Wanyonya damu From Around the World
kwa Stephanie Moore
A vampire is a blood-sucking, undead thing of the night that comes after people in their nightmares. Many cultures have vampire myths. In the past, folklore was a means of explaining what people didn’t understand. Widespread vampire mythology reflects the uncertainty about death that we all face.
People in the past had little understanding of the decomposition process.If an exhumed body looked “plump”, how did they know it was the natural result of gases in the body? To them, blood leaking from a corpse’s mouth meant that the dear departed had been feeding.
It must have been a disturbing sight.
In Southern Ghana, the Ashanti people tell of the the sasabonsam au asanbosam, which drinks human blood and clings to the branches of trees with iron talons. Another African vampire myth is that of the adze, a creature that takes the form of a firefly and sucks human blood. After it sucks their blood, the victim falls ill and dies. This myth is probably based on malaria infested mosquitos. Myths about the adze belong to the Ewe people of Ghana and Togo.
In Trinidad, the soucouyant is an old woman who lives on the edges of villages. At night, she pulls off her wrinkled skin and puts it in a mortar for safe-keeping. She flies through the night in the form of a fireball and sucks the blood of human victims. If wewe need to get rid of a soucouyant, wewe have to find the mortar with the old woman’s skin and sprinkle coarse salt on it. Then, she can’t put it back on.
In Chile, the Mapuche fear the peuchen. In Aztec mythology, your life force could be sucked out kwa the souls of those who Lost their life in childbirth. In the United States, the most hivi karibuni documented vampire killing involved the corpse of young Mercy Brown.
In 1892, nineteen-year-old Mercy Brown died of tuberculosis. Soon after her death, her younger brother contracted the disease. Believing that the child’s illness was caused kwa the undead Mercy, her father, along with people from their small Rhode Island town, exhumed the girl’s body.Allegedly, the body had changed position and the corpse still had blood in its heart. They took her moyo and burned it, mixing the ashes with water for her little brother to drink. Sadly, the child died anyway.
When in China, beware of the jiang-shi, which is a corpse whose soul hasn’t left its body. Jiang-shi suck out your life force (also known as chi). They are alisema to have greenish, furry skin, a detail that probably comes from the sight of mold growing on a corpse.
The Phillipines has two malignant vampires. One is the blood-sucker (mandurugo in Tagalog), which looks like a beautiful woman but has wings and a long thin tongue that she uses to slurp people’s blood while they sleep. The other vampire variety is called a manananggal and can mgawanyiko, baidisha herself in half at the torso. She flies around in the night sucking fetuses out of pregnant women.
Vampire hysteria has swept Europe at various times in history. Eastern Europe is the nyumbani of Dracula- the place where the modern Western concept of the vampire originated. In Greece, they fear the vrykolakas. In fact, the vrykolakas was so feared that people sometimes took preventive measures.
Three years after death, they would exhume the bodies of their loved ones. The remains would be placed in a box and a priest would read from the scripture. If, however, the dead looked “undead”, it would be dealt with. Vrykolakas were often dispatched with an iron stake to the heart.
The Romani people tell of the mullo (”one who is dead”). They believed that female Wanyonya damu could look like normal women but would wear their husbands out with their sexual appetites. The children of male Wanyonya damu were called dhampirs.
Fear of Wanyonya damu originates with the fear of death. Our ancestors had a lot of contact with the dead and some of the things that we now understand were completely unknown to them. This is why vampire myths are so widespread. It is a scary thing to be reminded of your own mortality.