With True Blood back for a fourth season, fans of the hit TV show will know that not every vampire is content with synthetic blood substitute. Some insist on the real deal, freshly decanted from a mortal vessel, and so it's important to know how to protect yourself.
Fortunately centuries of vampire mythology have described plenty of defences you could use, even if you have run out of garlic.
If you can find any plant seeds such as mustard and poppy then grab them, as well as any grains such as oats and millet, or rice. Traditional folklore seems convinced that vampires are afflicted with a bizarre form of OCD. Just sprinkle the seeds/grains/rice on the ground around your home and the vampire's obsessive nature will force it to pick up and/or count every item before it can go any further. Some traditions state that a vampire can pick up only one item each year, which should buy you more than enough time to beat a leisurely retreat.
The fiend's OCD-like flaw is also exploited in a Gypsy tradition that hanging fishing nets over your windows and doors will protect your home because the vampire is forced to count all the knots and/or untangle the net before entering. If you don't have any old fishing nets then I guess fishnet tights would do the trick - although the neighbours might give you a funny look.
Plants can safeguard your home. Rose petals supposedly ward off evil and so will protect against vampires. Not only can this beautiful flower burn a vampire if there is physical contact, but its fragrance alone is enough to repel the creature.
Holly hung from doors and windows should keep out unwanted bloodsuckers, the plant's power probably coming from the way it symbolizes continuing life throughout the darkness of winter. In a similar vein (sorry!) hawthorn symbolizes hope because its appearance signals the beginning of spring and new life. This makes it potent against vampires, but be sure to keep the hawthorn outside your home: English folklore holds it unlucky to bring hawthorn indoors.
Ancient Greeks hung buckthorn from their gates to protect their homes from the wandering dead during the festival of Anthesteria. Some gypsy traditions advise keeping logs of juniper wood in your home, and other useful woods include blackthorn and rowan. In Romanian folklore, sewing blackthorn into your clothing was a handy way of carrying your protection around with you, while in parts of Britain, crosses made of rowan were attached to cattle sheds to keep supernatural evil away.
The cross differs from the crucifix in that the latter bears a representation of the crucified Jesus Christ. When it comes to warding off vampires the crucifix is more powerful, but the cross is handier because its simple shape can easily be improvised from whatever household objects are within reach: cutlery, hockey stocks, umbrellas - whatever. Even painting the sign of the cross on your doors and windows should stop vampires from getting in. Be warned, though: the strength of a religious symbol lies not in the symbol itself, but in the wielder's faith.
A burning candle is symbolic of the sun and spiritual goodness, and so its light is a vampire deterrent. Incense associated with religious rites also protects against vampires and so the next time you shop for scented candles it might be worth choosing ones impregnated with frankincense and myrrh.
An old Polish tradition stated that eating bread made from flour mixed with vampire blood makes you invulnerable to vampires. This may not be the most useful advice for everyone, but if you do happen to know a baker with the right contacts it's probably worth a shot.
A more enjoyable treat comes from Romanian folklore: bury a bottle of wine near the grave of a suspected vampire, leave it there for six weeks, and then dig it up. Those who drink it will be protected against vampires, or maybe just more relaxed about the prospect of meeting them.
I have just room here to mention a final defence, one tricky to arrange, but worth employing if you know the right people. There is a Gypsy tradition that twins born on a Saturday - ideally brother and sister - have power over vampires, but only if the twins wear their underwear inside out.
Such defenders could frighten off any prospective vampiric invader. I can quite believe that - I wouldn't want to get too close either!