idk if vampires count as mythos?? but if they are can you tell us more about them?? maybe from a 'mythical' standpoint?? some stuff that isnt relevant to todays time?
Hey there! There’s a long and interesting history behind
vampire myths, so I’m really glad that you asked this question. It’s a
pretty big history so I’m going to give a pretty brief overview.
Hopefully it’ll give you a good jumping off point for future research
(and of course, feel free to come back to our ask box with any more
Cultures all over the world have stories about creatures that are like Vampires. Human-like things that drain either blood or life-force are pretty common throughout history, but myths about what would evolve into the creatures of our modern Vampire stories started to crystallize in medieval Europe. While earlier myths tend to focus on demonic creatures, later ones begin to describe vampires as humans who have risen from the dead.
The first historical record of a person accused of vampirism comes from Croatia in the early 1600s. Jure Grando was a villager who was said to have terrorized his village for 16 years following his death, until the eventual exhumation and decapitation of his corpse.
The accusation was a precursor to what would be called the “18th century Vampire Controversy”, a rash of vampire sightings and accusations in Eastern Europe. The accusation of real people with vampirism in some ways mirrors the accusations of witchcraft that happened around the same time. They also differ - vampire accusations were less common, and the accused were generally already dead. The vampire accusations died down by the late 1700s, but like the vampires themselves, the myth refused to stay dead, and in the 19th century a Vampire Panic swept across New England in tandem with a tuberculosis epidemic.
A satirical cartoon printed in The Boston Globe in 1896
The characteristics of vampires vary across times and places, but they are generally defined by their connection to death, and their practice of feeding on either the blood or life force of their victims. Much of the folklore focuses on ways of identifying the vampires and their victims.
The only two creatures I can really think of are the Chupacabra (meaning goat sucker) and the Chonchon. The Chupacabra is not at all humanoid and is more like a lizard creature. All I know of it comes from Puerto Rico in the 1990s where a chupacabra was blamed for the deaths of a lot of cattle. I’m sure there is more information on them, but that is unfortunately all I can say for sure.
The Chonchon is very much like another creature mentioned by the chorus, which is how I remembered this little one. This one comes from the Mapuche. I don’t know as much about them, but they are humans who have died and their heads detach from their bodies, their ears grow large enough to be used as wings, they gain feathers and bird feet, and they fly around drinking blood. There are also some myths claiming that they Chonchon is not from a dead body but an evil priest who has learned how to do this and uses it to gain more power. Unfortunately, that is all I know about the Chonchon.
There are also a lot of mythical beings with similarities to Vampires from various cultures. An incomplete list:
For vampiric creatures in East Asia, the Chinese jiangshi immediately comes to mind. It is an animated corpse that consumes people’s qi, or life force. There are multiple hows or whys for this: a jiangshi could be the result of resurrection by some type of priest/shaman/mystic; spirit possession; a soul that has failed to leave the body upon death; a corpse absorbing enough surrounding qi to animate itself. More contemporary imaginings allow for a jiangshi to ‘pass on’ its condition to others, such as through injury (similar to how one might be infected by a zombie bite). Their appearance can be perfectly unremarkable if the body is only recently deceased, or could be a rotting horror. Sometimes, their limbs are so stiff they can’t move them so they have to get around by hopping. Due to the conflation of the western vampire with eastern ideas of hungry ghosts, modern depictions of jiangshi also allow for the consumption of blood, introducing a more literal vampiric aspect to them.
There’s also the penanggalan which is a Southeast Asian witch that detaches her head which flies around at night to suck the blood of pregnant women and children. Thier entrails trail after them and must be soaked in vinegar afterward to shrink them down and fit them back in her body.
Iceland has its Draugr, revenants that wait in their graves to guard treasure left in burial mounds.
Strix, from Roman mythology is a bird that feeds of flesh and blood. The word is the root of the Romanian “strigoi”, the word for “vampire” in that language.
Lilitu from ancient Assyria, is a precursor to Lilith from Jewish mythology.
There’s Lamia, from Greek mythology, a beautiful queen who becomes a child-eating demon.
I feel vampire-like is also a bit more ghoul-like with how we are talking about it (feasting on the dead, entrails, what have you vs. drinking human blood). Aswang would definitely fit the ghoulish profile. Yes, they are often beautiful women. But of note, they are often depicted as introverted or doesn’t sociallize with people as often (because it is important in the culture that you socialize with people often and if not, you are strange and weird).
I feel like the Aswang mentioned has mixings of the “Manananggal”— a common misconception since both of them appear in stories where babies or dead innards are eaten. But Manananggal is the one that detaches the upper half of its body from the lower half and flies off to eats babies with it’s long tongue (actually very similar to the Penanggalan except for the place of detachment. Even the root of both of those words come from “To detach”). To kill it, you must find the lower body and put spices into where the detachment was– because they must fuse back together before sun down or they will die and the spices make it painful to fuse back. That part of the myth is where it intersects with vampire lore because of the spices they put (garlic is commonly used as is salt), and the come back before sun down. The Mananggal doesn’t die when it is whole and exposed to sun like the vampire because it masquerades as human– only when it can’t fuse back.
In comparison, the Aswang doesn’t split. But it is a shape shifter– commonly shape shifts into a large boar or a large dog (where it gets its name. kaWANGis ng ASo means ‘look like a dog’). The Aswang is a fascinating creature because it’s depiction varies per location it’s in.
In Panay, Capiz, the Aswang is depicted as that shape shifting creature and if you ask the local kids how the Aswang moves, it’s in a very… strange almost writhing manner (like how werewolves in movies transform). Mostly because there is a disorder where 95% of the people who have it have been found to originate in his Island– that’s X-linked Dystonia Parkinsonism, where the movements are twisting and “looks like they’re about to shapeshift because they are an Aswang” sort of thing. So people who have the disorder tend to be ostracised and labeled as “Aswang” very sadly ;w; don’t get the medical help they need.
In other places up north, the Aswang has a different manifestation– one more intricately linked to the concept of the Soul (which is big in Philippine Myth as a concept). An Aswang often eats dead innards, especially the liver. But it will, sometimes, feast on a living soul— this manifests as being more fatigued and being more sickly than usual. Sometimes, the Aswang will eat the whole person all together and you’re left with a “husk” of the person. Looks like the person. Talks like the person. But has very little life in them and the husk will “die” very soon (but the real person has been eaten already).
There are variations across the Philippine archipelago of the Manananggal and the Aswang like the Tik-tik and the Wak-wak (named after the sound of the Mananganggal’s wings). They’re mostly seen in the northern and middle islands– very few mentions in the south. So I guess if we’re talking about vampire-like creatures in the Philippines, it is very dependent on where the character is from.
Good luck on your writing!
- The Chorus
You might like to check out this TED-Ed video on the origin of vampires: