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Vampire community?

7 November 2010

In a recent blog post John Morehead wrote: Morehead’s Musings: Media Stereotypes of Vampires and Other Alternative Subcultures Continue with Alleged Abduction of Teen: “One article I read recently even went so far as to offer commentary on just how dangerous such groups are. The problem is, no such groups exist, and this media narrative was shaped by the residual effects of anti-cult stereotypes, misrepresentations of the vampire community, and the legacy of satanic panics.”

Now I’ve deliberately quoted out of context, because I take issue with two terms, or concepts — “vampire community” and describing vampires as a “subculture”.

Perhaps my interest is primarily as a language pedant. Can one really have a “community” composed of fictional creatures, largely invented by Bram Stoker in the late 19th century? Can one really describe such creatures as a sub-culture?

Some years ago Irving Hexham wrote in the New Religious Movements (Nurel) forum of some people who believed that the Necronomicon written about by H.P. Lovecraft actually existed in the actual archives of an actual Miskatonic University.

But even assuming that there really are such creatures as Bram Stoker wrote about, and that they actually behave in the way described in his book, then saying that a community composed of such creatures is not violent is really stretching it — like saying that a community of terrorists, or a community of torturers and interrogators is not violent.

What next?

Are there media sterotypes of hobbits, and unfair misrepresentations of the “hobbit community”?

I suppose one could put a similar spin on this obituary by heading it “Death catches up with man who slandered the fairy community”: Geoffrey Crawley, 83, Photographic Scientist – NYTimes.com:

Were there really fairies at the bottom of the garden, or was it merely a childhood prank gone strangely and lastingly awry?That, for six decades, was the central question behind the Cottingley fairies mystery, the story of two English schoolgirls who claimed to have taken five pictures of fairy folk in the 1910s and afterward.

The Cottingley Fairies

Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths borrowed Elsie’s parents’ camera and went out into the woods. They came back claiming that they had taken pictures of fairies. It went beyond a joke when Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, began promoting them as genuine pictures of actual fairies. Real-life authors, it seems, are not as astute as the fictional detectives they create. But whatever one makes of this story, could one really speak of a fairy community, or complain about media stereotypes of fairies? Can fictional creatures be described as a sub-culture, whether their characteristics are pleasant or unpleasant?

Will someone be castigating J.K. Rowling for publishing unfair stereotypes of the blast-ended screwt “community”?

16 Comments leave one →
  1. 9 November 2010 12:54 pm

    I’m not sure that you read Morehead’s words correctly. I think that when you read ‘vampire community’ you are thinking of a community of (fictional) ‘reanimated bodies of a dead people believed to come from the grave at night and suck the blood of persons asleep’ rather than a self-defining group of people who call themselves vampires and who may or may not practice satanic worship which may or may not involve human blood.

    Goth sub-cultures which might self-define with various words that have alternative meanings within that sub-culture create a problem for the rest of society for which the words have different meanings.

    However, what I think you are actually addressing is the issue of ‘faction’ – the merging of fact and fiction, a technique used by some artistes to communicate a message and the confusion that genre creates.

    If one looks at Moira Buffini’s play ‘A Vampire Story’ commissioned by the British National Theatre for their ‘New Connections’ programme then you see ‘a witty, dark and shocking look at truth, identity, and humanity’s endless need to consume’. That play (which I have seen) is surely faction employed stylistically to communicate a message through theatre.

    The interpretation of that message, which could either be contained in the sentence quoted above or could be an insight into abusive female relationships that Moira herself experienced in her life or indeed some other message is left for the discerning audience to interpret. The problem is that much of the world is not a discerning audience.

    That in a nutshell is the problem of faction for which JK Rowlings review in the Onion (http://www.theonion.com/) created a backlash leading to a promotion that no ad agency could even dream of.

    • 10 November 2010 8:24 am

      John Morehead explained about that, and said that the vampire fans who call themselves “vampires” distinguish between themselves and “lifestyle vampires”. They say that they themselves are “real vampires” as opposed to “lifestyle vampires”. But that still leaves the problem of how you distinguish between “real vampires” and real (ie fictional) vampires.

      I think we’re into egregore territory here.

    • 10 November 2010 8:37 am

      PS: Perhaps you could ask around to get opinions locally on the “vryolakas” community!

      • 11 November 2010 12:12 am

        Sorry, too busy counting bird seeds for a century or two… will let you know when I am through.

  2. 10 November 2010 7:23 pm

    Last week I came across a news item that touched on a missing teenage girl who had interests in the Goth movement. This interest, coupled with a URL on her computer that referenced vampires led her parents to believe that perhaps her disappearance had something to do with alleged “underground vampire cults,” a view that was quickly spread by the media. I then posted on this topic noting that it misunderstands and misrepresents various alternative identity communities and subcultures, and draws upon lingering anti-cult stereotypes as well as satanic panics as addressed in the scholarly literature. This is the context for Steve’s comment on my blog in which I interacted with him privately and which he has copied here on this list for discussion. I am pleased to provide some commentary to help with understanding on this topic and so that we avoid the stereotypes found in the original reporting on this topic in the meida.

    Now that Steve has posted here I understand the broader context of his questions and concerns on my blog and in this forum. His comments reveal a lack of understanding and confusion on the issues as well as the terminology which I am sympathetic to if you do not work in the area of religion and popular culture. The reference to the “vampire community” and “subculture” does not refer to the monsterous literary creatures of Bram Stoker’s novel or subsequent vampires in literature, film, or television. Nor do they refer to people who believe there is a one for one correspondence to their identies as vampires with this mythical creatures. Instead, it refers to those individuals who maintain a vampire identity and by extenion with others in social interaction form community and a distinct subculture. Consider the definitions provided by Joseph Laycock in his Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampirism (Praeger, 2009):

    “The terms ‘real vampire’ and “vampire community’ are commonly used by within vampire culture. When someone says that they are a ‘real vampire,’ they do not mean that are actually undead or immortal. Rather, this term is used in contradistinction to ‘lifestyle vampires.’ Lifestyle vampires or ‘lifestylers’ are usually dedicated fans of vampire fiction and enjoy dressing as the undead. Real vampires believe that they are somehow biologically or metaphysically distinct from other people. The key difference is that lifestylers choose their identity while real vampires see their identity as a vampire as essential and unchangeable.

    “The term ‘vampire community’ (often just ‘VC’ in Internet communications) is a broad label that generally includes anyone who identifies as a vampire. Many different and conflicting ideas of vampirism coexist with the vampire community. Although formal groups exist within the community, it is not an organization or institution. It functions more as an identity group that all vampires are ascribed to. Vampires typically speak about the vampire community in much the same way that gays speak about the gay community or African-Americans speak about the black community.”

    Understood in this context and with these definitions in mind my terminology was accurate in referring to real individuals, not fictional monstrous creatures, who find identity, community, and at times spiritual meaning through the vampire motif. Therefore, the media was inaccurate in perpetuating stereotypes of vampires and for drawing upon outdated understandings of alternative identity subcultures and new religions, a situation made worse by the inclusion of satanic panic elements, all of which was accurately summarized in the statement from the Atlanta Vampire Alliance reproduced in my blog post.

    For those interested in further resources on this specific and related topics I recommend:

    Joseph Laycock, Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampirism (Praeger, 2009)

    Christopher Partridge, The Re-Enchantment of the West: Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture, and Occulture, Vol. 1 (T & T Clark International, 2005)

    Em McAvan, The Postmodern Sacred: Popular Culture Spirituality in the Genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Fantastic Horror (dissertation, Murdoch University, 2007)

    • 11 November 2010 12:34 am

      What we touch on here is self-definition. I remember chatting with an eminent statistician, collecting global religious data. He allowed for self-definition as the primary way of counting religious affiliation. So, if in the USA 70% called themselves Christian then 70% of the population were Christian. Makes sense… except that their definition is not consistent and hence totally unhelpful if you think meeting one ‘Christian’ will be like meeting another ‘Christian’. It doesn’t create a single self-defining group with a observable phenomenological character.

      Contrast this with various research projects done on Nigeria (I use this example as I had the different surveys available when I used this as an example in talks) which had external definitions of Christian. Different surveys produced different results and then had Nigeria with different percentages. Using these external definitions you did get closer to groups with an observable phenomenological character, albeit you would have to use ‘definition A type Christians’ and ‘definition B type Christians’ and so on.

      What I think Steve is driving at is that self-definition of Vampire is possibly statistically accurate (self-defined), but unhelpful (because it didn’t match an external definition).

      However, as we move from modern to post-modern accurate fixed definitions are giving way to more fluid self-definitions. There is something in missiology causing a lot of stress right now, its called the ‘insider movement’. Everyone thinks they know what it means and some love it, some hate it. Self-definition it is not, many of those in the movement HATE the phrase and don’t use it. As someone looking at it from the outside I realise its not a single consistent movement but a plethora of different approaches. This is balkanization within a subculture.

      This is what you are talking about – a balkanization within the Goth subculture with words that mean different things whether self-defined or externally defined. Only an understanding of the complex group interactions will give you some impression of the reality of the situation.

      • 11 November 2010 8:36 am

        There’s been some discussion of this on the New Religious Movements discussion forum, where I at first thought the language question was only marginally on topic, but am coming to see that it is much more central than I thought at first.

        On the question of self-identification, whether a particular group regards itself or is regarded by others as Christian (or Buddhist or Muslim) is not such a problem, because there is a general core meaning of these terms. The case of vampires is somewhat different. I discussed this at greater length in the Nurel forum, but my linguistic point is that “vampire” has become a fairly broad and heterogeneous concept that crosses a lot of cultural boundaries, and I have reservations about allowing it to be hijacked and monopolised by a sub-culture who seek to define it and restrict the way the rest of us use and understand it.

  3. 16 November 2010 4:21 pm

    Steve, rather like the term witch eh?

  4. 10 January 2011 10:53 am

    Dear Steve, John and others,

    I found this article and the comments to be an interesting take on the outside view of the Vampyre Community. I also have to stifle a giggle at Steve’s claim that we are “hijacking” the word “vampire” – presumably in the same way some people make the fantastic claim that gay people are hijacking that word as well. As a local Vampyre in South Africa myself, I would be willing to shed a little light on the mysteries you appear to be facing.

    Often the greatest detractors and critics are people who do not understand what they are criticizing, and who don’t make an effort to understand. I invite you to make that effort.

    John mentioned the teenage girl who went missing whose case was headline news in the US media a few months ago, and the negative publicity the VC caught because of the “satanic panic” attitudes prevalent in the media which covered the case. Despite the girl having simply run away from home to escape strict parenting, being found completely unharmed and staying with a boyfriend – and not actually having a single thing to do with the Vampyre Community at all, not one single correction or apology was made to a global community who felt offended and unfairly stigmatized by the claims of Shellby Ellis being abducted by “the vampire cult”.

    First, a cult does not consist of a global ‘membership’; second, a cult has a clear single leadership; and third, a cult is a religious entity. The VC does not fit any of these parameters. Mostly the VC can’t even agree on which spelling of the word “vampire/Vampyre” applies to them, or what defines a real Vampyre.

    One of the sites/news agencies that covered the story and which was until recently very critical of the VC is Top Secret Writers. On Dec 16 Ryan Dube of TSW, who had written several very critical and hostile articles on the VC up to that point, participated in an open discussion with members of the VC and found something which completely changed his perceptions of our community. I invite you to read his follow-up article: http://www.topsecretwriters.com/2010/12/vampires-exist-a-dialog-with-the-vampire-community/ Ryan Dube has subsequently also interviewed Joe Laycock whom John mentioned.

    Please feel free to contact myself or another member of the VC for further information.

    Octarine

    • 10 January 2011 5:44 pm

      Until I read John Morehead’s blog post, I had never heard of such a thing as a “vampire community”, and it sounded to me like something of the same order as a “blast-ended skrewt community”. I’m willing to be enlightened about either or both.

      • 10 January 2011 8:58 pm

        Hi Steve,

        Thanks for your reply. Yes, there is a large and active community worldwide, although it is not always easily visible. But let’s start at the basics.

        What is a real life vampire/Vampyre?

        A person who identifies as a Vampyre is a person who recognizes a need within themselves for more energy than they can produce on their own. Try as they might, eat or drink what they will, they simply cannot produce enough to feel well or stay physically healthy.

        If they feed, this need diminishes, if they deny this impulse, they begin to experience negative health impact, and begin a gradual process of fatigue and developing secondary health issues. Many do deny this need and become ill because of it. Tales abound within the VC of those who end up having heart-attacks or other ailments from not feeding properly.

        Because we need energy from outside ourselves, and most typically from other living beings (people, animals or plants) this need is defined as vampiric, or even in some ways parasitic, although most of us will view the application of the latter hurtful and even insulting.

        Most of the questions you could have on this topic can be found here : http://www.sanguinarius.org/

        What do Vampyres feed on?

        Like anyone else, Vampyres eat the same food and drink all the same liquids anyone else. But we need more than just that. Among Vampyres, there are two main ways to obtain this sustenance, and one is via blood, the other chi/or prana energy which is absorbed via among other methods, physical contact. Those who feed via blood are called Sanguine or Sang Vampyres and those who feed off PSI energy, Psychic or PSI Vampyres. There are various other ways to feed, but this is a crash-course, so you need to investigate that further on the same site listed above. There are of course many other sites, but that is probably the best place to start.

        When people think of the fictional vampire they often confuse us with that, thinking that we kill people to drink their blood. This is simply not true. Vampyres feed from consensual Donors who willingly help them. Most often these are people known to the Vampyre who have some form of relationship with them, be it a friend or a romantic partner. No harm is done to them, and not much blood is taken, just enough to keep the Vampyre healthy.

        Is vampirism a religion?

        Broadly speaking no. Most Vampyres view what they are as a state of being, like your skin color or your cultural group. I say broadly, because there are some who see being Vampyre as a religious or spiritual experience. There are several religions or temples around the world which approach vampirism as a religion and cater for Vampyres, but again, many if not most Vampyres appear to belong to other more mainstream faiths like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Wicca etc. Many are also atheist or agnostic, just like anyone else. In fact, I even know a few Catholic and born-again Christian vamps – strange as that may seem to you. Many feel that vampirism is a condition that chose them, not the other way round.

        Are Vampyres all goths?

        The notion that Vampyres are all gothic, wearing black clothes and makeup is a stereotype. The basis in this is the detail that it is often the most visible minority of any group that catches public attention. That said, no – most vamps are not gothic, in fact you could be sitting right beside one now and you’d never know.

        Are Vampyres evil/bad people?

        I think this is a clear demonstration of stereotype. If you examine any cultural group, be it based on race or language or sexual orientation or gender, can you honestly claim that an entire group is either all good or all bad? It is the same with Vampyres. Most Vampyres seem to be ordinary people just wanting to live their lives.

        Just like any community, we have secular groups, religious groups, entertainment, alternate rock bands, and even news sites. http://www.realvampirenews.com/

        I hope this explains who we are a little better, and of course, if you want to know more, just ask.

        Val

        • 11 January 2011 6:00 am

          Thanks very much for your clear explanation. I’ll note the web sites you refer to, and look at them when I have the opportunity.

  5. 10 January 2011 11:58 am

    First off Vampire have been written about and are in legends well before Bram stoker; even in the BC times Vampires were there. Real Vampyres are nothing like the fiction out there and most of the attributes such as they only feed on blood, they are undead, and sun kills them is all assumptions that are misguided by fictional writers. The Vampyre subculture and goth subculture are two completely different paths and mostly in each community do not except the other because of these rumors that they are connected. here are some links to the true Vampyre culture: http://sanguinarius.org/links/ ~ http://www.templeuvup.org/page/link-page ~ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TempleUVUP/links

  6. Persephone permalink
    11 January 2011 10:21 am

    JP’s group might be considered a religious vampire group, and as such represents a minority view vs. the greater vampire community.

    • 11 January 2011 1:23 pm

      That is why I posted link pages to the various vampire communities and not my home site cover page. It is true the general Vampire community has many different beliefs and paths as any community does but no we are not the only ones who are spiritual (NOT RELIGIOUS). I never said the vampire community is a religion or spiritual I was just trying to help. I am however as of this point no longer a member of the general vampire community it seems and I consider my self an outsider but somehow I still try and wish I didn’t care about those that don’t seem to care for me but I can’t seem to help it as it it is in my blood…

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