Apparently, Will Smith is going to do a Cain vampire movie with his nearest and dearest. (He’ll play Adam.)
White Wolf’s Vampire: the Masquerade game theorized Cain as the first vampire also. But was that the first source, or is this old folklore/fantasy fiction news?
Well, in legend it’s usually Lilith (the apocryphal non-human first wife of Adam) who’s associated with blood-drinking and preying upon innocents, while certain monsters (like Grendel) were descended from Cain. (Judas Iscariot, having been a suicide and having attended Mass with Jesus, has also been proposed as the proto-vampire.)
However, in the Bible, Cain’s descendants are a highly civilized, sometime-ally tribe of sometime-nomad desert smiths and musicians, the Kenites. Heber, the husband of Jael of the tent peg, was a Kenite; she probably was a Kenite also. (Deborah’s song called Jael “most blessed of women in tents”, which the rabbis said meant that she was more blessed than all of Israel’s great matriarchs who had lived in tents.) Moses’ father-in-law the priest of Midian, Jethro, and his wife, Zipporah, were probably Kenites. Saul and David gave the Kenites of their time favorable nation status, because the Kenites had helped the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness. Balaam’s prophecy to the Kenites (when the Israelites first showed up) tells us that at one time the Kenites lived securely in a “nest set in the rock” (probably a fortress), but that Asshur (the Assyrians) would eventually come to “waste” Cain and then take the rest off to captivity. Still, Jael’s husband’s clan of Kenites was supposed to be cozy with the Assyrians, so presumably they didn’t all worry about Balaam’s famous prophecy.
A strand of the tribe descended from a man named Rechab was ordered by their leader Jehonadab never to live in cities or drink wine; they are mentioned in Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and 1st Chronicles. Many of the “sons of Rechab” were scribes. Not terribly vampiric.
Here’s a small academic site collecting some Cain and Abel material, including an Armenian folktale:
One day Eve called to her Cain and Abel, who, still little children, were playing on the grass.
She held out to her firstborn her right arm, and to her second son her left, and said, “Bite them, I command you.”
The elder boy bit till he drew blood, but Abel merely imprinted a long lingering kiss on his mother’s arm.
Then said Eve to her husband, “Our Cain will be a wicked man.”
There’s also a very confusing Italian folktale in which Cain and Abel, who are both bad ‘uns, run into a merchant who’s a wizard and who makes Joseph’s prophecy. (Yeah, I said it was confusing.) Anyway, Cain ends up as the Man in the Moon, forced by God to live forever, observe all mankind’s doings, and obey all evil sinful commands by sorcerors and wizards and witches. (Yep, it’s not exactly a miracle of logic and theology. Also, it makes Cain sound like the Watcher in Marvel Comics.)
However, the idea that the Man in the Moon and his bag of twigs or thorns is a picture of Cain goes back to medieval times; even Dante mentions Cain’s bundle of twigs. (See citations in the blue box.)
However, during the days of early Christianity, there was a Gnostic sect (at least one) that called themselves Cainites, and claimed to follow Cain as their leader. They also claimed to be descended from Cain, but they don’t seem to have actually been Kenites or Rechabites. Their theory was that all the Biblical bad guys were actually good guys who had been lied about, or who had concealed the fact that God had ordered them to be agents provocateur. Some of them passed around a Gnostic Gospel of Judas.
There’s a racist piece of folklore that popped up several places along the years, that the skin coloration of black people (or various other races) was the mark of Cain. A lot of Mormons were taught that, but they weren’t the only ones. Thankfully, I think this one’s pretty much died out in mainstream Christian groups. Various birthmarks have also been seen as the mark of Cain; many Russians said this about Gorbachev’s prominent birthmark, for instance.
Another medieval legend held that Cain was still wandering the earth as commanded by God. (The Wandering Jew legend seems to have been a ripoff of this one.) This is still around, and apparently at least one Mormon guy last century claimed to have met Cain in Tennessee. Apparently this was picked up by Christians among the Spokane Indians, who told Sasquatch that they knew now that he was actually Cain. Presumably the Saxons had similar ideas about the monster children of Cain.
Still another old idea about Cain (this one from Brittany) was that he was sent around by God to collect the souls of the dead as the hooded “Ankou” (basically, the Grim Reaper).
Still another legend (widespread) held that Judas had been red-haired, and so had many other villains of the Bible. such as Cain. Some people felt that the worst vampires were redheads, the “Children of Judas” who could drain a man’s blood in one bite. (This might go all the way back to the Egyptians, who figured that Set and all the Typhonians were redheads, just like the horrible Shepherd Kings who took over Egypt.) There was also a legend, however, that all the folks of the house of David were redheads, so you see conflicting art legends!
Some people felt that the mark of Cain was a yellow beard. This also shows up in medieval art.
In a weird reversal of this idea, there’s apparently a conspiracy theory going around (in the weird back suburbs of evangelicalism, not believed by any but the most twisted) that Cain was actually Satan’s son and not Adam’s, and that all really bad people in the world are “Kenites” and part of the “serpent seed”. (How conveeeeeenient.) All the bad Jewish priests were also really Kenites pretending to be Levites, and Israel was led astray only by this fifth column. (How conveeeeenient.) In fact, all Jewish people living today are not Hebrews/Israelites, but Kenites, and that Jewish people know it and are lying to everyone. (How conveeeeeeeeniently anti-Semitic.) Some of them apparently believe that Kenites really are some kind of reptilian humanoids, sort of like the aliens in V. Others seem to think that Kenite is a convenient label for atheists, Catholics, or anybody else they don’t like. So if you want to see sick minds battling the fifth column of their own brain, there are apparently lots of YouTube videos explaining who is and isn’t a Kenite.
But still no pre-existing art of Cain vampires… maybe in Marvel Comics?
UPDATE! Yay, previous folklore! It’s in an article originally from the National Review (the old one, not the conservative one) but reprinted in The Living Age, in its May 7, 1887 issue. In “Personification of the Mysterious Among the Modern Greeks” by I. Theodore Bent, the writer tells us that in Karpathos (Carpathia), they call vampires “Cains”, and say that when Cain died, he became the first vampire. Cain was a huge man with goats’ feet, who wore wooden shoes. The Cains also have goats’ feet, and appear on earth only from Christmas to Epiphany. They try to come down the chimney at night, unless the embers of the fire are kept burning during those twelve days. If they can’t get human blood, they eat lizards and snakes. They also like to play tricks with the household utensils, and hearing crickets is a sure sign that they’re coming to do this.
Also, there’s a poem in The Oberlin Evangelist, Vols. 11-12. “The Mexican War” by “The Workshop Bard”, includes these stirring epithets:
“Ye warrior chiefs! Ye vampire brood!
Ye sons of your father, Cain!”
But back to Will Smith’s upcoming movie….
The interesting thing is that, almost as a retaliation for the “mark of Cain = black” folklore, there seems to have been a lot of African folklore which claimed that all the Genesis people were black, but that Cain and his descendants were doomed by God to be white. This came over to America. At least one folklorist claims that blackface minstrels took Cain as a sort of patron for this reason. Anyway, apparently a lot of the minstrel skits by actual black people were about Cain, and “Jim Crow” dances were imitating the story about Cain learning to bury Abel from the ground scratching of a crow. Thus the expression about “raising Cain”, if this folklorist is to be believed.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Smith and Pinkett families come up with, in their movie The Legend of Cain.