Tales of vampires have been with us for thousands of years. The Babylonians had Lilith, who reputedly had a thing for sucking the blood of babies. The fiends lurk in the most unimaginable places…The Greeks had the lamaias, also with a penchant for the little ones. The Ashanti had Asabonasam, the Haitians had Loogaroo, India had the Rakshasas. Nearly every culture in every time has had some version of the myth. The specific traits may vary, but again and again we have the story of the undead creatures with the fearsome hypnotic gaze and the unholy need to drink human blood. It wasn’t until the advent of “Varney the Vampire”, however, that the vampire truly reached its stride in Western culture. “Varney” was published in 1847 (the same year as “Wuthering Heights, but that was about a different sort of soul-sucker) as a series of “Penny Dreadfuls” which eventually encompassed 108 episodes. Fifty years later, Bram Stoker gave us “Dracula”, which left a lasting imprint on vampire mythology…but eventually people turned back to other monsters to occupy their imaginations. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that vampires would experience their next true resurgence, but they took off with a vengeance and have been prominent features of our fiction ever since. What tale of ourselves are we exploring inside this particular mythos, and what possible application can it have here, at the beginning of the 21st century? Who is the vampire now? Continue reading
Today, a black cat crossed my path (I live with three, so it happens pretty often), and a murder of crows called me outside to check the landscape for trouble. The wind was blowing from the west, so I checked the clouds for signs, but they seemed to be holding steady, with only the usual portents and omens. So I glanced over the leaves on the trees and the progress of the spiders, and wandered in for a cup of tea, where I stirred the cream clockwise and made sure to glance at the escaped tea leaves in the bottom of the cup. I throw salt over my shoulder when I spill it, knock on wood when I talk about good events in my life, and throw a kiss to the ceiling of my truck when I run a red light (which, of course, I never, ever do).
Many people feel they are above such archaic expressions of the desire to control the random fate of the universe. In an (supposedly) enlightened age of science and reason, they feel that to submit to a tradition such as superstition would be a flaw in their thinking, a piece of grit in a highly polished lens (to paraphrase Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). They traverse their days in an orderly manner, effect following cause in a seemingly predictable pattern. Until it doesn’t, and they must turn to probability to diagnose the pattern. This is all very well and good, but it denies a fundamental human need, that of mystery and meaning.