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October 30, 2020

Quarantine Cafe: Dracula's Alma Mater Edition

Tonight's spoooooooo-oooky topic: The Scholomance, where Dracula learned magic from the Devil.

Bram Stoker writes that Dracula learned magic at a school called "the Scholmance." He got the tidbit about the Scholomance from a book about Rumanian folklore -- it's an underground school of magic with only ten students, taught by the Devil himself.

In Dracula, Bram Stoker includes an intriguing allusion to a mysterious devil’s school in Transylvania: The Draculas, he wrote, "had dealings with the Evil One. They learned his secrets in the Scholomance, amongst the mountains over Lake Hermanstadt, where the devil claims the tenth scholar as his due." The vampire himself was one of these scholars, a diabolic genius.

This school is no mere piece of fiction, however. As has been well-documented, Stoker derived his knowledge of the Scholomance from Emily Gerard's 1885 article on "Transylvanian Superstitions":

As I am on the subject of thunderstorms, I may as well here mention the Scholomance, or school supposed to exist somewhere in the heart of the mountains, and where all the secrets of nature, the language of animals, and all imaginable magic spells and charms are taught by the devil in person. Only ten scholars are admitted at a time, and when the course of learning has expired and nine of them are released to return to their homes, the tenth scholar is detained by the devil as payment, and mounted upon an Ismeju (dragon) he becomes henceforward the devil's aide-de-camp, and assists him in 'making the weather,' that is to say, preparing the thunderbolts.

But what exactly was this Scholomance, and where did the legend come from?

Gerard’s version of the story is not a professional anthropological report, but rather the story of an amateur traveling through the (then) Habsburg territories. By luck, a folklorist, R. C. Maclagan, produced a report for the journal Folklore in 1897 that included a more accurate version of the story then-current in Transylvania:

Here we find that the drac [the master of the school, I think -- ace] is the devil in person, who instructs certain persons to be magicians and medicine men in a college under the earth.

Apparently this mythology about the devil teaching magic in the woods is a recasting of older, pre-Christian pagan Rumanian folklore about wizards going off to the woods to learn magic.

Speaking of vampires: Earlier in the week I mentioned that I watched the first few episodes of the TV show What We Do In the Shadows.

Now I've finished it.

The first season was a worthy successor to the movie. The second season, I think, is actually better than the movie. Or close enough.

It's a great show. Fortunately, it has strong ratings and was renewed quickly for a season three.

Big recommendation for anyone who liked the movie. Update: It's on Hulu, or you can buy a season for $10 (ten episodes per season) on Amazon.

And if you haven't seen the movie, give that a chance as your Halloween entertainment, maybe.

Here are a few clips from the movie:

Here are a few clips from the TV show. In the first clip, the vampires' familiar gets the vampires he serves some virgins.

Who he recruits from a Dungeons and Dragons LARP game.

In this clip, the female vampire Nadja believes that the house is haunted by a ghost. But the others deny the existence of ghosts, and suggest that anyone who believes in ghosts is irrational and has a childlike mind.

You may agree. But these are legitimate vampires saying the idea of ghosts is stupid nonsense.

One of the funnest bits of new lore is the introduction of a Psychic Vampire, aka an Energy Vampire.

An energy vampire drains you just by talking to you. He tells you long boring stories, or otherwise frustrates you, which causes you stress. He then drinks that stress energy you're pouring out, which charges him up but leaves you exhausted.

All the other vampires hate him because he can drain other vampires' energy, too. And does, every single day.

He mostly feeds on victims his job, where he drifts around Bill-Lumberg-like annoying people.

But he discovers that a new predator has come into his hunting grounds.

In my favorite episode, he's promoted to boss, and finds that his capacity for draining victims has increased tenfold.

When he discovers teleconferencing -- a hundredfold.

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posted by Ace at 08:01 PM

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