If you believe the movies, you might be convinced that the only way to become a vampire is by being bitten by one (oh, and that they sparkle in the sun). However, vampires exist in a broad range of cultures and there are many ways one could be afflicted as such. I will detail some of these but please be warned. There is no evidence that any of these can bring someone back from the dead so please do not attempt any of them.
In Slavic culture, being born or conceived between Christmas and Epiphany was enough to predispose one towards vampirism. The Romanians believed that one simply had to be the seventh child (provided that the previous six siblings were of the same gender). Often times, children who were born as vampires would show some signs of their condition at birth, such as:
♦ An extra nipple,
♦ Excessive hair,
♦ A caul (membrane) covering the head,
♦ A split lower lip,
♦ A deformed nose (missing cartilage),
♦ Two hearts,
♦ A tail.
Women who did not guard against having a black cat cross their path, being looked on by a vampire, eating too little salt or giving birth prematurely could turn their child into a vampire.
There are some who believe that there are spells and rituals which can make one into a vampire. Traditionally there are deeds which one can carry out that can bring on the curse of vampirism. Most of these have been linked to sinful acts such as leading a cruel and violent life, practicing magic or witchcraft, desecrating a holy day or, for a priest, taking Mass while in a state of sin. However, even if you aren’t particularly religious, there are still some things that can happen to you which might turn you into a vampire.
♦ Being weaned off mother’s milk too soon,
♦ Continuing to breastfeed even after being weaned,
♦ Stealing the rope that had been used to lower coffins into the ground,
One of the most widespread myths regarding becoming a vampire is committing the act of suicide. However, many ancient beliefs included other facets of a death which could cause the person to rise as a vampire, who might be possessed by the spirit of a dead person or a demon. These include dying prematurely before baptism, dying as a result of forces of nature such as floods and fires, being a victim of murder, dying in childbirth and being mauled to death by an animal. Many times, it wasn’t the death itself but rather the way that the corpse was treated which dictated whether or not a person might rise as a vampire. For example, a person was destined to vampirism if:
♦ A chicken flew over the body before it was buried,
♦ The shadow of a living person fell over the body,
♦ If they were buried face up (Romania),
♦ If their brother was prone to sleepwalking.
♦ If they don’t receive proper burial rites.
At one point in history, people were so afraid of corpses rising and feeding off the living that they would routinely open graves to check on the condition of the body. If they deemed that it had not decomposed enough, chances are that person was a vampire and would have to be dealt with accordingly.
Of course no discussion on becoming a vampire would be complete without including the concept of being turned by being bitten. This was made popular by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and has continued through to present day. There is some debate as to how many bites are needed with many saying just one (which either kills the victim or takes them to near death) while others are convinced that at least three are necessary. There is also the belief that drinking the blood of a vampire can cause a person to become one themselves.