“Vampire: The Masquerade is a tabletop role-playing game (tabletop RPG) created by Mark Rein-Hagen and released in 1991 by White Wolf Publishing.
Clans and sects
Vampires organize and divide themselves politically and ideologically into sects which form governing structure for undead societies. Laws and norms concerning the place of vampires within the mortal world, feeding, the treatment of vessels, vampiric morality, secrecy, feeding grounds, Gehenna and the distribution of power form the basis of these divisions. The two major sects are the Camarilla and the Sabbat, but there are other sects as well, such as the Inconnu or the Anarchs. A sect is something a character may choose in-game, though this decision is often chosen for them by their Sire. Defection to one side or the other is possible, but come with great risk, as much of what motivates the Jyhad are the ideological differences between the Camarilla and the Sabbat.:19-22”
Between October of 2012 and July 2014, as the Editor and Senior Staff Writer of a leading sub-culture E-zine, I wrote, and published a series of three articles dealing with the hardest things about being a modern living vampire. One of the things I didn’t address within the scope of those three pieces was the constant battle that was always being waged to get us all to join some group, house, coven, order or clan.
Historically speaking there has never been any mention, in any contemporary or classical literature, or popular reference, to vampyres congregating in such organisations, so why only in modern times? Is it because we need the sense of security of knowing there are others like us? Hardly, I think, we are all well aware that there are many thousands of others, if not tens of thousands, whom identify as modern living vampyres in one form or another. Gatherings aimed at furthering the “common good” of the whole of the sub-culture? It has yet to be evidenced in any movement, organisation or concept that has come our way has made a significant and long-term beneficial contribution to the people involved. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I would suggest that within the sub-culture we have more good intentions than your average worldwide religious order and it doesn’t seem to have helped. We are seeing, even today, the huge gulfs that separate different sub-sectors of the culture. We are seeing disparate ideologies and disparate ethics being played out, across the board, every single day. It is, in the end analysis, all in the interests of those who believe that their vision, or concept, is the only realistic one.
The only realistic thing that we can say, for certain, about modern living vampires is that they are NOT naturally pack, or group, oriented.
It is true, before anyone jumps all over this, that there are certain “organisations” that do embody the concept of a “gathering”, or as one well known wag put it, “a bicker”, of vampires; organisations such as the secretive ToV, the Strigoii VII and orders such as Kheperu and Rakoczy; for example, stand the test because they are hierarchical and have a strict process of induction, development and enhancement that has developed over a length of time. Outside of such structured society groups there are a huge number of “groups” which are not as controlled and administered in respect of membership, membership growth and development and adherence to organised principles and practices. These are the groups that seek to establish “democratic” bases and “democratic” processes within their structure, or, at the other end of the scale, are created and ruled by some singular, despotic individual who invests themselves with some title, position or other extravagance and sets out to make as much noise as possible in as many places as possible in an attempt to appear ‘larger than life’.
The sheer number of groups, houses, clans, courts and orders that have come and gone – even since this writer came to the online vampire sub-culture – beggars belief. Constantly shifting bases of membership, of allegiance, of communication and ideology have created a kaleidoscope of the sub-culture until it reaches the point where the reality of it and the surreal have become so blurred that it is impossible to tell them apart.
At the base of all of this is the concept that modern living vampyres need, or want, to congregate. I would suggest that, at its very foundation, this idea has created more damage than any single event, or time period, in the history of the contemporary movement.
If we discount the earlier folklore and little proven, if at all, accounts of vampires and such things we can clearly identify where the “congregation” concept came from. It certainly wasn’t present in any learned treatise or written work, native myth or folklore prior to the 20th century and indeed, it only seems to have grown out of the previously mentioned referents afforded by the White Wolf Studio’s RPG creators when they developed and released ‘Vampire: The Masquerade’ in 1991. This, it could be argued, fuelled the surge in growth of the concept of ‘Vampire Houses’. Following on from that the entertainment industry grasped the idea that vampyres hung around in groups because, well hey, what’s better than one vampire? Ten vampyres… makes for better fight scenes etc.
An exception, and valid argument against this, can be made when considering small enclaves of like-minded people who get together, face-to-face, in meetup or encounter groups and hold regular, or semi-regular, get-togethers. Still, these are NOT houses, clans, orders or courts… they are simply ‘meetup groups’, like philatelists or bridge groups, they represent local and low key way to keep in touch with nearby friends and fellow modern vampires. However, and this is very important, without the hierarchy, the regulation and the strict structure previously mentioned they still cannot properly be ruled as a house, clan, court or order. The sheer weight of people constantly moving between online entities, constantly joining new “houses” and arbitrarily affording their allegiances to the newest “flavour of the month”, for a time at least, gives any sort of online “house” an amorphous nature that cannot be relied upon to remain in existence for any extended period of time.
In May 2013 John Reason’s RVL conducted an interview with a high profile member of a well-established and long-time offline “House” within the sub-culture. The purpose of the interview was to highlight what were, at that time, the benefits of belonging to an organised, hierarchical and regulated vampiric “House”.
The interview was preceded by results from the first stage of the RVL year long survey of the sub-culture in which it was revealed that the majority of the survey population considered themselves to be independent from any group or organisation. The question was to do with membership in vampirically oriented groups, we found the following,
Vampire House (12.7%)
Vampire Coven (8%)
Vampire Organisation (14.9%)
Meetup Group (11.5%)
None, I am Ronin** (i.e. independent and unaffiliated) (71.5%)
Now, these results are, as they always will be, fluid since they were derived from online survey responses and given the undeniable fact there is so much movement among the myriad online groups available.
Why do people move camps? Why do they invest their lot in new “leaders” as frequently as said “leaders” keep appearing? Does the barrier of non-physical communication affect the concepts and ideals that the people of the sub-culture carry with them? In all of the research, in all of the reading, in all of the inquiry you may care to engage in you will not find any instance of “groups” of vampyres prior to 1966 with the establishment of the matriarchal Order of Maidenfear… you may well find references to specific orders that have strict codes and processes inherent in them following on from that but in the realm of the general free-for-all that the sub-culture seems to have become it is apparent that a general confusion has reigned supreme for decades.
In the earlier days, the days of the EZBoard and Php message boards and the like, vampire groups, online, were good and highly accessible venues for those who were isolated and those new to the sub-culture to learn. Sites such as Sanguinarius.org (1997) and SphynxCatVP’s Support Board (1999) were repositories for knowledge about being a modern living vampire but now we have arrived at a point where the learning and exchange of information has become eclipsed by the chaos and the value of any opportunities has diminished greatly. As sad as it is, and as loath as we may be to admit it, there is very little that the sub-culture, especially in its current online incarnation, can constructively offer newcomers. So, we are at a juncture where each person involved in the online sub-culture must decide, for themselves, whether they are able to continue as a “group” member, or whether they are better keeping their own counsel and staying clear of involvement with other person’s agendas.
In another article, one of the RVL series “Chatting with Vampires”, the following comment was made by the interview guest;
“After much time and experience, I’ve come to believe that the “community” would do so much better as a union of individuals rather than breaking into groups that seem to self-destruct,”
and went on to say, “ We are all of the same nation, whatever our tribes might be.”
Modern Vampyres, those without specific vampyric ideologies that they adhere to, those that are not part of a structured “order” and those that stand outside of the often referred to “politics” of the modern, contemporary, situation are left wondering in which direction to turn and for this very reason many will, and will continue to, return to solitary ways because that is the way of the vampire. They have never, in history, been ‘pack’ beings and there are indeed some leopards that cannot change their spots. Of course, you will always hear many proclaim that modern living vampyres have nothing whatsoever to do with historical accounts of vampires and revenants of that type – agreed – we do not creep out of our graves at night to sap the living of their life. True – we are not undead denizens of that realm somewhere between life and death. True, we have very little in common with the historical, except that we take his/her name quite freely and treat it as though it were a right bestowed upon us. Well, perhaps we are mistaken there too.
Vampires, by every acceptable historical referent are solitary creatures. Vampyres did not have “community” bodies, houses, courts, covens or groups. Vampires, throughout history, prior to 1991 and the advent of Vampire RPG, did not congregate as we do today and even within those congregations we are only happy so long as the aims, goals and purpose of these congregations suit individual aims, goals and purposes.
We live under a borrowed name, we live in direct contradiction with every acceptable historical reference, our groups shift and change frequently and dramatically… perhaps that’s inevitable given that modern vampires, per se, are not the product of group consciousness or racial identification but rather the product of a lack of any other term by which to refer to ourselves – this, in its turn, leads to the question, inevitably, are we really vampires at all or something else that we haven’t yet properly and adequately defined?
Copyright RVL 2017