Vampirism and Vampyrism:
Definitions of terms:
Unfortunately, the words "vampire" and "vampyre" have multiple meanings
which refer to very different phenomena. The main ones are:
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.
actual individual who sincerely believes that they need to feed
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:
||"vampire" and "vampirism"
to refer to the mythical and imaginary supernatural creatures.
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
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:"
||Sometimes, Voodoo refers to imaginary evil activities
which were largely popularized by
Hollywood horror films.
||Other times, it refers to Vodun: a syncretistic religion which
combines elements of Roman Catholicism with West African Aboriginal religious
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.
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:
||Belief in the existence of vampires (the imaginary creatures) is based on ancient religious myths.
||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.
||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.
J. Gordon Melton, "Preface: What is a Vampire?" The Vampire Book,
Visible Ink Press, (1998), Page XXI.
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
A Google search for "vampire" netted 1.14 million hits; "vampyre"
found 45,000 hits on 2005-SEP-24.
Copyright © 2005 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-SEP-25
Latest update: 2010-SEP-27
Author: B.A. Robinson