Bringing in the Sheaves 2: Return to the Matheson

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From top to bottom: Dracula: De la mort à la vie (1997), Enzyklopädie des Märchens, vol. 13 (2010), Dracula Country (1977), ‘On the Beliefs of the Greeks’ (2004), Dracula unbound (2008), From Shaman to Scientist (2004) and Demons: Mediators Between This World and the Other (1998). (Photo: Anthony Hogg)

Yesterday, I stopped by somewhere I haven’t been in a long time: the Sir Louis Matheson Library at Monash University, Clayton. Longtime readers may recognise this library from my previous blog, Diary of an Amateur Vampirologist.

The library made its debut on my blog when I uncovered a dodgy caption in Christopher Frayling’s book Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (1991; 1992 rpt.), thanks to the library’s copy of Ornella Volta’s Le Vampire: La Mort, le Sang, la Peur (1962). I then followed that post by mentioning which books I’d borrowed from there.

This time around, I wanted to briefly mention the books I borrowed today—and why I borrowed them. We begin with a returnee: Dracula: De la mort à la vie (Paris: Editions de l’Herne, 1997), a collection of essays edited by Charles Grivel.

I haven’t seen this book in seven years. I recall being interested in its historical essays, but a cursory flick through its pages again shows my memory must’ve been tainted by nostalgia as there’s really not much there. The item of most interest to me now is probably Jean-Claude Aguerre’s “La place vide dans le miroir” (27–32) mainly because Aguerre, from what I gather, doesn’t follow the “universalist” tradition of vampire belief. Like me. There’s also some interesting items in the book’s bibliography; some leads, if anything.

Next up’s Demons: Mediators Between This World and the Other: Essays on Demonic Beings from the Middle Ages to the Present (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1998), edited by Ruth Petzoldt and Paul Neubauer. I borrowed this one for one reason and one reason only: Ruth Petzoldt’s “The Comeback of the Vampires: The History of the Motif from Medieval Legends to Contemporary Literature” (153–64). Somewhat disappointingly, I discovered some idiot had gone to town on its in greylead pencil. Ah well, still readable.

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Ruth Petzoldt’s “The Comeback of the Vampires” covered in underlines and markings. There’s a special rung in Hell for people who needlessly deface library books. (Photo: Anthony Hogg)

The connection between vampirism and shamanism is something that’s interested me ever since I read about it in Nigel Jackson’s The Compleat Vampyre: The Vampyre Shaman, Werewolves, Witchery, and the Dark Mythology of the Undead (1995; 1997 rpt.), so my vague awareness of vampire content in From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on Humanity’s Search for Spirits (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004), edited by James Houran, was enough to encourage me to borrow it.

Leafing through the book’s index for vampires reveals all references to them are concentrated within Christa A. Tuczay’s “Interactions with Apparitions, Ghosts, and Revenants in Ancient and Medieval Sources” (97–126). Tuczay co-edited Poetische Wiedergänger: Deutschsprachige Vampirismus-Diskurse vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart (2005) with Julie Bertschik, a very, very hard-to-get book I recently purchased for an exorbitant sum (€75) from a German bookseller. Funnily enough, Poetische was also one of the books I mentioned in the second blog post I’d written about my visit to the Matheson Library. I had no idea Tuczay was the author of this piece.

A funny little coincidence occurred after my decision to borrow Enzyklopädie des Märchens: Handwörterbuch zur historischen und vergleichenden Erzählforschung, vol. 13 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010), solely for its “Vampir” entry (1319–27) and accompanying bibliographic references. It was only after I got home and flipped to the end of the entry, that I spotted its author: Peter Mario Kreuter. “Hey!” I exclaimed. “I did an interview with that guy!” And I had: an interview split in two on my other former blog, The Vampirologt (the Blogger version).

My next choice was far more deliberate: Karen Hartnup’s ‘On the Beliefs of the Greeks’: Leo Allatios and Popular Orthodoxy (Leiden: Brill, 2004). Eagle-eyed readers might recall a reference to it in a post debunking Sean Manchester’s “Vampirological Testimony.” I didn’t borrow it to do that again (though goodness knows it’s dead easy to debunk Manchester’s claims), but to allow me to delve further into the claim that Allatios is (supposedly) the author of “The first book on vampirology” or “the first modern treatment of vampires”—both references to Allatios’ 1645 book, De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus, which actually deals with the vrykolakas and wasn’t even the first book to do so.

There’s not much I can say about the next book, Dracula unbound: Kulturwissenschaftliche Lektüren des Vampir (Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach Verlag, 2008), edited by Christian Begemann, Britta Herrmann and Harald Neumeyer, except that I’ve had my eye out for it for a long time, and several of its essays seem to cover an area of vampirism I’m particularly interested in: 18th–19th century vampire history. There’s not nearly enough books covering the vampire in its historical setting beyond literary fiction treatments.

Last, but not least, we come to Andrew Mackenzie’s Dracula Country: Travels and Folk Beliefs in Romania (London: Arthur Barker, 1977). I stumbled upon it while browsing through the library’s extensive folklore collection. I’ve known about the book for many years, but envisioned it as a piffling coffee table book, academically worthless like Kurt Brokaw’s A Night in Translyvania: The Dracula Scrapbook (1976). Boy was I wrong. What I thought might be a pictorial travelogue, is actually a detailed account of the author’s exploration of Romanian folk belief (but of course, the subtitle gives that away). There’s definitely lots of gold in Mackenzie’s book, like this passage which might throw some readers off, particularly if they’re familiar with the oft-vaunted Romanian “vampire,” the strigoi:

Many modern writers affirm that belief in vampires is held in many parts of Romania, and more particularly in Transylvania, but I did not find any of the [Romanian] scholars I interviewed subscribed to this idea – indeed, they were scornful of it. Vampires, I was told again and again, were a product of the fiction writer’s imagination. But, I argued with myself, how could a belief be held so widely without some basis of fact behind it, and I feel the answer is that in past times bodies were sometimes staked in the grave to prevent the occupant from becoming not a vampire but a strigoi, or ghost.

Indeed, if you look up “strigoi” in a Romanian-English dictionary, you’ll find that it translates as “ghost” whereas the Romanian word for “vampire” is (wait for it): vampir, an obvious borrowing from Western sources.

That said, I can’t deny some very obvious overlaps with the vampire: strigoi are sometimes staked and the return of the dead after forty days mentioned within Mackenzie’s text is a trope found in certain vampire accounts and directly related to an Orthodox tradition about the soul lingering forty days after death (recall that Romanians are primarily of the Orthodox faith). That suggests to me that rather than the strigoi being a Romanian vampire, the vampire is actually a variety of Orthodox—or Slavic—ghost. Who knows what else I’ll uncover in these dusty tomes?

Oh, and sidenote: I actually came across a first edition copy of Dracula’s Guest and Other Stories (1914), the posthumous collection of Bram Stoker’s stories collated by his wife, Florence. Just sitting on the shelves in the main collection. I couldn’t believe it (sorry, I didn’t take a picture). That’s what I love about that library. It’s awesome.

Notes:

  1. I uncovered a dodgy caption in Christopher Frayling’s book: Anthony Hogg, “Bad Captions,” Diary of an Amateur Vampirologist (blog), August 1, 2008, accessed October 10, 2015, http://doaav.blogspot.com.au/2008/08/bad-captions.html.
  2. mentioning which books I’d borrowed from there: Anthony Hogg, “Bringing in the Sheaves,” Diary of an Amateur Vampirologist (blog), August 1, 2008, accessed October 10, 2015, http://doaav.blogspot.com.au/2008/08/bringing-in-sheaves.html.
  3. I recently purchased . . . from a German bookseller: I’ll take this opportunity to thank Niels K. Petersen for finding me a copy of the book on booklookerhttp://www.booklooker.de/B%FCcher/Bertschik+Poetische-Wiederg%E4nger-Deutschsprachige-Vampirismus-Diskurse-vom-Mittelalter-bis-zur/id/A01Xy4RN01ZZp.
  4. Poetische was also one of the books I mentioned in the second blog post: Hogg, “Bringing in the Sheaves.”
  5. “I did an interview with that guy!”: Anthony Hogg, “Q & A with Peter Mario Kreuter, Part 1,” The Vampirologist (blog), December 8, 2011, accessed October 8, 2015, http://thevampirologist.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/q-with-peter-mario-kreuter-part-1.html; “Q & A with Peter Mario Kreuter, Part 2,” February 24, 2012, accessed October 8, 2015, http://thevampirologist.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/q-with-peter-mario-kreuter-part-2.html.
  6. Eagle-eyed readers might recall a reference to it: Anthony Hogg, “The Church vs. the Undead,” Did a Wampyr Walk in Highgate? (blog), July 22, 2010, accessed October 8, 2015, http://dawwih.blogspot.com.au/2010/07/church-vs-undead-pt-2.html.
  7. it’s dead easy to debunk Manchester’s claims: Erin Chapman, “5 Reasons Why a Wampyr Didn’t Walk in Highgate,” Vamped, February 27, 2015, accessed October 8, 2015, http://vamped.org/2015/02/27/5-reasons-why-a-wampyr-didnt-walk-in-highgate-cemetery/. Sean Manchester, who masquerades as a vampire hunter (and, unfortunately, a vampirologist), tends to leave a brick-sized breadcrumb trails in his stories.
  8. “The first book on vampirology”: Jay Stevenson, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vampires (Indianapolis: Alpha, 2002), 29.
  9. “the first modern treatment of vampires”: J. Gordon Melton, The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1994), xxxiv.
  10. “Many modern writers affirm that belief in vampires is held in many parts of Romania”: Andrew Mackenzie’s Dracula Country: Travels and Folk Beliefs in Romania (London: Arthur Barker, 1977), 87.
  11. it translates as “ghost”: Dictionar Englez Roman – English Romanian Dictionary, s.v. “strigoi,” accessed October 8, 2015, http://dictionare.com/phpdic/roen40.php?field0=striogi.
  12. the Romanian word for “vampire”: Dictionar Englez Roman – English Romanian Dictionary, s.v. “vampire,” accessed October 9, 2015, http://dictionare.com/phpdic/enro40.php?field0=vampire.
  13. the return of the dead after forty days: Mackenzie, Dracula Country, 91.
  14. the soul lingering forty days after death: Parish of The Archangel Michael Blacktown NSW, “What Is the Significance of the 40 Day Memorial Service After Someones Death?” The Russian Orthodox Parish of the Archangel Michael, 2012, accessed October 9, 2015, http://www.archangelmichael.org.au/index.php/about-us/108-faqs/orthodox-faqs/106-what-is-the-significance-of-the-40-day-memorial-service-after-someones-death.
  15. Romanians are primarily of the Orthodox faith: Approximately 86.7% according to 2002 census data. “Church of Romania,” Orthodox Wiki, last modified October 14, 2010 at 18:25, accessed October 9, 2015, http://orthodoxwiki.org/Church_of_Romania.
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2 thoughts on “Bringing in the Sheaves 2: Return to the Matheson

  1. It sounds like you had an amazing time and found some good treasures. I’m not even going to try to pronounce some of those names! I think you may have inspired me to check out what our library has to offer. 😀

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