Friday, February 4, 2011

Vampires, Dragons and Snares, oh my!

It goes without saying that I love Vampires. Not the sparkly kind either. I like them mean, sexy as hell and all together scary. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy most Literature where Vampires are written about. But I believe that there are some authors who just don't get it.

I mean, up until 2008, I never knew Vampires sparkled in the sunlight- what a wake up call that was, it totally ruined my illusions of the feisty blood sucker. BUT, like always, I kept an open mind, and quite enjoyed the love story that unfolded.

Unfortunately for me, I was left very deflated and craved something more meaty. So I got to thinking, "hmmm, why not create my own little world of chaos." And thus, I did.
But before I discuss that, lets take a look at the earliest entries of Vampires in Literature. We all have heard of Anne Rice and Bram Stoker, but where did the idea of Vampirism come from?

Read on......
John Heinrich Zopfius in his Dissertatio de Uampiris Seruiensibus, Halle, 1733, says: "Vampires issue forth from their graves in the night, attack people sleeping quietly in their beds, suck out all their blood from their bodies and destroy them. They beset men, women and children alike, sparing neither age nor sex. Those who are under the fatal malignity of their influence complain of suffocation and a total deficiency of spirits, after which they soon expire. Some who, when at the point of death, have been asked if they can tell what is causing their decease, reply that such and such persons, lately dead, have arisen from the tomb to torment and torture them." - Scary right?

When you think about it, Vampires were originally feared by all. There was no idealism that any man or woman could change the Vampire's otherworldly paths. They were dead and thus did not feel the emotions of humans.

Nobody knows when people came up with the first vampiric figures, but the legends date back at least 4,000 years, to the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians of Mesopotamia. Mesopotamians feared Lamastu (also spelled Lamashtu), a vicious demon goddess who preyed on humans. In Assyrian legend, Lamastu, the daughter of sky god Anu, would creep into a house at night and steal or kill babies, either in their cribs or in the womb. Believers attributed sudden infant death syndrome and miscarriage to this figure.

Lamastu, which translates to "she who erases," would also prey on adults, sucking blood from young men and bringing disease, sterility and nightmares. She is often depicted with wings and birdlike talons, and sometimes with the head of a lion. To protect themselves from Lamastu, pregnant women would wear amulets depicting Pazuzu, another evil god who once defeated the demoness.

The ancient Greeks feared similar creatures, notably Lamia, a demoness with the head and torso of a woman and the lower body of a snake. In one version of the legend, Lamia was one of Zeus' mortal lovers. Filled with anger and jealousy, Zeus' wife, the goddess Hera, made Lamia insane so she would eat all her children. Once Lamia realized what she had done, she became so angry that she turned into an immortal monster, sucking the blood from young children out of jealousy for their mothers.

Vampire-like figures also have a long history in the mythology of Asia. Indian folklore describes a number of nightmarish characters, including rakshasa, gargoyle-like shape-shifters who preyed on children, and vetala, demons who would take possession of recently dead bodies to wreak havoc on the living. - Frightening, huh?

The Dracula legend, and the modern vampire legend that came out of it, was directly inspired by the folklore of eastern Europe. History records dozens of mythical vampire figures in this region, going back hundreds of years.

The most notable demon vampires were the Russian upir and the Greek vrykolakas. In these traditions, sinners, unbaptized babies and other people outside the Christian faith were more likely to be reanimated after death. Those who practiced witchcraft were particularly susceptible because they had already given their soul to the devil in life. Once the undead corpses rose from the grave, they would terrorize the community, feeding on the living.

The vampires in Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania (now Romania) were commonly called strigoi. Strigoi were almost exclusively human spirits who had returned from the dead. Unlike the upir or vrykolakas, the strigoi would pass through different stages after rising from the grave.

Initially, a strigo might be an invisible poltergeist, tormenting its living family members by moving furniture and stealing food. After some time, it would become visible, looking just as the person did in life. Again, the strigo would return to its family, stealing cattle, begging for food and bringing disease. Strigoi would feed on humans, first their family members and then anyone else they happened to come across. In some accounts, the strigoi would suck their victims' blood directly from the heart.

Author Richelle Mead uses this concept in her Vampire Academy series - Brilliant if I say so myself.

In other parts of eastern Europe, strigoi-type creatures were known as vampir, or vampyr, most likely a variation on the Russian upir. Western European countries eventually picked up on this name, and "vampyr" (later "vampire") entered the English language.

This vampire hysteria inspired an Irishman named Bram Stoker to write his vampire novel, "Dracula."- Ooooh, The IRISH rule! ;)

The vampire has continued to evolve over the years, as novelists and filmmakers reinterpret and expand the mythology. In Anne Rice's popular novels, she takes vampires to the next level, giving them a conscience and a range of emotions. In her work, vampires are not necessarily evil -- they are presented as real, rounded people. Something I like to work with myself, although I do like to keep a certain amount of the original hysteria that surrounded earliest encounters of the Vampire.

Which brings me to the NELAPSI - My personal favoutire.
One would be hard-pressed to find a vampire as vicious as the Nelapsi. This revenant is thoroughly evil, and delights in desecrating and utterly destroying villages, glutting itself on the blood of humans and animals alike. The only evidence of the creature's predations are wreckage and bloodless bodies of villagers and livestock.

The Nelapsi kills its prey by either tearing into the victim with its needle-sharp teeth, or by crushing its prey in a bone-breaking embrace. Any survivors (if any at all) are killed off by the plague the Nelapsi inevitably brings. When angered, the Nelapsi loves to torture its victim. Being a patient and devious predator, it can make the torture last for weeks before killing and feeding on the unfortunate victim.

The Nelapsi is a Vampire, feeding on the blood of both humans and animals. Its bloodlust is insatiable, and it won't stop hunting until dawn. At this point, it is forced to return to its grave to sleep during the long daylight hours.

The Nelapsi usually inhabited graveyards in the European country of Slovakia and the surrounding countries, commonly known as the Zemplin region.

I found researching the Nelapsi by far the most interesting of all and I incorporated the local folklore into my book. I wanted my vampires to possess supernatural strength and speed, as well as a phenomenal degree of endurance and agility.
The Nelapsi is still believed to exist to this day, arising from the grave when darkness falls to hunt and kill once more...I'll be sleeping with one eye opened from now on.


Dragons, hmm, why I even thought of them I do not know, but there is something completely fascinating about the existence of dragons. I find their mystical presence in Literature alluring and as an avid Fantasy reader, I am easily pleased when I pick up a book and find that the old age rule of dragonlore applies.

Nestled in our imaginations, Dragons are a shadow that looms across the backdrop of our minds. Taking the tales of myth and legend as a springboard the authors of many books have developed entirely new and novel ways of looking at, and thinking about, the dragon. Dragons who manage their way into popular literature often find instantaneous fame brought to their name, and a lasting respect from the puplace in general.

The word "dragon," according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1966), is derived from the Old French, which in turn was derived from the Latin dracon (serpent), which in turn was derived from the Greek Spakov (serpent), from the Greek aorist verb, Spakelv (to see clearly). It is related to many other ancient words related to sight, such as Sanskrit darc (see), Avestic darstis (sight), Old Irish derc (eye), Old English torht, Old Saxon torht and Old High German zoraht, all meaning clear, or bright. The roots of the word can be traced, then, back to most early Indo-European tongues. This may indicate that it is possible the immediate ancestor of the word was a part of the original hypothetical Indo-European tongue which may have been a part of the vocabulary of Japheth's descendants, soon after the Flood and the dispersion from Babel.- Interesting stuff!

Below is a small list of famous Dragons in past and present Literature:

A fire breathing dragon from J.R.R Tolkien's Middle Earth saga, known as "The Deceiver".

A massive dragon from the work of Lucius Shephard, Griaule was frozen in place by an ancient spell.

In J.R.R. Tolkien's novel "The Hobbit", Smaug lived in a cavern in the Lonely Mountain where he guarded his treasure.

So, as you can see, Dragons play an important role in how literature is portrayed. They are fantastical creatures; the purveyors of the imagination and I for one will be writing with the intention of including these fantastic mythical creatures in future work.

And last but not least, Snares. Well, I just added that bit for effect, YET I somehow love the way word makes me shudder. Definition of a snare:

1. A trapping device, often consisting of a noose, used for capturing birds and small mammals.

2. Something that serves to entangle the unwary.

I prefer the second one ;)

Well, that's it for todays lesson. It sure has been fun talking about all my favorite things, and remember, your brain is a device to be filled with as much information as possible. Use it wisely; absorb as much as you can! :)

Angels, Yay or Nay

The word angel in English is a fusion of the Old English word engel (with a hard g) and the Old French angele. Both derive from the Latinangelus which in turn is the romanization of the ancient Greek ἄγγελος (angelos), "messenger".

Angels. Something so wonderful comes from such a simple word. We all believe in the Divine [a majority - I hope], and the good nature that Angelic entities possess. I enjoy writing about angels, I love incorporating them within the plots of my stories, and sometimes they can take precedence over my other more 'dark' characters.

But, like always, I am a keen learner and just had to delve into the world of Angelology, just to put to rest my own ideas about Heaven and the Divinity.

Here is what I found.

To my disbelief, I found out that there were in fact Seven Heavens and Seven Earths. How intriguing, don't you agree?

The First Heaven
Shamayim or Shamain
The 1st heaven, Shamayim borders the Earth and is ruled by Archangel Gabriel.
The First Earth
The inhabitants of this world are the descendants of Adam. It was said to be dull and cheerless but little is known about it.

The Second Heaven
Raquia or Raqia
The 2nd heaven Raquia is ruled by the Archangels Raphael and Zachariel, and, according to Enoch, it is within this heaven that the fallen angels are imprisoned waiting final judgment in complete darkness. This was at one time suppose to be the dwelling place of John the Baptist.

The Second Earth
The people of this world, also descendants of Adam, were hunters and cultivators. The were cursed with almost constant sadness. When not sad they were at war. It was also believed that visitors here came in with a memory and left with no recall of prior events.

The Third Heaven
Sagun or Shehaquim
The 3rd heaven is unique for many reasons. According to Enoch, hell lies within the northern boundaries of the third heaven. Sagun (or Shehaqim) is ruled over by Archangel Anahel and three subordinate saraim: Jagniel, Rabacyel, and Dalquiel, and is the residence for Archangel Azrael, the Islamic Angel of death.

The Third Earth
Although this world was one of shadows it also had woods, jungles, forests and orchards. The inhabitants lived off the fruit of the trees.

The Fourth Heaven
Machanon or Machen
The 4th heaven Machanon it is ruled by Archangel Michael, "Is the site of the heavenly Jerusalem, the holy Temple and its Altar" (Godwin, p. 122). It is here that, according to Enoch, that the Garden of Eden is actually housed, not in the third heaven.

The Forth Earth
This world has two suns and is very dry. The cities here were rich and wondrous, but the dwellers were constantly looking for a source of underground water.

The Fifth Heaven
Mathey or Machon
The 5th heaven Mathey is the seat/home of God, Aaron, and the Avenging Angels.

The Fifth Earth
The people here live off the land and seem to be a bit simple minded. There world has a red sun and is very dry.

The Sixth Heaven
The 6th heaven Zebul is ruled by Archangel Zachiel (Sachiel) and his subordinate princes Zebul (during the day) and Sabath (during the night).

The Sixth Earth
Here the seasons are very long. These inhabitants can travel from earth to earth and are credited with being able to speak all languages. This earth is said to be the place where Hell can be found, all seven layers of it one on top of another. The topmost layer being Sheol followed by, perdition, the gates of death, the gates of the shadow of death, silence, the bilge and the lowest pit.

The Seventh Heaven
The 7th heaven is the holiest of the holy heavens. Araboth is ruled by Archangel Cassiel and is home to God and his Divine Throne it is also the abode of human souls waiting to be born.

The Seventh Earth
This world's form is very much like that of Earth's, having hills, mountains, valleys and flatlands. Here lies 365 different types of bizarre creatures. These creatures range from having two heads, to having multiple bodies, but are considered to be righteous. They are considered quite superior and live off the aquatic life found there. They have the unique ability to prolong life or bring the dead back to life.

Now doesn't that leave you with a lot to think about? If this is true, what does this mean for us as mortals?

I find the whole thing pretty incredible, and like The Nine Levels of Hell, it brings an awful lot of questions about our mortality to light.

These ideas have to come from somewhere, and not just made up by some random peasant 'many moons' ago. There has to be a significant reason why these beliefs exist - Heaven, Hell and Angels, and not just the Fallen. To me as a writer, I love the boundaries that we are tempted to cross, who is to say we should not seek answers to some of the toughest questions known to man.

Just a thought! ;)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Darker, The Better

Ooooh, lately I have noticed that my tastes in Literature are changing and as it was pointed out by my 'not-so-better-half' taking a turn towards the occult. Er, hello! This is where I have been all along, you chose to look the other way.

Anyway, the thing is, I just cannot get enough of seedy, dark, erotic and at times extremely frightening stories. The darker, the better. I love nothing more than sitting down and indulging in disturbing Literature, it gives me a kick and I swear, the somewhere deep inside me there is an evil demon waiting to submerge to the surface and cause havoc on this plant, or maybe it was in my past life.

Alright, I know that the above statement sounds kooky, but come on. Who of us wants to spend every waking moment of our lives being mindless, boring people, stuck in mundane rituals of schedules in plain old Boringsville? Hmm, well I certainly don't. I want to use my mind to imagine the craziest stuff around. Now I am not saying I am going to act on anything, well, unless it involves a certain Chester Bennington, but that's another story. No, I want to use my creativity to allow people to escape from the rituals of daily life. Why not. We all need escapism and as a victim of bullies as a child, I can tell you right now, books and stories saved my life.

I was living a complete nightmare and I hated the thought of getting up in the morning, and every day for over five years I contemplated just ending it all. This is a depressing statement, but an honest one. I admit it, I was a very unhappy child. I may have looked like every other young girl in the classroom, at the dinner table or in church on a Sunday, but inside I was dying. I hated looking in the mirror, I hated going outside and more than anything, I hated myself.

So, I found myself lost in books. Anything from King, through to Shakespeare [a personal Idol]. I remember ready Dante's Divine Comedy and thinking, 'wow, this dude says it all' and from that moment on I promised myself I would write something these guys would be proud off, and if not,I'd die trying.

Now, changing the subject, just a tad. I recently found myself reading 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' by Lionel Shriver, and I have to say this book has kept me awake at night. This book covers a very difficult situation most parents dread and being a mother myself, I can tell you,I would die if my son ended up like Kevin. The book takes the form of exquisitely crafted letters written by Eva Khatchadourian to her former husband, Franklin, who leaves her just before her worst nightmare comes to life. Three days short of his 16th birthday, Eva's son, Kevin, shoots seven of his fellow students in the school gym and watches with grim satisfaction as they bleed to death.In her letters, Eva attempts to discover why Kevin became a killer by examining her domestic life. Pretty frightening don't you think.

Why has this kept me up at night? Because it is so real. It is all to easy to read your typical horror book of spine-tinglers, but this book hits home very hard and God forbid any parent has to question themselves because of something their child does. I highly recommend reading this book to anyone who is in need of a decent read.

Now onto something that I love more than disturbing books, Gothicism. Yeah, yeah, yeah I hear you groan, but come on step over to the Dark side for a mere moment and see things my way.

You see, I am convinced there is this crazy assed Goth inside, screaming to get out, but could you imagine the faces of the other parents at the school gates would think. lol, yeah, it would freak them out and I don't normally succumb to pressure, but I think it would be damaging to my children's popularity and I will not have them hate me. So instead, I live it secretly in my mind.

Did you know the first use of the word Gothicism was in 1710 and that some definitions of the word are:

1 - barbarous lack of taste or elegance

2- conformity to or practice of Gothic style

Hmm, terrible, just terrible. What do these people know.

Gothic Literature as defined by Francis Russell Hart as “fiction evocative of a sublime and picturesque landscape … depict(ing) a world in ruins,” the gothic novel presents readers with an opportunity to vicariously experience horrifying realities. By creating worlds where tragedy and repressed behaviors come to the forefront, gothic writers explore the psychology of human existence on several unique levels, notes critic Elizabeth M. Kerr. Common elements of the gothic novel include explorations of the subconscious through dreams, a good versus evil polarity in the characters, and the use of setting and atmosphere to evoke a vivid emotional response in the reader. While English Gothicism closely paralleled the Romantic movement in literature, frequently focusing on issues of love, sexuality, and the place of reason in human existence, Southern Gothic fiction focuses largely on themes of terror, death, and social interaction.

And yes, I know I have a tendency to ramble on about a million different things at once, but isn't it just wonderful that I can cover so many insignificant things in a short space of time.

So why not delve into the worlds of Northanger Abbey or Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or if you really want to go darker and deeper, why not read The Castles of Wolfenbach or The Midnight Bell, all worth a read.

So until next time. Stay safe, read well and feed your mind. Ciao