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  • Undead in Bulgaria June 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern , trackback

    Beachcombing has celebrated deviant burials on several previous occasions in the past. There was, for example, only last week, the children immured (allegedly) in the foundations of a bridge. And then there were the various attempts to silence the dead from the Middle Ages. There were the criminals killed (and often dug into) prehistoric mounds and who could forget the Vikings that got Vikinged?

    The latest find in this field comes from the happy country of Bulgaria (happy because Bulgaria is the only Slavic nation not to labour under the case system). There the archaeologists in Sozopol have come across two bodies with iron rods hammered through their hearts, bodies dating back to the Middle Ages. This, of course, screams VAMPIRES. And we certainly seem to be dealing with the concern at quietening some recently deceased members of the community.

    Several of the reports include claims that ‘t]he discovery illustrates a pagan practice common in some villages up until a century ago.’ In Beach’s experience when someone goes on record with a statement like that it means that the practice may have still been carried out a generation ago or perhaps today at the end of some boggy road…

    Certainly, in nearby Romania the fight against the undead has continued into recent times. What about this BBC news report from 2004 concerning a Romanian village in the south-west?

    Haunted by “strigoi” – the undead – villagers on the slopes of the Carpathian mountains exhume a corpse from the graveyard and drive a stake through its heart to banish the evil spirit. They burn the remains of the heart, mix the ashes with water from the local well and drink it, to complete the macabre ritual.

    Beach has two thoughts on this. First, it is simply extraordinary that forty years of Communism failed to get rid of this: particularly with a psycho like Ceacescu in charge. Is it possible that globalization and the market are more deadly to ‘pagan’ customs than Karl Marx and the securitate?

    Second, we need a name for, let us call them, ‘uncouth’ traditions that survive through to the modern world. The various accounts of violence against changelings are surely the equivalent from Ireland, witch ducking in England, killing bulls inSpain (discuss), albino or twin hunting in modern sub-saharan Africa…  Any other uncouth customs from around the world not yet covered on the site? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Also Beach sends huge apologies to all correspondents. While Beach is filling in for an ill colleague, Mrs Beachcombing is preparing to get the very modest family fortune the hell away from the Euro-zone. This is proving time consuming and depressing


    9 June 2012: Several of you (including Down the Rabbit Hole and Beastie) wrote in with honour killings. But Invisible has a far longer list. Get ready for this. ‘Female circumcision (some would say infant male circumcision falls into the same category), female infanticide, whether by neglect and exposure, a box of ashes, a bucket of water, or selective abortion, Indian bride murder, traditionally by burning alive, when a dowry has been unsatisfactory or unpaid. Child marriage, particularly very young girls to much older men, fraternity hazing rituals, Muti murders Normally I relish historic horrors, but these are all too present in the “modern” world. For a fictional treatment of the subject, see Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery“.  ‘Lottery in June; corn be heavy soon” Jackson got several hundred letters from readers when The New Yorker published “The Lottery”. Many were outraged and vowed to cancel their magazine subscription; Jackson’s own (admittedly difficult) mother scolded her for not writing something that would cheer people up. About this outpouring of mail, Jackson wrote: Curiously, there are three main themes which dominate the letters of that first summer—three themes which might be identified as bewilderment, speculation and plain old-fashioned abuse. In the years since then, during which the story has been anthologized, dramatized, televised, and even—in one completely mystifying transformation—made into a ballet, the tenor of letters I receive has changed. I am addressed more politely, as a rule, and the letters largely confine themselves to questions like what does this story mean? The general tone of the early letters, however, was a kind of wide-eyed, shocked innocence. People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch. Jackson quotes many of the letters she received in Come Along with Me. Fascinating reading. Thanks Invisible et alii!