The wonderfully varied and unique history of vampires has always fascinated me and I am consistently amazed by what people long before me once believed. One such belief was what happened after a vampire was destroyed. Hundreds of years ago, when the belief in vampires was very real, people thought that not only did a vampire have great power during life, but also when it was officially dead. The power was in its ashes.
In vampire folklore, the ashes of the burned corpse or burned organs of a vampire, mixed in a drink and taken as a kind of medicine, were thought to have the power to heal those who were victims of vampires. In Slavic lore, however, it wasn’t a vampire’s ashes, but the ashes of a burned caul (a membrane that covers a newborn’s head at birth) that was powerful. Consuming the ash of the caul was said to heal the victims of a vampire attack.
In some parts of the world, it wasn’t the ash, but the smoke from the vampire’s burning organs that were desired. This smoke was believed to ward evil and villagers would pass through this smoke in order to cover themselves in protection.
A Romanian account from the 19th century tells the story of a crippled man from Cujmir who died, but apparently, didn’t stay dead. Soon after this man’s death his relatives began to fall ill. For some the illness was so great that they died, while others simply felt their legs weakening. The weak legs suggested to the relatives of the crippled man that he was to blame for their ailments, so they dug up his body. What they discovered was a body gorged with blood and curled up in the corner of the grave. They sliced open the corpse, removed the heart and burned the organs to ashes. The ashes were then mixed with water and given to the relatives suffering from illness and weakness. All of them recovered.
So even after death, the vampire continued to have power, and this time, it was the power to heal. Or so they believed.