ROSE GARNETT reveals the terrifying Baobhan Sith – the Scottish brand of vampires that would leave their Transylvanian cousins for dead
Everyone knows vampires originally came from Europe. Bram Stoker’s Transylvanian Dracula is after all, quite emphatic on the point. Another star in the vampiric firmament is Elizabeth Bathory, a sixteenth century Hungarian noblewoman, said to bathe in the blood of young virgins in her search for eternal youth. This earned her the nickname “the Blood Countess” and a unenviable reputation for being a genuine blood-sucker, not to mention all-round bad girl. The 1922 German film Nosferatu took the legend deeper into the Eurozone by concentrating on the vampire’s less seductive side – Twilight fans beware.
The European victory in the blood and fang stakes (no pun intended) is complete.
So do we take it that Britain is just too, well, British to be able to compete? If you take the time to do a little digging you will quickly find the answer is a big, fat, resounding no. Enter stage left, the Baobhan Sith: Scottish vampires who roam the countryside in packs, rending their victims limb from limb with taloned nails. Not just any victims though: only delicious young men will do as their diet of choice.
Dracula, one suspects, would be a bit long in the tooth for their tastes.
One of the stories commonly told is of four young men out hill-walking in the Scottish Highlands. The weather turns bad and they decide to take shelter in a deserted bothy for the night. One gentle tapping at the door later, three beautiful women who just happen to be on the remote hill-side beg to join them for the night. As you might have guessed, the fun really starts after the obligatory invitation over the threshold. One of the women then begins to play an instrument while the others dance and the men can hardly believe their luck. But it is in fact a death dance ending in bloody dismemberment for three of the four; the lucky survivor unwittingly protecting himself with an iron coal-scuttle.
Iron, we are told, is the Boabhan Sith’s Kryptonite, so all the garlic and pointy stakes in the world will just not cut it as protection. And they do not take a dainty little bite out of your neck promising to come back for dessert later. They’ll have the whole neck, thank you very much for not asking and there will be no danger of you coming back as a vampire yourself, because there will not be enough of you left to do it.
There’s hints, to be sure, of the Greek maenads who were also reputed to hunt down men and kill them. But they had a master, Dionysus, whereas the Boabhan Sith are a law unto themselves. They do not offer up your flesh to appease an angry god and there is no negotiations or escape. Unless of course you make sure you carry around some iron at all times or have the temerity to be female.
So there we have it, the Scottish entry in the vampire charts and a nice feminist role-reversal from Dracula where the victims are always girls …
Guest writer ROSE GARNETT s the author of Stories From Dead Central and specialises in Scottish Urban Horror. She describes herself as Edinburgh’s only supernatural crime-fighter. You can contact her on Twitter @dead_central