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30.10.12

Of Vampires & Rasputin

The Vampire is an ancient character, a theme as old as our oldest civilizations. It binds together many phenomena and factors: psychological, mystical, spiritual and political. We must never forget that our own tropes, memes and media themes relating to the Vampire identify this being with aristocracy and predation, slavery and psychological domination, wicked and sexual temptations. The Vampire of fiction is an excellent stand-in for the political elite both in our age and in earlier times, for the behavior of aristocrats is always perverse.
Vlad Tepes himself is the perfect exemplar of this predatory nobleman, but for the obvious fact that most of what we have been told about him is in the form of propaganda composed by the Catholic Church in order to prevent the Wallachian - and later Romanian - national hero from garnering too much support and sympathy. The Holy Mother does a fine job of criminalizing those she has helped to betray.
In such a cosmos it is a certainty that discarnate intelligences exist and that sometimes they predate upon us. This is a far better and more complete argument for the causes and processes of many things - like mental illness and unhappy chance - than any of our more mechanistic descriptions. We cannot do away with science - it is too essential - but in this grossly materialistic age we must check its excesses. There are a great many things we do not understand, and where out conventions fail, we are all too often tricked into denying what we know instinctively to be true.

A vast energetic confluence appears to be underway, and it's a good idea for people of the open-minded persuasion to pay careful heed to the ways of the spirit world. This aside, the possibility of physical vampirism is not to be so readily discarded.
We have many accounts of these creatures, but those who have read them tend to relegate such stuff to the realms of fiction and phantasm; these are fantasies of various types. They fall into the categories of religion, terror, sexuality and the desire for immortality among other motivations. There's just one problem with assuming that what we have not personally experienced is of necessity unreal. People experience psychic and paranormal phenomena - to say nothing of the UFO/Alien/Otherworld reports - on a daily basis. The case can easily be made that our world is far weirder than any skeptic or purely scientific thinker is comfortable admitting. This means that the Vampire is just as likely a thing as the lost specter haunting a churchyard or the hairy wildmen stalking our forests. We make choices with regard to belief, but these are not based upon reason. The choices are founded upon comfort, familiarity, and fear.

Consider what the Vampire is, and the possibility that a handful of them exist becomes clear. Despite the biological unlikelihood of a species of this sort, the fact remains that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than Horatio's philosophy could think to dream of. And whatever the case, if even one such mutation or visitor from beyond ever has or still does walk among us, its primary ecology is that of a predator; what's more, it's a predator that feeds on human beings.
This is the apex predator, capable of manipulating the minds and therefore the perceptions of people at will. Moreover, the most ancient depictions are of creatures that rise from the dead to feed upon the living. As we consider this an absurdity, most disregard the possibility. It has become the essence of legend and fiction, but for a few intriguing and well-executed departures. This fabricates the ideal camouflage for a predator; imagine the effectiveness of a man-eating tiger if no one believed that tigers were real. So too, we assume that such a creature would leave evidence of its kills. But the problem is that we assume such a thing to be outside of the social and cultural sphere, a lurker and a killer and little more. But if the more modern interpretation of the legend is taken into account, it is obvious that we would never know directly that Vampires are among us. They would hide certainly, but their concealment would be within the body of the species, appearing always to be a part of our societies. This is precisely how many horror writers have often imagined it, and the real terror is that this could quite easily be the truth.

Neither the Vicar nor anyone serious expects the reader to be completely persuaded that Vampires are real and walk among us. But we can all have a great deal more scary fun if we recognize that this possibility is not as far outside the range of our reality as we would like. Consider how many abandoned buildings there are in any fair-sized town, to say nothing of large cities. Consider too how many people go missing on a daily basis. As of January 2011, over 85,000 missing persons cases were on the books. There are ample places for setting up secret Vampire covens or dens, and a ready supply of blood is available to such a cadre in the form of people who go missing, never to be found.
The true issue is this: In such a world, a group of predators capable of feeding upon people - and actively doing so - could readily exist. They could be concealed from us even if their psychology and biology were significantly different from our own. The Vampire of oldest fiction - a rotting corpse seeking the blood of its closest family members - is just as capable of existing and being denied, ignored and rejected as any other uncomfortable truth. Remember that we live in a time when large populations utterly reject climate change, fossils, geology and astronomy. There are still people rabidly dedicated to the notion of a hollow earth filled with untold civilizations and denizens. Consider the Flat Earth Society and know that humanity is capable of astonishing denial whether in part or as a whole.

A more advanced and suave, sleek predatory species could be dwelling here in the guise of human beings and making a great game of our whole psychosocial parade. Note the recent and significant surge of interest in all things Vampire. The success of numerous films, books and television shows bears noisy and flashy evidence to the fact that people love this genre and its attendant themes. But the secret underbelly of the whole thing could be much worse. Cults and covens have formed as a result; some commit horrific crimes and their charges and sentences are a matter of public record. While these are the acts of the anti-social and misguided, they may be reflections of a deeper truth: Humanity has a predator that we barely acknowledge and fearfully transform into lustful entertainment.
If we accept some of the more modern interpretations we verge into a much more bizarre realm. At the apex of society there could easily exist a closely held community of blood drinking beings that appear as humans. If such creatures are actually or nearly immortal, the eldest among them would have long ago learned how to amass fortunes and wield financial and political power. What would stop them from hiding in plain sight and ruling over what would for them be in all respects a cattle ranch? Our religions would be brain-sick fantasies, our means of defending ourselves few and far between.

The most obvious rejoinder is clear: the reader has never seen or encountered even the rumors of such a thing in the real world. The Vicar would like to tell you the same, but in the Wizard business, one runs across all manner of unpleasant possibilities and not a few dark realities. The fact remains that while you or your social circle have not been fed upon, this does not mean the same is true for the tens of thousands of people who go missing world wide and are never found again. If a major municipal police department found a body tomorrow morning with tell-tale bite marks and thoroughly exsanguinated, then the debate would still rage. No one would accept that a Vampire was on the loose. It would be a murder attributed to people in the grip of a frantic fantasy, experiencing a psychotic break with reality. And if there were any sense amongst investigators that something unnatural was at work, you can be more certain that we the people would never, ever hear of it.
Italian "Vampire skull, with a brick shoved into the jaws to prevent nocturnal feedings.

Are they real? We cannot know this either way. In the absence of evidence, the tendency is to assume evidence of absence. This is generally a bad move when we recognize that our knowledge of reality is bounded by the senses, memory and direct experience. In terms of personal truth, only a handful of human beings actually know that there is a moon, and not just an image in the sky. They know this because they have been there. Being there is worth more than all the pictures and words in the world.
As to the strange capacity of the "fictional" Vampire to resist violence and execute superhuman feats, consider the weird death of a man totally verifiable as human...

Grigori Rasputin is definitely one of the Vicar's favorite sorcerers, albeit a wicked and weird bastard with a penchant for violating that most basic of the true practitioner's codes: restraint. Rasputin's excesses - political, spiritual, chemical and sexual - are the stuff of legend. His life was a rampage and his capacity to manipulate and control is perhaps not mythic at all. But it is in the manner of his dying that serious thinkers must come to wonder at the power of the occult.
Rasputin was every inch a peasant wizard, a man who's wanderings took him to Mt. Athos in Greece and Jerusalem. He did most of this on foot, purportedly. His hardiness cannot be doubted, but he was also evidently able to control hemophilia in the Tsarevich Alexis. It's worthy of note that Vampire blood and saliva are both attested in fiction and myth as having remarkable healing properties - specifically the staunching of blood flowing from wounds.

Rasputin appears to have had a significant capacity for healing; some of this resided in his psychological control over individuals and his ability to calm them. Calm people certainly deal better with ailments and injuries, and this increases chances of recovery. But this is also a form of magic, centered in the arcane arts because the tranquil mind can be focused upon changing the condition of the body. The Vicar has always been of two minds about Grigori, alongside most historians of record.

Rasputin's death is the important part of the story for our purposes, however. For a variety of reasons - not least because he had made himself obnoxious to the powerful - Prince Felix Yusupov and other members of the aristocracy resolved to murder him. This is where it gets weird, and worth re-reading even if you know the story. Rasputin was invited to the Yusupov palace to meet the Tsar's beautiful niece. When he arrived, Yusupov and his compatriots fed Rasputin poisoned wine and tea cakes. These, it is reported, the man ate without effect. The poison in question? Cyanide.
When Rasputin showed no signs of poisoning, Yusupov shot him. This had an immediate effect, but the man still did not die. Instead, he fled to the courtyard, where another of the conspirators shot him again. Even still, Rasputin is reported to have tried to scale a low wall with two bullets in him and a large amount of poison. In his weakened state, the men were then able to bind him and throw him into the frozen Neva River where he is thought to have finally expired. The legend states that when his body was found, his hands were forming a symbolic evil incantation to wreak vengeance on those who had slain him. And we shouldn't forget the weakness of Vampires where running water is concerned...

The Vicar wishes only to make a few points. First, Vampires are immune to poison and bullets in the mythos. So too, Rasputin. Vampires - usually male, but sometimes female (particularly where Susan Sarandon is concerned) - are said to be fond of young women, as was Rasputin. And they are thought to exercise frightening powers of will. So too, Rasputin. The upshot?

Sightings of Rasputin and encounters with him are still reported around the world.

Oh, and the Russian Museum of Erotica claims to have his penis on display. So if he is/was a Vampire, he's a dickless one.

The Vicar can't resist a bit of ribald humor from time to time.