A response to ‘Wake up and smell the blood !’
Often, critics of any particular group or subculture will launch scathing attacks on that group using science and medicine as weapons, when available – even distorted. When not available, they will try to dismiss the object of their disapproval as “insane”, “disturbed” or “threatening” to whatever social order or belief structure they are sitting in, from where they will cast stones. Sometimes they will employ both in a confusing mix of blazing religious rhetoric and convenient pseudo-science, and add a pretty paint job to make it look light, fluffy, clean and good. They will often employ their own opinions as both motivation as well as a weapon in their favor. However, the use of religious or spiritual systems of belief as a weapon in persecuting any group only opens them up to a greater debate around the relative accuracy or relevance of their own value system or religious belief system in comparison to that of the group being attacked.
In his article WAKE UP AND SMELL THE BLOOD! Erebos points out that “An opinion is anyway a subjective belief, and is most often the result of emotion or personal interpretation of facts”. It is rarely based on so-called “undeniable facts”’ making it very clear to me that his debate on the subject of vampirism is his opinion, based on his understanding of the topic and as an opinion, it does not follow that it needs be accurate.
I believe this is a good thing, because in this he opens the floor to debate and because it will not help our case to simply state that he doesn’t know what he is talking about when it comes to Vampyres, even if that were my opinion and even if it is true.
By his article it is pretty clear to me that Erebos has based his whole critical view of Vampyres – as it were, his opinion as an outsider to vampirism – on the critical material written by other skeptics who are also outsiders to vampirism and like them, has little actual understanding of his subject.
In this case it appears that the author is attempting to break down the experiences and belief systems of Vampyres by portraying the Vampyre Community as a group of mentally ill people who are suffering some form of pop culture induced mass delusion and raises the question whether Pagans should or shouldn’t tolerate Pagans who are also practicing Vampyres (and therefore exhibiting mental illness) among them. Since he states his opinion that Vampyres are suffering from a mental illness called Renfield’s Syndrome it seems rather clear what his answer
to that question is.
Erebos also claims that modern Vampyres are “entities based on fiction and pop culture” and that being a Vampyre is a “lifestyle” and therefore entirely a choice. I am reminded by this of the rhetoric employed by so many anti-gay bigots who preach ad nauseam on the “gay agenda” and the “gay lifestyle” and (tongue-in-cheek) wonder whether I will see follow-up articles by this and other clearly prejudiced authors containing transmogrified terms such as “the Vampyre lifestyle” and “the Vampyre Agenda”.
That said, let’s take a closer look at Erebos’s argument.
To begin with, we all should realize that no religion or belief system can be factually proven and therefore, no religion or belief system can produce evidence or facts to prove itself to be more right, correct or true than any other. If any one did, rest assured, I’m pretty sure about 90% of the world’s population would be going to the same church service or coven ritual, or AA meeting. Clearly that is not the case, so therefore, any use of such a belief system as a plumbline against any other is no more than hubris.
In stating that he is expressing only his opinion about Vampyres and what makes a person a Vampyre, Erebos attempts to create the impression that he is being objective, unprejudiced and not being overly-critical or hostile to his subject. Unfortunately however, he fails this test on numerous points within his own article in which, time and again and in various ways, he asserts that people who identify as Vampyres (whether sanguine or psychic) do so as a result of some or other mental illness or some form of self-delusion.
Erebos closes with a statement which draws his bias to a fine conclusion, “Vampyrism is not a religion or a spirituality, and neither is it a philosophy. It is a lifestyle based on pseudo-sciences, pseudo-history, myths, legends, folklore, fiction and Pop Culture. Vampyres are not the mythical vampires nor are they the reincarnation of these creatures. Entities based on fiction and Pop Culture do not reincarnate.”
In this, he is only partly correct. Vampyrism in itself is not a religion, spirituality or a philosophy, but as a subculture, he appears to dismiss entirely the probability that we possess and feature all three concepts in a blend that makes us unique as a stand-alone group. Within the Vampyre Community, we are diverse in our religious affiliations and practices, spirituality and beliefs. Through the years we have developed our own philosophies, and within the community some of these are seen as ‘vampiric paths’. There is the Kherete path, which is a spiritual path for psychic Vampyres and energy workers based out of House Kheperu in Ohio. There is the Ordo Strigoi Vii, and the Ordo Tenebrae, two darker paths currently operating out of France. Want a really dark and mysterious path? Try the Temple of the Vampire (ToV). There is the Vampire Church, and the TUVUP and the Order of Lilith. There are numerous others, all over the world, both small and large, better and lesser known.
Reincarnation as a concept is still well within the boundary of various religious beliefs, so that point is moot, but for interest’s sake, in a survey conducted for self-identified Vampyres in the USA by Suscitatio LLC in 2006-9, 78% of respondents believe they have reincarnated. This does not mean that they did, and although it would be harder for them to prove their claims than it might seem for others to disprove them, it cannot be discounted as a possibility that people do reincarnate. You see, that is a belief, something which people believe or disbelieve by choice. One might as well try to use medicine to prove that there is no Christian God, or geology to prove that there is. As Erebos elaborated, arguing about beliefs is pointless because if one side could be proven above the other, then it would become a fact, and arguing over facts isn’t just pointless, it’s stupid.
THE VAMPIRE LIFESTYLE
Only some Vampyres identify with the lifestyle aspect of the vampire stereotype. Yes, there are people who dress the part of the fictional vampire – with few exceptions these people do not seriously claim to be actual vampires or to even drink blood. I believe Erebos is referring to another subculture in which Vampyres, or vampire role-players, often manifest; the goth scene. However not all Vampyres are goths, nor are all goths Vampyres. According to the global survey conducted by Suscitatio, self-identified Vampyres do not live a so-called “vampire lifestyle” such as sleeping in coffins, dressing up as goths, or wearing fangs. 64% of participants responded that they do NOT identify with the gothic subculture. For the most part Vampyres look and dress just like anyone else.
Further, he has also painted Vampyres as being influenced by the BDSM and fetish scene, another assumption, which he uses to support improvable claims that vampirism is motivated solely out of misdirected sexual desires. As in every cultural group there will always be an overlap with others, a fact he refers to in his very first sentence. He might as well claim that Vampyres are influenced by Christianity, Rap and stamp collecting.
He also paints Vampyre individuals as being influenced by the pop culture obsession with vampires in movies such as “Twilight” and “True Blood”. I wonder how he would feel about a statement claiming that Pagans or Wiccans were being overly-influenced by Harry Potter? Same prejudice, same short-sighted bigotry.
Incidentally, I find it curious that among his extensive listing of sources and links at the end of his article, Erebos has no reference to the study conducted by Suscitatio LLC? Surely he saw links to it on some of the sites he listed, Sanguinarius for example? Did he somehow miss it, or was it omitted because the study was commissioned by the Vampyre Community for the Vampyre Community and went in a direction opposite to the one which he was writing?
The assumption he makes that the concept of the psychic vampire is an entirely modern invention is also inaccurate. He appears to have completely overlooked at least a few other mythical creatures which fit the bill; the succubis, the incubis and the night demon, all of whom drain mortals of vital life essence and sometimes even blood. Therefore it seems logical to reason that the foundation of the myth has simply found a different expression and taken on a new label and we people certainly seem to enjoy labeling ourselves and each other.
Erebos states on the topic of psychic Vampyres “The problem these vampyres have to confront, of course, is that blood drinking vampyres have one obvious advantage: blood drinking is provable. The self-identified psi-vamps have no mechanism available to them as objective proof that they “psi-feed”. All their evidence is subjective.” To demonstrate his prejudice still further, he adds “So, often, they have to replace direct demonstration with rhetoric, emotionalism, cries of discrimination, etc.”.
In criticizing a belief (that of Vampyres in their own nature resulting from their own personal experiences) for lack of external evidence or proof, Erebos has fallen foul of his own argument on opinion and belief.
The same arguments he has applied against Vampyres; a belief about self, and a self-realization process leading to a belief about one’s own experiences, can be applied against any religion, recognized or not. Let’s say whatever his religion, it consists of people who follow a subculture based on pseudo-sciences, pseudo-history, myths, legends, folklore, fiction and Pop Culture. How many modern Pagans, for example, are drawn to Paganism or Wicca by depictions and stereotypes of witches created in modern fiction? And yet, we all know this isn’t true for everyone.
The same could be said using any other religion or belief system as an example. In his article, Erebos is tarring all who identify as Vampyres with the same brush and not allowing for any diversity or deviation from the stereotype he is creating. I have to state that this is an extremely narrow-minded and hostile view and one which is unbecoming of one who expects other groups to take his own beliefs, both provable and improvable, seriously.
In Erebos’s article he makes extensive reference to the vampire archetype as expressed in folklore and history, and relates its development from ancient to modern times. From the way he expresses himself in his article, it seems to me that he is trying to show that we really identify with the mythical monsters upon which modern fiction has based characters like Anne Rice’s Lestat and Vampire Diaries’ Damon Salvatore. This is of course, untrue. He is correct in saying that “Vampyres are not the mythical vampires”, but why does he launch into two lengthy sections about the development of the vampire myth, the etymology of the word ‘vampire’ and associated folklore? It seems as if he is trying to correlate the growth and development of the modern Vampyre Community with changes and fluctuations in public perception and entertainment media; as though he is trying to use our association with the word “Vampyre” or vampire to discredit those with vampiric needs and nature?
Those who today make up the real community of Vampyres do not believe they are the undead form of vampire, reincarnated or not. We are people who have certain needs, experience life a certain way, and rightly or wrongly we have adopted the name “vampire” or Vampyre to give expression to that which we feel applies to ourselves, speaking of our need to satisfy the hunger within us. Because of all the unflattering alternate terms available to describe us, it should be said that “vampire” is least offensive to us and at least has the positive of being associated with romance, mystery and potential positives. Think about that for a moment – what else are creatures which feed off the life energy of others called? Nothing flattering I assure you. Try “leech”, “parasite” and “predator” just to name a few.
In his references to “Renfield’s Syndrome”, Erebos says “in my opinion (and in the opinion of many psychologists and psychiatrists) the “need” or “desire” to drink blood points towards delusional tendencies and a personality disorder.”
However, Wikipedia and several other sites discussing the topic, point out that there is no official diagnosis by this name. In fact, that it does not actually exist in medical journals.
The term is named after Dracula’s insect-eating assistant, Renfield, in the novel by Bram Stoker and has been used in both psychiatric and fictional literature, and numerous TV shows. But still it is not an official medical diagnosis! It is pointed out that in cases where vampirism appears to play a role, medical professionals are compelled to apply “official psychiatric diagnostic categories such as schizophrenia or as a variety of paraphilia”. So much for Renfield’s Syndrome as a real “disorder” that can be factually applied to show that self-identified vampires are mentally ill.
Erebos takes pains to suggest that we are suffering from mental illness and delusions. In the last section of his article, based upon his assertion that Vampyres suffer mental illness, he poses the question whether the Pagan community should support (read tolerate) those Pagans among them who are practising Vampyres. Given his bias, I have an idea which direction he leans on this matter, but that is pure conjecture on my part.
He also says that “Vampyric people such as Sanguinarians would be labelled by psychiatrists as suffering from this syndrome” and yet, are they? Despite the thousands of self-identified Vampyres around the world, many of whom participated in the Suscitatio study and the many who exist openly, appear on television interviews, operate businesses, or hold public office, there are relatively few individuals languishing in mental institutions today, committed under any diagnosis related to vampirism. Why not? Are we not all supposed to be mentally ill?
According to the description of this pseudo-scientific syndrome it is also emphasized that those described by “Renfield’s Syndrome” are almost exclusively male. Why then are at least half of the members of the Vampyre Community female?
Erebos claims Vampyres use “pseudo-science” to support their claims of legitimacy. What then is “Renfield’s Syndrome” if not pseudo-science?
He says “A person suffering from Renfield’s Syndrome is convinced that without a daily supply of blood from an outside source he/she will die.” and falls foul of the fact that most sanguine Vampyres readily admit to obtaining a blood feeding perhaps once a week, to every two weeks, and sometimes even months apart if lucky.
He makes extensive use of quotations, such as this one by Ludwig Borne, “Getting rid of a delusion makes us wiser than getting hold of a truth.” and “Truth may sometimes hurt, but delusion harms” by Vanna Bonta to illustrate his point. He is therefore, rather skilfully, labeling an entire community as being deluded and trying to show that we are not individuals worthy of inclusion in any other community, but most specifically among Pagans.
He appears to be weighing up one groups “delusion” – sorry, I mean belief system / religion / spirituality – up with another and implying that one is “more real” than the other.
If indeed Vampyres suffer from any kind of trauma, it would more than likely be paranoia, persecution and inferiority complexes resulting from the overwhelming guilt and self-doubt resulting from the condemnation we face because of who and what we are, religious and otherwise.
Unprejudiced? Objective? I think not!
Erebos says “I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that most people who fall into the category of blood-drinkers do so for psychological reasons and not due to some ill-defined physical illnesses.”
I need to pose the question whether craving chocolate, or salt, is psychological or physical? Could it be both? Could such cravings manifest psychologically and yet have a yet unknown medical or physical cause at their root? Does sugar and salt just taste nice, or does it have medical or biological uses beneficial or necessary to cellular function and health? Animal cravings for items such as salt or sweet in the diet is already well-documented in nature, with certain apes making regular journeys to a hard-to-reach locations just to eat rock-salt taken from natural mineral deposits. Further, if you give in to these cravings or are faced with them, does it make you deluded or mentally unstable? No? Or is it only when such cravings involve blood, or energy and some kind of post-Christian religious hangover kicks in?
Erebus says “Many people within the Vampyric Community drink blood to consciously reaffirm their vampire identity (meaning they do it because they want to, and they know that they want to) – others may be compelled to do so by psychological needs and even sexual drives they can often neither understand nor control, and as such these people need therapy.”
Many people? How many? How would any researcher be able to make such a claim without access to statistics based on a survey of the whole Vampyre Community, or sans material gathered by mental health experts who have worked extensively with individuals making such statements to affirm his claim which says for all intents and purposes that “Vampyres only drink blood in order to feel like Vampyres”?
I would love to see the facts and statistics behind that fancy little statement and not the opinion or the blatant guess-work which characterizes that entire paragraph with nothing more than speculation and thumb-sucking.
I have to also point out again that all this comes from a person who is apparently asserting the worth of his own particular belief system, while trying hard to not appear to be trashing the beliefs and dignity of another.
This, while provoking and anticipating a response and baiting the trap with the proviso that “I have found that it is often the very groups who accuse others of being xenophobic, who themselves operate within a very specific clique, and who through emotional manipulation deny others outside their clique the opportunity to express themselves honestly by crying foul and demanding that their constitutional and religious rights be recognised.”
Erebos by this intimates that if Vampyres object to the prejudicial abuse being directed at us then we are being hypocritical in that we may threaten to use constitutional and religious rights in order to silence those exercising their democratic right to abuse us. He doesn’t seem to consider or allow entry into the equation that Vampyres might have a point when they say they are really being persecuted or disadvantaged by the hostility being directed at them. This appears to be a subtle allusion to the common practice of what is called “victim blaming”.
I’m not sure where the “emotional manipulation” he refers to comes in exactly, but fear not Erebos, in my experience it is far more effective to allow people the right to freely open their mouths in order to change their feet.
I was always led to understand that Pagan traditions were based on personal experience rather than doctrine, tolerance rather than intolerance, and that Paganism is a group of experiential religions which showed marked respect for different beliefs and traditions both within and without the whole. For Vampyres, we have only our own experiences to go on. We know what works for us and we know what happens to us when we abstain from feeding for too long.
At the end of the day, Erebos makes it clear that he is speaking outside the boundaries of his own experiences and beyond the limits of his own understanding. I have nothing but respect for the beliefs of others, even if I do not agree with them and I have no more than my personal experiences to base my personal beliefs about my vampirism on, and he doesn’t even have that.