September 13, 2022
The top story of the inside News page of today’s local paper described a “vampire” unearthed in Poland. Vampires were feared and loathed throughout Central and Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages and apparently by the residents of a small Polish village of Pień. The burial was found by archaeologists from Nicholas Copernicus University in Torun, Poland, during recent excavations near Pień as they unearthed the skeletal remains of a 17th century woman who was evidently thought to be a vampire. The woman’s burial was consistent with ancient vampire lore as well as other medieval vampire burials in Polish territory. The female had a padlock attached to the big toe of her left foot and a sickle placed across her throat to prevent her from returning from the dead. One of the burial’s physical features was protruding front teeth that stuck out enough to have been quite noticeable. This may have been interpreted as evidence of her vampire tendencies.
When I looked online, I found a vampire is a creature from folklore that subsists by feeding on the vital essence (generally blood) of the living. Vampire tales are normally linked with Transylvania, the Romanian home of the mythical Count Dracula and actual home of the 15th century prince Vlad Dracul or Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the Dracula legend. In European folklore, vampires are undead that visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighborhoods they used to inhabit. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark appearance. This is markedly different from today’s image of a gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early 19th century. Stories of vampires have been recorded in cultures around the world, but the term vampire was spread in Western Europe after reports of an 18th century mass hysteria around a pre-existing folk belief in the Balkans and Eastern Europe that in some cases resulted in corpses being staked and people being accused as a vampire. Local variants were known by different names, such as shtriga in Albania, vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania.
While the vampire burial was unusual it is far from unprecedented as hundreds of vampire burials have been discovered throughout Eastern Europe. In 2015, archaeologists digging in the Polish village of Drawsko found five skeletons that had been pinned to the ground in a similar or identical manner. Four of the skeletons, two women in their thirties, a man in his thirties or forties, and an adolescent girl, were buried with sickles tightly anchored across their throats. An older woman of at least 50 was pinned by a sickle placed across her hips. She also had a stone lain over her throat and a coin inside her mouth. Each action was presumably deemed necessary to prevent the burial from returning as a vampire. As for the latest vampire burial discovered on Polish soil, her remains will be taken to Nicholas Copernicus University in Torun, where archaeologists and technicians will subject them to a more thorough examination.
𝗧𝗛𝗢𝗨𝗚𝗛𝗧𝗦: Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and provides the basis of the modern vampire legend. The success of this book spawned a vampire genre that is still popular in the horror genre. Researchers tell us the horror genre is popular for the elements of adrenaline and morality, and for linking us to the dark unknown within our psyche. Humans are composites of both light and darkness, and psychoanalysts tell us it is healthy to explore the darker parts of our minds, like the fear of death. While exploration may be healthy, the actual fear of death brought by the pandemic has adversely affected many with depression and suicide. The research is clear that isolation and loneliness is bad for our physical and mental health. We are social animals who struggle in isolation. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.