It was customary to bury them differently than people. Back in the day, when populations believed in witches, werewolves and vampires, one was never safe from gossip or vampires.
Vampires In All History
The word vampire might have had various meanings throughout human history, but it did travel the world. Since the dawn of time, creatures with mortal bites have made it into legends and folklores. But what about a real vampire burial?
Find in all civilisations known to humankind, even those that never met, a vampire-like creature made it into history.
As mentioned in The Obscure History Of Vampires, the word’s origin links to ‘forceful bite.’ In many cultures, the vampire creature seems to share common characteristics with those found around the globe. The most common trait is the thirst for human blood.
The Studies Of Morticians
The lack of knowledge around the deceased can be the number one reason for vampirism spreading. The people alive were not the accused of vampirism but the dead bodies.
The accused were of recent corpses that would show blood around their mouths or bloating, blush and growth of hair and nails.
While now myths around hair and nail growth of dead bodies are common knowledge thanks to YouTube Channel Ask A Mortician, back then, no one knew.
Despite our knowledge surrounding corpses today, we still aren’t as knowledgeable as morticians. We still have common misconceptions despite all information at our fingertips. Back in the day, there was nothing to help understand.
Among many other gasses stuck within the body, a build-up of methane is the number one cause of bloating. Without oxygen, the blood does not circulate and eventually rots. Bacteria and germs form and change a corpse’s appearance drastically. Those are simple and basic chemical reactions.
Curiouser And Curiouser
Witchcraft was the work of the devil, and the news spread like wildfire. In mediaeval Europe, the witch hunt was at its peak. Creatures like werewolves also made their big entrance into the world. However, none of them persisted as strongly as the vampires.
It is not for lack of popularity that vampires didn’t get a three-hundred-years-hunt. But certainly, something stopped it from creating the mass hysteria the witches and werewolves received.
When researching the horrifying witch hunt that set foot in Scotland, England, Austria, Italy and later on the United States, there is no mention of vampires. One may find torture reports performed on innocent people but no vampires.
I highly recommend a good read about the history of the witch hunt that lasted for three centuries. Hundreds of thousands died at the hands of gossip and hearsay of neighbours and landlords. Every witch who perished during the mediaeval witch hunt was a victim of hatred or simply ignorance.
But nonetheless no mention of vampires. Why?
Allergic To Sunlight
In history, the folklore of vampires gained traction by the end of the mediaeval witch hunt. The creature itself might be millennia old globally, but its revival arrived much later.
The popularity of vampires surfaced after the infamous Salem Witch Trial. It received the name The New England Vampire Panic.
It seems that a paranormal creature would become a target at the hands of ordinary people every so hundred years.
It’s almost as if people needed something or someone to blame for the lousy weather, disappearance of belongings or people, plagues ravaging crops or spreading fatal diseases. It used to be witches and werewolves, and now vampires were up.
A Vampire Witch Superstar
In the year 1550 in Venice, Italy, a woman received a burial that archeologists discovered in 2006 like no other. The female corpse had a stone forced into her mouth so much so that it dislocated her jaw.
The skeleton may be old, but what happened to her body remains still present. Rituals were severe about preventing vampires from spreading. With documentation supporting the findings, this discovery became a fascination.
In the sixteenth century, a stone placed in a mouth was a vampire exorcism method people practiced. This woman is a true ‘alleged vampire.’
At least, it is the official declaration of the forensic archeologist Matteo Borrini. It happened when the skull made its public appearance in 2009.
A Ritual Like No Others
When looking at the corpse’s mouth, it appeared as if it chewed on its shroud. Just like that, a vampire panic spread. In medieval times people believed vampires were responsible for plagues and deadly illnesses.
The shroud-chewing was, in fact, the way for vampires to infect people. It was to stop vampirism and its deadly spread. To prevent the chewing, the forced stone in the mouth ritual began.
After much research on the woman’s body, scientists found proof of a relatively poor lower-class diet typical to the sixteenth century. There was no trace of animal protein, lots of vegetables, and grains.
Further DNA analysis supports that she may have died between the age of sixty years old and seventy years old. That age range alone raises many questions.
During the witch hunt, women in mediaeval Europe had no hope for long life. After all, those believing in witchery spread rumours that witches could cheat death. An elderly woman such as this one would have raised some eyebrows at the time.
However, her diet may prove that she was accused of witchery at least once in her lifetime. That may have led to her vampire burial.
In the 1500s, a person’s lifespan revolved around forty to fifty years old. However, it is wrong to believe most people died in their forties.
The test was to survive childhood. Once a child entered their teenage years, the sixties were often last.
Here, the real question is how this alleged vampire lived to see her sixties in the middle of the three centuries witch hunt.
The European Middle Ages were not easy to live through. With hatred revolving around misogyny linking women to witchcraft without so much as a “she has tits, what else do you need?” It is impressive.
The Curse Of Having Breasts And A Vagina
However, the actual reason behind accusing women was that they were easy targets. Often women outlived their husbands, leaving them widows, poorer, weaker health, among other factors.
It was easy for landlords, often men, to accuse a poor widower of refusing their sexual advance, of witchery.
They would often present their case saying they were witches because of sudden wealth—they didn’t have, desire for sex—that they refused, power—they didn’t possess, and of course beauty—due to malnutrition. It was convenient for most landlords.
Mediaeval imprisonment was not something anyone wanted to go through. At its prime in the sixteenth century, the witch hunt tormented thousands of women, men, and children, often orphans and homeless. Out of hundreds of thousands of people of all sexes and ages, sixty thousand died.
Renaissance And Enlightenment
Mediaeval times got the nickname of Dark Ages for many reasons, and if you ask me, this must be one of them. However, the sixteenth century was the ‘Renaissance.’ How quaint.
While Italy was not half as bad as other countries for their torture of witches, such as Austria or Germany, it still was a nightmare. After all, most people believed witches ate children, hence the tale of Hensel & Gretel.
If we add to the myth the ‘zombie flesh-eating’ surrounding the belief of vampires, well, centuries later, you find a female skull with a rock forced into her mouth, breaking her jawbone.
Man, I Feel Like A Woman, Not A Vampire
Once the investigation on the skull ended, a 3D artist reconstructed the face of the sixty or so woman. This alleged vampire happened to be quite healthy-looking with no sign of paranormal abilities.
The forensic archeologist confessed his sadness following his conclusion that she was a ‘vampire’ due to checking too many boxes.
Back then, life was harsh and unforgiving. A neighbour could accuse one of witchcraft because it rained for a week. It took nothing for someone to end up on trial alive or dead, for that matter.
Too many innocent people met their deaths way before their time because of witchcraft or lycanthropy. If one was dead, they could still be on trial for vampirism. It’s almost like everyone needed someone to blame for their harsh lives.
I guess it was either accuse someone or find yourself a witch by day and a vampire by night.
My Professional Vampirologist Thoughts
This woman is an official ‘alleged vampire’ with no fangs whatsoever. I guess those became part of vampire history later… we’ll see.
This article speaks a lot about the witch hunt, and for a reason, knowledge is essential. We know it started with witches, then werewolves and vampires entered the parade because it wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t enough to torment people while alive that villagers found a way to hurt them in death too. I believe it tells us a lot about civilisations: overworked, overtaxed, overstressed, and over it all.
Do I blame the hard workers of the Renaissance or Mediaeval period, for that matter? No. I blame those above them who drove them to mass hysteria and madness. Vampires are more than bloating corpses.