Many of our newer community members in South Africa are starting to participate in international VC groups online, and they are encountering a community that has been around a lot longer – and when they encounter well-known names in these circles, they often don’t know who these people are, or what they’ve contributed to the growth of your respective communities, as well as the total culture of the VC. In this article, we will be interviewing one of the Vampyres who helped establish the modern Vampyre Community as it is today. She’s a spokesperson and media consultant for Vampyre affairs who has appeared on numerous TV shows and documentaries; she has authored an astonishing number of authoritative books and articles on the subject of real vampyrism and especially psychic feeding technique, energy work and vampyric spirituality. For just over two decades she has had a profound effect on the VC as we know it. SAVN is honored to interview – Michelle Belanger.
For those who don’t yet know who Michelle Belanger is, and if you are a Vampyre – in particular a psychic Vampyre, you may already have read one of her books, without knowing much about her.
She is responsible for a number of versions of the “Black Veil“, “The Vampire Codex“, “The Vampire Ritual Book” and numerous books about real Vampyres and the Vampyre Community, including the anthology “Vampires In Their Own Words”, as well as several other works on the paranormal such as “The Dictionary of Demons” and “The Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide“. She has also been interviewed in many documentaries about vampyrism and has at times appeared on TV news and actuality segments as a media “spokes-vamp” or consultant on behalf of the community. For two decades she has been one of the inspirational public figures in our community who have worked hard to separate the real Vampyre Community from the stereotypical image created in the minds of the general public by misinformation, fear, prejudice and ignorance about what real Vampi(y)res are.
SAVN: Michelle, please introduce yourself to the South African community, including a little bit about your background in the community, when or how you awakened, joined a VC group, or began participating in the VC, and so on.
MB: My name is Michelle Belanger. I first got formally involved in the vampire community — such as it was — in 1991. That was the year I started publishing my magazine Shadowdance, a Gothic literary ‘zine focused mainly on fiction but which encouraged a lively correspondence behind-the-scenes with magickal practitioners and self-identified vampires like myself.
That was also the year I started compiling notes for the Codex — known widely now as the Psychic Vampire Codex. Between 1991 and 1992, I coined terms like “the Beacon,” “Awakening” (shamelessly stolen from Buddhist teachings was studying in college at the time and repurposed to describe the process of growing self-awareness and acceptance vampires undergo – typically in their teens and early 20s), “need,” “deep need,” and “dreamwalking,” to name but a few.
Most of these concepts and terms are used so widely now by the greater vampire community, it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t around. But in the early 90s, there was almost nothing out there for awakening vampires — psychic, sanguine, or otherwise. Eric S. Held ran VEIN, a vampire newsletter, but it included people in vampire fandom as well as real vampires, and it wasn’t always clear who you were corresponding with. There was the TOV – but they wanted egregious sums of money for what amounted to a pittance of information which they then lorded over their members’ heads. They turned me right off with their tactics. I really didn’t like the idea of any group that touted the “one true” path to vampirism. It was very important for me to learn on my own, through direct experience, and to decide what I believed through hands-on study and comparison.
Study, comparison, correspondence, and self-experimentation with others like myself were how I learned — there were no websites, there was only one or two books that even addressed the idea of “psychic vampires” (my particular type of vampirism) – and all of those were written from the stance of psychic self-defense anyway (such as Dion Fortune’s “Psychic Self-Defense,” which was where I first encountered the term “psychic vampire” – prior to that point, I called myself merely a vampire, understanding that I was neither undead, nor required blood specifically to meet my needs). The self-defense texts were pretty negative and it was hard not to feel as if being a vampire was some kind of burden or curse. I know to the younger readers who have practically grown up with the Internet and its wealth of resources, this probably sounds like an old fart carrying on about how, in the old days, he had to walk uphill to school … but seriously? It wasn’t easy.
At that time in the States, most people had trouble even with something so simple as the idea of energy — Reiki was not widely accepted, nor were techniques like Yoga or Qi Gong. All of that was pretty foreign to people. Even Wicca was still something of a dirty word. It was hard to find *any* occult books, not just material on energy work or vampires. Parts of my country were still in the grips of what we call the “Satanic Panic” – a belief that anything dark, like heavy metal music, was Satanic and tied with child sacrifice and other nefarious acts.
But as any vampire knows, understanding what I was and how this all worked was important to my health and well-being. So I did my best to figure it out (while at the same time earning my degree and keeping my GPA up!). By studying my own feeding habits, I mapped out states like need and deep need, different types and degrees of vampirism, my concept of “castes,” and overall did my best to come to an understanding of what defined vampirism in general and my vampirism in particular.
Between 1995 and 1996, I founded the International Society of Vampires, which unlike Shadowdance, was openly catering to real vampires, with articles about vampirism written by real vampires in its newsletter, the Midnight Sun. The ISV saw the first serialized publication of the Codex, and it had a membership that spanned the globe which, for a sent-through-the-mail, paper and ink organization was kind of a feat.
1996 also saw several milestones in the US vampire community, both good and bad. First, journalists and television talk shows in the States were becoming aware of the growing vampire community and reporting on it (albeit mostly terribly – the Rikki Lake show was especially bad, encouraging some of the most outlandish and worst representatives to come on the show in exchange for an all-expenses paid trip to New York. I should know. They offered that to me — I turned them down). But that was also the year of the Susan Walsh disappearance and the Rod Ferrell murders — both of which events were linked to the vampire community, whether fairly or not. It was additionally the year that I decided that we as a community needed to learn to speak up for ourselves, present ourselves in a positive, reasoned, and eloquent light, and try to fight the misinformation and sensationalism the media was focusing on us. I closed the ISV in favor of building up my local community, and established the group that would come to be known as House Kheperu that fall. And after that, I guess the rest is history, right?
SAVN: Please discuss or review your contributions to the VC, either in a local sense, or internationally?
MB: I’ve had a significant impact on shaping many aspects of the vampire community as it exists today, often in subtle ways that have become so familiar to everyone, they’re frequently overlooked or taken for granted. From bringing terms like “Awakening” into widespread usage, to fighting for the rights of psychic vampires to be accepted as real vampires right alongside sanguines, to developing the most widely accepted version of the ethical code known as the Black Veil, I’ve been at the roots of this evolving movement for more than two decades.
Probably the single most influential contribution is the Codex — first penned in 1994 (I still have the hand-written version), distributed as the Codex Vampiricus in 1996, published as the Vampire Codex in 2000 through the Sanguinarium, then enlarged and re-released through Sam Weiser press (one of the oldest and most well-respected occult publishers at the time in the US) in 2004. And of course, I have also worked as a media liaison and tolerance activist, working with publications, radio, and television since 1996 onward to help educate the public about what real vampires are — and are not.
SAVN: Most of our members know of the Vampire Codex, and are interested in the spiritual aspects of vampyrism. Do you have anything you would like to say to them?
MB: Vampirism, in and of itself, is not a religion. It is what you are, as integral to you as your eye color. In that respect, it means that no vampire is obligated toward any specific religious or spiritual path. However, the truths of vampirism — the way in which we experience the world, our unique spirits — makes most of us see and accept more than the average “mundane” person out there.
Our every day existence is extraordinary, and it’s perfectly natural for us to seek a deeper understanding of that extraordinary existence. I think vampirism lends itself to spirituality — not necessarily the slavish devotion to dogma — but the enlightened pursuit of self-knowledge and self-improvement. I’m an iconoclast myself — I can’t stand having presumed authority figures tell me how I should think or act or be. And I think most vampires are the same way, so my best advice is the slogan I wrote for House Kheperu: Seek your own truth.
Keep in mind that means your own, and nobody else’s. I think all of us are driven toward that, and I think that drive unites us more than even the ways in which vampires feed.
SAVN: What are your hopes for the future regarding the general Vampyre Community, and for younger communities like ours?
MB: The vampire community is in a curious state right now. In the US and Canada, it’s not young or new anymore. In fact, it seems a little tired and worn — kind of middle aged, where it’s struggling to rediscover what is important and of value in its existence. At the same time, communities like the SA vampire community are new and blossoming and just learning what is out there — and going through the same process of discovery, trial by error, and innovation that our older community went through in the 90s and early 2000’s.
And somehow, we have to coexist and try to help one another — while some of us are feeling pretty burned out and maybe even a little cynical. I can only hope that the community as a whole — young and old — learns to accept without reservation that we are all part of the same thing. That doesn’t mean we have to all be cookie cutters of one another — actually, I hope that never, ever happens. I don’t ever want to see a time when the community as a whole is following some bizarre homogenized version of the “One True Vampire Way.”
No, rather I hope that we as a whole learn to cherish our diversity, because if we cannot achieve tolerance among our own kind, how can we ever truly expect tolerance from the rest of the “normal” world?
A big thank you to Michelle Belanger for taking the time to do this interview!