Vampires international

On the Caribbean island of Granada, there is the Loogaroo. This is a woman, usually, who in legend is in league with the devil. Under the deal she will get magical abilities only if she gives the devil blood every night. The term Loogaroo possibly comes from the French mythological creature called the Loup-garou which is a type of werewolf, but the belief is also mixed with African Vodu or voodoo.

The Loogaroo can leave its own skin and turn into a flame which haunts the night searching for blood for the devil. After it collects enough blood, it can return to its skin, resuming human form. This creature is apparently compulsive and must stop to count grains of sand spread upon the ground. So, a defense against it, if you were bothered by such a monster, was to leave a pile of rice or sand near your front door. Hopefully, the creature would take a long time to count it all, and the sun would eventually return with the next morning. By then the Loogaroo would have to return to its skin without making an attack.

The Loogaroo is an example of how a vampire belief can result from a combination of beliefs -- here a mixture of French and African. The Loogaroo is also evidence that not all vampires have Slavic accents, although many certainly seem to. With the vampire having been found in many lands, naturally it has many names.

The term vampir was used in Russia and in other Slavic lands such as Poland and Serbia. The word vampir may possibly be derived from the Magyar (Hungarian) language, although some say that vampir is related to the Russian word peets which means "to drink."

Vrykolakas was the Greek term for vampire. The Greek vampire may have been a person who was excommunicated from the Orthodox Church prior to death.

Ekimmu was a vampire spirit of ancient Babylonia which rose from the dead when hungry, especially if foolish humans forgot to leave food sacrifices near his grave. When hungry he returned to earth for human blood.

Murony was a vampire from Wallachia which was a shapeshifter as well as a bloodsucker. It could change its form into that of a dog, a cat, an insect or another creature. In Wallachian lore, a person who died unexpectedly was highly suspect of becoming a vampire. Sudden death was assumed to be the work of a vampire. Sometimes a long spike or nail was punched into the skull of a dead body to prevent it from returning from the grave. The Murony may also be seen as a werewolf, a living human who became a dog or wolf at night and hunted other animals especially cattle.

Lithuanian vampires apparently got drunk on blood, not being content to simply have a sip or two of the bright, red liquid. In Lithuanian the word wempti meant "to drink."

The English word "vampire" (also spelled "vampyre") was first seen in the early 1700s. Its exact origin is unknown. It may have its roots in the Turkish word uber, a term meaning "witch." This word in turn underwent a metamorphosis to Slavic tones to sound like "upior" or "upyr," eventually resulting in the words "vampyre," "vampir" and then "vampire."

In Sanskrit the monster was a Baital. There were other terms for this monster, from the Spanish vampiro and Latin vampyrus, to the unquestionably German-sounding Blutsaeuger (literally, "Bloodsucker") and my favorite, the elegant French version: Le Vampire.

"Nosferatu" is another Eastern European term for vampire, or at least it is believed to be. "Nosferatu" is one of the more curious words for the vampire. The Western world became acquainted with this term first with the Irish writer Bram Stoker in his novel Dracula. Later, in 1922, the word appeared again with the first film ever made about the evil Transylvanian count, called, of course, "Nosferatu." (There were earlier silent films made about vampires, but they no longer exist for viewing purposes.)

The word "nosferatu," however, might not actually be a Slavic word. In fact, it might not be a real word at all. David J. Skal, a modern researcher of vampires, believes that the word "nosferatu" was a mistake or alteration of the Romanian word nesuferit, which comes from ancient Latin and means "not to suffer," or could imply "insufferable" or "intolerable" -- all words descriptive of a vampire's offensive personality. It is argued that Bram Stoker first discovered the word "nosferatu" while doing research for his book Dracula. He apparently read an 1885 writing called Transylvanian Superstitions by Emily de Laszowska Gerard, wherein she used the term "nosferatu" in place of "nesuferit." It is also possible that "nosferatu" could have been a slang term or variant for "nesuferit."

Whatever the case, today "nosferatu" means vampire largely because of director F.W. Murnau's 1922 German film which bears the name.

Still another interpretation of the word "nosferatu," from author Manuela Dunn-Mascetti, implies the word could be related to the Romanian term meaning "unclean one" -- necuratul. The people of Transylvania (which, by the way, is a real place in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania) have long held a belief in the so-called nosferatu (or vampire) -- a term which has demonic connotations as well.