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The Burney Relief, believed to be the demon Lilitu

The mythological history of vampires, the blood-sucking night fiends of legend, and how they have evolved.

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  • Nov 18, 2009

When my friend Count Orlok posted a write up on vampire lore and included a chapter on the Filipino myth of vampire lore, I knew I’ll have to expand a little bit on the myths of the ASWANG. I was also inspired since last month when the show in SYFY hosted by Josh Gates called “Destination Truth” (October, 2008 episode) went to the Philippines to hunt down/disprove the dreaded vampiric creature in Aklan, one of the islands of the Philippines. The hosts of the show were severely creeped out, most especially the woman but concluded that the “Aswang” was nothing more than superstition. Sorry, Mr. Gates, one thing I’ve learned about hunting is to find the prey of your quarry; no pregnant woman, no bait…no “Aswang“. The casts of “Destination Truth” should have camped out near the house of a pregnant woman (the 5th-6th months are the most attractive to the ‘aswang”), but I think they really didn’t want to find the creature. I however, wanted to yell at my TV set that the hosts of the show may have stumbled on the Aswang’s familiar without even knowing it. (I will discuss this later)
Minor Superstition, Myth Or Real?
There are different types of “Aswangs” and most of them are said to frequent the areas of Capiz, Iloilo and Antique, even the Palawan Islands. Any myth is based on truth, and the tales of the Aswang vary from region to region. Grave robberies, missing corpses, disappearing children, feed the tales that channel the belief in the Aswang. They are said to move around and the stories are much like the UFO tales in the U.S.. The types of the “Aswang” vary but they are mostly female. They are both a witch and a vampire. The main “Aswang” is said to extend its long tongue from the roof of a pregnant woman’s house to drain the blood of the infant living inside. There is also an aswang called the “Bal-Bal” who is believed to be a creature that consumes the dead and then leaves behind banana trunks in the grave for the exchange. The Manananggal is a female creature that can split its body in half; the upper part can sprout bat-like wings (resembles a banshee) while leaving the bottom torso hidden from sight. I know the Manananggal is believed to be vulnerable to sunlight, but there are different tales that say that the tongue-lashing kind isn’t. 

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The people in Capiz lace their homes with garlic bulbs, holy water, and many other objects to repel the Mananggal creature. Pregnancy brings a feeling of dread for the people of Capiz since the long-tongued Aswang feeds on the unborn infant. Some say that Pregnant women grow their hair long to fool the creature into believing that the pregnant woman is the Blessed Mother of Jesus and that they have to wear red as to remain undetected. There are many other myths surrounding the Aswang such as they are believed to be virgins, so when a woman acts a little eccentric, they may be an aswang. It was also told that if your reflection on a person’s eyes is the slightest bit crooked, this person may dabble in the black arts.
The aswang is also believed to have a familiar; a deceased aswang who shape-shifts into a bird most of the time but is able to become a dog, a cat, or any animal that go by with little notice. This familiar is called a “tiktik” and is another type of aswang that helps the “aswang” along in finding its prey. The sigbin is yet another type of creature that resembles the furry look of the chupacabra. They both serve as the aswang’s familiar.
The “Aswangs” are said to be ‘cursed’ creatures and carries on the curse of Lilith. Some say their condition is a sickness and is a mutation of dystonia parkinsonism. There are characteristics that make this condition very similar to the signs of an “aswang”. These days, the people of Capiz try to make fun of their town; to try and attract tourists made a festival called “Aswang Festival” that debuted in October 2004; as a sort of a "halloween-like" celebration. This festival has gotten mixed reactions from people in the region, most notably the arch-diocese, as it seems to be a celebration of evil. 

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Oil that is blessed with prayers and extracted from coconut is said to boil when an aswang is near.
They say that you can determine if another human being is an aswang if you see your own reflection in their eyes as upside down or by seeing them in their true form when you bend over viewing them in a head-between-legs position. I think this is a variation of the myths in Thailand about detecting ghosts.

Silver objects are also said to cause an allergic reaction to aswangs much like the vampires and werewolves in Western lore. The “buntot pagi” or the severed venomous tail of a stingray can also be used to fight off any aswang creature. The tongued “Aswang” are also repelled by photos of real elderly women, for fear that they may look like so if they ever age. Walking around in an aswang-riddled area, a pouch full of ginger can repel them while the coins will prevent them from lifting you from the ground. Sleeping with a naked blade or an open razor may also help repel an aswang attack.
Most manananggals are witches and believed to be very beautiful women who go into a secluded area to split their body into two while leaving the bottom part of their torso behind. As with the traditions of witchcraft, the answang’s skin can burn in contact with salt because of the salt’s purifying powers. When one encounters the left bottom part, one needs to sprinkle the bottom part of the manananggal’s body to keep it from rejoining the bottom part. (sand is also said to be effective if salt wasn’t available) Preventing her from making her body whole before sunrise will cause the aswang to burn and die. There is also a very funny myth that aswangs are repelled by semen, that its scent and other phallic objects can make them terrified. Some say that if you have sex with the aswang, that she will wither and die. I am not sure as to what the origins of this myth are, but aswangs are believed to be virgins and being virgins grant them their powers of witchcraft. 
In popular culture, the aswang has been portrayed in films such as “ASWANG” and “Surviving Evil” (with Billy Zane) and in the RPG video game “World of Darkness”.
I hail originally from the Philippines and my family were one of the three families who first built a moderately sized Spanish-era house in our area in Quezon City. My great grandmother was said to have seen one when she was a teenager and the event was chronicled in my mother’s family journal. Back in the late 1980’s in Antipolo City, dogs and cats started disappearing and strange sights and sounds were detected during the Holy week. The citizens of Antipolo mobilized with long spears to find the culprit. The newspaper covered the event and even came up with a shadowy Polaroid photo of the manananggal. My brother from New York, traveled to Palawan Island on business and he said that he met a real “aswang-hunter”. This hunter is said to cover his body in oil so that the creature cannot get hold of his slippery skin. I do know someone who said that she saw the tongue of the aswang hanging by their window. Personally, I haven’t seen one so I cannot say for sure if the creature is real. I do know one thing, my great grandmother and my friend doesn’t lie about things like this. They may have really seen something; whether or not it is the aswang, we will never know.
Now during this time in the Philippines, the myth of the aswang have loss its effect in the urban areas but maintains its superstitious hold in the isolated areas. People still practice the rites that repel the aswang in those areas. So how do aswang who feed on infant embryos remain undetected? Well, there is a lot of illegal abortions in the Philippines, could they have just adapted with the times and takes advantage of human greed? One myth can precede another; the ASWANG is embedded into its culture. It is what keeps one culture different from the other. The “Aswang” myth is poised to keep its place in superstious beliefs for many generations to come.

               Manananggal (artist unknown)

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manananggal The VAMPIRE MYTH of the ASWANG

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December 28, 2009
there's an aswang familiar called the "Sigbin" it sucks the blood of the victims from their shadows... some accounts said that the Sigbin is the ASWANG's pet. and who ever owns one will definitely be lucky... the other one is the mandurugo... just like any vampires it sucks out it's victims blood using it's fangs, and it is very beautiful or handsome... the danag (ring a bell? twilight) this guys are actually one of the oldest vampire in Asia. this vamps are said to be responsible for planting taro in the island. (some accounts said that danag and mandurugo are the same) the other one is the most hideous of all... anybody can be deceive by the looks of this little demon... the tiyanak... it takes the form of a baby. legends said that this familiar is the spirit of an aborted baby...
December 28, 2009
wow! Thanks for the info, Varcolac! I will add those little things!
February 03, 2010
Here's some more info on it... Sigbin.
November 18, 2009
Okay, so this is my third time trying to leave a comment here. We'll see if it's a charm or not. Anyhow, awesome review and I've already posted a link to it my "Vampire Mythology" review.
November 18, 2009
yep it did. haha
November 18, 2009
You didn't see what that comment originally said did you?
November 18, 2009
November 18, 2009
LMAO! Phew, that's good. I'll e-mail you about it.
November 18, 2009
you mean the motherfucker bit...yeh I saw that LOL
November 18, 2009
Aw, crap! Okay, my cover is blown... I do swear like a drunken sailor when I can't get the computer to work the way I want.
November 19, 2009
I think Buffy may look good in doing that...LOL
November 20, 2009
You posted this on the wrong thread. The one you want is below. LMAO!
November 20, 2009
dammit. $%^&(#@***!!!! LOL
November 20, 2009
Well, I was wondering why Buffy would look good swearing like a drunken sailor. LOL!
November 18, 2009
Wow! You & Orlok have really nailed this myth completely. Very methodical literature here, my bro. I had heard of the Aswang in passing conversations through the years but this is perhaps the most insightful overview I've come across to date. Great choice of pics as well. Did you read my column The Vampire Evolved?
November 18, 2009
I wanted to add several reports of recent sightings but I couldn't find the actual newspaper clippings so I figured I may sound like a superstitious idiot w/out actual facts. I think I have read your article on the Vampire Evolved. I'll double-check.
November 18, 2009
Oh, sweet! That would be totally awesome even though it's hard to perfect what you've already done here man. If you do run across those reports, I would definitely want to read up on that too. Awesome job man!!!
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The Burney Relief, believed to be either Lilith or Ishtar based on the iconography.
Legends of vampires and vampiric beings can be found in just about every culture around the world, from the Hebrew legend of the succubus Lilith and her demonic offspring to Bram Stoker's iconic Count Dracula, this is the place where you can review the various vampire myths and legends and discuss their impact on popular culture.
Vlad Dracula dines among his impaled victims

Below is an extensive, although not exhaustive list of links to useful resources for those interested in this subject matter....

Documentaries of interest:
In Search of History: The Real Dracula
Bloodlines: Dracula's Family Tree
Vampire Secrets
The Supernatural: Vampires

Additional DVDs with special features of interest:
Dracula (2-disc 75th Anniversary Edition DVD) for the documentary Road to Dracula
Blade (Platinum Series Edition DVD) for the documentary The Blood Tide

Books of interest:
Lilith: The First Eve by Siegmund Hurwitz

Lilith: The Edge of Forever by Filomena Maria Pereira

The Lilith Monographs: Volume 1: Immaculata by Joshua Seraphim

The Book of Lilith by Barbara Black Koltuv

The New Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker; edited and compiled by Leslie S. Klinger

In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu

Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu

Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen by David J. Skal

Vampires: Encounters with the Undead by David J. Skal


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