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Impalement in myth and art


The use of impalement in myth, art, and literature includes mythical representations of it as a method of execution and other uses in paintings, sculptures, and the like, folklore and other tales in which impalement is related to magical or supernatural properties, and the use of simulated impalement for the purposes of entertainment.

The idea that the vampire "can only be slain with a stake driven through its heart" has been pervasive in European fiction. Examples such as Bram Stoker's Dracula and the more recent Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Twilight series' all incorporate that idea. In classic European folklore, it was believed that one method, among several, to "kill" a vampire, or prevent a corpse from rising as a vampire, was to drive a wooden stake through the heart before interment. In one story, an Istrian peasant named Jure Grando died and was buried in 1656. It was believed that he returned as a vampire, and at least one villager tried to drive a stake through his heart, but failed in the attempt. Finally, in 1672, the corpse was decapitated, and the vampire terror was put to rest. Although the Eastern European, in particular Slavic (but also Roumanian), conception of the vampire as an undead creature in which impaling it was central to either destroying it, or at least immobilizing it, is the most well-known European tradition, such traditions can also be found elsewhere in Europe. In Greece, the troublesome undead were usually called a vrykolakas. The archaeologist Susan-Marie Cronkite describes an odd grave found at Mytilene, at Lesbos, a find the archeologists connected with the vrykolakas superstition.

The Norse draugr, or haugbui (mound-dweller), was a type of undead typically (but not exclusively) associated with those put (supposedly) to rest in burial mounds/tumuli. The approved methods of killing a draugr are "to sever his head from his body and set the same beneath his rump, or impale his body with a stake or burn it to ashes".



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