Welcome back to Relationshifts for the second and final installment of my vampire series. The first post of this two-part adventure, The Fun Suckers, was about identifying and dealing with emotional vampires. Emotional vampires seemed like a funny but frustrating subject that many people could relate to. This post, however, is going to look at a far more peculiar side of the vampire world. For my final post I’m going to talk about real vampires.
You must be thinking, “Pffft, real vampires…..vampires don’t exists outside of books and movies…right?” Sadly, no…there are entire communities that identify themselves as truly being vampires and regularly practice different rituals such as blood letting and drinking.
These people that claim themselves to be real vampires may look like any other person you might see on the street, but the one thing that sets them apart from the rest is their need to ingest blood. Many believe that there is a biological need for them to ingest blood or “energy” otherwise they will become both physically and emotionally compromised. Blood ingesting is often referred to as “feeding” and is an activity between the vampire and their donors. In an article by John Edgar Browning, a postdoctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology, it is explained that all feeding activities must be done ethically through an agreement between the vampire and donor. Each party must sign a document listed as the Donor Bill of Rights, a contract between the vampire and donor to uphold safety and well-being both physically and socially.
It’s, in a way, comforting to know that modern vampires are taking the steps to be ethical, but how does psychology relate to this? There has been some research done over the years about some different reasons as to why these people may feel the need to ingest blood. A lingering ‘diagnosis’ for these behaviors is known as Renfield’s syndrome or clinical vampirism. Although its not listed in the DSM-5 or any medical reference as an actual disorder there were a number of articles that I read on this subject. Clinical vampirism is a condition where people, generally males, have the want/need to taste or see blood. It can manifest at a young age but usually comes about during the years of puberty and intensifies through three stages: autovampirism, zoophagia, and vampirism.
Autovampirism: Consuming one’s own blood
Zoophagia: consuming of blood from living creatures like bugs, dogs, deer, cats, and other animals
Vampirism: drinking the blood of another person
It is thought that Renfield’s syndrome it is the result of a traumatic event in a young person’s life where they either tasted or saw blood. It commonly becomes an obsession around puberty because blood becomes associated with sexual feelings and activity. Another reason why this syndrome isn’t listed as it’s own disorder is because this obsession frequently occurs with schizophrenic symptoms.
A famous criminal case that popularized clinical vampirism took place in 1970’s. Richard Trenton Chase, also known as “The Vampire Killer of Sacramento,” was a mentally ill man that was in and out of mental hospitals his entire life. Chase had told many doctors that his pulmonary artery had been stolen, his heart would stop beating, and he claimed that his blood was turning to powder. He was given the name ‘vampire killer’ because he murdered his victims, drank their blood, and consumed some of their flesh because he believed it was necessary for him to survive. This is obviously am extreme case of this supposed Renfield’s syndrome, but it’s what one of the cornerstone cases that made people fear vampirism.
Now, my intention in writing this is not to make the reader think that all people that practice vampirism are schizophrenic or necessarily have anything wrong with them. People that identify themselves as vampires say that they were born that way. For them it’s not a matter of choice. In fact, people that still identify as being vampires live lives with families, friends and jobs like a typical person except they have the urge to feed. Many relationships between vampires and their donors are, in fact, romantically intimate which has lead vampirism to be listed as a type of paraphilia.
Vampirism as a paraphilia is mostly categorized as a sadistic practice if pain is involved, however, it doesn’t always have to involve pain. Vampirism in the form of a paraphilia means that those that ingest the blood get sexual arousal from blood extraction. This relationship is given more of a romantic twist as a vampire’s partner is known as a ‘swan.’ Swan is a fancy word for a donor and they enjoy giving their blood to their vampires.
From what I have read from a couple well known swans, they share the same story as their vampires, they were born to be donors. Swans don’t just choose one day that they want to give their energy, but it’s a deep ache inside of them that needs to be released through feedings. Just like there’s different types of vampires, there are also different types of swans. Sanguine swans offer their blood, psi (short for psychic) offer their physical energy, and an amber swan is one that offers both. David Moye has an interesting Huffington Post article about a couple that practices vampirism, so if you interested in that you can click here.
The important thing to understand is that these activities are between two consenting adults are not related to any specific disorder. There seems to be a parallel between romantic vampirism and BDSM relationships in the sense that there is someone that takes and receives. The analogy would go vampire:sadist :: swan:masochist. In his book, Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampirism, Dr. Joseph Laycock says that some vampires find their donors through special interest, subculture conventions like Dark Shadows. Dark Shadows is a convention highlighting vampires, gothic culture, horror, occult, and BDSM interest and identities. This is just one of many conventions the people may use to find other vampires and swans.
Modern vampirism isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s a part of these people’s identities and is practiced safely between the partners involved. Think of it as a twist any romance story…but it involves blood…I hope you enjoyed this last post and continue exploring interesting topics!