An Open Letter To The Pagan Community Of South Africa
Vampyres have long been criticized and even feared in the world of the non-vampiric, even though many Pagans have been aware of us. When Pagan religions became recognized in South Africa, there were debates about what defined a truly Pagan religion, and what was simply a practice related to ones beliefs and did or did not qualify to be recognized as falling under the same umbrella of Paganism. This is an open letter from the South African Vampyre Community to South African Pagans.
For us Vampyres, we find ourselves often alone, and the pariahs of every other group, and so it is hardly surprising when we find people wishing to disassociate themselves and their religions from us.
Overall, the response we have seen thus far from local Pagans has been positive, non-judgmental and encouraging. However, some Pagans have balked at the thought of self-identified and practicing Vampyres coming out among them as also being Pagan, or even daring to even inadvertently forge a link between their vampiric state and Paganism as a religion. There have been comments to the effect that Vampyres should not be considered part of any Pagan religion, or the Pagan movement as a whole. Perhaps this is for the sake of public relations, being that those of us who supposedly go round stealing the life-force of others, or even worse, consuming blood, would possibly give credence to the far right extremist claims made by adherents of other religions. Perhaps it’s because the thought of sharing a ritual or standing in a circle beside someone who might be stealing their energy is just too much for them to deal with.
On one hand, they’re right. We’re Vampyres, and that’s not a Pagan belief, but a personal one. Like many beliefs within Pagan religions, its an experiential process of self-realization. It’s not a religion to be a Vampyre, and like you we can follow any religion we choose – so being a Vampyre is not directly tied with being a Pagan. Being what we are as Vampyres is a personal belief we arrive at through careful introspection, experience, and realizing that we have needs that make us vampiric. Being a Vampyre is therefore no more Pagan than standing in a garage makes you a car.
In my personal experience, when open minded people understand what we are, they welcome us and accept us in their company. It is often the closed-minded and intolerant who either do not know what it is they are judging, or do not want to know more about the thing they are judging, because they wish to continue to do so.
We realize that what we are may be unsettling to some. But I ask that you consider the image of us some of you portray in your comments and opinions in the same light that some people would sketch you for being a Pagan – that of “devil worshiper”, “satanist” or “witch” etc. It is an image – a stereotype, and we know stereotypes, don’t we? They are the things that say “all” Afrikaans people enjoy rugby. “All” non-Christians are “evil” or “all” Catholic priests molest children. Stereotypes therefore can be seen to be inaccurate assumptions based upon incomplete information.
Once the correct information has been obtained, the flaws in the stereotype become apparent, and the stereotype is disabled, disarmed and made obsolete. Once a stereotype has been removed, a barrier that existed between two groups disappears – and free and open communication between those groups can begin, with clearer and better understanding between them.
That is what we are hoping to achieve as a community. We do not ask for you to start including vampirism as a faith group within Paganism in South Africa, but simply to acknowledge our existence without prejudice and at least show us the same respect, welcome or tolerance you show various other groups identified by characteristics not related specifically to Paganism.
For someone to say we have no place in paganism is inaccurate. We have as much right to be Pagans – or Christians, or Hindus, as anyone else – and to be open – or private – about who we are as anyone else does. Consequently, as a Pagan who is also vampiric, I would expect that if I felt the need to come out as vampiric, for other Pagans to show me a measure of acceptance or tolerance, and to be welcome in Pagan groups or company.
Whether you accept us for what we are, or not – or if we accept ourselves for what we are, or not – either way, we are what we are. You may feel you need to condone my being vampiric, but I have always been vampiric and one day will die vampiric – with or without your approval. Sometimes we come out on our own, sometimes you pick us out on your own, sometimes even exposing us without considering what the consequences may be for us. Be that as it may, would you rather know us for who we are, or continue to pretend that we do not exist, even though we are among you, even as friends and colleagues and family members? Is that not delusional?
Some describe us rather harshly and somewhat unfairly as parasites, even though many of us work in the healing fields, using our natural talents as energy workers, giving back and caring for the communities we live in.
Imagine for a moment what it must be like for someone to realize they are vampiric, and to face having to deal with this need in order to remain stable, healthy and well? Do you perhaps imagine we feed off others because we enjoy it? Are you perhaps under the impression that we get a kick out of taking the life essence of others, even when it is offered willingly to us? I can tell you that when a Donor provides me with their essence, I feel for that person. It is a sacrifice they make to help me, and guilty though I feel about it – it is something I must have – or face the consequences.
It is my view that as soon as I stop giving back to the community or those around me, or those who help me, then the term “parasite” may indeed apply to me. But for the rest, I give back what I can to my community through whatever works I can. Among us, you will find doctors, lawyers, motor mechanics, human rights activists, teachers etc. Yes, among us – as in any other group, there are bad apples – but it is unfair to judge us all because of a few individuals. We are not all gothic, or emo, or junkies, or cutters, or unemployed, or parasites – or Pagans. We are not a stereotype.
Science and medicine cannot explain us yet, although it is trying. Psychiatry dismisses us in the same way as most people dismiss beliefs in magick and energy work. But what can explain us, for the moment at least, is ancient belief systems such as older Pagan faiths – which is one reason why so many of us are drawn to Paganism and the deities related to vampirism. Either way, pushing us aside or denying our relevance is not going to make us go away or take up knitting instead. Being thus gives us certain advantages in some cases, but also a great number of disadvantages.
Without the willing help of others, we – particularly sanguine Vampyres, would be in dire straits indeed. That is why we do not condone the abuse of those who help us, by members of our community. We often have close relations with our Donors and consider them a part of our community. They are precious to us. There is even a Donor Bill of Rights governing the treatment of Donors. They have the right to withhold their service to us at any time, and their health concerns always come first.
We too have systems of ethics and rules governing how and when we feed. Those who feed from others without permission are in violation of these ethics, in as much as they are in violation of the Wiccan Rede, among others. Unawakened psychic Vampyres feed uncontrollably and unconsciously because they don’t know what they are, and they haven’t learned how to control it. In fact, they would probably laugh at you if you tried to tell them they are vampiric – but when awakened they can be taught, and they stop feeding erratically and harmfully, and they can then answer for their actions.
So far I haven’t seen any Vampyre asking for Vampyres as an identity group to be officially associated with Paganism, or for us to be accepted as a Pagan religion. But I would like to state for the record that Vampyres, like anyone else who is endangered or at risk of bigotry and ostracism for being different, or for being a minority group – seek out places of tolerance and welcoming. I myself am Wiccan, and I turned to Wicca because of the tolerant climate I perceived in Pagan groups, and that is something I see sadly lacking in the comments made by some individuals.
While some do not like the idea, there are a great number of people – and even Pagans, who are also secretly Vampyres. You would be very surprised to learn who in Pagan or Wiccan circles is a Vampyre as well.
Some call being vampiric a weakness. I agree with them. Vampirism is a reliance upon others to keep us healthy, and if that is not a weakness, then I am at a loss to explain what it is. We rely on other people. Are Pagans in South Africa going to turn their backs on those among them who have a weakness, for that very weakness?
Founder: House Valur Vampyre Coven