Unpopular Opinion about Cultural Appropriation in the Spirit Keeping Community
So here’s a popular belief: We should not work with spirits that are not a part of our own culture. Okay… I can understand that to an extent. Some cultures are very sacred, and we Americans are trademarked as being brash and… kind of unappreciative of what we have. But listen. Here’s the unpopular side.
We aren’t forbidden from working with spirits of other cultures. Am I forbidden for working with the Aztec goddess Xochiquetzal because I’m a Caucasian American? No, I’m not. After a year of enlightening work and meditation with her, I never felt like she was angry that I worked with her. In fact I felt that she was calling as my matron for some time before I even knew who she was. I work with many different culture spirits, and here’re my thoughts:
Cultural appropriation is really, really silly when it comes to the spirit world. Yes, it’s important for you to understand other cultures depending on what spirits you’re working with because you don’t want to offend them by giving them the wrong kind of offering or performing the wrong kind of ritual, but if you have the spirit’s permission to work with them, what’s the big deal? Besides, many of us have had past lives from different cultures, and we like to connect to our past life soulmates and previous friends. Cutting off ties with certain spirits because of their culture is not cultural appropriation IMO. It’s racism. It’s being SO careful about who you offend that you’re actually offending the spirit you’re trying NOT to. I hope that makes sense. You’re being overly careful here. If you call on a spirit and they say, “I don’t want to work with you because you’re a _____,” then thank them for their time and say goodbye. And DON’T WORK WITH THEM.
But if the spirit in question is completely fine with working with you, I think you would be doing DAMAGE to your relationship with them and offending them more if you said, “I can’t work with you because I’m a ______ and not a _______ of your culture.”
I’ve had Arab Djinn approach me in the past. Japanese Tanuki and Kitsune, Catholic Saints, Germanic Alps, Romanian Vampires, and Greek god messengers. I accept them all as friends or mentors, and I appreciate and respect their cultures. Unlike the popular opinion on Americans, I don’t take, take, take. I accept the spirit, appreciate their culture, and respect them.
…I’m gonna get so much hate for this. I just know it.
This was a fantastic and very informative read, but if you don’t mind my
asking… if the creatures we tend to think of as “traditional”
vampires don’t come from Romanian folklore, is there a place where they do come from? Or are they really just a hodge-podge of complete fiction and misinterpreted myths from different regions?
Okay, I should preface this by saying that I’m not a folklorist and that I have no formal training in tracing the spread of folk beliefs and how they develop. I’m also going to fess up and note that while I personally am sold on the claim that strigoi are best classed as something other than vampires, there have been enough writers claiming them as vampires that I’m pretty sure that the line between them and vampires has blurred a little as a result. In particular, Emily Gerard (author of The Land Beyond the Forest and “Transylvanian Superstitions”) was a major influence on Stoker’s depiction of vampires and she cites a bunch of “vampire” myths that she claims to be Romanian in origin, and this has undoubtedly led to the modern vampire being a composite in which strigoi myths must play some part.
With that in mind, my general, not-terribly-exciting stance on the origin of vampires is that they come from Slavic-language-speaking regions that actually have mythical beings called something that sounds like “vampire” (Ex: vampir, wampir upir). I would be absolutely unsurprised if there was cross-pollination with other folkloric creatures, as is clearly the case with the strigoi at this point, and its very evident that a number of now deeply entrenched vampiric attributes are purely literary or cinematic inventions. However, at the end of the day, I’m inclined to give the original “vampire” to groups with monsters by that name, even if there is an inescapable hodgepodgeiness to the vampire we now consider “traditional.” This isn’t to say that there’s some static, singular Slavic vampire that’s the “real” thing, but rather that that’s the general direction in which one should look in trying to explore how our conception of vampires has evolved.
My basic guess as to the course of said evolution? I’m obviously not the ultimate authority on the topic, but if you want my general impression of how we got from the Slavic folkloric being behind the European newspaper stories of the 1730s and what we have today, here’s what I’d propose:
Pre-1700-1800s: Slavic vampires are a thing. They’re not particularly vampire-y by today’s standards. They’re basically zombies with a different dietary restriction, and they also sometimes steal your corn pudding, spook your cattle, wreck your crops and generally do the sort of nefarious stuff in your community that might prompt you and your pals to exhume some bodies and stab them in the hopes that the effects of plague, famine, and misfortune might be averted. You can generally kill these puppies via decapitation or staking; they sometimes have issues with apotropaic plants, running water, and/or religious symbols; and they always always always flee back to their grave when you are not asleep and being attacked.
1819: John Polidori does the one sort of competent thing in his life in that he writes a totally incompetent story about how Lord Byron is a vampire and incompetently gets it attributed to Byron himself. Vampires are now sapient people that can pass as human and are also predatory, libertine aristocrats. They are no longer jerkbag corpses that you can never seem to spot up and about; they can now hang out with you, entice you into gambling and debauchery, and murder your sister.
1820s-1890s: Lots of vampire literature happens, but it isn’t Dracula. Lots of literary vampire trends come in and out of fashion, but we tend not to remember them because they aren’t Dracula. Something that we don’t remember is how literary vampires had to either get married to keep being vampires or get married to stop being vampires. We also don’t remember that vampires, instead of burning in the sunlight, used to recharge in the moonlight. Back in the day, you could shoot/stab/strangle/whatev a vampire, and it would have the decency to die… only it would pop back up like a daisy if cold moonbeams hit it. This is sort of interesting, because stuff like the marriage and moonlight rules aren’t folkloric; they’re literary conventions that have just gone out of fashion. We do, however, remember some of the literary conventions that developed during this time, partially because some had folkloric backing, and partially because they appear in…
1897: DRACULA! Okay. Carmilla probably should get a brief mention because it was obviously on Bram’s radar enough that he initially thought of setting his book in Styria, but sadly Carm’s vampire mythos contributions pretty much get overshadowed at this point. Dracula happens and then vampires change. While the novel includes a lot of folklorically-derived stuff (some cribbed earlier vampire works, some taken from authors like Gerard), Stoker introduces some elements that are new (having to sleep in special dirt, having to be invited in, having no reflection, being really upset about garlic in particular instead of any of the gazillion other herbs vampires hate, etc…). Despite the fact that he appears to have made some of this up or ganked it from the attributes of Mephistolfeles in a recent production of Faust, this is the stuff that becomes vampire gospel. Our concept of the “traditional vampire” now does these things because Dracula is that big.
1922: Nosferatu happens. Orlok shows up, dissolves at the cock’s crow, nearly gets erased from history by Florence Stoker, but nevertheless gives vampires their pernicious sunlight allergy. I’m not the greatest at twentieth-century vampire media, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this attribute isn’t really set in stone until Christopher Lee starts catching fire in the 50s-70s.
1931: Dracula is soldified as the most important vampire thing in the history of vampires. The suavity of vampirekind also might have gotten a little off course in the journey from Ruthven to Orlok, and Bela shows up and reasserts that vampires are aristocratic in bearing and generally aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, Dwight Frye as Renfield sets up people’s expectations for the archetypal vampiric ghoul/servitor/minion for like… forever.
1950s-1980s: If you weren’t painfully aware of the fact that vampires are all about assaulting busty hapless women, Hammer Horror hammers home that vampires are -in fact- all about that, and it does so in glorious technicolor. In the meantime, Barnabas Collins helps to start the trend of vampires actually secretly being sympathetic characters full of vampires feelings, a trend that continues through various 1970s Dracula productions and eventually finds its best known expression in Lestat’s boyfriend bemoaning how dark the night is into a tape recorder.
1980s-Now: Vampires get more sympathetic, more punk, more trenchcoaty, and more popular. Then they sparkle, and everyone acts like this is some sort of travesty, because their non-Slavic, sapient, sympathetic, aristocratic, invitation-needing, sun-susceptible, trench-coat-wearing vampires are the real vampires™
and not just another iteration of a monster that’s been continually changing in popular culture for nearly three centuries.
*sighs and pulls his coat off, getting ready to rant*
Let me get several things clear firstly.
I do not go “bleh bleh bleh I vant to suvk your blood.” I am not Romanian. All vampires are not Romanian. A tiny minority are Romanian but the majority come from other European countries or even non-European countries.
I am not allergic to garlic. Garlic is a beautiful seasoning. But I am not going to start choking on my own breath and start dying if you wave it in my face. I will kill you if you wave it in my face like a pansy.
I don’t wear a cape. I don’t stalk people around in hopes of getting blood. Masculine blood is quite bitter and bland for my own tastes and I prefer a sweeter blood that is found in feminine blood.
My biggest pet peeve of societal views on vampires and the sensationalization is how………
APPARENTLY WE ARE ROMANTIC LITERARY DEVICES.
HOW IN THE EVERLOVING FUCK AM I “A SEXUAL CREATURE OF THE NIGHT?!?!?!”
You have best-selling books depicting my race as a sexual creature that SPARKLES in the FUCKING SUN AND CHASES AFTER WOMEN. LEFT, RIGHT AND CENTER LIKE A CHILD ON A SUGAR RUSH.I am not a child on a sugar rush. I am not wanting to bone every woman I see like Laito.
I AM NOT AN OPENLY SEXUAL VAMPIRE GOD LIKE MY BROTHERS MAY TRY TO BE.
I AM A WELL-MANNERED GENTLEMAN WHO STICKS STRICTLY TO HIS VIEWS AND VALUES.
I do not appreciate being sexualised.
I do not appreciate having sexual versions of myself all over the internet and I do not appreciate having girls thinking it would be romantic to be bitten by a vampire.
sending love to all the wonderful people put there who are kin with a culturally-specific mythical creature!!! all my welsh dragons, japanese demons, romanian vampires - you are not too obscure or just being fussy!
Romanian Countess slash vampire. She is often known as dracula, but she is a lady not a monster. She’s just a little more pale than others and need blood to survive. If she invites you over, she may politely ask for you to share some of your blood.
This is the castle of Dracula, in Bran, Romania. Well, Vlad Tepes was here, but not for a long time. Tourists don’t care. They like this castle and the story of Dracula. Anyway, it’s a beautiful photograph!
People could say what they liked about the dangers of hanging out with vampires; especially human drinking ones, and how stupid you were for even thinking about it let alone doing it. You’d take ten times the danger if it meant getting the sheer amusement you did from it all over again. Introducing the millennia old Romanian vampires to modern music had been a blast, their faces complete pictures of bewilderment, but nothing lived up to the look on Stefan’s face when Vladimir admitted just how much he enjoyed it.