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May 26

Dracula Day

Vampire (Dracula Day)
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Dracula Cover Art
illustration by Laura Birdsall
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"My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side. Your girls that you all love are mine already; and through them you and others shall yet be mine - my creatures, to do my bidding and to be my jackals when I want to feed." ~ Dracula, Bram Stoker, 1897

If the incessant beauty of April showers and May flowers are beginning to weary you, why not indulge darkly in some gothic horror and revisit that most devoted of undead sunscreen wearers, Dracula. Created by novelist Bram Stoker and published in a namesake novel today in 1897, this epistolary account chronicles the charismatic count's move from Transylvania to England to find new blood and spread the undead curse. Deemed shocking and controversial on its release, with its emphasis on seduction and female aggression, this story was an instant sensation. The colours for this tribute tartan include: Black - for the darkness of night associated with vampiric deeds; Bright Red - for sought-after fresh blood; Midnight Blue - for the time of night to be especially cautious if in the vampire's dark realm; and Caput Mortuum - the puce colour of dried blood! Ironically, Stoker claimed that the inspiration for his story came after a nightmare, induced by bad seafood!

May 26, Vampire Day or Dracula Day, is the date of the publication of Bram Stoker's 1897 horror novel Dracula.

The Vampire tartan, designed by Carol A.L. Martin, employs carefully chosen colours to maximize the tartan terror:
 

  • Black - for the darkness of night associated with vampiric deeds

  • Red - for the colour of sought-after fresh blood

  • Midnight Blue - for the time of night to be especially cautious if in their dark realm .. and 

  • Caput Mortuum - the puce colour of dried blood
     

Caput mortuum is a Latin term whose literal meaning is "dead head" or "worthless remains," used in both alchemy and as a pigment name.
 

In alchemy, caput mortuum signified a useless substance left over from a chemical operation such as sublimation and the epitome of decline and decay; alchemists represented this residue with a stylized human skull, a literal death's head.

Caput mortuum is also sometimes used as an alternative name for mummy brown (alternatively Egyptian brown), a pigment that was originally made in the 16th and 17th centuries from ground-up mummies, and whose use was discontinued in the 19th century when artists became aware of its ingredients.

 

Slains Castle, one of Scotland's most spectacular ruins, sits on the edge of cliffs overlooking the former Victorian holiday resort of Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire.  Once home to the Earls of Errol, the 16th century castle, which has been in disrepair for more than 70 years, was in its heyday when Stoker began visiting the area in the 1890s and took it as his model for the vampire's home.

Stoker's novel established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and a woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard's 1885 essay "Transylvania Superstitions" which includes content about a vampire myth.  Some historians are convinced that a historic figure, Vlad III Dracula, often called Vlad the Impaler, was the model for Stoker's Count although there is no supporting evidence. Although popular when it appeared, this novel only reached its broad and iconic status later in the 20th century when the movie versions began to appear.

Modern interpretations are many and fascinatingly widely divergent.  From Wikipedia:

In the last several decades, literary and cultural scholars have offered diverse analyses of Stoker's novel and the character of Count Dracula:

 

  • C.F. Bentley reads Dracula as an embodiment of the Freudian id.

  • Carol A. Senf reads the novel as a response to the New Woman archetype.

  • Christopher Craft sees Dracula as embodying latent homosexuality and sees the text as an example of a 'characteristic, if hyperbolic instance of Victorian anxiety over the potential fluidity of gender roles'.

  • Stephen D. Arata interprets the events of the novel as anxiety over colonialismand racial mixing.

  • Talia Schaffer construes the novel as an indictment of Oscar Wilde.

  • Franco Moretti reads Dracula as a figure of monopoly capitalism.

  • Hollis Robbins suggests that Dracula's inability to participate in social conventions and to forge business partnerships undermines his power.

  • Richard Noll reads Dracula within the context of 19th century alienism (psychiatry) and asylum medicine.

  • D. Bruno Starrs understands the novel to be a pro-Catholic pamphlet promoting proselytization.

Well ...

If perhaps you just enjoy a good horror novel and have a penchant for goth fashion, you may be interested in a special World Dracula Day Symposium hosted at The Vampire Historian website, with podcasts about the vampire in history, folklore, literature, television and film. For more on this , click the stylized Dracula book cover.