While today we in South Africa have a secular state (in theory) and a secular Constitution (also in theory), often the practice of it is somewhat lacking. Most things in South African society – and especially minority groups, such as subcultures and their activities – are viewed through the negatively biased lens of Judeo-Christian ignorance and prejudice.
In this country, despite having freedom of religion and freedom of beliefs and association, we still have witch hunts which are relatively common in rural areas. Ethnic folks, seeking a scapegoat for some perceived wrongdoing simply murder frail and helpless old people living alone in a hut somewhere in the country on suspicion of “practising witchcraft“. Much of the motivation for this ignorance and hatred is a cross of Western influence (i.e. “though shalt not suffer a witch to live“) and traditional beliefs that practitioners of magick are wicked and evil. While crimes are indeed committed by certain individuals who are tied to forms of traditional African practices, wherein human body parts are traded for use in magickal workings – those who are blamed for misfortune and murdered to satiate the misplaced anger and religious fervour of the mob are almost always completely innocent of any crime.
In African culture, traditional healers i.e. so-called “witch doctors” (sangomas) are not considered to be witches. Those who might practice a form of local black magic might fit the bill. The local authority within the Pagan community, the SA Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) has made great strides in coercing government into taking action against the perpetrators of witch hunts, and in taking steps to educate the public – especially those who live in rural areas – about witchcraft as a religious practice, as well as the difference between African traditional beliefs and Western Pagan beliefs. It has taken the SAPRA the better part of 5 years to reach this point. This gives an idea of the mentality we are dealing with in this country.
There is boundless ignorance among the general population about what other religions or belief systems are about – or that in some cases, that other belief systems even exist – or are allowed to under national law. Intolerance towards diverse belief systems is rife, especially in the evangelical Christian faction, considering the prevalence for “satanic panic” – where everything from sickness to crop-failures, to general bad luck – is blamed on “witchcraft” or “satanism” or “devil-worship”. It has to be noted that many prominent government officials (including the country’s President) are also lay preachers, pastors or church figures and often behave in such a way as to cast serious and legitimate doubts on the existence of the supposed line separating church and state.
These are the circumstances in which the young SA VC must grow and develop, and if possible, thrive. Naturally, these conditions set some rather concerning parameters for this growth and development.
In a report which made the South African news on Friday, a woman was labelled a “vampire” (which may or may not be the case) in a child custody case. Not only was she labelled a “vampire”, but she was also labelled a “devil worshipper” or “satanist” – without any evidence presented to substantiate this claim. What is also unclear from either of the two articles circulated about this matter, is whether the woman was in fact Vampyre, or Donor.
This woman was unwillingly labelled a vampire (and a “satanist”) and lost custody of her child based upon that labelling. In effect, this legal judgement casts Vampyres (and “satanists”) in the light of being unfit parents – despite supposed legal recognition, equality and protection of individual beliefs under the SA Constitution – and also indicates a latent and lingering prejudicial position biased by ignorance in the South African legal system. Furthermore, it also casts a worrying legal precedent which could be applied to any subsequent custody cases.
While this woman appears to have lost custody of her child because of being perceived as a Vampyre (and “satanist”) and for allegedly consuming human blood with another consenting adult – at least she was not imprisoned for that, so as far as a legal position governing what transpires between consenting adults in terms of Communion and the sharing of blood and feeding, the incident places some light at the end of the tunnel – in that no further actions against her by the state seem to be pending.
Even so, these circumstances emphasize to us (in South Africa at least) the need for continued individual and community discretion and even secrecy – especially for those in the community, whether Donors or Vampyres – who have children.