The counting seeds myth
Posted 27 August 2011 - 02:10 AM
Posted 27 August 2011 - 07:45 PM
This lore is quite prominent, especially in eastern Europe. Examples include the Azéman of Suriname, the Gierach of Poland, Mjertovjec of Belarus, Nelapsi in Slovakia, Trinidad's Soucayant, the German Vampir, and Russia's Viesczy.
A similar practice involved throwing a fishing net over a vampire's grave. It was thought that the vampire would have to untie all of the knots before being able to pass the net, and sometimes it was believed that the vampire could untie only one knot per year. Or, in the case of the Gierach: "Even a simple sock placed in the grave will occupy its attention. The gierach will not leave the grave as long as the sock is intact, but it will not undo more than a single stitch a year" (Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology; Theresa Bane).
Back to the topic of origin: There are also many ways in which people used seeds, herbs, etc. to drive away evil spirits or to honor the dead. In hoodoo, burying two halves of an onion on either side of one's doorstep is thought to keep out evil spirits. Other hoodoo herbs used to keep away evil spirits include Eucalyptus, Five Finger Grass, Peppermint, Sage, and Asafoetida (AKA Devil's Dung - because it smells absolutely awful!). In the Hindu Mecaru ceremony, people placate the spirits of nature with a sacrifice that includes offerings of colored rice seeds and other food. In Japan, offerings of rice are often given to spirits for all sorts of reasons. Spirits are also known to desire bread, mostly in European countries or those in which bread was a primary source of sustenance.
For Dia de los Muertos, sweet bread is a common offering. Bread itself was considered sacred to many in European countries, as it was a staple of their diets (not to mention all of the religious associations). Bread was life. In Japan, rice represented life as well as fertility. In China, seeds were associated with life, fertility, and offspring. In all cultures, spirits crave this life. I believe this is why offerings of rice, bread, seeds, etc. are an effective method to appease a spirit.
Perhaps vampire lore concerning seeds and rice arose from this basic symbolism? The vampire craves life (blood), so perhaps it made sense that they would be fascinated with such strong symbols of life. Then again, this lore also assigned vampires some serious OCD issues as well.
Another similarity worth looking into is the idea that labyrinths are known to catch or distract evil spirits of all sorts. Celtic knots are considered wards against evil spirits, and some suggest that this is because evil becomes caught in the endless knots. This is closer to the OCD nature of the lore.
That's all I can think of at the moment. Hopefully some of this rambling is useful
Posted 27 August 2011 - 08:08 PM
Posted 27 August 2011 - 09:15 PM
Many people who are concerned about evil spirits even now are often obsessed with the idea, constantly worrying that every "bad" thing in their lives can be attributed to some sort of evil force. To give the thing you fear this very same obsession, while creating a ritual solution to one's own fear, isn't too far fetched in my opinion.
Posted 27 August 2011 - 11:05 PM
Posted 27 August 2011 - 11:32 PM
Every culture has evil spirits, faeries, and everything between and beyond that has some OCD like cases, the thing is OCD as a mental disorder wasn't recognized until relativly recently.
Counting broom stick straw, counting sugar grain, counting sand, counting stones, counting the number of bricks, counting shaved hairs, counting cotton balls, counting grains of rice, counting grains of corn, ect...
It is weird that so many different peoples around the world came up with the same thing; but the constant is this (a way to stall something that would otherwise be far more than a normal person would be able to handle, and using a method that is readily available to the peoples of that culture). Sounds to me like an easy idea to come to, to give people both something to fear and peace of mind to a way to deal with it at the same time.
The *insert horrible nocturnal monster* is immune to all weapons made by man, stronger than the strongest beast, and faster than you could ever run.
-so how can I hope to get away, must I live in fear *insert local religious/superstition leader*
Oh, no, don't worry while you should fear this horrible beast that makes you run towards our faith for guidance, there is a simple way to stall it till you reach the safety of your home or our protection (and insert the only way a people with nothing else to use to stall have, easy to come by household items or food that are numerous, small, and would be a pain to sit there and count individually).
Posted 28 August 2011 - 09:48 AM
Posted 28 August 2011 - 10:03 AM
Posted 29 August 2011 - 09:48 AM
I am guessing the legend about counting seeds and vampires most likely originated from the belief that Witches had an obsessive counting disorder. The Witch and the Vampire were one in very early mythology to the point where the name of the vampire is very similar to that of the witch in many cultures
IE in Romanian a witch is called a strigoaică but a vampire is a strigoi. Strigoaică is just the feminine for strigoi.
Posted 29 August 2011 - 10:09 AM
I guess this is why the Count is so obsessive with counting on Sesame Street. Aha!
Sorry, couldn't resist.