Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 110

Babylonian Vampires

In all lands and epochs the grisly conception of the vampire has gained a strong hold upon the imagination of the common people, and this was no less the case in Babylonia and Assyria than elsewhere. There have not been wanting those who believed that vampirism was confined to the Slavonic race alone, and that the peoples of Russia, Bohemia, and the Balkan Peninsula were the sole possessors of the vampire legend. Recent research, however, has exposed the fallacy of this theory and has shown that, far from being the property of the Slavs or even of Aryan peoples, this horrible belief is or was the possession of practically every race, savage or civilized, that is known to anthropology. The seven evil spirits of Assyria are, among other things, vampires of no uncertain type. An ancient poem which was chanted by them commences thus:

Seven are they! Seven are they!
In the ocean deep, seven are they!
Battening in heaven, seven are they!
Bred in the depths of the ocean;
Not male nor female are they,
But are as the roaming wind-blast.
No wife have they, no son can they beget;
Knowing neither mercy nor pity,
They hearken not to prayer, to prayer.
They are as horses reared amid the hills,
The Evil Ones of Ea;
Throne-bearers to the gods are they,
They stand in the highway to befoul the path;
Evil are they, evil are they!
Seven are they, seven are they,
[Pg 265]Twice seven are they!

Destructive storms (and) evil winds are they,
An evil blast that heraldeth the baneful storm,
An evil blast, forerunner of the baleful storm.
They are mighty children, mighty sons,
Heralds of the Pestilence.
Throne-bearers of Ereskigal,
They are the flood which rusheth through the land.
Seven gods of the broad earth,
Seven robber(?)-gods are they,
Seven gods of might,
Seven evil demons,
Seven evil demons of oppression,
Seven in heaven and seven on earth.

Spirits that minish heaven and earth,
That minish the land,
Spirits that minish the land,
Of giant strength,
Of giant strength and giant tread,
Demons (like) raging bulls, great ghosts,
Ghosts that break through all houses,
Demons that have no shame,
Seven are they!
Knowing no care, they grind the land like corn;
Knowing no mercy, they rage against mankind,
They spill their blood like rain,
Devouring their flesh (and) sucking their veins.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
They are demons full of violence, ceaselessly devouring blood.[2]

This last line clearly indicates their character as vampires. They are akin to the Rakshasas of India or the arch-demons of Zoroastrianism. Such demons are also to be seen in the Polynesian tii, the Malayan hantu penyadin, a dog-headed water-demon, and the kephu of the Karens, which under the form of a wizard's head and stomach devours human souls.[Pg 266] Tylor considers vampires to be "causes conceived in spiritual form to account for specific facts of wasting disease." Afanasief regards them as thunder-gods and spirits of the storm, who during winter slumber in their cloud-coffins to rise again in spring and draw moisture from the clouds. But this theory will scarcely recommend itself to anyone with even a slight knowledge of mythological science. The Abbé Calmet's difficulty in believing in vampires was that he could not understand how a spirit could leave its grave and return thence with ponderable matter in the form of blood, leaving no traces showing that the surface of the earth above the grave had been stirred. But this view might be solved by the occult theory of the 'precipitation of matter'!