction varies from individual to individual but it is with garlic that the problem lies. Garlic contains a chemical which causes constriction of the throat and larynx leading to breathlessness and in extreme cases death through asphyxiation.
Vampyres are immortal- LIE
Although almost true in the sense that they live to a very old age. Vampyres can, of course be killed in all the same ways that a humman can with the exception of resistance to some poisons. The misconception that vampyres can not be killed by conventional means may stem from their greater pain threshold, their considerable strength and the fact that their blood clots much faster and wounds knit at an accelarated rate.
A bullet in the chest (missing the heart) will often kill a human just from the shock and blood loss, whereas a Vampyre would be able to keep going whilst the wound is sealed with a clot to prevent bleeding to death.
Vampyres are also much less susceptable to desease than humans with even HIV unable to get a hold on the Vampyre immune system.
The oldest Vampyre that I an aware of was 'turned' at the age of 26 in what is now Thailand in approximatley 345bc. She killed herself in 1973 having spent well over two thousand years alive.
Apart from accidents, the most common cause of Vampyre mortality is suicide. It takes a strong will to watch all those around you grow old and die, over and over again.
The mechinism that allows Vampyres to have virtual immortality
Vampyres are dead (or undead)- LIE
The misconception that Vampyres are the dead somehow brought back to life stems from two places. First, one of the early symptoms of the onset of Vampirism is a prolonged state of catatonia or hibernation. In the past, this state with it's cooling of the body and slowing of the heart to less than five beats per minute was often mistaken for death and the 'corpse' duly buried. Upon awakening, the Vampyre finds to his horror that he has been buried alive and proceeds to dig himself out. Naturally the Vampyre's friends and family think he has come back from the dead.
Secondly, and more relevant to modern times is the fact that when a human succumbs to Vampirism, he or she withdraws from his or her previous life and hides or moves away, often without a word to friends or reletives. After some years the family and friends of the missing person assume that they are dead.
Years later curiosity overcomes the Vampyre and he or she seeks out old aquaintances who are startled to find that not only is their dear departed still alive, but they appear to be no older than when they went missing all those years ago.
Vampyres sleep in coffins- LIE
Why would they? Coffins make very uncomfortable beds.
As explained above, Vampyres are not dead or Undead. The coffin fixation is purely an invention of folk law and novelists. These days some Vampyres make a point of having a coffin shaped coffee table or something of that sort as a kind of 'in joke' with their friends. The coffin is very much the 'flying ducks' of the Vampyre community. Kitch, tastless but fun
Vampyres have super strength- TRUTH
Vampyres enjoy a more efficient metabolism than most humans. Because of this, their bodies are able to perform more efficiently too.
Most Vampyre's strength is no more than any human could achieve, the difference is that a Vampyre has this strength without effort of training whereas a human would have to spend long, hard and regular hours in the gym to achieve the same results.
Some Vampyres are able to use a degree of shape-shifing skill to adjust bone pivot points, muscle attachment ratios and tendon strengths to obtain powers beyound that which is achievable by their original bodies, however,this is rarely worth the effort and pain to perform.
Vampyres cast no reflection- LIE
Even Vampyres cannot change the laws of physics! However, some Vampyres, particularly the Nosferatu group, are able to affect the human mind to some degree.
This enables them to alter a human's perception and effectivly 'become invisible' to them at will.
Vampyres fear religious symbols- LIE
Vampirism has been around since the dawn of man, long before the birth of even the oldest surviving organised religion. Christian crosses and other religious icons hold no fear for Vampyres, after all a cross is only a symbol of faith and not the faith in it's self. However, if the human who is brandishing the cross is sufficiently strong in their faith, if the belief in the icon's abilty to repel the Vampyre is absolute, then the Vampyre can feel this in the human's psyche. Most vampyres find this strong mental conviction unpleasant and will leave in search of less fervant prey. The human, of course, believes it is the cross that has repelled the Vampyre and as a result their faith is strengthened further.
Although most Vampyres have little time or interest for religion, some use religion as a smokescreen in order to appear more human and so fit more succesfully into human society.