A matter which has often been long and hotly debated, which has created conflict and confusion out of nothing and has been source of much derision and sarcastic wit is that of titles… specifically the titles that are used within the modern Vampyre culture.
Where do titles come from? How are they given out? Why are they given out? Do they come in cereal packets? Can you buy them at Walmart?
Good questions one and all, let’s see if we can sort out some of this…
Titles, to designate people’s positions and responsibilities have, literally, existed since man organised himself into tribes for mutual protection. Someone had to be the boss, someone had to be the senior decision maker, the organiser and so-forth… in order to make sure everyone was on the same page a title seemed to be the easiest way to ensure that rather than making certain everyone knew the boss’s name.
For example, among the earliest known titles we find the Sumerian En and Lugal
“EN (Borger 2003 nr. 164 EN; U+12097 , see also ENSI) is the Sumerian cuneiform for “lord” or “priest”. Originally, it seems to have been used to designate a high priest or priestess of a Sumerian city-state’s patron-deity” 
“Lugal is the Sumerian term for “king, ruler”. Literally, the term means “big man.” In Sumerian, lu is “man” and gal is “great,” or “big.”
As societies grew and expanded the necessity for a greater number of roles and areas of responsibility called for some method of defining who was supposed to be doing what, or who was supposed to be organising what for the populace. Ancient Egyptian society, as another example, included the following titles, Divine Adoratrice, Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King, God’s Wife ( an Egyptian ceremonial appointed title that was associated with the cult of Amun) Haty-a, Nomarch, Servant in the Place of Truth (an institutional function within the Theban Necropolis) Xry Hbt (a ceremonial position, institutional in nature and associated with ritual centres) and, of course, Pharaoh, the highest, hereditary, national executive office in the land.
With the subsequent growth of political systems under the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Roman systems titles became even more necessary as the range and expansion of social systems grew and grew.
Imagine for a moment, although you may not want to, our modern governments, where would we be if they didn’t have clearly defined structure, arranged by function with the individual offices following a chain of command under people with appropriately assigned titles…
So, you ask, how does this relate to the modern Vampire culture? We are not a government, we are not a department structured regulatory device and we don’t have a societal structure on a “national” level that demands delineation of duties and responsibilities.
Very good points, what we have is an “association” of Groups, Organisations, Clans, Tribes, Houses and Temples that do not gravitate around a central authority, nor do they necessarily come together in any great measure unless a situation of mutual interest eventuates. Within each of these individual entities there may be found a need for recognition of levels of authority or definition of responsibilities and, as we have already noted, the easiest way to accomplish this is by the use of titles. The thing with these titles, be they hereditary, elected or appointed is that they are peculiar ONLY to that particular organisation or group.
The Order of Maidenfear was created in 1966, making it the oldest recorded Vampire institution and the modern incarnation of that order still exists today in the Ophiucus Living Vampires International entity. Its owner, Lady Emilie C. recalls that,
“Early on (mid-1980’s) we used “titles” just as a means of organization. We’ve always been uncomfortable with a limitless entity such as vampire culture needlessly being divvied up and categorized. Now if people want to go in for the names and titles and such because it suits them, that’s their prerogative…”
Much argument is made, frequently, about why certain individuals should be referred to by titles – the short answer is that it is necessary to define their position within their own organisation. An example, and one that is commonly argued, is the use of what are seen as royal titles, King and Queen.
Historically speaking King and Queen originated in the Old English to Middle English period (around 900 A.D.) And denoted a hereditary, national executive position of authority. In the case of the modern Vampyre culture the titles are used solely to denote the supreme position not on a national basis but on a regional, or local, basis where a number of “families”, “clans” or “tribal entities” may gather in a “Court”. An individual bearing the title King or Queen will usually have their title appended by the name of the local, or regional, area they are designated as being responsible for leading. The title doesn’t mean anything outside of that particular place but may be used in ceremonial functions in other places outside of that region as a mark of respect and recognition of a leader. It’s somewhat akin to the use of professional titles such as Doctor or Professor, a recognition of position or achievement.
In speaking of titles recently Goddess Rosemary Sahjaza, Matriarch of Temple-House Sahjaza, commented;
“As well they are honors bestowed on our members and others in the community for time served plus works in the community. The higher the level the deeper the service”
In a similar vein, Lady Gia Ahlia Bathory von Ecsed holds the same opinion;
“the titles are earned through contribution and community leadership as well as giving your life to serve the people in it.”
There is, of course, a precedent for the use of titles in the modern Vampire culture that goes back to the very foundation of modern culture establishments, such as The Order of Maidenfear,Temple-House Sahjaza and to the very beginnings of the modern movement stemming from the original Long Black Veil Events of New York city. As one of the Co-authors of the original Black Veil texts has noted they did not have the benefit of a lexicon for the culture back then and the only frame of reference they had was the work of Mark Reinhagen, the creator of “Vampire: The Masquerade”, the game released by White Wolf studios in 1991.
From V:tM we can easily follow the establishment of early “titles” in the movement and although such were not really common, they were still used under certain circumstances. Titles such as, Abbott, Archbishop, Baron, Chief, Consort, Paladin, Prince, Recruit, Seneschal and Sheriff. Some of these among the adopted titles to define an entirely new, and wider “social organism” that had never been “organised” in the manner which it was now becoming.
More common, you will find, is the use of the title “Lord”, a term which originated in the Old to Middle English period also and literally meant, “loaf keeper”, or, a provider for the people under his tutelage.
At this juncture, because there are always two sides to any coin, I am going to play “Devil’s Advocate”, why? Because I can and I’m going to have some very astute help to do it…
There are always the cases of the establishment, or rather self-establishment, of “Titles” by people who have not yet demonstrated, through action or words, that they deserve any more than casual and polite response or consideration. This is the tarnish that colours the perception of titles within the culture and through the subsequent actions of these individuals, especially if they do conduct themselves disgracefully and prove to be problematic, the use of the titles they affect casts a pall over the true intent of such articles. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done about those people, they have been, and will continue to be, a problem for the modern culture as they parade around “playing the role” with gusto.
“A blood drinker/”vampyr” community existed long before Todd Hoyt and The Sanguinarium organized everyone into Houses. We, were the Underground, sometimes, literally. It is due to the onset of public Internet that allowed Todd and Michelle Belanger, to organize and dictate The Black Veil…of bullshit. I was there, with Michelle, before The Sanguinarium organized and dealt out unearned titles. I, too, was given a title of Adept Elder in 2000. That was six years after I came up from down under.”
She further defines the situation in saying;
“Of course, at that point, titles had already been pulled out of thin air and given to the followers (sheep mostly) that they liked the best. The rest is as they always say…history. Those coming into the community since 2000, have every right and reason to give themselves and others titles within their own groups. However, to expect everyone else to value them as such and afford them respect and honor that is highly doubtful they have earned, is ridiculous. Keeping up the charade of, well, all the bullshit that is spewed from groups that are mostly just making up crap as they go along, is, well, bullshit. To become an organized anything, the willy nilly handing out of unearned titles and expecting everyone else to be on the same page, is a detriment. Some titles, I suppose, are actually earned, within any given insular group.”
Titles are, and always have been, hereditary, elected or appointed not simply plucked out of the air as required and this is an important point to keep in mind.
As Lady Julia goes on to say;
“Some titles, I suppose, are actually earned, within any given insular group. Beyond that, I believe, if I were still a relevant member of the V community, that I would concentrate on simply helping people that are or believe, truly, that they are Vampyre, to live the best quality of life they can. I know, without a doubt, that titles, Houses, and all the hooha, are completely unnecessary in order to accomplish that. Which, by the way, is the reason most Titled Community members give for being in the community…they want to share their “wisdom” with everyone. Again, title are completely unnecessary to achieve the greater good, as a whole, or for individuals. Titles are meaningless when a person’s actions and motives are the opposite of their titles.”
Another point to bear in mind is that from time to time an organisation may well choose to recognise an individual for exemplary service to the whole and they may opt to bestow a title, usually reserved for use within said organisation, on someone not in the body of the organisation – we must also recognise that this has precedent also. Think of the Nobel Prize awards. The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural or scientific advances. They were founded in the will of the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel and were established in 1895.
In 2012, The Madame Webb authored a paper entitled “The Importance and Purpose Of Respect & Protocols” for a leading Vampire house. In it she laid out guidelines to the membership of that House which included;
“We will respect all of our Elders, of title and or physical age, and we will hold them in high regard. We value all that we can learn from them. Let us take for example the Native American path. Hardly any cultural group is attending to and learning from Elders as they should, or could be. Elders are assets and rewarding resources; much more learned then our beloved “Google.” There is still plenty to be learned about the world and how to live in it. We learn by listening and respecting Elders, not just in our community, but also in the world at large. Elders have a master’s degree from the University of Life. What they allow to be shared with us is a gift.”
Titles, such as “Elder” are not always to denote ranks and responsibilities, they can also be used to denote expertise and depth of experience in important areas and anyone who has put in the effort, invested the time and returns willing to teach should be recognised for such contributions to the modern culture.
The main concept we must all recognise and accept here is that in each organisation, house, tribe or other such body the members and leader of that entity have the right to adopt any form of official delineation of roles, responsibilities and duties that they may see fit. It is entirely endemic to the individual organisation and does not mean that they hold the same position on other than a local basis and within their own organisations… the use of the title is, however, a point of polite address and interaction. Now, you may call me “Old School” whatever that may mean, because I prefer to address people with a prefix of “Lady” if they are feminine and “Lord” if they are male, that is my way unless a person declines to be addressed so then I shall simply make my address polite and respectful – when dealing with people it gets you much, much further and my honoured parents, my dear departed grandmother and my early English grammar school education brought me up to be polite and respectful, you, dear reader, may have been brought up with a much different perspective and that is perfectly okay – as always but simply because you don’t personally dig the idea of titles and their use doesn’t entitle you to be ignorant of social niceties and be out-and-out rude, does it?
Copyright TB 2017
- Saggs, H. W. F. 1988, The Greatness That Was Babylon (revised edition)
- Watson E. Mills; Roger Aubrey Bullard (1990). Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Mercer University Press. p. 975. ISBN 978-0-86554-373-7.
- com Unabridged. Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
- “The Importance and Purpose Of Respect & Protocols”, The Madame Webb, ©2012, Retrieved Sept. 2017
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