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Vampirism and Vampyrism:


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Definitions of terms:

Unfortunately, the words "vampire" and "vampyre" have multiple meanings which refer to very different phenomena. The main ones are:

bullet An imaginary supernatural being. These are found in ancient religious myths and in such creative fiction as horror novels, films, TV programs, comic books, etc. A common meaning is a "reanimated corpse that rises from the grave to suck the blood of living people and thus retain a semblance of life." 1 They often are described as dying if exposed to sunlight, being repelled by garlic, having fang-shaped eye teeth, sleeping in coffins and being very difficult to murder. They can only be killed by driving a wooden stake through their heart -- or perhaps by shooting them with a silver bullet. There are other, similar, definitions.

bullet An actual individual who sincerely believes that they need to feed on either the blood or the energy of other people, animals, and/or things, in order to maintain optimum spiritual and/or physical health. They often form groups, called houses or covens, which are composed of vampyres, donors who supply blood, and individuals who are both donors and consumers of blood. The latter are called "kitras" in some vampyre groups. 

Throughout the rest of this section, we will use the terms:

bullet "vampire" and "vampirism" to refer to the mythical and imaginary supernatural creatures.
bullet "vampyre" and "vampyrism," which are older English spellings, to refer to a movement made up of actual individuals.

This is a largely arbitrary choice on our part. Various individuals and groups reverse these definitions; some use either spelling to refer to both types of vampires/vampyres. Some feel passionate about their choice of terms. No consensus exists. We have adopted this nomenclature in order to make it clear to which group we are referring. 2

Having two meanings for the same term can causes a great deal of confusion: It produces misunderstandings similar to those surrounding the word "Voodoo:"

bullet Sometimes, Voodoo refers to imaginary evil activities which were largely popularized by Hollywood horror films.
bullet Other times, it refers to Vodun: a syncretistic religion which combines elements of Roman Catholicism with West African Aboriginal religious beliefs.

There are similar problems with other religious words, like Paganism which has at least seven very different meanings. The  grandmother of all confusing terms is Witchcraft, which has at least 19 meanings, two pairs of which are contrasting self-antonyms. Common meanings range from the benign Earth-centered religion of Wicca to the imaginary evil religion of Gothic Satanism.

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The religious connection:

Neither vampirism nor vampyrism are normally considered religions by themselves. You might wonder why we cover this topic in a web site devoted to religious tolerance. We include them because of their religious connections:

bullet Belief in the existence of vampires (the imaginary creatures) is based on ancient religious myths.

bullet Some vampyres (the real individuals) regard vampyrism as a spiritual pursuit. In addition, many vampyres follow The Black Veil -- a non-binding vampyre code of ethics. Ethical codes and spirituality are often components of religion.

bullet Some conservative Protestants within the counter-cult movement lump vampyrism with such religions as Wicca, other Neopagan traditions, and Satanism. They often consider all three as part of the occult, and as movements to be opposed.

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References used:

  1. J. Gordon Melton, "Preface: What is a Vampire?" The Vampire Book, Visible Ink Press, (1998), Page XXI. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store.
  2. A Google search for "vampire" netted 1.14 million hits; "vampyre" found 45,000 hits on 2005-SEP-24.

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Site navigation:

Home > World religions, ethical systems, etc. > Vampirism > here

Home > Religious info. > Basic data > World religions, etc > Vampirism > here

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Copyright 2005 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-SEP-25
Latest update: 2010-SEP-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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