On Friday 26 October 2018, the South African Vampyre Alliance (SAVA) was handed over by its incumbent Regent, Octarine Valur to her successor. The Regent’s statement below was circulated within the SAVA before being also sent to the FOSAV group and also to the SA Pagan Council (SAPC) and SA Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA).
“Dear South African Vampyre Alliance,
It is with mixed feelings that I make this announcement, but it has been some time in coming, and in many ways, it is long overdue.
Eight years ago, I started something that led to the establishment of thus far, the only and most enduring South African Vampy(i)re Community representative body, the South African Vampyre Alliance (SAVA). Of course, nothing happens by itself, and it would be arrogant of me to claim the whole of the credit for this – naturally I had some help in this task, not the least of which include all those who joined in, became members, and for the most part – while they were members – helped to build the organization and its reputation. A very few even went beyond that, and continued to do so even after leaving the confines of the SAVA to lead their own groups in other countries.
During my tenure as Regent of the SAVA, I made friends, and ofttimes it seemed, more enemies than friends. Without regret or remorse however, I put the community – not just as a faceless anonymous entity or cheap vestigial paradigm, but as people I knew first-hand as friends and family – first, and persisted.
As with every strong leader, I was admired and reviled, praised and cursed, loved by some and feared by others, both placed on a pedestal and plotted against. I survived no less than two attempts by local community members to remove me, as well as far more numerous efforts to undermine me in the local and international community.
I have been described, by a very few, as a “dictator”, and to an extent this is true – meaning that while I have been in charge of the SAVA and its resources, I held all the keys to all the locks and simply became “a force in the local community that everyone simply had to live with”. Despite all that, everything I ever did in this capacity, was to do my very best to protect the interests of my community and the individuals within it – both at home and abroad through groups such as the Dark Nations and Voices of the Vampire Community – and I feel my record bears me out on this.
I was often called “a control freak” because I tended to take charge of everything – usually the things which others didn’t want to do, or were unable to do, or were not available to do – and yet I frequently looked for individuals within the organization and greater community to take over those roles from me, and I did pass them on whenever someone rose to the challenge. And yet, where would the SAVA have been if I had not taken on that extra burden in the meantime? Those of us who build communities and community groups will know the challenges and pitfalls of the job – being unpopular, being resented, and often feared – even if we mean well. Sometimes, as a caveat to the job description, it also means using that unpopularity, resentment and even fear as leverage, as a means to an end.
Although I was accused by a few of my harshest critics over the years, of being “power hungry” and a “dictator” who “makes my critics disappear”, those same critics are still more often than not, freely participating in the local VC, and even in my personal VC social media groups. None of them ever “disappeared” from the local VC unless it was of their own free will. Also, I might add, none of those critics ever rose to my challenge to do better than I, if they could.
I was once encouraged by supporters, after surviving the first coup attempt against me within the SAVA, to declare myself Queen – and that never sat well with me at all. The temptation to abuse that absolute authority is too great, and that is what I found unsettling. I am nobody’s queen. I have and always will lead from the front. And that’s not why I started this – I embarked on this journey to help my community become a community, and to protect and nurture it. Instead, I adopted the title of Regent because I felt it better reflected that I was a caretaker of this community organization, and the community it serves, and that I would one day pass on the torch to a worthy group of successors.
I have previously passed on torches of succession to others, only sometime later to note that the groups or entities they inherited have come to naught, or simply ceased to exist. I trust that SAVA will not be such an example of future regret.
In my efforts to diversify and make the SA VC more interesting and attractive to newcomers, I created SA Vampyre News, and even an Afrikaans version (SA Vampier Nuus) in an effort to attract local vamps to our organization and to build the local community. In that sense, SAVN was a definite success – but in the process, it was also reviled by critics as a “propaganda tool of the ruling party”, i.e. the SAVA. While this is simultaneously not entirely true, nor entirely false, nobody was preventing anyone else in the community from starting their own SAVC news media entity. Nevertheless, I encouraged the community itself to establish “independent” SAVC news media – none of which were ever realized, and without any interference from my side. For whatever reason – although currently inactive, SAVN today remains the only known existing local VC news media entity.
In many ways, my obvious domination over the local VC was, while benign in terms of my intentions, was a kind of experiment in social engineering and embodied a personal learning curve. Suggestions like “Let’s try this and see if it works” were often followed by statements like “Well, shit – that didn’t work, let’s try something else”, or “Okay, that worked better than we thought, let’s stick with that”. In that vein, the SAVA spurred the formation of various sub-groups, houses, clubs and covens. Six South African vamps – all SAVA members – rose to join the ranks of the prestigious VVC between 2012 and 2018.
On my watch, the SAVA rose from being a newbie group with a small following to being a noted and respected voice on the international VC stage, one that had influence, respect from some, and was jealously resented by others. Either way, the SAVA holds an enviable place in Vampy(i)re history – and even in Pagan history.
In 2011, SAVA opened dialog with local Pagan groups and over time established relations between Vampyre and Pagan communities, creating awareness that Vampyres can be counted among Pagans and vice versa – and what’s important is that for the first time, they stood up to be counted – and despite initial backlash and hostilities, ultimately led to a more open, accepting and safer environment for Vampyres interacting within Pagan circles.
Misinformation and myths surrounding Vampyres were dispelled and clarified. Understanding dawned. Pagan covens that were almost exclusively and openly vampyric became known and new ones formed – some even hosted national Pagan heritage day events around the country and received awards from Pagan community bodies. This would never have been possible without the SAVA and what we did here. Before the SAVA, nobody ever took us vamps seriously in any circles, let alone in Pagan ones. That is our legacy. That is our reputation.
To me, this can be counted as perhaps our greatest achievement up to this point in SAVA’s history, where I can look back and feel that SAVA – and I to a degree, have made a positive difference. I look back at the SAVA, and I feel proud.
SAVA was always a family. There were squabbles, there were open brawls, but we stuck it out together. I remember the times we celebrated births of new fledglings to families of members, the growth of covens into Houses, the graduations from fledgling to adult members, weddings (including my own), and mourned deaths and the like. House Valur, much to my own surprise, endured the longest of all our Houses, and grew to be the largest, most influential in the SA VC. Looking back, I realize that it was my determination and continuous attention to “bat-farming” that made it – and kept it so. That said, there were also some tragedies, and some of these were more personal than others.
In the meantime, new members came to the SAVA, new members that exhibit the drive, potential and interest and energy I no longer possess. I feel that my continued presence in the SAVA – in a leadership role, and one in which I’ve contributed little or nothing in the past two years – is holding them back, stifling enthusiasm, and in effect doing more harm than good.
That being said, I’ve finally arrived at the point where I’m ready to hand over the keys to the SAVA to my successors. It’s time for Octarine Valur to step back into the shadows, and to move on to other things.
I wish all of you the very best in the world.
It gives me great pleasure to hand over the reigns of the South African Vampyre Alliance to Draygon Allesandro Sheppard.
Don’t hold back, build this community and take it forward. Do the best you can, do what you must, and make the community proud to call the SAVA ‘home’!
I ask that you, the SAVA Executive, give all your support to the new Regent of the SAVA.
Thank you to all those of you who supported me, and my efforts and who shared my dream over the years.
I will still be around to give advice – you all know where to find me 😉 “