Reel To Real

Our understanding of vampires today is, for all intents and purposes, the myth portrayed in fiction. So therefore, when someone mentions vampires, they picture the creature seen in movies and books. When someone mentions REAL vampires, they assume ‘real’ refers to these sort of creatures manifesting as-is in real life – and by that reasoning, if someone claims to be a real vampire – they are claiming to be one of these mythical creatures. This of course seems impossible, scientifically unsound – and a sure sign that the person making such a claim is delusional.

Am I a “real” vampire? It’s a question I get asked a lot lately. I suppose whether I’m “real” or not depends on your definition of what a vampire is. If you believe a real vampire is the Edward Cullen or Damon Salvatore type of vampire portrayed by Hollywood, that sleeps in a coffin, bursts into flames in sunlight, fears crucifixes or holy water, or *cringe* sparkles in the sunlight, or kills people for their blood – then you would say that I am not a “real” vampire at all.

My name is Octarine Valur. I took my first name, ‘Octarine’, from the color of magic in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series of sci-fi/fantasy novels. ‘Valur’ is an old Swedish name for a bird of prey. I chose this for my nightside name – I suppose you would call it an alias or a nom de plume. I’m sure you will understand my need for anonymity – I cannot afford to be exposed as a Vampyre.

It is not so much always a case of “real” as it is REAL versus REEL. “Reel” of course referring to the vampire of fiction and film. Real modern Vampyres tend to think of the myths by which skeptics and critics judge us, this way:

Holy water – it makes us wet.
Garlic – great on pizza. Annoying to dates.
Vervaine – tastes bad, but I can touch it. It doesn’t burn my skin.
Crucifixes and religious symbols – kitsch but pointless.
Holy books – make a nice display on the coffee table, but only dangerous if used to inflict blunt-force trauma.
On being “immortal” – I look 25-27 and people are always surprised when they find out I’m pretty close to 40. I often joke that I am 27 again, for the nth time. Vampyres do not claim to be ageless or immortal. Sure – it would be nice though, wouldn’t it?
Stakes and beheading – Yes, this is an effective method to kill a Vampyre – but can you think of any living creature that cannot be killed in this way? Hmm?

Sunlight is not quite as lethal as shown in fiction, or even myth. Some myths show vampires as impervious to sunlight. Indeed, some of us in real life are sensitive to the sun, some are even allergic to it, and break out in a rash or blisters. Many claim to experience sun-burn sooner than normal. Paradoxically, I have heard of some vamps who enjoy surfing, sunbathing etc. No harm comes to them because of it. At least, no more than anyone else.

Personally, I experience discomfort from the sun. I sense pressure on my skin and I do tend to sun-burn easier than what is considered “normal”. The sun drains me, tires me and makes me require feeding sooner than I would if I had the good sense to stay out of it. My eyes are light-sensitive, and I tend to wear wrap-around sunglasses even on cloudy days. Even LCD screens can be too bright. Florescent lights contain UV light, so I suppose it’s little wonder I prefer candles. But burst into flames? Blister and scar in a few seconds exposure? No, not me. That’s Hollywood, honey.

Am I the only one? No. There are many more like me, even here in South Africa. I am part of a community which believes real vampires are not the Hollywood stereotype, a community of individuals who experience life in a certain way, and have some traits and beliefs about themselves and about their lives and nature in common. As a community which stretches all round the world, straddling barriers of geography, language, culture, religion, and distance – we experience certain issues with our spiritual, physical and mental state which lead us to define ourselves as vampiric.

Being a real modern day vampire, or vampiric person is not an easy way to live. It’s not all about dressing up like a count or countess, or just keeping a fashionably pale, gaunt or gothic look. It’s not about listening to bands like Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy or Blutengel. It’s not about eating rare bloody steaks at the restaurant or wearing plastic fangs and color contacts to clubs on weekends. That’s a lifestyle. Of course, there are some of us who like to indulge in the lifestyle elements associated with the image of the mythical creatures which are our namesake.  And sure, when we have special meets, we like to get our vamp on –  but that isn’t us. What makes us vampiric is our need for living energy or life essence, or blood – and to consume it – and that is a need that cannot be dismissed, pushed aside or ignored. It can’t be “cured” with psycho-therapy, or pills, or energy drinks. It can’t be prayed or wished away. And to try to do so bears negative consequences for us.

Our need to feed may be easily dismissed by those who do not understand us, and quite honestly, we often do not expect those who do not experience our needs to. After all, it’s not easy to explain my experiences to someone who has never felt their emotional stability dissolve gradually into a steep downward spiral that I can feel approaching as the time for my next feeding draws near – and sometimes passes by completely. How do I explain the depression that grasps my psyche from the inside and slowly squeezes it tighter, dragging me into a sorrow without cause, and a despair without reason? How do I explain the numbing fatique and aches and pains that creep into my body when I do not feed soon enough? How do I explain the flood of relief that comes over me as I feed – and in the minutes after, when suddenly everything is all back to normal, as if by magic?

We address these issues by supplementing our spiritual or metaphysical energies with energies from external sources, such as from blood, and other means. Some of us do experience symptoms such as sensitivity to light, and other traits commonly associated with the figures of myth and lore – but these are not absolute, nor a reliable means to identify us.  Nevertheless, it is most often this word, ‘vampire’, which we identify with. We feel an affinity for the vampire myth, because it best describes what we are, how we feel, and what we do. And if we are what we do, then why not? It is after all, a more appealing label than “parasite”, “freak” or “monster”, and it certainly is far more empowering.

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