Dhampyrs in Folklore & Fiction #FolkloreThursday

Dhampyrs in Folklore & Fiction

monster-1454286_960_720This piece will be posted on both my Fiction Writing Blog and my Folklore & Magic Blog. I’m feeling somewhat smug today having just had a story accepted for The British Fantasy Society’s Horizons magazine. Naturally my tale A Taste Of Blood And Honey is a work of fiction but is does draw on genuine folklore and features a variety of supernatural beings in a grim social-surrealistic setting (essentially an experimental form of “Kitchen Sink Urban Fantasy”).

In my story I feature a form of Dhampyr (not quite the usual sort however). The name Dhampyr is generally taken to be a conjunction of two Albanian words, “dham” (teeth) and “pirë” (drink). As Dhampyrs are not especially well known outside Eastern Europe, I thought it might be an idea to explain a little bit about them. Traditionally, a Dhampyr is a creature found in Balkan folklore. It generally appears to be a normal human (at least much of the time) but in reality the creature is most commonly born as the result of a sexual encounter between a vampire and a human. Dhampyr is one of several possible ways of spelling the term in English, others include Dhampir, Dhampyre and Dhamphir.

gothic-1320072_960_720In folklore, Dhampyrs generally possess powers similar to those of Vampires (inherited one presumes from their Vampiric parent). Dhampyrs however frequently have (at least some of) the strengths but not (all of) the weaknesses of Vampires.

In recent Vampire fiction, Dhampyrs have often appeared as hybrids of one human and one vampire parent – not vampires themselves, but a half-breed of both. I put a different spin on things in my own story, while hopefully remaining true to the spirit of the original folklore.

Originally “Dhampyrs”  were specifically associated with Balkan folklore although other names were also used in the region, for example the Serbian “Vampirović”, “Vampijerović” and “Vampirić” or the Bosnian “Lampijerović” (literally meaning “Son of a Vampire).

Often a boy said to have a Vampire parent may be named “Dhampir” and a girl “Dhampirica”. Alternatively, depending on region and local tradition, a male child may be named “Vampir”, while a female child might be named “Vampirica”.

In the Balkan region it was believed that generally most male vampires continue to have a great desire for “female company”, even after death. It was widely believed that a vampire would return and do their best to have intercourse with his wife, girlfriend or with any woman he had been attracted to in life. In at least one well documented case, a Serbian widow blamed her pregnancy on her late husband, who had “allegedly” become a vampire. This belief also led to several cases of Serbian men masquerading as vampires in order to have their wicked way with women they desired.

gothic-1482950_960_720The sexual nature of vampirism has been well established in classic fictional works on Vampires, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel through the Hammer Films of the ‘60s & ‘70s and on to the more recent works of authors such as Anne Rice, or even to an extent the Twilight franchise. But this is not simply a literary motif. In Bulgarian folklore for example, vampires were sometimes said to deflower virgins, just like in the later horror movies. Sexually active vampires appear in Southern Slavic vampire beliefs, and likewise in Belarusian legends.

Some Eastern European traditions tell of specific signs by which the children of a vampire can be recognised.

Albanian legends state Dhampyrs have untamed dark or black hair and lack a shadow.

vampire-625851_960_720In Bulgarian folklore, possible indications include being “very dirty,” having a soft body, no nails and no bones (the lack of bones is also ascribed to the vampire itself), and “a deep mark on the back, like a tail.” A long pronounced nose was often also sign, as were larger than normal ears, teeth or eyes.

In some areas, a true Dhampyr possessed a “slippery, jelly-like body and lived only a short life” which may have been a description of a hereditary genetic condition, or side-effects produced as the result of poor nutrition.

Or of course, perhaps it may indicate having a vampire as a parent…

Santa Marimbondo/Wild Things – Book review

A very nice review of both the anthology Wild Things and of my story Santa Marimbondo (highlighted in red below).

Wild Things – Book review

reblogged from:

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http://www.britishfantasysociety.org/

Wild Things Edited by Steve J Shaw, 2015, Black Shuck Books, Website, p/b £8.99

 Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

There could be no better celebration for a publishing house named after a spectral hound than to produce an anthology of therianthropy or humans changing into other beasties.

This reviewer will admit to an appreciation of short stories as they are an ideal tool in taking the tedium out of commuting. I no longer have to submit to the vagaries of public transport but the habit has stuck, along with the shortened attention span.

Be warned this book is not for bed-time reading. Do not under any circumstance read any of these stories before you switch off the light to go to sleep. Each has its well-fabricated terrors which could easily come back to bite you during the night. As it was I read most of it with an aging cat snoozing on my lap in the sure knowledge that she has ambitions, as yet frustrated, to become human and relate at length the injustice of nature that made me a man and her a cat.

There are stories of werewolves, sure. But also were-birds, a were-centipede and were-pretty, little dogs. For myself, and I recognise that the whole point of anthologies is that there is something in them for all tastes, the best is Rachel Halsall’s `Hunting’. A powerful story of difference, cruelty and identity built around the silkies or selkies, those mythological creatures, part-man and part-seal who are said to inhabit the North Sea. Are they a memory of those hunter-gatherers in Mesolithic times who drowned on Doggerland when the last of the ice melted? A hidden portion of my or our collective unconscious?

There are thirteen stories of which all contain quality writing with plots to a high standard.

`Fish’ by Anna Taborska is a well-executed, ironic tale of the unfortunate outcome of mistaken identity involving a puffer fish. It contains a strong moral message.

`Confession’ by Christopher Law is almost a shape-changer in itself. It starts out as a fairly mundane tale involving familiar clichés when it is actually about a man who finds he can turn into a bird of prey. The story goes wild as our hero becomes a junkie who eats children – mmm, delicious – as he yearns to be free from his ravening hunger!

`Scruffy Dog’ by D S Ullery is a delightfully whimsical story about a little stray dog. We have been conditioned to see were-wolves as horrific creatures of the night, only this one isn’t. Or is it?

`Hunting’ by Rachel Halsall is a wonderful tale which is to be recommended. It pulls no punches as sea creatures are hunted down by men for their meat and for the purpose of sex-slavery. The heroine is a child trapped between her human and selkie origins. It contains some excellent writing and is a challenging experience. Take it and enjoy!

`A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing’ by Darrel Duckworth is a humorous tale of lycanthropy in modern dress. Are all company boardrooms populated by were-wolves and wizards? In this case the wizard gets it wrong as he relied upon an ancient archive rather than the scientific method.

`The Shape of Nothingness’ by Scott Shoyer assures us that a shape-changer is immortal, so he fears being dead. If a sexual partner falls in love with him sufficiently to fear losing him then he involuntarily turns into a monster and eats them. Then he comes across another woman he quite fancies, but she is an immortal too!

`The Fragility of Flesh’ by Laura Mauro is a strong narrative of a poor kid, badly bullied at school who no longer wants to be seen by anyone so becomes something else.

`Golden Moments’ by James Park also introduces an immortal woman with the dietary habits of a praying mantis. For a price she traps a man who lusts for her fleshly attributes. This is an exotic tale of revenge eaten in the best way possible.

`Leydra’s Maiden’ by Kelda Crich tells us of Matilda, a housekeeper on the make who can become a crow. She seeks the hand of her employer whilst slowly poisoning his wife. Leydra is an aspect of the Great Goddess who sees all and knows all. This is an ingenious story about the outing of wickedness that draws upon our deeper nature.

`Santa Marimbondo’ by G H Finn is about an anthropologist in Brazil researching the cult of Santa Muerte or St Death, a version of the Grim Reaper. Then a peasant tells her about Santa Marimbondo, a demonic wasp that has to leave its eggs in a human host to develop. This is an excellent plot set out to induce an exquisite sequence of tensions.

`Centipede’ by Helen Catten-Prugl returns us to the poor kid bullied in school. Only this one has the ability to turn into a centipede to eat babies, policemen and, in a fit of jealous anger, the girl he fancies. I think I prefer it when they just turn up with a gun.

`The Change’ by Callum Chalmers tells the story of a man with a secret shame. Every Thursday he has to get home early before he turns into an animal. This is a wonderfully detailed account of a man forced to hide his true nature for fear of being ridiculed.

`The Were-Dwarf’ by Johnny Mains is about what can happened when a height-challenged disc-jockey is attacked by a were-wolf. This develops into a hilarious tale of a bizarre celebrity trying to manage an insane condition. The denouement is quite superb. Read it!