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A gentleman came to RVL’s Facebook page yesterday and in response to an information link from the Smithsonian Magazine, Real-life Vampires Exist, but They Are Scared to Admit Their Practices to Doctors, he proceeded with the following opening statement, I quote;
“Drinking a little blood to live the delusion that this is what “real-life vampires” do…is not being a real vampire. The Slavic Vampire, the very vampire archetype itself, never drank blood. He was never observed drinking blood, there has never been a single blood-drained body found and never any evidence for this at all.
Most importantly, of all the documented reports there is not a single instance where any of the “victims” ever claimed their blood was drank…despite the “attacks” being described by them.”
A little disconcerting to have someone come into one’s “house” and call them delusional wouldn’t you say? having said as much however I think we could probably agree that the majority opinion and view of our culture is, and will continue to be, coloured by such thinking.
Perhaps there still may be surprises forthcoming in that discussion since we have been graced with a response to my input of;
” Good evening to you, “T.” I look forward to reviewing and responding to such.”
It will be intriguing to see how the gentleman’s work; and conclusions, stack up against the works of many highly respected, and eminently qualified, academicians such as D.J. Williams, John Edgar Browning, Joseph Laycock, Emily Prior and Suzanne Carré along with some of the articles at The Red Cellar, among others.
While certain strides have been made over the last five years or so in the matter of depicting the modern Vampire community as exactly what it is we still have those who will hearken back to antiquity in an attempt to impose their views, dare I say prejudices, on the modern culture. Once again, it would seem, it is time to reinforce a message and hope that the message will supplant the ignorance.
Antiquity, Folklore and History
Many people will tell you, quite forcefully in some cases, that Vampires today have absolutely nothing to do with the “old” archetype, an archetype that has been in evidence for a little over 5,200 years now… heck, we’ve even outlasted some animal species…! To say something like that is like me saying to you, dear reader, forget about where your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, great-great grandparents and great-great-great grandparents come from, they didn’t really have anything to do with you… We have great history, great tenure, high points, low points, sad points and funny points in our inheritance, just like every other race.
The description, and thus the definition, of the Vampire archetype was ruled by a great number of variations in localised belief systems, superstitions and folklore. It was both commonly and widely held, in just about every nation and race on the planet, that the “vampire”, by whatever name it was known, was driven by its need to consume blood to survive in its commonly perceived “undead” condition.
“The notion of vampirism has existed for millennia. Cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks and Romans had tales of demons and spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. Despite the occurrence of vampire-like creatures in these ancient civilizations, the folklore for the entity we know today as the vampire originates almost exclusively from early 18th-century southeastern Europe when verbal traditions of many ethnic groups of the region were recorded and published.”
Indeed, our friend and associate, Dr. James Lyon, Ph.D made note that;
“In other words, the original concept of the vampire springs entirely from the lands of the former Yugoslavia, not from Romania, Bram Stoker or Anne Rice.”
He went on to say,
“Rather, I wanted to use “real” vampires, the original autochthonous depictions of vampires from Balkan folklore and history as recorded over the centuries by anthropologists, of which there is a great deal of material.
These are horrible creatures that bear no resemblance to pop-culture vampire. They are shape-shifters that hang out at watermills, tend to be butchers, weapons salesmen or travelling salesmen, and carry a burial shroud with them. They bloat up after feeding and have cat or goat shaped eyes. They turn into butterflies, not bats. They can’t turn you into a vampire simply by biting, and you can’t kill them simply by driving a stake through the heart. To this day there are reports of these creatures in Balkan media, especially in rural areas.
Starting with Article 20 of the Law Code of Serbian Emperor Dusan in 1349, to various documents from the Orthodox and Catholic Churches over the centuries, to the vampire trials in Dubrovnik between 1736-1744, to the Austrian Army’s vampire autopsies in the 1730s, up to present day beliefs in vampires, there is ample material to draw on. Fortunately, Balkan scholars have recorded a great deal of this in their local languages”
So, we are faced with an extraordinary amount of material that is still available in order to be able to make some manner of informed decision about what we “know” of the Vampire in Classical antiquity.
A contemporary model
The “contemporary” Vampire was given to us in several parts.
Firstly, the most commonly available dictionary definition is provided as;
In which instance the origin of the word is noted as being of combined Germanic/ Serbo-Croatian extraction and finding its birth between 1725 and 1735 a.d.
From here we must also look to alternative interpretations since the Vampire archetype is nothing if not a polyglot of a number of sources, as I mentioned.
Looking further in the dictionary we also find;
It is absolutely clear, to everyone, we hope, that modern living Vampires are NOT these. There is no crawling out of graves, there is no transforming into bats, mist or other such things and we do NOT roam around the countryside looking all mysterious in long black capes looking for succulent young ladies, or gentlemen, to bite the necks of. So, FORGET ALL THAT PLEASE.
THE contemporary Vampire that we all know and love, more or less… was a development of fiction, fiction that first found its stride in poems such as –
“The Vampire (1748) by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, Lenore (1773) by Gottfried August Bürger, Die Braut von Corinth (The Bride of Corinth) (1797) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Robert Southey‘s Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), John Stagg‘s “The Vampyre” (1810), Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s “The Spectral Horseman” (1810) (“Nor a yelling vampire reeking with gore”) and “Ballad” in St. Irvyne (1811) about a reanimated corpse, Sister Rosa, Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s unfinished Christabel and Lord Byron‘s The Giaour. 
Byron was also credited with the first prose fiction piece concerned with vampires: The Vampyre (1819). This was in reality authored by Byron’s personal physician, John Polidori, who adapted an enigmatic fragmentary tale of his illustrious patient, “Fragment of a Novel” (1819), also known as “The Burial: A Fragment”. Byron’s own dominating personality, mediated by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb in her unflattering roman-a-clef Glenarvon (a Gothic fantasia based on Byron’s wild life), was used as a model for Polidori’s undead protagonist Lord Ruthven. The Vampyre was highly successful and the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century”.
Of course, the quintessential Vampire, the most notable and the most influential caricature in the history of the Vampire myth, was Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. In many ways we all still live under the gloomy pall of The Count whenever we use the word “Vampire”. A complete cultural change in thinking and perception wrought by one man, with or without help depending on whom you believe, that cemented the notion of the Vampire as being a Romanian nobleman, or Boyar, in his life before death. In one fashion or another the Count has been with us ever since. That was in 1897.
Modern. serious conceptualisation of the Vampire could well be held to have originated as early as 1858. In France, Z.J. Piérart, a psychical researcher on vampirism and professor at the College of Maubeuge, founded a spiritualist journal, La Revue Spiritualiste. His rejection of popular reincarnation theory led him directly to his consideration of vampirism. He became interested in the possibility of psychic attack and in a series of articles he proposed a theory of psychic vampirism, suggesting that vampyres were the astral bodies of either incarcerated or deceased individuals that were revitalizing themselves on the living.
This saw the first serious and “scientific”, if we can use the term in this context, departure from the archetypal Vampire and reached into a whole new realm of vampiric interaction with the living.
Arguably, the first established “Vampire” orthodoxy came in 1966 with the founding of The Order of Maidenfear, in the United States, by Anne de Molay. With the purchase of a property to be used as a “house” for women ‘Vampires’ to gather and inhabit the twentieth century suddenly became the focus of a new movement, a movement connected, in name, to a history stretching back to around 3200 b.c.
So, then, what to make of all this? What can we conclude? What legacy did we inherit from the sources of Classical Antiquity, 19th century European Occultism and, more importantly, 20th century revivalism?
Quite simple really, Vampires are alive and well and thrive in modern society, well, at least if not thrive certainly survive and mingle. How do they do it? What causes modern Vampirism? What are the alternatives for modern living Vampires in the 21st century?
Defining the Modern Living Vampire
This has been one of the most stubborn thorns in the side of the modern Vampire culture since its inception. We don’t all consume blood, yet we are all Vampires. We don’t all live in drafty old castles and wear black clothes and capes, yet we are all Vampires. We certainly can’t emulate the ‘special effects’ that Hollywood has imbued Vampires with, yet we are all Vampires… so, the next, most obvious, and hardest, question must be, “What is a Vampire?”
If I told you that this subject, more than any other single topic, has embroiled the modern culture pretty much from day 1 I don’t think there’s anyone who could dispute or disagree, yet when we come to attempt definition it seems an almost impossible task.
The gentleman I mentioned at the beginning of this presentation offered a link to an article as evidence of his position, unfortunately it did not help his case since the link was broken. It was a link from one of our most precious cultural resources, sanguinarius.org
In seeking what is probably the best, most comprehensive, and all-inclusive definitions from that site one only need look to the Dictionary of Sanguinese housed there.
A much-disputed term with many meanings, depending upon whom you’re talking to. See also the definitions of “sanguinarian”, “blood-drinker”, “blood fetishist”, “psychic vampire”, “Vampyre Lifestyler”, and “Vampiric Community”. Here, it is used to encompass all of the above-listed groups into a general category. Also, here, it is not used to define any of those as some sort of supernatural or superhuman beings or someone who has returned from the dead (excluding being revived by medical procedures), and so forth. Anyone who makes those sorts of claims is lying.”
In addition to this, and not simply drawing on the opinion of one author of a particular article, we can also find various attendant entries such as, Combo, Energy vampire, Psychic vampire, Psi vampire (psi-vamp, for short) and Sanguinarian.
The method of definition has, over recent years, become complicated by the fact that even within the society and culture of the modern living Vampire there is a certain political correctness that need be observed so as to not alienate any one segment of the cultural body.
Employing the K.I.S.S. principle
On September 18 of 2012 Lady CG created this topic for discussion at Smoke and Mirrors, “Lets Discuss: Defining Vampires“.
Between September 18 and December 15 a group of members discussed the best way to define the “Modern” vampire.
That group included Lady CG, myself, Crimson Dragonwolf, Starfire 77, Dolphinmoon, Zandra Amara, Nox Oculus, Zerochan, Chameleon1 and The Harlot.
At the conclusion of the discussion we had pared down the definition to this simple and succinct statement:
“Vampire (also: Vampyre) is a person who requires supplements of energy and/or physical substance; usually extracted from another source or living being, to maintain their health and wellbeing in some manner.”
In addition to this definition I would like to offer, after deep consideration and an amount of study of the concepts represented in the widely accepted, and utilised ‘lexicon’, offered at the late Lady Sangi’s support site, a further definition that I believe fits a great number of members of the modern culture.
Traditional Vampire: A person who is a modern “Vampire”, as defined by the statement above, and who, in their life, embraces the aesthetic of traditional vampire beliefs and perceptions.
Modern Vampires are no more delusional than Christians who drink wine and call it blood, they are no more delusional than Wiccans; a fully recognised modern religion based on ancient lore and beliefs, they are no more delusional than the scientists who struggled for years to prove that the Higgs-Boson particle actually existed and, perhaps, it is delusional to believe that the world must fit into one narrow tunnel of vision that suits the perfectly ordered world of one mind.
Copyright T & RVL, 2018
1. Silver, A., & Ursini, J. (1997). The Vampire Film: From Nosferatu to Interview with the Vampire (pp. 22–23). New York: Limelight Editions.
2. “From Sarajevo with… fangs ~ Dr. James Lyon“, RVL interview series.
3. “vampire”. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. Retrieved 29 Jan. 2018. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/vampire>.
4. Marigny, pp. 114–115
5. Cohen, pp. 271–274
6. Christopher Frayling (1992) Vampyres – Lord Byron to Count Dracula.
7. Silver & Ursini, pp. 37–38.
8. The Ultimate Vampyre Timeline Rev. 14, RVL et.al.
9. Sanguinarius.org, Vampire Support, terminology and Lingo. Retrieved Jan. 29th, 2018
Further recommended reading:
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