And it’s another Monday here at Insidepulse.com. This week I’m not doing reader requests if only because I’m celebrating getting back books, texts, and tomes I’ve been missing for 21 months. There’ve been a lot of essays and topics I’ve wanted to cover, but was lacking the needed resources to do it. But now that the last of my belongings are FINALLY back from the United Kingdom, I can do so. I figured now that I’m reunited with a ton of my books, why not make this issue of Nyogtha devoted to what seems to be my most requested topic to cover: ye olde vampire. Somethings never change I suppose.
And how would you like your stake sir?
Ah, the old wooden stake to the heart. Although the wooden stake to the heart is probably the best known way to send a vampire back to just being a plain old non walking corpse, it really didn’t become a strong part of the written Western vampiric mythos until Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella, “Carmilla.” Before then, in reports of “real” vampires from Eastern European historical records, there was occasionally mentioning of a stake, but more often than not, the peasants just lopped off the head and set fire to the body.
When Stoker had the wooden stake to the heart added to his tale, “Dracula”, the written Western Vampire was forever bonded with a trait used to slay its Eastern European cousin.
The idea of a stake to the heart ended a vampire’s existence goes back many centuries, to before the time when using coffins was a widespread practice. It was used by Eastern Europeans on any sort of corpse they assumed was a revenant, vampire or not. The corpses of people suspected to be able to return ton the realm of the living after death received a stake through their flesh as a way of pinning them to the earth and making it harder for them to come back. But back then, it was not a stake through a heart, but through the stomach instead. This makes a lot of sense due to the amount of strength it would take to pierce the rib cage with the piece of wood. Another way the corpse would be impaled was driving the stake through the back after putting the corpse face down in the grave. Finally, a stake might just be driven into the earth of the grave as a way to block the vampire or undead creature from rising. I call this last one, the “lazy method.”
The material the stake was made out of depending on the area and region we speak off. In regions where belief in fairies was prevalent, the trait of cold iron carried over to the undead and that was used. Most often however the stake would have to be made from either ash, aspen, juniper or hawthorne plants. Each of these plants has a specific reason for why it was thought to dispel the undead spirits from its body.
Juniper, a member of the Cyprus family, possesses berry like fruit and needle-shaped leaves. It’s oils are used for both medicine and perfume. Ancient Muslims believed having Juniper in their house protected them from undead spirits and thus juniper wood would be fashioned into some sort of charm or ornament for protection.
Ash was believed to be the type of tree that was a direct descendant from the Norse World Tree, Ygdrasil, which is the tree on which the world was founded. Ash trees got their name from the Norse words Asha, in the belief that this is what Odin, the all-father used to make humanity. Knowing this it makes sense the Ash is the most common plant used to fight the undead in European myths, as it becomes a metaphoric representation of humanity itself. This should not be confused with Mountain Ash, which is a member of the rose family, which is also known as the rowan, and was used by the people of the British Isles as protection against witchcraft, which Stoker also designated Dracula bore a weakness to.
Aspen was useful against the undead, because the cross on which Christ died upon (if that’s your religious belief) was made of Aspen. Simple and to the point, eh?
Hawthorn, like the Mountain Ash, is a member of the rose family, and was used mainly by those of Southern Europe. Hawthorn is also known as Whitethorn, and in ancient times, it too was used as protection against witchcraft and sorcery. It would often be found place in the cradle of infants, hoping to stop what we now know as SIDS. Hawthorn might also be found over doorways or placed around the outside of a home. The Greeks in particular would use hawthorn in the casements of their homes to make it so witches could not enter. In Bohemia, the same thing was done to barns and where the livestock lived, as the undead there were more likely to feast on the animals of ranchers and farmers.
Hawthorne also comes into play in a Christian style format, as the crown of thorns that Christ wore to the crucifixion was made of hawthorn. Because of these sacred aspect of this plant and its previous use in barring other supernatural creatures from entering, it easily transferred over to the vampiric mythos as well.
There are some specific vampiric tales relating to the hawthorn plant. In Bosnia, when women would visit the home of a friend or relative who had just died, the would place a small piece of hawthorn in their headcloth before the visit and then throw the piece of the plant away on their walk home. If the corpse rose as a vampire, it would become distracted by the hawthorn instead of following the woman home. In Emily Gerard’s, “The Land Beyond the Forest,” she mentions that in Transylvania, the citizens there would lay a branch of the blooming hawthorn across a corpse and this would prevent it from rising as a vampire. Bram Stoker picked up this bit of information and used it in, “Dracula,” having Van Helsing mention this as one of the weaknesses of Dracula, although it was never used.
Once coffins became a widespread fixture amongst burying the dead, humanity changed the purpose of using a stake against the undead. Whereas previously it was used to anchor the corpse to the ground and preventing it from leaving, the stake became a means of assaulting the corpse in a display of gore and violence. It is here where a stake through the heart, by means of a mallet or hammer, would burst the heart, the organ which pumps blood, became a means in which to kill the vampire, rather than restrain it. Staking the heart of the vampire replaced the older and now forgotten method of driving nails through the head of the vampire.
It is interesting to note that in Russian, you had to be able to stake the vampire in ONE HIT. If you did not, any subsequent hit would revive the vampire and well, you’d be screwed now wouldn’t you?
Once again however, the stake has regressed from a means of outright killing a vampire back to its original roots as a way of merely detaining the undead, putting it into a state of topor, unable to attack mankind. Removal of the stake from a vampire in many modern tales reanimates the vampire, allowing it to again feast upon fresh blood. Regardless of this going back to the roots of the legend, the stake is still one of the most prominent means in the average person’s mind of how to dispatch a vampire.
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stoker character Jonathan Harker tends to pay a lot of detail to the food he encounters and eats in Eastern Europe. Food is brought up both often, with him usually mentioning that he must get a certain dish’s recipe for Mina. It is also of note that Harker mentions he gets excellent food at Castle Dracula, only to later learn that Dracula has no servants (save for his three undead brides). This of course means that Dracula has been cooking for Harker, and that the lord of Wallachia in an excellent chef. I’m sure someone will of course make a joke that anyone with the letters L, U, C, A, R, and D in their name has to be a good cook, no?
What I wanted to share today is Paprika Hendl, the meal Harker appears to have enjoyed most in this classic novel. Normally I share recipes that have more of a Western Europe, Japanese, or New England taste to them, so I think hardcore readers of the cooking section will be surprised in both the style of Eastern European cooking, along with the ingredients. The meals of Easter Europe and Western Asia are far simpler, both in terms of ingredients and preparations needed for a finished meal.
1 young whole fresh chicken (about 4 lbs) You can also get 4 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts instead if you choose.
2 tablespoons fat
2 large onions, chopped
2 tablespoons sweet Paprika (in truth, if you go to the average grocery store, they won’t make a distinction. So get what you can)
one-half cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons flour
one half cup sour cream
1. Cut chicken into serving size pieces and salt. Lightly brown the onions by cooking them in the fat. Blend in half the paprika to the mixture, Add the tomato juice and the chicken. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour until tender.
2. Remove chicken. Add remaining parika to sauce, then add the flour beaten into the sour cream. Simmer, stirring for 5 minutes or until well blended.
3. Put sauce through sieve, food mill, or blender. Then heat chicken and ourees sauce together over low flame. Arrange chicken on warm platter. Pour half the sauce over; put the rest separately in a sauce boat.
Cooking: Bonus Recipe
Since yesterday was the Super Bowl, I thought I might as well give you a second recipe, this one relating more to the gastronomic habits of the average pigskin fan. Since we did one chicken recipe, I decided to include a second, this one being chicken wings. Hey, we all love them, from the white trash trailer park resident, to the cultural elite: unless you’re a vegetarian, you love the chicken wings. And seeing that this year’s game came to you live from the Big Easy, it makes sense to mix this favorite snack food with one of the Creole’s finest. I’m talking Emeril Legasse himself. So here you go sports fans.
Emeril Legasse’s Kicked Up Chicken Wings and Homemade Blue Cheese Dip
2 1/2 pounds chicken wings, tips removed and cut in half at joint, rinsed and wiped dry
1/2 cup red hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows:
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Yield: about 2/3 cup
Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce, recipe follows:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces blue cheese
1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour into a decorative bowl
2. In a large shallow, non-reactive bowl combine the chicken, hot sauce, pepper, and salt, and toss well to combine. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and let marinate, for at least 1 hour, and up to 3 hours.
3. In a heavy pot, heat the oil to 360 degrees F.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and 2 tablespoons Essence. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to the flour 1 at a time, tossing to coat evenly.
Add the chicken in 2 batches to the hot oil and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the chicken wings from the fryer with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
5. Sprinkle with the remaining Essence and serve immediately with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce.
Recipe from “New New Orleans Cooking”, by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993. .
Holy Crap! Adam Whisnant actually wrote something for the Games Section. Go read his reviews of Virtua Quest and Fullmetal Alchemist. Meanwhile Sarah Graves previews what has to be the ugliest game I’ve seen in a long time, Advent Rising
I’m amazed how much Eric S can write about wrestling without wanting to kill himself.
Gordi jizzes all over Tenryu. Man, I remember watching open mouthed when he and his partner beat Demolition like they were nothing at WM 7. Ah to be young and a mark again.
Tim Stevens makes WE3 sound amazing. But alas, I will never read it as he indicates the bunny rabbit dies at the end. And I can’t read/watch anything involving bunnies dying. Seriously. Watership Down? Fuck no. I’d rather have the clap. And I’m dead serious. The cover of this comic itself makes me sad since 3 months ago I became the owner of an abandoned, starving, and abused rabbit that used to be someone’s pet I found hopping around on my lawn desperately trying to find food but lacking the instincts a wild bunny would have in regards to foraging. I’m just glad Mr. Chewy Biteums didn’t meet the same end that poor little Pirate got in this comic. Bunnies > dogs and cats as pets. Trust me on this.
Mike Maillaro’s praise of New Avengers should be ignored, and he should be castrated for his enjoyment of Bendis’ horrible writing and characterization. ESPECIALLY of Captain America.
Barbie Elektra. You make the joke for me people.
I don’t watch TV
Rather a short column this week. I’m going to blame it on a combination of a migraine, doing some nifty behind the scenes stuff that’s will only reinforce why this is the most acclaimed column on Inside Pulse, and that it was Super Bowl weekend. I’ll see you next week.