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Real-life vampires in New Orleans and Atlanta take us into their world

Real-life vampires in New Orleans and Atlanta take us into their world



CNN

When Maven Lore was equipped for his first set of fangs, a switch within him turned on.

“Something just came to the surface and everything was good for once in my life,” he said. “I had an idea that there was more to it than just pointy teeth.”

He didn’t know what to call the feeling then, or that it would take him from New York to New Orleans, but now he knows it was an “awakening”: his first taste of life as a vampire.

Lore was found in New Orleans and never left. Now making custom acrylic fangs himself, he’s risen to the (reluctantly accepted) role of king of the Big Easy vampire court.

“Being a part of the New Orleans Vampire Court means we all come together – one person’s win is a win for all of us,” he said. “We’re all just kind of ‘sink or swim’ together.”

Human vampires are alive and quite far from the fictional creatures we recognize. Their interpretations of vampirism vary widely—many of them feed on energy or sexual encounters—but feeding habits and fangs are just the trappings of a community as diverse as non-vampires misunderstand it. You might not even know they’re vampires, at least not if you’re looking for stereotypical tips. There are no restrictions on self-identified vampires – they are not tied to the nightlife or required to worship fictional vampires.

Today’s vampires (sometimes spelled “vampires”) are, in essence, people from diverse backgrounds with a common goal—belonging—who have found community with their fellow vampires. Living as a vampire is a subversive choice, a proud rejection of social norms. And in that way, it’s an empowering way of life, said John Edgar Browning, a professor of liberal arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design who has spent years studying vampire communities in New Orleans and Buffalo, New York.

“Human vampires make accessible the infinite potential that exists to expose and remove the repressive and oppressive categories from which marginalization is born,” he told CNN. “So in a way, these vampires are therapeutic for us.”

CNN spoke with two giants of their communities, Lore of New Orleans and Merticus, the co-founder Atlanta Vampire Allianceabout their lives, their joys and the misconceptions about vampirism that they would like to dispel forever.

First: Yes, a few modern-day vampires consume blood, often from consenting donors—usually loved ones or partners—in small amounts. But many refrain from or condemn the practice and instead find sustenance in sexual encounters or other experiences from which they can draw energy (Lore and Merticus among them). When the strangers feign fear and ask Lore if he will drink their blood, he jokes, “No, that’s called murder.”

While the uninitiated are usually most interested in eating habits, Lore says that’s not what’s important to vampires. (He compared asking vampires about their eating habits to asking non-vampires if they eat cold cuts.)

Many vampires do not fit the archetypes of Bram Stoker et al. popularized. These are people who often work day jobs – Lore is also a graphic designer, DJ and goldsmith; Merticus is a specialist in antique furniture.

The Lore Maven has found his community in New Orleans, where he is now king of the city's vampire court.

And most human vampires weren’t even attracted to the community because they worshiped Dracula. In his ethnographic studies of human vampiresBrowning said he found that members of vampire communities are mostly drawn to each other because of social elements rather than an affinity for vampire media.

“I wouldn’t call them vampire fans at all, just people with a shared history from adolescence, an innate need for blood or energy, and a shared need to find others like them who embrace it,” Browning said.

Merticus sought answers from others like him when he joined vampire chat rooms in 1996 after years of noticing that he could “draw strength from charged situations,” which he later realized was psychic feeding.

“I’ve never felt like my body or even this time period matched my spirit or my soul,” he told CNN. “Or more simply… I always felt there was something different about me that I couldn’t put my finger on.”

He made friends in those chat rooms that are still in his life today, and offline those connections became even stronger.

Lore found those connections when he first visited New Orleans 24 years ago, a few days before Halloween. He has lived there ever since.

“I didn’t even know there was a community,” he said. “But they were family.”

And now so are his family. He’s earned a significant role in the NOLA vampire scene: in addition to his blacksmithing job, he’s also a mentor to young vampires, a role he stumbled upon but accepted anyway. He resists being called a “peacekeeper” between the vampires in the area, though he is known to regularly counsel and settle disputes among members.

“We all just want to get along and be loved – that’s why I love the vampire community,” Lore said. “It doesn’t fucking matter what race you are… what gender you are. You are accepted.”

The enduring popularity of fictional vampires means that Merticus and others must constantly clarify that they are not like the nocturnal bloodsuckers that continue to amuse and terrify us. In fact, Merticus said, many human vampires “stay out of the public eye” because of many misconceptions about what it means to be a vampire and fear or retaliation from the people they know.

Now, Merticus said he’s working to educate people that vampirism is “a combination of physical, mental… and spiritual attributes,” and that vampires are generally productive members of society.

Vampirism is often associated with the occult – and fictional vampires have been known to engage in human sacrifice among other gruesome acts. The idea that the vampire subculture “encourages and condones such behavior” is untrue, Merticus said. Human vampire communities, on the other hand, welcome members of all religious communities.

Both vampires have stated that they resist recognition simply because of the fact that they identify as vampires. And they certainly defy the aesthetic stereotypes of vampirism: Merticus said he doesn’t wear fangs or goth clothing, and Lore describes his nocturnal style as a cross between a smart suit and ’80s rock ‘n’ roll. (When he makes fangs, he prefers to keep them loose in his spare time.)

Fortunately, however, Merticus said, the direction in which the portrayal of fictional vampires is going is a positive, multifaceted one—gone are the days of one-dimensional, white-skinned bloodsuckers.

“Hollywood’s interpretation of the vampire slowly began to turn the vampire into something more human than monster,” he said, referring to Barnabas Collins, the protagonist of the gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows,” David Bowie’s “The Hunger” and the adaptation of the Anne Rice classic, “Interview with the Vampire.” .

“The humanity of vampires struck a chord with the audience,” Merticus said.

Lestat (Sam Reid) and Louis (Jacob Anderson) in this year's TV adaptation

But those and more popular vampire properties only increase the media’s attention to human vampires off-screen. Merticus said he prefers to keep in the “shadows” – many vampire houses, clans, organizations and individuals have “done quite well” without all the fuss.

“This is what makes the tapestry of our collective experiences such a richly rewarding and personal connection as we age together,” he said.

But as long as there is interest in human vampires, Merticus said he will be a somewhat reluctant spokesperson for them. He even conducted surveys among vampires to learn more about their origins, eating habits, and social lives.

Both Lore and Merticus said that vampirism does not take up their whole lives. Both are in committed relationships with non-vampires, they said, and being a vampire is just one aspect of who they are, not their defining quality.

Merticus’ Atlanta vampire coven has largely evolved into a relatively small, tight-knit crew of “aging vampires,” he said. The Georgia vampire’s life is relatively quieter than Lore’s – he prefers to hang out at restaurants, bars and cultural events rather than work and play in sleepless downtown New Orleans.

Just as some vampire groups in New York are very influential, almost political organizations, and the vampire community in Ohio is mostly psychic nurturers, according to Merticus, each vampire house, clan, or court has its own traditions and nuances.

“Most of us communicate with each other even if we approach the path of vampirism from different ways of belief and practice,” Merticus said.

Vampires of all kinds, from all over the US, want to support and protect the people who have become their family. Like family, they bicker and disagree (that’s where Lore steps in, to mediate). But the goal, say Lore and Merticus, is always unity.

“Unity to me doesn’t mean we’re all the same,” Lore said. “It means a single purpose. We are all family despite our differences; sometimes we love each other because of our differences.”



#Reallife #vampires #Orleans #Atlanta #world

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