Tuesday, 20 September 2011

An Early Irish Vampire Tale.

Today's post is a piece about an Irish vampire myth. The story revolves around an evil chieftain by the name of  Abhartach (pronounced ah-var-tok) and a field with suspicious goings on. Interestingly this story is often cited as one of several possible sources of inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Around the fifth century the area of Derry in Ireland was composed of a series of small townlands, each with their own ruler. Abhartach was one of those chieftains and he was a particularly nasty individual with a penchant for treating his subjects very poorly. Most versions of this story agree that he was an evil ruler with a powerful command over magic. Now, considering his attitude towards the locals it should come as no surprise that they conspired with a neighbouring chieftain to be rid of him. Cathrán (pronounced coth-rawn) listened to the pleas of the peasants and figured what the hell, sure I'll give it a go. He killed the evil ruler Abhartach, buried him unceremoniously and assumed his throne.

So far so good, right? Not quite. Not at all in fact...

The next day Abhartach returned from the grave, demanding that a bowl of his subject's blood be brought to him. Cathrán found that no matter how many times he killed and buried this foul corpse, it just kept returning. Finally, Cathrán consulted with a Druid priest who told him that Abhartach was one of the walking dead and could not be killed. Instead Cathrán was instructed that he could only bind the evil chieftain's powers by stabbing him with a wooden sword and burying him upside down in a grave covered with thorns and ash twigs. Furthermore a heavy stone must be placed on top of the grave. Cathrán did what he was ordered and lo and behold the blood-drinker never troubled the small kingdom again. 

However if you believe some of the stories which surround the figure of Abhartach today, that last statement won't ring quite true. Travel through the green fields of Glenuilin in Derry and you'll happen upon a field with a thorn bush and a tree growing right beside a large boulder. The area is called 'The Giant's Grave' and is regarded with trepidation and uncertainty by locals. In 1997 workers attempting to shift the tree found that their chainsaws stopped working three times. Later on one of the saws malfunctioned and actually cut off one of the worker's hands, in turn soaking the grave of the evil Abhartach with fresh blood.... 


AsylumAlice said...

I love folklore and am especially obsessed with Irish stories. This was a fascinating post!

The Irish Phantom Cat said...

Hey Alice thank you so much for reading and commenting!

Glad you enjoyed it, it's such a cool story! I have a few more mythology posts here and there. I must make one post with an index to all of them because they seem popular.

Rebecca x