Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Nachtzehrer


Germany is a country that has macroscopical variations of vampire traditions. Much of this can be accredited to the divergent history of the region and the many cultures that have contributed to shaping Germany’s character. Most of Germany’s vampire traditions distinctively resemble those of the Slavic people, who, around the tenth century had spread out into Eastern region of Germany along the Jeetze River. The Slavic and Germanic people have integrated since that time, so it is a very difficult task to recognize the differences between the vampire traditions of Germany and that of it’s neighboring countries.

The most well known of the German vampire was the Nachtzehrer translated as “night waster” (also referenced as nachzehrer.) The Nachtzehrer was prominent in the Northern region of Germany including Silesia and Bavaria and also with the Kashubes of Northern Europe. The Nachtzehrer is distinguishable in it’s coffin by it’s curious custom of holding the thumb of one hand in the other and keeping it’s left eye open. This species was believed to have the ability to kill family members through some type of long-range magic. The Nachtzehrer, while in the grave, would eat it’s own shroud, nibble by nibble, moving on to feed on it’s own flesh. While this is going on, the family members of the deceased would begin to waste away due to their life force being drawnout from them. It is also said that sometimes the Nachtzehrer would rise from it’s grave and feed on the bodies of other corpses. The Nachtzehrer would often be accompanied by the corpse of a woman who had died in childbirth. The Nachtzehrer was often tracked down by a sucking sound most often familiar with the same sound as a woman nursing a baby.

Some Kashubes believed that the Nachtzehrer would leave it’s grave, shapeshifting into the form of a pig, and pay a visit to their family members to feast on their blood. In addition, the Nachtzehrer was able to ascend to a church belfry to ring the bells, bringing death to anyone who hears them. Another lesser known ability of the Nachtzehrer is the power it had to bring death by causing it’s shadow to fall upon someone. Those hunting the Nachtzehrer in the graveyard would listen for grunting sounds that it would make while it munched on it’s grave clothes.

The cause of becoming a Nachtzehrer was attributed to unusual death circumstances such as suicide or accidental causes. The Nachtzehrer was associated with outbreaks of epidemic illnesses as well. When a number of people would die from the same illness, survivors would blame the first one who died as the cause of all the others’ death. Also, those that were born with a caul(the amniotic membrane that surrounds the baby in utero) were destined to be a vampire upon their death, especially if the caul was red.(caused by hemorrhages). To prevent the child from becoming a vampire and provide protection from an attack, the caul was preserved and dried and gradually was crumbled into the child’s food and fed to them. Another belief of cause is that if a person’s name was not removed from their burial clothing, that person could return from the dead as a vampire.

Other preventive measures were practiced such as the following: Placing a chunk of earth under the chin of the deceased, placing a coin or stone in their mouths, tying a handkerchief tightly about the neck, placing nets or stockings inside the grave (vampires in northern Germany were said to be compulsive untiers of knots), or being buried face down to avoid it’s potentially dangerous gaze(The Silesians). Some extremists would go as far as to decapitate the head of the deceased, drive a spike in it’s mouth to fasten the head to the ground, or fixed the tongue so it couldn’t move.

By Larae of Darkness Embraced


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fire in Northern Mythology


Fire, a concept that is very present in Northern mythology and also a concept that I have broken my head over for some time now. The symbology is multi-layered and however I still haven’t fully worked out the subject, I want to present some thoughts and come to an interpretation of some elements of Northern mythology.


There are two primal forces in Nordic myths, two forces that are known under the names, “fire” and “ice”. Before there was anything, there was Ginungagap, a “yawning gap”. In the south of it, fire ‘resided’ and in the north, ice. When these two came together, everything started. So, fire is the primal force, one side of the Divine. Some symbology!

It is not strange that fire keeps coming back in the symbology of Nordic mythology. What may be strange is that fire is much better represented than ice, but this is not the subject of this article.

Later in the creation myth, the triple divinity Odin, Hænir (sometimes Hoenir, or Hnir) and Lodur give capacities and make man. “Spirit gave Odin, “óður” gave Hoenir, “lá” gave Lodur and the form of gods”. This is how Rydberg translates Völuspa 18. More often you will read something like “Soul gave Othin, sense gave Hnir, Heat gave Lothur and goodly hue”. (Ari Odhinnsen) In the Prose Edda it is Odin, Vili and Vé who are the givers of these things.


Lodur is often said to be Loki. In the preface to the Reginsmal Odin, Hænir and Loki are named together, so this is not strange. Loki is the most famous of ‘fire Gods’ from the Northern pantheon. The name Loki has been explained in different ways of which two are most interesting in our story. “Logi” supposedly means “flame” and the terms “liuhan” (Gothic) and “lecht” (Anglo-Saxon) are linked to the English word “light”, but also to the term “flame”. The same goes for the term “Lód”.

Fiery triplicity

When you think of it, there are three Gods connected to the concept of fire and also connected to eachother: Heimdallr, Balder and Loki. Heimdallr is the “white As”, the watchman on the Bifrost bridge and is therefor the middleman between the world of men and the world of the Gods. Heimdallr is not only the connecting smoke-pillar representing the Irminsul in the fire ritual, but also unchanging fire. He is the metaphysic flame, beyond time and space. In this regard Heimdallr can be equated with Brahman of the Hindus.

The second name that I mentioned is that of Balder. Balder is Heimdallr, but on another plane. We can place Heimdallr on the godly level, Balder on the human level and Loki on the underwordly level (or Asgard, Midgard and Utgard). Balder is the incarnated fire, the fire in ‘our world’ so to say. He is the warmth of our heart, the sun, the ancestral hearth-fire. To use another Hindu term, Balder may be seen as Atman.

I have already said a few things about Loki, but you can imagine that in regard of the previous, Loki is the destructive, incinerating, consuming fire. Loki is longing and desire.

When I draw this line further, I can say that Balder and Loki are dual aspects of Heimdallr, but on other levels.


Lightning is often connected to fire and when I say lightning, I say Thor. Lightning is sparks of fire when Thor’s hammer hits something. The hammer makes an interesting connection, since with his Mjölnir, Thor kills giants (ice-giants!), but the Mjölnir is also connected with right (the judge’s hammer), consecration (for example of marriages) and initiations (a ‘higher’ form of consecration).


To bring the above together, we get the following picture. Loki, the lower self, turns against the higher self (Balder), causing Ragnarök. During this Ragnarök, Thor kills the Midgard-snake (’manifestation’), Heimdallr (our divine spark) fights Loki and all this in order to have our higher self ‘become divine’ (in other words: to develop and realise our Balder to become Heimdallr).

An interesting point that does not fit completely in the above is that Surtr, the leader of the fire-giants who raise up to fight the Aesir, also seems to be the cause of the sparks coming from Muspelheimr and thus creation. During Ragnarök Surtr destroys the Bifrost-bridge (Heimdallr’s ‘domain’), kills Freyr and sets the world to flames. Whereas Heimdallr seems to be some ‘overhuman’ fire-aspect, Surtr is more of an ‘underhuman’ aspect. Both larger than our petty selves, but completely opposital. In this regard Surtr maybe represents the outside forces that try to disconnect us from our divine origin. Whatever we may call “evil” maybe. Surtr seems to have always been there and whereas Loki, Balder and Heimdallr are ‘part of us’, Surtr is not.

Of course there are more figures that can be connected to fire, but here I present a certain aspect that may shed light on some of the symbolism in Northern mythology.

By "Gangleri".