First, a disclaimer.
This is not about Hollywood vampires. Those are 90% fantasy. I say 90%, because they are based off folkloric vampires, as well as several other creatures and spirits of myth. Vampires are not sexy, they are not cool, they don't go to highschool or drive a Volvo. You cannot become a vampire in this life. You do not want to become a true vampire in the next.
(source - the Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes)
Vampire has evolved into a catch-all phrase that encompasses a tremendous variety of spirits and creatures, some based on ancient traditions, others on modern imagination. What vampires have in common is that they drain life-essence from others, one way or another.
Contrary to popular Hollywood movies, blood-sucking vampires tend to be an abberation (not normal.) Although they did exist prior to Bram Stoker's incredibly influential best-selling 1897 novel, Dracula , they were rare and are very much a product of Gothic fiction. (Fifty years before Dracula , there was James Malcom Rymer's penny-dreadful opus, Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood .)
Traditional folkloric vampires have comparitively little to do with many literary or movie vampires. Vampire tradition exists throughout virtually all of Eastern and Central Europe. Similar surounding words exist in Slavic, Finno-Ugric, and Romance languages. Variations include upir, wampir, vampyr, and upior as well as vampire . (They may all derive from ubir , a Turkish word for "witch.")
Traditionally speaking, vampires are understood as revenants, living corpses of witches/scorcerers/shamans/magical practitioners who, for one reason or another*, rise from the grave. At their most neutral, they are harmful merely because they are not obeying natural laws; at their worst, they rise with the deliberate intent to cause harm. (Italian director Mario Bava's horror movie classic Black Sunday features a reasonably traditional vampire-witch out for revenge.)
Another interpretation suggests that a vampire may not be undead at all, but a living scorcerer able to send out his or her shadow soul (and recall it when desired) and that this soul is interpreted by others as a vampire.
Although little or no notion of blood-sucking exists in the original tales, that doesn't mean a vampire isn't potentially dangerous. Because vampires may be in a liminal state, between life and death, they require life-energy, which is easiest absorbed from the living. However this life force is more likely to be absorbed via sexual energy** or siphoning off energy rather than sucking blood. From this perspective, Fox Spirits (Kitsune) who sexually drain men to the point of death are considered vampiric.
Traditional antidotes to vampires include bells, sunlight, bright light, a rooster's crow, garlic, peppermint, onions, silver bullets, and bullets melted down from old bell metal.
Various spells and charms intended to protect against vampires may be found in Judika Illes' The Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells.
Surprisingly perhaps, the puppet Count von Count of Sesame Street is a fairly accurate folkloric vampire, compelled to count whenever confronted with anything capable of being counted. Many vampires, like so many ghosts and low-level daemon, are afflicted with obsessive-compulstive syndrome:
- Place fishing nets over any entrances you'd like to protect: allegedly the vampire will be forced to count all the holes or knots and will never make it indoors to bother you before sunrise.
- Alternatively spill poppy, millet, or some other tiny seeds: the vampire may feel compelled to stop and count or pick up those seeds.
See also: Fox Spirits; Hone-Ona; Kumiho; Lamiae; Langsuir; Menthe; Vampire Mermaids; Vampire Pumpkin; Vampiri
*Some shaman traditions teach that a shaman must always live in harmony with Nature and the Spirits, to give back what he borrows, or in death he will become a blight upon the land and take by his very un-nature. In essence, become a vampire.
**Quite likely the origins of Succubi/Incubi myths