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Depending on what stories you read or movies you watch, vampires will and won't have reflections.

But what is the earliest reference to this particular myth and do we know it's origin?

  • One explanation I read was that the mirror image meant the vampire's soul; the vampire had no soul, hence no mirror image. – Vixen Populi Jul 20 '15 at 5:17
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    @VixenPopuli I'm more interested in the myth's earliest use / origin than a description of it. – Daft Jul 20 '15 at 5:40
  • This is a duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/q/38466/4918 "What is the origin of Stoker's idea that vampires' reflections cannot be seen?" – b_jonas Jul 19 '16 at 9:34
  • @b_jonas not really... I'm asking for the origin of the myth. The Answer is Bram Stoker. The question you linked is asking where Bram Stoker got the idea. Related yes, but not a duplicate. – Daft Jul 19 '16 at 9:41
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+50

It's a relatively new addition to the vampire mythos. Attributed to Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Despite its important contributions to vampire fiction, several popular traits of fictional vampires are absent. Count Dracula is killed by a bowie knife, not a wooden stake. The destruction of the vampire Lucy is a three-part process (staking, decapitation, and garlic in the mouth), not the simple stake-only procedure often found in later vampire stories. Dracula has the ability to travel as a mist and to scale the external walls of his castle. One very famous trait Stoker added is the inability to be seen in mirrors, which is not something found in traditional Eastern European folklore.

4

In a nutshell

If you are interested in the subject, read below. Otherwise, the accepted answer was pretty much the last edit of my post. While it's still probable that Bram Stoker did not think of the "no reflection" feature, it's considered his invention.

Vampires

Vampires are ancient Balkan mythological being. The word actually depicts pretty much any form of non-ethereal undead (contrary to the popular belief of capes, fangs and etc). As such their soul usually passed on to the next world.

It was believed that the mirror holds and reflects a part of your soul. Like VixenPopuli said it can't reflect what you don't own.

This also explains why Chinese vampires are terrified of their reflection because they are reminded that they have no soul.

Also, in the past mirrors were made out of silver, and actually Balkan werewolves are considered a type of a vampire, so... if you add 2+2 you get 4. It's quite possible that the modern myth is a combination of the silver and soul reflection theories.

As of the earlier myths, we are talking about centuries before any written language.

In other words, it's impossible to tell how it appeared, but the most plausible theories are: No soul, thus no reflection and Bram Stoker's imagination and bad translations, born from lack of understanding.

I mean, Bram Stoker did a pretty lame job at describing vampires, but they were sort of "the thing" back in the days and everybody just went along with it, which eventually brought us Edward the sparkling fairy. So I won't be surprised if someone told him that vampires are terrified of mirrors, and he tried to guess why, which spawned the myth.

Sources:


Now about the Stoker thing (or how he did a sloppy job, since in the comments OP's comment sort of implied that Stoker didn't do anything wrong). (Warning Off Topic):

  1. Gypsies are afraid of vampires and will not enter their territories. Actually, they are far more superstitious than normal people.

  2. Wooden stake - Actually is a specific type of wood. Cornus, also known as dogwood. And it is not required to be a stake. Even a needle will help you. Since vampires are considered something like giant balloons full of blood. The word that describes the item is Шип which can be translated as pretty much everything in between a stake, spike and a big needle. Depending on the dialect. Also, the heart is also a myth.

This thing about the wood is only about the Balkan Vampires, the Chinese ones are slain by wood from a peach tree. So it can only be a tree that destroys evil. In other words, a wooden stake will not help you in 905 of the cases.

  1. He completely skipped the "cut their feet" part. You can kill vampires by cutting their feet so they won't get up and attack the living, which will make them die of starvation. Which is pretty much the usual way vampires were killed.

  2. People don't fear vampires, they gang up to slay them when they are still young. Thus Frankenstein is more of a vampire book than Dracula.

  3. Many many many other historical and translation issues. Yup Dracula was the Edward Cullen of the Victorian age. Sparkle, sparkle.

There were more but this post is not about this and I didn't finish the book. I made it up to like page +/- 150 of Dracula and it made me understand why people burned books back in the days...


Additional info. This time on Vampire myths instead of Stoker's mistakes.

  1. There is no popular, written story dating prior to Bram Stoker, claiming that vampires are not reflected in mirrors. Actually, there are many things about vampires that appeared after Stoker wrote his novel. I wonder why?

  2. Vampires and bloodsuckers, in general, are far older than the bible itself and appear through out the history in almost all mythology from China to Egypt and eastern Europe.

  3. The only known ancient vampires, prior to the book Dracula, that were related to mirrors were the Chinese ones. Also they had reflection, it's just that it scared them instead of not appearing.

  4. Stoker spawned a huge cult to his creation, not the mythological being vampyr. The mythological creature vampyr is only remotely related to Dracula.

  5. The mirror is most probably derivation created from combining various sources describing different types of vampires.

Also another shady source: Knowing your country's history. Also, there were many authors that Mentioned in many of their books, the original vampires. Authors like Jordan Radichkov, Ivan Vazov and many others. They all describe different vampires.


Ok, I came back and did a quick google search. One of the 1st links. I quote:

One very famous trait Stoker added is the inability to be seen in mirrors, which is not something found in traditional Eastern European folklore.

Also, warping mythology is not modern mythology. If tomorrow someone says that Centaurs were half fishes half penguins, and it becomes a thing, it will not be considered a mythology. The mythological being will still be a man who has a body of a horse instead of his bottom half.

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    I'm more interested in the myth's earliest use / origin than a description of it. – Daft Jul 24 '15 at 19:50
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    Bram Stoker did a pretty lame job.... It's painfully obvious that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. – Daft Jul 24 '15 at 20:03
  • We require sources on answers on Mythology, and this answer doesn't provide any to support its claims. I'm also doubtful of quite a lot written here, and it's highly unstructured. – HDE 226868 Jul 24 '15 at 20:47
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    Wikipedia is frowned upon, some of the cited articles are written in Cyrillic, the Science Fiction and Fantasy answer has been ruled against (an answer here quoting it was deleted, though by its owner, and your sources are not actual myths, which is what we look for here. Furthermore, the sources themselves seem shoddy. This answer constitutes poor research. The latter points are nowhere near on-topic, and it does not answer the question. Furthermore, stay civil. – HDE 226868 Jul 24 '15 at 21:34
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    It is highly difficult to go sifting through pages and pages of Cyrillic writing and plug it all into Google Translate. It would be much better if you added relevant, translated portions. Also, you need to realize what is important and what is not. Stoker is not important because his writings are not mythological. You also need to provide inline citations. You claim that we are too lazy; it is the reverse. Your answer is difficult to read. – HDE 226868 Jul 24 '15 at 22:14
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One neurologist, J. Afonso-Gomez, made a case that vampire myths originate from humans infected with rabies. His work was published in the prestigious journal Neurology back in 1998. If - and that is a big if - he is right, then the mirror issue may well be very old. Those suffering from rabies are often startled or even scared when seeing their own mirror image. More so when this is unexpected. This could then be the origin of Bram Stoker's description that vampires have no mirror image at all.

protected by Community May 28 '18 at 14:04

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