Embracing Darkness

Today I post here not as a Magister of the SAVA, or from the perspective of being a Vampyre, or a Pagan, but as a person.

And I am posting this because I am aggrieved. Why am I aggrieved? Because I feel that I have been wronged, and that my community has been wronged. Together we have been sleighted, insulted, abused and made the target of abusive acts by those who have the audacity to hide behind platitudes of “love and light” and “blessings of the goddess” and to dare to cover their acts of treachery with beatitudes and justifications of “we are the light” and “they are darkness”.

The whole thing is very surreal and reminds me far too much of  my experiences with bigots of another religion that loves to paint anyone it doesn’t quite understand or can’t explain as a “threat” or an embarrassment, or something to be burned at the stake.

There are many views on light and dark as a metaphor for good and evil, not many see both as a continuation of the same spectrum, two extremes on the same continuum, or if you will, two opposite ends on a teeter-totter. Many hold to the concept of yin and yang – that there can be balance between the two extremes, that there is dark and light in all of us – and that there is no-one who can be truly without some of both inside their make-up. While some may fear the darkness, and see only the warm fluffiness of the light in terms of their beliefs, mostly it is we Vampyres who embrace the darkness within us and do not fear it.

There seems a tendency in some people to not only distinguish between people, classes, groups and so on, but also to discriminate. If it isn’t the color of their skin, then it is what gods the pray to, or what day they choose to worship, or whether they approve of people marrying people of the same sex – or anything they don’t understand or agree with. In some communities there are different groups, after all, nobody is exactly the same as everyone else – so some diversity is to be expected.

In the Vampyre Community, we also have many divisions and classes of individuals who participate in our culture, but broadly speaking, we have different classes of Vampyres (sanguine, Psychic and Hybrid), various types of donors, and Otherkin (therians, witches, energy workers, etc). We have religious groups, we have secular groups – we are all different, we all follow or own paths – and yet we all tolerate each other, socialize and interact without making war on each other, or excluding one or more groups from the community. To me, anyone who cannot tolerate diversity does not belong in a diverse community – and that is the simple truth of it. Otherwise they will try to homogenize that community to eradicate the diverse nature of that community, stifling its uniqueness. And yet – are not those who abhor difference and diversity not also a part of that very diversity?

For the past few weeks I have applied diplomacy, and done my utmost to keep the peace. I have spoken for the SAVA in these matters, and I have appealed to certain individuals for tolerance. And while the greater response from this community has been comforting, welcoming and encouraging, the acts of a tiny minority that would sooner hate and stamp out what it does not like, understand or approve of has been a vicious sting indeed.

This stems from the opinion some hold that Pagans cannot be Vampyres, and Vampyres cannot be Pagans. Isn’t it ironic how much this liturgy resembles the Christian fundamentalist attitude towards the gay community, or how Islam labels Muslims who convert to other faiths as insane?

When some individuals publicly stated they would no longer pursue acts of aggression against us, they simply took their vendetta underground and proceeded to make covert attacks upon us in the form of attempts to infiltrate and to spy on our community. It is difficult to not interpret such activities as hostile, isn’t it? Then, persons unknown took it upon themselves to report some of our Facebook profiles as “fake”, resulting in the loss of contacts, groups, information, administrator rights, access to documents, and months of work – not realizing that Vampyres are not the only individuals who employ nightside names or anonymous profiles, and that while they may have found our Achilles heel out of spite, we are not the only ones who have that vulnerability.

Up to this point I have conducted myself with honor, and in my conduct within my community also. I have always instilled a message of inclusiveness, tolerance and equality and dignity for all within any group in which I have participated, and in any group which I have held any post, rank or office. As I conduct myself in real life, so I do online. The fact that I do so under a nightside name should not be an excuse for me to be insensitive, or rude, or brutal towards other people. The fact that I interact under a nightside name does not mean that I am fake, or doing something illegal, or dangerous, or harmful to others. It does not mean that I have “something to hide”. It means, like many Pagans and people in other alternative communities, there is a need to protect my dayside identity – why? Because people in our community – Pagans – are victimized daily for their religious beliefs and affiliations. Which is why so many Pagans also have a dayside profile and a separate nightside profile. I would imagine the self-employed, single and childless – or the very brave – would be completely open about their religious practices and community activities on Facebook on their dayside profile, under their real names, with a pretty picture of themselves to show the world the look in their eyes that would meet the incoming hate.

After all, Pagans still lose custody of their children when fundamentalist Christian zealots accuse them of being “devil-worshipers” and “satanists”. We still have problems in the work place – Constitutional protections be damned. If they can’t fire us for being Pagans, or for being gay, or Afrikaans, then they will invent something else to do get rid of us. We still have problems setting up businesses in shopping malls, or hosting Pagan events in public venues. We still haven’t got any recognized Pagan holidays on the national calendar – 15 years after our new democracy saw the light. To this day most Christians still fear our symbols, our cultural heritage – which they know almost nothing about – and point quivering fingers at us while muttering things that can only be described as hostile, hateful, ignorant, misled, misinformed, bigoted, prejudiced and hysterical.

I first started writing articles for Penton Magazine, and entered into public dialog with the Pagan Community on the impulse that it might do some good. I wanted fellow Pagans to know more about those of us who are also vampiric, and who identify as Vampyres. I wanted to show them we are not the stuff of fiction or of “satanic panic” stories, that we are people like them, who have maybe some different needs, impulses or experiences to theirs – but that at the heart of it all, I am just like them. I wanted you all to see that like you, we face the same dangers, risks and threats because we go against the grain of the norm and run the gauntlet of mainstream society, just as you do. I wanted to show you that like all of you who experience hurt and indignity and ostracism and exclusion because of who you are, and what you believe – I share that with you because of who I am.

I never wanted to cause drama, or to stir up some kind of internal battle within the Pagan Community – and yet it seems the revelation that we are among you, part of your community, attending your rituals, standing in your circles, sharing cakes and ale, socializing, worshiping the same gods, and breathing the same air – was just too much for some of you to handle.

It seems some will be happy if we were to stop existing, but we all know that will never happen. Even if it is not talked about, we will still be among you, silent – your friends, your family, parents, children, siblings. It seems rather funny to say that it’s rather like the Christian concept of “gays are fine, as long as they stop being gay”, isn’t it? Some clearly feel that Vampyres are welcome as long as they stop being Vampyres. Well, I’m sorry – but it’s not fine. Bigotry never is.

At the end of it all, it seems I have shown that I not only share with you the persecution still leveled against all Pagans by the intolerant and the Pagan-haters out there – but that I, like others who describe themselves as Vampyres, are also persecuted by fellow Pagans. This I find very sad.

The people who have done their best to hurt me and others like me among you, whoever they are or claim to be, have no shame and they have no honor. They have no concept of words like tolerance, peace, justice or compassion. They have attacked, undermined and betrayed people in the same position as themselves, out of hatred – and acted exactly like wolves in the fold. They have persisted in making war against people who came in peace and who have not acted in any way to suggest that they had any ulterior motives. They have sacrificed the sense of dignity and self-worth of fellow Pagans just to further their own ambitions and desire for personal power and position. They cheapen and insult the suffering and persecution of those Pagans who understand what it is to be persecuted – and who would not wish that on anyone else. They are detestable.

And they, or someone else may frolic in the ash pit of childish spite and report this Facebook profile as “fake” too, but so be it. I can create another. And another. And so can we all. There are after all, thousands of nightside profiles on Facebook, with no apparent end in sight.

You know, in my dayside life I have spent the last 10 years working as a human rights activist, resisting attempts to destroy equality and justice by those who would apply words like “righteousness”, “good vs evil” – and “family” as a hammer to a vulnerable and exposed piece of flesh. I have braved death threats, I have defied intimidation, and I have worked for equality not only for gay and transgender people, but also for diverse race groups and cultures. I have promoted feminism and diversity and tolerance. I have defended democracy and freedom of expression, and alternative lifestyles such as BDSM and the goth and emo subcultures, even though I am not part of any of them. I have argued against religious bigotry, and defended Pagans, Muslims, and even Christians who don’t agree with the oppressive mindsets present in their religion. “Straight but not narrow” they call it. Interesting imagery there – but moving on, I didn’t mention that just to garner accolades for myself – but to make a point:

I find it very annoying and hurtful when I am attacked for being who and what I am by people who have every reason to expect tolerance and acceptance for themselves from others and who cannot see the tragedy, hypocrisy and injustice in their own hearts, minds and actions – and most especially when they belong to some of the same oppressed minority groups as I. But hey, I have a pretty thick skin, so what the hell? In for a penny, in for a pound, right?

Yes, a Vampyre – a blood-drinking allegedly “demon-souled”, supposed “creature of darkness”, did all that. You have to admit, that is pretty threatening – perhaps they have a point?

I have stood in the way of arguments, fights and campaigns between gay men and gay women, transsexuals and intersex, transgender and gays, liberals and conservatives – and even between gays and “ex-gays” – and I thought that was nuts. Now I stand on uneven ground trying to keep the peace between Pagans – and Pagans who happen to be Vampyres. Someone once said: “If you live long enough, you will see it all”. I don’t know who said it, but they were right. I think it’s time I closed off, and i will do so with another quote: “Ain’t friendly fire a bitch?”  That one was mine, and you can quote me on it.

And so now that the haters know the kind of person I am, not just a gray outline or my nightside name – they know what I do and what I feel. Let them hate me for all that I am, and all that I do – and not just the one tiny part they don’t like – and all of us for being just like them as well.

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About Octarine Valur

Octarine Valur - Founder: House Valur, South African Vampyre Community, South African Vampi(y)re Alliance (SAVA), SA Vampyre news (SAVN). View all posts by Octarine Valur

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