South Africa has been gifted with an advanced Constitution, which guarantees freedoms and liberties which people in many other countries can only dream about – but does this Constitution really have a tangible and measurable effect on the ground – and how do intolerance, prejudice and persecution affect alternative lifestyles and subcultures in South Africa?
Last month News24 posted an article about the SA Vampyre News site, highlighting the interactions between VC members and paying particular attention to the experiences of Vampyres who consume blood. This article drew many negative comments, and resulted in a massive increase in traffic to the SAVN site as well – up to 2500 visits to the site in a 24 hour period. A few visitors made the effort to leave hostile comments which reflected very clearly their poor knowledge of the subject. It is striking though, to note that coupled with the apparent ignorance of those making their attack on Vampyres, their hostility was almost proportionate.
Parallel to this incident, several arguments raged hotly on the Penton Pagan magazine’s Facebook group – by Pagans – where some were clearly outraged that the topic of vampirism had been broached or even featured by the publication. Thereafter several pagan writers preferred to stop contributing to Penton rather than to share the space with alternate subcultures, and specifically Vampyres.
I have to note that it has been repeatedly stated by SAVA representatives that the Vampyre community of South Africa does not seek alignment with the Pagan community, or to become recognized officially as an integral part of the Pagan community, or as a Pagan faith group – but that we seek to interact peacfully with the Pagan community, as we do all other communities and subcultures in our country. It is encouraging that the officialdom within the Pagan community appears to share this view with us.
Broadly speaking, we Vampyres are used to conducting our affairs in private and in secret, apart from those with whom we share the shadows and who show us kindness and support. Many solitary practitioners in Pagan paths will understand fully the isolation this brings. It is still the hope of many that one day we would not have to be quite so secret anymore – but considering the nature of South African society, is that wise?
Everywhere in South Africa, there is not only diversity – but also adversity. There are divisions not only between groups, but within them as well. Groups which have so much in common are still taking pains to distinguish themselves from each other, and even to attack each other while their common enemies watch from the sidelines, planning their next move.
A few short centuries ago, witches were the chosen prey of the Church – along with anyone accused of vampirism and lycanthropy (as well as any fledgling scientists who claimed the Earth is not flat). All were firm favorites of the Inquisition. Although many may think that we are better off today, and safer, I am oft given pause by the hateful things modern religious leaders say and do in the name of a faith that was supposedly founded on humanitarian love.
With the fight over human rights in South Africa raging over who is human enough to deserve them, based upon which god or goddess people choose, what sex their partner is, or what gender they are, or to which race or language group they belong – it is indeed frightening to consider leaving the relative safety of the shadows to fight for a space under the blinding sun.
With some religious groups in this country condemning every single thing which suits them to say matches their definitions of “evil”, including other religions, do Vampyres stand any kind of chance to co-exist openly and peacefully with them?