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Vampires! Psychology of the Vampire Mythos: Part II

Vampires may not really exist but clinical vampirism does, and psychiatrists have been aware of it for quite some time. Clinical vampirism is when a person develops an unhealthy attraction to blood. In such a condition, blood takes on a fantastical symbolism, a mystical power, often one associated with the fantasy of another mystical power to many a young boy: Sex. I say ‘young boy’ because most patients who have developed clinical vampirism are male. A fascination with blood usually develops at a time of insecurity – a blood injury at an early age. A child is both terrified and fascinated the first time he sees his own blood. If this carries over to another major realization that is also often met with the same emotions – say, the sexual nature of humans – then this can lead to a fascination with vampires, who are not only obsessed with blood but are, in modern pop culture, imbued with very sexual overtones. As we saw in the first installment of this article, this is a complete misrepresentation, but hey – that’s Hollywood for you. Sexual insecurity is thereby masked with the power and physical prowess of the vampire. Most young men forget about their fascination with vampires as soon as they actually get laid.

Cases of Real Vampiricism

Others, however, do not. This can lead to some very serious problems. Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D., relates an account of one very horrific case in her article on vampire personality disorder, published in her blog “Shadow Boxing”:

During the mid-1880s, German neurologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing noted the sexual presentation of the attacks, in that they were compulsive and often aimed at a victim in a way that suggested lust. He included descriptions in Psychopathia Sexualis.

For example, a 24-year-old vinedresser who murdered a twelve-year-old girl in the woods admitted that he also drank her blood, mutilated her genitals, tore out and ate part of her heart, and buried her remains.

In his book, Forbidden Partners: The Incest Taboo in Modern Cultures, author James B. Twitchell likened the vampire to a child molester:

“I cannot think of any other monster-molester in our culture who does such terrible things to young victims in such a gentlemanly manner. He is always polite and deferential, and his victim is almost always passive in return.”

There are many other cases of deranged people committing unthinkable acts while claiming to be under the influence of vampirism. Suffice it to say that not only do vampires stink, but they have a lot of sexual insecurities that have, on rare and yet deeply troubling occasions, turned violent.

Does this mean that all interests in vampires are the products of a sick mind? Of course not. While the fascination is often tied to sexual insecurity, there is nothing unnatural about such insecurities. A healthy interest in the gothic imagery and the spooky tales associated with vampires is nothing to shy away from. As with all things, however, moderation is key. If someone enjoys watching vampire movies or reading vampire romance novels, or even making movies and writing stories about vampires themselves, it’s a healthy hobby indicative of a very creative mind. Such an interest may even lead to a more comfortable outlook on sex, which is a good thing for their future romantic interests. Look at all of the successful people who have contributed to the vampire lore, from Christopher Lloyd to Stephen King to Kiefer Sutherland. However, if your boyfriend (or even girlfriend) insists on sleeping in a casket or drinking blood, it may be time to consult a psychologist.

 

Where did it all start?

As noted at the beginning of this article, the vampire mythos dates back a lot farther than most of us realize: Around 2000 B.C. to be accurate. What were vampires like before there were crucifixes to scare them away? Since the earliest religions of Mesopotamia and the ancient Greeks, there were tales of demonic spirits with a thirst for the blood of the living. The devil himself was considered to be such an evil spirit, and hence, the term “nosferatu” became synonymous with the more modern 18th century term: Vampire. There were other legendary figures that were caught up in the vampire mythos.

The goddess Sekhmet of ancient Egypt was known as many things, including “Mistress of Dread,” “Lady of Slaughter,” and “She who Mauls” – all of which would look great on your resume. She is most famously associated with a tale of the Nile turning blood red, and she had to drink it before it flooded and killed all of humanity. She if often depicted with the face of a lion and wearing a blood-red dress, and is not only referred to as the Goddess of Vengeance, but also the Goddess of Medicine and Menstruation. Images of her have survived through the ages as there were many carved depictions of her found in temples where rituals were often performed to appease her in order to prevent her wrath. Many such rituals were performed at the end of battles to ensure that the bloodshed would end.

Goddess Sekhmet, doin’ that hot lion wrath thing

Goddess Sekhmet, doin’ that hot lion wrath thing

 

The term “ghoul” usually refers to an undead entity that lurks in graveyards and feeds on the flesh of the dead. It was first used in a collection of folk tales from South Asia, One Thousand and One Nights. It was written in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age, and so is commonly known in English as “The Arabian Nights”. The Anglicized ‘ghoul’ originates from the Arabic term al-ghūl (الغول) from ghala “to seize.” According to Wikipedia, “The term is etymologically related to Gallu, a Mesopotamian demon.” In ancient Arabian folklore, the ghūl showed first signs of the shape-shifting abilities of modern vampires, changing form to lure its victims into secluded areas to devour them, and then taking the form of the victim.

The oldest, however, would have to go to the Babylonians, whose earliest version of what could be considered a vampire story focused on Lilitu, who would eventually become Lilith in the Hebraic traditions. Lilith is also said to have been created by God as a pre-Eve prototype mate for Adam. Their union produced a number of demons that are said to still plague mankind, including Asmodeus. Lilith apparently did not like laying with Adam as he insisted on the missionary position. As his equal, she did not like being beneath Adam, and so she “uttered the magic name of God, rose into the air and left him.” God sent three angels to retrieve her, but she refused to return. To this day, Lilith is said to be a killer of children unless they are protected by an amulet adorned with the names of the three angels: Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof. In modern myth, Lilith is said to be a demon that drinks the blood of babies, and is therefore quite possibly the oldest relative of the vampire mythos. She is immortal as she was never cursed with death because she left before the condemnation of Original Sin. Hers is a fascinating footnote to Biblical history, and is certainly worth more study for those who are interested. The notes included here are taken from the book Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis by Robert Graves and Raphael Patai. A lovely overview of this book can be found here.

 

Last Bites

As you can see, the depth of the vampire mythos is vast and deep, rich in legends from various cultures, both ancient and modern, and rife with psychological underpinnings. Volumes have been written on the topic, and many more will no doubt follow. Although this article, for all its laboriousness, just scratches the surface, there is a lot more buried beneath the surface. Sadly I never even really got to the most famous vampire of all: Count Chocula. Still, I would be remiss if I did not give a brief mention to his predecessor, Dracula, a.k.a. Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler. No doubt you are already familiar with this Romanian rascal, so I will not bore you further. It is interesting to note in the interest of historical fact that archaeologists believe they have found the dungeons in Turkey in which Vlad was imprisoned by the Ottomans in 1442. You can check that out here. For those further interested, you can find some interesting facts about Vlad here.

 

If vampires were real, this would be racist.

If vampires were real, this would be racist.

 

As for me, I am drained. The sun is almost up and I must retire. This article has been a real pain in the neck. I am going to go bury myself and sleep the sleep of the dead… but first, I must feed. And since I cannot get Count Chocula cereal in my current country of residence, cup o’ noodles will have to suffice.

Happy Halloween, everybody. Now forget all of this tediousness and go watch The Lost Boys. Or, if you just want a quick vampire fix, check out this short film made by our own Chief.

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Written by Matthew Leach

I am an American expat that has been living overseas since 2007. Most of that time has been spent in East Asia as I lived in Korea until 2012. Currently I reside in the Sultanate of Oman. I enjoy traveling, and I always bring a towel, but ultimately I hope to return home to Pittsburgh. So if you hear of any jobs…

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