American Heritage Dictionary
vam-pire(vam'pir')n. 1. In Folklore, a reanimated corpse that rises from the grave at night to suck the blood of sleeping persons.
Many ancient cultures believed that the following conditions signaled victims of vampirism; illegitimate children of illegitimate parents, those with birthmarks or born with teeth, seventh sons or daughters, and children born with a membrane covering their heads ( cauls ). In slovic countries where most had dark hair and eyes, any child who was blue-eyed and red-headed would become vampires after death.
From earliest times. humans have revered blood as magical. This was why the ultimate sacrifice was the blood of living creatures. The Vikings ran their longships over prisoner's bodies before sailing, to drench their keels in blood so the gods might bless their ships and crews. This was the forerunner to christening a boat with wine.
In Ireland, unwary persons passing graveyards could find themselves confronted by a seductive beauty. A pale woman known as the Dearg-due ( red blood sucker ). She would kiss them and drain their blood.
In Scotland the vampire legend was called baobhan sith, and lurked in the mountains.
In Australia the tribes of the northern shore tell the tale of the being Garkain. He was as big as a man, with bat-like wings and a foul stench. If any stray hunter or lost child entered his mangrove forrest, he would swoop from the trees, wraping his wings around the unawary. The unfortunate victim would first choke on the stench, then slowly suffocate. The Garkain would then consume the flesh. The victim's spirit was then condemned to wander the region, unable to find his way home to the final resting place of his tribe.
In Czechoslovakia, Russia, and Poland, the nocnitsa ( night hag ) would torment young children, sucking their blood to hear them cry. But it did not kill the children. It was instead, a bringer of feaver and disease.
The Ancient Greeks had a burial ceremony that included lighting an ( unsleeping lamp ) for three years at the grave. That being the time it took for a corpse to decompose.
At the end of three years, they would dig up the bones and wash them in wine. If, when they dug up the bones, the body should be instead swollen and still resembling the living, it was called " Vrykolakas ", meaning drum-like.
In Japan, night roamers of Japanese courts looked as court concubines and drank their lovers's blood. But if startled or pursued, would drop their kimonos and shrink in size. They would become cats, but were known as vampires, as they had two tails.
There was, in the fifteenth century, Transylvania ( part of Rumania ) a real soldier and minor ruler known as Vlad Tepes or the Voivode Drackul or Dracul. He governed the small province of Walachia from 1455 to 1462 and again in 1476-Governed so ruthlessy that mere mention of his name made his enemies tremble. Tepes meant the impaler, a nickname the original Dracula acquired because he liked to stick the bodies of people he had executed on to the ends of pointed sticks. This seems to have been more then a passing fancy of his, too-infact, some sources say that he had a hundred thousand people killed. The province he governed was under Turkish rule, but he didn't get along well with his masters; many turks were among his victims.
Vlad Tepes was a member of an organization called The Order of the Dragon and it may have been the order's dragon symbol that gave him the name " Dracul "-which means both dragon and devil.
John Keats ( 1795-1821 ), a famous English Poet, told a story in a poem he called " Lamia. " Lamia preyed especially on children, and seems to have been based on a demon called Lilitu or Lilith, who, according to ancient legend, was the first woman on earth, even before Eve. She was found in ancient Babylonian carvings. According to the ancient Greeks, she lived in Libya and had children fathered by Zeus. Zeus's wife, Hera, was jealous, and killed Lamia's children. Lamia, in bitter revenge, then killed every child she could lay her hands on. She drank the blood and ate the flesh of the children she killed ( in Hebrew legend, she was Adams first wife. ) No other creature, no matter how horrible or strange, can claim, as vampires can, to be " undead ". Werewolfs-those terrifying people who can shift into wolf shape-are certainly very much alive. Man-made monsters like Frankensteins Monster, have life given to them, though not in the ordinary way. Ghosts and other spirits are dead. But Vampires are neither one nor the other; they're halfway inbetween. They have gone through what has appeared to be an ordinary human death, but their bodies remain solid and continue to crave nourishment..Nancy Garden
Alaskan Folklore From Tales of Terror
The tribal bards told of a confrontation with a being that was neither ghost nor human. It began on an afternoon at the end of winter, when a man half-mad with terror came to beg a Shaman's help. His family was being persecuted. Whenever he and his brothers went out in their kayaks, the calm waters of the inlet became so aggitated that the ice floes grated against one another and the canoes were nearly capsized. He had only glimpsed the enemy from a distance: something small but powerful, darting across the ice at incredible speed. The Shaman pondered for a moment, then asked if any new born infant had been left out to die. The man admitted that his unmarried sister had given birth to a girl-child earlier that winter. The Family had been on the verge of starvation; they had barely enough to feed themselves, let alone a small, unwelcome stranger. The brothers had taken the baby from its mother, filled its mouth with snow, and had left the small body in the wilderness. The wizard inquired if the baby had been given a name before it was abandoned. The man replied that it had, and the Shaman hissed his disapproval. He told them that by destroying an infant who had acquired a name, and therefore a soul, they had created an angiak, a child of the living dead. The flesh of such an infant might decay, but its spirit would live on, seeking revenge