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Creatures of the Night

Vampires have long been in Bulgarian tradition since Slavic times and many of the Bulgarian beliefs were still held among many a superstitious Bulgarian in so late as the 20th Century. Bulgarians believe that the vampire is the incarnated soul of a person who has died, where the deceased's body has been crossed by a human's shadow; a cat, dog or other animal.

There seem to be no specifics about what a vampire looks like but Bulgarian tradition implies that a vampire appears in a way where it is a resemblance of the shadow of a human or animal - and strangely, has only one nostril.

 

Other beliefs are that a vampire is made only of a bag of skin which is full of blood and looks like the dead person. There is a children's book which describes a vampire thus "In the thorn bushes near the graveyard a skin is squatting - with short legs, small claw feet, black holes instead of eyes, with a bony nose and iron teeth. The skin is full of blood, it is a vampire."

Spooky! The vampire comes out of its grave during the night, going back to the house where it used to live. It squeezes the life out of the family members who are sleeping, rants and raves in the loft and knocks everything of the shelves. In legend, the vampire then moves on outside to drive the cattle away from the homestead, even sucking the blood from them.

However, whilst blood thirsty and frightening to its victims, vampires are also not very smart and can easily be distracted by humans. If the family members have left grains of wheat on the floor, the vampire is carried away by this and is compelled to count every single grain. This could slow the vampire down and keep him counting until the cock crows, when it has to retire back to the grave.

Surprisingly, for such a monster, the vampire is pretty faint-hearted and vulnerable. Being afraid of light, it is also fearful of fire, water, thorns, iron and wolves.

If the vampire manages to carry on for fourty days and has sucked enough blood during this time, it gains power and then takes on a body form to look like other humans. The differences are that it has no fingernails and the bones are very soft. The eyes become red. Legend has it that at this stage the vampire leaves the usual family area and moves away to some far flung village where it gets married and has children.

The children from these marriages also have red eyes and can see other vampires. However, such children usually become their most severe hunters or vampire chasers. The vampire killers will catch the monsters and then boil them to death in cauldrons. They may even kill them with a thorn as the vampires are only skin and doing this will prick them and all that will be left is a puddle of blood.

If you ever see a grave which has a sunken surface, then you can be sure you have found the grave of a vampire. The only way to deal with this is to open the grave and the corpose should be speared with a hot spike - but you must only do this on a Saturday when the souls of the dead don't leave their bodies.

There is a tale which is told in the Rhodope mountains "Granny spread some butter on a slice of homemade bread and handed it to the girl. Then she sat and stared at her with her tiny blue eyes. The skin on her face was wrinkled. Her chair was short and the vine arbour in the yard cast shadows all over her body. Only her eyes sparkled from time to time when they came out in between the few rays of light that entered the room. The heat and the homemade brandy had brought me to a state in which my conscience barely worked but I felt I was going to hear many more than old wives tales....

'Two years after my father’s death my mother and I went shopping in the next village. We had hardly got off the bus when I saw him, my father. I saw him through the window as was leaving the barbers. I jumped off the bus, pushing aside all the people that were waiting and started shouting "Daddy, daddy…" He turned towards me, looked at me with his bloodshot eyes and ran back into the barbers. My mother caught up with me swiftly and decided we should take the very same bus immediately back home. Years later she told me that had really been my father.'


If you feel you have really come across a vampire, here are some precautionary steps you can take to protect yourself:

- While a vampire sleeps during the daytime, place a wild rose on its coffin. The vampire will be unable to get out.
- Scatter handfuls of grain on the ground near the vampire's grave. The vampire will be compelled to count the individual grains until the sun comes up - they are not very smart!
- If you are being chased by a vampire, find and cross a river. Vampires can't cross running water.
- Garlands of garlic around your neck will help to protect from vampire bites while sleeping.
- Never invite a suspected vampire into your home. Vampires cannot enter a house without being invited. However, once invited, they may come and go as they please.
- Mix flour with the blood of a vampire to make bread. Eating the bread will serve as a sort of vampire-repellent.
- Iron jewelry has been known to ward off potentially deadly encounters with vampires. Placing iron shavings under the crib of a child will make sure they are unharmed.

Not content with merely avoiding the vampire? In Bulgaria they have their own traditional methods used to kill the damn things. You can "chain" the vampire to its grave with wild roses. Alternatively - bottle him! There are certain sorcerers who make a profession of this. The sorcerer, armed with an icon of a saint, lies in ambush until he sees the vampire pass and then pursues him. The poor vampire takes refuge in a tree or on the roof of a house but still his persecutor follows him up with the talisman, driving him away from all shelter and in the direction of a bottle specially prepared, in which is placed some of the vampire's favourite food. Having no other resource, he enters this prison and is immediately fastened down with a cork, on the interior of which is a fragment of the icon of the saint. The bottle is then thrown into the fire and the vampire disappears forever.

Happy Halloween !