Monster Monday: Vetala

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Vetala.

Drawing of a vetala by Harshad Dhavale
Drawing of a vetala by Harshad Dhavale

A vetala is a vampire-like evil spirit in Hindu folklore. It possesses and reanimates corpses so that it can cause damage to the living. While it possesses the corpse, the body will not decompose. It kills children and causes miscarriages and can drive people insane.

Because of its tendency to inhabit dead bodies it often frequents cemeteries. Unlike vampires in Western culture, a vetala has no connection to the body it inhabits, rather simply “wearing” it like clothes. The vetala will not have the memories of the body from when it belonged to a living person, but it is extremely cunning and intelligent and manipulative and can sometimes convince friends and relatives that it is truly the person whose body it is using. Destroying the body will not kill the vetala as it will simply leave and find another.

In some stories the vetala is a person who did not receive proper burial rites, and performing the burial rites for them will allow the spirit to cross into the next life, ending the threat. Reciting mantras cal also protect a person from a vetala.


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