Michelle Belanger

by Michael Szul on 2003-06-16 17:06:33 tags: michelle belanger

Cold back alleys and night lights of dim defiance penetrate your spine on days of gloom and darkness. The “outsider” casts its shadow even in the utter dark – a hope, a glimmer, or even a reconciliation of parts long separated, souls long at war within. The archetype carries you on its back like a caring father, nurturing what you are, never forcing conformity.

And what lies at the end are many paths and many fields – many questions to uncover. But who shall reveal the outsider to those of like design? Maybe Michelle Belanger.

Why a vampire? What qualities do you present that allow yourself to be classified as such? What makes you a vampire, and what are the similarities / differences between that and the traditional vampire of folklore?

It comes down to life. Throughout the folklore, the qualities attributed to vampires vary widely. In Romanian myth alone, as cited by folklorist Harry Senn, there are living vampires in addition to the more traditional undead variety. Some can walk abroad during the day. Some feed directly from victims, while others can suck blood from a distance of many miles. Still other folkloric vampires drain milk from herds of cows or drain the very life from a field of grain.

The one consistent quality of the vampire is its need for life, for the vital force. Throughout my life, I have evidenced a need to regularly and actively take vital energy from those around me in order to maintain my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. We have no better word in the English language for this taking than vampirism, and this makes me, by default, a vampire.

The vampire, as it has developed in the modern imagination, is a being who is immortal, fears the sun, has rejected or is rejected by all things hallowed and holy, and who drinks blood. Garlic and cloaks, fangs and pale skin are usually mixed up in there as well, as is the propensity to sleep in a coffin, fly, shapeshift, and be destroyed by a stake through the heart.

A real vampire, like myself, has a need for life energy – though this is not necessarily expressed through the drinking of blood. I don’t sleep in a coffin or transform into a bat. I haven’t tried the stake through the heart thing, though I’m willing to bet it would hurt, vampire or not. I do tend to be nocturnal and I am sensitive to the sun and bright light – but I’m exceptionally sensitive to all forms of energy. Some, like UV radiation, make me sick – tired, lethargic, nauseated. Others, I just interfere with – the last documentary team that worked with me was a little surprised when they couldn’t keep batteries charged around me, and when I toured last fall with my band, we learned I couldn’t get my hand near a microphone without getting some nasty feedback. Radio and television reception, touch lighting, and DSL connections all behave strangely around me.

As for the powers of the vampire – the immortality – my mom can attest that I’ve remembered my past lives since I was a kid. This isn’t in the strictest sense immortality, but it definitely gives me an ageless perspective, and I do feel it’s connected with my vampirism (this “serial immortality” is common among members of the vampire community). I’m an empath with some telepathy, and there is an aura about me, an allure that can be equated with the mesmerism of the vampire. And I’m tall, thin, pale, and attractive – though this could also be the result of good genes. When I’m dressed in normal clothes walking through the mall and a kid points at me and says, “Mommy, look at the vampire!” I guess there’s no denying that some aspect of the archetype really fits me.

How does this differ from a Goth?

To me, “Goth” refers to an aesthetic. It’s a particular movement in music, fashion, art and culture. The Gothic aesthetic is concerned with the beauty of darkness – that threshold where the terrifying and the erotic meet. Now, certainly, as a literary and archetypal figure, the vampire sits right on that threshold. So of course the vampire plays a role in the Gothic subculture – but this is as a literary figure, a kind of artistic muse. Goths may romance the idea of the vampire, but they do not approach it as a real thing.

In my case, the lines may seem a little blurred, because the Gothic aesthetic does appeal to me artistically. But I identified myself as a vampire long before I ever knew what a Goth was. Just the other day I was chuckling over a game I’d play in first grade – “vampire tag” – which amounted to convincing other kids to play “victims” for me so I could feed. I will admit that the Gothic aesthetic held its appeal because it had a place for the vampire and it did not necessarily demonize vampiric beings. But while many vampires are disposed to Gothic tastes, not all Goths are vamps, and there’s certainly no need to be a Goth in order to be accepted in the real vampire community. Some vamps really like frilly lace and velvet. Others are more at home in a T-shirt, flannel, and jeans.

Compare and contrast your form of vampirism with the underground vampire cults that imbibe blood and essentially live out the myth. Are these just two different perspectives of the same community? Or are these different lifestyles altogether?

As with many subcultures, there is some cross-over. Just as you have real vampires who are also into the Gothic subculture, there are some real vampires who are also into the fetish subculture. And of course there are real vampires who are involved in neither of these and instead pursue lives that are exceptionally ordinary in all respects beyond their vampirism.

Now, it would be misleading for me to say that no psychic vampire ever has anything to do with blood. A lot of real vampires avoid blood for the obvious reasons of HIV and other health concerns, but there are some vampires who do take a small amount of blood from carefully screened donors as a part of their feeding. These vampires, known as sanguines or sanguinarians throughout the community, typically use the blood as a focus for the more subtle exchange of life energy between them and their partner.

But as for the blood cults that exist, most of these are what we call lifestylers or are simply blood fetishists. Vampirism is apparently a fetish as well, so really you find these groups who dress up and play the part of a vampire – cape, fangs, fancy contacts and all – mostly within the fetish community. As I mentioned before, there are a few real vampires who drift in and out of this community, but for the most part, they are two distinct subcultures. Quite a few real vampires actually look down upon the lifestylers, especially because their more extreme practices tend to reflect badly on the rest of us since the uninformed public really can’t tell the difference between a lifestyler, a blood fetishist, and a real vampire.

Why does the myth of the vampire constantly linger in this scientific age of reason?

The vampire is just one facet of an enduring archetype: the eternal outsider. As an archetypal figure, the vampire exists outside the bounds of normative reality. Superficially, he is a part of the human race, but he is always apart from it; his nature makes him an outcast. Yet both his power and his allure arise from this outcast state. The Romantic ideal of Lucifer as the rebellious angel taps into this archetype as well. It is the Byronic dark hero, the quintessential “bad boy” who thrills and seduces us because he breaks the rules. People find it sexy, mysterious, compelling.

I also think that part of the romance with the vampire that we’ve seen in recent years is a symptom of our scientific age. The modern world doesn’t leave much room for magick and mystery. The vampire archetype is a being of the shadows, existing just on the edge of what is known and seen – so the vampire appeals our materialist world precisely because he is a supernatural being.

Why has the myth blood sucking undead creature evolved into a romanticized fantasy? How much of this due to Anne Rice’s literary works, and how much can be attributed to other sources and reasons?

The evolution of the vampire from a corpse-like bloodsucker to a seductive bad boy occurred long before Lestat came on the scene. The romantic ideal of the vampire goes back to the poet Lord Byron (1788-1824). A passionate and complicated man, Byron was the living embodiment of the eternal outsider, and he knew it. Throughout his career, he identified himself with other mythic outcasts: the fallen angel Shemyaza; Lucifer; the Biblical Cain. When he ran across the notion of the vampire, it was a natural fit for someone who never quite felt a part of humanity.

Byron first encountered the idea of the vampire during his travels in Greece. At that time, the vampire was a very real thing to the Greek peasantry. Fascinated by all things occult and macabre, Byron learned all he could about these nightly predators, thrilled by them as much as he was thrilled by tales of ghosts and demons. But what connected him psychologically to the vampire of folklore was again its outsider status: it was widely believed that one became a vampire through some fall from grace or other misdeed. Byron felt he himself had been foredoomed to wickedness through some vague but terrible past deed, and so the vampire was added to his repertoire of damned beings.

Had the vampire merely remained a private obsession of Byron’s, the creature may never had grown into the pop cultural icon it is today. However, Byron’s personal physician, a young Italian by the name of John William Polidori, fell in love with Byron and grew to hate him for that illicit love. As an expression of his hatred, Polidori wrote a novella, The Vampyre, which featured Lord Byron under the guise of Lord Ruthven, the evil, immortal title character.

Polidori tried very hard to make Ruthven seem like a heartless monster, but his own mixed feelings toward Byron imbued the Ruthven with a peculiar complexity of sadism and humanity. Ruthven, like Byron, was a tortured being, monstrous but vulnerable, fiercely arrogant and tenderly loving by turns. And thus our modern image of the vampire emerged – not the folkloric revenant that is little more than a ravening ghoul, but a charismatic and cultured gentleman, whose seductive allure is the ruin of everyone around him. Stoker, Rice and all the others merely picked up where Polidori left off, and Rice’s constant references to Byron throughout her works acknowledge his role.

In regards to Konstantinos’ Vampires: the Occult Truth, do you agree or disagree with his classifications? If you disagree, in what way would you classify the mythological and real aspects of vampirism?

Konstantinos was the first person to distinguish between intentional and unintentional psychic vampires in a widely published work. The unintentional psychic vampires which Konstantinos describes have been known to occultists from the nineteenth century onward. However, to those outside of our community, the idea of intentional psychic vampires (what I term “Awakened” psychic vampires) was something new.

Vampires: the Occult Truth pretty accurately describes feeding techniques used by most intentional psychic vampires. Based on the attitudes he also attributes to intentional psychic vampires, it’s pretty clear that Konstantinos was drawing upon the teachings of the Temple of the Vampire for much of his information, although their Vampire Bible is never specifically cited in his work.

As far as technique, I can’t argue with it, as I’ve used similar techniques myself for the past fifteen years. A lot of psychic vampires visualize tendrils of energy extending from themselves to those they would draw energy from. A great many psychic vampires also project themselves through dreams to feed. Konstantinos covers both of these methods.

However, Konstantinos demonstrates only a superficial understanding of the mechanics of psychic vampirism – such as why one needs to feed – and I further think he seriously misrepresents the attitudes held by the majority of Awakened psychic vampires toward the ethics of feeding. Konstantinos’ work implies that we’re all willful predators, and that’s simply not the case. While the Temple of the Vampire proudly encourages its members to prey upon people, the majority of Awakened psychic vampires prefer to have willing partners and will only take energy from the unwilling as a last resort.

This is perhaps the most significant thing that separates us from the vampires of myth. Folkloric vampires are monstrous predators: they maim and kill when they feed. Real vampires don’t pose a threat like that to anyone. We have partners and donors – not victims. And even if one of us were to get out of control and play the predator, the target of a psychic vampire attack might wake up the next morning with a headache, but there is little threat of death or lasting harm.

Tell me about V, the book you co-authored.

V is the next evolutionary step of a project called the Sanguinarium, initiated by Father Sebastian Todd in the mid-nineties. When Sebastian was introduced to the vampire scene, he began to envision an extended network of groups that were all united by their affinity for the archetype of the vampire. Sebastian called this “vampyre nation” the Sanguinarium, and he unified it under a code of ethics and etiquette which he called the Black Veil. I got on board with the project in the late nineties and was instrumental in revising the Black Veil as well as developing some of the structure and instructional material at the core of the Sanguinarium. As the vampire community grew and changed over the years, the Sanguinarium evolved from a structured network to more of a philosophy or personal path. Sebastian called this path Strigoi Vii, which is based on a Romanian term for “Living Vampirism.” V is the first manual on Strigoi Vii, and it essentially takes the archetypal image of the vampire and builds a philosophy and a spirituality around it. My main contribution to this book is the second half, which is a special edition of my Vampire Codex adapted specifically for Sebastian’s Strigoi Vii philosophy.

What is House Kheperu? What is its purpose? How is it related to vampirism? How are you involved in it, and how did it come about?

House Kheperu is a metaphysical society I founded in the nineties. It began as an informal study group and it officially became House Kheperu in 1998. The name of the House is derived from an ancient Egyptian word that means “transformation, becoming.” Accordingly, the group is dedicated to personal transformation, growth, and change. Our main activities are as a teaching society and one of our primary goals is to provide Awakening psychic vampires with information about their nature and how to ethically feed. We also teach magick, meditation, past life work, and the Kheprian system of energy work. We encourage each student to find the path that is best suited to their abilities and needs, so of course vampirism is not an exclusive focus.

One of the services we offer is our website at www.kheperu.org. This site contains a wealth of articles, exercises, and other resources appropriate to those ranging from the idly curious to seasoned students of the occult. Additionally, we offer workshops and presentations over the course of annual weekend gatherings.

Tell me about the Vampire Codex?

The Codex is the essential handbook on psychic vampirism. I first set pen to paper on the work in 1991 when I started seriously trying to understand the mechanics and meaning behind my vampirism. Over the next several years, I took careful notes, observing and analyzing my experiences and experimenting with different techniques. I worked with others who considered themselves vampiric as well, and I observed them, asking about their experiences, sometimes doing exercises with them, then comparing what I gathered from them with my own material.

During this time I also did extensive research in the fields of metaphysics, magick, and the occult, trying to find corollaries to the theories and techniques I was developing. The first version of the Vampire Codex, handwritten by myself, is dated 1994. Thereafter, copies of the Codex were made available to a select few and over the next several years, I continued to compile information, get feedback, and revise the work.

When I went online in the late nineties, portions of the Codex were published to my website at www.kheperu.org. Until this time, nothing like it had been made available to the general public. While the aforementioned Temple of the Vampire had sold small instructional pamphlets that described feeding and other magickal techniques since the beginning of the nineties, these were exorbitantly priced and you had to become a member in order to purchase them. One of the things that had motivated me to write the Vampire Codex was the fact that instructional material on psychic vampirism was not available outside of a few exclusive and very secretive groups, and I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through the doubt, uncertainty, and messy trials-by-error that I had endured throughout my early life. When I affiliated my group with Sebastian’s Sanguinarium, I sent him a copy of the Codex. He later published it through his imprint, Sanguinarium Press, in the fall of 2000. As the Codex became the most widely read document in the vampire community, I continued to expand upon its exercises and teachings until it took its current form.

The earlier edition of the Vampire Codex has become so widespread that it has become known as the Internet Edition. It’s hosted on hundreds of webpages, has been translated into seven different languages, has served as a textbook for classes run across the country, and is included among the seminal works on vampirism at www.sacred-texts.com.

Michelle Belanger is the author of the Psychic Vampire Codex and the founder of House Kheperu, in case – for some odd reason or another – you decided to skip to the bottom of this interview instead of reading it.