In the Middle Ages men relied on superstition to protect themselves against nocturnal visits from the creatures of the night.
The most common way to keep a vampire at bay requires the use of either garlic or vervain. Because it was believed that the powerful smell of these plants would keep the undead away, such chains were hang on windows and doors.
In some European regions we also find a subclass – the “living vampires” – people that would most certainly return as vampires after death. Basically those that were marked from during their lifetime.
To test them, the priests came up with a new ritual during mass – they would pass out baskets with garlic and keep an eye to see who refused it.
In time more and more theories as to the origin of a vampire arouse. And with them, questions as to what signs can be seen in the people that were to become vampires after death.
It is so that they came to believe that one may turn into a vampire if:
– if a black cat or dog jumped over the corpse
– if a big shadow fell on it
– if the deceased had any signs from birth [tail, red mark] or if he has since birth teeth, hair, 2 hearts or one extra nipple.
– if someone was born at midnight during a full moon
– if the infant died before baptism
– if one was cursed by a witch
– if the burial rituals weren`t followed to the letter
– if death occurred as a result of a vampire attack
– if one was killed but not avenged [the murderer wasn`t found or for some reason wasn`t punished]
– if one killed himself [special means were needed for the burial because he died in sin therefore there wasn`t room for redemption]
In old England, suicides were buried in a crossroad.
But the strangest superstitions were related to the way people that were suspected of turning into vampires were buried.
Keep in mind that this was a time when medicine practically wasn`t invented yet and desperate people were susceptible to manipulation by rumors.
– the corpses were buried backwards, in hope that if the awoke as vampires and they tried to dug themselves up, they would end up burying themselves deeper.
– wooden sticks were placed around the grave so that the vampire might pierce himself on them
– the body was wrapped up in rugs to diminish the mobility [in some regions the hands and feet were bound]
– large and heavy stones were placed above the grave
– sometimes the corpse was decapitated, chopped up or burn to ash and scattered in swamps