Friday, December 10, 2010

Sister of the Blood Countess

One night, when the Comtesse was preparing herself to go to bed, she discovered a strange brownish spot somewhere on her belly. She ordered her servants to scrub it off, first with cold water, then with hot water. But no matter how hard they tried, the spot could not be removed. The next morning, much to the Comtesse's annoyance, the ugly spot was still there. If anything, it looked as if it had grown a little larger. A medical man was summoned to come to the castle. He examined the Comtesse and had a good long look at the spot. He shook his head, cleared his throat, and solemnly declared that the lady was suffering from leprosy. On hearing this unwelcome news, the Comtesse grabbed the doctor's arm and hissed in his ear that she would order her servants to skin him alive if he would fail to find a cure for her disease.

Perhaps it was this threat that inspired the desperate physician to suggest the following remedy. There was only one thing, the doctor said, that could cure the Comtesse from her terrible infliction. One way only to get rid of her leprosy. She had to bathe herself in fresh human blood. And so she did...

This is not the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, the notorious Hungarian who bathed in human blood (which we've already talked about here). It's a 12th century legend from France, recounted by an author named Annette Lauras-Pourrat, which I found on this page of a website called Shroudeater.

Shroudeater is a collection of vampire folktales from all over the world, along with their sources and helpful information to study further. I recommend it. It's not about sexy, romantic vampires. It's about the stuff that scared medieval peasants for generations. Or as the site says:

Our main interest is in the old traditional undead corpse of the European mainland. Unlike fictional vampires like Dracula or Lestat, there is nothing glamorous or romantic about these vampires. Our kind of vampire is indeed a corpse. In most cases - according to the descriptions - it is reasonably well preserved, considering the fact that it has been dead for some time.

This corpse then is suspected and accused of draining the blood, health, or vital energy from the living. Its victims usually are friends or relatives that were known to the vampire during its life. In the end it is tracked down to its grave where its existence is ended by impalement or cremation.

The site's creators hope to stimulate more research, more writing, and more general interest in this kind of vampire. I couldn't agree with them more. (Note: Illustration is "The Vampire" by Edvard Munch)

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