Posted by Amaranth
Vampires: A Gothic Affair
The first recorded use of the term Vampire (or the interchangeable Vampyre) in English is in the translation of the German pamphlet entitled “The Travels of three Gentlemen, from Venice to Hamburgh, being the grand Tour of Germany, in the Year 1734.” The writer of this story tells of his meeting with Johann Weichardt von Valvasor who explaines the phenomenon of exhuming bodies and staking them which latterly became known as Magia Posthuma. The author also refers to a Latin transcript from M. Jo. Henr. Zopfius which became one of the leading descriptions of Vampires, and talks about them rising from their graves, turid and full of blood. “Their countenances are fresh and ruddy; and their nails, as well as hair, very much grown.” However reports of these exhumed vampire stakings were already rife in Hungary as early as 1732.Although the actual concept of the vampire dates much much earlier. Cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, and Romans all had tales of demons and spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. One of my favourite vampire tale is from the Jewish Aggadic midrashim: risen from the Babylonian and Assyrian tales of Lilitu – Lilith was Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam as opposed to Eve who was created from one of his ribs. Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him. She then mated with archangel Samael and never returned to the Garden of Eden. From that day onward she would forever prey on his descendants. This tale brings with it all I love about Vampires; myth, religion, ancient leanings as well as the primeval, powerful, sexual and monstrous nature of them.
Although Vampires in modern day are universally accepted as pure myth and legend, people continued to be fascinated with them. The gothic and darker cultures have understandably taken to this archetype with relish as Demondaz, a well-known figure in the UK Goth and Vampire scenes explains: “I think it is easy to see how the iconic black elegant evening wear of the vampire has been adopted by many of the traditional Goths – they may not like to hear that but vampires have been around a lot longer than the goth scene and that’s incontrovertible! Other aspects of goth, imagery; affected aloofness, pale skinned beauty, piercing and striking eyes (achieved with contact lenses if not naturally) also arguably must have origins taken from classic vampire media. You only have to look at the garment tags, shop names, of the attire that Goths like to wear and buy to see that the Vampire is an icon of gothic dress and self-image.”However Father Sebastiaan, who makes customised fangs for Vampire fans all over the world and is soon to launch his reality show “the Fangvan”, explains that interest in the vampire is not solely confined to these darker scenes: “Vampires and goths have alot in common yet more different. 95% of my fang clients are not goths, and they still love the darkness and “Vampyre Virtues” as I call them of mystery, romance, seduction, sensuality, etc. Gothic is a musical and fashion culture celebrating death. Vampirism is a mythology made manifest in people’s lives touching a much wider and diverse audience, yet still those who are “Vampyres” and embrace the lifestyle surrounding the vampire mythos are increasing.” Amusingly he goes on to suggest that while Goths are reclusive and focused on death, the vampire fans he encounters hail from a far more open and varied scenes and are focused on life: “Unlike the gothic scene which is a culture, Vampyrism is a lifestyle and is very much about engaging life, being in the world and living as much as possible. The crossover often happens in style and some musical tastes, but you would just have as many people like rap artists, ballet dancers, reggae singers, techno kids and mainstream people involved in the vampire path vs. goths who are often an introverted subculture and very boxed in.” I think this neatly encompasses the more traditional view of the Vampire to that of the recent “Twilight” age. While I would argue that in appreciating death Goths too celebrate life and indeed the Gothic countenance is a lifestyle, the seeming downplay of the darker side of the vampire and humanity in general is what makes for the easy popularisation we see today. And even this Sebastiaan can’t disagree with, “I remember 20 years ago being a “vampire” was something scary and wearing fangs on the subway in NYC would freak people out. Today when I am making fangs and kids of my clients are running up and old ladies think they are cool.” That mainstream incorporation of Vampires, which Goth is also starting to receive, becomes a double edged sword for many. While gaining acceptance for what has in the past seemed strange and/or frightening and seeing more people enjoying the genre is on the face of it, a great thing – it also tends to water down the intensity and cheapen the ideals. This jealous guarding of ones own identity is also part of the reason some Goths have derided the oft-made vampire association. For myself, while I cringe at the tabloid “vampires” there are just as many “goths” who reflect badly on that culture in the very same vein (if you pardon the pun). It can also be said that Goths who make such an adamant stand against the trappings of enjoyment the vampire culture indulge in and hold their own brand of lifestyle as law, are the flip side of the coin to those who ridiculously immerse themselves into their fantasy. Both are extremist views and it just amuses me that neither side see this. There cannot be any doubt that there are threads of commonality with the shared aesthetics, literature, music and even our largest UK Goth Festival which set in Dracula’s Whitby. It’s up to each individual which threads they choose to use and the type of cloth they choose to weave. The recent spate of Vampire themed TV series’ such as True Blood, Vampire Diaries and indeed Twilight has definitely brought the Vampire into the spotlight of late and doesn’t look like that is due to change any time soon. However both Sebastiaan and Demondaz suggest that it is not such a new phenomenon as a reoccurring resurgence and gently changing one. “The reason vampires have become fashionable in mainstream society is not new, they have always been with us and there are many generations of fans. Things move and change in this immortal archetype from ancient Sumarian Lilitu to Edward from Twilight. The vampire is everything we want to be and is almost tangible, it is something we can become or something we can be killed by, the ultimate duality and tragedy. This touches us, and since it goes in waves with Twilight and True Blood over now, some new incarnation will arise for example the new Dracula TV series.” explaines Sebastiaan. Demondaz concurs, “Arguably vampires have been perennially fashionable for many years and continue to be so. Even in mainstream and high fashion that gothic look loves to come out – normally around autumn pretty much every other year – and what were we saying about vampires and Goths and their mutual tastes in the sartorial shades of black earlier. The Aristocrats of the Night have been appearing in popular media for over 200 years now and still going strong! It is impressive in a day and age of big screen superheroes and science fiction that the old fiend, the vampire, still stands tall and proud among these peers.” So what is it that makes vampirism such an alluring subject? Dirk von Heinrichshorst who is currently creating a book on Vampires with the photography art of his wife Viona, explains his interest, “For centuries vampires have frightened and inspired people all over the world, so when working on fantasy related projects on a daily basis it’s impossible to escape the idea of embracing the vampire theme at some point in time. On top of that I think we all like the romanticized version of the vampire, especially being very beautiful and living forever, which is certainly appealing.” For Sebastiaan his particular fascination with vampires started with his mother who loved horror movies and introduced them too him: “Of all the spirits, zombies, werewolves, serial killers and other evil monsters, vampires stood out, they were intelligent, mysterious, magical, artistic, cultured and served as a great role model for me. More heroic villains, and inspired me for the empowering elements of their nature, especially since I am an eternal optimist and try to see the best in everyone.” Demondaz explains his interest thus, “I have been fascinated, perhaps somewhat obsessed, by vampires for many years now. They are the iconic aristocrats of the night; stylish, sexy, seductive and the very epitome of evil – but done in such a manner that, curiously, they become the anti-hero and always steal the scene – and a few hearts on the way!”
So however you decide to enjoy your vampire indulgence or worship in the House of Goth, build your own legend and enjoy it for the brief respite it is, until we meet again in the bright light of reality.
Order Noble Blood Vampire Chronicles Book and Prints: Kickstarter
Read about Viona & Dirk’s Vampire Ball: Danse Macabre
Custom Made Vampire Fangs: Master Fangsmith
Father Sebastiaan’s upcoming reality show: The FangVan
The Dastardly Dandy Demondaz: Facebook Page