The mythology behind the creation of vampires really depends on the region. For example, in Slavic traditions anything from having a brother who walked in his sleep to burying a corpse face up could create a vampire. As such, cultural practices often arose with the aim of preventing a deceased loved one from returning. These could include:
♦ Burying a corpse upside down,
♦ Placing objects such as scythes and sickles near the grave,
♦ Severing the tendons at the knees so the corpse couldn’t walk,
♦ Sprinkling grain around the grave so, should the corpse arise, it would be kept busy counting.
Of course, if you couldn’t keep a vampire from rising, you could at least keep it away from you. Since vampiric creatures exist in most cultures, the things used to ward them off show a great deal of variation. Perhaps the best known is the use of holy items. Garlic is also said to be an effective ward, although the reasons for this are a bit sketchy. More obscure are the beliefs that branches of hawthorn or wild rose can cause damage to vampires (the latter was mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula). In Europe, some people would sprinkle mustard seeds on the roof of their home to keep them away. Vampires are also said to not be able to walk on hallowed ground, cross running water, go out into the sunlight, or enter a home without an invitation. These are specific to different regions since the Greek version of the vampire could cast a reflection.
Methods also existed for destroying a vampire when it returned to its grave. It would be somewhat distasteful to chronicle all the things which have been done to bodies in order to keep them from rising again. The least unpleasant of these is the Romanian practice of placing garlic in the mouth of the deceased before burial. Other customs included:
♦ Decapitation (not many things can survive having their head cut off),
♦ Driving a stake or steel spike through the heart,
♦ Pouring holy water, or even boiling water, into the grave,
♦ Incinerating the body,
♦ Dismembering the body and burning the pieces (for particularly resistant cases).
One of the things which may have contributed to the vampire hysteria of centuries gone by is premature burial. Outbreaks of diseases such as the Bubonic Plague often led to mass burials, or even individual burials, without rigorous examination to ensure the person was actually dead. There have been cases where people have revived, only to truly die a horrific death trapped in a coffin. This could account for their ruddy appearance if the grave was subsequently opened.