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Guest Post: The Counting Count: Arithmomania and the Legend of the Vampire

By Donnambr @_mrs_b

Guest post: The Counting Count: Arithmomania and the Legend of the Vampire

Source: D. Sharon Pruitt (Flickr)

The vampire has an almost ludicrous array of weaknesses.

Today’s vampire-on-the-go must steer clear of garlic, mirrors, flowing water, daylight, holy symbols and fire in addition to the standard pointy and slicy things we must all avoid.

Attempting to juggle all of this with the cut-and-thrust of modern business and trying to raise a horde of children all alone in the big city, and you already have a recipe for disaster… a brand new light comedy-drama series coming soon to HBO.

That’s not all a vampire has to contend with, though, unfortunately – there’s one particular weakness that tends to be left out of the stories, and that weakness is arithmomania, or a compulsion to continually count everything around you.

Counting The Uncountable

For some reason, there are many legends in which creatures are punished by being forced to count large numbers of things. Examples include counting every grain of sand on a beach, or measuring the water in the ocean, or simply counting all the wheat grains in a particularly wealthy city’s granaries.

It is also said that if you burn salt you will be forced to pick every grain of salt out of hell when you die – a particularly gruesome punishment for a minor culinary infraction I always thought.

Presumably the devil is very particular about his housekeeping.

Salt Over The Shoulder To Ward Off The Devil

Vampires have, over time, become a sort of sponge for all sorts of half-remembered cultural stories and traditions. It was pretty much inevitable, then, that some folktales involving them would incorporate arithmomania.

The story goes that if you are chased by a vampire, throwing grains of wheat or sand on the floor will ward it away, as its compulsive nature will force it to count every single speck.

Weird, but compelling, the idea of the counting vampire has survived into many modern adaptations of the vampire legend…Count von Count from Sesame Street being the most famous one.

This may be where the superstition of throwing salt over your shoulder to ward off the devil comes from – the devil, like the less traditionally Christian myth of the vampire, has to stop to count each grain before he can bring you bad luck.

Count von Count, Vampire Rights Advocate

The Count from Sesame Street is a modern relic of ancient traditions and horror stories stretching back through the centuries, the supernatural being undone by their need to count everything at all times.

A proud vampire rights activist, the Sesame Street Count has reclaimed the terrible weakness of arithmomania, transforming it into a clarion call, a call for freedom.

Check out this video of the count in action…

Any of you have a weird obsession for counting things?

Have you ever found yourself in your seat at work, bored stupid, counting the ceiling tiles?

Darren S Hancock is a writer for ‘Choose Your Accountant’, a website that can help you find an accountant whether you are looking for accountants in London or somewhere else in the UK.

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