[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850.]
Some learned men have thought they discovered some vestiges of vampirism in the remotest antiquity; but all that they say of it does not come near what is related of the vampires. The lamiæ, the strigæ, the sorcerers whom they accused of sucking the blood of living persons, and of thus causing their death, the magicians who were said to cause the death of new-born children by charms and malignant spells, are nothing less than what we understand by the name of vampires; even were it to be owned that these lamiæ and strigæ have really existed, which we do not believe can ever be well proved.
I own that these terms are found in the versions of Holy Scripture. For instance, Isaiah, describing the condition to which Babylon was to be reduced after her ruin, says that she shall become the abode of satyrs, lamiæ, and strigæ (in Hebrew, Lilith). This last term, according to the Hebrews, signifies the same thing, as the Greeks express by strix and lamiæ, which are sorceresses or magicians, who seek to put to death new-born children. Whence it comes that the Jews are accustomed to write in the four corners of the chamber of a woman just delivered, "Adam, Eve, begone from hence Lilith."
The ancient Greeks knew these dangerous sorceresses by the name of lamiæ, and they believed that they devoured children, or sucked away all their blood till they died.
The Seventy, in Isaiah, translate the Hebrew Lilith by lamia. Euripides and the Scholiast of Aristophanes also make mention of it as a fatal monster, the enemy of mortals. Ovid, speaking of the strigæ, describes them as dangerous birds, which fly by night, and seek for infants to devour them and nourish themselves with their blood.
These prejudices had taken such deep root in the minds of the barbarous people that they put to death persons suspected of being strigæ, or sorceresses, and of eating people alive. Charlemagne, in his Capitularies, which he composed for his new subjects, the Saxons, condemns to death those who shall believe that a man or a woman are sorcerers (striges esse) and eat living men. He condemns in the same manner those who shall have them burnt, or give their flesh to be eaten, or shall eat of it themselves.
Wherein it may be remarked, first of all, that they believed there were people who ate men alive; that they killed and burnt them; that sometimes their flesh was eaten, as we have seen that in Russia they eat bread kneaded with the blood of vampires; and that formerly their corpses were exposed to wild beasts, as is still done in countries where these ghosts are found, after having impaled them, or cut off their head.
The laws of the Lombards, in the same way, forbid that the servant of another person should be put to death as a witch, strix, or masca. This last word, masca, whence mask, has the same signification as the Latin larva, a spirit, a phantom, a specter.
We may class in the number of ghosts the one spoken of in the Chronicle of Sigibert, in the year 858.
Theodore de Gaza had a little farm in Campania, which he had cultivated by a laborer. As he was busy digging up the ground, he discovered a round vase, in which were the ashes of a dead man; directly, a specter appeared to him, who commanded him to put this vase back again in the ground, with what it contained, or if he did not do so he would kill his eldest son. The laborer gave no heed to these threats, and in a few days his eldest son was found dead in his bed. A little time after, the same specter appeared to him again, reiterating the same order, and threatening to kill his second son. The laborer gave notice of all this to his master, Theodore de Gaza, who came himself to his farm, and had everything put back into its place. This specter was apparently a demon, or the spirit of a pagan interred in that spot.
Michael Glycas relates that the emperor Basilius, having lost his beloved son, obtained by means of a black monk of Santabaren, power to behold his said son, who had died a little while before; he saw him, and held him embraced a pretty long time, until he vanished away in his arms. It was, then, only a phantom which appeared in his son's form.
In the diocese of Mayence, there was a spirit that year which made itself manifest first of all by throwing stones, striking against the walls of a house, as if with strong blows of a mallet; then talking, and revealing unknown things; the authors of certain thefts, and other things fit to spread the spirit of discord among the neighbors. At last he directed his fury against one person in particular, whom he liked to persecute and render odious to all the neighborhood, proclaiming that he it was who excited the wrath of God against all the village. He pursued him in every place, without giving him the least moment of relaxation. He burnt all his harvest collected in his house, and set fire to all the places he entered.
The priests exorcised, said their prayers, dashed holy water about. The spirit threw stones at them, and wounded several persons. After the priests had withdrawn, they heard him bemoaning himself, and saying that he had hidden himself under the hood of a priest, whom he named, and accused of having seduced the daughter of a lawyer of the place. He continued these troublesome hauntings for three years, and did not leave off till he had burnt all the houses in the village.
Here follows an instance which bears connection with what is related of the ghosts of Hungary, who come to announce the death of their near relations. Evodius, Bishop of Upsala, in Africa, writes to St. Augustine, in 415, that a young man whom he had with him, as a writer, or secretary, and who led a life of rare innocence and purity, having just died at the age of twenty-two, a virtuous widow saw in a dream a certain deacon who, with other servants of God, of both sexes, ornamented a palace which seemed to shine as if it were of silver. She asked who they were preparing it for, and they told her it was for a young man who died the day before. She afterwards beheld in the same palace an old man, clad in white, who commanded two persons to take this young man out of his tomb and lead him to heaven.
In the same house where this young man died, an aged man, half asleep, saw a man with a branch of laurel in his hand, upon which something was written.
Three days after the death of the young man, his father, who was a priest named Armenius, having retired to a monastery to console himself with the saintly old man, Theasus, Bishop of Manblosa, the deceased son appeared to a monk of this monastery, and told him that God had received him among the blessed, and that he had sent him to fetch his father. In effect, four days after, his father had a slight degree of fever, but it was so slight that the physician assured him there was nothing to fear. He nevertheless took to his bed, and at the same time, as he was yet speaking, he expired.
It was not of fright that he died, for it does not appear that he knew anything of what the monk had seen in his dream.
The same bishop, Evodius, relates that several persons had been seen after their death to go and come in their houses as during their lifetime, either in the night, or even in open day. "They say also," adds Evodius, "that in the places where bodies are interred, and especially in the churches, they often hear a noise at a certain hour of the night like persons praying aloud. I remember," continues Evodius, "having heard it said by several, and, amongst others, by a holy priest, who was witness to these apparitions, that they had seen coming out of the baptistry a great number of these spirits, with shining bodies of light, and had afterwards heard them pray in the middle of the church." The same Evodius says, moreover, that Profuturus, Privus, and Servilius, who had lived very piously in the monastery, had talked with himself since their death, and what they had told him had come to pass.
St. Augustine, after having related what Evodius said, acknowledges that a great distinction is to be made between true and false visions, and testifies that he could wish to have some sure means of justly discerning between them.
But who shall give us the knowledge necessary for such discerning, so difficult and yet so requisite, since we have not even any certain and demonstrative marks by which to discern infallibly between true and false miracles, or to distinguish the works of the Almighty from the illusions of the angel of darkness.
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