Slains Castle, photo by Ian Cowe
Dracula Bites Night
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"My son, the vampire,
He'll make you a wreck.
Every time he kisses you,
There'll be two holes in your neck."
br> ~ Allan Sherman, My Son the Vampire (1964)
Though disputed, some literary scholars hold that Bram Stoker wrote at least part of his horror classic Dracula in 1895 while staying at Crookit Lum Cottage, near Aberdeenshire's Cruden Bay, and may have used Slains Castle as the model for Dracula's Transylvanian Castle! Other scholars point to Bran Castle, the residence of Vlad Tepes (sometimes known as Vlad Dracul), a Walachian Prince whose castle in the Principality of Wallachia best fits Bram Stoker’s description. Regardless, in preparation for any future travel plans to the best Blood & Bed & Breakfast castle of your choice, it's best to know what to pack. Take note of this useful list of seasonal apotropaics - items able to ward off revenants (the undead, of which vampires figure prominently) - including the traditional garlic, bibles, holy water, crucifixes, and rosaries. Other good methods of protection is to make use of the vampire's obsessive-compulsive tendencies by distracting them. If you suspect a vampire prowls in an area near you, sprinkle poppy seeds, sand, beads or anything small and grain-like all around your ‘neighborhood. Vampires are said to be compelled to count anything they see in a group! They are also said to be repelled by metal, with silver being especially distasteful to the undead. If pressed, however, a wooden stake through the heart (ash, hawthorn, oak, or aspen preferred) will do the trick. And in some regions of Saxon Germany, placing a lemon in the mouth of an unsuspecting sleeping vampire has the desired effect. Also, remember, a vampire may not enter your home (nor partner you in Scottish Country Dancing) unless invited! 🧛⚰️🦇🏰 ✝️
Slains Castle (Dracula's Jig)
Today, "Dracula Bites Day" is a day for scary stories, particularly vampire stories, a folkloric story tradition that has undergone a continuous revival in popularity in literature and movies since the publication of Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1897.
Vampiric entities have been a feared folkloric creature of many different cultures. Elaborate rituals and superstitions have been used to identify, ward off, and destroy vampires.
Some traditions hold that a vampire cannot enter a house unless invited by the owner, although after the first invitation they can come and go as they please. Though folkloric vampires were believed to be more active at night, they were not generally considered vulnerable to sunlight which is a latter invention. Vampires are said to be unable to walk on consecrated ground, such as that of churches or temples, or cross running water.
Apotropaics, items able to ward off revenants, are common in vampire folklore. Garlic is a common example, as are a branch of wild rose or hawthorn plant. And in Europe, sprinkling mustard seeds on the roof of a house was said to keep them away. Other apotropaics include sacred items, such as a crucifix, rosary, or holy water.
Although not traditionally regarded as an apotropaic, mirrors have been used to ward off vampires when placed, facing outwards, on a door. And in some cultures, mirrors can be used to identify vampires as they do not have a reflection and may not cast a shadow, (thought to be a manifestation of the vampire's lack of a soul).
Fear of new corpses becoming vampires led to many different methods of prevention. Changes or strange occurrences at grave sites were considered indications of incipient vampirism. Methods of destroying suspected vampires varied, with staking the most commonly cited method in Eastern Europe, while the type of wood varied. Decapitation was the preferred method in German and western Slavic areas, with the head buried between the feet, behind the buttocks or away from the body.
Romani people drove steel or iron needles into a corpse's heart and placed bits of steel in the mouth, over the eyes, ears and between the fingers at the time of burial.
And in Saxon regions of Germany, a lemon was placed in the mouth of suspected vampires.
Slains Castle, also known as New Slains Castle to distinguish it from nearby Old Slains Castle, is a ruined castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. In 1895 Bram Stoker, visited the area, staying at a cottage near Cruden Bay. The castle and some associated history is commonly cited as an inspiration for Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula.
For an interesting collection of book covers for the classic novel, click the classic movie poster for the 1947 film, Dracula, with Bela Lugosi in the title role.