Overall, we were greeted and welcomed by the majority of Pagans in South Africa on the given understanding that the Vampyre community and any attached internal groups (clutches, covens, Temples, Houses, Orders, Courts or Clans, including the SAVA) did NOT seek inclusion in the Pagan community, or representation in any Pagan body in such a way as to define vampyrism as being a PART of Pagan religion.
The entire point of the exercise for us was to establish friendly relations with Pagan bodies and the community based on the notion that there were (and still are) many people who are Vampyres by identity and who are Pagans by faith – and that this fact overlaps in both our communities.
To date, this has been a very fruitful and rewarding process, where Pagans – regardless of whether they are Vampyres also, generally observe and practice their Pagan faith together in mutual respect and without judgement.
At the time however, and still today – in spite of statements in which we clarified our intentions in making contact, there were – and still may be those who did not wish to associate with us at all, both in the sense of personal interaction or even to be associated with Vampyres who share their Pagan faiths.
There was a period of great mistrust and misunderstanding, as statement after statement was rejected and ignored by some Pagans, who simply did not trust us to tell the truth of our intentions, or who still simply viewed us and our community with revulsion or disdain. Typically, from our point of view, this misunderstanding was based upon a lack of knowledge on the part of those who clearly did not understand us as Vampyres, or those Vampyres who expressed their Pagan faith, longing to be open and honest about themselves to those they associated with in Pagan circles of worship.
There were several regrettable weeks during which Pagans and Vampyres became locked in hostilities. We have NO interest in any repeat of such events in future, since it was a costly affair for both sides of the dispute.
In view of current events, noting that our interaction with Pagan society, and this unavoidable overlap is still a concern to some, and before the great debate taking place this very night between two Pagan factions, ostensibly on how they relate to each other and also on how Paganism in South Africa relates to Satanists and Vampyres, we feel it is time to clarify once again, our position in relation to the Pagan community.
Vampyre Nature v/s Religion:
Libraries it seems, have been already written about Vampyre nature. To save space, we will forego the full explanations about our nature, and provide a link to our local cultural information resource where most of the typical FAQ can be answered. http://vampyreculturecenter.wordpress.com/
Many appear to think that being a Vampyre, or that those who identify as being Vampyres live a particular “lifestyle” or that it is a kind of religion. This is very similar to the situation where some people misconstrue what a person IS as opposed to what RELIGION that person believes or has faith in.
For example, the situation where a person’s sexual orientation is labelled as a “lifestyle” – this is frequently applied by people of a conservative religious bias who view that person’s sexual orientation negatively as a “preference” or even as a “harmful practice”, in the case of Abrahamic religion, as “sin”. By degrading a person’s immutable characteristics (such as their biological race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation) to a mere “lifestyle”, a “choice” and thereby portraying the individual as being someone who “chooses” a way of life which is simply something which can be changed or turned away from in future.
The statement that homosexuality is a “lifestyle” denies the inborn immutable characteristics of sexual orientation and gender identity. Thus, as many gay rights activists will point out, being gay is not a “lifestyle”, it is who or what you are.
Many Vampyres feel the same way about their identity as Vampyres. It is true that today there are no viable or completely infallible tests which can determine if someone is a Vampyre or not, though most self-identifying Vampyres KNOW that they are Vampyres through their own personal experiences, from where we get our own sense of vampyric identity.
True, there are those non-vampyres who play games in which they personify vampire characters – usually the cliche’d fangs and capes variety, and there are religions where non-vampyres perform rituals and do what Vampyres do as part of their pursuit for enlightenment, power or fuzzy white lights or whatever turns them on – but real self-identifying Vampyres NEED to do do these things naturally, without ritual, in order to remain healthy. That is their experience, and their belief resulting from their experience.
The self-identifying Vampyre does not live a “lifestyle”, just as little as the average gay or transgender or heteronormative person views their own identity as a “lifestyle”. Simliarly, self-identifying Vampyres do not view their situation or identity as a “choice”. They are of the persuasion that they cannot simply “choose” to “not be Vampyres”.
To sum up, to be a Vampyre is not a religion, it is an identity. As with any other identity, be it human, otherkin, therian – or in terms of race, white, black, Asian etc – a person who identifies in this way is as free to choose whatever religion they feel comfortable with. A religion then, is not something that cannot be changed, whereas someone’s identity should be viewed as being established by nature.
Some religions are controlled by religious oligarchs, for example the Greek Orthodox (Christian) Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and various other religions – those who manage and shape the dogma and essentially the rules for membership in these religions. As an example, some, if not most Christian churches exclude people from their membership and participation and also otherwise discriminate unfairly against them on the basis of their sexual orientation.
To our knowledge, there is no neo-Pagan controlling body in South Africa which excludes any Pagan person from calling themselves Pagan, or from participating in Pagan groups on the basis of their physical or other immutable characteristics. We presume that this form of welcoming and tolerance should also extend to those among Vampyre-kind who feel drawn to Pagan religion in as much as it seems extended to anyone else.
The Relationship Between the VC and the Pagan Community:
The South African Vampyre Alliance (SAVA) is an independent and autonomous organization operating within the South African Vampyre community, which consists of those who self-identify as Vampyres and those who associate with them for their own personal reasons. The SAVA is a known group, both throughout the international VC, and also externally to the shinai world in one form or another, one of which is the SA Pagan community.
While the Vampyre Community is diverse, the SAVA is a secular organization, and while we maintain our secularism, we acknowledge that there are many among our members who are indeed religious, and we view this fact with respect and undertake to treat the personal beliefs of all our members with dignity. However, as a secular body, we do not set any expectations for new members to become involved in any religious practices. To the Vampyres represented in our group, being a Vampyre is an identity, not a religion or a ritual practice.
Therefore, let it be known and understood loudly and clearly, that the SAVA and the Vampyre Community in South Africa DO NOT wish to become listed as a religion, or more specifically as a Pagan religion.
In reference to a recent survey of the SA VC focusing on the religious affiliation of respondents, up to 52% responded that they associate with Pagan religions. This represents the single most prominent religious affiliation within our community, although there are also others. Unlike many other religions, Paganism has a more liberal and tolerant reputation, and it is oft disappointing when those expecting the same kind of tolerance and welcoming from others visit hostility upon others for no reason other than who – or what they are, or for being in some ways different to themselves.
If a member of a Pagan circle or Wiccan coven comes out and says “I’m a Vampyre”, please do not think that person is trying to change the character of your group, or is suddenly going to ask your circle for donations of spiritual energy or bodily fluids, or try to “corrupt” or “taint” your religious teachings or doctrines – they simply want to be honest about who they are, and to be accepted fully as a whole person, and not just the portion which is outwardly visible to you.
The Wiccan question goes: “How do you enter?” and the answer – “In perfect love and perfect trust.” Are Vampyres who are members of Pagan groups, or those who come to join these in future, to lie in fear of rejection and isolation? Is that the meaning of “in perfect love and perfect trust”? We trust that this makes our point.
We are NOT interested in internal drama and politics within the Pagan community – it is not our business as a Vampyre organization which looks after the interests of our members and of our community, to get involved in your internal politics.
We continue to anticipate friendly relations with the South African Pagan community, and to continue to assist our Pagan neighbors and friends with any joint projects or activities which may further the interests of both our communities.
Regent of the SAVA