What is the Biology of a Vampire?
First off, vampires ( cadaver sanguisugis ) are not a species. Nor is the vampiric condition caused by a pathogen or any other natural occurrence. Instead the vampire is purely the product of demonic manifestation.
On a materialistic “biological” level a vampire appears to be nothing more than a corpse that has been dead for some time. The only way to tell them apart is a state of arrested decay (even in conditions that would cause it to be otherwise, and when indeed surrounding bodies that were buried at around the same time are reduced to bones), profoundly rapid growth of the hair and nails, and canines that are only slightly elongated but razor sharp to the touch. It is also said that a vampire’s skin is somewhat harder and stretched taut. However due to the fact that we are dealing with the supernatural and not the material world, any biological or otherwise scientific cause or mechanism for any of these changes can scarcely be found.
The closest we get to science when it comes to vampires is the fringe science of paranormal research. Due to occult studies in the field of vampirology, it has been acertained that vampirism is caused by demonic manifestation and not the soul of the person returning from the grave (much less any biological cause such as a retrovirus). Please allow me to further define the laws and processes that govern the vampire’s unnatural existence based on what the experts have discovered:
State of Undeath
The Lich is not only a being of undeath in the truest definition, but an animated, intelligent and malevolent promise of a future everlasting in a state of perpetual biological and metaphysical stasis augmented and bolstered by the unforgiving current of death.
– The Quest for Immorality
Whereas all living beings are ‘natural’ and thus have natural biological processes, vampires have processes which are unnatural and express the demonic and paranormal nature of their being. Although due to their corporeal nature I believe it probable that their bodies still metabolize (to an extent), but only in a twisted parody of the usual natural biological processes.
That being said, one must ask, what does it mean to be ‘undead’ - at least where vampires are concerned? Due to paranormal study it has been acertained by experts in the field of vampirology that a vampire is hardly a ‘reanimated corpse’ as the folklore states. This is how the Right Reverend Seán Manchester, president of the Vampire Research Society, put it:
“The best way to describe the afflicted body, because that is what you are talking about, in terms more easily understood and theologically correct, is that it was presumed dead when it was not and therefore could not be truly dead. Yet nor is it alive in the full sense and meaning of that word. The soul trapped in a twilight place is neither dead nor alive due in part to demonic interference and intervention, sometimes already in operation, sometimes summoned by outside emissaries. The bigger question is what led to the situation occurring where a person is believed dead when they are not (due to an outside agency), ie what led to them entering this undead condition in the first place? This is further complicated by the entity having the ability to materialise and dematerialise, masquerade as something it is not, eg an apparition of a walking dead person that is nevertheless strikingly alive in appearance, or metamorphose into mist. We are faced with a plethora of contradictions because we are dealing with the supernatural, not the material world.”
In his book The Vampire: His Kith and Kin , Montague Summers wrote that the vampire is neither alive nor dead but rather “living in death”. So how does a physical–albeit supernatural–body live in death? I suppose the true nature of undeath is something that we as humans cannot fully comprehend.
Although the vampire is said to have a very ghoulish appearance, being exceedingly gaunt with sallow skin and a horrid countenance, and it’s breath stinks of charnel. It is also extremely vital to keep in mind that a vampire cannot be “killed", it can only ritually exorcised or else completely destroyed. Indeed most methods of killing or neutralizing vertebrates have proven largely ineffectual against the undead.
Becoming a Vampire
In the original folklore whether or not someone became a vampire after their death was usually determined by the spiritual or moral state that person was in prior to expiry. It was less frequent that the victim of a vampire became a vampire as such was not always the case. Those considered most viable candidates for the vampire condition were as follows: suicides, people who dedicated their life to committing heinous atrocities, witches, satanists, heretics, and most surprisingly werewolves. Likewise it is widely held that a dhampir is always predisposed to becoming a full vampire after death. In his book The Vampire: His Kith and Kin Montague Summers writes:
“It was once generally supposed that all suicides might after death become vampires; and this was easily extended to those who met with any violent and sudden death.”
Seán Manchester also writes in The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook: a Concise Vampirological Guide:
“The cause of vampirism […] is a life of more than ordinary immorality […] The vampire is believed to be one who has delighted in blood and devoted himself during his life to the practice of diabolism…”
The misleading notion that vampirism is spread through a bite was likely inspired by rabies outbreaks which to confused and ignorant peasants might be mistaken for vampirism. Likewise, the Bubonic Plague doubtlessly fed into the vampire tradition. There are many other quote un-quote “real world” occurrences which could have influenced the way vampires are viewed, but they are by no means the origin or primary cause of such beliefs.
Cardio Vascular Function
A vampire has to be able to pump blood. How else could the blood spray everywhere when impaled with a stake? Reports of the heart still beating when removed are not uncommon. However the creature’s heartbeat is said to be exceedingly abnormal and inconsistent with unnaturally long spans of dysfunction. During the day when the corporeal shell is dormant it hardly beats at all.
There is very little evidence to suggest that vampires metabolize blood in the same way that the hematophages of the natural world do. Rather the demonic entity uses the esoteric life essence in the blood to fuel it’s nightly ravages and to aid in preventing decomposition. In fact the creature seems to purge itself of used blood by expelling it through all of it’s orifices once after gorging itself, puffing up like a tick, therein the skin will appear ruddy or darkly swollen due to the sheer quantity of blood it has greedily quaffed down, as opposed to digesting it as one might expect.
The vampire is in more ways than one a paradox. In addition to being neither truly alive nor dead, it also seems to take on the qualities of an apparition. The corporeal shell is capable of feats no physical body can perform without supernatural assistance, such as materialization and dematerialization, levitating or hovering just above the ground, morphing into various shapes (ie. the guise of an animal), scaling vertical surfaces, squeezing through tiny spaces (leading to the belief that they had no bones), and passing through solid matter, though primarily windows and soil, as opposed to walls or floors.
The vampire is able to leave the earthly confines of it’s grave and might accomplish this through metamorphosis, that is, changing form (ie. into mist or fog). Salt, a substance used in Christian rituals for the blessing of holy water and much else besides, when attempting to present a barrier to demonic intrusion, can be applied around the afflicted area to deter this from happening, but other items ought to be included, eg holy water, white candles, silver crucifixes.
The grave of a vampire, to which it must periodically return at cockcrow, often has a number of identical finger width holes in the earth through which it is believed to escape without further disturbing the site.
The corporeal form, through its demonic agency, does have the supernatural ability to dematerialise and rematerialise outside the parameters of its tomb. This is extended to all manner of metamorphosis, as described in Seán Manchester’s book. So it can “assume other likenesses,” and retain more than just the spectral appearance of an apparition when it returns to the corporeal from something else, whatever that something else might be.
Seán Manchester postulates in his book The Highgate Vampire that the undead do not exist in time as we know it, and goes on to say that the concept of anti-time might explain why vampires do not cast shadows and why they offer no reflection. …
“Furthermore, it has been my own observation that these corporeal spectres manifest outside the limitations of earthly time, and that the absence of any reflection is proof positive of them being undead. The exorcised shell, no longer occupied by that unholy force from a nether region, will again reflect in mirrors, cast shadows and appear on film. But only after the dark and demonic force has been properly expelled."
— †Seán Manchester
(The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook)
Thus it is suggested that vampires have neither a shadow or reflection because they are out of sync with time. Seán also told me on Facebook ; “Moreover, I would posit that all truly supernatural phenomena is outside normal time. Demons, ergo vampires, dwell in anti-time.”
I find this intriguing because I have heard about people who claim to have encountered angels and said that they had no shadow.
Log into Facebook | Facebook
Items considered by some as useful antidotes and weapons in the pursuit of vampires are no substitute for serious study and painstaking research, and the following list is by no means comprehensive.
Stake to the heart: piercing or removing the heart disrupts the vampire’s ability to leech off from the vitalizing energy abundant in blood, additionally disrupting the demon’s hold over the body and causing the delayed stages of decomposition to rapidly catch up. However this has not always been shown to work. There are some instances where the revenant was able to get back up and exact it’s dreadful revenge.
[The Highgate Vampire’s final moments.]
Sunlight: There is next to nothing in the original folklore to suggest that sunlight has any particularly harmful effect against vampires. If sunlight did burn them then all other methods of destruction would cease to be necessary. The corporeal shell would burst into flames as soon as you open the coffin lid. This has never once happened.
Bullets: While there are several references to bullets and silver bullets, shooting at vampires will not prove remotely effective. A silver bullet is the legendary method of killing werewolves. Making home-made bullets is dangerous, unless you know what you are doing. Hot metals can cause injury and attempting to melt silver may be hazardous.
Decapitation: “The only certain method of destroying a Vampire appear to be either to consume him with fire, or to chop off his head with a grave-digger’s shovel, or drive a wooden stake through his heart,” according to Montague Summers. He does not say that another method of decapitation would not suffice and probably only mention’s a sexton’s spade in the assumption that the exorcism is taking place in a graveyard and that such an instrument would be something nearby which could be used. Almost confirming his anticipation of a cemetery environment, Summers advises: “Saturday is the day of the week on which the exorcism ought by right take place, because the spirit then rests in the tomb.”
Fire: Cremation is usually best left to professional undertakers. However, it is the most effective way to purify a contaminated environment and/or corporeal shell inhabited by a demonic entity. Thus as long as nothing remains it will almost assuredly work, although it is advised to also crush the bones to dust and scatter them to the four winds.
Crosses: the symbol of Christ who is the vampire’s nemesis (vampirism in of itself being a sordid parody of the blood and resurrection) is naturally abhorred by vampires. However only faith will imbue a cross with the essential divine connection that makes it so utterly effective at warding off the undead.
Garlic: There is no harm in garlic. It is actually very good for you. It nevertheless has a long tradition for warding off evil spirits, including vampires. It was recognised as a powerful antidote by the Ancient Egyptians and also the Israelites.
Saturdays: In the East the Sabbath, the biblical day of rest, lies on a Saturday, as opposed to Sunday as it is here in the U.S and also the U.K. It is also alledgedly the only night where the vampire’s nightly murder sprees are completely prohibited by God. The vampire must remain motionless in it’s grave for the entire 24 hour period.
Invitation: A vampire cannot cross the threshold of any living establishment without being invited first, although the invitation does not always have to be concientious or even vocal, if a person regularly allows negative and demonic influences into their home, however unwittingly, then this may well count as an invitation. The question as to the reason behind this can perhaps be found in Catholic tradition: It is believed that a guardian angel is assigned to each house, which they will fiercely protect from supernatural/spiritual threats unless the goodwill or godliness of any of it’s occupants becomes compromised. Considering that vampires are purely demonic, it would go without saying that such a being wouldn’t dare enter such an establishment for fear of being incinerated by the angel’s divine wrath.
Running Water: Vampires seem to have extreme difficulty crossing running water, save at the ebb of tide. The reason for this is unknown (as for many of the other weaknesses, I believe that God would not allow such a fiend to exist without placing extreme limitations).
Restricted Wandering: The Vampire cannot stray too far beyond it’s grave for it is forced to return at daybreak to lie down in deathlike slumber, unless relocated by human followers (usually necromantic cults of Devil worshipers).
Knives: Ineffective against vampires or any other supernatural manifestations. Montague Summers nevertheless reveals that in Dalmatia and Albania the wooden stake is sometimes, probably unwisely, sustituted with a dagger blessed by a priest. Any blow made by an earthly weapon, save decapitation, will most likely prove ineffectual.
Mirrors: Not much folkloric support for the use of mirrors exists. They are nonetheless effective as a repellent for reasons explained on page 28 of The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook .
Saint John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum): Christians began placing Saint John’s wort, perhaps the most powerful herb for this purpose, in doorways to repel demons. Christian priests have also used this herb to cast away evil.
Holy water: of course, is a sanctified item in the struggle against the Devil. The use of holy water in the earliest days of the Christian Era is attested by documents. In the earliest Christian times water was used for expiatory and purificatory purposes. Contact is said to cause a vampire’s skin to boil.
The Host: By far the most powerful repellent against evil, not least vampires, is the Host, the Body of God.
[Source: Vampire Antidotes and Repellents]