The Bulgarian word for vampire is a variation of the Slavic vampire, derived from the Slavic word ‘opyri/opiri’. It may appear in modern text as vampir, vipir, vepir, or vapir, which is a variation of Russian.
The modern idea of the Bulgarian vampire evolved over several centuries. Most commonly, the Bulgarian vampire was associated with problems of death and burial, and the emergence of vampires was embedded in the very elaborate myth and ritual surrounding death.
The belief was that the spirits of the dead traveled to all of the places that they visited during their lifetime. When their journey was completed, about 40 days after death, the spirit went to its next life. But, if the burial routine was not done correctly, the dead may find the passage to the next world blocked.
In Bulgaria, the family was responsible for preparing the body for burial, and there were a number of ways where the family could err or become negligent in their preparation. Also, the body had to be guarded against a dog or cat jumping over it or a shadow falling on it prior to burial. The body had to be properly washed, in order to have a method into the afterworld.
But, even if proper burial techniques were followe,d if the person died a violent death, it may return as a vampire, anyway.
Just like in other Slavic countries, Bulgarians believed that there were certain people who were more likely to be candidates to become a vampire.
- Those who died while under excommunication of the church.
Bulgaria was a source of vampire tales, especially where the vampire returned to life, took residence in a town where they were not known, and lived for many years as if alive. They even married and fathered children. These people were not detected until many years, usually because of some unusual event. Apart from their nightly journeys in search of blood, the vampire would appear normal, even eat a normal diet.
Those vampires who originated from the corpse of an improperly buried person or a person who died of a violent death, were handled with a stake.
In some cases, a specialist, djadadjii, would use a holy icon, generally a picture of Jesus, Mary, or one of the Christian saints, and would wait until the vampire appeared. Once he saw the vampire, he chased it, icon in hand, and the vampire was driven toward a bottle that had been stuffed with its favorite food. Once the vampire entered the bottle, it was corked and thrown into a fire.