The Vampire Pumpkins of the Romani
Hello Grimericans! I know the title of this post probably caught your attention. My original title was going to be, “The Vampire Watermelons of Gypsy Lore!” but it being October and all, I thought pumpkins was a better choice and ‘Romani’ is more P.C. than gypsy. In fact, I hope that me using the word hasn’t offended any of my readers. But back to the subject at hand: Vampire pumpkins and yes, watermelons. I’m not just making this up for a catchy title. I’m not positive if these beliefs still hold sway in the Roma culture today, but they certainly did at one point. Now the Romani culture is steeped in supernatural lore and superstitions that both give and take from the many surrounding cultures that they cohabitate with. But the lore I am going to cover in this post is focused out of the Balkans including vampire legend from Romania, Hungary and Slavic lands. This area has a large array of supernatural beliefs and superstitions. Many of those which include death, dying and the dead, and yes… the undead.
Researching this topic, one thing became very clear to me. Just about ANYTHING can either be a sign of or the cause of someone becoming a blood sucker. People who were particularly horrid looking could be a vampire. Those who were missing fingers or had appendages similar to those of an animal such as a tail were considered vampires. As with most cultures, there was a set of rituals that were to be performed after the death of a person and the neglect of these rituals could cause someone to become a vampire. Such as not burning the deceased possessions and keeping them or giving them away instead could cause the dead to rise. People who had a violent death, committed suicide or death resulting from an accident could cause the fangy transformation. Those who went astray from or were excommunicated from the church could be a vampire. Children conceived on certain days or out of wedlock could become a vamp in the afterlife. Children born with teeth were believed to become vampires after death. Female vampires were believed to be able to return to their normal lives and basically exhaust their husband to death, much like the succubus of lore. Those who passed before being baptized were also condemned. Now with so many ways of becoming the undead, it’s not a huge surprise that other living creatures such as horses, sheep, snakes and even man’s best friend could join the ranks of the damned. There are even ways of inanimate objects can gain a lust for blood. Things like leaving a latch unlatched for too long can result in the latch developing a thirst for the red life force. If, for instance, your name is Darren Grimes and live in Alberta, Canada, and you give me a synchro score less than a seven, you will most definitely become a vampire. Certain agricultural tools such as the wooden rods used for binding sheaves of wheat. “… if such a rod, used for tying up a sheath by making a knotted loop on its narrower end and thrusting the other end through it, remains undone for three years, becomes a vampire.” So it’s not really a stretch to think that a belief that things like plants can gain this unholy thirst.
No, no… The OTHER unholy thirst…
When I first came across this lore, it seems to only be referenced by one source in scholarship. One source that is quoted over and over. And whilst I would love to not repeat it here, it being the only source, I would be remiss if I didn’t include it here. It is from the Journal of Gypsy Lore Society and is written by Tatomir Vukanović, who was, from what I could ascertain from the ONLY source that I could find on the interwebs, the always reliable Wikipedia (I did find a few others but they all seemed to be copied and pasted from Wikipedia), a Serbian born “prominent historian and ethnologist of the Balkans region of south-eastern Europe” who focused primarily on “the history, folklore and culture of the Serb and Roma (Gypsy) inhabitants of Yugoslavia in general and the southern province of Kosovo in particular.” In all references about the entry into the Journal of Gypsy Lore Society, which was a four part piece and can be found here, they were said to be written several years after his journeys through Serbia, which I would find odd since he was born there. But before I go off on a tangent, here is what is written:
The belief in vampires of plant origin occurs among Gs. [Gypsies] who belong to the Mosl. faith in KM [Kosovo-Metohija]. According to them there are only two plants which are regarded as likely to turn into vampires: pumpkins of every kind and water-melons. And the change takes place when they are ‘fighting one another.’ In Podrima and Prizrenski Podgor they consider this transformation occurs if these ground fruit have been kept for more than ten days: then the gathered pumpkins stir all by themselves and make a sound like ‘brrrl, brrrl, brrrl!’ and begin to shake themselves. It is also believed that sometimes a trace of blood can be seen on the pumpkin, and the Gs. then say it has become a vampire. These pumpkins and melons go round the houses, stables, and rooms at night, all by themselves, and do harm to people. But it is thought that they cannot do great damage to folk, so people are not very afraid of this kind of vampire. Among the Mosl. Gs. in the village of Pirani (also in Podrima) it is believed that if pumpkins are kept after Christmas they turn into vampires, while the Lešani Gs. think that this phenomenon occurs if a pumpkin used as a syphon, when ripe and dry, stays unopened for three years. Vampires of ground fruit origin are believed to have the same shape and appearance as the original plant.
Another cause for the change, I found, is if a melon is kept after Christmas for x number of days. And while these vampires aren’t as ferocious as some, it’s still supernatural none the less. It’s important to understand that a “vampire” wasn’t considered what we see in movies and books today. A vampire was an evil spirit that would take up residence in a body or object and therefore wasn’t the subject in question before being commandeered. In this context, it is kind of easy to see how these unholy invaders would try to take up space anywhere that was available, and that includes plants. And considering the rampant view of these transient evil spirts, it probably wouldn’t have taken much for this belief to arise. The aforementioned “trace of blood” from Vukanović’s excerpt, is naturally discoloration that happens, as it would seem, when the fruit of vegetables would become too ripe. But try as I might, I couldn’t find what causes them specifically.
Apparently the only picture on the internet of this occurrence.
So have you read enough to convince you to keep a more wary eye on your fruits and vegetables? Myself, personally, I would throw a pumpkin and a watermelon in the ring together and start an underground edible Fight Club. Or sell the little boogers as pets. I think there’s real potential in the idea and a sound business opportunity; but I digest. What are your thoughts about vampire food? Hell, what are your thoughts on inanimate object vampires? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. That’s it for me Grimerica. Stay classy.