Yesterday’s post was my 2200th post…I usually make a larger deal of those milestones, but I didn’t have to yesterday given the attention it has received, both for good and ill, and I suspect both opinions probably prevail with many folks a day and more on from it.
Okay, folks: this one is going to be much *lighter* than yesterday’s post. ;)
Today is April 16th, which is the birthday of Margot Adler, the beloved broadcaster, author, and well-known pagan who also happens to be a Sancta of the Ekklesía Antínoou. She has this distinction–under the subcategory of “Dedicants to and Messengers of Antinous,” due to the inclusion of my earlier website in the resources section of her third revised edition of Drawing Down the Moon in 2006. I only met Margot a small handful of times, and the last time we met (at PantheaCon 2014), I was lucky enough to have had several important (though brief) conversations with her, to contribute to a healing ritual for her, having her attend our “Beard Blessing Ritual” (and she had fun at it!), and to give her some of the honor that I felt she deserved for what she had done for us modern Antinoans, i.e. actually putting us on the wider pagan map for the first time.
In addition to honoring her as a Sancta on this day, and singing Ignis Corporis Infirmat, Ignis see Animae Perstat for her, the wider community has been asked to honor her in various other ways, which I think is a wonderful thing. While this offering is much less than she deserves, nonetheless it is what I have at the moment, and it has turned out to be rather more topical than I would have ever imagined it might be.
I hope to read many more of Margot’s books in the future, but thus far I’ve only read Drawing Down the Moon. I have had Vampires Are Us sitting on my shelf looking longingly at me, however, since before PantheaCon 2014, and I hope to get to it in the not-too-distant future, not only to honor her, but to read her fuller and more detailed argument and annotated bibliography on this subject. So, in honor of her, and her last extended written work, I’ll tell you a bit today about vampires.
I’ve been accused of (or perhaps “assumed to be” would be a more appropriate turn of phrase!) being a vampire more often in my life than I have been accused of or assumed to be a werewolf–which is kind of too bad, in a way, not only because I have done a lot of work on werewolves, but because I am literally a werewolf by certain understandings of the life and practice involved with werewolves. (“How is that possible, P.S.V.L., aside from your wacky-ass name?” Ní hansa! Because in certain societies, including Irish society, werewolves became wolves in their sleep/in dreams, and I’ve done that on a number of occasions. It hasn’t happened in a while, but one never knows when it might need to happen again…!?!) For some, this vampiric assumption is due to my occasionally rather gothic fashion tastes (which haven’t been exceedingly prominent or prevalent for the last few years); for others, this is due to the fact that I tend to wear sunglasses at all times, including indoors and at night (due to vision problems–on which, more in a subsequent segment of the present post!)
; and for yet others, it’s because I keep getting caught flying about at night, glamoring people, sucking blood from their femoral arteries, and then ducking into a hole in the ground before dawn–BLEH! BLEH! BLEH! [Why on Gaia’s green earth do vampires say “BLEH!” so much? I don’t know. I just know that they always have, ever since the 70s, when my dad would pretend to be one. Huh. Bleh.]. But, if I really am honest, I have to admit that in one very early instance, when I was about 4, I really tried to be a vampire. This one in particular, as a matter of fact:
It was for Hallowe’en, when I was about 4 years old–I know this because it was before I was in public school and could no longer talk about liking Sesame Street with people without potential embarrassment, but it was after the year I was Jiminy Cricket and my older brother was Pinocchio (when I was about 3). In kindergarten, I literally got to be the teacher’s pet, because my teacher was always a witch for the event, and I had come as Tom (from Tom & Jerry), and to lead the line of students, she needed a cat, because what witch doesn’t have a cat, and I was the only one in my class to be at all feline on that occasion. (Isn’t that weird?) I can’t quite remember what I was in the first grade, but in second, I was a ghost, and had two costumes–one a sheet with accoutrements I made myself, and the second a store-bought pseudo/generic-Casper-like ghost; in the third grade, I was my usual sweater-clad self, only with a generic Transformer-like robot head mask (!?!); but then in the fourth grade, I (and about six other kids in my class) was a vampire once again, with the vinyl collared cape and the fangs. My best friend at the time was the Statue of Liberty (I think his mother forced him into it), and so at recess he tried to kill my vampiric ass with his torch. You can imagine how that worked out…I at last pointed out to him that the Statue of Liberty’s torch was bronze, not actual light or fire, and was therefore not effective on me…and he bought it. ;)
Returning to the first grade, though, I had my own further brush with vampires that year: in music class, we had to make up Hallowe’en themed variations on the song “The Farmer in the Dell” and then draw pictures to go with them. So, my own contribution was “Dracula in his coffin.” Most of the other students didn’t know what a “coffin” was (geez, I really was pretty gothic from an early age, it seems!), much less how to draw one with red velvet and brass-buttoned cushions and all in it, with a convincing vampire laying there as well. Our music teacher then laminated our pictures and put rings through them, and used it in the future. The one time she did that again with our class in a later grade, not remembering that some of us in front of her were the ones who made the book, we went through and sang the song for each page in it, and when she got to mine, it was the only one upon which she stopped to comment–“And this even LOOKS LIKE Dracula!” (“Of course it does, lady–didn’t I draw it?,” I thought but did not say at the time, but then bragged to my friends at recess about it, none of whom remembered that they had drawn some of the other pictures, nor did they think I was telling the truth, because several of them tried to argue they had drawn it…This would not be the first copyright dispute with friends I had growing up, I’m sad to say…perhaps one day I’ll tell the story of how I learned the word “plagiarism” in the sixth grade.)
Vampires came and went in my life after that, but then the next major time I was thought to be one was when someone I knew was reading, I think, one of the Anne Rice books when we were in the 10th or 11th grade, and we went to pick up another friend of ours who was coming back via train from a trip to Chicago. While sitting in the (old) train station in Everett, where I’d eventually be living for a few years (the town, not the train station–though I did spend an awful lot of time there), she was telling me about how cool this book was, and she said that I reminded her of one or the other of the vampires in it, based on my habits and dress sense. Huh. I never read any of Rice’s vampire books (the only thing I read by her was Exit to Eden, about which I have mixed feelings…partially because of how I ended up reading it, i.e. who made me read it, but that’s YET ANOTHER story!), but I saw Impire with a Vanterview eventually (I think more than a decade after it was out), as well as Queen of the Damned (which was great to look at, but kind of dumb in various ways).
Then, of course, there was Dungeons & Dragons, and Ravenloft within it. One of my friends was heavily into that even before it became its own entire campaign world/realm/dimension. I was more interested in Spelljammer, which none of my friends liked. Oh well. :(
Vampires come and go, of course, but I’ve been mostly indifferent to many of them for the last ten years, with one exception: True Blood, as avid readers of this blog know. I was finally able to finish watching that series this last weekend, when we had a free weekend of HBO, and I’m glad I have some closure over it now…though I’m somewhat disappointed in how rather conventional (and short on the details) its “happily ever after (without the main relationship lasting)” resolution ended up being. Honestly, I was hoping they’d do something interesting, and say that Bill’s rapidly-advancing Hep-V due to Sookie’s faerie blood would kind of turn him human, as it seemed to be doing both emotionally for him as well as metaphysically (since Sookie could hear his thoughts eventually), and that Sookie would use her faerie-blast thing one last time, thus losing her own powers and becoming human but killing him, as he had requested…and yet, what if that odd combination then left her human, and then fully turned him back to a human? Now, that would have been rather cheezy, and a bit too lovey-dovey, but WHY ON EARTH THE FUCK NOT???!!!??? We don’t watch shows like that to be reminded of how things never work out in reality, so why not have a fantasy where everyone gets to “win,” so to speak?
While two of my favorite characters–Eric Northman and Pam–did not disappoint in providing some wry and rather black at times humor throughout the final season, I’m very surprised in the final outcomes for them, and was both amused but also somewhat horrified. They could be selfish and even homicidal and I didn’t blink; but, at one point, when Big Gus asked Eric “You’re a capitalist, right?” and he answered affirmatively, I was shocked! I didn’t feel that I had enough info at the end: did they do the typical capitalist thing and make New Blood not effective as a single-dose cure to create an ongoing market for it, or did they make it so that one dose would fix people who needed it? I wasn’t clear about it.
Capitalists and the genetic-engineered medical/pharmaceutical industry…can’t fathom why that would be a somewhat intriguing topic to me of late, can you?
But, I know other pagans, writing reviews of Margot’s book, also have made the link to vampires and capitalism. In True Blood, it’s not so much a metaphor as it is a blatant statement of position, in many respects.
Divorcing the vampire from a capitalist image or association, though, I’ve occasionally wondered about writing some of my own non-spiritual tries at typical vampire (and/or werewolf) fiction, and it does intrigue me, but not quite enough to spend time with it that could be better used writing about Antinous and the like. (And, I have written one verse in a very odd poem about Antinous that imagined him not as a god, but as a vampire…but that poem may not see the light of day for most people, at least at this point.)
Something else I’ve wondered, though, is if the True Blood vampire parameters, so to speak, were real and in effect and one could be turned into a vampire, would I do it if I had the chance?
At this moment in my life, I’d have to say yes, and here’s why.
1) It would relieve me of worrying about medical bills and such ever again, and thus the need to have a job with insurance.
2) It would allow me to keep writing and doing other things for a much longer time than I’d have otherwise.
3) My sex life would probably end up being much more interesting VERY quickly, probably including how I was turned in the first place and by whom. (Mmm…!?!)
4) One thing that struck me in True Blood about how cool this might be is when Tara first became a vampire, and looked up at the night sky and saw the stars in a way no human ever could. As someone who has always preferred Nyx to Hemera, and is far more nocturnal than diurnal, I don’t think it would take me too much adjustment to get used to; and given that I’d be effectively immortal, it wouldn’t prevent me from doing some of the things I’d like to do in the sun at night instead…why not lay on the beach or swim in the ocean when no one else is there and it’s too cold for regular folks, for example?
5) I’d love to glamour certain people in ways that would, for example, force them to treat people better, give raises to people who deserve it, or give up (or at very least acknowledge) some of their privilege. Sure, there might be a temptation to use this ability for personal gain, but because I value consent in certain matters a great deal, I don’t know that I’d go about abusing it just because I could. (Or, at least I hope that would be the case.) But, “Quit being a racist and apologize for that horrible thing you did on national television”? “Sell all the assets of the American Family Association to GLBTQIA+ youth charities and don’t speak another homophobic word again”? “It’s time to run this college less like a business and more like an educational institution”? “Tell the oil companies to fuck off and put them out of business”? Yeah…I’d probably make a list and do a lot of that sort of thing, both for friends and family as well as for larger groups wherever possible.
6) And, yes, I’d have to admit, I’d also use glamouring for certain non-harmful but selfish things as well. “You’ll let me in to your special collections, and will keep the place open a few extra hours while I read that manuscript, even though I’m not a student or faculty-member at this university.” “You didn’t see me touch that statue in the museum exhibit here up-close, did you?” “Of course you’ll let me go off the path at the Villa here to see the things I want to see!” You get the drift.
7) Moving really fast is kind of cool.
8) I don’t own that much silver, so giving it up won’t hurt me too badly.
9) I’ve always thought “vampire ethics” as far as having to be invited in and so forth is pretty good practice in general, and not just for going to people’s houses; so, having a metaphysical enforcement of that wouldn’t be anywhere outside of what I already observe.
And, I think nine reasons is a nice round (or, actually, both square and triangular!) number, so let’s leave it at that for now! ;)
In other news, I went to the eye doctor today, and had what I hope will be the last (or, at least “the last for a while”) laser treatment on my right eye–the one that has been giving me trouble almost continuously since December when it got a laser treatment, and which then gave out big-time while at PantheaCon and has been giving me grief ever since, and which I’ve now had a total of three injections into over the course of the last six months. Unfortunately, Jean-Claude was not there to hold my hand or anything else during the procedure, which is too bad, because it would have been nice and much more pleasant if someone did, and also because he doesn’t exist. The laser procedure in December on my right eye was the most uncomfortable procedure I’ve yet undergone, and was rather hellish in many ways; however, the one today made that one look like something annoying, uncomfortable, and horrifically hellish still, and yet orders of magnitude lower than today’s…perhaps the difference between Tartaros (today) and, say, the “It’s A Small World After All” ride at Disneyland. I seriously thought about not going in to work later, but after sleeping for a few hours longer than expected to attempt to recover, I was in serviceable-enough condition to head in and do what was necessary today, though I did not feel good and was not happy to do so. I’m glad I did, not only because it is good to get paid and not lose one’s job, but also because in my history class, we had a good discussion on making historical distinctions based on precision of language–can something good and not based in a toxic ideology that results as a reaction to such an ideology be considered “influenced by” such an ideology even if it arrives at a diametrically opposed position? There was a good and robust debate on this, and each side saw the merits in what was said by the others, so that was enjoyable to facilitate and witness this early on in the quarter with a group of students that are mostly in high school.
If Sterculinus has taught me nothing else, it’s that one has to become good at turd-polishing when one is in a position to get handed shit more often than not, so I take my small victories where they can be found. ;)
Finally, I have some very sad news to share with all of you. Dr. Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin, a great Medieval Irish/Celtic Studies scholar and professor, has died. I only had the chance to meet her on a few occasions at conferences, but she was an amazing and wonderful woman, a strong personality, and an innovative and provocative thinker in so many ways. She was the Irish scholar that I mentioned, during Alley and Rhyd’s talk on anti-capitalism at PantheaCon two months ago, who suggested that using the matter of the road being built through the Tara-Skryne Valley in Ireland and destroying some 250+ archaeological sites of significance (and thus both symbolically and literally striking at the Sovereignty of Ireland) should be an issue via which the Irish people should use the European courts to bring down the then-government of Ireland. That was in 2005 at the Ulster Cycle conference that she said that to all of us at the reception the first night. The economic crash took a few years to happen, and the turnover in the political parties in government likewise, but nonetheless, it did happen, and I see no coincidences in that.
Meanwhile, I’d suggest honoring her memory by obtaining a very good book that she wrote: An Introduction to Early Irish Literature, which was published in 2009. A better guide on the subject has probably never yet been written, and if this is the book that seals Dr. Ní Bhrolcháin’s position as a Medieval Irish/Celtic Studies scholar of significance, especially for making this material more easily accessible to the wider public, then it is a very good legacy for her to have left.
I shall always remember something she said in the paper she gave at the Ulster Cycle conference in 2005, which was on Serglige Con Culainn and its sexual aspects. “It’s said that in that fair otherworld house, there are two-hundred couches, which are essentially beds. When I read this I immediately think: BROTHEL!”
May Cú Chulainn himself guide you to the House of Donn, a Mhuireann a chara, 7 Buaid 7 Bendachta Dé 7 An-Dé fort.