Vampires: Eternal Appeal
Since I am about neck deep in vampire fantasy at the moment, I thought I might post some of the things I am researching. I have found it interesting and enlightening, to say the least. It never ceases to amaze me that we have so much trouble getting along and yet, many of our myths and legends are very similar, including that of a demonic, bloodsucking creature called vampire.
So, what exactly is a vampire? (Also called vampyre, if you really want to get technical.) Turns out, it depends who you ask. For some, particularly those of us old enough to remember Salem’s Lot, a vampire is a hideous, demonic bloodsucker who has paranormal abilities that aid him in seducing his victims and thereby obtaining his prey. With the publication of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, the vampire changed again and began to morph into a more subtle, though no less intimidating, charismatic character that we felt empathy for.
For others, television shows, movies and books such as Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer altered the vampire landscape again and now, we’re left questioning, what exactly is a vampire and where did all of this start? And why are we taken with them? Dark fantasy and vampire fantasy have become intertwined with the horror and romance genre, incorporating elements of eroticism and blood mysticism, to create a truly fascinating area of fiction that reveals some of the darkest tendencies of human nature. Gothic fiction combines some of the best aspects of these elements but now seems confined to ghosts and karma rather than vampires. The mysterious vampire has become a genre in and of itself.
Truthfully, everything from premature burial to porphyria to rabies has been attributed to vampirism. Superstition plus a misunderstanding of biological processes equals…well, a legend (also mass hysteria and public execution, but I digress). These days, the concern lies more with vampire cults and youth becoming addicted to the adrenaline rush of getting high through blood letting and sexual perversions that coincide with cult activity. For many, these cults may be a way to fit in or to feel special when all too often they are slipping through the cracks and do not have strong emotional bonds with others.
I think it’s a safe bet to say that most people would credit Bram Stoker’s Dracula with the concept of vampires becoming mainstream, however, two earlier books by the names of Vampyre and Carmilla truly developed the powerful vision of a being that is at once beautiful and monstrous, sophisticated and charming. So then, where do these vampire origins lie? Is it in the succubus of old, the witch paranoia of medieval times, the mythology of the Nephilim? When did Dracula become Dracula?
Vampire lore and the psychological aspects of these creatures and our fascination with them lie in folklore from ages past, when mass hysteria caused widespread panic and fear of the undead in the Balkans. From there, the tales of walking corpses spread throughout Europe and have endured in movies, books, and games till this day.
Though much has changed about vampire appearance and vampire powers, the allure of life after death and the ability to exist past our physical limitations merely by feeding off another’s life force persists. Animals even have their part to play in the vampire drama. Werewolves and Chupacabra and their own legends have been woven into the fabric of vampire tales and have become as integral a part of vampire history as the creature itself.
Ancient cultures all have their own vampire tale to tell. Demons and spirits are typically considered the basis of the original bloodsucking vampire, but branched off to include energy vampires, spiritual vampires, and sexual vampires known as succubi. The prevailing image of vampire as a blood drinker, where blood drinking is both a mystical and sexual experience, remains the most common.
Blood mysticism has been the subject of spiritually charged debate for ages. The blood maintains our life force, for without it, we are nothing. The blood carries oxygen, removes waste, supplies nutrients, and fights infection. It is vital to transporting hormones and for sexual arousal. Some mystics believe that there is a power in the blood that connects our spirits to our physical beings such that if the blood is unhealthy, so the spirit will be also. So, when one consumes the blood, they are essentially consuming the very essence of the person it belongs to.
Blood has always been symbolic of life, but it is also often used to represent guilt, fear, loss of innocence, and death. Blood and the color red itself are often symbolic of evil, wickedness, and the devil.
In some cultures, the vampire is the devil himself, the personification of evil. Perhaps, subconsciously, our fascination with the vampire goes back to our deepest and most ancient desire to obtain the kind of power that would allow us to overcome even death itself. (I might even be persuaded to believe this if I thought there was even the slightest chance that I could be buried alive.) It’s as if death is the last frontier, one of the last unknowns that somewhere, in the deepest recesses of our psyches, we believe we can conquer.
What then of the sexual connotations vampires now carry? Do they turn us on because we all have secret sadistic or masochistic tendencies that we repress? The vampire then must represent our sinful and rebellious natures and that leaves us rooting for them in the same breath as we say they are evil. I could list ten reasons why vampires are attractive to us, but they have nothing to do with the drinking of blood or superpowers. They are boringly practical reasons like money, looks, and brains.
However, we must question all of this because a vampire cannot exist without someone else’s energy. Are they truly the psychic, all powerful beings we idolize them as or are they manipulative codependent demons that use us at will? Either way, I think they may have the upper hand.
With the upcoming production of The Vampire Chronicles series and the Vampire Diary spinoff, Legacies, I think vampire fiction is here to stay for a while longer. One look at Amazon books will tell you that it is still a serious contender in the fiction market. It will be interesting to see how the legend of the vampire will play out in future fiction. Comment below and let me know what you think of the vampire mythology and where you think the next level of vampire lore will take us.