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The Real History Behind Hemlock Grove’s Upir

The Netflix show Hemlock Grove, based on the book of the same name, mentions a being known as the upir. But what is this creature and did the show’s writers create it? Oh no, Dear Readers, they didn’t. The upir is a vampire from European folklore, a vampire species once believed to be real. Along with the upir are the Upior, Upor, and the Upyr. Four different vampire species, all beings that once plagued the poor citizens of Eastern Europe.  Read more about them below.

Upir (or opir)
A vampire species found in the Ukraine. It is quite similar to the Russian legend of the upyr, but is different in one way – it consumes large amounts of fish. This name is also used for vampires in some regions of Czechoslovakia.

Upyr
This is one of the most common vampire species in Russian lore. The beliefs on this particular vampire vary from region to region, but the stories are most developed in Ukraine and White Russia. The upyr is an incredibly bloodthirsty vampire, one that prefers to prey first on children, and then on their parents. They have teeth like iron that they use to gnaw on anything that’s in their way, like when their hands are trapped in the frozen earth during Russia’s freezing winters.  Like Polish vampires, sunlight doesn’t harm this vampire. The upyr wanders during the day, usually from noon until midnight. When attempting to destroy this beast, it is said that one should hook thread to one of the upyr’s buttons so that it can be tracked back to its lair. Once discovered, the creature should be drenched in holy water and then staked in the heart. Only strike it once, for stabbing it twice will bring it back to life and it will be more fearsome than before. In other regions it was believed that the upyr devoured its victim’s hearts and to kill it you either chopped off its head or burned it to ash.

Upior (or upier)
An eastern Slavic name for vampire, a word used the most in Poland. Like the upyr, it rests during the night and preys on its victims during noon and midnight. It is recognized by its barbed tongue and its incredible love for blood. Its thirst is legendary. It doesn’t simply feed on blood now and then, the upior sleeps in it, drinks it and literally explodes with it when staked (like the vamps in True Blood). To kill an upior one must either stake it in the heart or decapitate it. It was said that to protect yourself from an attack by this monster you mixed vampire blood with flour, baked a kind of blood bread with it and then ate it.

Upor
A Byelorussian vampire. This vampire species was known for riding horses and its ability to transform into other forms.

And there you have it my beloved vampire lovers, the real history behind Hemlock Grove’s upir. Four vampire species found in age-old vampire myths and legends from Eastern Europe.

What are your thoughts on these folktales? Can you believe that once upon a time people actually believed in these tales?

– Moonlight

Hemlock Groveopirrussian vampireupierupiorupirUporUpyrvampire historyvampire lore

Moonlight • May 10, 2013


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  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.mckinley.13 Brian McKinley

    Awesome article! Love learning those funky little details from folklore!

  • Greg

    as always moonlight i loved the article, i just have a question, isn’t there a umpir as well or have i just been mispronouncing it for years?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vampyrian.Rev.JP JP Vanir

    This I think it is my new favorite Show – I just hope it continues and die as quick as the gates did…

  • julio

    Umm well u are right but the upir in hemlock grove is actually a kind of dragon that feeds off human and it must die by its own hands to fully awaken

    • SCIENCE

      Just because she says “you aren’t a warrior, you’re a dragon” does not mean they’re literally dragons >_>

      • http://www.facebook.com/Vampyrian.Rev.JP JP Vanir

        Thank you – Someone gets it! Upir are Vampires – According the the book “Dracula” who was in order of the Dragon he thought Dracula was an Upir it seems…

      • Mike

        Roman may then be a Dhovakin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.clinger.984 John Clinger

    Are the “Uiir” affected by crosses or visible in mirrors as depicted in other variations of the vampire myth? I’ve only seen the first two episodes of HG so far. I think it’s pretty damn good. I hope they don’t go “kid-friendly” though. There’s just too much of that now these days.

  • Fred Star

    Actually this is true. The dragon is a feeder. The feeder which roman is can be mistaken as a vampire but is actually a type of dragon.

  • M

    This is completely Bogus, Just another folklore fantasy to put fear on people…..

  • https://plus.google.com/+VampyrianTrance Vampyrian Trance

    Really Bogus? At least its not “ignorant” fiction written by idiot writers who destroyed the mythology which there is some truth in but only as people knew how to except it…

  • http://None Michael

    To call fiction ignorant shows your ignorance!
    Fiction in itself is a created false story
    Meaning it is only goverened by its author’s our creation.
    So just because this author chose to build his FICTIONAL story around an old myth
    Does in no way make the fiction ignorant
    Grow up people! It’s just fiction…. If you like it? Then watch it! Otherwise? Then don’t

    I was just was looking up upir…. And found this
    The internet!

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  • melissa

    Can’t figure out why wiki keeps saying an upyr is a witch and demon??

  • ivi

    an upir is a witch and a demon, well.. kind of.
    to birth an upir(upyr) whatever it was, the parents must be a witch and a demon.
    the other way is being born with a caul by an upyr parent.

  • Felicia

    My grandmother was full blooded Czechoslovakian, she used too tell me stories her mother told her about the Upir. . How they were vicious monsters & were not prejudice about who they fed on. .

  • Rick Thrailkill

    I researched upir and it says upirs are half witch and half demon that feeds on blood. Many similarities to a vampire but the difference is the caul(tail). Check further into Slavik folklore.

  • Canelamami

    I believe it to be a dragon or winged serpent fitting in with the name “upir” which can be a vampiric in some Russian, European, Slavic, folklore. It is still depicted as a blood thirsty type creature not necessarily a vampire. I first thought that. With the symbolism of ouroboros, one who eats is own tail beginning and end life and rebirth in a continuing circle. It makes me believe that this upir in the story in a dragon. The very fact that after watching the first season the mother reveals the story of who and what she is… a vampire she is not. Look up Order of the Dragon, and different spelling of upirs, it will reveal all myths or folklore behind the name including the vampires and dragons.

  • Brett

    why are people so obsessed with knowing all the specific details in TV shows like this. Who cares what exact type of vampire, or dragon they are and what specifically they can do. If we knew all that right away it would take away from the suspense and mystery of the show and you no longer would want to watch it. Quite often in horror, I don’t think your supposed to know whats going on. It helps you to imagine yourself in the characters shoes or being there with them and adds to the atmosphere/feeling you get while watching. It also keeps you keep wanting more rather than getting all the info and no longer caring to watch it further.

    • Freddie

      Any good series, movie or program should leave the viewer curious and
      want to know more. Understanding the character’s background, beliefs, motives and in this case the type upir makes
      for a richer thought provoking experience.

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  • MadameMortician

    Roman Godfrey, and his mother, are upir. It is stated several times and mentioned in the book as well.

  • M

    Quis hic locus?, quae regio?, quae mundi plaga?

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  • beekay

    Upyr has two states – live upyr and dead upyr.
    When he is alive, upyr sits on the stove (russian stove), predicts the future and helps to find missing things. When the night comes he goes to the cemetery and sucks the blood of the corpses.
    When he dies, he does not rot in the grave and leaves it to suck the blood from live and sleeping people.
    Historically, upyrs was very, very, very old east slavonic and russian gods.
    Word of Saint Grigoriy (11th–13th centuries) describes two kinds of old slavonic original gods – upyrs and bereginias. Bereginia was a female spirit protectoress. Upyr was, probably, a punisher. These old gods were long before Perun, Rod and other old russian pagan gods.
    And vampire is latinized old russian upyr.