'Vampire' rites still have bite in Bulgaria
The ancient skeleton of a man, pinned down in his grave in order not to turn into a vampire, was put on show in Bulgaria last week, where vampire tales and rites still keep their bite even nowadays.
The 700-year-old skeleton ― unearthed in the necropolis of a church in the Black Sea town of Sozopol earlier in June ― was stabbed in the chest with an iron rod and had his teeth pulled before being put to rest.
Anti-vampirism rituals were behind the find, archaeologists said, making this potential vampire and another one found at his side an instant media hit.
"These were most probably intellectuals who outgrew the moral ideas of their 14th century (...) They were feared and buried outside town walls," their discoverer, archaeologist Dimitar Nedev, told AFP.
The national history museum in Sofia displayed one of the skeletons this week as "a strange proof of the beliefs and superstitions of our ancestors," its chief Bozhidar Dimitrov said in a statement.
"A museum employee kept making the sign of the cross while washing the bones," he said, noting that vampire fears were still alive.
Not only fears but also anti-vampirism funeral rites are still strong in Bulgaria even today, ethnologist Rachko Popov confirmed.
The researcher ― known among his university colleagues as "the vampirologist" ― described the vampire in the Bulgarian folklore tradition as a villain or somebody very old, who usually fed on domestic animals' blood but could also attack humans.
People also imagined vampires as very ugly and asymmetrical ― hunchbacked, lame or one-eyed, Popov added.
Vampires were believed to fear water, and entire villages in the southeastern Strandzha mountain zone were known to have moved town to the opposite banks of rivers in order to escape, he said.
Signs of various practices to prevent the dead from rising again as vampires have been discovered at different archaeological sites across Bulgaria over the years. (AFP)