IS “VAMPIRE” A RELIGION?
Unlike witches and werewolves, vampires have a murky relationship with the devil. But in a latter age, good orthodox burial rites were considered the best protection against vampirism–or so the people providing them said.
This made standing in your local church critical in regions where vampire myths persisted, since, as witch-hunting weirdo Montague Summers noted in his Vampires & Vampirism, “Those persons become vampires who die excommunicate.” Quite a racket.
This creeps into pop culture now and then. Starting with the amazingly titled 1970 film Taste the Blood of Dracula, the seemingly endless series of Christopher Lee Dracula movies portrayed increasingly elaborate Satanic rituals to bring him back for the count each outing.
This led to a honest-to-Ba’al contemporary English vampire scare a few years later, with alarmists and publicity freaks proposing that “devil worship” in London’s Highgate Cemetery had awakened an ancient vampire. This remained England’s worst cultural output until 1985’s We Are the Clash.
But it turns out some Satanists have just cut out the middleman and claim to be vampires of their own accord. Or at least, I think they’re Satanists? It turns out staking that claim may depend an awful lot on how you look at it.
Founded in 1989, the Temple of the Vampire describes itself as “the only authentic international organization in the world that represents the true vampire religion.” We wouldn’t know how to begin debunking that, so the statement pretty much has to stand.
According to the Vampire Bible–yes–the Temple promises the secrets of becoming a “living vampire,” which is lucky, as “dead vampire” would surely enjoy fewer takers:
“Achieving the Vampiric Condition requires Communion with those Vampires who no longer walk in flesh but are astrally free. Entering the ranks of the Undead Gods relies upon this Communion. It is Their intentions and Their desires which must be appeased.”
Okay, wild. It’s hard to tell how serious they are about this–it all sounds earnest, but there’s also talk about “the suspension of disbelief” and “the world of fantasy without prejudice,” so maybe this is just what happens when you come up with WAY too many tens on a Presence roll.
The Vampire Bible does also mention a coming apocalypse in which vampire gods will subdue mankind, sparing only the faithful practitioners of the one true vampire religion. So a bit of a mixed bag in terms of public relations.
Now it may sound like I’m poking some fun at these people. And…yes. But of course, much of Modern Satanism seems silly to some people too.
Here’s the real question: Are the Temple of the Vampire Satanists? Well, no, after all the Vampire Bible doesn’t mention Satan anywhere. Why would we even ask? It’s just, some of the vampiric rhetoric sounds, erm, a touch familiar. Take the “Vampire Creed”:
“I worship my ego and I worship my life, for I am the only god that is. I realize there is no heaven as there is no hell, and I view death as the destroyer of life. Therefore I will make the most of life here and now. We are elitist for good reason. We believe the value of the individual is superior to that of any group or tribe or nation.”
The creed does not in fact have the initials “ASL” hastily scribbled out at the bottom, but I wouldn’t blame you if you checked anyway.
In fact, the Church of Satan lists the Temple of the Vampire in a directory of organizations that it attests to “respect and admire.” That directory has only two entries, and the other is a conservation group for bats. Tropes being what they are, it’s entirely possible the Temple of the Vampire is also a conservation group for bats and we’d never know.
Professor Joe Laycock’s book Vampires Today–by the way I’m half convinced Laycock is a vampire, since writing all of the books he’s produced should by rights take a fucking eternity–credits the Temple’s founding to a man named Lucas Martel and, completely unsurprisingly, reports that Martel is a Church of Satan member.
There is quite a lot of conspiracy and recrimination about secret maneuverings between the two orgs and the Setians, although why anybody would give a shit I can’t imagine. (Laycock also says that in recent years they’ve ditched the whole vampire apocalypse thing, so you can stop sweating that I guess.) Perhaps the two religions are simply complimentary.
Here’s what interest me: If you take old Anton LaVey’s preaching, flip it upside down so that the horns look like fangs, and call it a church, is this a new religion, or an old one?
The Temple of the Vampire doesn’t have anything to do with Satan–but frankly I don’t think the Church of Satan has much to do with Satan either, and that’s never made a difference that I can tell.
If the vampires aren’t Satanists because they say they’re not, is that the only reason? What, at the end of the day, defines religion: the symbol, or the substance? If we recognize that religion is personal, self-made, and subjective (lacking as it does any real gods or external forces to impose an objective standard), then what authority is there outside of the self?
It seems shallow and even trivializing to define a Satanist as nothing more than someone who identifies as a Satanist. And yet, if that is the necessary element of the belief and practice, is it also then a sufficient one?