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John Edgar Browning defines real vampires, the real vampire community and modern vampires, as any human that drinks human and/or animal blood as a sanguinarian vampire. A person who is able to consume psychic energy, is a psychic vampire or if he does both, he is a hybrid. The person does this because of a physical need that starts to develop during puberty. The need is developed from missing the faint vitality their bodies should produce. These vampires say that they do not have the option or abilities to alter their genuine needs. If they should stop drinking blood or feeding off the energy they find, they are weakened and become sick.
Real vampirism is not dressing Goth, nor the wearing or, or installing of fake fangs. It is not something that can be part of someone’s life for a while and then dismissed when the fad has passed. The vampire community refers to those people as, “lifestylers.”
The terms as defined above were not used until the late 1990’s and were primarily confined to an online network of message boards, e-mail groups and chat rooms. However, there have been people who have identified themselves as vampires for decades. In the 70’s people who identified as vampires started to assemble gatherings and began networking and helping each other. These gatherings included, ‘Dark Shadows’ conventions and other fictional tales about vampires, places where vampires could hide in plain sight.
Browning has done a scientific study on vampire culture from an anthropological perspective, for the last five years. Then he performed fieldwork on vampirism using specific geographic locations from 2009-2011 in New Orleans and then in Buffalo from 2011-2013.
Browning also looked into “defiant culture,” learning that self-identifying as a vampire is a form of self-empowerment. The individual is resisting what is considered the cultural norm and then watching and pushing others to challenge that same norm. These vampires are not necessarily considered real.
There are those who consider themselves vampires in communities all over the world. They are in the United States, England, Russia and South Africa. Some of the real vampires do wear fangs and live a more nocturnal lifestyle. These, however are cultural things used to express a shared identity. The internet has been a valuable tool for them to create communities and feel near like-minded people.
Some vampire communities, like the ones in Buffalo, like to keep up with the global community. However, vampires in New Orleans prefer to stay apprised to the local activities of their own communities. Vampire houses are led by an elder that is available to help new community members accept and understand their vampire needs.
Some vampire communities join with other communities for charity events that help feed the homeless, or prevention from feeding on the homeless. They work together to get their needs met in an acceptable form. Even with these charity events, they are not very open about who they are for fear of discrimination.
The vampires that Browning met were between the ages of 18 and 50. He was able to interview about 35 vampires in New Orleans. The sex of the ones he met were equally male and female. Some were sanguinarian feeders, those who drank blood, and others preferred psychic feeding, using the mind or hands. There is also tantric feeding that is used by psychic vampires. Tantric feeding involves sexual or erotic experiences. Some can feed from away, astral feeding, and others still, feed through emotion. Once they have fed, they are energized, more than from regular food alone.
Vampires can expand the understanding that people have different and unusual needs. They can even help people see the dark side of themselves. They can reveal oppression in people just through their open expression that can only be seen once someone has gotten to know them. Being different does not mean people are to be marginalized in any way.
By Jeanette Smith
Palgrave Journals: The Real Vampire of New Orleans and Buffalo: A Research Note Towards Comparative Ethnography
Discover: Real-Life Vampires Exist, and Researchers are Studying Them
PJ Media: Fighting Entropy
Photos courtesy of:
Steve Cjaka’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Lua Morales’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License