Ireland, Vampires in

Ireland, Vampires in

(pop culture)

Ireland, like its neighbor the United Kingdom, does not have a rich vampire lore, in spite of a mythology that contains numerous stories of preternatural beings and contact between the living and the dead in the form of ghosts and revenants. Montague Summers spoke of an Irish vampire, the dearg-dul, but supplied little information about it. Irish folklorists found no mention of it in the folklore they compiled. The most famous vampire tale was that of “The Blood-Drawing Ghost,” collected and published by Jeremiah Curtin in 1882. It told the story of a young woman named Kate. She was one of three women whom a man from County Cork was thinking of marrying.

To test the women, he placed his cane at the entrance of the tomb of a recently deceased person and then challenged them to fetch it. Only Kate accepted the challenge.

Upon arriving at the tomb, she encountered the dead man who forced her to take him into town. There he drew blood from three young men who subsequently died. He mixed the blood with oatmeal he had forced Kate to prepare. While he devoured his meal, Kate secretly hid her portion. Unaware that she had not eaten her oatmeal, the “vampire” confided in her that the blood-oatmeal mixture would have brought the men back to life. As they were returning to his tomb, the “vampire” told Kate of a fortune in gold to be found in a nearby field.

The next day, the three young men were found. Kate then struck a bargain with their parents. She offered to bring them back to life if she could marry the oldest one and if the land where she knew the gold was located could be deeded to her. Deed in hand, she took the oatmeal she had hidden and put some in the mouth of each man. They all quickly recovered from the vampire’s attack.

With her future husband, she dug up the gold and the wealthy couple lived a long life and passed their wealth to their children.

Dudley Wright, in Vampires and Vampirism, mentioned a female vampire who lured people to her by her beauty. She supposedly resided in the graveyard at Waterford near Strongbow’s Tower. Summers conducted one of his rare personal investigations only to discover that there was no Strongbow’s Tower near Waterford. He suggested that Wright made a mistaken reference to another structure, Reginald’s Tower, but upon checking with authorities on Irish lore, was told that no vampire legends were known about Reginald’s Tower. As a final explanation, Summers suggested that Wright’s story was a confused version of a story told of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of Waterford after which a frog (not native to Ireland) was found and interred in Reginald’s Tower.

In 1925, R. S. Breene reported another Irish story concerning a priest who died and was properly buried. Upon their return trip from the graveside, mourners from the funeral parlor met a priest on the road and were upset to discover that it was the man they had just buried. He differed only in that he had pale skin, wide-open glittering eyes, and prominent long white teeth.

They went immediately to the farmhouse of the priest’s mother. They found her lying on the floor. It seemed that shortly before the funeral party arrived she had heard a knock at the door. Looking outside she saw her son. She made note of the pale complexion and the prominent teeth. Fear overcame her and rather than letting him in, she fainted.

The Literary Vampire: Ireland gave birth to two of the most famous vampire authors, Sheridan Le Fanu, who wrote the novella, “Carmilla” and Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. Le Fanu drew on his Irish homeland for his early stories, but both men had moved to England by the time they wrote their most famous vampire stories, which they set in continental Europe.

The vampire rarely appeared in Irish literature. One appearance that attained a relative level of fame occurred in James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), which used vampire imagery. The vampire first appeared early in the novel when Stephen, the main character, spoke of the moon kissing the ocean: “He the moon comes, pale vampire, through storm her eyes, has bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth.” He makes later reference to the “. potency of vampires mouth to mouth.” Joyce injected the vampire into his very complex ruminations on divinity, creativity, and sexuality. In another reference, Stephen spoke of the vampire man’s involvement with chic women. Finally, Stephen identified God as the “Black panther vampire.” Joyce seemed to be settling on an image of the creative Father god as a vampire who preyed upon his victims—virgin women. The insertion of the virgin assisted Joyce in making the point that creation was also inherently a destructive process. In any case, the several brief references to the vampire supplied Joyce’s literary critics with the substance for a lively debate.

The tradition of Irish vampire lore is celebrated today in the work of the The Bram Stoker Society and an associated group, The Bram Stoker Club.

The society attempts to promote the status of Bram Stoker’s writings, especially Dracula, and to call attention to Irish gothic literature in general. It sponsors an annual school each summer.

Sources:

Cheng, Vincent J. “Stephen Dedalus and the Black Panther Vampire.” James Joyce Quarterly 24, 2 (Winter 1987): 161–76.
Curtin, Jeremiah. Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost World Collected from the Oral Tradition in South-West Munster. 1882. Rept. New York: Lemma Publishing Corporation, 1970. 198 pp.
Kelly, Sean, ed. Irish Folk and Fairy Tales. New York: Gallery Press, 1982. 367 pp.
Summers, Montague. The Vampire in Europe. London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, & Co., 1929. 319 pp. Rept. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1961. 329 pp.
Wright, Dudley. Vampires and Vampirism. 1914, Rev. ed. 1924. Rept. The Book of Vampires. New York: Causeway Books, 973. 217 pp.

Italian History, Vampires in see: Rome, Vampires in Ancient