In English language, the word “vampire” first appeared in 1745, in the Travels of Three English Gentlemen. However, some earlier mentions of “vampyre” can be traced to 1732 in Hungary, London Journal describing some blood-sucking Hungarian vampyres. By that time, though, vampires were already being discussed in the literature of French and German writers. When Austria was controlling northern Serbia in 1718, officials reported that local folk practiced dead body exhumation which they called “killing vampires”. The reports gained massive publicity between 1725 and 1732 A.D. English “vampire”, nevertheless, was most probably borrowed from German “vampir”, which Germans borrowed from Serbian vampir.
The concept of vampirism had existed for thousands of years. Ancient cultures of Greece, Rome, Mesopotamians and Hebrews had had tales of spirits or demons taking the human’s life forces. Those demons are regarded as forerunners of modern creatures we are accustomed to call vampires. Countless tapestries and vampire pictures of many kinds as well as scary tales are not good proof of vampire existence, but a good display of old beliefs and superstitious thinking. Despite the fact, that among people of ancient civilization tales of those life-sapping spirits had occurred, the classic notion of a vampire we know originates from XVIII century, Europe. Common vampire picture included such causes of becoming a vampir as becoming victims of suicide or victim of witch sorcery, or simply being bitten by a vampire. Several cases are known, when particular legends gained so pervasive an influence, that mass hysterias caused mass public executions of people accused of being a vampire.
Vampires, as depicted in some European legends, had a great many of recognizable features, yet making only few of those features definitive and applicable to every type of vampires. The first feature is a dark or purplish skin color, which is a usually assuming that a blood drinking was committed by it not long ago. That’s why most of vampire pictures depict vampires with blood seeping of their mouths and sometimes nose. Among other visible details described are torn remains of a linen sack the body was buried in, and somewhat grown teeth and nails (for it was believed that the body was still growing in the coffin, apparently), fangs being not a general feature, though.
The mythical causes of becoming a vampire vary greatly from original folklore. In Chinese and Slavic traditions, if a corpse was jumped over by a cat or dog, it was believed to become undead. Russians believed that dead witches and people, who didn’t belong to Russian Orthodox Church, became vampires after death. With those beliefs of becoming a vampire arose the beliefs that certain rituals could prevent the body of becoming a vampire, like burning an upside-downed corpse in fire or primitively placing a scythe or sickle above the body’s neck (in a manner that when trying to rise, the supposed undead cuts its head off). Ancient Greeks had a tradition of putting a coin in the mouth to prevent the evil spirits entering the body of the deceased. The tradition later influenced the Modern Greek tradition to place the wax cross or some pottery piece on the body to prevent it from becoming a vrykolaka, vampire. The words “Jesus Christ conquers” were inscribed on the cross. Our site contains a great vampire pictures gallery, if you’re interested in having a look at vampires from the angle they were seen back in the day.