Earlier this month, I had a wonderful chat with Joe Laycock on the subject of real life vampires. I wasn’t sure what to expect before the interview, because up until that point I’d never had any real interactions with vampires and didn’t even know that real life vampires exist in our society in this day and age. I’d only come to that realization a few weeks earlier.
What came out of that dialog was a confirmation that not only do vampires exist, but they are vastly misunderstood and their physical afflictions are exaggerated and misinterpreted by and large by most journalists and writers. What makes Joe Laycock different is his credentials in religious studies and his ability to look beyond cultural norms at the larger picture.
One particular comment during that interview that had the greatest impact on my own understanding of this subculture/community was the following statement:
“Again, if we are going to be critical of self-identified vampires, we must first listen to what they say about themselves.”
It was only just a few days later that a vampire that goes by the pseudonym of Wraiths contacted me and invited me to take part in a group discussion in the chat room over at the website of the International Vampyre Alliance (IVA).
I wanted to take Joe’s advice and wade deeply into this community – to understand that if vampires exist, what is the real condition and are they really “vampires” – or something else entirely? Wraiths offered the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. I accepted, and at the appointed time we entered our dialog.
The Conversation With New Friends
This group discussion included a list of all sorts of folks including a number of Sanguinarians, a Hybrid (Sang and PSI) and even a blood donor. Each of these individuals were pleasant, very approachable and extremely open to offering some of the most revealing details about their personal experiences.
Participants in the conversation included Wraiths, Octarine Valur, EvilVampire, Cheri, Nadia115, Belfazaar Ashantison, Zimmerchild and RK Coon.
Don’t let the names fool you – most are forum names, but many are also pseudonyms that these folks use in order to protect their identities. Now, before you assume they protect their identities because of shame or a sense of wrongdoing, I would recommend that you read along – you, friendly reader, may be just as surprised as I was.
The conversation started with introductions.
-> Belfazaar Ashantison : Founder and Elder, House of Mystic Echoes and Founder of NOVA (New Orleans Vampire Association) – a Sanguine Vampire and member of the community since 1978.
-> Nadia : From House AVA – New to the online vampire community after spending most of her life living in solitude as a Sanguinarian.
-> Cheri : A Sang Donor, including both blood and Psi. A donor for almost 20 years.
-> Wraiths : Sanguinarian and co-founder of IVA
-> EvilVampyre : A Sanguinarian, and an online community “lurker” for many years.
-> Octarine Valur : Co-founder of IVA. New member of the online vampire community and Sanguinarian as well as PSI-Vamp.
-> zimmerchild : Hybrid (Sang & PSI)
After introductions, I discussed a bit of the recent drama surrounding the PSI Vamp that I originally interviewed, and surprisingly (to me) no one took a negative approach toward me about those events. It appeared most people within the online vampire community were more interested in really setting aside drama and embracing dialog and understanding. So, with that behind us, we moved forward.
Soon, we entered into a discussion about common stereotypes about what it means to be a “vampire” and the role vampire cults play, sparked by a question to me from Octarine.
[01:22:45] Octarine Valur : I note in one of your comments on your article where our community was described as a cult by the private investigator in the Shellby ellis case, you pointed out “an online community can’t classify as a cult due to the fact that it just doesn’t meet the criteria of secrecy, member indoctrination (rather than expressive freedom)” – what is your current view of our community?
[01:23:24] Octarine Valur : I rather liked that comment by you by the way.
[01:23:29] ryan : thats’ an awesome question
[01:23:57] ryan : and to be honest, if I felt you were all part of a cult I probably wouldn’t be here…cult followers scare me
[01:24:16] ryan : for not so obvious reasons…the “believer” mentality scares me…so no, I don’t at all view vampirism as a cult
[01:24:24] Octarine Valur : Thanks.
[01:24:32] ryan : one thing I should add though
[01:24:35] zimmerchild : Oh good.
[01:24:35] ryan : tell me if I”m off base
[01:24:49] ryan : I still get the impression that these small cult groups do form occasionally
[01:24:54] ryan : and of course they get the media limelight
[01:24:58] ryan : but they do pop up, yes?
[01:25:05] RKCoon : One might say the only difference between a cult and a mainstream religion is how public it is.
[01:25:08] Octarine Valur : I’m sure every community has them
[01:25:26] ryan : great point RKCoon
[01:26:35] Belfazaar Ashantison : the group in Alabama had nothing to do with the Alabama community… When a group, such as that forms, they are usually completely isolated from the real community (in ANY community)… As I pointed out about the 2 from Arizona, no one in the Arizona community recognized them or the handles by which they were named.
[01:25:52] ryan : so let’s do a test of stereotypes, is that ok?
[01:26:12] Nadia115 : Fine with me Ryan..I think lol
[01:26:16] Octarine Valur : sure thing
[01:26:33] ryan : silver jewelry all over
[01:26:41] ryan : so tell me, how many of you here match that description?
[01:27:03] Octarine Valur : Not me 😉
[01:27:15] RKCoon : No makeup, myself, as my career doesnt allow it. I fit more the description of a biker than a goth.
[01:27:17] @ wraiths,.., : not me
[01:27:30] Nadia115 : It depends on what I feel like for the day personally. I have tattoos and piercings, but I am a goat and chicken farmer now and also train/break horses for people and teach kids to ride along with babysitting
[01:27:39] Octarine Valur : I’m all jeans and t’s…
[01:27:45] Belfazaar Ashantison : I’m a jeans and t-shirt type guy… unless I am specifically doing a Voodoo working, I tend to stray for comfort…
[01:27:50] zimmerchild : At times I match that description, but not every day all the time. I still enjoy colour and occasionally my make up consist of bright pink.
[01:27:55] ryan : isn’t that amazing – that’s not at all what people picture about the community at all
[01:28:49] Octarine Valur : I think stereotypes are formed by the visible part of any community
[01:28:53] Belfazaar Ashantison : that’s just it, Ryan… someone comes to one of our gatherings where we can deck out, have fun and dress pretty much how we want and they automatically assume that is the way we dress 99% of our lives
[01:28:54] Nadia115 : Usually I am in jeans, no piercings, boots and a hat on the back of a horse
[01:29:11] ryan : lol…sound more like a cowgirl than a “vamp”…
[01:29:24] Nadia115 : Pretty much Ryan 😉
[01:30:12] @ wraiths,.., : im a 10yr Marine Corps vet…still straight laced
[01:30:13] RKCoon : For the record, I did in fact grow up as something of a redneck myself, and i chose to leave such a lifestyle.
[01:30:31] ryan : Wraiths – you were in the Corps??
[01:30:49] ryan : wow, I don’t think you can get further from the stereotype than that
[01:30:56] Nadia115 : I was raised native American myself….completely immersed in the culture
[01:31:04] Belfazaar Ashantison : <=== USAF myself… Proud to have been a gay man who got to serve his country
[01:31:11] ryan : amazing
[01:31:24] Cheri : Army here 🙂
[01:31:28] Octarine Valur : Until 2 years ago I was military myself – I still work there as a civilian instructor in IT
[01:31:51] @ wraiths,.., : yes.. have ten years and 3 conflicts under my belt
[01:33:31] Nadia115 : Ah…I did do a long stint as crime scene technician in metro Atlanta
[01:33:55] Belfazaar Ashantison : I work at a French Quarter Voodoo shop, where I get to practice my beliefs on a daily basis, work in an organization that is globally active versus locally active… “globally” meaning that we care about our WHOLE community versus “locally” meaning just the vampire community
So what quickly became clear during this conversation is the fact that these folks that require blood in order to feel healthy do not match the stereotypes most people have of “real vampires.” These aren’t the dark Goth types with dark makeup, black nail polish and black clothes. These are everyday folks – farmers, medical staff and even a number of career military – all with an affliction that makes society place the label of “vampire” upon them.
The Need to Drink Blood
[01:36:05] ryan : what do you personally feel drives the “need”?
[01:36:52] Nadia115 : Physical for me
[01:37:33] Belfazaar Ashantison : Wow… I like that question… Let me start by giving the definition of vampirism that both HoME and NOVA use
[01:37:42] Belfazaar Ashantison : “Vampirism is a physiological condition wherein the afflicted person’s body does not either produce enough, or none at all, of the essential energies to maintain a proper balance of physical, mental and emotional well-being and must, therefore, turn to outside sources to attain these energies. These sources range from blood to psychic energy to empathic energy to elemental energy to the ambient negative energy present every day to eclectic mixes of any of the above sources.”
[01:38:05] Octarine Valur : I feed PSI too, mainly off elemental energy, but feel I have learned to do this to compensate for not being able to feed sang as regularly as I need to.
[01:38:11] Belfazaar Ashantison : Vampirism mimics several conditions and each person responds to it differently
[01:38:42] Nadia115 : -nods-
[01:38:46] Belfazaar Ashantison : For me, it is a VERY physical need… And when I do not feed properly, it shows on me in a physical manner
[01:39:17] Nadia115 : Mine shows as Fibro/Lupus type symptoms and I guess I should add severe depression as well
[01:39:18] Belfazaar Ashantison : you can REALLY see it in me
[01:39:53] Belfazaar Ashantison : Its like asking a vegetarian why they chose that path versus being omnivorous
[01:40:09] Nadia115 : I can feel it in every inch of my body personally..
[01:40:22] Belfazaar Ashantison : I stopped trying to keep up with the terms of the community ages ago…
[01:40:52] ryan : so it’s physical to the point of being medical
[01:41:03] ryan : sounds dangerous to *not* drink blood then…
[01:41:03] Nadia115 : For me it is
[01:41:16] ryan : have any of you had interactions with doctors?
[01:41:17] Nadia115 : Mainly painful lol
[01:41:21] Belfazaar Ashantison : as it is a physical need for me, and requires a physical medium to transfer the energy… I can only honestly tell you that this is what works…. FOR ME
[01:41:28] Octarine Valur : When I don’t feed, I begin to feel tired, low energy, depressed. After a while without feeding I begin to get joint pains, flu symptoms etc
[01:41:36] Nadia115 : I have had far too many interactions with doctors that I have left shrug
[01:41:58] ryan : yeah – I’d have to assume doctors would be clueless with such a case
[01:42:07] Belfazaar Ashantison : I tried the medical and psychiatric routes… Took every pill, made every dietary change and even had to take B-12 shots in the backside… None of it worked
[01:42:14] RKCoon : Ive had several checkups, including a complete blood workup due to a penicilin reaction. No surprises.
[01:42:29] Nadia115 : Same here as RK
[01:42:37] ryan : so they found you completely healthy RKCook & Nadia?
[01:42:40] Octarine Valur : It was suspected that I had porphyria as a child, hyperallergic reactions to medications etc, anemia and so on
[01:42:57] Nadia115 : All my doctors have done is prescribe me narcotics for pain which I am allergic to
[01:42:58] Cheri : a visit to their Dr. is most often the first thing we recommend to anyone thinking they may be a vampire
[01:43:12] RKCoon : Asideo f the aforementioned penicilin reaction, healthy with nothing abnormal.
[01:43:12] Belfazaar Ashantison : One of my doctors told me he found an “anomaly” one time… Something he could not explain in my blood, but he was my hematologist
[01:43:20] Nadia115 : Yes, they have found nothing at all wrong with me
[01:43:38] RKCoon : I will say that that was not a full genetic scan or such, only blood testing, but as I said, nothing surprising.
[01:43:41] ryan : anomaly – I like that…haha
[01:44:09] zimmerchild : There have been several times I’ve visited the hospital or my doctor for odd pains and issues. They’ve yet to figure out what might be causing the odd issues, and I often leave my doctor scratching his head.
[01:44:46] Nadia115 : All of mine are baffled LOL
[01:44:48] ryan : In my interview with Lady CG and her counterparts, I was sort of scorned for suggesting porphyria – I take it that’s been ruled out in general by the community?
[01:45:03] Nadia115 : It has for me
[01:45:04] Octarine Valur : Pretty much I think
[01:45:20] Belfazaar Ashantison : Gotta love a community that can set the “practicing medical community” on its backside scratching their heads
[01:45:31] ryan : so is the general consensus this is likely an as-yet unknown medical condition science just hasn’t caught up with?
[01:45:40] Nadia115 : No kidding belfazaar!
[01:45:49] Belfazaar Ashantison : porphyria has a genetic marker and is usually passed through the family lines
[01:46:31] ryan : yes – I actually contacted the founder of the Porphyria foundation and she told me I was barking up the wrong tree…
[01:46:55] Belfazaar Ashantison : There is a rare eye condition that they’ve JUST recently detected and funds are being raised for it through shows like “True Blood” or our events down here at Halloween this year
[01:47:15] Octarine Valur : In general I would say a lot of vamps seem to believe that medicine or science will one day be able to explain us
[01:47:44] @ wraiths,.., : how can the tens of thousands of us be wrong? ..
[01:47:45] ryan : yes – i would have to believe that given all of your own medical/physical experiences
Becoming a Donor
I was particularly interested in Cheri, who at one point in her life, many years ago, chose to become a blood donor for an Sanguinarian. I found her story to be especially poignant, and I would ask you as an empathetic reader, to consider what you would have done in her shoes?
[02:00:51] ryan : Cheri – could you describe what initially inspired you to donate?
[02:01:21] Cheri : I had a very dear friend that asked me if I would be willing to donate
[02:02:00] ryan : was it a completely new thing then?
[02:02:02] Cheri : When I found out how much it helped him, I never hesitated .
[02:02:21] ryan : so it wasn’t scary to you at all?
[02:02:43] Cheri : I had been involved in some blood play prior to that, but the idea of real vampires was new at that time
[02:03:17] ryan : oh okay, the blood play answers the second question I think
[02:03:31] ryan : obviously wouldn’t be scary to you!
[02:03:49] Cheri : lol the idea of someone drinking my blood was a little
[02:04:26] ryan : sort of like when people give blood to the Red Cross…
[02:04:28] Cheri : yes
[02:04:34] ryan : that makes sense
[02:04:35] Cheri : I do that also
[02:04:50] Belfazaar Ashantison : only in this case, it isn’t a whole pint of blood you are giving
[02:05:11] ryan : do any of you know if there are any stats on the number of donors supplying Sangs in need?
[02:05:34] Belfazaar Ashantison : Usually about an ounce sates my hunger… At my MOST hungry, it was only 6 ounces…
[02:06:00] ryan : that’s not a whole lot – I believe they draw much more when you give blood to the Red Cross?
[02:06:07] Belfazaar Ashantison : *shrugs* don’t know about stats, but I use multiple… I have 4 currently so that I don’t tax any one of them unnecessarily
[02:06:20] Nadia115 : A pint is usually drawn from Red Cross
[02:06:22] Cheri : I only know that there are alot of Sangs that do not have a donor.
[02:06:26] Octarine Valur : I wouldn’t think so… the community is too decentralized for that
[02:06:45] ryan : do those that not have donors just remain sick?
[02:06:58] Nadia115 : I have for very long
[02:07:13] Belfazaar Ashantison : All of my donors are tested regularly, as am I for their comfort and we’ve all signed the Donor Bill of Rights I created
[02:07:17] zimmerchild : We can use animal blood, but it’s not as good as having a donor.
[02:07:18] Cheri : the ones I know do, Ryan
[02:07:21] Nadia115 : I have a donor, but they are a bit far to travel to at the moment
[02:07:44] ryan : amazing
[02:07:47] Nadia115 : -nods- I have used animal blood in a pinch
[02:07:50] ryan : sad though
[02:08:00] Octarine Valur : I have 2 donors at the moment
[02:08:05] Cheri : I am tested reagularly, and insist any vampire I feed be also
[02:08:15] ryan : just doesn’t seem fair that the medical field is failing so many people
[02:08:32] Belfazaar Ashantison : I don’t subscribe to the animal blood practice because the animal cannot give permission… Although when I was younger and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, my Grandmother went to the local Kosher butcher and would bring pints of pig blood home for me to drink… it helped… but not much
[02:08:57] Belfazaar Ashantison : We’re not the ONLY condition the medical field is failing…
[02:09:11] Cheri : The medical field fails alot of people
The Dangers of Being Sanguinarian
One of the first things that I noticed when I came across this community was the use of pseudonyms. It’s rare that you get a real name unless you get close to any of these folks, and given what they revealed next, it isn’t very difficult to see why they are so careful to protect their identities. It isn’t from feelings of shame or wrongdoing, but from feelings of fear that their lives will be destroyed when their entire nature is revealed.
[02:21:49] Belfazaar Ashantison : We have people in the community who, by the merest hint of illicit behavior, have lost their children… No interviews. No witnessed accounts. No signs of violence or abusive behaviors… But because someone insinuated there was “vampires”, “satanists” and the like around the children… They were taken… So we, as a community, tend to keep that VERY close to home… Family first
[02:22:21] ryan : i get it
[02:22:30] ryan : it really hits close to home doesn’t it
[02:22:39] Nadia115 : I know when I worked for the police department, this part of my life was very hidden
[02:22:52] Belfazaar Ashantison : If they can take our children without so much as a “how do you do”, they can take anyone’s
[02:23:09] Nadia115 : Many made guesses, but I never confirmed, though it was safe for me to be open about my wiccan/pagan beliefs
[02:23:25] ryan : do you think they would have kicked you out?
[02:23:51] Belfazaar Ashantison : If not, they might have not trusted her judgment about things
[02:23:53] Cheri : I myself work with youth in my home town, I keep this side of my life out of that part for a reason.
[02:23:56] Nadia115 : For politcal reasons, I am sure I would have lost my job. Especially considering I dealt with numerous murders and blood evidence
[02:24:18] ryan : that’s true – and in reality you were able to handle it quite well
[02:24:24] ryan : the responsibilities vs. your need
[02:24:28] ryan : so that says a lot too
[02:24:35] Nadia115 : One mention of vampirism or being connected to the community and murderers would be walking free
[02:25:19] Belfazaar Ashantison : This is also why the community deals in “alternative names”… It isn’t to hide what we are, but to keep our jobs, to keep our families safe and to know that we will be safe to walk down the street to the corner store and back for a pack of smokes
[02:25:20] Nadia115 : I never had a problem handling any of it really
[02:25:21] ryan : I guess I now understand the need for pseudonyms
[02:25:26] ryan : was wondering about that
[02:25:38] ryan : exactly Belfazaar 🙂
[02:25:57] ryan : that confused me at first…I kept thinking, why don’t you just give me your real name?
[02:26:20] Belfazaar Ashantison : Personally… most people KNOW my real name, but call me Zaar because I use that to honor my Great Grandfather who was a full blood Tsalagi Medicine Man…
[02:26:29] Cheri : see I never have used a pseudonym
[02:26:43] Nadia115 : I also do animal rescue on a very large scale and babysit police officers kids as well…it would not bode well for me to out my whole name
[02:26:55] ryan : two generations, full blood medicine man?
[02:26:57] ryan : wow
[02:27:01] @ wraiths,.., : i actually got my name while i was in the Corps
[02:27:03] zimmerchild has been disconnected the Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:27 am (session timeout)
[02:27:07] Cheri : indeed Nadia
[02:27:24] ryan : isn’t that amazing Nadia
[02:27:35] ryan : seriously – when you look at the fears vs the reality
[02:27:38] ryan : here you are taking care of kids
[02:27:49] ryan : and the mere mention of your condition and that trust would disappear?
[02:27:59] Nadia115 : I have a litter of puppies that were orphaned that I bottle fed…not many people would want to trust picking them up for adoption or even trust me to take them if they knew
[02:28:13] Nadia115 : Exactly.
[02:28:24] ryan : whew
[02:28:31] Nadia115 : So to keep that trust, I use Nadia
[02:28:58] Belfazaar Ashantison : House of Mystic Echoes and NOVA are work with the homeless in New Orleans… We are also working on creating a homeless shelter that is glbt/pagan oriented… It will be accepting of all people, but when the local shelters find out you fall into one of those categories they tend to put you out or try to “save your soul”
[02:29:31] ryan : ha…yes because of course you’re all satan-worshipping vampires
[02:30:05] Belfazaar Ashantison : Many times, those types of “christians” forget the concept that Jesus was a friend of the sinners
[02:30:20] ryan : exactly Belfazaar
For me, the conversation made it very clear that people that are experiencing this condition are experiencing both physical and psychological symptoms being caused by something significant. This is one of those situations that requires the courage of a true open-minded skeptic.
While a believer would immediately buy into every aspect of vampirism and a die-hard skeptic would dismiss the entire community as psychologically disturbed, the open-minded skeptic acknowledges a wide-spread phenomenon that currently lacks a sufficient explanation.
An open-minded skeptic would be willing to listen to the experiences these people are describing and would work toward encouraging the medical and scientific community to pursue promising avenues of exploration that might finally uncover the cause of these terrible symptoms.Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com