Wake up and smell the blood !
“Truth may sometimes hurt, but delusion harms.” – Vanna Bonta
One of my favourite things about the Pagan community is how diverse and tolerant it is (for the most), and how much overlap there is with other subcultures. However, it is important not to blindly accept whatever comes our way – some within the Pagan community are over-imaginative and even delusional.
It is true that many within contemporary Paganism do indeed explore the archetypes behind beliefs, and sometimes seek to emulate their manifestations in the forms of gods, spirits, mythical entities, etc as a way of worship or for magical works. Also, to many Pagans, personal mythology is integral to their “magical selves” as it helps them to “slip out” of the “regular” consciousness and enter into “altered states” of consciousness/reality. However, does this mean that anything and everything is acceptable within contemporary Pagan practice, and that those who dare disagree against the mystification of Pop Cultural Archetypes such as “classical vampires”, or air their opinion are to be shunned or accused of being bigots, of posturing or of fearing that which they do not understand?
“I am entitled to my opinion,” is often used as a defence of a belief or stance on a subject, however, it is totally useless as a debating tactic. Stating one’s rights and entitlements adds nothing to the debating process. Having a right to an opinion does not make that opinion accurate, it merely gives each and every person the right to air their opinion.
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”. The, the spiritual itself is not measurable, it remains an interpretation of belief and thus subjective and very personal, and as such it is also merely a personal opinion. But no one has to agree with anyone else’s subjective beliefs – although everyone has a right to them – it reminds me of the difference between “the right of religion” and “the right from religion”.
However, it is a fact, not an opinion, that there are people who live a vampire lifestyle – some of them like the mystique, the clothing, the aura and seduction that surrounds literary vampires – and then there are those who belong to a subculture of “blood drinkers” or “donors”, and who claim to believe that they need to drink blood (or consume some ill-defined life-force or energy), or else they may suffer physical maladies. And although I have, and still do, defend the right of self-defined Vampyres to self-identify as contemporary Pagans, 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.
Clinical vampirism is classified as a condition known as Renfield’s Syndrome – a mental illness characterised by an obsession with drinking one’s own blood (auto vampirism or autohemophagia – which can be a symptom in schizophrenia and can be treated) or/and the blood of animals/humans (zoophagia – literally the eating of living creatures, but more specifically the drinking of their blood).
The psychiatric diagnosis for this syndrome is one of schizophrenia or one of the paraphilias (sexual arousal and gratification towards sexual behaviour that is atypical and extreme) based on behavioural manifestations, such as delusions of being a vampire, fetishes and compulsive blood-drinking. A person suffering from Renfield’s Syndrome is convinced that without a daily supply of blood from an outside source he/she will die.
Therefore the mental disorder in clinical vampirism is based around a delusional tendency. Delusional in the sense that the so-called classical vampire upon which much of the Vampyre subculture is based upon is what can be described as Pop Culture or Pop Mythology – the lifestyle or subculture is mostly based on the modern perception of vampires in popular fiction and/or pseudo-scientific and pseudo-historical writings.
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. 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.
Although Renfield’s Syndrome has not been accepted as a formal diagnosis by the psychiatric community, the pattern of clinical vampirism that it describes is recognised. Vampyric people such as Sanguinarians would be labelled by psychiatrists as suffering from this syndrome.
Originally vampires were revenants – the dead who came back. The “original vampires” were seldom described as drinking blood, although that was reported some of the time. According to folklore, vampires were the hungry dead. They came back to eat, and they ate and drank all kinds of things, both normal food and noxious substances such as excrement. If their visitations resulted in weakness, illness or death, it was usually assumed that the vampire was drinking blood – some words were coined in later centuries that indicated this (for example “blut-sauger” in German, “sugnwrgwaed” in Welsh, both literally meaning “bloodsucker”). “Direct accounts” of attacks by “victims”, however, seldom described a clear perception of being bitten or sucked on for blood, the way fictional stories and contemporary vampyres later imagined.
English speaking cultures had no true vampire beliefs, although they certainly had ghosts and revenants. The word vampire was used in reports and skeptical analyses of the Eastern European panics, and it seems to have gotten into English from such reports, around 1650. It first appears in writing in 1734. But this was well into the Age of Enlightenment, so the idea of the walking dead was seen as highly superstitious.
Along with the literary vampire, the vampire metaphor was also borrowed by 19th century occultists to describe a different idea. Occultists began to write about something called a “psychic vampire”, an entity that stole pure “life force” from its victims. At first, psychic vampires were believed to be low-level astral entities (parasites) with no relationship to human beings, but over time, this changed, and human beings began to be seen as acting as psychic vampires.
However, until the turn of the 20th century, psychic vampire was a concept mostly known exclusively in occult circles. To the average person, the word vampire had a very specific meaning: a human being, who had died, who was now supernaturally animated and could not be killed except by certain methods, and who drank blood as nourishment.
“Vampire scholarship” changed that. There was a tendency among late-19th century and early 20th century scholars (such as Sir James George Frazer, author of The Golden Bough) to try to unify diverse information into connected theories or concepts. In 1896, folklorist George R Stetson penned The Animistic Vampire in New England for the journal, The American Anthropologist. A few decades later, Dudley Wright published The Book of Vampires, and the granddaddy of the “vampirologists”, Montague Summers, produced his works, The Vampire in Europe and The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. These writers, and others, established the notion that “every culture has a form of vampire belief”, that vampires were a universal, even archetypal human superstition, and that they were found world-and history-wide, buried in every body of myth, hidden in every holy book, lurking behind every fairy-tale.
But these folklorists were, for the most, sorely mistaken. What they did was that they managed to create this “ancient” link by taking each separate element of the vampire metaphor and using it to qualify as a “type of vampire” anything whatsoever that fitted even one aspect of the definition. Any supernatural being that drank blood, anything that physically came back from the grave, any entity or revenant that was “hungry” or that pestered the living for sex, was labelled “a type of vampire”.
The intensely Euro-centric folklorists disregarded the fact that the individual cultures concerned had complex histories and belief systems to which these “types of vampire” really belonged. They all got lumped together, and suddenly the word vampire included at least half of the myths, legends and folklore known on the planet. Child-killing demons, blood-drinking gods, hungry ancestor spirits, cannibalistic demons, fierce animal ghosts, night-hag entities, incubi/succubi, the restless dead, plague demons, gods and goddesses, and many other culture-specific beliefs with their own context and history, suddenly became part of the definition of “vampire”.
What it also did was confuse the ceremonial use of blood in certain ancient belief-systems, and the usage of blood to feed – or allay the symptoms some mysterious disease(s). Wrong or not, the arguments of the folklorists appealed to the imagination of English-speaking people who already had the Literary Vampire Metaphor.
As books about “real vampires” began, for the most, to be published in the 1960’s, they usually combined folklore compendiums with accounts of historical figures or well-known criminals who claimed to drink human blood. These were the people labelled “real-life vampires”. Around 1970 or so, it began to gradually come out that some people living outwardly ordinary lives, reported a craving to drink blood. These people began to be written about and slowly the idea grew that there might be “real vampires” – living human beings who “needed to drink blood”.
Just as this idea began to percolate around, the fictional Vampire Metaphor took a shift that had not been seen before. The fictional vampire began to display a new face: that of a sympathetic hero instead of a villain. The vampire started to appear as something with desirable advantages. This led to a new phenomenon: identification with the fictional vampire. Vampire-identifiers ranged from people who just wrote fiction and fantasized, to people who role-played vampires, to full-blown Vampyres – people who believed that they actually manifested some (if not most) of the “desired traits” of vampires.
By the end of the 1990’s, the idea of “psychic vampires” had also gone through some changes. Formerly seen as occult villains of the worst sort psychic vampires gained a new dignity. Suddenly they were people who needed extra energy because there was something wrong with them, and they were not evil but merely afflicted.
The contemporary Vampyre subculture stemmed in part from the Goth subculture, but also incorporates some elements of the sadomasochism subculture – the link between vampirism and sexuality has been present even before Stoker’s Dracula. With the modern vampire movement, eroticism has become entwined with the contemporary Vampyre scene popular in magazines – in fact, sexual attraction was the most frequent response in one survey conducted among a group of 574 college and high school participants, where the participants were asked what they found most appealing about vampires and vampire literature.
People in the Vampyric Community may refute it, but cultural images and concepts about vampires influence their self-perceptions and thoughts about their “condition”. Also, fictional stereotypes have become confused with folklore and myths, leading to various inane “logical explanations for vampire beliefs” that address vampire traits invented by fiction writers.
The literary vampire prior to Dracula was horror story monster, but Bram Stoker invented and stylised vampire characteristics, limitations and methods of destruction that became vampire canon in later fiction and films, and now within much of the Vampyre Community.
In the years following the Second World War the first considerations of vampirism as having a scientific or medical, rather than a supernatural or spiritual origin, were entertained. At the end of the 1950’s, the Dracula series gave the modern vampire myth two more indelible visual images: fangs and vampires who dissolved to dust when exposed to sunlight. These were not precisely new ideas; pointed vampire teeth had been vaguely mentioned in numerous 19th century stories, including Dracula, and Stoker described ancient vampires crumbling to dust when dispatched. But no vampire in fiction or folklore was materially harmed by sunlight before FW Murnau incinerated Count Orlock with the rays of the rising sun in his 1922 silent film, Nosferatu. Vampire teeth, as well, were variable and somewhat indistinct, and rarely seen in early movies. But the 1958 film Horror of Dracula seared two images into the public consciousness: the vampire with elongated fangs and an alpha-male primate snarl, and the vampire shrivelling into ashes when exposed to direct sunlight.
The 1960’s television show Dark Shadows added two themes to the standard library of vampire plotlines which subsequently became very popular. Ironically, both were borrowed, not from vampire folklore or fiction, but from the 1932 movie The Mummy. The idea of something long dead being released from a tomb to walk among humans incognito proved to be powerful, and the romantic notion that an ancient immortal would seek out and woo the reincarnation of his one true love also appealed to many vampire fans.
The concepts of gender were also modified. Prior to the mid-1970s, women were almost strictly confined to the role of victim. The Hammer films of the late 1960s and early 1970s were particularly famous for plunging ineffectual women into peril until their male counterparts could rescue them from Dracula or other equally threatening male vampires. Over the last twenty-five years, these gender expectations have changed a great deal. Vampires now appear in the guise of both men and women. And, as in the case of Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, women sometimes become the most powerful vampires. Worth mentioning is the character Carmilla in the Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu published in 1872, in which the vampire takes on the guise of woman – this novella predates Dracula by about 25years. The first vampire to appear in English fiction seems to be from Johann Tieck’s 1800 story Wake Not the Dead, but the genre only became popular with the publication of Dr John Polidori’s The Vampyre in 1819.
In the 1980s fictional vampires changed into something desirable. Anne Rice’s novels presented an entire suave vampire subculture, interacting seamlessly with the everyday world. Authors who felt bound by the established conventions at the time they were writing often tried to find ways to make them logical. Vampires were depicted as having allergies to garlic, vampires were felled by wooden stakes because wood was toxic to them, etc.
Now in the 21st-century vampires are “sexier” than ever, especially with the Twilight Saga series of books by Stephanie Meyer as well as the films of the same name. Charlaine Harris’ series of Sookie Stackhouse became the highly popular television series True Blood.
The Modern Vampire Myth had always included the romantically appealing idea that a vampire carefully selected those to whom “the gift” would be passed on. The whole “turn fantasy” that forms the foundation of so many vampire stories is based on this wish-fulfillment fantasy of being “chosen” and of being “special”. But vampire role-playing games such as Vampire: The Masquerade added a new and even more interesting element. Now there was a fictional model for a global, complicated, multi-level and diverse underground society into which vampire initiation qualified one for membership. And these gaming clubs added much to the Vampyre subculture which offered an appealing home to those fascinated by blood who felt alienated, ostracized, lonely and different, and who longed for somewhere that they truly belonged.
There was no true concept similar to pure psychic vampirism in folklore traditions. The rise of empirical scientific techniques and the cultural meme of Descartes’ mind-body division all strongly influenced occult theory from the 19th century on, and this was the birthplace of the psychic vampire concept. Prior to that, even though vampires, ghosts and many supernatural beings were thought to be essentially bodiless, they still were believed to consume physical substance and matter. Vampires ate food and drank, ghosts sometimes were thought to consume food, or some phantom element of food, which was the basis for the almost universal practice of grave offerings; and succubus were thought to seek out sex with young men specifically to obtain a physical substance – semen, which has always been closely related to blood in mystical thought’.
By the time 19th century occultists considered the question of psychic vampires. The vampire had actually been buried alive and sustained itself in a state of suspended animation in the grave by sending its astral form out to suck blood or life force from sleeping victims. Dion Fortune related a case in which a number of people complained of nightmares about the same neighbour, who confessed to deliberately attacking them magically while they slept. In the 1960s, parapsychologist D Scott Rogo suggested that some kind of astral vampirism might explain certain reported hauntings in which the victims seemed to be drained of health, energy and strength. In this case, the psychic vampire was a disembodied portion of a deceased human, that would eventually dissipate over time.
Cases that seemed to suggest astral vampirism were rare, however – so rare that the early occultists were not particularly interested in examining them or speculating about the phenomenon. “Magnetic vampirism” was a term applied to living people who seemed to act as “psychic sponges”, drawing life force from other people and animals constantly, involuntarily and unconsciously.
By the late 1960’s, this metaphorical “psychic vampire” was once again being discussed by occult writers and authors of “vampire non-fiction”. Anton LaVey fulminated against them in a whole chapter of The Satanic Bible in 1969, Anthony Masters mentions them briefly in A Natural History of the Vampire in 1972, Stephen Kaplan talks about them in Vampires Are in 1984, and from then on they are included in most of the “real vampire” books (along with the usual misinformation about the universal vampire myth and accounts of various true vampires of history).
The willingness of large numbers of people to embrace the identity of “psychic vampire” and turn it into a more or less positive role model was not long in coming – psychic vampires were just misunderstood creatures suffering from an inborn “deficit” of something that required them to “feed” – like sanguinarians.
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. So, often, they have to replace direct demonstration with rhetoric, emotionalism, cries of discrimination, etc.
In my opinion, and if one assumed that psi-feeding was even possible, could there be anything more unethical and immoral than stealing – no matter how little – a person’s essential life energy? Some self-defined psi-vamps claim they have energy donors, but how do you donate some of your vital energy to someone else? Furthermore, many self-defined psi-vamps claim that they feed off people unawares (in big crowds), and repeat the self-justifying rationalisation that they “are not hurting anyone”, and the donors “do not even realise what is happening”. I find that even more unethical, immoral and disturbing – a pickpocket steals from you without you knowing it or without harming you, too, but that does not make the thief ethical or harmless.
I want to make it clear that no Pagan should be marginalized within the Pagan community. However, the question is not how Pagan certain people within specific subcultures are, the question is whether we, as contemporary Pagans, should support certain activities even if we find them objectionable on a personal level, or when these activities are most likely the result of a psychological disorder?
Personal objections, thus opinions, should be voiced honestly without being maligned. 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.
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.
“Getting rid of a delusion makes us wiser than getting hold of a truth.” – Ludwig Borne
– Vampirism: clinical vampirism—Renfield’s syndrome by Jolene Oppawasky
– Vampirism as Mental Illness: Myth, Madness and the Loss of Meaning in Psychiatry by Seamus Mac Suibhne and Brendan D. Kelly
– The Vampire in Modern American Media 1975 – 2000
– Why Are Vampires So Popular?: From Anne Rice to Charlaine Harris, the Undead Rule the Media | Suite101.com http://maryrayme.suite101.com/why-are-vampires-so-hot-a119190#ixzz1XeCisP5w
– “Psychic Vampires” – A History of an Occult Concept
– OUR OTHERKIN? (an alternative view) on http://www.pagancouncil.co.za/node/185
– Mental Health Legislation & Human Rights – World Health organisation – 2003: http://www.who.int/mental_health/resources/en/Legislation.pdf
– UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities
– Mental Health Care Act
– Human rights violation register
– WHO Resource Book on Mental Health
– UN Resolution on protection of Persons with mental Illness
– The Role of International Human Rights in National Mental Health Legislation
– Health Professions Council of South Africa – Guidelines for good practice in the Health Care Professions – Booklet 3: National Patients’ Rights Charter – 2008:
– Vampirism as a Mental Illness by R.E. Hemphill and T. Zabow
– Psychological Explanations for Vampirism by J. Gordon Melton
– Auto-vampirism in schizophrenia by Hans Mørch Jensen and Henrik Day Poulsen – http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08039480252803918 in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry