September 26, 2013

Vampires, Loup Garou and Transylvania

Hey everyone. I know I have been talking about religion for this month’s posts. In each of those posts I have mentioned a mystical aspect that has been a part of Transylvania for centuries, and I would like to talk about that mystical aspect in this post. 

Romania, in general, is known for being the home of two major mystical races, the vampire and the werewolf. The majority, if not all, myths connected to vampires are connected in some way to Transylvania. The werewolf, or loup garou to be more accurate, originated in Bucharest, Romania but then spread to Transylvania. These races both had connections with a form of Pagan belief. (When I say Pagan, I am using it as a noun to generally describe those who follow a "religion of old", be it Wiccan, Druidic, Draconic, etc.)

            Getting back to the point, I will first talk about the vampire myths and Pagan beliefs connected to them. I know what people are thinking; there is no such thing as a vampire. I agree, there are no vampires as described in the myth. There are people, though, who believe that there are vampires out there. There are people out there who do drink blood. I am not sure how this is done, but I do know that they do not drain their victims to death. There was an episode on the original CSI television show that talked about people who drank blood — to them it symbolized life, kind of like how Elizabeth Bathory thought of blood. 

            Dracula is the most infamous of all vampires. He was said to have lived in Transylvania. The man that he is based on, Vlad Tepes, did live in Transylvania. Bram Stoker got the name of his character from Vlad Tepes' nickname, which was Dracula. The name means Son of the Dragon. Vampires and myths about them have really influenced how people outside of the are see Transylvania.

            The second important myth I'd like to discuss is the legend of the loup garou that has been a part of Romanian culture for centuries. It was one of the original myths that thrived in Romania, especially Bucharest. This is not the werewolf legend that is popular with modern media. There is one movie shows the legend of loup garou with at least partial accuracy, Blood and Chocolate. (I will not go into detail about the movie here because I have already done a previous post about it.) Loup garou were people who could take the shape of wolves whenever they chose. If a person could get close enough to hurt a loup garou and spill its blood, the loup garou would show their true nature. What really scared people about the loup garou was that they have complete control. They changed when they chose to and they retained the ability to think clearly while in wolf form. They did not lose themselves to the mind of the beast.

            Something I found interesting during my research was that the other religions that are prevalent in the area seemed to work around the local beliefs about vampires and loup garou. They did show that God was stronger and helped them defeat the vampires and loup garou. I find it interesting, too, that the legends of these two races not only survive to this day but have spread around the world.

September 24, 2013

Transylvania and Lutheranism

Hello again everyone. I have been talking about the religions that exist in Transylvania. I want to emphasize just how amazing it is that they are all getting along with each other. Transylvania is definitely a special place in that the people get along well, for the most part, and have gotten along well for the majority of history. This could be because Transylvania itself was founded by many different cultures. One of those cultures was the Germans, and some brought with them Lutheranism when they settled in the area.
Lutherans are another branch of Christianity, and they have a large influence in Western Christianity. The Lutherans follow the teachings of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), a German monk and former Catholic priest. Luther took issue with was the discrepancies that he saw between what the Bible said and what he saw the Roman Catholic Church doing. Luther started things off with a challenge which he called the “95 Theses”, and he posted this document, challenging 95 theological issues, on the door of Wittenberg University in 1517.  What started as a challenge turned into a full blown fight. It turned into a split within the Catholic Church, and those who followed Luther’s teachings took on the name Lutherans.

Three main points sum up the basic teachings of Luther: “Grace alone, faith alone, and Scripture alone.” This translates as “Saved by the grace of God alone, Salvation is through faith alone, the Bible is the norm of life.” Where the Roman Catholics repent their sins and do penance, the Lutherans believe that they are saved by God's grace alone, not by anything that they did on this earth. The Lutherans believe that in order to gain salvation a person must have a confident trust in God and His promises. They also believe that the Bible is the only way to standard by which to judge teachings and doctrines. They live by very basic rules. There are really only three, almost everything falls into one of these three rules. There is another thing that Lutherans do slightly differently, and that is how they celebrate on October 31. This was the date in 1517 that Martin Luther initiated the challenge. To this day, Lutherans celebrate this day as the beginning of the Reformation.

The Lutherans would have embraced the mysticism of Transylvania in much the same fashion as the Roman Catholics. They did not have much thought to spare for anything of a mystical nature. They lived their lives in accordance to the Bible. The Bible does state that a good Christian would not bide a witch to live. Something to consider, though, was that there would have been those of Pagan beliefs in Transylvania throughout history. I am sure there would have been instances of non-acceptance throughout the history of Transylvania, but the fact remains that there are still those who hold to the Pagan beliefs of old. That tells me that there would have been some level of acceptance.

September 21, 2013

Transylvania and the Roman Catholic Church

Hey, everyone. The previous post I made was about the most commonly practised religion in Transylvania Eastern Orthodox Christianity. We have already discussed the fact that Transylvania is made up of many different cultures, and one of those cultures is Hungarian. 

Hungary has always held a large influence over Transylvania, and many Hungarians are Roman Catholic. Roman Catholicism is one of the most popular religions to this day all over the world. 

Over half of Hungary is currently populated by people who identify as Catholics. It therefor stands to reason that Hungarians would help bring the influence of the Roman Catholic Church to Transylvania when they came over.

Keep in mind that the Roman Catholic Church held more power than any other religion during the Middle Ages. Kings and princes from all over would seek the support of the Catholic Church to help hold their thrones. Vlad Dracul was no exception.

 He sought out the support of the King of the Holy Roman Empire in order to hold the title Prince of Wallachia against the forces of the Ottoman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire was ruled by a king who was appointed by the Pope, God’s representative on Earth in the eyes of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has always preferred a legal or a logical approach to problems.

Catholics believe in Christ’s humanity as well as divinity. They do not believe in the use of idols. Having Catholics in the East mixing with the other religions was not an easy feat to deal with. The Eastern Christians are more of a mystical religion, as I mentioned in my previous post. Mixing them with the logical and legal minded Catholics did not always go well. 

Generally, Catholics- and the Catholic church did not get along with any other religion very well. 

They also had issues with followers of the Protestant religion, dating back to the Middle Ages in England, with Pagans dating back to the origins of their own small beginnings, and with Muslims dating back to the Crusades over the Holy Land. It is amazing that all of these religions were able to live together within Transylvania and not be at war the whole time.
Transylvania is a land of mystery and fantasy. The Catholic Church does not deal well with things of fantasy; they go against the beliefs of the Catholic Church. They did come up with some interesting ways to co-exist with the fantasy aspects of Transylvania though. The one that really stands out in my mind is depicted well in a modern movie, Van Helsing. 

Van Helsing is portrayed not only as the best vampire hunter but also as the archangel Gabriel. They made him a servant of God. They made it appear that the Catholic Church had an underground group who were responsible for killing the monsters of myth, including Dracula. This reinforced the Catholic belief that none was more powerful then God. This meant that people who followed the Catholic religion did not fear things that went bump in the night, for God was stronger.


September 19, 2013

Transylvania and the Eastern Orthodox Church

Today’s post looks at religion in Transylvania, Romania. Many religions are practised throughout Transylvania today. The one most commonly practised by Romanians is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and throughout this post I will discuss some of the history of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

            The Eastern Orthodox Church is a branch of the Christian Church. There were some major disagreements, both political and about doctrine, within the Christian Church during the Middle Ages. The religious issues resolved around the use of icons, the idea of the Holy Spirit being divine or not, and on which date the church should celebrate Easter. To some people, these issues may seem to be minor, but to the Medieval Christian Church these were huge issues. 

            Political divisions grew along the lines of how the Eastern churches and Western churches were run. The East thinkers tend to be more abstract and mystical thinkers while the Western thinkers give more weight to logic and law. The split between the two parts of the Church was major and public. History has named it the Great Schism.

            The Eastern Orthodox Church has some beliefs that are specific to them. The Church sees humanity as being able to fully participate in the divinity. To them sin came when the image of God was blurred and there was a barrier put up between man and God. The way in which Eastern Orthodox Christians gain salvation is much different than those of Western Christians. They do not see it necessary to justify the sin or gain pardon, they are more concerned with re-establishing the connection with God and the divinity. There is also the difference in how the Eastern Orthodox see Christ and divinity. They put more emphasis on the fact that Christ was always divine. They do agree that Christ became human, that he was the bridge between God and humanity. They also hold the Holy Spirit in a much higher standing in the East then in the West. The Eastern Orthodox will usually open with a prayer to the Holy Spirit.

            The fact that one of the main religions in Transylvania is greatly influenced by abstract thinking and mysticism is something I found interesting. It is still a Christian religion, but one that still believes in the mystical part of the world. Being in Transylvania, home of Dracula and vampires, I think it kind of makes sense. They are also quite close to Bucharest, Romania, home of the werewolf. 

            It appears to me that Eastern Orthodox gives the people of Transylvania the best of both worlds. They are able to believe in God and were able to go to heaven. They are also able to continue honouring their past and traditional beliefs. In the readings that I have done I have seen that history and traditions are important to Transylvania.


September 16, 2013

Publishing a book About Transylvania

Anyone can say that they are publishing a book these days, and they will spend time and energy writing and editing their book.  It's a process, and it takes a lot of love.  After a while, there is a new question that you should ask yourself: whom are you publishing your book for?  This is especially important when you are self-publishing in a niche market.

If you answered, "For myself!", great; it is an honest answer.  It's also wrong.  You are publishing something more for others....

If you answered for money, you might be digging a bit deeper, and you are being more honest with yourself.  You know that you want to increase the odds that others find your writing interesting and good, and most people need money.  You need to make money writing, even in a niche market which deals with a small area like Transylvania.

If you have self-published a book before, you might think you know the ins and outs of the process better than someone who is doing this for the first time.  You might even have learned ways to save yourself some money, and increase your profits.

Or you might have a different reason to publish your book — for others.  On the surface this idea seems like a good thing, but that puts a bit of your ego on the table, doesn't it?  Writing for your readers leaves you at their mercy, and most people don't want to be at the mercy of anyone.  Readers are fickle people, and some will love your writing and some won't.  Writing for a reader is not a great idea when it comes to writing non-fiction or about cultures such as the people of Transylvania.

Writing is all about art, and the mastery of that art- before you publish in a niche market   Knowledge is a key to everything here, and knowing what Transylvania, Romania has to offer and what you know is more important than how great the cover or interior design of the book is.

If writing is an art form, because you will have to decide whom you are writing for, and whom you are publishing for.  It doesn't matter how great writer you think you are if no one else reads it, one look at can quickly tell you that fact with the millions of books out there who do not have a single purchase.  It doesn't matter if you make a billion dollars if you hate the art of writing or you end up losing what matters most to you.

Who are you publishing for?  If you don't know that answer you have a problem.  You could search Google and see how much choice you have, but it will give you a headache and generate more questions.  If you are publishing your book for yourself, don't worry about your readers, but don't expect glowing reviews.

If you write and publish for a small niche market don't expect millions of dollars, but also expect loyal readers.  They know as much as you do, and some might know more.

Whom are you publishing a book for?  That is the answer you have to balance before you even begin the process of writing and researching.