Sunday, October 25, 2015

Full Moons and Vampires

Most of us are familiar with the effect that full moons have on werewolves, but what about the effect on vampires? Unlike their furry friends, vampires don't turn into a deadly creature only at the full of the moon. A vampire is active any night. Why, then, do we associate the full moon with vampires?

One association has to do with the way a vampire is made. It was believed that even without another vampire's involvement, a human could be turned into a vampire through a witch's curse or through improper burial. If a cat jumped over the corpse or the full moon shone upon it through a window before it was buried, the person would return from the grave as a vampire.

The full moon could also restore a wounded vampire to undead health. The vampire's body would be spread out where it could be bathed in the light of the full moon and left to revive. In Polidori’s “The Vampyre,” Lord Ruthven is shot by bandits and asks that his body be laid out where the first rays of moonlight will strike it. The body disappears. Lord Ruthven has been restored.

Inanna Arthen, author of the New England Vampire series (Mortal Touch, The Longer the Fall, All the Shadows of the Rainbow) and owner of the small press By Light Unseen Media, reminds us of another example in vampire literature. "In the penny-dreadful Varney the Vampyre, Lord Varney is unkillable because moonlight will revive him every time he’s killed. He finally flings himself into an erupting volcano to end it all."

There's even an example of a vampire needing moonlight to survive, in “When It was Moonlight,” by Manly Wade Wellman. Arthen tells me that in this 1940 short story, "Edgar Allen Poe meets a vampire who is animated entirely by the moonlight; he defeats her by locking her into a dark windowless cellar where she’s cut off from the light."

Two examples where, in literature -- not folklore, but literature -- vampires appear in full moonlight are Dracula and the legend of the Vampire of Croglin Grange. Again, Arthen, a veritable font of vampire knowledge, tells me, "In Dracula, Jonathan Harker first sees the three vampire women standing in moonlight, and they appear able to almost dissolve into the moonlight and travel along with it. In the allegedly true 'Vampire of Croglin Grange' story reported by August Derleth, the vampire first appears on a brilliant moonlit night."

Probably the strongest reason that we associate the full moon with vampires, though, has nothing to do with these legends. It has everything to do with visual arts. F.W. Murnau, who gave us Nosferatu, the first film adaptation of Dracula, also gave us the idea that vampires are destroyed by sunlight. Vampires in European folklore had no such vulnerability.

But after Nosferatu, the idea of vampires being destroyed by sunlight caught on and became canon. This presented a problem. If your movie scenes can't be set in daylight (because your vampires can't survive in daylight), you need some light to film in, and that light must therefore be moonlight.

In my two vampire novels, Darksome Thirst and The Old Power Returns, the full moon makes an appearance for a different reason. It's the late 1970s and a new coven of trainees has formed. They're taught that psychic power is stronger at the full moon and use that time to practice divination and other magical techniques. Soon they begin to sense something, an evil something.

Using each full moon to strengthen their powers to battle against the evil presence, the coven eventually finds the source.

Yes, the source of the evil is a vampire. Or two.

Special thanks go to Inanna Arthen for her generous sharing of knowledge for this post. If you love vampires, please visit her site at

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