By Light Unseen

"Real Vampires" Revisited
In which I clarify, correct and recant a few things

The following is a commentary and correction on the article, "Real Vampires," which was written in the summer of 1987 for issue Number 2 (Fall 1987) of FireHeart magazine, published by the EarthSpirit Community. "Real Vampires" was republished on the EarthSpirit website in early 1997, without any changes from the printed version. If you have not read this article, it may be found at Real Vampires.

Before I get into the serious issues I want to discuss, I'd like to emphatically debunk one small point.

The single question that I have been asked more than any other, since 1997, is: "Did you mean that all vampires are female?"

The answer is: No, no, a thousand times no!

When I wrote the article in 1987, I decided, for reasons that probably don't bear examination, to be tiresomely "P.C." and use feminine pronouns generically in order to make a point. I have never, in some thirty-five years of writing for a public audience, made a writing decision that I regret as much as that one! I've received, without exaggeration, hundreds of e-mails that ask me why I referred to all vampires as female. In a way, I've been completely vindicated, because if I had used masculine pronouns generically, I'm sure that no one would have asked me if I meant that all vampires are male. I solemnly promise that I will never make this mistake again, and no, I did not and do not intend to suggest that all vampires or vampiric people are female.

The distribution of gender among the people I discuss in the article is about the same as the human population as a whole.

Okay, now that we've cleared that up, I'll go on!

When the editor of FireHeart asked me to write "Real Vampires," I was a little surprised. It had not yet occurred to me, at that time, to try and frame my thoughts and researches in the form of an article. I simply assumed that everyone, both in my coven and outside of it, was either skeptical and tolerant or skeptical and hostile. Either way, I assumed on principle that my ideas would never be taken seriously. When I composed the article, I was addressing people who would find the entire notion of "real vampires" to be absurd or insane. I felt that I needed to use language and a context that Pagan, magickal and "New Age" readers--FireHeart's audience--could relate to.

Along with this, I was still sorting out all the information and observations I was collecting. I wrote "Real Vampires" from the perspective I had at that time, which was strongly biased by a number of factors. These included my past training in energy work, healing techniques and various "New Age" concepts, my current work with the Glainn Sidhr Order, the fact that those vampires (conscious or otherwise) I had opportunity to observe or talk to were almost exclusively from the Pagan or magickal communities themselves, and the fact that I was still exploring a number of different hypotheses or models to explain what was going on.

All of these factors led to some basic errors in "Real Vampires." I had recognized this and adjusted my stated views long before I put up the first version of my website in 1997. However, I never got around to directly commenting on the article itself. In part, that was because I didn't think many people had even read it in print form. I was stunned to see Martin V. Riccardo cite it in the chapter he contributed to Rosemary Ellen Guiley's Complete Vampire Companion (1994). My illusion of obscurity changed overnight when "Real Vampires" was republished online in early 1997. After spending six months explaining myself to readers one by one in private e-mail, I put up The Real Vampires Home Page specifically to clarify and update my article. I might as well have tried to put out a small smouldering campfire with a handy five-gallon drum of gasoline.

In the first version of The Real Vampires Home Page, I made two flat, unequivocal statements that contradicted, more or less, some of what I said in 1987. I said:

All real vampires should drink blood, and (in bold face type), There is no such thing as a "psychic vampire."

With some further refinements, I stand by those two statements.

When I wrote "Real Vampires," and to a lesser extent when I put up The Real Vampires Home Page, I was still reconciling the natures of "energy," matter, magick and psychic phenomena. I have a much clearer picture of the dynamics involved now. My assumption that all (rather than a small category of) vampires derive pranic energy from blood and other material sources was a hypothesis at that time which turned out to be based on insufficient information (I only got to know Sanguinarians some years later). But it led me to create some confusion among:

  • the effects that vampires have on their environment;
  • the personality traits that some vampires have, and the purely psychological effects these traits could have on people around them;
  • the influence of suggestion, social cues, and cultural conditioning;
  • and just what, if anything, vampires were deriving as a direct benefit from these things.

In addition to this, after 1992, when I was not exclusively immersed in the Pagan/magickal community, I realized that my estimations had been slanted by the disproportionate concentration of certain personality types and individuals in that community. Extrapolating to the general population, or even the general Vampire Community, wasn't nearly as valid as I presumed (and hoped) that it was. I outline more of these differences in the articles about Sanguinarians, Energy Mediums, and True Vampires. Much of what I discussed tends to be common among Energy Mediums, who do represent a large proportion of Vampire-Identified People. But most of it was based on the smallest category of vampire, who are not common at all.

From here on, I'm going to quote relevant sections of the article, in purple italics, with my comments, in red text, to clarify where I currently stand on these statements.

One aspect of vampirism which frequently troubles magickal, spiritual and other small groups,
It remains true that magickal and spiritual groups tend to attract Vampire-Identified People in disproportionate numbers, for several different reasons. This isn't the case for "small groups" in general.
the most common form of vampire,
True and false; Energy Mediums are probably the most common type of Vampire-Identified People, but True Vampires are the least common.
is found among living people who share with us the benefits and disadvantages of physical existence on this plane, yet are not quite human. These people appear on the surface to be somewhat eccentric members of society, yet their outward idiosyncrasies only hint at how different they are from those around them.
This statement describes True Vampires, but not Energy Mediums or Sanguinarians, almost all of whom firmly assert that they are human.

Each of us incarnates for a lifetime with a certain way of relating to the physical world through the vehicle of our physical body. A vampire is a person born with an extraordinary capacity to absorb, channel, transform, and manipulate "pranic energy" or life force.
Energy Mediums and True Vampires have this capacity, although it's important to distinguish this from "feeding on energy," which is not the situation. Sanguinarians do not have noticeable tendencies in this area.
She (or he) also has a critical energy imbalance which reels wildly from deficit to overload and back again.
While this often is the case, many more Energy Mediums and True Vampires have gotten this problem under control than I was giving them credit for--for which I apologize! It's not easy to do, but the consequences of not doing so, as I go on to describe, create such severe problems that the Vampire-Identified Person is usually forced to address them at an early age.
This capacity for handling energy is a gift, but the constant imbalance of her own system is the cause of the negative behavior patterns and characteristics which may be notable about a vampiric person.
This is true, to the extent that the Vampire-Identified Person has failed to address the problem.

Real vampires do not necessarily drink blood-in fact, most of them do not.
Energy Mediums, of course, have no need to do so; it is true that both Sanguinarians and True Vampires seldom drink as much blood as often as they should for optimal functioning. The reasons for this include lack of sources, self-denial, and unawareness of their true nature and needs. I was encountering people who should have been blood-drinkers and were not.
Blood-drinking and vampirism have been confused to the extent that for the average person, a vampire is defined as something that drinks blood (such as a "vampire bat"). But when we look beyond casual assumptions to the details of common beliefs, we find something quite different. Throughout both folklore and literature, there is an understanding that vampires require energy or life force.
Well, I kind of blew it here. It's true that vampires in folklore were more often described as seeking other pleasures than blood--food and sex topping the list. But there was always a physical medium for whatever benefit they gained. Even in cultures that left offerings for the dead in the belief that the dead imbibed a "spirit body" of the offering, the physical offering was still a requirement.

Fresh blood is the highest known source of pranic energy (life force). Human beings have practiced blood-drinking for many reasons throughout history, but drinking blood alone does not indicate that a person is a vampire.
I stand by these statements.
Only real vampires can directly absorb the pranic energy in fresh blood, and for this reason some real vampires are attracted to blood and find different means of obtaining it.
This is only true for True Vampires, who are very rare individuals. It is not true for Energy Mediums, and Sanguinarians appear to need blood for other reasons.
However, it is a rare vampire who cannot absorb energy in much more subtle ways.
This is only true for Energy Mediums and True Vampires, and only to the extent that energy can be influenced and affected remotely. Vampire-Identified People are not "feeding on" energy in most circumstances, but they can have a strong effect on it.
This is the mechanism that causes real vampires to inflict harm on others and themselves if they fail to recognize what is happening and do conscious work on transforming their inner natures. Vampires are no more likely to be either malicious or spiritually aware than the general population, but without awareness, they can spend their lives making themselves and others unhappy, and will continue to incarnate in this pattern until they take action to change it.
True, but again, only insofar as the person has not addressed the problem--which s/he might do successfully whether or not s/he ever becomes conscious of his/her inner nature.

There are a number of external symptoms of vampirism, but it is important to realize that some of them are found in ordinary human behavior. Real vampires are identifiable partly because they have a majority of the symptoms, not just one or two. But more significantly, real vampires are distinguished by a certain quality to the energy. While anyone reading a description of the symptoms and behavior patterns might find a few that apply to people he knows, or even to himself, real vampires have a way of standing out vividly to everyone who interacts with them.
This is a critical point. Energy Mediums and True Vampires tend to have a unique "feel" to people around them even when they themselves are unconscious of their true natures. At the end of this commentary I'll address some of the psychological conditions that seem superficially similar to the traits I described.
There are few people who do not know at least one vampire.
I would amend this to, "who do not know at least one Vampire-Identified Person." Very few humans know or will ever meet a True Vampire.

Physically, vampires are usually "night people" on a biochemical level. They have inverted circadian rhythms, with body cycles such as temperature peaks, menstrual onset, and the production of sleep hormones in the brain occurring at the opposite time of day from most people. They have difficulty adjusting to daytime schedules and frequently work nights. They tend to be photosensitive, avoiding sunlight, sunburning easily, and having excellent night vision. Their vitality ranges widely, and they can be vigorous and active one day, depressed and languorous the next.
These all seem to be commonly reported by Sanguinarians, Energy Mediums, and True Vampires. Oddly, far more Sanguinarians and Energy Mediums complain of photosensitivity than seem to benefit from good night vision. With True Vampires, the photosensitivity tends to be direct result of the enhanced night vision, and it can be managed, although not entirely. A tendency toward sunburn is partly a factor of ethnicity and skin chemistry, but many Sanguinarians and True Vampires report other deleterious effects from sun exposure that are not easily explained. Energy Mediums and True Vampires are prone to the disruptive effects that strong light and electromagnetic radiation have been noted to have on psychically sensitive people.

They frequently have digestive trouble. Even those with cast-iron stomachs have many issues with food that are rooted in their constant hunger for energy. Contrary to the image of the vampire as thin, many (I should have said "some" instead of "many") real vampires are troubled by obesity because of a hunger that makes them food addicts, and a system that is sluggish in processing physical food. They are also sometimes troubled by other substance addictions for the same reasons, but since their systems are tuned to pranic energy more than to processing physical substance, they may not be as sensitive to drugs and alcohol as an ordinary person would be.
This paragraph seemed to lead to some misunderstandings. I didn't mean to suggest that obesity is necessarily a common characteristic of Vampire-Identified People in general. Food allergies and eating disorders in Vampire-Identified People may just as easily result in anorexia or malnourishment as overweight. Energy Mediums may use food to compensate for internal imbalance or simply to help themselves feel more grounded (eating is an excellent way to ground psychically). Sanguinarians and True Vampires may use food as a blood substitute or simply a consolation--just as an ordinary person eats a pint of ice cream after a bad day. My real error in this paragraph, however, was suggesting that any Vampire-Identified Person's food issues (if any) derive from a lack of energy to "feed on." Such food issues result from other factors and are certainly not universal. Many Vampire-Identified People have no food issues at all.

Emotionally and physically, vampires are unpredictable, moody, temperamental and overwhelming. The major distinguishing characteristic of real vampires as opposed to ordinary people who share those qualities is the vampire's intensity. Vampires are extremely intense people. They are frequently given nicknames such as "the black hole." When others talk about them (usually to complain about them), vampires are often described by such terms as "needy," "attention-seeking," "grandstanding," "manipulative," "exhausting," "draining," "monopolizes the conversation," "jealous," "huge ego," and so on. A vampire's emotions are deep, fervent, and powerful, and she usually displays great psychic ability and has uncontrolled magickal and psychic experiences. Vampires are also empaths, and while they remain unconscious of their natures, they are frequently "psychic sponges" who simply absorb vibrations from everywhere, with the expected emotional instability resulting.
I stand by all these statements, with several caveats. First, they are much less true for Sanguinarians than for Energy Mediums or True Vampires. Second, they are much less true for Energy Mediums and True Vampires who have consciously addressed these character traits. Third, these traits can be distinguished from certain mental disorders they resemble--and I'll get to that in a moment.

A "hungry" vampire -- one whose energy level is imbalanced to the deficit side -- becomes an involuntary psychic vortex, drawing all pranic energy in the area towards her. When the energy does not flow in fast enough -- and it is typical of vampires that the energy never flows fast enough for them -- she will begin manifesting behavior patterns to increase the amount of conscious attention she gets from others. For this reason, some vampires develop a pattern of being aggressively confrontational, or of constantly antagonizing people with whom they have relationships. Nearly all vampires, whatever ploys they use, have a talent for attracting (or distracting) the attention of everyone present.
I stand by these statements, with the caveats that the Vampire-Identified Person is influencing, not drawing, energy, except on a very limited basis when they're in direct physical contact with their "source." Sanguinarians, obviously, are not affecting energy directly, but they can be "drama queens" when they're frustrated and feeling a need for blood.

Once a vampire overloads on energy, she reverses her behavior patterns. She may become morose, silent, withdrawn and introverted. Some vampires become maniacally cheerful when they are satiated, but even their good moods seem to annoy others, and it is more typical for vampires to be infamous as wet blankets. "Hungry" and "overload" phases can occur within a few minutes or last for days at a time. Vampires are commonly loners, in part because they feel so different from those around them, but also because they have a need to control the degree of contact they have with sources of energy.
This can be true of all three types, but I now believe that the cause is entirely psychological. Energy Mediums and True Vampires do tend to be empathic, and often "hit the wall" after a certain amount of contact with crowds, strangers, emotional people, or social situations. Tolerance for these varies with the individual, but most will be social some of the time and withdrawn at others. Sanguinarians tend to be somewhat less moody, but only by a matter of degree, and only because their moods tend to be more influenced by internal physical factors than psychic sensitivity.

Real vampires are not the demonic fiends of Christianized folklore, but as long as they refuse to accept their inner nature, their bad reputation is not undeserved. Unconscious vampires have a tendency to reach adulthood with less than the average level of social skill and general finesse, and tend to be selfish and self-centered. The demands of their own energy systems are so distracting to them that it is difficult for them to pay attention to the needs of others. Their relationships tend to be disasters. Different vampires develop different patterns according to what works best for them in their life situation, but several patterns are common. The "femme fatale" or "lady-killer" vampire forms a continuous series of sexual connections with one partner at a time, dropping each unfortunate lover as they become too exhausted (or defensive) to support the vampire's energy needs. Other vampires form a long-term relationship with a single person: either another vampire whose energy cycle complements their own, or a person who derives satisfaction from being a psychic servant or martyr. A common pattern, especially in young adults, is to continuously join social, religious, political and magickal groups and either blow them apart or end up being thrown out. Vampires may go through roommates, housing situations, magickal groups, jobs and lovers like so much Kleenex.
This can be true for Sanguinarians, Energy Mediums, and True Vampires. However, after twenty-five additional years of observation, I would say now that it is far less common than this paragraph implies. These problems can also occur with humans who are highly creative and/or exceptionally intelligent. Socialization skills aren't easy for anyone, but they're even more difficult to learn for people who, for any of a number of reasons, have a perspective on life that falls outside the typical "bell curve."

Many people find that they feel "creepy" or "weird" around a vampire. This is usually due to the effects of one's own life force being drawn towards the vampire's vortex. Most people feel uncomfortable and distracted when their energy is pulled away from themselves. In addition to this, a common result of such an energy drain is for the aura to pull in tightly towards the body, and this causes a prickling sensation on the skin -- the "creepy-crawlies."
While this is definitely true for Energy Mediums and True Vampires, it illustrates the very mechanism that would make "psi-feeding" impossible. Energy systems are heavily defended. People can detect when they're being influenced and usually will immediately react in a pronounced way. This reaction, like that of the physical body's immune system, is automatic and unconscious, but it often translates into a conscious response--much the way people pull their hands away from a flame before they're burned.

However, a prolonged, or very involved, relationship with a vampire can put a severe strain on the emotional and psychic energy systems of an ordinary person. Folklore suggests that victims of a vampire become vampires themselves. In reality, people who have been seriously "drained" -- that is, have had their own energy pulled off balance into a deficit -- also become psychic vortices which pull life force away from other living things. However, they are never as powerful as a true vampire, and unlike vampires, quickly recover and stabilize. True vampires are born the way they are -- no one can be "turned into a vampire." However, years of energy depletion can lead to health problems ranging from depression and malaise to a suppressed immune system and susceptibility to serious illnesses. Most people will break off the relationship before it gets that far.
These statements stand for Energy Mediums and True Vampires, but with the following caveat. Ordinary people cannot be "drained" against their will. However, individuals who are in a relationship, especially an intimate relationship, with an unconscious or undeveloped Energy Medium or True Vampire will often respond to the demands of their partner by giving far more than their fair share to the relationship. Over time, the "supportive" partner becomes exhausted and weakened by the fact that he or she is voluntarily giving the Vampire-Identified Person attention, nurturing, time, physical affection, and in certain circumstances, energy (usually through sex, but always via physical contact), without receiving an equivalent in return.

Sometimes the Vampire-Identified Person is charming and appeals to the partner's ego, or "need to be needed." In rare cases, the Vampire-Identified Person is actually manipulative, using and abusive. In such relationships, it's best for the "supportive" partner to leave and cut off all contact. It may seem harsh, especially when the Vampire-Identified Person (as sometimes happens) has created a helpless, clinging persona. But like addicts and alcoholics, these Vampire-Identified People will never face and change their negative patterns as long as people enable them.

In addition, ordinary people who have run themselves into energy deficit will not, except in extremely rare cases, become "temporarily vampiric" themselves. One reason for this is that individuals who tend to be unconditionally giving almost never reverse themselves and turn into "takers." A far greater danger is that they will recover their equilibrium and end up in another relationship with a "taker" who "needs them."

The remainder of the article all stands as written, with the caveat that it applies to Energy Mediums and True Vampires, not to Sanguinarians.

In the years after the article went online, I received a number of letters from people who wanted to explain to me what I was "really" writing about, or to ask me "if I had thought about" the similarities between my descriptions and something else. Some of these writers seemed to assume (even the ones who didn't actually say so) that I was just an emo teenager "who read too much Anne Rice." These writers suggested that the characteristics I describe could also apply to humans diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, typical adolescence at the upper end of the emotional bell curve, and even, according to one therapist, "teenaged sex offenders." These theories are not unreasonable, but there are differences.

  • Adolescent emotionalism:
    The characteristics I discuss apply to adults. Children and adolescents are still changing too much both physically and neurologically for any "diagnosis" to be considered final, in my opinion. Many people under the age of 18 self-identify as vampires (typically as "psi-vamps") and seek out information from the Vampire Community. I am happy to listen and talk to them, and my website is deliberately designed to be "young person friendly"--no disclaimers, age verifications or "adult" graphics and content. But I have observed that the vast majority of young self-identified Vampire-Identified People evolve out of this self-identification and move on within a couple of years. It's simply one of many identities that they explore. Vampire-Identified adults seem intense, not immature, and their personalities have a certain quality to them which is unique.
  • Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
    There are some superficial similarities between these disorders and characteristics of some unevolved, unaware Energy Mediums and True Vampires. But there is a fundamental difference. Personality disorders are notoriously resistant to psychiatric treatment because those who suffer from them lack the capacity for true self-perspective. They can be taught to behave more sociably, but they never really understand why they need to. Humans with personality disorders lack empathy, introspection, the ability to see another's point of view, and the ability to see themselves as others see them. Vampire-Identified People, as a rule, not only have these qualities, they have them to a fault (particularly empathy). The main difference between Vampire-Identified People and those diagnosed with personality disorders is that Vampire-Identified People are able to recognize, acknowledge and change their own negative attitudes and behavior patterns, often without external help. People who suffer from personality disorders cannot do this.
  • Bi-Polar Disorder:
    Bi-polar disorder is a very serious condition. Vampire-Identified People at their worst do not display either the depth of depression or the crippling manic episodes with elements of obsession that can be typical of Bi-Polar patients. The problems faced by unaware Vampire-Identified People are primarily social. They are capable of listening to the feedback of others, examining their own behavior and making changes in themselves through their own volition. They just need to be sufficiently motivated to do so. Bi-Polar Disorder is not so simply managed. Most Bi-Polar patients require medication in order to function on a daily level. A Vampire-Identified Person can even out his or her internal state through self-awareness, meditation, and training. Bi-Polar patients cannot, except in very rare anecdotal cases, trust these methods. Unmedicated Bi-Polar patients are at a high risk of suicide and should not, under any circumstances, abandon their treatment plan on the theory that they might really be Vampire-Identified People.

It certainly is true that a given individual may be a bona fide Vampire-Identified Person who also, completely apart from his or her vampiric condition, has a mental health diagnosis. The key factor in mental health diagnoses is their negative effect on the person's ability to function in life. An individual may display all kinds of eccentric beliefs and behaviors and still be capable of functioning well: holding a job, fulfilling financial responsibilities, giving and receiving love, committing to relationships, handling social contacts, participating in their community, and on the whole feeling free of unreasonable fear, anxiety, anger or hostility. In such cases, the person doesn't have a mental health issue, he or she is simply an example of psychological diversity.

But individuals are considered to have a mental health problem when their behavior, beliefs or emotions materially interfere with their ability to function in life. Fear, anxiety, paranoia, aggression, grandiosity, actions that endanger self or others--these are all things that require intervention. They are not any more intrinsically likely in Vampire-Identified People than in ordinary people. In popular speech, we often refer to those with eccentric ideas, appearances, or avocations as "crazy." But these individuals may well be functioning far better than someone who maintains a completely "normal" facade but is crumbling internally. Mentally healthy people tend, as a rule, to experience happiness much of the time; people who have mental health problems are desperately unhappy much of the time. These are some of the defining differences.

I am not a mental health professional, and I'm writing in very broad generalities here. Obviously, any person who feels that they need professional help should seek such help without delay. Anyone who feels depressed, desperate, or is thinking about harming themselves should talk to a counselor or therapist immediately, and sort out any question they have about being a Vampire-Identified Person later, when they are feeling calmer. No website can take the place of real contact with real people.

For more information about mental health disorders, see
Internet Mental Health.

© 2011 By Light Unseen Media. All Rights Reserved.

Updated January, 2011