Origin of Vampire Invitation Myth

This paragraph is particularly beautiful and earns the Folklorist Stamp of Approval. The only thing I can really add is that the traditional vampire lore of Eastern and Southern Europe has a tremendous overlap with witch lore and traditions about other malevolent creatures. Legendary supernatural creatures don’t usually have rigid taxonomy.

Just a fun example of how vampire lore can be easily molded- Hammer’s 1958 HORROR OF DRACULA has Van Helsing pooh-poohing the idea of vampires changing into bats & wolves. In 1960’s BRIDES OF DRACULA, Baron Meinster changes into a bat.

The greatest part of BRIDES is the remedy Van Helsing applies to himself when bitten by Meinster- searing his bite with a hot iron & dowsing it with Holy Water.
I submit that Peter Cushing was Chuck Norris’s Granddad!

Brahm Stoker was a Protestant and his book reflects his Christian upbringing. I think its impossible to talk about vampires without talking about this book. Like others have said, a lot of what we think is “ancient myth” was really a the imaginations of a late 19th century Irish writer.

The book is very Christian. Lots of crosses, man vs devil, conservatism, roles of women, temptation, etc. The invite part I believe fits in with the idea that man has free will and must choose to do evil and invite the devil into his life, which is the biggest theme in Christianity as seen by the Garden of Eden myth. If youre really interested in Stoker’s book you can start with the themes part of the wiki page.


Thank you all too much. I blush. Coming from a folklorist (as I believe you are), this is high praise indeed.

I haven’t got anything enlightened to add to this, but just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying reading this.

Hope it continues. I enjoy vampire folklore.


I can recommend a graphic novel adaptation-


I am not affiliated with the author, nor with Amazon.

I found my copy of Wolf’s The Essential Dracula and flipped it open to see if he had any insights on inviting Vampires in since he did The Annotated Dracula. Whereas before he had no note at that point, he now has this:

The Essential Dracula ed. Leonard Wolf, 1993, p. 290

so, there, let that be a lesson to you. Good-Sized Birds might be vampires in disguise, and you invite them in at your peril.
I hope vampires can’t assume the form of kitties.

I’m quite positive this idea that vampires must be invited comes from Faust by Johan Wolfgang van Goethe. In the play from 1808 (part II 1832) the demon Mephisto has to be invited into your home in order to enter.

Re Garlic

I was surprised to read in this thread that its power to repel vampires was Stoker’s invention. Mom’s side of the family is Slavic. The traditional cuisine has lots of garlic. It is viewed as a health food much as we might view vitamin c today. I always assumed the ability to ward off the undead was an outgrowth of this.

I found a couple of interesting pages that may not have existed when this thread was started.

Wikipedia’s List of vampire traits in folklore and fiction suggests Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu was the first literary work that incorporated the invitation rule. It was published in 1871-72, so predates Dracula by about a quarter century. I have not read it, so can’t verify.

TV Tropes has a page called Must Be Invited that clarifies the situation. It is not completely clear whether the vampires in Carmilla require an invitation, but that seems to be the implication.

I am sure I have seen references to the Devil, Satan, demons, etc. needing an invitation to enter someone’s home in various non-Vampire tales. I recall this even in a retelling of an old Jewish folk tale by Isaac Bashevis Singer, so not simply a Christian-centric or Vampire-centric concept.

I saw and loved this film, but am having a terrible time remembering the scene you’re describing. Could you (or anyone really) post that in a spoiler please?

TV Tropes, “Must Be Invited”, Live-Action Films: First entry.


Let The Right One In (2008) – You Have To Invite Me In - YouTube