It’s understandable that the infamous bloodsuckers that permeate our fiction are given European origins 99 times out of 100. Though tales of blood drinking demons date back way before the 18th century, it was during that time in Europe where the “vampire craze” began. Despite the period of Enlightenment, rumors of corpses rising from their graves to drink the blood of the living spread like a wildfire. Out of paranoia, many people carried stakes and garlic to protect themselves from these monsters. They were thought to be nothing more than selfish, arrogant gluttons who cared only about themselves and had no qualms with taking innocent life. John Polidori’s 1819 novella The Vampyre gave rise to the charismatic, sophisticated vampire in the character of Lord Ruthven, but the personality traits of selfishness, callousness, and arrogance remained constant.
I have a lot of respect for the ancient vampire myths, and made sure to do thorough research on them while writing my self-published ebook series Evanescence. These vampires are weakened by the sun, garlic, and silver. Though they are capable of honor, compassion, and selflessness, they have to fight hard to maintain these traits thanks to the violent, selfish instincts that are natural to their race. However, I did take one major liberty with their origins. The earliest vampires in Evanescence originated not in Europe but from ancient Mesoamerican cultures such as the Toltecs and the Aztecs. I thought it would be a unique twist on vampire mythology, and according to my research on these cultures it would make a lot of sense.
The Aztecs’ chief god was Huitzilopochtli, also known as the Hummingbird Wizard. They believed Huitzilopochtli constantly warred with the other gods in order to keep the Aztecs safe. He needed constant nourishment in order to keep fighting and his preferred choice of food was—human blood. To keep him fed the Aztecs waged war constantly and sacrificed tens of thousands of people every year, mostly prisoners of war. The preferred method of sacrifice was cutting out the heart, which Huitzilopochtli was said to have favored as much as blood. Even earlier than the Aztecs were the Toltecs who sacrificed countless people, including children, to placate the god Tezcatlipoca. Tezcatlipoca is the primary villain in Evanescence and the father of the vampire race. According to the myths, he too has a great thirst for human blood and is the ruler of the night. When conducting religious rituals for the gods, the Aztec priests adorned their bodies with black paint, matted their hair with the sacrificial victim’s blood, and also filed their teeth to sharp points. Vampire much?
As far as attitude goes, the Aztecs and the Toltecs were said to have been extremely arrogant. The Aztecs believed that they were the gods’ chosen people and took great pleasure in oppressing ‘inferiors’ such as the Mayans. In fact, the surrounding cultures’ hatred of the Aztecs and their oppression/sense of superiority was the reason why the Spaniards were able to gain allies so quickly in their war against the Aztecs. Also, don’t forget that most of the sacrificial victims of the Aztecs were prisoners of war, whom they didn’t see as actual people due to their ‘inferiority.’ Vampire much?
In vampire fiction, the humans who are turned into vampires unwillingly, by accident, or even willingly are often genuinely good people that get stripped of any compassion they possessed before their transformation. They get it back through hard work and a deep desire to be better than the monstrous urges that drive them to violence. But what if those monstrous urges and selfishness were already present to begin with? Well, you’d have some real villains on your hands for starters. Creatures like that would subjugate the world and humans would literally become blood bags. Fortunately, that isn’t the world’s fate in Evanescence thanks to forces stronger and far more moral than the vampires. I won’t go into core detail to avoid major spoilers. But be sure to check out my books!