The one time home of the Roman Empire and later the heart of Christendom, one of the main places from which opposition to the undead originated and has been led. The Christian, later Catholic, church, with it's hierarchy in the Vatican, helped to give shape in the West to many of the most important and most recognizable elements of vampire lore, from bloodsuckers' inherently evil natures to their fear of the cross, holy water, communion, and the saints. Italy has no modern indigenous vampire species, although there are many customs related to death, the dead, ghosts, or returning spirits.
For Example, Abruzzi or Abruzzo, a region in central Italy, has very interesting concepts related to the departed coming back once a year, on November 1. These beliefs are related to surviving elements of the ancient Roman religion, including the lemuria, as well as the anthesteria of the Greeks.
On November 1, candles were placed on the graves of loved ones, and all windows and homes were kept well lighted to allow the deceased to return to their families. A meal of bread and water was set out on the kitchen table, with a lamp. According to tradition, the dead marched in procession from their graves on that date, with the souls of the good leading the way. The good were followed by those who were evil, murder victims, or condemned. Abruzzi individuals who performed certain rituals could stand at a crossroads and see the spirits, although such a sight led inevitably to madness and death.
The entity most like the vampire in Italian Traditions is the witch (striga), usually an old hag who, in the pattern set by the strix, will attack children with her curses, causing them to waste away. A complicated set of rituals are followed to be rid of her, but the surest remedy is to rely upon the powers of the Church.
Published: September 4, 2004
Copyright Artist: Anarkyman
Melton, Gordon J. The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Canton,MI. Visible Ink Press, 1999.
Bunson, Matthew. The Vampire Encyclopedia . Gramercy, 2000.