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.HE VrykolakasTOne evening in the mid-19th century, Henry Tozer, an Oxford don and authority on the geography of thefar-flung Ottoman Empire, arrived in the small Greek town of Aghia.The hamlet perched on the flanks ofMount Ossa, overlooking the plains of Thessaly fabled since classical times for the Olympics, forhorses, and for superstition:During the night which we spent at Aghia the population were disturbed by apparitions of spirits, whichthey described as gliding about with large lanterns in their hands.These are called vrykolaka by theGreeks and vurkolak by the Turks, for both Christians and Mahometans believe in them; the name,Page 80 ABC Amber ePub Converter Trial version, http://www.processtext.com/abcepub.htmlhowever, is written and pronounced in a great variety of ways.It was curious to meet with them in thismanner as soon as we descended into the plains of Thessaly, the ancient land of witches; but the belief inthese appearances is widely spread, not only throughout Thessaly and Epirus, but also among the islandsof the Aegean and over a great part of Turkey.The idea concerning them is, that some persons come tolife again after death, sleep in their tombs with their eyes open, and wander abroad by night, especiallywhen the moon is shining brightly.The moon shining brightly, of course, suggests werewolves on the prowl.Vrykolakas  like theTurkish vurkolak, Serbian vukodlak, Bulgarian volkudlak, Albanian vurvolak, and similar cognatesthat have burrowed deep into the linguistic map of eastern Europe has usually been interpreted as werewolf because it stems from a Slavic root (probably vrkolak) that presumably meant  wolfpelt. It came to be interchangeable with vampire the reasoning goes, only because werewolves infolklore were suspected of becoming vampires after death.It might not be that simple, however.Vrkolak may indeed mean  wolf pelt, and quite literally so denoting the wolf pelts Balkan tribesmen ritually donned during pagan times.The words it hatched thenundertook a vast mythological odyssey, for when they next appear, they describe a cosmic monster thatcaused eclipses by eating the sun or moon before settling back on earth and taking on the additionalsense of the devouring dead.However it happened, vrkolak and its cognates are now thoroughly entwined with vampir andits derivatives.Only in Greece has vampir never taken root; vrykolakas has crowded it out.One hundred fifty years before Tozer undertook his wanderings, the renowned French botanistJoseph Pitton de Tournefort had journeyed to the far corners of Asia Minor on a plant-collectingexpedition.His three-volume A Voyage into the Levant is equal parts travelogue and explorationnarrative, yet most modern readers ignore his rapturous descriptions of mountain forests ranging along theBlack Sea coast and into the Caucasus.Instead, de Tournefort s book is best remembered for itsstartling description of vrykolakas hysteria on the Greek island of Mykonos, where he had stoppedduring the winter of 1700.Around the time de Tournefort reached the isle, a truculent and much-disliked peasant had died.Shortly thereafter began a chain of nocturnal depredations. [I]t was rumored, de Tournefort wrote, that he was seen by night walking very fast; that he came into the house, overturning the furniture,extinguishing the lamps, throwing his arms round persons from behind, and playing a thousand sly tricks.Panic quickly engulfed the island.Ten days after the body had been buried, it was dug up so thelocal butcher might remove its heart. The corpse, reported the botanist,  gave out such a bad smell,that they were obliged to burn incense; but the vapour, mixed with the exhalations of that carrion, onlyaugmented the stink, and began to heat the brain of these poor people.De Tournefort continued his account:Their imagination, struck with the spectacle, was full of visions; some one thought proper to say that athick smoke came from this body.We dared not say that it was the vapour of the incense.They onlyexclaimed  Vroucolacas, in the chapel, and in the square before it&I have no doubt that they would have maintained it did not stink, if we had not been present; sostupified were these poor people with the circumstance, and infatuated with the idea of the return of thedead.For ourselves, who got next to the corpse in order to make our observations exactly, we wereready to die from the offensive odour which proceeded from it.When they asked us what we thought ofthis dead man, we replied that we believed him thoroughly dead; but as we wished to cure, or at least notto irritate their stricken fancy, we represented to them that it was not surprising if the butcher hadperceived some heat in searching amidst entrails which were decaying; neither was it extraordinary thatsome vapour had proceeded from them; since such will issue from a dunghill that is stirred up&.Despite one indignity after another being visited upon the corpse, the nightly mischief and itsattendant pandemonium grew only worse.De Tournefort had never seen anything like it:  Every bodyseemed to have lost their senses.The most sensible people appeared as phrenzied as the others; it was averitable brain fever, as dangerous as any mania or madness. Entire families fled their houses [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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