Vampires, werewolves, and the moon

Like with bats, the vampire myth often seems to tie into lore surrounding another supernatural creature: the werewolf. The two creatures are often portrayed as enemies, if not rivals, which makes little sense in the historical context of both.

The tie between vampire and werewolf goes back farther than the modern vampire myth–before the name vampire even came into use. But though the two share many pieces of lore, one connection that’s often overlooked in the modern vampire myth is the ties that bind them to the moon.

The 2013 Supermoon, taken from my yard
A photo of the 2013 Supermoon, taken from my backyard

Though often forgotten, the moon has been related to vampires for as long as the stories have existed, and in a wide variety of cultures. In ancient China, it was believed that if a dead body was struck by lightning or exposed to moonlight, it could rise again as a jiangshi: a vampiric creature who slept in its coffin during the day.

Unsurprisingly, a connection between vampires and the moon–as well as between vampires and werewolves–can be traced to the folklore of the Balkan peninsula. Here, the modern vampire’s predecessor was the vrykolakas. Though the vrykolakas is still known as a vampire in Greece, its name is derived from a Slavic compound word that can be translated to werewolf.

Confusingly, the vrykolakas and werewolf are not the same creature, but in Greece, it is thought that a werewolf can become a vrykolakas after death–and a powerful one, at that.

It is also common belief that some vrykolakas are also strigoi, yet another type of vampiric monster in Slavic myth, but not all strigoi are vrykolakas. All vrykolakas are undead, and strigoi mort are undead, but most strigoi maintain a closer relationship to the idea of werewolves in that they’re often shape-shifters, becoming monsters at night.

The tie between werewolves and the moon is known to everyone, but long forgotten is the benefit of the moon for the vampire. Though folklore tells us the moon lends power to the undead in general, it’s a piece of information not often used.

One of few points where the power of the moon has crossed into modern vampire myth is in John Polidori’s The Vampyre, published in 1819–nearly eighty years before Dracula. In The Vampyre, after his apparent death, the vampiric Lord Ruthven was revived by exposure to the healing power of moonlight. Though some have followed Polidori’s cue and emphasised the additional strength of vampires beneath the full moon, it’s a piece of folklore so diminished by the ages that in another hundred years, it will likely be forgotten.

Blessed as the undead may be by the moon, it seems the werewolves get to keep that one.

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