In a field trip that he made in the spring of 1949 in the Zempline district of East Slovakia, the Slovak scholar Jan Mjartan investigated the local beliefs concerning vampires. In 1953 he published a summary of his findings titled Vampirske povery v Zempline in the Slovak academic journal Slovensky nardopis, Vol. 1, p. 133.
Mjartan found that the local name for a vampire is nelapsi. The nelapsi attacks cattle and people. He both sucks the blood and suffocates his victims. It can also kill a person by a single glance. By bringing a plague, the nelapsi can kill a whole herd or an entire village.
The people in the Zemplin district also believed that the vampire has two hearts and hence two souls. (The belief that a vampire has two hearts also occurred in one or more part of Romania.)
The ways to prevent a person who dies from becoming a nelapsi include:
- Striking the coffin against the threshold of the house with the coffin when carrying the corpse out for burial.
- Placing herbs over which a spell has been said, poppy seeds, or millet in the corpse’s mouth and nose, in the coffin, along the road to the cemetery, near the grave, and in the grave.
- Nailing the clothes, hair, or arms and legs of the corpse to the coffin.
•Piercing the heart or head with a hat-pin, or an iron wedge, or a stake made of hawthorn,blackthorn, or oak.
- Following the burial, the people practice such precautionary procedures as washing their hands or holding onto the stove. They also light special fires called “need-fires” to keep the vampire away. (The ritual of the “need-fire” to expel or ward off vampires, witches, spirits, or demons can be found in many places all over Europe.)
The relevant excerpt from Jan Mjartan’s article is translated into English by Jan Perkowski on pages 102-03 of his book, The Darkling (Slavica Publishers, 1989).