Abandoning the Masquerade: Revisited

Oh, god, not this again.

Unlike the gaja, Goths and Hot Topic mall rats that make up ninety percent of the so-called “vampire community,” I didn’t Awaken to the Vampyric condition after reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles or Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter and suddenly deciding that I wanted to be a “vampire.” To the best of my recollection, my Awakening came in 2015 in a small town in Rhode Island—post-trauma, a dazed amnesiac, confused and unable to comprehend what I’d become. Being scooped up by neo-Nazi Satanists instilled within me an appreciation for military history, predatory spirituality, strict discipline and misanthropy, but not much else. Before long, I ended up back in New York City by the spring of 2016, finding myself within the remnants of the Sanguinarium shortly after and only then instructed by true Vampyric teachers who could offer lessons of substance, value and more balanced spirituality.

I don’t care for vampire fiction. I know the names—Dracula, Blade, Lestat. I know the books and the movies only through word of mouth, cable television and Wikipedia. I only know of vampire fiction what I know because the “VC” never shuts up about them, the obsessed wannabes they are. I even tried reading through the Anne Rice books, trying to rationalize how an entire community can idolize and relate to immortal pedophiles, masochists and serial killers.

Then comes Masquerade.

I don’t like role-players. I am careful not to say Masqueraders. I mean role-players, playing at something they so desperately want to be, something many of us already are. I refuse to respect or perpetuate the delusions of those depraved lunatics within the false “vampire” community, and the only reason I get so hostile is because god, there’s just so many of them. Look at the True Blood fetishists who have become the poster children for the false “VC.” It’s like they say, everything’s bigger in Texas—case in point, the collective delusion of grandeur that due to privilege and money, one can role-play as a True Blood or Anne Rice “vampire” and that’s somehow okay. I wasn’t aware that we were the one facet of the neopagan community which willfully encourages delusion and mental illness.

Oh, wait, no, we’re not. But that’s beside the point.

So there’s this tabletop role-playing game called Vampire: the Masquerade. It was popular in the early nineties, led some redneck blood fetishist to kill his girlfriend’s parents, and is allegedly responsible for the eventual convalescence of the vampire community as it’s known today. Like most tabletop RPGs, the game was only popular with the typical geek-types before somehow infiltrating the neopagan community, which managed to use it as a bonding tool. So much for separating reality from fantasy, which most people in these various communities are still unable to do today, as the neopagan community overall has similar issues with role-players of their own. Have you taken a look at the otherkin community recently?

The plague on the “VC” is not so much the particular franchise itself. Not at all, and forgive me if I previously implied otherwise. The issue is the concept of the role-playing identity that has become like a cancer to this sham community, the idea that a person attempting to pass off a baseless “vampire” identity is encouraged without giving any consideration to reality. They might base their lifestyles and appearances off of TV and film rather than the Masquerade game or old fiction books. Many of them have probably never played or even heard of the game. As I mentioned, there are the True Blood lifestylers, famous for their lavish wedding paid for mostly by the bride’s former stripping career. There’s another role-player in Texas we don’t mention anymore who leads an S&M sex cult and calls himself Imperator. I even occasionally encounter a handful of loonies who seem to have combined Harry Potter-inspired lore with what generally comes across to me as whitewashed Hotep-ery and bad Scorpion King fan fiction. I’m expected to consider all these unmedicated freaks “vampires,” even though the latter group can barely even speak English.

This is what I’ve meant by “role playing,” as these dodo birds are literally playing a role derived from Hollywood fiction. It stopped being about a game ages ago. Now they are the game.

While pursuing philosophy, mysticism or metaphysics—i.e., what arguably makes Vampyres actually Vampyric—is exciting in its own right, it doesn’t bestow even upon the best of us the ability to fly, make slaves out of people, shapeshift into bats or wisps of smoke or any of that foolishness. Vampyrism and Vampyric practiceno matter how badly you want them todo not bear some long, conspiratorially-buried pseudo-history going back to Ancient Egypt or [insert dead civilization here], an idea pioneered by Anne Rice at a time where Egyptology had reached its peak level of interest to common folk. It isn’t anything to do with ol’ Count Dracula, as another “VC” cult alleges. Attempts to rewrite and appropriate history around a fictitious concept of “vampirism” more at home in a tired Blade sequel than in reality are nothing more than delusions on the part of those who have nothing greater to pursue in their droll, meaningless lives.

That is the bitter, unpleasant truth.

Other, more flippant role-players might sleep in coffins, adopt unhealthy habits like avoiding sunlight and likely partake in any manner of paraphilia which involves ingesting or otherwise interacting with human blood for non-ritualistic purposes. Some are simply ascended Goths now too washed-up to be “hip” but too stubborn to drop the act and pathologically depend upon the fictitious “vampire” identity to maintain their sanity. Just ask Ricki Lake, she’ll vouch for me.

Within the lexicon of the old Sanguinarium, these “wannabes” and “fruit bats” were referred to as what many people correctly assume is my favorite slur: gaja.

Gaja¹ /ga’jah/ — really annoying fashion or ‘wannabe’ vamps.

©2009, Sanguinomicon: The Vampyre Lexicon (version 3.0)

The gaja, a termed appropriated from Romani, is any such person who desperately attempts to pass themselves off as “vampires,” using all the stereotypical trappings of garish makeup, velvet capes (How gauche! But it happens.), Scarecrow® brand fangs or nauseatingly histrionic personalities and superiority complexes to assume what they believe—or what Hollywood tells them—that “vampires” are supposed to act like. Recall the VC’s fictional hero Lestat of Anne Rice fame, the narcissistic pedophile, rapist and serial killer that so many gaja idolize. It should come as no surprise that the flesh-and-blood role models of the “VC”, then, would be as equally sexually depraved.

Needless to say, the gaja are anathema to the Strigoi Vii/Vampyre, usually viewed contemptuously as mere “kids in capes,” food or foe.

Let’s revisit the Masquerade, though, and how some neopagans in the nineties with poor choices in hobbies decided that LARPs were good places to seek legitimate occultists. I thought we were trying to avoid the fundamentalist Christian, Satanic panic-era conspiracy that role-playing was a direct path into occult practice—and to those who enjoyed these silly games as a child and actually grew up to be legitimate practitioners of the ‘Craft, forgive me for so thoroughly trolling your awkward teenage years, but kudos for growing out of that nonsense. (shrug emoji)

According to some very poorly cited sources, the general plot of the Masquerade franchise was apparently inspired by the exploits of some vampiric club goers in Atlanta, Georgia, where today still stands the Masquerade nightclub. (Yes, really.) While the only references I can find are one sentence in Vampires in Their Own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices (Belanger, 2007) and a long, unverifiable essay from a chronicle published here in New York City, we do have some employees of White Wolf Publishing on record about drawing inspiration from neopagan groups and practices.

Figure that—people stealing practices from a group of practicing vampires and attempting to pass it off as “original.” Hmm, where have I heard that recently? Oh, right. Everywhere.

The gaja are quick to quote the all-time famous line that even I’ve managed to memorize—“Vampyres pretending to be humans pretending to be ‘vampires’—and it would not be that surprising to find that this origin story might just be true. Let’s accept, for now, that it is. The various false “vampire” cults and other gaja vermin have always needed to steal from an external source for their own lack of creativity, anyway, which is also why we see, for example, so many of these “glam-pires” wearing Egyptian ankhs, particularly in silver.

But I must begrudgingly admit that it is true that the Masquerade LARPs did play a significant part in forming what we now accept as the “VC,” even here in New York City, where Vampyre culture was first born—and then promptly stolen, raped and bastardized by you folks.

One of the main movers and shakers who sat at the helm of the creation of New York City’s vampire community has gone on record about his interest in the lore of the role-playing game but his ultimate dissatisfaction with the rigidity of LARPing as a concept and a desire to construct from this otherwise worthless dross what we now recognize as a “vampire community.” I can’t bring myself to read through that massive green monstrosity—the guidebook—but I’m willing to assume that whatever activities the patrons of the Atlanta nightclub carried out were modified and published in book form, only for what was originally a fangsmith guild from the Ren Faire to breath reality back into it. Funny how the real world works, a cosmic conundrum. So, twenty-odd years later—and odd they certainly were—here we are.

Originally, I found this origin story to be rather shameful and patronizing. But when I take a look at the so-called “vampire community,” then compare it side-by-side to the more respectable and culturally superior Sanguinarium and Sabretooth Clan, I suddenly don’t feel as bad.

Face it, individuals with an interest in the occult have had to deal with patronizing in a myriad of forms, from Netflix’s inflammatory Sabrina reboot to Halloween costumes, Harry Potter and more. Not to mention gaja and cosplayers within the broader “vampire” community; furries, yiffs and what I have come to call “Tumblr-kin” which have plagued the Therian, Fera and Otherkin communities; and these New Age poseurs all decked out in quartz crystals that the neopagan community has had to deal with since about 2009.

As for me, we already know how I feel and view myself. The militancy and discipline I’d only recently come to appreciate—that which I learned during my experimentation with the Sinister Traditions—mixed with the pageantry and traditions of the Sanguinarium that I now hold dear, and the ritual and mysteries of the Strigoi Vii paradigm which, though few choose to acknowledge it, redefined an entire occult movement and molded me into what I am today.

Those familiar with the Triumvirate of the Kheprian tradition are already familiar of the basics of the Roads of the Strigoi Vii—the Mradu warrior, the Ramkht mystic and the Kitra concubine. Yes, I’m aware that other paths have stolen this caste system as recently as 2007, but that’s Michelle’s problem, not mine. What I do know is how much in the last year I have resonated with the Ramkht: Vampyre scribe, priest, shaman, inspirator, death-speaker. I might be militant like a Mradu, and the Kitra have their own witchy resonances, but in my heart I am a Ramkht. I came to syncretize the mysteries of the Ordo Strigoi Vii, which even many Sabretooths have yet to solve, with my reverence for Shinto and Afro-Caribbean folk religions, and here I am—Sanguine priest, scribe and visionary.

So, in essence, it would be my experience walking upon the Path of Strigoi Vii, the Living Vampyre, that explains why I view role-playing as crude and immature and view the LARPers themselves with such disgust and contempt. Having gone into real trances and performing actual rituals, I find the idea of a person playing at being their misconception of a “vampire” as more than a bit garish, if not totally offensive. Most Vampyres tolerate gaja as food or generally ignore them, but with my militant intolerance of imperfection and error, it is a bit more difficult for me to pretend as though I don’t see these charlatans going on reality shows or being interviewed for magazines as though they possessed any more substance than a bag of Lays potato chips. For online groups such as Vampire Community News to go on and perpetuate such cancer is equally shameful and irritating, and you can tell them I said that.

We are so quick to attack the so-called “plastic shaman,” the New Ager who misguidedly appropriates Native American religious beliefs and practices for personal gain, but will tolerate the “plastic fang-bangers” in our own midst. That baffles me utterly. It’s about as inflammatory as a “sexy Pocahontas” costume, quite frankly. To tolerate role-playing and delusion within a community claiming to be for “vampires” is to say that the ritual practices and mystical experiences of a learned Brother or Sister of the Blood are worthless, a joke or a game. Obviously, LARPing will never go away, but being a Strigoi Vii, I prefer to avoid like leprosy anything even seemingly LARP-ish as I try my damnedest to avoid Goths and mall rats. One is judged by the company one keeps, you know.

So it is from this perspective, almost eighteen months later, that I still set my face against those who are only capable of playing vampire and are too ignorant or primitive to pursue what they likely could not comprehend, anyway. The “VC”—this so-called “vampire” community where one must search so vigilantly for any real, actual Vampyres—is a cesspool for this cancer that has reduced our community to a laughingstock to the outside, a Coney Island sideshow for MTV and online tabloids. The other paths that play at “vampirism” by stealing Sanguinarium/Strigoi Vii (and by extension, TOV) traditions and claiming them as their own, who turn around and disrespect their forebears without whom they wouldn’t be able to plagiarize their false belief system in the first place, are little more than clusters of dissociative asarai dependent on their various tomes of flowery Gothic poetry and culturally-appropriating pseudohistory for their fictional role-play identities.

Looking back, I do see that this entire essay is really insensitive to the few grounded, mature folks with both feet firmly planted in reality who can distinguish between fantasy and reality and want nothing more to enjoy a nice game of Masquerade or D&D with their peers, and for that insensitivity, I do apologize. But until such time when the “vampires” of the poorly named “vampire community” can actually pursue something real and compose themselves with even the slightest amount of self-respect and dignity—two things the “VC” totally lacks—nuisances such as this must be pointed out, addressed, and shamed if it comes to that.

On a personal note, here within the confines of Gotham Halo, you find few people who actually ever played the game but who use the Clans of the Masquerade as a kind of simplistic, morbid zodiac. The manic bipolar embarrassments who smash bottles and make sideshows of themselves after one too many drinks at Haven are more often than not labeled “Malkavian,” a Clan in which every member is an erratic, schizophrenic headcase. A fruity fop like me, meanwhile, more inclined towards civility, high culture and fine art, would be labeled a “Toreador,” the most sensual and seductive of the “Kindred,” as vampires are called in White Wolf canon. If I did not so revile the role-playing game, I would see that this was a compliment, as my former prospective Sire—essentially a short, bald, prettier and more promiscuous version of myself—proudly (in jest!) takes the title of King of the Toreadors.

Taking this unhealthy obsession many hold in consideration, it still raises the question of whether actual Vampyres can be found even in the last remaining bastion of tradition and culture the so-called “vampire” community has left to steal from.

If everything that makes you a “vampire” is drawn from fiction, perhaps you’re living just that: fiction.

Or perhaps… Perhaps, I’m just a stick in the mud.

Vincent Irkalla, signing off
31 Jan, SY 23

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