When, earlier in 2011, Vampyres in South Africa first made contact with the Pagan Community in an act of education and friendship, it was assumed that most Pagans would be tolerant and accepting of the presence of Vampyres within the Community. It was also taken to be general knowledge, particularly among Wiccans, that Vampyres were a reality. Recent events have however resulted in introspection within the SA Vampyre Community – what is the SAVA – and what are we really trying to achieve?
The Pagan-Vampyre Dispute – this is the name the SAVA has given to the crisis which came about in August between the VC and a faction of the Pagan community in South Africa. In all, it involved groups who were both pro and anti Vampyre, as well as the SAVA. By late August, it became known that this faction was apparently dissatisfied with the tolerance and welcome being shown to Vampyres by Pagan leaders and groups. It soon became clear that the emerging VC in South Africa had unwittingly become embroiled in what seemed to be a pre-existing internal dispute between different factions of the Pagan community, and which threatened to divide the Pagan community.
The South African VC had previously remained silent and hidden, and it is believed that this somewhat delayed reaction resulted from general ignorance of the Pagan Community about real Vampyre nature, and a build-up in tensions following the revelation that some Pagans were also vampiric and had been part of the Pagan Community and its groups all along. The drama first erupted into the open when individual Pagans openly attacked Vampyres on public forums, focusing on the Pagans among them who were also Vampyres, as well as those Pagans and Pagan leaders who were fostering friendly relations with them.
A two week long public feud began, during which the SAVA and the entire online Pagan Community appeared to become increasingly polarized, with the majority of Pagans online clearly in favor of tolerance and peaceful co-existence with its vampiric members, and at odds with those opposed. The Pagan-Vampyre drama continued to unfold as the inter-community intelligence battle hotted up – and much diplomacy occurred behind the scenes.
By September 06, the SAVA expressed concern about further escalation of this crisis. It was at this point that the “Olive Branch Email” was sent expressing a willingness to forge a peace and friendship between the Vampyre Community and all Pagans. At this, the Pagan-Vampyre Dispute – a crisis we as the SAVA never wanted in the first place – was at an end.
All this however, has brought SAVA to a point where we consider what brought us into the Dispute in the first place, what took us through it, and where it has left us afterward – and where we are headed.
In looking at the reasons why the Vampyre Community found itself under attack, we could consider several things – both internal and external. First, there would be the factors internal to the Pagan Community – of which we could not know everything – and the internal factors within SAVA. When SAVA entered into friendly dialog with the Pagan Community several months ago, it was made very clear that we had no intentions of establishing our existence as a religion, nor that we would in any way seek the inclusion of such a religion under the Pagan umbrella. Despite this repeated emphasis, it appears that a lack of knowledge, a gross misunderstanding and a modicum of mistrust played a major role in fueling this regrettable virtual war.
Those who criticize us, more often than not, know little about the real Vampyre Community, and base their attacks upon assumptions and misinformation. This lack of knowledge then, plays a key role in causing misunderstandings in the interpretation of our words and actions by others – and this failure to communicate breeds mistrust. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It seems entirely likely that in establishing dialog and ties of friendship between our communities, some misunderstood these acts as a sign that Vampyres would be seen as being affiliated with the Pagan Community in general. Also, the realization that many Pagans are also Vampyres might have sparked a sudden panic in those who misunderstood our intentions in revealing ourselves, in that they may have thought Vampyres were trying to “take over” or “influence” the Pagan movement – which goes a long way to explain the feeling of mistrust – one is hardly able to trust someone you don’t understand or agree with – or understand – or agree with…
This leads us to how we got through it – which brings us to our growing and developing infrastructure. The SAVA is a fairly new group, although it consists of a few smaller member groups, which have been around for some time before the SAVA was formed. Communication, organizational and co-operation skills had already developed to a high degree between these groups, leading to a high rate of efficiency. Also, while there are more young and new members in the SAVA, there is a core of experienced elder members who are skilled in management, diplomacy, and are well equipped to deal with drama. I would also venture an educated guess that the overall positive attitude of a clear majority of the Pagan Community played a major role in seeing us through this crisis.
Where are we headed as the SAVA? I would say that one of the first things we need to do in order to prevent any future misunderstandings on such a scale, is to provide educational material to those who do not understand us, in order to prevent panic, paranoia and mistrust from causing such confusion, hostility and havoc. I think in this case we all came off very fortunate, in that we could set about making a bright new beginning for all of us. Following this debacle, it seems crystal clear to me that Pagans are generally viewed with tolerance, welcoming and friendship by fellow Pagans – even if they happen to be Vampyres.
What are we trying to achieve here? The mission and vision of the SAVA are pretty clear on this – “The South African Vampi(y)re Alliance (SAVA) is a Council of equals co-operating together as an umbrella body within the South African Vampi(y)re Community (SAVC) for the purpose of giving structure to the Community and promoting the safety of individual Members and consenting member Groups in the region of South Africa in collaboration with each other and acting together as the expression of the Members desire to associate with each other as a unique body within the context of the greater Vampi(y)re Community.
To actively seek out undiscovered existing Groups and Individuals within South Africa, to approach them to participate in the SAVA, to encourage their participation in the international VC, and to encourage and to foster their growth and development as part of the local Community. ” and “A growing and developing SAVC as a safer environment for all members of the South African Vampi(y)re Community“. In the end, it seems we are here to grow, to learn, to teach, to make the world around us better, and to make friends.
And that’s it in a nut-shell. Nothing about infiltrating, dividing, influencing or “taking over” other communities – or “hijacking” anyone’s religion. As Vampyres, we are so used to walking the world solitary, carrying the secret of our nature alone. It makes a pleasant change to have friends who can walk with us, and help us carry it.