Some newcomers to the South African VC have been quite perplexed and even frustrated by some aspects of the culture. They struggle with the terminology, they find the culture cryptic and arcane, and some things just don’t suit some of them all that well. Top of the list has to be the secrecy. It’s quite a different outlook to get used to, when you have been accustomed to being open about everything else, having lived in a human-rights-friendly country for the past 20 or so years, and not having to fear any more for your life on account of being different, or looking different. It certainly is complicated. But, as one elder told me when I first entered the community, “there’s no politics like vamp-politics”. That’s for sure.
“It’s like herding cats”, he said. In the past few years I have learned this is quite true – and in my work with the SAVA in the founding stages of the SA VC, I have earned the thick gloves I need to wear when herding these wild ones -metaphorically speaking, of course – on the journey to become a viable community. I have also on occasion felt like I was swimming in a shark-tank while wearing a meat bikini.
While a lot of our interactions take place online, on Facebook and other forums, many of us also interact in real life face to face situations, at socials, as friends, and where Vampyres and Donors meet. In real life things may seem simpler and even safer, but it’s not really – because when you meet face to face, you do so without the safety of your internet mask. Real life of course, excludes the other negative feature of the internet forum – the troll. This is actually a good thing. Speaking of which, on Facebook these days, you can “un-friend” a bothersome troll, and on Facebook groups, you get to “dis-member” them – perhaps even gleefully.
But all levity aside, I would like to take a brief look in this short series of articles covering at a few examples of issues which give the noobs (and then the rest of us) a headache in the local community, starting with ‘the Secret’, and secrecy.
Secrecy, the need for Vampyres to conceal their nature – it is called within the doctrine of my group – House Valur – “the Secret”. I’m sure many of us realize rather quickly when we come to understand what we are, that telling other people our “wonderful” news, would be a really bad idea. Especially if we think back to how the folks reacted the first time you told them you weren’t going to Sunday school anymore because you’re not a Christian, or came home with another boy and introduced him as your boyfriend. Yep. Life is full of surprises, innit? Now imagine the scene. Your folks – or your girlfriend/love interest, or best friend, sitting there peacefully, minding their own business – while you come along, all nervous-like and say: “Um… I have something to tell you…”
Right – here’s a smack upside the head for your trouble. What were you thinking? Now, wake up! Pay attention!
Vampyres divide their public lives into a Dayside and a Nightside. The Nightside represents everything to do with their Vampyre activities, identification and interaction, while the Dayside is their work, friends and family life, and everything else OUTSIDE of the VC. This does not mean Vampyres adopt separate personas or personalities in either “mode”, but that while we interact as one part, the other part of our lives should not be discussed or revealed, for our own protection. I am still the same person Dayside as I am Nightside, and vice versa – I just don’t discuss the one aspect with people I interact with from the other aspect. Depending on how close people are to you , either Nightside or Dayside, you might feel safe enough with them to reveal certain details, but this is entirely up to you. Finding the balance between these two aspect of your life, is something you need to do on your own.
The practice of secrecy starts with the creation of a Nightside identity, and what becomes a habit of concealing one’s Dayside identity within the Vampyre Community, and concealing one’s Nightside identity in public, and keeping the two as separate as possible. The more separate they are, the harder it is for someone else to connect them and identify you. The balance of these two aspects of our lives is called “Twilight” (full points to Ms Meyers for her powers of observation there).
There are several really valid reasons to use nightside names and profiles online and in meet-ups etc. The first is the regular “I don’t want people outside the VC to know who I am” stuff. The second is “I don’t want people INSIDE the VC to know who I am either – because I have no idea who they are.” Yes, hanging on to a sane perspective while interacting, making friends and protecting yourself at the same time, can be something of a challenge.
The deeper reason for this pervasive obsession with secrecy is because here in SA, as in other parts of the world, there are some aspects to Vampyre politics and Vampyre / non-Vampyre interaction that are not as rosy as you may like to think.
Internally, we are a very diverse community and sub-culture. In religious or spiritual terms, many of us are either Pagans, whether eclectic or solitary, or are part of Pagan groups or organizations. While we as Vampyres – and certainly in the case of the SAVA – have no official or open interaction with any other sub-culture in SA, we have enjoyed very friendly and very public relations with the Pagan community in SA for nearly a year – although there are no formal links between our communities as such. In short, the closes we have come to in those terms, is a recognition that some Pagans are Vampyres, and some Vampyres are Pagan, and that neither of our communities will engage in discrimination against the other.
Also, you might find it surprising that there are quite a few Christian Vampyres and even Donors in the VC. Although we have never attempted to (and are unlikely to) establish any links with any Christian organizations, we know the VC has come to the attention of a few of these in this country, and that they will probably be reading this article as well. I have seen several evangelical pastors and even anti-Vampyre crusaders on Youtube lately proclaiming that anyone claiming to be a Christian while being vampyric “is a liar”. It reminded me of the anti-gay rhetoric of only a few short years ago, and left me just as disgusted. Nevertheless, while Christianity is characterized by a dogmatic and rigidly enforced view, we know that this opinion does not hold true for all Christians, and that many are loving and caring people who prefer to make up their own minds about other people. Sad to say though, typically most other groups which have never interacted with the VC, or bothered to check their facts, have always reacted in a rather dismissive or hostile manner when our paths have crossed, and sometimes, things tend to go ballistic.
As with anything, not everyone will feel the same way about everything. Outside our community, regardless of what group is attacking us, or what religion or group they themselves identify with, there are people who know about the existence of the Vampyre Community, mistrust us, hate us and even fear us. I also see no reason why this will improve in the near future, as the general public becomes more and more aware of the existence of our subculture.
Last year for example, there was a big old fuss when we revealed ourselves, and at one point the VC was right at the center of a bitter feud between two camps of another community who were arguing and fighting each other – about us, believe it or not. It was quite an interesting period, very characteristic of the classical Chinese curse which refers to living in “interesting times”.
Some members of a hostile group tried to infiltrate the SAVA by approaching some of our members both online and offline. Some sank to the level of trying to hack user accounts and profiles – and when they couldn’t get in, they got some of our Facebook profiles banned by reporting them as “fake” on the basis that they were registered under Nightside names. At one point, there were a lot of accusations flying, about people inciting others to “attack” Vampyres by magick and astrally, though how seriously you take that point, really depends on how you feel about the topic.
It’s not about getting up to mischief anonymously, or being ashamed to be known as a Vampyre. It’s about the negative consequences (and there are many) of being too open, too honest, and too proud of who and what you are. Once you get down to it, the best way to describe the consequences of not having a Nightside profile or identity, is this: DRAMA.
While we are doing nothing illegal, there is and always has been the fear that the Vampyre Community may one day find itself on the receiving end of hostile attention by a government agency, or law enforcement body – in which case, most of us seem to feel it is best to not interact online under their own names.
Aside from this consideration, there have been noted incidents in the past where journalists, investigative reporters and even law enforcement officials have successfully infiltrated VC groups in the USA, Netherlands and other places – not to arrest or interrogate, but to gather information, or to expose, ridicule, or damage the image of our community. Not good for business either, is it?
And that just goes to show how you need to be careful INSIDE the community as well. You never know who people really are, do you? Especially those who just popped out of nowhere , and have no traceable activity or reputation in the VC. Not everybody who says they are a Vampyre or a Donor are what they claim to be, even if they make the right noises when you squeeze them or turn them upside down. Why do they want to know your Dayside name? What will they do with that information if they get it? Are you using a Dayside email address with your Dayside name attached to it to register user accounts for your Nightside activities? Think about it.
That nasty business in Iraq is a good example of the fears we have as a closed community, realized. In the weeks leading up to the massacres of “emo” and LGBT youth in the country last month, Iraqi government officials were quoted in news articles claiming that “vampires” were active in Baghdad, and that they “congregated to worship the devil” and “absorb blood from one another’s wrists”. Only a few days later, militia groups were rounding up teenagers and young people – and murdering them on the accusations – however trumped-up and false – that they were vampires, witches, satanists or ’emo’ (meaning gay). This is not made up, go and read the hundreds of news articles on this tragedy.
Nevertheless, considering the first statement about “vampires in Baghdad’, it seems quite likely that regardless of whether or not there were the beginnings of an actual VC in Iraq, it was real Vampyres who were either the object of the hunt – or real Vampyres who were being used as an excuse or justification for such treachery and barbarism. This is indeed a bitter pill for me to swallow.
It is doubtful anything such as this would happen in the West in the foreseeable future, but there are without a doubt other places in the world where something similar could happen even today. Places where there is no adequate civilization, where religion and superstition over-rule clear thought, and places where there are no human rights values. Places where the religion IS the state, where religion embodies science and dictates reality – places where the populace have lost so much hope, that they invest their lives in the will of whatever regime displaces democracy, and whatever dictator or despot promises them salvation, hope or paradise, regardless of whether or not they can deliver.
In the USA, we have the largest semi-public VC in the entire world. There are Vampyre Community bodies and organizations – religious and secular – which are registered in some form or another, and which also interact with law enforcement bodies in order to better their understanding of the VC – the subculture and the community. Unfortunately that country also has the largest volume and frequency of nut-jobs committing crimes and then claiming to be “vampires” – after never being connected to any actual Vampyre Community or organization. This does a lot of harm to the public image of the VC, and it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if we one day learn that their country’s law enforcement machine has been quietly observing the VC all along, waiting for some reason to classify our kind and our beliefs and activities as a “threat”, and to act on that perceived threat. I’m sure the same can be said of other places as well – and since we have had no contact with South Africa’s government in any way, shape or form, it is hard to say how any such contact would ever go.
Worse still – imagine if someone who hates Vampyres – and hates them enough to do serious harm, were to find out your Dayside name, and then where to find you? Not a nice thought. I don’t wish to have to attend any Vampyre Community funerals any time soon. I have buried enough friends Dayside in my time already.
The Secret starts with YOU. Looking online you will see tons of people of all kinds identifying – just like YOU – as a Vampyre. However, most of them don’t do so under their Dayside names or identities – or Facebook profiles. This is because the only people who should know YOU are a Vampyre, or a member of the Vampyre Community, is people whom YOU directly trust, and who have proven themselves to be trustworthy to YOU. Be smart. Keep the Secret.