When Europe was ruled by the fear of vampires…
“The sickle was not laid flat, but was placed on her neck in such a way that if the deceased tried to stand up… it would cut or cut off her head,” Poliński told the Daily Mail.
Fear of vampires became rampant among the citizens of Eastern Europe in the 11th century and, according to Smithsonian magazine, led to various anti-vampire rituals associated with the burial of the dead to prevent “some people who have died from crawling out of their graves as blood-sucking monsters, terrorizing the living”.
In the 17th century, such burial practices became common throughout Poland in response to the reported “rapidly spreading vampiric plague,” as reported by the Science Alert website back in 2018. At that time, hysteria about the undead gripped the whole of Europe, including the Czech lands, despite the fact that the church of that time already rejected vampirism as a manifestation of obscurantism.
Don’t let him come back
It was also significant that, with few exceptions, women in particular were blamed for vampirism, who were considered to be more easily controlled by the demon. Evidence of this is also found in the Czech lands, where archaeologists in 2000 found in Český Krumlov in an old cemetery from the 17th century a female skeleton with a skull placed between the knee joints, with three cervical vertebrae missing, with crossed arms, which were apparently once tied (probably a rosary), and with a stone in his jaws. Other large flat stones weighed down her limbs.
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All this indicated an attempt to prevent the dead from returning in the form of a vampire. “Other methods of keeping the dead from returning include cutting off the head or feet, placing the deceased face down to bite the ground, burning or smashing the remains with a stone,” Poliński told the New York Post.
Other anti-vampire burial practices included the well-known wooden stake or perhaps a metal rod hammered into the chest of the deceased. In addition to the sickle around the neck, the remains found in Poland were “secured against return” with a padlock on the leg.
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“A padlock was hung on the big toe and the big toe modified in this way was attached to the left foot of the skeleton,” Poliński told the Daily Mail. According to him, the measure was supposed to symbolize “closing a life stage with no possibility of return”.