Elizabeth Bathory: Blood Countess
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Elizabeth Bathory Countess Erzsébet Báthory
August 7, 1560 - August 21, 1614
Some say she died August 14, 1614

The notorious Elizabeth Bathory, known as "The Blood Countess", was born in Hungary in 1560. Apparently her family members included witches, satyrs and lesbians. Elizabeth fit right in with this family from the beginning it seems, giving birth to a child fathered out of wedlock by a peasant boy. She was fourteen at the time, and in residence at a chateau belonging to her future mother-in-law, Countess Ursula Nadasdy. She had been betrothed to Count Ferencz Nadasdy since the age of eleven. While this might seem very young to us in the year 2000 and counting, it was commonplace in the middle ages. Life was much, much shorter then, and the politically advantaged/rich used their children to form alliances through the bond of marriage.

The wedding/political union took place on May 8, 1575. Elizabeth was fifteen. Notably, she retained her surname and her husband changed his name to Ferencz Bathory. The negotiations predating this marriage must have been as intense as any agreements forged today!

Her husband desired war, choosing the battlefield over domestic life. While he campaigned for blood in war, earning himself the name "Black Hero of Hungary", his wife discovered her own dark devotion to blood. She began to visit a lesbian aunt, Countess Karla Bathory, and participated in womens' orgies.

A servant at Csejthe Castle, where she lived and ruled, taught her the ways of black magic. Thorko knew all about witchcraft, enough to teach her this practice she related to Ferencz in a letter: "Thorko has taught me a lovely new one. Catch a black hen and beat it to death with a white cane. Keep the blood and smear a little of it on your enemy. If you get no chance to smear it on his body, obtain one of his garments and smear it."

Others helped create the drama of horror and depravity this countess unleashed. In addition to Thorko, there was Elizabeth's former nurse, Ilona Joo, a pair of witches named Dorottya Szentes and Darvulia, and a dwarf majordomo, Johannes Ujvary. I recently heard that dwarfs were actually popular amongst the powerful nobility of the middle ages, but I'm sure that Ujvary was one of the most sinister in history. He soon assumed the position of chief torturer, working his cruelty upon buxom servant girls Elizabeth "punished" for failing at even the most trivial of tasks.

In "her ladyship's torture chamber", serving girls were subjected to branding irons, molten wax and knives. The Blood Countess is supposed to have left one nude, honey-coated girl to the insects in the forest. She is reputed to having bit the poor, bound victims with her own teeth, taking bloody chunks from necks, cheeks, shoulders. . . Torches, razors, custom made silver pincers were added to her list of gruesome instruments of torture.

Reputed to be a woman of beauty, with long raven tresses and milkpure complexion, with amber eyes that watched one like a cat might, and her figure fashionably voluptuous, Elizabeth lived a vain existence of narcissism. Her inevitable aging did not bode well for the young women who had to live and work around her, nor for some in the surrounding villages, apparently, when wrinkles appeared and would not cede to the affects of cosmetics.

Then, the event which I heard about first regarding this Countess: she slapped a girl for some infraction, possibly a careless comment about Elizabeth's headdress or merely the mistake of pulling her hair (was she getting gray or white hairs by then, I wonder?). Elizabeth's slap made blood spurt from the unfortunate servant's nose, spurt against her nasty mistress' face. It seemed to Elizabeth, when she observed herself in a mirror, that the blood removed her wrinkles where it had touched her skin. This accident/seeming miracle accelerated the already heartless tortures, all for the sake of youth. Not only did the countess keep her name, but she craved to stay young. . . perhaps she was very modern after all -- in the worst sense.

In her quest to bathe in the blood of virgins, there were many, many corpses to be disposed of, and these bodies were discovered, though Elizabeth and her accomplices got away with these horrible murders even after her husband's death in 1604. There is speculation that Ferencz died of poisoning. Some rumor it was witchcraft.

After Darvulia died, Erzsi Majorova gave advice: the virgins must be of noble birth and blue blood, if Elizabeth's aging was to be halted. The numbers say that she practiced her blood baths and witch rites for more than a decade, drenched with the blood of over 650 maidens, peasant and noble alike. The countess reportedly documented 610 of these tortures in a diary.

None of this returned her to physical youth, and finally, her atrocities attracted the attention of officials.

Politics always has its pull; Elizabeth never attended her own trial. She was charged with criminal acts but her accomplices were tried for vampirism, witchcraft and the practice of pagan rituals. Some were beheaded. Not Ilona Joo and Dorottya Szentes, who had their fingers pulled off before the executioners burned them alive.

Deemed criminally insane, Countess Bathory was walled up in a room of her castle. She was fed through a small opening in a door, her only contact with other humans, and was discovered, dead, on August 14, 1614.

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