The past month or two has led us to a point where I suppose you could say we are in the process of testing the waters on the matter of coming out in SA. Is it a good thing we did? A bad thing? Have we achieved what we set out to do? When SAVA was formed in May this year, we set out to let the world know we are here, what we are about, and that we have peaceful and friendly intentions towards the rest of society in general. By now it seems abundantly clear that there has been some trouble in the Pagan community about the sudden revelation that Vampyres walk among them.
What happened? Well, we found some more others like us who had no idea there was a growing community, and for the most part things went as expected. We set about reaching out to solitary Vampyres, and also making available educational material on the whats, whys and hows of vampirism. We certainly do educate our members on the dangers of unsafe practice – it is not only best for the donors, but Vampyres also – and for our community. Safe vampirism has been a staple of the international community at least as far back as the start of the AIDS pandemic in the early 1980’s. Occasionally you still find a misled or ignorant vamp who thinks they are immune to disease – but obviously that is untrue. A large portion of the VC disappeared in those times because of blood-borne pathogens – so much so that a large part of our history and culture vanished with them. In the modern VC, community leaders do all they can to ensure that we have a community educated on the mechanics and dangers of vampirism.
Almost as soon as we opened up, we got some attention in the press – which was typically sensationalist, and which resulted in some hostility – mostly from people who have no idea at all what we are about, yet see fit to criticize without restraint. When we made contact with the Pagan community overtly as Vampyres, we were quite pleased with the warmth of our welcome. Indeed some, including me, have been part of the Pagan scene for a time now, but not open in general about our vampiric nature. It was refreshing to be made to feel welcome. Our coming out as it were, was to prove a more turbulent ride than we realized.
At first, one or two Pagan authors chose to abandon writing for a popular SA Pagan e-mag rather than to share space with Vampyres, and thereafter things gradually escalated to a point of greater discomfort. Many feel it should not have ruffled so many feathers – after all, the topic of Vampyres comes up readily enough in Pagan circles, with some telling tales of having dated or known real Vampyres. It’s a little puzzling that some reacted so strongly to the realization that we were here, and announcing our presence.
It is rather sobering to realize that Paganism is not immune to having crazy fundamentalists just as easily as other religions. Looking back, it was difficult to anticipate this sort of reaction from a religion so geared towards freedom of belief and freedom of expression. In the midst of all the bickering, arguing and unpleasantness, I ask that we all remember that it is a small fringe group of Pagans who are part of this anti-Vampyre movement, and not all Pagans.
When this drama began, we were disappointed and somewhat taken aback by the hatred and intolerance evident in the verbal attacks made against our community. Coupled with the intensity of the negative emotions in these attacks, it was also very clear that those who were doing the attacking do not know much, if anything, about Vampyres. The situation at the moment appears to be calming down, but suffice to say, several individuals have separated from the broader Pagan instituions in favor of choosing a completely Vampyre-free environment (if there is such a thing). We are very sad (and uncomfortable) with the idea that certain individuals have decided to use our presence as an excuse to sow dissent and to cause divisions in the Pagan community. This is not why we came forward, it is not why we are here.
From the start, SAVA made it quite clear that we do not seek to redefine vampirism as religion, nor as a religion which is part of Paganism. We simply stated that yes, there are Vampyres who are Pagans, just as there are Vampyres who are part of every other faith or religion. All we intended was to be open about who we are, at least to our friends or circles within the boundaries of our individual paths, or traditions, and to win tolerance and acceptance from them, and to to have to hide among friends no longer.
Meanwhile, the Pagan community is now well aware that Vampyres exist in South Africa, and that there are Vampyres everywhere. Currently the mood seems very favorable for the acceptance and tolerance of Vampyres among general Pagan bodies, and there are many who seem curious about us. SAVA seems also to have established itself in the minds of the Pagan community as the official body representing Vampyres in South Africa, which is certainly a good thing.
SAVA itself is a secular organization, because we acknowledge that our community is just as diverse as our world around us. Freedom of religion is at the core of our country’s Constitution, as well as that of SAVA.
I am a Pagan yes, eclectic – a Wiccan – and that is my path which I chose to follow. I am also a Vampyre, but the only choice I had in that was to acknowledge the fact and to accept it. I hope you can all see the position that places Vampyres who are of a Pagan faith, in – and why we may seem to be reluctant to speak up and to be known. It is awkward for us to be at the center of such a matter, and to describe how it makes me feel – it’s like visiting new friends in their home and becoming embroiled in a domestic argument over whether or not we are welcome. It’s one reason I for one have only recently begun speaking on Pagan groups since this matter broke.
Yes, we identify as Vampyres – not angels. Many of us are burdened with the guilt society instills in us for what we feel inside and for what we do in violating what many contend to be sacred taboos, religious hangovers which have been ingrained into Western civilization since the days of Moses and the rise of the Abrahmic religions. Christianity, Islam and Judaism all forbid the consumption of blood – both animal and human – and condemn those who partake of them. Wicca has the Rede, which some interpret to imply that what we require implies harm being done to others. All this gives us a bit of a taint from the very start.
We are all a balance of light and dark – I think it’s important for us to find our own ways to maintain that balance. Diversity implies that what works for one person does not necessarily work for everyone else. I agree very strongly that enmity between different groups on such a matter is pointless and destructive. From one point of view it can be argued that we have a condition, which if compared to something like diabetes, or a vitamin shortage for example, can be managed. Of course, it’s not as though we can do so by nipping in at the corner pharmacy for a box of pills – which is why we ask what we do of our donors – and why they willingly help us.
Those who argue that we do harm to others as a matter of course, clearly do not understand us. Yes, as in every other group, there are examples of those who may commit unprincipled acts against others against their will – but this is very far from being normative.
Vampyres are every bit as physically human as anyone else. We love, we live, we have friends, families, ordinary 9 to 5 jobs, bills to pay and mouths to feed. We are far from perfect, just like everyone else, but yet some portray us as being almost as inhuman as the mythical creatures portrayed in fiction as soulless monsters who would kill, maim and destroy, the psychic vampires who would drain their victims without mercy. Somehow we are made out to be a threat to the Pagan religion, in pretty much the same way as gay people are still made out to be a threat to Christianity. Oh, the irony.
If Vampyres were indeed as much a threat as the hysterics claim, the news would be full of stories about it. This is so obviously not the case. I encourage all people interested in the topic to read up on the subject, in order to dispel the mysteries and to clear up the misunderstandings.
Among the many sources on the VC online is a site called sanguinarius.org . It has been online since the mid 1990’s and through various incarnations has been a beacon for information on our community. There are many articles there written about and by Vampyres, donors and otherkin in the VC. I invite you all to look there further.
The overall friendliness, acceptance and steadfast welcoming I have seen in the past few weeks warms my heart. It is my hope that friendship will blossom from this experience, and that Pagans who are also Vampyres will continue to be welcomed among us as friends. Indeed, may it be so.