Vampires: Who Are They and What Do They Believe?

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According to David Keyworth, a specialist on the Vampire phenomenon, “Real vampirism is a self-descriptive term used by individuals who feel a need to consume blood or to feed on the “subtle” energy of other people in order to sustain their physical, mental, and spiritual health” (1). Through consuming blood or feeding on “subtle” energy the vampire believes he maintains his physical, mental, and spiritual health. According to Suscitatio Enterprises, LLC, a Vampire research community and think tank (consisting of Vampire members),

“A vampire is essentially a blood drinker or an energy feeder that may display various levels of psychic ability. The vampires that are the focus of this study are individuals who cannot adequately sustain their own physical, mental, or spiritual well-being without the taking of blood or vital life force energy from other sources; often human. Without feeding (whether by a regular or infrequent schedule) the vampire will become lethargic, sickly, and often go through physical suffering or discomfort. Vampires often display signs of empathy, sense emotions, perceive auras of other humans, and are generally psychically aware of the world around them” (2).

Academic Interest in Vampirism

The West has seen a surge of academic interest in Vampirism since the 1970s. Over the last several decades, scholars have developed broad views on the Vampire community: to some Vampirism is an alternate lifestyle, to others a cluster of religions, or has to do primarily with an identity that has formed around social and religious institutions (3). Books examining the movement include Stephen Kaplan’s Vampires Are (1984), Norine Dresser’s American Vampires (1989), Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s Vampires Among Us (1991), Carol Page’s Blood Lust (1991), Jeff Guinn and Andy Grieser’s Something in the Blood (1996), and Katherine Ramsland’s Piercing the Darkness (1998). In 1972 Stephen Kaplan (1940-1995), a vampirologist, created the Vampire Research Center which brought attention to this phenomenon.

However, researchers have experienced some issues in their attempts to study the Vampire community. First, it proves extremely challenging to find Vampires to interview given their secretive disposition. Second, Vampires are often hesitant and reluctant to speak with journalists and/or researchers. This latter challenge introduces a limitation to data objectivity as when a researcher does interview a Vampire she will normally receive the perspective of the most vocal and exhibitionist members, which is not entirely representative of the community. Fortunately, some scholars have managed to produce valuable research. Katherine Ramsland’s approach was to create a Vampiric persona, even going by the name Malefica, to penetrate the community. She posed as a Vampire online and in New York night clubs, which helped her gather the data she required to author her book. In one case, an anthropologist, himself a confessed Vampire, studied Vampires in the Cypriot village of Argaki (4).

A Distinction: Real Versus Lifestyle Vampires

The major distinction in the Vampire community is between “real” Vampires and “lifestyle” Vampires (5). The distinction being that the latter type participate in Vampire subculture, such as dressing in ways manner reminiscent of the undead and joining in community, but do not engage in or require “feeding” to maintain their health. The lifestyle Vampire is also free to leave the subculture and community whenever she wants. The real Vampire is different. He may or may not embrace this subculture but the need to feed is inherent within his nature, like a genetic quality or a sexual orientation. The Sanguinarian is a variant of this type who consumes small amounts of blood, usually from humans. “Psychic” Vampires draw subtle energy out of other people, typically without any physical medium for transference. Others known as “Hybrids” use both feeding techniques. Vampires are usually very secretive as most conceal their identities from coworkers and peers.

Real Vampirism as a Community

Real Vampirism emerged as a category of identity through two decades of discourse and dialogue between small groups of real and lifestyle Vampires. It also gradually emerged through Vampire magazines, newsletters, zines, and the rise of the internet (6). This discourse facilitated the emergence of the Vampire community that, alongside lifestyle and real Vampires, has included allies, such as non-Vampires acting as donors. The movement is therefore appropriately seen “as a multi-faceted, socio-religious movement with its own distinct collective community and network of participants who share a similar belief system and customary lifestyle that reflect their concept of the vampire” (7). Important it is to remember, however, that real Vampires perceive their identity as inherent and independent from religious or cultural ascription; it is a “condition as an immutable state of existence”. Many real Vampires value self-determination and do not view institutions in a positive light, although some groups do incorporate hierarchy and social titles (8). Despite this, Vampirism in the United States, where it is a legal and authentic religion, has a recognized Church called The Temple of the Vampire.

Doctrine and Rituals of Vampires

Vampires hold to a range of beliefs. Some view the phenomenon of feeding off energy as a metaphysical reality that transcends the laws of nature. Some of them claim the ability to see other people’s energy leaving and flowing into them. Other Vampires view Vampirism as a natural phenomenon not currently understood by Western science. Although some are critical of Christian institutions, a number have affirmed Christian ethics. Of the fifty-one options for adherence to a religion or an esoteric group on a survey, Christianity was the fifth most selected option (9). The top seven options selected were: [1] Magick, [2] Wicca, [3] Neo-Paganism, [4] Occultism, [5] Christianity, [6] Shamanism, and [7] Agnostic/Atheist/Humanist/Irreligious. For the majority of these Vampires, Vampirism is a religion or spirituality.

As noted, blood-drinking is an important ritual for real Vampires. This occurs when members gather in a “feeding circle” and use razor blades or surgical scalpels to make cuts into each other’s bodies to suck the blood from. Blooding drinking is important in its connection to immortality or life after death; Dawn Perlmutter, a specialist in religious rituals, explains,

“For Real Vampires, immortality is achieved in similar ways to other religious traditions. In some instances the Vampire God(s) will rise again to restore faithful Vampires to their original state. For others it is a form of reincarnation. Additionally some Vampires already consider themselves immortal by virtue of their ability to consciously connect to their incarnations and walk in both the spiritual and physical realm. None of the Vampire religious groups claim to achieve immortality exclusively or instantaneously through the imbibing of blood” (10).

For some Vampires, rituals and rites are performed in the Temple of the Vampire. This also includes Vampiric Communion and contact with Undead gods. Doctrine is drawn from the Vampire Bible that makes a distinction between living Vampires and Vampires who have experienced physical death who then become immortal Undead Gods. The ritual of Communion is an exchange of energy between living Vampires and the Undead Gods, as performing this allows the living Vampire to draw closer to the Undead Gods and achieve immortality.

Energy is embraced and, despite the concept’s contested nature and various meanings, is generally understood to be the Vampire’s ability to work with a semi-objectively perceivable force regarded as a naturally-occurring phenomenon connected to living things, the natural world, and magickal ritual (11). The notion of an aura, referring to energy fields emanating from the surface of objects or persons, is a popular belief with its colour sometimes being thought to represent soul vibrations. The notion of “otherkin” is a subculture of Vampirism and consists of persons who describe themselves as being non-human in some way. This person might claim to have descended from non-human species, or believe herself to be a mythological or legendary creature. Other otherkin claim to possess non-human aspects that are either spiritual or philosophical in nature.

Social Dimension

Social and organizational gatherings are common for the American Vampire community. Every year there is The Endless Night Festival held in New Orleans. This festival began in 1997 and has evolved to become one of the largest Vampire gatherings globally, with attendees from several continents. The first Twilight conference was held in Los Angeles in 2007 and includes an academic conference featuring lectures and discussion groups. There are also energy workshops where attendees are divided by skill level into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, and are taught how to manipulate energy. There are several other known Vampire groups. The Kheprian and Sekhrian orders both comprise of mystics and scholar-monks. The Left Hand Path practices black arts. There is also Lucifer’s Den, House Lilitu, Order of the Vampyre, House Quinotaur, The Loyal Order of St. Germaine, and House Verthaine. Vampirism’s major presence is on the internet where websites are connected to Vampire churches, organizations, and support groups, and so on. Some Vampire groups also identify themselves as Satanic and base their doctrines on individuality, self-preservation, and personal empowerment.

Social Stigma and Criticism

Vampires are mostly secretive due to fears over being misunderstood by outsiders. Some claim they grew up in America’s “Bible Belt” where they felt oppressed for not conforming to a Protestant norm (12). In fact, some have suggested that conservative religious climates have contributed to shaping certain Vampire cultures, which are unique and more discrete than Vampire communities in New York City and Los Angeles. Some scholars have associated Vampirism with moral evils; Perlmutter has claimed the movement to be “the most recent manifestation of the occult, has led to many crimes, ranging from vandalism to murder”; she continues,

“Vampire culture is relevant to law enforcement because many juveniles and young adults dabbling in the Goth movement are seduced into the more serious level of the subculture, the Vampire and Fetish Scenes, where blood rituals, sexual sadomasochism, and bondage discipline are regular occurrences. The dangers implicit in drinking and exchanging blood and violent sexual activities are more insidious when they are viewed as sacred rituals that are required for initiation, membership, and status in the group. Example of murders committed by juveniles and young adults who embraced a variety of vampire theologies are found in the ritualistic crimes section” (13).

As noted, this reputation has been in part facilitated by occasions of violence, such as in the 1998 case of a teenage lifestyle Vampire Rod Ferrell who murdered two people in Florida and later stated in his trial that he is Vesago, a 500-year-old Vampire. Although the trial focused primarily on Ferrell’s drug addiction, mental problems, and history of sexual abuse the case became sensationalized and brought negative attention to the Vampire community. Like many emergent and alternative religions, movements, and groups, Vampirism is often viewed as a “cult” or confused with a mental illness. This has lead to claims from the Vampire community of persecution and misrepresentation by the media and film industries. Suscitatio Enterprises, LLC claims that “Most of the information available to the general public at present is disparaging, inflammatory or alarmist… There is nothing in the truth about vampirism that endangers the Community” (14).

Many would wish to know how many Vampires there are. Unfortunately, there are no concrete statistics on the total number of Vampires, although one suspects there are quite a few given the number of groups and organizations. Perlmutter estimates a global total ranging from anywhere between 1000 to 100 000.

References

1. Keyworth, David. 2002. “The Socio-Religious Beliefs and Nature of the Contemporary Vampire Subculture.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 17(3):4-23. p. 4.

2. Suscitatio Enterprises. 2020. General Overview & Community Focus Clarification. Available.

3. Keyworth, David. 2002. Ibid. p. 5.

4. Loizos, Peter. 1994. “Confessions of a Vampire Anthropologist.” Anthropological Journal on European Cultures 3(2):39-53.

5. Keyworth, David. 2002. Ibid. p. 4-5.

6. Keyworth, David. 2002. Ibid. p. 18.

7. Keyworth, David. 2002. Ibid. p. 7.

8. Leanan, Sylvere. 2007. “American Vampires—A Rant.” In Vampires in their Own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices, edited by Michelle Belanger, 120–21. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications. p. 120-121.

9. Keyworth, David. 2002. Ibid. p. 13.

10. Perlmutter, Dawn. 2004. “The Forensics of Sacrifice: A Symbolic Analysis of Ritualistic Crime.” Anthropoetics 9(2):1-31. p. 9.

11. Suscitatio Enterprises. 2020. Definitions. Available.

12. Keyworth, David. 2002. Ibid. p. 8.

13. Perlmutter, Dawn. 2004. Ibid. p. 10.

14. Suscitatio Enterprises. 2020. FAQ. Available.

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