Bosnian mythology: LAMPIR OR VAMPIRE

Kategorija: Magazine

Lampir according to Bosnian belief is a dead man, who was possessed by an evil spirit (Jinn) 7 or 40 days after his death, who in turn resurrected him in order to exit his burial place and terrorise the members of his family and various places and drink blood. He is described as a man without bones, inflated like a paunch, full of blood, ragged and hairy, with big eyes and nails; dressed in the clothes he was buried in or wearing a white cloth over his naked body. Bosnian name for vampire is lampir (lepir or lampijer) . Term coming from the folks name of the butterfly – lepir. The according Bosnian beliefs death men from grave, who is become vampire, went to out in shape butterfly and fly.

In Bosnian Posavina ethnological data reveal that people believed that the lampir had eyes of a goat or a goat which he used to hide once he came into contact with humans since they gave him away. Besides the form of a human he can also have various animal forms such as a cat, dog, pig, ox, horse, mouse, bat, etc. He exits the grave though a small hole since he has the ability to elongate himself, but once he gets out he becomes large and grotesque and he makes sounds by shouting in various voices. He appears always after midnight and walks around the graves and its immediate vicinity.

When a lampir goes around a house he is followed by the noise of ten sieves, sieving the ground. He often brings some dirt from his grave and offers to some inhabitants to smell it and then sneeze. If someone says “healthy” to that person than he won’t turn into a vampire; if not then he will turn into one. There are a lot of documented stories about the lampir’s nightly visits, this is one of them: around Prijedor there is a Muslim graveyard. Next to it there is a Christian house. When a religious student stopped by, the housewife told him the following: “For a couple of nights we have been disturbed by a vampire. In the late night hour he throws stones at the house so forcefully that the boards on the roof started to break. Two nights ago I went out to see who is throwing rocks at our house – but as soon as I stepped out there was an eerie silence and I didn’t see anyone. And as soon as I went back into the house it started again. This continued until dawn. Then I visited the graveyard, looked at all the graves, and I spotted a hole in one of the graves. I placed a large stone onto it but it was in vain, because the vampire threw stones again last night.”

The standard assumption that garlic and hawthorn are a sure defence mechanism against a vampire are not true in Bosnia which can be ascertained through the following story: “A woman by the name of Aćima died in a village called Stupari, and the people started to talk that Aćima started to return to her house after midnight. The inhabitants and her husband testified to this claim, then the villagers gathered around and dug up her grave and saw her peaking at them through one eye, then they put a hawthorn stake through her. The next night a member of Aćima’s household got sick, that member claimed that Aćima came back again walked around the house not saying anything, and that she took three pieces of garlic with her before she left. The family and their neighbours dug up her grave again and they found her lying on her side and the three pieces of garlic were placed around her. They made a big fie around her and once they burned her they closed the grave again. Since then the lampir Aćima was never heard from again.

One of the more interesting beliefs of how one becomes a vampire was recorded in Vlasenica – that is if someone walks over a yarn. This happened to an ethnologist: “Two girls who were weaving a yarn asked me to go over a yarn once I stepped over it. I didn’t want to but they were persistent because if I didn’t a great evil would befall me. When I asked what could happen they answered that I should step over it again and that they would tell me. Once I did what they asked, they said that if I didn’t step over it again that I would become a vampire once I died and if they were alive when that happened he would seek them out and kill them.”


According to the claims of the author of the insert of the show “Galileo Mystery”, in 1731 in a place Međeđa near Višegrad the earliest place of vampirism was recorded. It all began with a sudden death of 14 people. Since the deaths were not preceded by an illness the locals ascribed the deaths to vampirism. Allegedly in order to be certain of their claims, they dug up the graves a few days later and in them they found the bodies untouched! The insert didn’t offer any concrete details which would substantiate this story from Međeđa, but the written documents about vampires from the time of Austro-Hungarian rule were shown which can now be found in the city archives of Vienna.

The German psychologist Sibel Balta researched these documents, she researched the mysteries connected to vampires for years. She explained that the documents refer to the Serbian village Kišeljevo and the Bosnian village Međeđa, in the 18th century a lot of unresolved murder mysteries occurred there. According to the available scriptures, Austro-Hungarian physicians paid more attention to the cases in Kišeljevo because of the king’s decree, and because of the insistence of the villagers they dug up graves which were believed to hold vampires.

Balta further claims that the documents held incredible details. They say that the physicians exhumed the bodies which seemed untouched and unharmed. According to their report the skin of the bodies was pinkish in colour and in their mouths they found traces of blood. The physicians documented that the bodies seemed as if alive after death. Considering the fact that doctors of that time didn’t have the means to explain what they saw, they came to the same conclusion as the locals that the deceased were the victims of vampires. They even approved the ritual of putting a hawthorn stake through their hearts, which was at that time considered as an effective cure against vampires.

However, Dr. Balta claims after researching vampires herself, today almost 300 years after Međeđa and Kišeljevo that the story of vampires hides a serial killer. To uncover clues and substantiate her claims Balta announced a visit to Bosnia.

THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME -VAMPIRE The closest to historical truth, and thus the answer to the question of where the myth of vampires comes from, is the Middle East and the Arab demon Ghul, whose abode is a cemetery. The belief about this terrible creature that drinks people’s blood was taken over by the Turks and in the expansion of their empire they brought this legend, together with many other shamanistic beliefs, to the Balkans The English name vampire comes from one of these sources; from the name “upir” or “ypir” which originates from the north of Turkey, or “vapir” which was the Bulgarian name for the same being or from the Bosnian name “lampijer”, “lapir” or “lampir”. According to Bosnian belief, a vampire comes out of the grave like a small butterfly, which was once called a “lepir” or a “lapir”. Also, a link to a vampire (lampir) is found in the old Bosnian word “lapiti” – to snatch, reach, catch, it is very similar to the name “lapir”, and describes the way this dark creature hunts people by suddenly grabbing its prey. In Serbia, the vampire was called “ukolak”, while in Romania there are two mythological creatures “moroi” and “strigoi” which have some similarities with the vampire. Drac or dracul is the Romanian name for the devil, so that Count Dracula is actually Count Demon and not a vampire. Likewise, “drac” does not mean dragon, as some translate it, because it is called “zburator” or “zmeul” in Romanian. Therefore, after this brief review, a realistic conclusion is reached that the name vampire comes from Turkey, Bulgaria or Bosnia. In Bosnian mythology, a vampire was not exclusively a living dead man who drank people’s blood. Analyzing certain legends about a vampire, he was actually often a man in love, who died prematurely, and at night he would come out of the grave, through a hole in the ground, in the shape of a butterfly, and then turn into a man who had no bones in his body, to make love to his wife.

In a metaphorical sense, a vampire is the embodiment of a longing for life, an unhappy soul that has no peace of its own because it has been deprived of the ability to live and exist in the material world. Allegedly, from the relationship between a husband-vampire and a woman, children could be born who would have a small tail on their buttocks. But to prevent nocturnal arrivals, as well as unwanted pregnancies, a hawthorn stick was placed above the front door of the house, creating an insurmountable barrier for the vampire, and he would stop his visits. Bosnian folk belief claims that a man of bad temper and character becomes an evil vampire after death, who attacks people and drinks their blood. On the contrary, from a man of good nature, or who has been in love all his life, he becomes a good vampire, one who does not attack humans, but for a time cannot come to terms with his death, and therefore disturbs those close to him.