Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Heretics as Vampires and Demons in Russia

Title: "Heretics as Vampires and Demons in Russia"

Author: Felix J. Oinas

Source: The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4, (Winter, 1978), pp. 433-441

Published by: American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages

In English, heretic (Greek hairetikos "able to choose") means "a person who professes any heresy; especially, a church member who holds beliefs opposed to the official church doctrines."' The meaning of the word eretik, "heretic" in Russian is basically the same: "the follower of heresy, a person who deviates from the dogmas of the predominating church." The question regarding the Old Believers is not clear: some do and others do not include them as heretics.2 Primarily in the Russian north, "heretics "have developed into a heterogeneous group of sorcerers, witches, and vampires called eretik, eretnik, eretica, eretnica, erestun, and others. Zelenin includes heretics (eretnik) among sorcerers (Zauberer) and remarks that they do not belong to evil forces and do not have tails.3

In northern Russia and Siberia heretics appear after death as evil, blood-thirsty vampires. Efimenko defines the meaning of the word eretik current in the Senkursk district of Karelia as "a person who does not believe in God and who repudiates his laws, or who is not yet an Old Believer." He continues:

There were such people, who roamed around at night in villages, captured people and ate them. The eretiki were not alive, but dead. Therefore, if they really got on the nerves of the people, the people gathered at the grave of the one who was known as a sorcerer during his lifetime, opened it up with stakes, took out the eretik who was lying with his face downwards, and burned him in a bonfire or pierced his back with an aspen stick.... The person-magician (kudesnik), wizard (znaxar') or harmer (poreelnik) - who was called a "sorcerer" (koldun) in his lifetime, would become an eretik after his death, if he walks around at night and begins to eat people, as it has been going on for centuries. (186-87.)

This description shows that the eretiki appear as clear-cut vampires: sorcerers who become vampires after their deaths, devour human beings, and are destroyed by fire or stake.

Read the rest of the article here.