Iroquois shapeshifters

In our January episode we begin dealing with supernatural being – because how else would you explain a dead body coming back to life?

In Iroquois Supernatural: Talking Animals and Medicine People by By Michael Bastine & Mason Winfield, we found this gem:

The Vampire Corpse

The Iroquois had a lot of stories about evil, semidead, humanlike beings sometimes called vampires or cannibal corpses. Not all of the Six Nations’ variety are bloodsuckers like the Romanian vampire or the Scottish glaistig. Still, they were so similar to the human predator of European folklore that we have to call the vampires. Variants abound.

The culprit can be a dead human, a simple corpse that something overtakes. It may be the body of a witch or sorcerer so full of its own otkon that the force lasts on after the physical death. Sometimes the demon is an airy specter or ghost, physical enough at the business end for a bit of chewing. The Iroquois vampire can be a virtual skeleton, sometimes even what seems to be a separate species that only looks human. It could even be a servant of the otherworld like the monsters that wait along the perilous course of the human soul in Egyptian mythology.

It’s hard to tell if these are different tales–regional variants–or if the subject of them has different forms. Ah well, the European vampire is a shape-shifter, too, at least within a range of animal forms: bats, wolves, rats, moths. Mabe the stories are about the same critter. But forget the suave Victorian counts or runway models of the twenty-first-century vampire industry. The Iroquois bogie is a reanimated corpse that wouldn’t score at a zombie festival.