Vampires in Mythology and Folklore

Vampires in folklore appear to have strong connections with snakes, that may not be as clearly stated as those with bats but are outlined well enough to be implied. There is the similarity of the fangs, the idea of immortality associated with snakes in ancient lore as well as the arcane abilities that were said once to be the purview of snakes and their higher developed relatives, dragons.

When we think of mind control or perception altered by vampires in modern fiction and cinema, a similar ability comes to mind when we regard snakes. For instance, Mowgli’s python benefactor has the talent of hypnosis he chooses to exercise on the monkeys, freezing them in their tracks.

At one time I had to wonder if modern lore of this kind originated with the more ancient one of Greek mythology. Both Hermes and Athena exhibit certain ability to freeze people as well, most often by turning them into rocks. Now I tend to believe that the opposite is true. After all, Hermes through his kerkaion/caduceus and Athena with the famous aegis that ties her to Medusa’s serpentine connections, have something to do with snakes.

Similarly, Apollo of Delphi, which appears to be a somewhat different creature in cult worship than the slightly more marine Apollo of Delos, despite being an archer (in symbolic terms reaching the goals) is also known often for his attempts to stop famous heroes like Herakles or Achilles from reaching their goals that could lead to their destruction.

Thus, of the Olympians most frequently mentioned for their affiliation with snakes, those three also happen to the ones most frequently displaying the freezing ability.

But if snakes share that lesser ability with vampires, what about the even better known property of feeding on blood? Well, there doesn’t seem to be as much direct evidence that any connection was made mythologically in that regard between snakes and vampires. But some tenuous hints suggest that a possibility of a connection does exist. After all, there is Lamia who feeds on bloods and is occasionally portrayed with serpentine characteristics. There is also the prophet Tiresias who was associated with snakes to some extent as a legend of his involvement with two serpents indicates, and then is shown in the Odyssey to feed on the blood of a sacrifice offered by Odysseus and co.

More importantly, blood as a generating source of life was listed in several Greek legends, one of the earlier ones perhaps being connected to the birth of Aphrodite. Equally important for this theory might be the idea that Medusa’s blood gave rise to various serpents, reaffirming association between serpents, blood and life in a way corresponding to that of vampires. .

Why is it that vampires would be connected through their mystical properties to vampires? I don’t have a precise answer to that question. Perhaps to some of us, the snake represents the ferocity of the lizard brain associated with the vampiric aggression as well.

Interestingly enough, most mythological entities associated with the dead coming back to life in ancient mythology, similar to vampires of modern lore, were always somehow intense or outright brutal. Orpheus who returned from the Underworld, Dionysus who was reborn, and even more so Sisyphus who sought to cheat Death, are never described to have much gentleness in their lives, whether because of their own actions or because of their tragic ending.

Although the said heroes of Greek myths do not necessarily display any obviously vampiric connotations, they nonetheless provide us with a certain imaginary template of what it could be like for the Dead to come back to life.

Heroes, demi gods and Chtonic deities rising from the Underworld usually acquire greater powers than they previously possessed while, in a kind of a balancing act, losing some of their human morality in the process.

Perhaps the Living Dead of modern lore, serving as the mythological counterpart of such legendary characters also undergo a transformation necessary for their adaptation to new conditions while at the same time exacting too great of a toll to retain completely the previous characteristics of their human existence.

From a biological standpoint, it might be interesting to note at this point that snakes might experience more pain during the process of shedding their skin[ making them more aggressive until the soreness retreats] which largely gives rise to the ancient belief in their immortality in the first place. Thus the snake can be said symbolically to follow the pattern established by the mythological heroes in that they may grow more while losing something else they used to have.

With Underworld serving a similar transformative function for ancient heroes and the act of dying similarly contributing to the evolution of a vampire, it begins to make more sense for the vampire and a serpent to be symbolically linked, not only through their unexpected behavioral changes but even through their supernatural properties.


If you share my interest in vampires, you may also consider the following vampire themed videos to be of interest because they are dedicated to vampires, bats and bat jewelry.


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