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Vampires, Pagans & S/M: the links?

On the face of it, the links between vampires, Pagans and the S/M scene may seem weak at the very best. Some may indeed say there are no such links. In my research, however, I have discovered not only that many vampires (and by this I mean people interested in vampires, not the walking dead themselves!) are also Pagans, and that a significant number of this group also have an affinity to the S/M (that is the sado-masochism or domination/submission) scene.

Whilst it would be unfair and misrepresentative to claim that to be interested in one is to be interested in all three, there is a significant degree of crossover, and I was led to wonder, why? To this end, I interviewed a number of people of my acquaintance whom I knew fit at least two of these categories. Thus I spoke to those who are vampires and Pagans, those who are vampires and fetishists, and those who are Pagans and fetishists. The article to follow in Issue 1 of Bloodstone will expand upon the points raised and go into detail as to why I believe there is a strong case for common ground in these three fields.

The key to the parallels between these three fields is power. Vampires, in the undead sense, thrive on power; it is their supernatural power over mortals which makes them the superior species, and thus a fearful adversary to Mankind. Whether their power be manifested as a life beyond death, or as physical strength, the ability to read minds, to fly, to morph into bats or mist or other forms, or whatever way their power makes itself known, the vampire is all about power. This is undeniable. All the literature on the subject discusses the vampire's power. All the films play this up with special effects. And by association, everyone interested in the vampire is drawn, at least in part, by the sense of the vampire's supernormal power.

Pagan worship is all about power too. There are no laws in Paganism save one to harm no other creature in the pursuit of your own desires. You can do whatever you want to in this world so long as no-one gets hurt along the way. This makes Paganism the most liberal and accepting of faiths, and puts the responsibility for self-control and respect for the external firmly in the hands of the individual. This is personal power in the extreme. Although there are Goddesses and Gods in many forms of Paganism, the grovelling and guilt inherent in most other faiths is entirely absent. Goddess, God and practitioner are on an equal level, with mutual respect and mutual love being the keys to a healthy balance of power. Because there are no essential good or evil beings in Pagan belief simply a power which can be utilised for good or evil purposes it is down to the individual to decide how they intend to use this power.

Finally, S/M culture is firmly rooted in power, as is obvious to even the uninitiated by the terms used to describe it. Sado-masochism is the balance of the inflicting and receiving of pain. Submission and domination are two halves of the same coin. You must usually follow one form or the other be either Master/Mistress or slave and this is the key difference from Paganism which places everyone on a level footing. The various excesses of fetish culture be they bondage, domination, slavery or whatever all stress the importance of knowing your role, and of course control which, by definition, also incorporates power. With S/M culture you are either a wielder of power or a 'victim' of it, but since everything is done in accordance with strict rules, and the wishes of all participants, there are no real victims, in the true sense of the word. Nothing is done in this strictly regulated world without the permission of everyone involved Masters and slaves and this prevents any real abuse of power taking place.

So the similarities are, I think, becoming obvious. Vampires are killers; they have victims. Pagans are dominant because they take control over their own lives and destinies; yet they are also submissive to the greater good of doing right by others and the planet, and not doing evil to others no matter what they do to you. And fetish culture hinges on the balance of power between those who use it and those who are used by it.

I put various questions to my subjects about how they considered the links between vampires, Pagans and S/M culture to manifest themselves, and how they saw their particular role in these three scenes (or two as appropriate). I asked them whether they considered themselves a 'killer' or a 'victim' in their field, how their status changed depending on what field they were in, and how hierarchies were established both personally and within the given cultures.

I shall expatiate fully upon the results of this study in future issues of Bloodstone, but for now let me simply recount the hypotheses I set out with and the ways I set about challenging and/or confirming these theories.

Life, at its most fundamental level, is all about power. The power struggles that fill the lives of most of the natural world, including Mankind, are what keep us all going. The daily flux and ebb of life and death are the essential components of existence on a planet which is ever changing, ever evolving and ever unpredictable. All natural creatures must carve out a niche for their species and evolve with their food sources, predators and environment in order to continue to survive and succeed. Extinction awaits those who cannot adapt to the often rapid developments of the world around them. And since Mankind decided to take his place as the world's most efficient predator, extinction is no longer even just a case of not keeping up with the pace of natural events. This is basic biology, Darwin's theories of the survival of the fittest evolution.

The vampire sits in a unique position as supreme predator. As an enhanced human, he is capable of all a human's evil whilst being less vulnerable to Mankind's external predators, and sociological constructs such as guilt and remorse. And yet is the vampire not also a victim of the vulnerabilities he does possess his inability to move around in daylight for example? In a natural world, the vampire is an unnatural beast, and surely this puts him at a disadvantage.

Since much of what we 'know' about vampires is inevitably coloured by literature, myth, legend and religious superstition, rather than hard evidence and facts, our conclusions as to how great a predator the vampire is must always be open to debate. Is he the ultimate predator a super-powered human with no guilt or conscience to hold back his most bestial desires or is he finally a victim of his own superstitious and natural (or unnatural) laws?

With the other two aspects of this study I am on far firmer ground. Pagans and fetishists are real people with beliefs and practices which can be examined and investigated, and whose existence in the world poses no threat to our lives or sanity. And since I am personally familiar with both scenes it is easy for me to explore my own views on these things. I am not a vampire (in the undead sense) but I am a Pagan and I do have an affinity with all that is fetishistic and S/M centred. And I am of course powerfully interested in vampires!

My intention here was to see how the various fields of my research might interact. After all, I went into this study aware of the fact that many vampires were also Pagans (or vice versa) and yet that also the vampire in its truly undead sense is an unnatural being in a world which for Pagans is all about the natural order and balance of everything. So could Pagans accept the idea of this preternatural being having a place in the natural world? Even with the Pagan interest in the supernatural in terms of deities, spirits and so on, does the acceptance of the paranormal stretch far enough to include the vampire, or does this represent two opposing elements which Pagans into vampires must endeavour to reconcile? And what, I wondered, was the official Pagan line on vampires?

In all honesty, the S/M element of this feature only came into being after the initial plan had been laid re vampires and Pagans. It dawned on me whilst watching a recent film about the S/M scene 'Preaching to the Perverted' (dir. Stuart Urban, 1997) that the main character of the film was vampiric in her approach to others, not simply because of the dominion she exerted over them, but also in the way she spoke, looked and dressed. She, however, claimed she was a Pagan. This led me into a closer inspection of the whole S/M scene and it seemed to me that there was much in it that was akin to both the vampire and the Pagan ways of life. And since power and control are the mainstays of this culture too, I felt justified in extending the original remit.

The link was forged between all three elements and it was time to proceed with the questionnaires...

see also on this site: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Freda Warrington

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