Porphyria has been suggested as an explanation for the origin of vampire and werewolf legends, based upon certain perceived similarities between the condition and the folklore.

In January 1964, L. Illis’s 1963 paper, “On Porphyria and the Aetiology of Werwolves,” was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. Later, Nancy Garden argued for a connection between porphyria and the vampire belief in her 1973 book, Vampires. In 1985, biochemist David Dolphin’s paper for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Porphyria, Vampires, and Werewolves: The Aetiology of European Metamorphosis Legends,” gained widespread media coverage, popularizing the idea.

The theory has been rejected by a few folklorists and researchers as not accurately describing the characteristics of the original werewolf and vampire legends or the disease, and as potentially stigmatizing sufferers of porphyria.

A 1995 article from the Postgraduate Medical Journal (via NIH) explains:
As it was believed that the folkloric vampire could move about freely in daylight hours, as opposed to the 20th century variant, congenital erythropoietic porphyria cannot readily explain the folkloric vampire but may be an explanation of the vampire as we know it in the 20th century. In addition, the folkloric vampire, when unearthed, was always described as looking quite healthy (“as they were in life”), while due to disfiguring aspects of the disease, sufferers would not have passed the exhumation test. Individuals with congenital erythropoietic porphyria do not crave blood. The enzyme (hematin) necessary to alleviate symptoms is not absorbed intact on oral ingestion, and drinking blood would have no beneficial effect on the sufferer. Finally, and most important, the fact that vampire reports were literally rampant in the 18th century, and that congenital erythropoietic porphyria is an extremely rare manifestation of a rare disease, makes it an unlikely explanation of the folkloric vampire. –Wikipedia

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about someone with a medical condition who is shunned because the condition is misunderstood.

Journaling Prompt: What medical condition are you afraid of? How does that cause you to act around people with the condition?

Art Prompt: Vampires

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the history of medical investigation.

Photo Credit: Edvard Munch – Vampire (1895) on Wikimedia

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