I am mapping ‘deviant’ burials for a piece I am writing on Wharram Percy, the medieval English village that mutilated its own dead, including many women and children. Whatever these people believed eventually took hold completely and led to them deserting the village. It is a famous case within archaeology but I will be bringing it within the realms of literature and supernatural beliefs regarding vampires and revenants in my new research article. An earlier short piece, How Long have We Believed in Vampires? was written last year, and again I draw connections between deviant burials, the folklore of the undead, and its legacy in literature.
Yesterday, I was made aware of a new article in Science Daily which reports on a similar ‘deviant’ burial, this time involving a ten year old child, a suspected revenant in fifteenth-century Italy. The severed skull has a large rock inserted in the mouth to prevent biting and the child’s corpse from returning, thus spreading the plague which may have killed her: Vampire Burial Reveals Efforts to Prevent Child’s Return from the Grave
What is most striking about this for me is that despite Wharram Percy and the Southwell Vampire, a skeleton found with metal spikes through its shoulders, heart and ankles, dating from 550-700AD and buried in the ancient minster town of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, most still believe these practises only took place in Eastern Europe, in Slavic regions. This new discovery takes us outside of that realm and on to Italy, paving the way for my forthcoming article on the English Vampire and deviant burials a little closer to home in Yorkshire in the UK.