~ Tuesday I think, about dinner time actually ~
This work, like the others in this series, is an essay/article for history buffs and for that I make no apology, in fact it’s aimed at vampire history buffs in particular and, more widely, anyone who has an interest in the “modernity” of the aesthetic of the vampire. I offer to take you on a trip that will be at once both familiar and unknown. I don’t proclaim this to be “scientific”, I don’t proclaim it to be anything other than a fact, information gathering and data presentation thing but the one thing I have believed for my whole life, since as early as I could form a rational and inquisitive focus is that the whole of humankind, and yes I’m including us, has lost something vital and important; some piece of knowledge, some sort of key that opens the lock to “much more than is dreamed of in our philosophies”, our Vampire philosophies and the search for that key is as important and as integral to who and what we are and where we came from, how we came to be, as any of the accumulated information we currently have. Of course, finding a key is only the first part of the dilemma, the real cruncher comes in trying to find the lock it opens.
Imagine you’re in a strange town, my town and I am your guide.
It is often heard, “the past has nothing to do with the modern concept”, really? Then why are we called vampires? The very word was born to describe exactly what we do albeit singularly referring to blood in the initial instance, and if we are going to use the word then it is my deepest and strongest belief that every nuance of that adopted word is important to the validity of what we know today as the Modern Human Living Vampire.
This particular article is going to be either the hardest one, or the easiest one, to prepare but the fun is going to be had in digging through the available, and often contradictory, mostly fragmentary and “wide open to interpretation” material. Nothing in this is going to be cut and dried, nothing is going to be “absolute” or guaranteed…it’s going to be available information arranged as chronologically as possible in order to attempt to demonstrate the earliest conception of the vampire, it’s going to be “guesswork”, “hypothesis” and “interpretation”, mine, and it’s going to attempt to theorize as to how a strange little superstition clung to existence to become a worldwide fascination that extends into every corner of our world today and will keep going into the foreseeable future.
Seriously, as an old high school history master of mine once remarked, “Open your eyes, history is rich and exciting and intoxicating and she makes a wild mistress.” (c.a. 1974)
Using that as a starting point the most sensible first step is to review the historical events of the time period we are considering.
A Vampcentric Timeline Pre 800 B.C. 
4000 B.C. – Sumerians arrive in Mesopotamia.
“Sumer (from Akkadian Šumeru; [Sumerian] approximately translated means, “land of the civilized kings” or “native land” was an ancient civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq and Kuwait.
Mesopotamia (from the Ancient Greek: Μεσοποταμία: “[land] between rivers”; (Arabic: bilād al-rāfidayn) (Syriac: Beth Nahrain): “land of rivers”) is a name for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, corresponding to modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, the northeastern section of Syria and to a much lesser extent southeastern Turkey and smaller parts of southwestern Iran.”
Sumerians supplant Ubaidians in Mesopotamia and start cities.
The Egyptian calendar originates. The intercalation of an extra month seems likely to have been regulated either by the heliacal rising of Sothis or by the inundation of the fields by the Nile. 
The first inundation according to the calendar was observed in Egypt’s first capital, Memphis, at the same time as the heliacal rising of Sirius. The Egyptian year was divided into the three seasons of akhet (Inundation), peret (Growth – Winter) and shemu (Harvest – Summer).
Bronze Age begins in the Near East
In Cuneiform writings in Sumeria Lilith appears as one of a group of Sumerian vampire/cannibal demons that included Lillu, Ardat Lili and Irdu Lili. (For a full treatment of the Lilith mythology please go to: Lilith ~ A study)
The First dynasty of Egypt is established.
A tablet from the reign of First Dynasty King Djer seemed to indicate that the Egyptians had established a link between the heliacal rising of Sirius (Egyptian Sopdet, Greek Σείριος Seirios) and the beginning of the year. Later analysis however questions whether it actually refers to Sothis at all. 
A set of demonic entities that harrow the dead in the between-realm of the afterlife, known as the Devourers, are prime examples of this. The Devourers, or Amam, feed upon various parts of body and spirit, and one is specifically said to feast upon blood. http://www.kheperu.org/vampirism/origins6.html
Generally accepted origin of the Sumerian cuneiform writing system.  (Variable +/- 2,000 years)
Stonehenge construction begins. In its first version, it consisted of a circular ditch and bank, with 56 wooden posts.
The first known use of papyrus by Egyptians comes from around this period.
The Sumerians described a group of demonic, phantom-like entities that roamed about the lands searching for victims as the Ekimmu. These entities were also referred to as “evil wind gusts” and according to our interpretations of Sumerian mythology, wind is often shown as an expression of psychic or apparitional power. http://www.witchinghoursociety.com/
Other sources interpret the sometimes incorrectly read Ekimmu as The Edimmu.  These ‘Edimmu’ were a type of utukku in Sumerian mythology. They were perceived to be the ghosts of those who were not buried properly and, due to this, were vengeful toward the living and were held to be able to possess people if they did not respect certain taboos, such as the prohibition against eating ox meat. The Edimmu were thought to cause disease and inspire criminal behavior in the living but could sometimes be appeased by funeral repasts or libations. The Edimmu were also held to be completely, or very nearly, incorporeal, “wind” spirits that sucked the life out of the susceptible and the sleeping (esp. the young). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edimmu
The Ekimmu has never actually been labeled “vampire” because of their lack of reported blood consumption,
Kish (an ancient city of Sumer in Mesopotamia, considered to have been located near the modern Tell al-Uhaymir in the Babil Governorate of Iraq, some 12 km east of Babylon and 80 km south of Baghdad) and the dominant city is challenged by Lagash (an ancient city located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about 22 kilometers (14 mi) east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah, Iraq) and the Semites dominate Kish.
Gilgamesh as illustrated in The Chaldean Account of Genesis (1876)
Sumerian King, Gilgamesh ruled the city of Uruk (an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq).
This time period is often cited in relation to the earliest traces of an entity that resembled what knowledge we have of Lilith. The information was discovered on a stone artifact (The Burney relief) that dated back to around 2500 BC.
The tale that gave rise to the perceptions of a “Lilith-like” entity was of the epic hero warrior Gilgameš, the tale was of Gilgameš and the Huluppu Tree.
“After heaven and earth had been separated
and mankind had been created,
after Anûum, Enlil and Ereskigal had taken possession
of heaven, earth and the underworld;
after Enki had set sail for the underworld
and the sea ebbed and flowed in honor of its lord;
on this day, a huluppu tree
which had been planted on the banks of the Euphrates
and nourished by its waters
was uprooted by the south wind
and carried away by the Euphrates.
A goddess who was wandering among the banks
seized the swaying tree
And — at the behest of Anu and Enlil –
brought it to Inanna’s garden in Uruk.
Inanna tended the tree carefully and lovingly
she hoped to have a throne and a bed
made for herself from its wood.
After ten years, the tree had matured.
But in the meantime, she found to her dismay
that her hopes could not be fulfilled.
because during that time
a dragon had built its nest at the foot of the tree
the Zu-bird was raising its young in the crown,
and the demon Lilith had built her house in the middle.”
(Excerpt from the translation of the tale of Gilgameš and The Hulu-ppu Tree By Samuel Kramer)
Sargon of Akkad
Sargon und das Reich von Akkad
Sargon (a Sumerian in the city of Kish) overthrows the Sumerian king of Nippur. Sargon’s new kingdom is called Akkad. Following this Sargon extends his kingdom into Syria.
2320 – Sargon conquers Sumer.
2230 – The Akkadian dynasty ends.
2150 – Nomadic Gutians overruns Akkadians and Sumer, but Sumer revives.
2130 – Sumer regains independence from Akkadian rule.
2000 – Hittites migrate to Asia Minor.
In the Old Babylonian Empire Lilith appears in the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic (2000-1600 B.C.) as a vampiric harlot who was unable to bear children. She was commonly depicted as a young girl with owl’s feet.
1950 – Elamites from Zagros attack Sumer. They overrun the Syrian Amorites.
Amorites go to Babylon to create colonies with Ashur as center of a kingdom that will be called Assyria.
1800 – Kassites defeat the Babylonians.
1753 – Ammorite King Hammurabi conquers all of Sumer. Hammurabi rules to 1750. His empire lasts until 1600, when the Kassites conquer most of Mesopotamia.
1700 (poss. to1100 BC?)
In Hindu sacred writings, the Rig Veda, describes creatures of supernatural origin having “vampiric” characteristics.
1593 – Hittites sack Babylon and end Hammurabi’s dynasty.
1500 – Composition of the Rig-Veda is completed (- ?)
1400 ( to 400) – Olmec civilization flourishes in Pre-Columbian Mexico, during Mesoamerica’s Formative period
1365 – Ashur the Great, King of Assyria marries his daughter to a Babylonian.
1300 – The Assyrians control all of Mesopotamia.
1200 – Hittites’ capital Hattusas is wiped out (plague); Phrygians move in.
1100 – Use of Iron spreads.
1046 – The Zhou force (led by King Wu of Zhou) overthrow the last king of Shang Dynasty; Zhou Dynasty established in China
1020 (to 930 BC) Marks the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel (united monarchy) which occurred sometime between these dates.
1000 – Rise of the Assyrian Empire.
890 BC – Approximate date for the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey by Greek poet Homer
In search of the first Vampire
So, what, literally, is the oldest vampire known?
Easy answer, the humble mosquito. They’ve been around for more than 170 million years, and still are. The fact that they can adapt and survive so readily, and require blood to maintain their life and wellbeing certainly puts them slap bang in the realm of the “vampiric”.
There, problem solved, question answered…! Umm… only thing is mosquitoes aren’t undead revenants that rise from their graves at night to prey on the living.
Leaving aside the obvious natural history option however, let’s attempt to concentrate on the origins of beliefs in the ‘vampire’ as a historical archetype.
Lilith – Cases for and against
There are a great number of inconsistencies associated with serious definition of “Lilith”, per se. From fragmentary representations recovered certain, and often diverse, interpretations have been made and due to the myriad influences that have been brought to bear on the mythology of this mysterious figure it has become virtually impossible to discern the single true original source of the myth; for example.
The Burney relief
“In the (Burney) relief itself the figure is adorned with a four-tiered headdress of horns, topped by a disk. This is a sign of a high-positioned deity in the pantheon. Demons were never depicted with horned crowns.
The connection to Inana is in the Lions on which the female figure’s bird’s feet rest.
The owls flanking her were always connected with the night and darkness and the netherworld. The pattern of scales on the lower base of the relief is a representation of the term Kur, which not only means “mountain, foreign land” but also “netherworld, underworld”.
The bird’s feet are a clear iconographic detail that points to a negative connotation of the female entity depicted.
The wings the figure has are drooping downwards. At the time this plaque was fashioned the drooping wings were a sign of an association with the netherworld.
The entity holds two rods and rings. Those are iconographic symbols of judgment and justice. Usually, the only deity depicted with one of those ring-and-rod-symbols was the sun-god, Utu/Shamash.
The female entity holds two of them, which shows that she holds even more power of judgment about humanity than the sun-god, who was the general deity of justice. The doubling of the rod-and-ring-symbol, together with the night-imagery, points to the entity being Ereshkigala – as Queen of the Netherworld, she has not just power over the living, but also over other deities and the dead. She is the ultimate judge.”
Stylistic comparisons place the relief, at the earliest, into the Isin – Larsa (beginning ca.1940 BC) period, or slightly later to the beginning of the Old Babylonian (beginning ca.1830 BC) period.
Lamashtû or Labartu (in Sumerian Dimme) was a very similar Mesopotamian demon to Lilitû, and Lilith seems to have inherited many of Lamashtû’s myths.
“Lamashtû was considered a demi-goddess and daughter of Anu, the sky god. Many incantations against her mention her status as a daughter of heaven and her exercising her free will over infants. This makes her different from the rest of the demons in Mesopotamia. Unlike her demonic peers, Lamashtû was not instructed by the gods to do her malevolence; she did it on her own accord. She was believed to seduce men, harm pregnant women, mothers, and neonates, kill foliage, and drink blood and was a cause of disease, sickness, and death. Here then we see the first indications of the entities connection with vampirism in the drinking of blood. There are, however, no indications available that she did this in any particular way.”
Some texts mention Lamashtû as the hand of Inanna/Ishtar in place of Lilitû and Ardat-lili.
This period pre-dates the ancient Assyrian accounts that originated, and developed, between 1363 and 612 BC.
Stephen Langdon (1914) claims that Babylonian texts depict Lilitû as the sacred prostitute of the goddess Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna. Hurwitz similarly claims that older Sumerian accounts assert that Lilitû is called the handmaiden of Inanna or “hand of Inanna”. Sumerian texts allegedly state,
“Inanna has sent the beautiful, unmarried, and seductive prostitute Lilitû out into the fields and streets in order to lead men astray.”
That is why Lilitû (Līlīṯu in Mesopotamian texts) is called the “hand of Inanna”.
The Assyrian lilitû
These demonic entities were said to prey upon children and women and were described as associated with lions, storms, desert, and disease. Early portrayals of such demons are known as having Zu bird talons for feet and wings. They were highly sexually predatory towards men but were unable to copulate normally. They were thought to dwell in waste, desolate, and desert places. Like the Sumerian Dimme, a male wind demon named Pazuzu was thought to be effective against them.
This could well have been the beginning of the assimilation of the earliest “Lilith” accounts with developing folklores. However, the nature of these entities was still demonic.
One source states that:
“The oldest known term relating to Lilith would be the Sumerian word “Lili” (plural “Lilitu”), which seems to imply the same definition as our word “spirit.” In many ancient cultures, the same word for “air” or “breath” would also be used for “spirit.” The very word “spiritus” is one such example. The Hebrew “ruach” is another. Therefore, the Lilitu were either a specific type of demon, or were simply “spirits” in general.” Again, demonic entities but there is no proof linking the term “Lili” to the word “Lilith”; it could amount to the same as linking the word “game” and “gamete”.
What’s in a word?
The other big problem, of course, is where do we stop talking about demonology and start talking contemporary concept, and more appropriately, real vampires?
While it is true that the majority of peoples, if not all, have some mythology of “vampire like” creatures the differences are in the presentation, the physical, or alleged physical manifestation of these creatures. For example, a vampire that appears as human torso trailing entrails and flying through the air is bound to be defined as a supernatural, demonic entity otherwise it can’t exist. A person who attacks and kills a victim, mutilates them and drinks their blood is a psychopath, by most definitions, but are they a vampire? So, somewhere in between supernatural daemonic entity and psychopathic human murderer we will find the vampire.
Ancient images, contemporary interpretations
The remote Cave of “Swimmers” is located at Wadi Sura in the mountainous Gilf Kebir plateau of the Sahara, in southwest Egypt near the Libyan border and was discovered by Hungarian explorer. The main painted caves were discovered by the Hungarian explorer László Almásy in October 1933 and he devoted a chapter to them in his 1934 publication ‘Az Ismeretlen Szahara’, translated as ‘The Unknown Sahara’. In it he postulates that the “swimming” scenes are real depictions of life at the time of painting, suggesting a climate change from temperate to desert, seen at the time as a radical new theory.
Seemingly in support of this hypothesis, In 2007, Eman Ghoneim discovered an ancient Mega-Lake (30,750 km²) buried beneath the sand of the Great Sahara in the Northern Darfur region, Sudan and the Wadi Sura has been identified as being a sheltered inlet within a promontory of the main plateau.
So, one possible interpretation, a pedestrian one, is available and is probably the most plausible and easiest to accept, however, let’s consider, for a moment, alternatives. We have a wealth of “interpreted” data from this and other regions of the world that lead to certain learned conclusions being able to be made but even within that sphere there is much disagreement to be had over those interpretations; it’s the old “put ten experts in a room, ask them a question and get eleven different opinions” scenario”.
One of the most basic interpretations includes an acceptance of considered norms, i.e.
Hence, what we might be looking at here is a representation of “sky” people and “land” people. With that consideration in mind have a look at the following pictures;
We have images of flying creatures represented in our “cave paintings” too.
It is vitally important, as we embark on a journey through the ages, that we separate two distinct entities in our minds, Vampires and Demons.
Number one; The Demon
an evil spirit; devil or fiend.
1350–1400; Middle English < Latin daemonium < Greek daimónion, thing of divine nature (in Jewish and Christian writers, evil spirit), neuter of daimónios, derivative of daímōn; (def 6) < Latin; see daemon
and number two; The Vampire
a preternatural being, commonly believed to be a reanimated corpse, that is said to suck the blood of sleeping persons at night.
(in Eastern European folklore) a corpse, animated by an undeparted soul or demon, that periodically leaves the grave and disturbs the living, until it is exhumed and impaled or burned.
1725–35; (< F) < German Vampir < Serbo-Croatian vàmpīr, alteration of earlier upir (by confusion with doublets such as vȁzdūh, ȕzdūh air (< Slavic vŭ- ), and with intrusive nasal, as in dùbrava, dumbrȁva grove); akin to Czech upír, Polish upiór, Old Russian upyrĭ, upirĭ, ( Russian upýrʾ ) < Slavic *u-pirĭ or *ǫ-pirĭ, probably a deverbal compound with *per- fly, rush (literal meaning variously interpreted)
As you will find out in subsequent entries in this series the two, at one time or another, have become so intertwined that it will often be difficult to distinguish between the two.
- Marshall Clagett. Ancient Egyptian Science: A Source Book (1989) 10–11.
- Parker, Calendars of Ancient Egypt, pp.30-2.
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