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R is for Revenant

Unlike most undead, the Revenant, from Medieval European Folklore, is a returned spirit that possesses a corpse, typically its own, while retaining its intelligence and scraps of its humanity. Some classify revenants as vampires due to a certain characteristics, like occasionally drinking blood, but they are much more closely related to zombies overall.

Depiction of a Revenant.

While the revenant wears the outside appearances of the body it inhabits, it has a particular aura of dread and unease about him, making those nearby edgy. Another attribute they have is the ability to continue their (im)mortal business while retaining most of their sanity. However, their urge to obtain release by means of revenge plague their mental faculties. Nearly impervious to pain, revenant are usually eradicated in the old fashioned method of cutting off the head then staking and burning the heart.

Various outbreaks and poor medical knowledge probably contributed to the growing tales of revenants. Diseases traveled and hit multiple villages, easily creating an image that something was wrong in the area. The way people generally “found a solution” to their issue was by finding the offending undead and putting it out of its unlife. A white feverish person could be mistaken as a revenant and was usually dealt with as eagerly a buried corpse.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Revenant comes from the Latin word revenans, which means “returning.” The French word revenant means “coming back.”
  • In Medieval England, the revenant was simply considered a corpse that haunts and terrorizes those around him. Although, they also were noted as seeking revenge or harassing people like friends and neighbors for specific reasons, such as avenging his murder.
  • Medieval Historians documented several stories of revenants, which usually were personal and about a specific person’s who had died.

Have you heard of the Revenant before? If so, where?


  1. I found your blog when I was searching to see if revenants were featured in other folklores besides the Irish. Interestingly, in medieval Irish texts, the revenants was never dead, but he was extremely long-lived. One in particular, Fintan mac Bóchna, stuck around for 5,500 years, from 50 years before the Flood, to relate Irish history to later generations (the Irish didn't have writing until the coming of Christianity @5th century. Thanks for the post… really interesting contrast.

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