Welcome back to vampire facts, this time with a very burning question…
In folklore, can vampirism be cured?
Firstly, I will give the very simple answer to the cure question…
No, in folklore, vampirism cannot really be cured.
If you want to “cure” a vampire, you kill them. How do you kill them? I covered a few possibilities in my post on Weaknesses, so check that for more info.
So why can’t it be cured, per se? Because, in folklore, being a vampire isn’t really an “infection.” Much like werewolves didn’t start out as a “disease” and lycanthropy only became thought of as such much later (I have so many posts on that; see the Werewolf Fact Masterlist), vampirism also has a different tale. Unlike werewolves, however, many vampires are no longer even considered human, to the point that they aren’t always really considered “cursed.” Not in the fashion of “we must lift the curse, so the person will be okay.” Lifting the curse of the vampire in folklore is, simply, destroying the vampire, so that the people the vampire was terrorizing will be okay.
This boils down to something I have mentioned before: in folklore, many vampires are not considered in any way “human” or the person they were before (if they were ever a person).
There are, generally speaking, two “types” of vampires: “living” and “unliving” vampires. This is what folklore scholars will tell you. But to get into all that in a lot of detail, we would have to get into a whole lot more, some of which I discussed in this post.
Basically, there are “undead human”/revenant vampires (or “dead vampires” in folklore studies) and the demon vampires (or “living vampires” in folklore studies).
The first category, the “dead vampires,” are those vampires that were once human and rose from their graves to haunt the living. These vampires were people once, then they fell victim to the vampire curse.
The second category, the “living vampires,” were never human. They are called “living vampires” because they aren’t undead – they are living because they are demons that are alive, instead of people who died and came back as vampires. They were never people. They are, indeed, demons – through and through. These are pure demons that come to haunt mortals, hunt them, and cause them pain and suffering, feeding off blood or vitality or something else humans have (generally something that’s integral to life). Believe it or not, the majority of legends that scholars now group as “vampire legends” actually fall into this category of demons.
There are a few vampires in folklore that stray outside of these two categories scholars have created, but it is true that many of them do fall into one camp or the other, generally speaking. This is especially true of Eastern European vampire folklore, which, of course, is one of our primary inspirations for our modern pop culture vampires, thanks to Bram Stoker writing Dracula.
The vampire types are something I really need to do a separate post about…
I feel the need to point out yet again, as an aside, that folklore is never a clean bill of what is and isn’t a legend about a “vampire” or “werewolf” or “dragon” or whatever else. Most all folklore study looks back on sets of folklore and legends that have no simplistic D&D-style monster systems. This is why many scholars (such as myself) will argue some things shouldn’t be considered a werewolf legend, for instance. In a lot of legends, the exact term we think of is never actually used. And this is also how sometimes the line between werewolf and vampire legends can become blurred, like with the vrykolakas. Nothing in folklore is clean-cut like modern fantasy books with their magic systems or something.
So, when we see “dead type” vampires, we are dealing with someone who died, was probably buried (maybe even for days), and then hauntings occurred to their family and loved ones. The vampire rose from their grave physically or spiritually – and, more often than not, this type of vampire will also return to their grave or else they never physically left it.
But these vampires cannot be “cured,” because they are dead. You can’t “cure” what is dead. The only way to “cure” a human vampire in folklore is to kill them, to destroy them, and thus end the curse’s existence altogether. Given the person in question has already died, that’s the only means of lifting the curse.
With the “living type” vampires, the demons, they are different creatures altogether – and you can’t “cure” a demon of being a demon. That’s what they are. So also with those kinds of vampires, you cannot cure them, and if you want to put an end to their evil, they must simply be destroyed. These were never human.
Folklore didn’t really draw many shades of grey with vampires very often, especially in the most popular of legends. I will, of course, provide lots of more specific examples and situations of various legends in different posts, but as far as a general overview is concerned… yeah, in folklore, you can’t cure the vampire. The vampire is simply something that needs to be destroyed.
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