I recently had the honour of being interviewed – by the creator and host of South African Vampyre News. As it was something local I thought it to be a great idea to have a chat with them as well to see how the local Vampyre community interact.
1. As a start please introduce yourself and tell the readers a bit about – South African Vampyre News. Why was it started, how has it grown?
Within the real Vampyre Community I go by the name of Octarine Valur. I'm a founding member of the modern South African Vampyre Community, and have been working to develop and build this community for the past several years. I have a diverse background, with broad experience and interests in among others, human rights advocacy, photography and writing. I started SAVN in order to provide interesting and useful information relating to the local community in an attractive and modern format. Since it began in June 2011, it has grown from having just one writer (myself) to having several regular contributors. We share our local news with foreign Vampyre Community media groups, such as "Vampire Community News", "Real Vampire News", and also with the "Grave Yard Press", and in turn, we re-post items of interest originating from them.
2. How did you know that you where an actual Vampyre?
Most self-identified Vampyres will tell you they suffer from irregularities in terms of their health, and also certain cravings, and when we neglect to feed properly or regularly enough, these issues become pronounced and we suffer for it.
For me, I always found the craving for blood worrying and since childhood, I knew nothing of real Vampyres. I did know enough to realize that I should keep my mouth shut about it though. I worried that it may be a sign that I was delusional, or even dangerous - or, as I was raised in a religious home, "evil". When I awakened at 15 years of age, I knew what I felt and knew something was required of me - but at the time I didn't understand it, and didn't know how to deal with it, so I ignored it as best I could. As I resisted the urge to feed, whether psychically or sanguinely, my health deteriorated. I was a fairly sickly teen at these times.
As I grew older, became an emotionally needy and depressed adult, with no clue to what was at the root of my problems. When I was on a point of emotional collapse, I instinctively began to feed off elemental energy, something I didn't understand at the time, but was drawn to do instinctively in my nightly meditations. As I did so, my state and condition improved dramatically, and it was while I was researching this practice that I eventually discovered information that led me to understand what I was going through, and why I was the way I was at the time - and also why I had recovered. I discovered that I wasn't alone, and that there are many of us who share the same experiences. It was at this point that I finally entered the real Vampyre Community. Self acceptance and learning to manage my condition are what helped me to become a stable, self-reliant person.
3. How have the likes of Edward Cullen, Dracula and modern movies and series influenced interest in South Africa’s Vampyre community?
Well, as for the Twilight stories, most of the vamps I know really don't like Twilight as a Vampyre story. For myself, I like bits of it as a romance, but agree with them 100% that it really isn't very much like real Vampyres at all - and it shouldn't be - it's fiction. If people had to watch movies about a typical day in a real Vampyre's life, they would throw popcorn at the screen and leave, or fall asleep.
Locally I would say that the newcomers to our community rarely mention Twilight, or actually any vampire fiction when approaching us. They avoid it because they are concerned that they will be taken seriously, even by those like them - and we are inundated by comments and inquiries from lifestylers and gamers and attention-seekers.
Mostly those who seek us out are vampyrics looking for support, information and guidance. Their concerns are real-world concerns, such as "what am I?", "how do I do x, y, or z?" and "I need to understand a, b, or c". Stories like Twilight have boosted interest in fictional vampires, mainly in pre-teens, teens and very young adults - but the books and movies also have another unintended side-effect - religious conservatives have also been inspired to take an interest in the real Vampyre Community - and they have for the past few years been writing articles criticizing us and using Twilight as a lens to view and try to understand us. I suppose it's not surprising that they usually fail at this, and get things horribly wrong. In terms of fiction, it usually influences people to either not take us seriously at all - or to take us very, very seriously -and not in a good way.
4. Why the difference in Vampire and Vampyre?
The historical debate about the spelling of the words we use to describe ourselves and the fictional vampires, can fill a book. When the word first entered the English language, it came from Europe at the time of the European vampire hysteria epidemics, and the word was then "vampyre", from "vampyr" and the east-European "upir". Since "vampyre", the word modernized and became "vampire".
In the modern Vampyre Community, we try to distinguish between people who self-identify as actual vampyric people with energy deficiencies, and fictional or mythical vampire archetypes as portrayed in movies. In South Africa we seem to favor the "Vampyre" spelling to indicate real vampyric people, with "vampire" indicating the non-real variety depicted in fiction. In other communities, this varies, and is often juxtaposed.
To sum up, the emphasis on a difference in spelling and implication - regardless of which spelling is used to indicate which, emphasizes our need to differentiate between myth and fiction, and the reality, which is us. To me, it serves to indicate that people who self-identify as Vampyres are not under some delusion that they are the mythical undead monster fable, but that we need to distance ourselves from it. It is a confirmation that while we adhere to the strong personal realization that we have certain needs and experiences not understood by science or medicine, or by others around us - we have a very clear understanding of the difference between reality and fantasy.
At the same time, the classical archetype as portrayed today is an attractive romantic and tragic figure, a superhero tainted with a darkness, a fatal flaw - and whose needs seem to best describe our own condition - and who doesn't like to be associated with such an image? We could call ourselves "energy feeders", but this brings problems of its own. Imagine the turn of events when it comes to those among us who require the energy in blood. "Oh, you mean like a vampire?" they will say - and there you will have the association again from the beginning. So it seems we're stuck with "the V-word", and we wear it proudly, like a badge of honor.
5. How does religion influence the Vampyres within South Africa?
We're a diverse bunch. Many of us are Pagan, some are Wiccan, but there are also Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and agnostics. The Vampyre Community itself is not a religion, and neither is there any kind of move to pressure people to adopt any specific religion or spirituality. In fact, I would say that the promotion of tolerance and mutual respect seems to be prevalent. Most of us seem keen to hold to whatever religious or spiritual focus we had before entering the Community.
We don't generally see vampyrism as a religion, but rather as an identity - it's who and what we are, not what we believe in, or just something we do for a hobby. Naturally what we are and how we view ourselves does affect us on a deep personal level, and so most of us are I would say, deeply spiritual people who can chat and socialize as friends and comrades without getting up each other's noses about religion.
Externally, we are wary of being exposed to, or attracting the attention of any hostile groups, but especially hostile religious groups. Some people just like to attack what they don't understand, and quite often aren't interested in understanding - and only know one way to deal with anything they don't understand - hate, kill or destroy it. Our interest is not in getting embroiled in religious discourse with hostile individuals, but in building our community and placing it in a positive light.
6. Do you have a huge diversity in culture among your kind in South Africa?
I would say that we do have a degree of diversity here in South Africa, in terms of knowing that there are all people from all kinds of other communities, race groups, gender, sexual orientations, religions, languages and so on. Legend and myth indicate that every culture on Earth had vampire-like creatures in their history, and our interactions with diverse members of the local and international VC appear to bear that out. I would say that there is a shortage of ethnic Vampyres participating in the community, but I would venture a guess that this is due to cultural differences, a lack of knowledge about what they are, language issues and even for fear of persecution should their friends or families discover their secret.
As part of our own research into our community, we will be launching an introspective survey this coming month. This survey, the Vampyre & Vampyric Donor Focus Group Survey (VVDFGS), starting on May 1, 2012, will gather useful statistics which will aid the cause of presenting a clear picture of South Africa’s Vampyre Community demographic, to reflect who we are, what we feel about our condition /state / identity or circumstances, and basically what sort of people we are, statistically speaking. Its primary goal is to investigate to what extent certain stereotypes regarding Vampyres are true or untrue in South Africa.
7. Which areas within RSA are mostly populated with people that have identified themselves as your kind? (Bets on Johannesburg even though Cape Town might overwhelm numbers due to historical pretentiousness).
You would be right on target. Both Cape Town and Johannesburg seem to be hotspots for our community at present, though as time goes by, we are discovering solitaries from all over the country.
8. In a brief discussion we had last week you mentioned that Stephenie Meyer’s vampires where actually based a lot on the real vampire out there. (Excluding the sparkle) Can you elaborate on that discussion?
One of the items I alluded to were the use of the name "Twilight" which she used as her book series title. In the real Vampyre Community, the term "twilight" refers to a philosophical and practical balance real Vampyres need to make between their Dayside and Nightside lives - with Dayside representing a Vampyre's public life, work, school, family - everything not vampyric - while Nightside includes everything pertaining to their vampyrism and involvement in the community.
Nightside and Dayside are not two different personas or personalities - for example, I am the same person in both, but I need to protect my Dayside existence from my Nightside existence - and wherever the two intersect, there is a danger that I may be identified by others, or exposed as a member of the community. The balance is a point where the two aspects can be maintained without the one revealing anything critical about the other and endangering our anonymity, or secrecy - the things which protect our safety, security and our lives.
Another point I mentioned was the irony in Meyer's lead character - Bella, whose family name is Swan. In the story she is the object of the vampire's Edward's desire, and he wishes to feed on her. She associates with his family of vampires and enters into a relationship with him.
In reality, Vampyres have people who donate to them, either in terms of blood or in psychic energy or life force. We call these people - those who associate with Vampyres, "swans", and there are various other sub-categories of swan, which are essentially color-coded, but generally, "swans". I think these and probably other aspects of the series were inspired by or based upon observations of our culture - it's not that hard to do - after all, all you need to do is a little digging online.
9. What are the different types of vampires within RSA? Do they categorize themselves within the same parameter as the rest of the world?
We're pretty much the same sort you would find anywhere, and yes, we mostly use the same categorizations as they do. There are vamps who feed sanguinely (on blood), psychic energy, elemental feeders, pranic feeders, and sexual feeders. I would say that the difference between us and the rest of the world is that our community is a little younger, and so we have the benefit of learning from the mistakes of other older communities. The prevalence has been in other communities to group or categorize each other by our feeding methods, and to associate based on these methods. This resulted in a factionalization of the community. Here, we have focused instead on our common vampyric identity, and put feeding methods into perspective as how we get our energy, not defining who we are as Vampyres. It makes for a far stronger and closer community, with far less drama.
10. What is your perception - Do people these days cast vampire identification in the same category as Goths? Is it a culture or a religion?
I would say people assume that Goths and Vampyres are the same culture, or part of the same spectrum of culture, when the truth is actually something altogether different. What we are talking about here is ignorance and its manifestation as an applied stereotype.
Neither of these subcultures are a religion. In terms of Goth culture, people tend to make assumptions about others, about how they look or dress. The Goths I have known are beautiful, talented and very intelligent people who are full of love and laughter, and tend to embrace the Gothic image because it appeals to them on a level most others can't or won't understand. Being a Vampyre has nothing at all to do with being part of the Gothic culture.
Vampyres on the other hand, have become associated with Gothic culture largely due to people who adopt the lifestyle of screen vampires, adopting the look of Victorian screen vampires and so on, but they are not really vampyric people who need to feed on energy - nor are vampire lifestylers of necessity part of the Vampyre Community.
The truth of the matter is, that only some Goths are Vampyres, and only some Vampyres are Goths - in fact, most of the Vampyres I know are not Gothic at all, but move among general society looking just like everyone else - because while we may have one specific need in common, aside from that, we are just like everyone else.
We are all kinds of people - policemen, bankers, lab technicians, librarians and bus-drivers - it's hardly logical to expect them all to dress in Victorian or Gothic outfits just to stand out, is it? After all, most people these days are jeans and t-shirt types - so why not us as well?
The difference between the two concepts becomes apparent when you realize that Goth is a fashion statement and a personal and cultural expression, not a religion - and real self-identified Vampyres are what is becoming understood today as an identity group.
We don't feel we have a choice in being what we are as vampyric people. We do what we feel we must in order to stay healthy, obtaining energy from external sources. The cultural aspects of the Vampyre subculture, including outward expressions such as fashion statements and so on, may be a choice - but what we are as Vampyres, we do not feel is a choice.
11. What are your hopes for your community into the future?
I would like to see the continued growth and development of our local culture, as a unique extension of our international identity stemming from being a part of the international Vampyre Community or culture. We hope that this growth will continue without any difficulty or hostility, which is why we tend to keep to ourselves. While it is no secret that our culture exists, and that we exist within the general community - it is to protect our own identities and to protect us from hostility, that we prefer to remain anonymous.
It would be nice if people could try to understand us a little better before dismissing the life experiences of so many people like us all round the planet as "fantasy" or making snap judgments while they themselves have no basis to do so. People who wind themselves up over us and use their religion as a platform to condemn are a pet peeve of mine. If you know anybody who self-identifies as a Vampyre, ask them honest questions, and they will probably give you an honest answer. We don't bite. Ha ha.
12. From our discussions it came to light that you are a bit of an author yourself. Is there anything specific that you are working on that you would like people to know about? Where can people look at some of your work?
I would love to, but unfortunately I can't do that without giving away my Dayside identity. My Dayside work is mostly sci-fi fantasy with a twist of comedy. As a human rights advocate, I have also written several books on the subject. However I have done a lot of writing on my Nightside as well, and aside from articles on the SAVN site, there is the Vampyre Bytes website, where we have been posting our creative projects. I have several poems there, and previews of a new novel I'm working on as time allows. It's a vampire novel (surprise, bet you weren't expecting that) though far closer to the reality than most.
13. If other people had the need to get into contact with you where would they be able to do so?
They can reach me at email@example.com