Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Vampires Of Bulgaria

The Nessebar Vampire
I was going through the news today when I came across the story of another Vampire burial find. This one was at an archaeological dig which is happening in Nessebar. The body is thought to date from the 17th century, and is that of an old man with a knife in his chest. The archaeologist, Todor Mavrakov, is convinced that this provides proof that this man was thought to be a Vampire. This will hopefully generate as much interest as last year's Vampire discovery in Sozopol.

The Sozopol Vampire
In June of last year, two bodies were discovered during another archaeological dig. The surprise came when they also discovered iron rods buried with them. There were also indications that the bodies had been stabbed numerous times by these iron rods. It seems that people thought that this would prevent the body rising as a Vampire. The skeletons in this find are believed to be over 700 years old. The better of the two skeletons was taken to Sofia for further examination, although it has since returned to Sozopol where it will be displayed in the newly renovated museum. The Director of the Bulgarian National History Museum, Bozhidar Dimitrov, claims that over the years more than 100 such burials, where the bodies have been stabbed numerous times, have been found.

While in Sofia, the noted Bulgarian anthropologist, Professor Yordan Yordanov, used the skull to recreate the face of the deceased. During this reconstruction it was noted that the facial features were very asymetrical. It is from the timeline and this reconstruction that Bozhidar Dimitrov is claiming that this skeleton could be a character known as Krivich (The Crooked). He was a known pirate of the day, and also the manager of the Sozopol fortress. If it is that person then that might explain why he was buried in such a fashion.

Is This Krivich?
Despite being a cripple, this Krivich, was a very intelligent man. He knew a great deal about the ways of the sea, and the positions of the stars. He also knew plenty of things about herbal lore. If it is Krivich there are Byzantine chronicles which tell how he captured and looted a Venetian ship. There is a possibility that through this knowledge he might of been considered skilled in witchccraft, as a consequence that might explain the iron rod. Another possibility is that he was a physician, or an intellectual. It is thought that from the burial position that he was  person of importance, possibly even a member of the aristocracy.

Even back in 2004 the archaeologist Peter Balabanov, discovered six nailed down skeletons near to the town of Debelets. Yet another skeleton was found near to Veliko Tarnovo, this had been tied to the ground by four iron clamps, and burning embers had also been placed ontop of the grave. So it seems as though the Vampire superstitions have been around for a long time, and are quite widespread throughout the Balkan countries.

All of this got me thinking about how vampires fit into the folklore of Bulgaria. I was quite surprised at what I managed to find out. In Europe the majority of the Vampire legends originated in the Balkan countries. Most people when Vampires are mentioned immediately think of Dracula and Transylvania across the border. The Vampire legends have been told and retold in this part of the world for much longer than Bram Stoker making the story of Dracula so popular. Some people even claim that Vlad Dracul was of Bulgarian descent. The Bulgarian folklore has been so well established that there are plenty of different names by which vampires are known by. Such as Armenki, Drakus, Grobnik, Krvopijac, Nejit, Obour, Opachina, Opirb, Opyrb, Oustrel, Plotenik, Tenets, Topyak, Ubour, Upyr, Ustrel, Vampir, and Vipir. Some of these are just regional variations.

There are many superstitions that are still observed at funerals in villages to prevent the deceased becoming a vampire. Key to this belief is the thought that the spirit goes on a journey immediately after death. They are guided by their Guardian Angel, and will travel to all of the places that they visited during their lifetime. This journey would be completed on the 40th day, at which time the spirit continues onto the next life. It might be coincidence but on some of the death notices which are posted, you will often see ones posted for the 40th day.

If the burial ritual was done improperly, it is said that the dead will find their passage into the afterlife blocked. Over here it is the normal practice for the family to prepare the body, but there are many ways in which they might deviate from this routine. The night before burial the body has to guarded to prevent a cat or dog jumping over it, or even a shadow falling across it. The body has to be properly washed, the water, with a bunch of basil, is brought in silently. Sometimes oil and wine is also used to annoint the body. Failure to observe these rituals could lead to the deceased remaining on Earth as a Vampire.

It is not uncommon to see the spouse, or relative, of the deceased prodding the freshly dug grave with a spindle or hawthorn branch. They will also chant something to help prevent the deceased returning as a Vampire. Another practice to prevent the dead rising as Vampires is tying the shoelaces together before the body is placed in the coffin. The walk home from the graveside is conducted in silence, this will prevent the spirit following.

I Said I Wasn't Feeling Well
Should there be a Vampire on the loose there is a way of dealing with it, and that means trapping it in a bottle of blood. A specialist, known as a djadadjii, has to be called on to do this. Quite often this djadadjii was only armed with an icon, often just a picture of one of the saints. He would wait at a point near to where the vampire was likely to appear. When it appeared the Vampire hunter would chase it towards the bottle of blood. When the Vampire enters the bottle the djadadjii would seal it inside. Once it was trapped the bottle would be thrown into a fire, and so the Vampire would be disposed of.


  1. Are there reel Vampires in Buglaria?

  2. Sometimes it takes a while for superstitions to die out

  3. Well you certainly made me think since a neighbour buried their mother today. Good read huns

  4. Many thanks Chris. I wonder which rituals your neighbour used