Friday, February 12, 2016

Vampires in Jewish tradition?

THE UNDEAD: Did Jews Once Believe in Vampires? Secure in their monotheism, Jews may scoff, but some of the earliest texts on vampires were written in Hebrew by their coreligionists. (Elon Gilad, Haaretz).
The vampires that abound in popular culture today are for the most part a literary embellishment of the old Slavic belief that under certain circumstances, the dead can rise from their graves at night and kill their neighbors, friends and family.

Modern Jews might scoff at vampire culture, secure in their monotheism ruling out belief in such nonsense. But they should hold their tongues. Some of the earliest texts on vampires were written in Hebrew by their coreligionists, albeit after learning about the plague of the undead from their neighbors.

This article really deals with a period later than PaleoJudaica's main focus, but it raises an interesting question that has never been dealt with here. Lilith, of course, comes ultimately from the Bible and before, and in later traditions she was beautiful, seductive, murderous, and even a drinker of the blood of her infant victims. But Gilad correctly says that she was a demon rather than a vampire. The terafim are also biblical, but any identification of them with vampires is probably medieval. Likewise with the other apparent early Jewish mentions of vampires.