Real Vampires in South Africa?
It is a strange and ironic fact that when we lie about who we are, people are just fine with the illusion that everyone is like them – but when we are honest and open and try to help others to understand us, they fear and hate us instead. Any intelligent being that thinks about such things has to wonder about the apparent value of deception over truth. My name is Octarine Valur. It is not my legal name, nor was it always my name. It is my nightside name, one I took for myself when I discovered what I was.
South Africa is a pretty conservative place still, and the city I live in a little more so. It’s odd to think of such a modern city still having such a conservative small-town attitude, despite us having such a modern and advanced Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion and expression. There are many, many churches and small one-room cults split off from the Christian mainstream here where I live. Most of them are very active, charismatic, evangelical and fanatically intolerant of anything they disagree with – mostly homosexuality and other religions. Quite frankly, if you are different in any way, or stand out from the crowd, you become a target. I think you can guess that makes things harder for us.
You are probably wondering who “us” is, so let me tell you – vampires. I do not say this lightly, nor am I delusional or under the influence of any medication, narcotic or drug. I, like others, am a vampire. No kidding, seriously. “Real vampires?” I can almost hear you asking the question. What’s that? Somebody who goes around calling themselves a vampire can’t be “normal” can they? In fact, they’re probably batty. But before I give you a brief explanation of what real vampires are about, let me tell you a little about me first.
I’m not like those Hollywood creations – the dishy hunks, the pale delightfully Gothic waifs, the hauntingly beautiful descendants of that screen icon, Bella Lugosi, nor am I a caricature such as those in old legends and romantic novels. I do not sleep in a coffin, nor do I fear crucifixes or holy water. I am not demon possessed, nor do I stalk people like a predator in the night, nor do I sparkle. I walk the day without bursting into flames, I sleep at night because like everyone else, I have a day-job. I can bleed, believe me I do. And like everyone else, a silver bullet, a stake in the heart and having someone cut off my head would be most certainly fatal. No, I am what is termed a real vampire, alive, and living – but who has a need to replenish my own energy with energy from other sources.
I didn’t always think of myself as a vampire, in fact, once upon a time I also thought, as many people do, that vampires were only fiction. Whenever I saw news articles of people claiming to be vampires I used to think “yeah, right” and moved on. I am many things in my life today, and I am not defined simply by my nature as a vampire, but by all these things together, which are many facets to my personality.
We vampires believe that we are born this way, not made or “turned” as the fiction portrays us. We go through life unaware of our nature until we awaken to it, and then we have a choice, to accept it – to accept ourselves, or to try and pretend it doesn’t exist. To some, it is a spiritual thing, and there are even vampire religions and cults in the world focusing on vampirism as a spiritual focus of their beliefs, but that is only some. To most of us, being thus is just what we are – what we believe, well – we are still free to believe whatever we want. That’s why I have met Kin who are of every mainstream religion in the modern world.
Let’s move onto the detail of the what. What is a real vampire? Why add the word “real” to the description? Well, because the existence of vampires has long been a sordid, secret affair – made all that much more vague by myth and lore, and also popular fiction. These days it is hard to be taken seriously when you discover you are vampiric, when the first thing that pops into your head is coffins, Count Dracula and *shudder* Twilight.
First we have to define a real vampire. Perhaps as an introduction, the best way to define a real vampire is to define what we are not.
* Vampires do not “only” drink blood. They eat and drink other things too, just like “normal” people. In fact, many vampires consume no blood at all, but feed on energy or prana.
* Vampires do not kill people to drink their blood. The average Human body contains 4-6 liters of plasma. No vampire could consume that much blood at one sitting without becoming seriously ill or possibly exploding. The most that is consumed at a time is around a shooter glass full.
* vampires do not attack people for blood, they use the services of consenting, willing donors who share their life essence with them.
* Vampires are not some separate species, we are still Human.
* Vampires are not dead or undead.
* Vampires do not burst into flames or turn to ashes in sunlight.
* Vampires do have reflections – a few I know spend hours in front of a mirror.
* Vampires do not need an invitation to enter anyone’s home – but it is still breaking the law *wink*.
* As with mundanes, silver has no effect on vampires, except to make them better dressed and slightly heavier.
* Vampires do not live forever, are not immortal and can die like anyone else. Staking or shooting or beheading a vampire will kill them just as surely as it would kill any living creature. Silly question, really.
* Most vampires do not have natural fangs, just the “lucky” ones do *wink*.
* Most vampires look nothing like those portrayed in fiction, nor do they look Gothic, or Emo – in fact, why would someone dress to make themselves stand out more, when it is more beneficial for them to blend in?
* Vampires definitely do not sparkle, unless you sprinkle them with glitter. Duh.
So what is a real vampire then? A vampire is a person who has a natural energy deficiency which can only be remedied by the regular intake of prana, which can also be found in blood, whether animal or Human.
There has been a periodic debate about whether or not the name “vampire” is appropriate for us because of the negative connotations of being associated with the mythical creature. Sound arguments have emerged from both camps in these arguments, but it seems most of us enjoy the mystique of the association as well as regret the negative connotations, which is probably why we end up having to explain ourselves so exhaustively.
“What is a real vampire?” “Am I a vampire?” – These are questions we hear a lot in the vampire community, coming from the newly awakened. These are usually questions we dread, because we hear them so much – and end up explaining ourselves to the point of running out of breath – and patience.
Many people eagerly list “symptoms” of being a vampire, which you can read up online in places like Sanguinarius.org or House Kheperu and others – in the hope that we will reach out, pat them on the back and say in a deep, meaningful voice “Son, you’re a vampire”. Nobody can tell you, you are one, you just know you are. You can realize you are one, as it is a process of self-realization, and this is called awakening – when you know. Every established vampire group out there will tell you that.
So what are we? This of course begs the question “What is a real vampire?” Many people produce lists of what they are going through as opposed to what they think will qualify them as a member of the club, with a corner office, reserved parking – and no, nine out of ten, it doesn’t fly. The principles of these check-lists and tests are heavily influenced by fiction that says a vampire is a supernatural being and therefore, to be a vampire you MUST have extraordinary abilities. When it comes to “abilities”, the simple truth is that anyone can have above average hearing or vision or even PSI abilities. In most cases, these are things that can be enhanced or even learned – even manipulating energy can be learned, and in may ways it is like visualization in magickal practice.
Even being light-sensitive, is not a clear indicator – sure, many of us are light sensitive, but so are many non-vampires too. And the idea that not having a father-figure in your life as a child can make you turn out to be a vampire, is about as true as when people claim the same thing “makes” people gay – utterly ridiculous. Many people assume that vamps are Goths, when nothing could be further from the truth. Many vamps are doctors, lawyers, serious scientists – as well as clerks, priests, soldiers, motor mechanics and even – ugh – politicians.
All kidding aside though, to be an actual vampire, all you really need is a naturally occurring deficiency in energy which you cannot satisfy except by taking energy either directly from outside sources, such as prana, or from living blood. Not doing this makes you ill or has other noticeable or even severe consequences which for the most part cannot be effectively treated with conventional medical methods.
If there were to be a basic, clear definition of what makes a real Vampire, then that would be it. Anyway, that is the basic definition of what it is to be a Vampire, according to me. I hope this gives you an idea of what a real Vampire is. If not, just keep reading this until you get it *wink*.
What happens to me when I don’t feed often enough? I start to get sick, weak, tired, depressed, emotional, needy and desperate as hell to answer that need. Which is why it’s best for vamps to stay fed. I think it is Michelle Belanger who said “a hungry vampire is nobody’s friend”, and all I can add to that is “ain’t that the truth?”
Being a vampire, whether Sang or PSI is not an easy path, and it’s nothing like the fiction – “Twilight” is a good example of what people think it is like, but if only it was that good lol – it isn’t. We aren’t dead, we don’t live forever, we don’t burst into flames in sunlight, we don’t turn into mist or bats – we still have the same daily problems everybody else has, plus a few extra – like having to deal with poor health or a need and a thirst we didn’t ask for. And on top of that, the ethical issues this poses for us. Where to feed. How to feed. Where to find donors, how to explain it to people. What will happen when they find out, etc. Many of us remain in denial because of the religious beliefs forced onto us from birth, defining what we are and what we need as being “wrong”, “dangerous” and “evil”.
Usually when vamps disclose to people close to them, for various reasons, about their vampiric nature, people want to see the fangs and they ask all kinds of questions. Sorry, not all of us have actual fangs – least of all ones like you see in the movies. In fact many don’t even have fangs, unless you count a pair of clip-ons kept in a case in the night stand. A vampire can be defined by our illnesses, our weaknesses and we can also be defined by what we do. How do we manifest our vampiric nature? How do we feed? And what do we feed on?
Many feed on blood, using a voluntary donor who willingly feeds them. There are many different methods to obtain the blood, from pins, to lancets and razor blades, to hypodermics. Then you get the bloodless type of feeding, where a psychic vampire will absorb the energy or life-force from a donor. Those who understand energy-work and some magickal practices will understand how this works. For many, the blood is literally the life – it is the most effective form of feeding, and for me the most potent. For others, feeding PSI is their preferred method. Some can do both, or either in various combinations – however it doesn’t matter what source we feed on, we are still vampires. However, in most cases, a vampire will need a source to feed from, and especially in the case of sanguine or blood-consuming vampires, this will be a living human host.
Vampires feed on prana or life-force energy, it is just that some can take energy from other sources or use other means other than taking it from blood. Sanguine, meaning “of the blood”, or in common language, “bloody”. Considering the ingrained image of fictional vampires depicted in books and movies over the years, it should be rather obvious that this refers to the sometimes unpleasant need for some vampires to feed by ingesting living blood. Vampires that feed on blood are called “Sanguinarians”, “Sang Vamps” or “Sangs”. This need for blood has resulted in a number of interesting ways to obtain it. Why not just bite?
Interesting question. Firstly, you need big, sharp, strong teeth to bite into a healthy human skin – and most real vampires do not come with factory-fitted fangs ala Hollywood. Secondly, since real vampires rely on willing donors for blood, I can see why that wouldn’t go down too well in that department. Yes, there are some people that get a kick out of getting bitten – but what is done in love-play or fun is not the same thing required to actually break the skin and draw blood.
Well, speaking as a vampire, I love to bite – in fact, I get that urge almost every time I think of feeding. It comes up so readily, it is almost an autonomic response – and who knows, perhaps it is! But biting causes bruising and can cause bad infections. Humans have very nasty bacteria in their mouths – and yes, we count as Humans too – besides, we don’t want to hurt our donors. It’s a relationship of a kind – you care about a donor, at least as far as not wanting to harm them or hurt them. It’s the least you can do for somebody willing to share their life-essence with you. From a practical point of view, if nasty stories about donors getting bite wounds and infections started circulating, we would soon have an even nastier time finding donors.
I prefer blades or lancets myself. Small shallow cuts are much less visible and heal much easier and are less likely to scar. And they leave your donor much happier, and still willing to continue helping you. And that is the key point – donors, also known as “swans” (you were wondering where that “Twilight” girl’s last name came from, weren’t you?) are helping us by donating their life essence to us. The least we can do in return is to show them consideration, respect and kindness.
Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in places where we can openly frequent haevens and vampyre bars, surrounded by groupies and wannabe freshies, flocking to donate their prana to a good cause. LOL, in fact I think most of us have to rely on close friends or lovers for our sang feedings, unless of course we go the anonymous route, implying the use of subterfuge such as claiming we have “a blood fetish” in order to get our fill. There are places and situations where brute honesty could get you into serious difficulty, and even mortal danger.
Of course, there is the honest route, just coming clean and telling your prospects you are a vamp and need their blood – and whether they believe you or not, they may well humor you and even let you drink from them, even if just to see what will happen. But it goes without saying that there is usually some kind of price to be paid for this service – some way in which we have to sing for our supper.
What would you do if you were a vampire in need of a little blood? When the hunger starts gnawing at you and you remember what it felt like to feel healthy and well and full of vital energy – while comparing it to how you feel now, tired, depressed and frustrated – and permanently hungry and thirsty no matter what else you eat or drink… And what would be your feelings on disclosing to donors your reasons for needing blood or energy? What would you be willing to do in return for that blood or energy?
Take for example a guy who gets off on being watched pleasuring himself. Oh, he’ll feed you – if you watch him, smile and give him your full attention, no matter how you feel about it. His blood afterwards is sweet and gives you exactly what you need, and the price, well – that all fades away when you first feel that tingle of energy rushing into your system like the breath of life. Well, it takes all kinds, LOL. We vampires hardly have room to point fingers.
As you may gather by now, I am not the only self-identified vampire around, neither am I the only one here in South Africa. So where are we? The answer is: All around you. We are everywhere. Our subculture is present in literally every country in the world, but nowhere more prominently than in the USA and in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Japan, and the Southern American states. And yes, we are even here in South Africa. As they say – whoever “they” are – “local is lekker”
Since true freedom of religion in South Africa is only about 15 years old, even Pagans and Wiccans are still largely underground and keep a low profile – at least in my immediate area. Vampires are virtually invisible, though increasingly we appear to be coming out online, and even the braver ones in real life. I think all this fosters a culture of fear and dread among SA vamps who consider the idea of coming out. I myself am also coffined, and keep my dayside and nightside identities distinctly separate.
The vamps I have met in real life thus far – and even those online – are all Pagan, and mostly Wiccan. I suppose it is for this reason that all the members of the House I founded in February 2010 (House Valur) are all Wiccans, even though we decided to function as a secular group. As individuals, we belong to the same larger Wiccan coven also, although not all of us are known to the others as vamps.
There are rumors (always are, aren’t there?) of small secretive underground groups of vamps, though I have never met any of them, or had contact with any of them directly. The Pagan community is always aware of vamps for some reason – they know we exist, and mostly (at least in my experience) they are tolerant and welcoming, although I have been warned that not everyone is.
There is virtually no visible vampire subculture here of any kind, although in Johannesburg and Cape Town there have been several nightclubs which could have been described as haevens (safe places for vamps to meet and socialize), although they ceased to exist about three years ago. There are still internet records of their events and activities, but no record whatever of any Houses or other VC type groups in the country. However, where they left off there are new entities stepping up to fill the gap, with at least two regular events being organized by community contacts in the Johannesburg area.
Are there Vampire laws? Well, in as much as our scattered communities are secretive in an “underground” sort of way – mostly only touching base on the web – no. But there are guidelines followed by individuals and communities, which have solidified into a more or less coherent set of principles or doctrines and called (very dramatically) “The Black Veil”. (It has also been called the Thirteen Rules of the Community.)
There have been several revisions and even complete departures from the original over the years, with various groups using whatever version they preferred – as we are free to choose. We here in South Africa developed a law set for the local Vampire Community, called the Totum Lex Vampyrica (TLV) which we feel works better for us than the Black Veil, and caters better to our circumstances here. It was well received by some outside South Africa and has been translated into Spanish and distributed amongst the Spanish-speaking community in Europe and South America. Many of our kind in the USA have criticized it because they are more able to live freely and openly, forgetting that it is not so easy for us to do the same.
House Valur is a community group I founded, and to which several other vampires in my area belong – it is similar in concept to a coven, but in old vampire culture from the time before the internet revolution, when the culture was offline and much more secretive, our groups were clutches and covens, orders and clans. These days most Vampire groups are called Houses. My housemates and I are very actively involved in the international Vampire Community, mostly online due to the distances involved, but increasingly more with other newer community groups or Houses in South Africa.
In the past two years things have grown tremendously in terms of new groups in our community here. Instead of a few loose individuals communicating online or hiding within other cultural or social groups, we are now networking with each other. In the past few months alone, the number of new groups in South Africa has almost tripled, from two to five. There are two Houses in Gauteng, one in the Eastern Cape, and one in the Western Cape, with the latest being formed in the Free State this very week. And despite us being so new as an organized community, we have learned from the mistakes of older, more established communities in the world.
Right from the start, when the leaders of these groups started networking, it was decided to avoid these mistakes of the past, and to do things right from the get-go. In so doing, the five current groups have together established an umbrella body to manage the development of the South African Vampire Community, and to facilitate inter-House cooperation – called SAVA, or the South African Vampi(y)re Alliance. SAVA is obviously unregistered with any Mundane registry, and is likely to remain so, but it will be a key feature of our growing community and sub-culture in South Africa for some time to come.
I hope this article has given you some insight about the vampire community in South Africa. As individuals, we face many challenges, which can be made easier in the light of understanding. We did not choose this, but seeing little alternative, choose to embrace it. Judge us by our hearts and by what we do, not by what we are and by what you think you know. Ask us and we will try to help you understand.