Vampires! by Andrew Valentine
Today, I’d like to welcome Andrew Valentine, whose new release Bitter Consequence, releases just in time for Hallowe’en. He’s provided us with a brief history of vampires and an excerpt.
The Global Undead: a brief history of the vampire
By Andrew Valentine
The history and mythology of vampires is as varied as vampires themselves. For example, vampires are at once living and dead. They are alluring and evil. In researching my erotic vampire novels Bitter Things and Bitter Consequence, I discovered every culture around the world has its own vampire myth—each with similarities and differences. How did it all begin?
Prehistoric cultures believed in a form of blood-drinking undead. While there are no records from prehistory, the evidence is the persistence of vampire-like creatures in the mythology of preliterate cultures across the globe. For example, in Ghana, West Africa, you should avoid the forests of if you don’t want horrific death by their vampiric creature, the asasabonsam, a monster that dangles its pole-length legs from trees, snatching up people below with its hook-like feet, then hoisting them into the treetops to drain their blood. In an interesting twist, the Korowai tribe of Papua New Guinea tell stories of khakhua, demons who possess men (and men only); the only way to defeat them is to kill the khakhua in his sleep and cannibalize his organs. In this legend, it’s the humans who have to behave like vampires. The Pondo, Zulu and Xhosa tribes fear a creature called the impundulu or thekwane, a minion of the witch who summons it to slake its thirst by drinking the blood of her enemies.
These discoveries influenced me as I developed Bitter Things. The title of the book even comes from a Swahili proverb, “He who eats bitter things gets sweet things, too.” Not only is that the theme of the book, but I chose it because my original vampire, Xiamora, is African.
African vampire tales didn’t just influence me, though; they had a direct impact on the development of the vampire legend in Europe, entering the Western mind though Ancient Rome. My erotic vampire novel, Bitter Consequence, explores my main character’s Italian heritage and the vampire that changed the course of her family’s line. [Please see the excerpt I provided!]
I learned that many Roman women were fascinated by their slaves’ beliefs. One idea that gained traction and didn’t let go was that drinking blood from fertile women cured infertility. An unfortunate result of the growing practice was the spread of blood-borne illness. The Roman senate made it illegal, but blood-drinking cults just moved from the sunlight into the shadows. The illnesses not only remained but thrived. Desperate, the government dispatched hired killers to hunt down the blood-drinkers. These early Roman vampire-hunters used ornate daggers that were small and shaped, interestingly enough, like a crucifix. In order to defend themselves, the blood-drinkers began to spread rumors about themselves that made them appear frightening to their would-be assassins. They told stories that they were able to change form, into fierce animals and devour attackers. This may have given rise to the ability of vampires to shape-shift, which Bran Stoker popularized in Dracula in 1897.
On the opposite end of the globe, goddess Kali appears as the destroyer-mother goddess. Inspiring the villain in the sequel to my erotic vampire novel, Bitter Consequence, Kali is often shown with four-arms, wielding blades and wearing a necklace of human skulls. She bares fangs and points her tongue out at us, blood glistening on her lips. She is often depicted grinding a man under her triumphant heels. I’ve taken elements of her story and adapted them to suit my needs in Bitter Consequence; for example, I took the dance Kali performs on the man’s face and chest and used it to inform the female domination over men, which is a major element of my work.
Despite the suggestion of dominance and submission, the real history of Kali is more gruesome than titillating. Three-hundred years ago, worshippers sacrificed a boy every day at the Kali temple in Calcutta. Today, many Kali temples substitute pumpkins for sacrifice. It was said that the gore-splattered rites of Kali devotion were so shocking, few could possibly comprehend them. Kali serves as an example of the most horrible things imaginable, and by knowing Her, devotees would defeat the horror of their own mortality.
There are many other goddesses who inspire vampire tales, but one of the most famous entered the popular culture in America this past summer. If you’ve seen the latest season of True Blood on HBO, you may have learned that the first vampire was Lilith. What you may not know is that the script writers were riffing on an actual Biblical story. According to Hebrew tradition, Lilith pre-dated Eve as Adam’s first wife. The story was first recorded in the medieval text, Alphabet of Ben Sirah, and it said that before God created Eve, He created Lilith from the same dust as Adam. This made Lilith think of herself as Adam’s equal and therefore she would not subjugate herself to his will. God sent angels to subdue the uppity woman but she escaped. When God created Eve from Adam’s rib, Lilith vowed vengeance against any children they would have, by killing them and drinking their blood.
The ancient Assyrians and Babylonians of Mesopotamia offered their own blood goddess, who most probably influenced the Lilith myth. Theirs was a goddess was named Lamastu, which means “she who erases.” Scholars suggest the name Lilith is a derivative of Lamastu. This creature would creep into residences and drink the blood of whoever was home, but had a special taste for the blood of infants. She was also responsible for disease and nightmares. While Lilith was seductive, Lamastu was terrifying, with wings and talons. She was blamed for sterility and was an ancestor of the belief that demons would visit young men in their sleep and fill them with uncontrollable sexual lusts. This creature is suspiciously similar in look and action to the impundulu from the Zulu tales—which is either a coincidence or evidence of collective memory. Is it possible that there is something out there, beyond our known world, that exists to survive on human blood? Whether or not some form of vampire exists in actuality, thriving in the shadows of our world, it continues to live in the shadows of our minds. The vampire has been with us since our earliest days, and will continue to haunt us, forever.
Guest blogger Andrew Valentine lives and writes in New York. He has a masters degree in psychology from the New School, is a founding member of the Paranormal Romance Guild, and is a marketing director in a firm in Manhattan, where his writing is more effective at producing revenue than pulse pounding thrills. Visit Andrew online at www.BitterThingsTheBook.com or www.BitterConsequence.com or check out the books on Amazon.com:
In order to save her husband and herself, Michelle slays an ancient undead queen, inheriting her power, her people and her progeny. What Michelle can’t know is that her triumph sends violent ripples through the supernatural world.
Across town, in a nightclub dedicated to dark desires and pulsing sexuality, the ancient blood-goddess Kali is struck down as a result of Michelle’s instinctual act of self-preservation. Kali survives and awakens, with a physical need for revenge and an immortal thirst for power—the death of the ancient queen gives Kali’s own nefarious plans a chance for new life.
Michelle and this new, cunning immortal are thrust against each other, not in a battle for survival alone, but for the power to rule an unstoppable army of the dead.
Now she is entangled in a web of deceit where lives, loves and destinies are changed forever or lost completely—and all actions produce bitter consequences.
And you can join the fan club on Facebook:
Excerpt of Bitter Consequence
I’m presenting this excerpt of Bitter Consequence for you because I mention the vampire history in Italy in my blog. The section here is based on stories that I’ve heard my family tell since I was a child. I name the character Severina after my grandmother. The father in the story is unnamed; but my real ancestor who supposedly lived this tale was named “Valentino,” which is where my own “Valentine” comes from. [My own ancestry calls Abruzzi home, not Sicily (Palermo). Sicily fit the story better, though.] Hope you enjoy!
* * * * * *
The rolling hills above Palermo were lush and green that summer, the aroma of vineyards to the south carried on a breeze. To the east, a briny scent hung in the air. The balm of the late afternoon sun was full of promise, of new love and new life. For the newly-wed Severina—a cheerful girl who was completely misnamed—the darkening sky and sea was just an echo of the baby growing inside her.
Severina’s mother—who should have been called severe—saw the growing bulge in her daughter’s womb as a bad omen. Severina didn’t put stock in her mother’s superstitions: the woman wore black even in the summer heat because she was perpetually in mourning. Severina’s father was still alive; that wasn’t the issue. According to her mother, you never knew when something bad was going to happen; best to be prepared now. For her, there was no greater joy than the promise of despair.
It surprised Severina as she walked in the waist-high grass toward a lone tree at the top of the hill that such a dour woman could marry a man like her father. He woke up every day with a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes. Even Severina’s husband, a serious boy at 19, would shake off his concerns like slipping out of an old coat when her father was around. She walked forward, cradling the swinging pouch that held her unborn child.
As an example of the continuous need for worry, Severina’s mother pointed to the tenant farmers’ complaints about unseen wolves slaughtering their livestock. Her eyes gleamed as she relayed rumors that gypsies hiding in the woods were responsible. Darker stories called them witches.
But on a day like today it was easy to ignore the fearful lot and enjoy her after-supper stroll. Severina usually had her husband or a chaperone with her, but she needed time alone with the baby to send sweet words of love to it even before it was born. Talking to the child was a kind of prayer she thought as she fingered the band of silver rosary beads. She wouldn’t be distracted from her duty, and the villa had too many mother-hens clucking over her. It was a simple task to sneak out of the kitchen when the servants were too busy to notice.
Severina settled under a tree, watching the lights in the town flicker. She could almost see the narrow lanes festooned with garlands and flower-filled terraces lining the roads. A Mediterranean breeze gently swept through them and on up the hill to her tree, brushing the hair from her face. The leaves above rustled, whispering gently. Severina’s eyes grew heavy.
A sharp pain beneath her ribs kicked her awake. It was the baby sounding an alarm. Severina’s eyes flew open. The moon shown down in the night sky making dark clouds glow. Dogs barked madly in the fields below. Sheep bleated fearfully.
A small figure of a young woman appeared on the rise, perhaps a few years older than Severina. She wore a patchwork dress, cinched tightly at the waist. Her face was as dark as her hair. There was a frightened look about her.
Severina’s first reaction was pity. An urge to help tugged on her heart. But this girl was a gypsy and Severina had been taught to mistrust them.
“Please,” the girl called out.
She stood up, cradling her full belly in one hand and with the other, fishing in a hidden pocket for the blade she always carried with her.
“Please,” the girl said again, moving cautiously toward her, palms out. “I’m afraid.”
The sound of barking dogs grew louder. Severina realized it was coming from the forest, not the fields below. A hunting party?
“Where are your people?” she asked the young beauty. “Why are you here alone at night?” The same question could be asked of her, she thought, and realized just how foolish she was. Severina gripped the blade tighter.
“I was walking with my mother and we got separated. Then I heard dogs in the woods. I saw men with lanterns and long guns and I ran.” The girl sobbed, stepping closer. “I know running only makes it look like I did something wrong, but my people… everyone thinks my people are liars and thieves. But it’s not true!”
“What do you want me to do?”
“You’re from here. You might know those men. You could tell them I did nothing wrong.”
“I could,” she said. “If I believed you.”
The girl moved closer still, hands raised in supplication. A cloud shifted in front of the moon, dousing all light on the hill for a moment.
It was all the time the girl needed.
In a flash, she disappeared. Severina only had seconds to stand in shock before she felt icy hands on her bare arms. Two sharp nails were pressed to her throat.
“Your little knife won’t do you any good.” The girl’s words were breathy on her neck. Her lips brushed Severina’s skin as she spoke.
“I’ll say whatever you want. Just don’t hurt my baby!”
A sharp pain in the side of her throat made her yelp. The gypsy girl bit her, drawing blood! Severina struggled madly—not just for her own life, but for the child’s. She twisted and writhed and the silver rosary swung up, slapping the girl.
Merely connecting with the silver sent her into a rage. She tossed Severina aside as if she were on fire and retreated into the shadows of the tree.
The sound of thunder tore the sky apart. A shotgun blast ripped a hole in the bark. Splinters rained down in an explosion of debris.
The group of hunters had surrounded the hilltop and had been waiting for a clear shot, trying to avoid hitting Severina. The man leading them was her father. She’d never seen such a harsh look on his face. It was that expression, more than the actual events, which filled her with dread. Suddenly, she was frozen in fear.
The girl laughed but remained in the shadows. “Fools! You can’t kill me with those!”
“No, but we can wound you,” Severina’s father said. “And that’s why you hide from us.”
“And if you’re hurt badly enough,” called another voice. Severina’s husband stepped from behind her father, carrying a wreath of garlic. “We’ll stuff these in your bloody wounds.”
“That won’t stop me!” the girl cried.
“It will slow you. And dawn is just an hour off.”
A blur of motion jarred Severina, a move like something out of a dream. Once again, the girl had her in her grip.
“Your young mother is mine,” said the girl. “I’ve already drank some of her blood.”
“Release her and we might let you go.”
“It’s too late to release her,” the girl admitted. “By taking her blood, she will always be mine. But I can do better. I will… bless… this child and her descendants. Her line will have the Gift, the Sight. They will have a greater sense of the unseen world, which will help them in ways other people cannot guess.” The girl looked sharply at Severina. “And clearly they need the help.”
“And you will leave this town for good?”
The girl bit her own pointer finger, causing a pool of blood to rise up. It was black and shiny in the moonlight. She gently rubbed it over the laceration on Severina’s neck.
Instantly a tingling sensation erupted all over her body. At once, it was a storm of heat and ice. She inhaled sharply. The baby kicked inside her. Her life—and those of her future generations—were changed forever in that simple act.
“Take whatever animals you find in the forest,” Severina’s father said. “And be gone before sunset.” He cocked his shotgun. “Or the deal is off.”
The girl cackled then vanished. As the men rushed over to Severina, she thought never had laughter sounded so evil.
* * * * * *
The townspeople never saw the vampire girl again, but ever since, all children of Severina’s bloodline had a strong bond with one another. The vampire was true to her word.
But that didn’t mean anyone trusted her.
Severina’s father started a group to roam the hills to protect his daughter and the daughters of all the men from further vampire attacks. He named his group after the woman he protected, “my daughter” or in proper Italian “mia figlia.” In his dialect, it was “ma fia.”
* * * * * *