A reader asks, “I’ve been learning a lot about Wicca and other Pagan religions. I’m really interested in vampires. How come there’s nothing about vampires in all those books you recommend?”
Er. Well, for a variety of reasons, the main one being that vampires aren’t really part of traditional Wicca, or any of the other Pagan paths. Does that mean there are no Pagans who are interested in vampires? Not at all – it’s just not generally part of the religious structure. I like avocados, cute shoes and Irish pub tunes, but that doesn’t make any of those things part of Pagan practice.
That having been said, certainly vampires have gained a lot of popularity recently, thanks mostly to pop culture. Between the Twilight series, True Blood, and the skyrocketing sales of various paranormal romance books, vampires are everywhere. Now more than ever, they seem to be portrayed as the tragic, romantic heroes, with little to no emphasis placed on that whole blood-drinking, throat-shredding thing.
The earliest written tale of vampires actually appears in the form of a German poem by Heinrich Ossenfelder, called simply The Vampire. Like later vampire stories, it’s pretty heavy on the erotica, particularly for being written in the 1700s. A few decades later, Thalaba the Destroyer was written, and was the first time a vampire showed up in English literature. During the nineteenth century, lurid vampire tales became very popular, and both Coleridge’s Christabel and Joseph le Fanu’s Carmillia take advantage of the theme of taboo lust with their stories of lesbian vampires (yes, there were lesbian vampires even in the 1800s!). Finally, Bram Stoker delivered what some might call the quintessential piece of vampire lit, in Dracula, which he published in 1897.
These early pieces of vampire fiction were really quite risqué for their time – they combined death with sex and lust, which was rather frowned upon by polite society. Particularly during the Victorian era, when Stoker’s work came out, there was a good deal of sexual repression, and the image of the lustful vampire drinking the blood of the terrified virgin was considered scandalous. Nice girls did not read vampire fiction.
In addition to the fictional vampires of books and movies, there is a small segment of the population who consider themselves true vampires. Often referred to as sanguinarians, they obtain blood to drink from voluntary partners. The blood is obtained either by cutting or with a needle and syringe, and is always done in a consensual manner. While there is some occasional overlap between the sanguine community into the modern Pagan community, being a sanguinarian does not automatically make one a Pagan.
Also, there are a number of people who consider themselves "psychic vampires" - these are people who feed off the energy of others, either with or without permission. However, this terminology is a bit misleading, since it does not involve the transfer of blood and can be done from a distance, and without the knowledge of others.
For some great scary vampire fiction without romance or sparkles, I’d recommend any of the following:
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Christabel
- Joseph Sheridan le Fanu, Carmillia
- Robert Southey, Thalaba the Destroyer
- Bram Stoker, Dracula
- Ann Rice, The Vampire Lestat, Interview with the Vampire
- Stephen King, Salem’s Lot
- Justin Cronin, The Passage
- John Ajvide Lindquist, Let the Right One In
Finally, there are a number of wonderful scholarly works analyzing the role of repressed sexuality within the confines of the vampire novel throughout history.
At any rate, if you’re interested in vampires, go ahead and read all you like – but you most likely won’t find any vampire information in books about Wicca or other Neopagan religions. While there may be a few magical traditions out there that include vampires as part of their belief systems, these are likely to be few and far between.