The european vampire who appeared in Europe during the dark ages was an explanation for Death. A village suffered from a disease or death or, as is more often the case, a series of deaths. These events were mysterious, in the sense that there were no physical causes known to the villagers that could be offered to account for them.
Often times such deaths were attributed to vampires, which were corpses that came to the victims at night, attacking them, often times sucking their blood to the point of death. The way to stop the vampire was to either use various precautions to prevent it from entering the home, or to actually destroy the vampire itself.
This was usually done by digging up graves, searching for corpses that showed signs of being a vampire. Although these signs varied, they usually included characteristics indicating consumption of blood and/or lack of decay (i.e. red lips, flushed cheeks, bloated figures, etc.). A vampire corpse, once identified was disposed of in a certain prescribed way.
Frequent methods used were decapitation of the corpse, removal of its heart, impaling of the heart with a special sharp object, cremation, or some combination of these acts. By these methods, the vampire was found and eliminated. Attributing the deaths to a vampire is the only thing explaining the fatalities, since there was no known physical cause at the time.
By doing this, the villagers could take a course of action to stop the deaths. If vampires did not exist, nothing would explain these deaths and people would feel helpless, since they would not have known what to do. In other words, by attributing a cause to the terrible event, a course of action could be taken to make things better. In this case, the vampire is that cause, or a scapegoat for the deaths. It is feared because of this, yet steps can be taken to destroy the vampire, and stop the deaths.
Thus, in the minds of the Slavs, the vampire was an anxiety reliever since it was a scapegoat for a fearful event, which could be destroyed. Today, we have medical science to explain diseases and epidemics, and this function of the vampire is gone. We may still be afraid of having a disease, but now we turn to a doctor, not a vampire, to explain.
Although the image of the vampire among the Slavs remains with us, there is no room for its previous social role in our society. Consequently, we can conclude that the pre-existing social role of the vampire image was that of a scapegoat. With this established, we are ready to investigate the role of the vampire in today's society, and determine upon our findings whether a shift in its social role did take place, and if so, to explain the causes of that transformation.
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