Tuesday, 30 September 2008

De strigis, quae non sunt...

While browsing a number of articles, I started re-reading the old paper by Tekla Dömötör De strigis, quae non sunt... (published in 1975 in Miscellanea Prof. Em. Dr. K. C. Peters). As a Dane, i.e. living in Scandinavia, I can't help being a bit amused when he notes that 'man sich während meiner Auslandreisen, besonders in Skandinavien immer für die ungarischen Vampire interessierte, und meine Antwort, daß nämlich im ungarischen Volksglauben keine Vampire-Gestalt lebe, immer mit der größten Bezweiflung empfangen wurde. In short, while traveling abroad, particularly in Scandinavia, people Professor Dömötör met always showed an interest in the Hungarian vampire, and always questioned Dömötör's claim that there was no such thing in Hungarian folk belief!

Dömötör quotes two chapters from Calmet, and notes concerning the Kisiljevo vampire case that the locations are located in (what was back then) modern Yugoslavia. He is, however, unable to locate 'Medreiga', at least there was no haiduk town with a name similar to that, but he provides us with some interesting information on the haiduks. He also mentions that names like 'Arnold Paul', 'Stanoska', 'Jotuitzó', and 'Millo' aren't Hungarian names.

Today it is well-known that this vampire case happened in Serbia, but much confusion originates from the references to 'Hungary' and certain other countries and locations in many books on vampires.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

The Kiss

It's really very interesting to be able to study Stoker's Notes. It allows one to see what material inspired e.g. Christopher Frayling to claim that Stoker's book actually must have been inspired by a dream:

'Above all, the 'Notes' in the Rosenbach Foundation confirm, beyond any doubt, that the dream (was is really a nightmare?) from which the novel eventually emerged was there from the very beginning.

In March 1890 Bram Stoker wrote on a piece of scrap paper, in handwriting which he always called 'an extremely bad hand': 'young man goes out - sees girls one tries - to kiss him not on the lips but throat. Old Count interferes - rage and fury diabolical. This man belongs to me I want him.' Six days later, he reiterated: 'Loneliness, the Kiss "this man belongs to me" '. Again, in February 1892, in one of the many 'structures' he scribbled down: 'Bistritz - Borgo Pass - Castle - Sortes Virgil - Belongs to me'. And in shorthand, again and again, over the next few years: '& the visitors - is it a dream - women stoop to kis him. terror of death. Suddenly Count turns her away - "this man belongs to me" '; 'May 15 Monday Women kissing'; 'Book 1 Ch 8 Belongs to me'.

Whatever the changes that happened between 1890 and 1897 to the novel's beginning, its characters, its villain, its locations and its length, one incident and one alone remained constant right up to the publication day, the incident which occurs when, as Jonathan Harker recalls in his Journal entry for 15 May, 'I suppose I must have fallen asleep; I hope so, but I fear ... I cannot in the least believe that it was all sleep.' ' (Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (1991), p. 301).

So now, those pieces of paper are easily available, and going through the Notes brings back memories of hours spent on this subject in my youth. With Leslie S. Klinger's new annotated edition of Dracula being published soon, perhaps it's time to re-read the novel which somehow got me started on my own search for information about vampires and magia posthuma some thirty years ago.

Here, by the way, is a new comic book adaptation of that famous scene.

Friday, 26 September 2008

The creation of a modern myth

In 1897, Bram Stoker was asked if there is any historical basis for the vampire legend. He answered:

'It rested, I imagine, on some such case as this. A body may have been dug up and found alive, and from this a horror seized upon the people, and in their ignorance they imagined that a vampire was about.'

It is well known that Stoker was inspired by Emily Gerard's article on 'Transylvanian Superstitions', and as I have mentioned in an earlier post, this was where he found the word 'nosferatu' that he immortalized as a synonym for 'vampire', although no such word actually exists in Transylvania.

But now anyone interested in how Stoker shaped the modern literary vampire with his Count Dracula, is able to study his working notes and literary sources in a remarkable book that I have just received: Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller with a foreword by Michael Barsanti (published by McFarland).

The above interview is quoted in the overview at the end of the book, where the authors also tell us that 'Stoker did more writing and research on vampires before his vacation in Whitby than many people have assumed. The Notes confirm that he began working on a vampire novel before he discovered the name "Dracula" or chose Transylvania as the monster's homeland.' (p. 284)

In his foreword, former associate director of the Rosenbach Foundation where the notes are kept, Michael Barsanti writes that 'Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula are one of the greatest treasures in the Rosenbach Museum & Library - a small house that has been converted into a museum and rare-book library on a shady, residential street in the center of Philadelphia. The Notes are kept in a specially-made box in company with manuscripts by Stoker's fellow Dubliners Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, as well as Joseph Conrad, Lewis Carroll, and other famous writers.'

The Notes were originally first mentioned in a popular book in the late Seventies, but have been studied intensely by a some researchers over the past few years, and many popular myths about Dracula have been debunked, as I have already mentioned in a couple of posts like this one. However, now that the Notes are available to the general reader, anyone with an interest in the genesis of Dracula can study Stoker's hand written and machine typed notes. They give an invaluable insight into what Stoker actually knew about vampires and the so-called 'historical Dracula', as well as knowledge on how the plot and characters developed. It is e.g. quite delightful to see how he initially intended the count to be called Count Wampyr, but later on replaced 'Wampyr' with 'Dracula'!

Apart from the facsimile reproduction and transcription of the Notes, the book contains an overview of the characters, the plot, and the sources. It also contains a short biography and bibliography of Stoker's works, and the 1888 entry on Vampire from the Encyclopedia Britannica which mostly deals with the vampire bat, although both Ranft and Calmet are briefly mentioned.

The Notes, of course, provide no insights into the original vampire cases or the 17th and 18th century magia posthuma, but they allow us to come as close as will probably ever be possible to know how Stoker actually developed his vampiric count and in doing so influenced modern popular culture.

In an essay on 'The Myth of Dracula', the authors try to give a clue to why Dracula has proved to be so popular. As they say, 'Many literary critics are baffled by Dracula's undying popularity.' The Notes will hardly answer that question, but as the authors say:

'Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula not only reveal the genesis of a novel but serve as the first tentative steps in the creation of a modern myth. They provide a wealth of insights into this tale of "spiritual pathology", which transcends its author's talents as a writer to speak to us today in the timeless language of myth.'

Consequently, I can only highly recommend this important book to anyone interested in gaining that insight.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

More from Equiamicus

Fellow blogger Equiamicus keeps offering new posts on 18th century sources on his blog and web site, so I don't think I need to do more than just recommend frequent visits to his blog (or better still, subscribing to feeds from it).

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

A note on comments

I received another comment to a previous post concerning the True Blood series. Initially I said, OK, I'll let one or two comments pass, even though I wasn't very happy about the contents, but the last was pretty hateful, so I'm not going to publish that one.

From the start, I decided to moderate all comments because I don't want to be flooded by useless or hateful comments, so after receiving this last pretty annoying comment, I've decided that in the future I'll only publish comments that I find useful. Fortunately, this has never been a big issue, but I just wanted to say this in public, so I can refer to this policy if necessary. So please keep comments 'clean' and informative :-)

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Medveđa (Trstenik)

If you wish to know a bit about modern Medvedja, you can read about Medveđa (Trstenik) in the Serbian Wikipedia (ВИКИПЕДИЈА). It's not very informative, but the same goes for the entry on Kukljin.

That porphyria theory is hard to put to rest...

In the spring 2006 issue of the Polish journal Foton there is yet another paper (A Vampire Story: Science, Folklore and Beyond by Bakó, Gudowska-Nowak and Smoluchowski) speculating whether the vampire cases could be explained by Porphyria. The authors don't make a better case for this, honestly, absurd theory than so many others have done. Still, it's interesting to read their short review of the 18th century vampire debate, including the vitalist-animalist school of Georg Ernst Stahl. The illustrations and the usual quote from Montague Summers ('Throughout the vast shadowy world of ghosts and demons...') don't make their case more sound.

Monday, 22 September 2008

'Vampire tourism'

Here is an example of 'vampire tourism', which is apparently very popular. Personally, I would go elsewhere, as should be obvious from many of the places mentioned in this blog.


Nicolaus Equiamicus has added yet another source to his collection of contemporary texts on the 18th century vampires: an excerpt from Kurioser und sehr wunderbarer Bericht, von denen sich neuerdings in Serbien zeigenden Blutsaugern oder Vampiren (d. i. Curieuse und sehr wunderbare Relation von denen sich neuer Dingen in Servien erzeigenden Blut-Saugern oder Vampyrs),aus authentischen Nachrichten und mit philosophischen Erwägungen begleitet by W. S. G. E., originally published in 1732. Like the title of the book, the German text has been modernized to make it more easy to read and understand for the modern reader.

The conquest of Belgrade 1717

From the English Wikipedia entry on Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736):

'After Eugene took the Banat fortress of Temesvár in mid-October 1716 (thus ending 164-years of Turkish rule), the Austrian commander turned his attention to the next year’s campaign and to what he considered the main goal of the war, Belgrade. Situated at the confluence of the Rivers Danube and Save, Belgrade held a garrison of 30,000 men under Mustapha Pasha. The siege progressed steadily, but by the first days of August 1717 a huge Turkish field army under Halil Pasha (150–200,000 strong) had arrived on the plateau east of the city to relieve the garrison. News spread through Europe of the imminent destruction of the Imperial army, yet Eugene had no intention of lifting the siege. With his men suffering from dysentery and continuous bombardment from the plateau, Eugene, aware that a decisive victory alone could relieve the army from their dangerous situation, decided to attack the relief force. On the morning of 16 August, 40,000 imperial troops marched through the fog, caught the Turks unawares, and routed Halil Pasha’s army; a week later Belgrade surrendered effectively bringing an end to the war. The victory was the crowning point of Eugene’s military career and had confirmed him as the leading European general; his ability to snatch victory at the moment of defeat had shown the Prince at his best.'

The above painting of the conquest of Belgrade by Jan van Huchtenburg shows Prince Eugene in the lower left corner. Click on the painting to view it in more detail!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Medvedja and Medvedja

Although Google has provided us with good tools for geographical searches, my maps of Serbia and other parts of Europe are still an indispensable tool for searching for places mentioned in texts on magia posthuma and vampires.

In connection with my posts on Medvedja and Kukljin, I think it's worth mentioning that some people have looked for 'Medvegya' in another place in North Eastern Serbia. Namely the Medvedja located on the Resava river, North of Jagodina (shown on the right side of the map below).

However, in the Visum et Repertum the ashes of the bodies are thrown into the Morava river, and it is also said that Medvedja is on the border of Turkish area. The Zapadna Morava more or less marked the southern border between the part of Serbia occupied by Austrian forces, and the Ottomans. Furthermore, the proximity of Kukljin to that Medvedja in my opinion is further evidence that this must be the correct 'Medvegya'.

And this is not the only evidence, because if you go back and look at contemporary lists of haiduk villages in the occupied parts of Serbia, you can find both 'Medved' and 'Kuklin' mentioned in the 'Jagodinaer Distrikt' along with other village names from the same area. So I am quite convinced that my identification of Medvedja is correct.


Nicolaus Equiamicus keeps coming up with new source material. This time it's a 1755 newspaper article from the Berlinische Priviligirte Zeitung on the vampire case from Hermsdorf in Silesia.

Kottwitz and Kucklina

Travelling East from Medvedja, passing through Velika Drenova which is known for its production of vine, you will enter a village called Kukljin (view satellite photo).

Kukljin is probably the Kucklina that features in the history of vampires, Kucklina being the village referred to by von Kottwitz in his letter on vampires (see my post on the Medvedja vampire case).

Von Kottwitz sent his letter to a doctor of medicine in Leipzig, Michael Ernst Ettmüller (1673-1732), on the same day that Flückinger and co. signed their Visum et Repertum. He enclosed a copy of the report and referred to another instance that occurred in Kucklina, i.e. Kukljin.

Two brothers were haunted by a vampire at night, so one had to keep watch over the other. The vampire, however, opened the door 'like a dog', but they succeeded in escaping. Soon both fell asleep, and the vampire returned and sucked one of them leaving a red spot under his right ear. Within three days he was dead.

On the following night, a haiduk who had just been buried returned to his wife and slept with her. Next day she told the hadnack that he had done so just as he had while alive, only that his semen had been cold. She had then become pregnant and had born a child of the size of a normal boy, but with no limbs, just a piece of flesh, that wrinkled up like a sausage after three days.

Von Kottwitz wrote to Ettmüller to hear his opinion on how to explain these tales. Could the phenomena be of a sympathetic or diabolical nature, or were they the effect of astral spirits?

As far as we know, Ettmüller didn't answer, but von Kottwitz's letter was published in various books, and other people, in Leipzig in particular, attempted to answer the question.

Below is the original text of the letter sent from Belgrade to Leipzig.

Hochgeehrter Herr Doctor,

Ich nehme mir die Freyheit, Denenselben einen Casum zu communicieren, welcher sich zwar schon vorlängsten, iedoch ietzo besonders in unserm Königreich Servien ereignet, welchen Ew. Hoch-Edeln aus beylegter Relation der an dasigem Orte von einem löbl. Ober-commando angestellten Commission des mehresten ersehen werden. Es werden solche Aeser in der Türckischen Sprache Vampyren oder Menschen-Saugern genennet, welche capable seyn, in kurtzer Zeit ein gantzes Dorff an Menschen und Vieh zu ruinieren, deßwegen fast täglich häuffige Klagen bey hiesiger Regierung einlauffen. Es hat sich noch ausser dem darinnen benennten Dorffe Medwedia, auff einem andern, Kucklina genannt, zugetragen, welches auch dasige Einwohner endlich bekräfftigen, daß zwey Brüder von so einem Vampyr zur Nacht-Zeit geplaget worden, weßwegen einer um den andern gewachet, da es denn wie ein Hund die Thüre geöffnet, auff Anschreyen aber gleich wieder davon gelauffen, biß endlich alle beyde einmahl eingeschlaffen, da es denn dem einen in einem Augenblick einen rothen Fleck unter dem rechten Ohr gesauget, worauff er in drey Tagen davon gestorben; und was noch abscheulicher, so ist ein gestern beerdigter Heyducke folgende Nacht zu seinem Weibe gekommen und solcher ordentlich beygewohnet, welche solches gleich Tages darauff dem Hadnack selbiges Orts angedeutet, mit Vermelden, daß er seine Sache so wohl, als bey Lebzeiten verrichtet, ausser daß der Saamen gantz kalt gewesen. Sie ist davon schwanger worden und hat nach gewöhnlichen Termino derer 40. Wochen ein Kind gebohren, welches die völlige Proportion eines Knabens, iedoch kein eintziges Glied gehabt, sondern wie ein pures Stücke Fleisch gewesen, auch nach dreyen Tagen wie eine Wurst zusammen geruntzelt. Weil man nun hier ein ungemeines Wunder daraus machet, als unterstehe mich Dero Particular-Meinung mir gehorsamst auszubitten, ob solches etwas sympathetisches, teuffliches oder astralischer Geister Würkung sey, der ich mit vieler Hochachtung verharre

Ew. Hoch-Edlen,
Meines Hochgeehrtesten Herrn Doctoris
gehorsamster Diener
Sieg. Alex. Fr. von Kottwitz,
Fähnrich des löbl. Printz Alexandrischen Regiments

Belgrad, den 26. Jan. 1732.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Visum et repertum

One of the most important sources for the history of vampirism is the report Visum et Repertum written and attested by military surgeons in Serbia on January 26 1732. It was sent to the authorities in Belgrade and Vienna, and copied by envoys of foreign governments. Foremost it was distributed in various versions to newspapers and scientific periodicals throughout Europe causing a public as well as scientific sensation in many European countries throughout the year 1732. In fact, had it not been for this report, the word ‘vampire’ and the stories of these supposedly blood drinking corpses would probably not have become known, and consequently the popular vampire of authors like John William Polidori and Bram Stoker, as well as the vampire of 20th and 21st century popular media would not have come into existence.

A copy of the original manuscript is stored in the archives in Vienna, but the text is mostly known in somewhat different versions through various printed sources. Curiously it has rarely been translated into English, and this is certainly also the case of the report from the first investigation of the vampire case in late 1731, and other documents commenting on the report.

I have referred to this report and vampire case many times, but I think it's time to write a bit more about this document, the vampire case, and the historical background.

Having defeated the Ottomans, the Habsburg Austrians entered a treaty with the Ottoman Empire at Passarowitz (Požarevac south east of Belgrade in Serbia) in 1718 whereby parts of present day Romania, a part of Bosnia and the Northern part of Serbia came under Austrian rule. These areas that had recently become occupied were put under military jurisdiction. Due to the war the area was very depolated. The population did, however, const of different ethnical groups, including the Ratzians, Serbs of the Orthodox Greek faith.

The occupied areas in Serbia acted as an enlargement of the so-called Militärgrenze, the military border (confinium militare), which was a buffer zone between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires. The zone was not only a buffer zone against military attacks but also against epidemic diseases which had ravaged parts of Europe for centuries. In 1679 the plague had cost Vienna about one third or fourth of its population, and as late as 1713 there had been a minor epidemic in Vienna. Epidemics were known to occur in the Ottoman Empire from time to time, and consequently it was necessary to stay aware of cases of epidemic deaths. So Austrian officials like military surgeons had good reason to be very cautious towards signs of inexplicable deaths.

One case was reported to the commander of the Imperial army in Jagodina, colonel-lieutenant Schnezzer, by inhabitants of the Serb village Medvegya (Medveđa or Medvedja) in the fall of 1731. Along with the local militia, the so-called haiduks, they complained of several mysterious deaths. Schnezzer consequently sent a Contagions-Medicus, a doctor called Glaser, to Medvedja to investigate what had happened.

Glaser arrived in Medvedja on December 12th 1731. Although he found symptoms from malnutrition caused by the fasting of the orthodox villagers, he found no evidence of any epidemic disease. The villagers, however, claimed that symptoms like fever were the cause of the deaths of 13 villagers who had died within the past six weeks.

They believed that the deaths were caused by bloodsuckers or vampires which had been common among the Ottoman Turks. Glaser could not persuade the villagers from believing this. In fact, they claimed that they would have to move somewhere else, if the authorities would not execute the vampires. Consequently, Glaser had ten graves opened to carry out an autopsy of the corpses. Some of the bodies had decomposed, but others had become bloated and bloody with fresh blood flowing from nose and mouth. For this reason, Glaser found it impossible to persuade the villagers from believing that the corpses had become vampires. In his report to the authorities he asked for permission for the corpses to be executed, so the people could be calmed.

Glaser’s report was sent to the commander in Belgrade who apparently decided to send a commission to investigate the matter anew. This commission was led by the regimental surgeon Johann Flückinger and arrived in Medvedja on January 7th 1732. They interviewed the villagers who said that a haiduk called Arnont Paole had died in 1727 from a fall from a hay wagon.

While alive, Paole had often told that he had been harassed by a vampire when he was in another part of Serbia. To rid himself of the vampire, he had eaten soil from its grave and rubbed himself with its blood. But after some 20 or 30 days after his death some of the villagers had complained of being haunted by Paole who had become a vampire.

Four villagers were claimed to having been killed by him. To rid themselves of the vampire, the villagers opened his grave forty days after his interment and found his body uncorrupted. Fresh blood was flowing from his ears, eyes, mouth and nose, and his clothing and the whole coffin was bloody. According to the villagers, these were signs that he was a vampire, and they consequently drove a stake through his heart which made his corpse groan and bleed copiously. Finally, the body was burned and the ashes buried in his grave.

As the villagers believed that everyone killed by a vampire could become vampires themselves, they also dug op the corpses of the four people who had allegedly been killed by Paole, and treated them in the same fashion as they had Paole. Still, as Paole had also sucked the blood of cattle, the people who had eaten the flesh of those animals also risked becoming vampires.

During three months in late 1731 and early 1732 17 villagers, young as well as old, had died. Some of them had become ill suddenly and had died after two or three days of illness. The daughter in law of a haiduk, Stanoika, had lain down to sleep healthy, but woke up with a terrible scream a midnight, frightened and shaking, complaining that she was being suffocated by Milloe, a man who had died nine weeks before. She then got a strong pain in her chest and got worse and worse until she died after three days.

The villagers told this on January 7th 1732 to the commission consisting of Austrian military officials, including two subordinate medical officers. After interrogating the villagers, the commission went to the cemetery, exhumed and examined the 17 corpses. The minority of the 17 corpses had corrupted, whereas most of them were found in a to all appearances incorruptible state with fresh blood within the body. This was e.g. the case of the sixty year old woman called Miliza who was believed to be the cause of the deaths, because she had eaten the flesh of sheeps which had been killed by a vampire. She had died after three months of illness and had been buried three months previously. Although she had all her life been skinny, much to the amazement of the villagers her exhumed body was fattish. In the cavity of her chest fluid blood was found, and the intestines were uncorrupted.

The above mentioned Stanoika was, 18 days after her burial, found with a ruddy and lifelike face. Under her right ear was found a blue bruise of a finger. A quantiy of fresh blood flowed from her nose when she was taken out of her grave, and fluid blood was found in her chest and heart. All the intestines, the subcutis and her nails were fresh.

After the examination of the bodies, the corrupted bodies were replaced into their graves, while the rest of the bodies were decapitated and burned by local gypsies. Finally, the ashes were thrown into the river Morava.

On January 26th 1732 the medical officers of the commission described their findings and acts in the report Visum et repertum (Seen and found) and sent it to the authorities in Belgrade who forwarded it to the war council at the court in Vienna along with a request for remuneration of Flückinger and his two colleagues. The council dealt with the matter on February 11th, but more correspondence was necessary before Flückinger and his fellow officers received their remuneration in November 1732.

In the meantime, however, the report had been reprinted in various newspapers and journals, causing a large scale debate in certain parts of Europe. This sensation was helped on its way by some of the people who were somehow connected with what had happened.

As early as the very day that the Visum et Repertum was signed, i.e. on January 26 1732, a standard bearer serving in Serbia, von Kottwitz, wrote a letter from Belgrade to professor Michael Ernst Ettmüller in Leipzig asking for an explanation of the phenomena observed.

Glaser himself tried to attract some attention to his experiences by first sending a copy of his report to the Collegium Sanitatis in Vienna, and later on to his father, Johann Friedrich Glaser. Glaser Sr. wrote about it to one of the editors of the scientific journal Commercii Litterarii ad rei medicae et scientiae naturalis incremementum institute published in Nürnberg. His letter was published in Latin in the journal on March 22nd 1732, and caused a debate on vampires in that journal which lasted for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, Carl Alexander Prince of Württemberg, who had been in charge of Serbia and Belgrade, was travelling to the court of king Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia in Berlin. Apparently, they discussed the Visum et repertum, because the king asked The Royal Prussian Society of Sciences to state a verdict on the contents of the report. The society convened on March 7th and finished a statement on the vampires or blood suckers on March 11th, in which they stated that all the phenomena that had been observed on the examined corpses could be explained by well-known natural processes.

Particularly in Leipzig, but also in other places, however, the matter of vampires and how one were to explain the apparent incorruptibility of the corpses, the illness of the victims, and the claims concerning being haunted by vampires, were debated in numerous books and journals.

Later on, the vampire case from Medvedja was retold numerous times. The names of persons and places were changed along the way, so sometimes Arnont Paole became e.g. Arnod Paole or Arnold Paul. In the middle of the 19th century, Herbert Mayo decided to try and use 'the romancing vein ... to try and restore the original colours of the picture', i.e. he dramatised the story, when he recounted it in his letters 'on the truths contained in modern susperstitions' that were first published in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. It is this version that is more or less used by Dudley Wright and Montague Summers, and it is amazing to find that the 'original colours of the picture' include a story of doomed love between Arnod Paole and his neighbour, Nina. Curiously, we are even told that 'it was on a grey morning in early August that the commission visited the cemetery of Meduegna,' although we know it actually happened in January. The tradition of mixing up fact and fiction when it comes to vampires apparently is far from new.

When it comes to the name of Arnont Paole, Arnond Paole, Arnod Paole or however it is written, one theory is that the name was actually Pavle, and that 'Arnont' was actually a title or description, namely that of 'arnaut', a Turkish word for the people of Albania.

Medvedja in my opinion is the village Medvedja close to the Zapadna Morava branch of the Morava river, not to be confused with the much larger city of Medvedja that was outside the part of Serbia occupied by the Austrians in 1732.

The accompanying excerpts of the Visum et Repertum are from a contemporary copy that was sent from Vienna to the Danish government.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Internet resources

In a recent comment to one of my posts, Edward asks :

'Hello Niels,

do you remember the names of the books you referenced? Also, do you know where I could order them on line? I do read German therefore that would be no problem.

Here in the US we have difficulties finding decent European material for vampyre research because everything is oriented toward entertainment and serious research is relatively limited. I would appreciate if you could provide me with some websites or resources to find European texts.'

Edward, if you go through the contents of this blog you will find a number of links to resources and material that will be useful. However, I think it's time to make some sort of compilation of these resources, so although not an exhaustive list, here you will find links to a number of books, videos, audio files, web sites and more that is available online.

There are a few other web sites dedicated to the subject of vampires that do contain material of interest, see e.g. Dunkle Kulturgeschichte and Shroudeater. A relatively recent addition is the blog Diary of an Amateur Vampirologist.

The German Wikipedia contains some useful entries, including links to a collection of source material. This is actually a really good place to start, so I will refrain from listing these texts here. Other sources can be found at various library resources like the French Gallica, which includes Calmet's book on revenants and vampires. Zedler's Universal-Lexicon is a favourite, see e.g. the entry about Vampyren oder Blutsauger.

The Kakanien Revisited web site contains a comprehensive bibliography: Forschungsliteratur: Vampirismus. Kommentierte interdisziplinäre Auswahlbibliografie, and a number of papers (Sexualität Macht Tod: Prolegomena zu einer Literaturgeschichte des Vampirismus by Clemens Ruthner, Der Vampir, ein Fremder? Ethnische Minderheiten im Vampirglauben Südosteuropas by Peter Mario Kreuter, "Trag mich nach Südamerika". Schauplätze der osteuropäischen Vampirliteratur des 19. Jahrhunderts und ihre Konnotationen by Christoph Augustynowicz, and Süd/Osteuropäer als Vampire: Draculas Karriere vom blutrünstigen Tyrannen zum mythischen Blutsauger. Prolegomena zu einer Literaturgeschichte des Vampirismus II by Clemens Ruthner).

The Historicum web pages on the witch hunt also contain some useful resources, including a paper by Sabine Seidel on Hexen(vorstellungen) und Magie in Südosteuropa.

A couple of other papers available online that are worth reading are Jutta Nowosadtko's Der „Vampyrus Serviensis“ und sein Habitat: Impressionen von der österreichischen Militärgrenze and Constantin Rauer's Von der Aufklärung des Vampirismus zum Vampirismus der Aufklärung: Eine West-Östliche Debatte zwischen Einst und Heute.

I have also referred to some videos and audio files where a few people talk about vampires, including the above mentioned Jutta Nowosadtko on Vampire! Ein südosteuropäischer Beitrag zur internationalen Kulturgeschichte, the German historian Peter Mario Kreuter and Christian Reiter from the University of Vienna.

Most of the important books in German can be a bit hard to find, but you should be able to easily find a copy of Dieter Sturm and Klaus Völker's anthology Von denen Vampiren oder Menschensaugern on German Amazon or Ebay at a reasonable price.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Überall etwas von denen Blut-Saugern

In his critical review of the contemporary vampire debate, Michael Ranft writes that at the Easter fair in Leipzig in 1732 there were books on bloodsuckers in every book shop ('...wenn man an der letztwichenen Leipziger Oster-Messe in einen Buchladen gieng, man überall etwas von denen Blut-Saugern zu Gesichte bekam.' P. 179 in Traktat von dem Kauen und Schmatzen der Todten from 1734).

That is certainly not the case in 2008. In fact, the photo below shows the closest I got to a collection of books on 'blood suckers' in any book store in Leipzig. And in 1732, no one would have connected vampires with bats, as it wasn't until a few decades later that Count de Buffon wrote of the vampire bat ('We shall call it Vampire, because it sucks the blood of men and other animals when asleep, without occasioning pain sufficient to waken them.') in his Histoire naturelle. Love at first bite (as it says on the bat) would hardly be a term used in the connection with the revenants and masticating dead that Ranft was writing about.

Monday, 15 September 2008

From Germany to Denmark via Norway

The German translation of Claude Lecouteux' book on the medieval revenants, Geschichte der Gespenster und Wiedergänger im Mittelalter, has unfortunately been hard to get for a while (it was published in 1987). I have been used to using a library copy, but a few months back I finally purchased my own copy. I actually got it from a second hand book store in Norway, and when I received it I was surprised to find that it contains an Ex libris Lutz Röhrich, because Lutz Röhrich actually wrote a foreword to the book. So the copy I now own must have been Röhrich's own copy. Presumably, it was sold after Röhrich's death in 2006, and somehow ended up in Norway before I bought it. So now it's located here in Denmark.

Lutz Röhrich (1922-2006) was a German folklorist who has published a number of books on e.g. fairy and folk tales.

I find that it is a very interesting ex libris. Unfortunately, I have no idea why Röhrich would choose this pessimistic motif. He was a German soldier during WWII and got seriously wounded, so that might have affected his world view. But I really don't know. If anyone does, I would like to hear from you.

I have previously written about another exlibris.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Vampire Princess

I have been notified that the documentary Die Vampir Prinzessin was shown this evening on the German ZDF channel. I think, it's also occasionally shown on the UK History Channel, so there is a chance that it will be aired on channels around the globe.

I have written a few posts about this 'bogus documentary' as I called it in my review. Some of the bonus features on the DVD, however, are worth investigating.

On the ZDF web site we get the so-called 'true' story of contemporary doctors who were afraid of the effect of vampires (in German only), cf. my above mentioned review:

'Eleonore verlangte oftmals nach Dr. Franz von Gerstorff. Gerstorff war Leibarzt von Kaiser Karl VI. und Leiter zahlreicher Untersuchungskommissionen für Vampir-Erscheinungen: "Wien, 30.4. Durch eine heute früh hier angelangte Estaffette habe ich die Nachricht erhalten, dass Ihre Durchlaucht die Fürstin sich zu Krumau unpässlich befinde, weswegen ich jetzt gleich die Veranstaltung mache, damit der Kaiserliche Leib-Medicus Herr Doktor von Gerstorff sich zu Ihro Durchlaucht Herrin begeben wolle."

Kurz vor ihrem Tode: Eleonore wirkt mehr und mehr wie ein Vampir.Von Gerstorff war, wie viele Ärzte seiner Zeit, überzeugt von der Ansteckungsmöglichkeit durch Vampire. Eleonore bot genau jenes Erscheinungsbild, das man damals der Vampirkrankheit zuordnete: ausgezehrt, blutleer, verwirrt. Wenn die Ärzte davon ausgingen, dass die Fürstin eine Vampirerkrankung hatte, dann hätte die Obduktion auch den Zweck erfüllen können, einen Vampir unschädlich zu machen. Doch eine Pfählung durch das Team ist kaum vorstellbar. Man hat möglicherweise den wissenschaftlichen Weg gewählt, um das Gleiche zu bewirken.'

Like I have said many times before: Hardly any doctor in the 18th century believed in vampires!

I still find it very hard to understand why the people who made this documentary want us to believe the contrary to be true.

Blogging on history

It can be interesting to see who is linking to this blog. One reference is made on the web site of a symposium on digital media in historical research, Digitale Medien in der Geschichtswissenschaft in Vienna next month. I can't help feeling a bit overwhelmed that this blog ('Weblog zur Geschichte des Vampirismus in der Habsburgermonarchie, von Niels K. Petersen') is mentioned in the company of blogs by various professional researchers!

Geyer's good thoughts

One of the sources for the apparently unpublished book on vampires by Otto von Graben zum Stein is a curious collection of 'good thoughts in idle hours on travels', Müßiger Reise-Stunden Gute Gedancken by Johann Daniel Geyer published in Dresden in 1735. The 'good thoughts' usually concern medical matters, at least in a broad sense, and as we know, vampires were of particular interest to those involved in that science and practice. So among considerations on diseases and cures, there are thoughts on bear-people of Lithuania and vampires or 'Todten Menschen-Saugern' as he calls them on the title page of the 44 page discourse concerning 'Vampieren'.

For a modern reader like myself this is certainly a very curious text mixing medicine, theology, and references to classical authors and church fathers. The terminology of the good doctor definitely is unlike anything you will hear a modern doctor say. In short, I must confess that I will have to study the text in more detail to say more about Geyer's considerations.

A forgotten vampire case

I have been a bit quiet here lately, as I have been busy doing other things. But now I finally get around to mentioning that Nicolaus Equiamicus recently posted a forgotten vampire case from 1725, i.e. the same year as the Kisiljevo vampire case.

In early April of 1725 Johannes Ràcz de Mehàdia who was in charge of a district in Hungary, exhumed and examined the corpse of a dead person who while alive had been suspected of being a sorcerer. He found the corpse uncorrupted and with blood under its head. As the body had been buried for three months, he concluded that it must be that of a blood sucker (Bluthsauger). With the permission the Imperial Oberinspektor, Baron von Rebenstich, he dealt with the body in the accustomed manner, probably as is well known from the other vampire cases.

Quotes from the sources can be found via the above link.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

A musical werewolf

I recently purchased a triple CD set of English folk music called The Beginner's Guide to English Folk, as I would like to know a bit more about this genre that I'm not particularly familiar with. So it was quite interesting to find that one of the songs is actually a song called The Werewolf that appears to be some kind of 'cult' classic. Written by Michael Hurley and recorded by Barry Dransfield on a self-titled album in 1972, it was only digitally released a few years ago. You can listen to an excerpt on iTunes, where you can also find Michael Hurley's original.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Leipzig Vampire Debate

Returning from a visit to the reading room where I studied contemporary reviews of a couple of books on vampires from the 1730s, I find that Nicolaus Equiamicus has posted a text on the Leipzig vampire debate, which also includes a bibliography of books of note from that debate. As usual, it is only available in German.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Otto von Graben zum Stein

Nicolaus Equiamicus has been in search of information concerning a 1732 book on vampires that is mentioned in many bibliographies, but without luck. However, his search for Otto, Grafens zum Stein unverlohrnes Licht und Recht derer Todten unter den Lebendigen, oder gründlicher Beweis der Erscheinung der Todten unter den Lebendigen, und was jene vor ein Recht in der obern Welt über diese noch haben können, untersucht in Ereignung der vorfallenden Vampyren, oder so genannten Blut = Saugern im Königreich Servien und andern Orten in diesen und vorigen Zeiten has now resulted in an interesting piece in his blog, Dunkle Kulturgeschichte.

Here, Equiamicus outlines some of the information about Otto von Graben zum Stein that he has found. The Royal Prussian court prohibited the publication of his books in 1731, and that's why his book on vampires probably never got printed. At least, Equiamicus has been unable to find a copy. But there is still the possibility that the manuscript survives, and our fellow blogger seems determined to find it, so we wish him good luck!

In any case, more information on that curious fellow Otto von Graben zum Stein is welcome. I have actually mentioned him in one of my older posts, and Equiamicus informs us that there is now a German Wikipedia entry about Otto von Graben zum Stein.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...