Archive for the ‘ biographical ’ Category

Benecke – take two

It’s been a long time, and i’d promised this post to be up very soon, sorry about that. There’s been a bunch of real-life stuff going on keeping me busy, sorting out long-standing issues in my life, it’s actually quite good.

But i still want to talk about Dr Benecke, even though i’m no longer in that rush of “he’s so awesome!” which i’d been in right after the WGT. Having had a little more time to reflect on it i also understand better just what was so awesome about the encounter.

To frame the whole thing: the WGT is a major goth (and associated) festival in germany. The   german vampire forum i participate in uses the WGT as an excuse to organise a get-together, one of several throughout the year. And no, they’re not all goths, but quite a few of them are, and the WGT is fun anyway. The meetup begins with a brunch on sunday morning, at a cruel time for those of us who have been partying three nights already. One of the forum-member who had met Benecke previously rather spontaneously invited him to be our guest of honour at the brunch, and that’s how i encountered him.

He’s a man of many talents: by trade a forensic biologist, he’s also a member of the ig-noble committee, an author, a public speaker (in both academic and general settings), and an expert on (real) vampires [1]. He’s pierced and heavily tattooed, very enthusiastic about anything he focuses on, springing from subject to subject, his mind finding links and connections everywhere. He has a strong tendency to draw one along with his enthusiasm.

Benecke wasn’t just at the WGT as our guest, of course. He also, on saturday and sunday, gave presentations as one of the many events at the WGT (in this case he spoke on serial killers, it was very interesting). During brunch he proposed to reserve seats for us, and make sure that we could get in, as the venue (a large theatre) was likely to be overly full. In the general enthusiasm i agreed to come along, and was not disappointed (just being ushered in as VIPs while a crowd had to wait outside was worth it *grins cheekily*).

But what has all this got to do with vampires and donors, you ask? I’m getting to the point (two points actually), and i apologise for being so wordy, but without a bit of context it really loses impact.

So we’re sitting there in the theatre, Benecke is on stage, beginning his presentation. He introduces himself, his work, how the presentation will go, etc. He does the usual round of thanks to the organisers and helpers and all. Then he welcomes his special guests, the vampires. We are all cheering, and presumably gathering strange looks from the rest of the audience, but Benecke is utterly deadpan, as if it were the most normal thing in the world to have a bunch of vampires in the audience, and furthermore as if there were nothing particular at all about openly acknowledging that [2].

He then continues to say that of course those in the community know what a black swan is, but for those who don’t know, a black swan is a special friend of vampires. And now he offers t-shirts just for them in his merchandise stand [3]. We cheered some more, of course, and then he dove right into the presentation.

Both of these are perhaps small things. What is so special about a t-shirt with a black swan design? Indeed if you don’t have anything to do with vampires it is nothing much. But vampires are already outsiders, perpetually at the edge of society (and if a vampire has a “respectable” position in society they have to keep their vampirism well separated from their public life). Us donors, even if we’re not outsiders in the vampire community, are nonetheless at the edge of the VC. All to often donors are overlooked, we do not appear in the books or articles or tv-reports, we are not interviewed by reporters. It is not that we are obviously disrespected, but very often we’re only found on the periphery of the VC.

Thus getting very public acknowledgment like this is always pleasing. It’s also nice to find some merch for us: there is vampire-specific merchandise everywhere, whether we’re talking about clothing or jewellery, “blood”-drinks (there’s the Tru-Blood drink, and an energy-drink which comes in a pouch styled on a blood-pouch), or even fangs. But if you’re looking for stuff for donors, for swans, then you’ve got a long search ahead of you.

But just as important was the casualness with which Benecke welcomed us. I’ve been attending meetings of various out-groups for a long time now, always as a member of that group. Self-help groups for people with eating disorders, groups of trans-folk, most recently, vampire meetups. Of course the thing which brings us together in these meetings is the way in which we are “other”, but once we’re there a twofold dynamic develops. On the one hand, within that group we are no longer defined by our otherness, our otherness doesn’t distinguish us anymore. That allows us to be ourselves, and to forget about being other for a while. On the other hand, it enables us to speak freely about the otherness.

Whether somebody is searching for support, looking for answers to questions which they just can’t ask anywhere else, or whether somebody is remarking on some incredibly ironic or funny situation which can only be ironic or funny if you share this otherness: these are conversations which you can only have if, just for a little moment, you can be normal.

What Benecke did there, when he welcomed us like that, was make us normal. And not just normal to ourselves, but normal to everybody sitting in that theatre.

[1] i have not yet read his book on the subject, so can’t vouch for it directly. A third and expanded edition is currently in preparation, and several friends have been consulted for that, so i’m rather optimistic about it.
[2] Hah! Take that, black veil!
[3] Available here, sorry that the link is only in german.

i was on TV!

Ok, so this is rather random, but i want to post it anyway. You remember how i said we played V:tM at the WGT? There was a guy with a camera there. I didn’t think about it much, but it turns out he was making a report for the MDR, a german tv-station.

Here’s the clip (link doesn’t work anymore, sorry), sorry it’s in german. I’m the crazy chick at 1:12, with red hair and yellow eyes.

</shameless self-promotion>

p.s. the promised posts are coming soon.

Parasites and symbionts

So i’ve promised you all some other posts, but this one is fresh from the press:

Donating, to me, is usually a win-win situation. At the very least it is a pleasant experience for both the vampire and me. Usually the vampire gets significant benefits, in particular sangs might benefit for weeks. For me a good feeding means deep restful sleep, a chance to relax from my usual overcharged state, and often also a break for my body during which it can heal from my everyday stresses.

It is not quite a symbiotic relationship, because in a true symbiotic relationship the two species are dependent on each other. But it is certainly one from which both the vampire and i benefit, and that’s without even considering any altruistic motivation.

But some vampires are parasites. They slip in a link when you’re unaware, when you’re preoccupied, when you’re tired from lack of sleep or from illness. They don’t ask, don’t negotiate, they disguise the drain with symptoms of illness, and then they just draw all that they can. Once they’ve drained enough, they don’t even disguise it any more, as you’re too weak to defend yourself anyway.

I’m lucky enough to have a very experienced psi-vamp and energy-worker, one who recognises the symptoms and can stop the parasite (and hopefully hurt them in the process). But getting attacked by a parasite like this is not something i wish on anybody.

I like vamps, i like the vampire community. Most vampires are friendly, open, very accepting of otherness. Most vampires are also very polite about feeding, never feed without explicit consent, and very conscientious about after-care. But idiots like this parasite, they throw the whole community into disrepute.

Vampires at the WGT

I was away for a bit, attending the Wave-Gotik-Treffen (WGT) in germany. It is a huge festival, with 200 bands, a wide array of other cultural events (readings, movies, cemetery tours, picnics, opera, etc.), lasting well over 4 days (opening on thursday, and the last events going well into tuesday morning), with 20’000 attendants and 40 venues spread all over the town of leipzig. The target audience is the “black folk” (black referring to the predominant colour of dress), that melting-pot of goth, metal, punk, cyber- and steam-punk, victorian, ren-fair, pagan, bdsm, and other culture.

Half a year ago i would hardly have known that this existed, even though it’s the biggest event of its kind on the planet. But the german vampire forum (the CT) which i started participating in earlier this year uses the WGT as an excuse for a large get-together every year. The sewing forum which i joined more or less at the same time has also been continually abuzz with talk about the WGT, not surprisingly, as it is a wonderful occasion to show off all your most extravagant creations.

So i was getting ever more excited, and about 10 days before the event everything came together, i could buy spare tickets from a friend, got offered a ride for most of the distance, borrowed a tent from another friend. I had no idea what i was getting myself into, the WGT is way huger than i could ever have thought.

The whole event was (at least for me) under the sign of the vampire. Those of us from the CT who were camping decided to make a common camp, and though of the six of us there were only two vamps it was still quite interesting. Two others were lycs, another self-identified dragon and potential donor, and me. I’ve been negotiating with one of the vamps about a possible vampire/donor relationship.

Then there was also a whole day LARPing V:tM. I was just browsing through the program book (almost 200 pages, full glossy print, bound in white leather, and ad-free) and saw that mentioned, so several of us went to have fun there. Hey, just for once i could be the vamp! Though i didn’t experience much of the plot it was still fun. Then meeting up with more of the vamps to watch “Kevin – the integration of a myth”, a zero-budget movie in which fiction-style vamps are forced to live “normal” lives, integrated into mundane society. Truly hilarious.

Sunday was our big meet, the by now almost traditional brunch of the vampires. I was a little frustrated because i couldn’t find the dress i’d wanted to wear for that (turns out i’d left it in the photo-studio a few days earlier), but what the heck, i’d brought along about 10 different outfits. Forum meets are always fun, even as a newbie it’s fun to meet all the people you’ve been chatting with, and for the old-timers these are people whom they’ve known for years. The mood was happily exuberant and bubbly, but also with intense conversations and discussions going on. We’d had the chance to invite Dr Mark Benecke and partner to our brunch, amongst other things one of germanys foremost experts on real vampires, which gave an extra zest to the meet. I’ll write more about that encounter in another post.

In the evening hanging around in the pagan village with all the vamps (and Benecke and partner) having more discussions, and these much more specific than during brunch, more intense, in a smaller circle. I’ve mentioned my thing where certain vamps trigger a desire in me for them to feed from me. Here, it was so many vamps that i couldn’t say anymore which of them was triggering it, and it all came together in a prickly confusing overwhelming desire to be fed from. Silly perhaps, and certainly impractical, but then, the whole vampire/donor thing is like that.

Then finally on monday we found out that “father todd” would be making fangs that afternoon. Through what i knew of him i had already formed a rather low opinion of him. All his media-appearances and the way he’d turned “being a vampire” into a money-making lifestyle mean that it’s become quite irrelevant to normal vampires whether he actually is a vamp or not. Still, at least this was a chance to see for myself what the deal was with him, and his fangs are reputed to be quite good. So those of us who wanted fangs, and those who were just curious, went to see what the deal was.

I intend to write a separate post about the fangs, but as to Todd, he’s an impolite oaf with delusions of grandeur. His definition of a vampire doesn’t intersect anywhere with my definition, or indeed with those used anywhere in the vampire community which i participate in. It was still worth meeting him, because at least now i can judge by myself, but Todd is no asset to the vampire community. And it was fun to see my vampire friends getting fangs for themselves.

So that’s it for an update, and a promise of more posts to come. I hope to be a little more regular with my updates, but hey, you do what you can.

dreams

i went to a festival last night, not one of the huge ones, but quite large for a local one. didn’t have a ticket for today, but again for tomorrow (won them in a raffle, yay me). it was great fun, in particular the Skunk Anansie concert for which i grabbed myself a spot right at the front, up against the barrier. nevertheless i’m not partying too hard as i don’t want to be too exhausted for the WGT next weekend (that’s going to be 4 days of no limits partying) (well, except for Gogol Bordello who are playing tomorrow, i don’t intend to hold back for that).

all that aside, i had two dreams this night. except possibly they were one dream, but it felt like two. i’ve forgotten a lot of the details, that’s what happens when you don’t write dreams up immediately, but still.

in the first, there’s a woman in red. her clothing covers her head to toe, yet somehow very alluring. i am drawn to her, and soon realise that she’s a vampire. she quickly seduces me, though that didn’t require much. with gloved hands she strokes along my bare arms, my shoulders. she tilts my head to the back and side, and her fingertips brush away my hair. then she leans in and … kisses me on the carotid artery. i was expecting her to bite, the sharp pain of her teeth ripping and tearing my skin and flesh. instead, a kiss, but more than a kiss, she is drawing my energy, draining me as a psi-vamp would. it is not painful as such, not like an actual bite is. but the energy-draw is brutal and delicious, and feels an awful lot like an actual psi-feeding, but much stronger. she leaves me, with a dreadful wonderful promise that she’ll be back, and vanishes into the crowd.

i remember less of the second dream. it was at the festival, or something similar. the vampire – because obviously this is another vampire dream – is different. with the first, i knew that she was basically a kind of psi-vamp, quite similar to real vampires. this one, i know right away that she has powers. she is smaller, physically strong, there is nothing secretive about her. she moves with a coterie, people who are bound to her, her donors and others whom she has enthralled. without her saying a word i move to her, knowing she wants to look at me, knowing that if she were to chose so i would become hers. i would not have a choice about it. this is a creature immensely more powerful than humans, any human she wanted would become hers. and she would bite, and rip, and feed from me. and she would not care about the damage. this one is scary, because i have no choice. i am trembling as she leaves me, she does not want me, not right now, she is not hungry right now.

and i’m just going to leave you with this, interpret these dreams as you wish.

donor twoofing?

so vamps “twoof”. it’s an invented word of relatively recent origin, i think it was proposed by Lady Slinky. when a vampire’s bloodlust is triggered, when they get a little overwhelmed by their need, or their mind wanders of in daydreams of the read stuff. oh, here’s a definition from SphynxCatVP’s site:

Experiencing an acute flare-up of symptoms generally involving a change in the person’s manner, breathing, pulse rate, and thought patterns acompanied with an increase in sensitivity of senses. This causes a person to seem more primal and animalistic. Also see “Vamping out”, below

Source: LadySlinky, from Sanguinarius’ message boards

sometimes twoofs, combined with bad blood-thirst, can be really harsh, i’m not talking about that here, and have no intention of comparing the need us donors feel to the intensity of the need which our vampires face.

but it is something which comes up again and again in discussions amongst donors. sometimes we call it an addiction. other times a need. some of us describe an almost permanent desire, for some it varies. sometimes it gets triggered, just like a vamp’s twoof gets triggered.

today, i’m getting that. i keep getting flashes of of blades cutting my skin, lips on the wounds as my blood wells up, teeth digging into my skin, my blood being drank. i want it so incredibly badly today. it is not just incredibly distracting. it is almost painful. i have not gotten anything done today, nothing at all.

it’s quite clear what’s triggered this too. part of it was chatting with a vampire who makes me want to feed them. the other part was reading “fledgling” by Octavia E. Butler. i was already feeling this “donor twoofyness”, and the vampire (yes, it’s a vampire novel) in there was actually making me whimper with desire. and yes, of course real vampires feeding from one doesn’t feel like it does in fiction. but there were some parts in there which were way too close to reality.

and this is just dandy. as if this weren’t bad enough, i just got triggered into shifting. great.

what does it feel like?

I’m asked quite regularly what donating actually feels like. Vamps have asked me this, prospective donors have asked me this as well, as have interested outsiders. Even amongst donors we ask each other this, most recently in a post on blackswanhaven. One thing is sure: it is very difficult to describe this feeling. What words can you use to describe something which is so out of the ordinary? This is an attempt at such a description.

Perhaps it’s easiest to say what it isn’t: it isn’t painful, in particular when i’m relaxed and comfortable. There’s a slight pain at the moment of the actual cutting, but that is negligible: there is far more pain in biting into a sour candy or in unfolding from a seat which you’ve been in for an hour or two than in the cutting or in being stuck with a butterfly needle. It follows that it is clearly not masochistic, there’s just no significant pain in it. Heck, i am a masochist, i enjoy and get turned on by receiving pain from a sadist, but donating does nothing for me on that level.

It is also not sexual. There is a certain flush which runs through the body, it’s almost certain that my blood-vessels dilate slightly, which also happens in sexual encounters, but that’s where the similarity ends. There is no arousal, no getting turned on, no rising waves of pleasure. There is certainly no climax and orgasm, and personally i find attempts to describe the experience as “orgasmic” to be fairly ludicrous. Though here i have to admit that i’ve wondered what might happen if i got to donate larger amounts. Last year i sometimes donated psi in such amounts that i was left twitching and shivering, and i wonder what would happen if a sang could just drink from me until they are truly sated. But that would be a risky experiment at best, and when i donate psi these days it is never to that extreme.

So what is it like? I feel a little bit nervous, a little bit excited. Asking “do you want to feed today?” is always a little nerve-racking. Is it not presumptuous to ask like that? Is it not embarrassing that i desire it so much? There’s the annoying details, disinfecting (if the vamp insists – their lips and tongue and saliva will be all over the wound in a minute, disinfecting the skin is slightly useless), preparing blades, bandaging (though usually i prefer to have fresh cuts uncovered, able to breathe). When all is prepared, finding a position which is comfortable for both. I like to be able to watch as they cut, and to be able to see them as they drink, but that is not really necessary.

The cutting is, as i’ve said, pretty much painless. My blood wells out, and both the vampire and i are transfixed. Then they move forwards, their lips touch my skin, their tongue dips into the blood, licks, they start drinking. And that is when it happens, that feeling which i find so difficult to describe, the thing which is unique to donoring, the thing which i love so much about it. There is a pull, like somebody gently tugging on a handful of hair, but that pull goes right through my body. It draws me, i loosen up, there is a kind of shift, the resistance goes, and i’m being drawn into the vamp. I’m drunk, not from the outside, but from the inside.

But, this is another difficult part, this feeling is not physical. It might just be a psychological effect, but i don’t really believe that. This sensation is something on the same level as the psi-energy which the psi-vamps draw. And i have no adequate words to describe it, to describe what it feels like as it is drawn from me. A light golden tickle, a soft sparkling mist, a coruscation of different touches, each experienced lightly, as my brain tries to translate the non-physical experience into something physical which it can understand. It is gentle and fills me with wonder.

Then, all to soon, it is over. As the vampire stops feeding, as this draw ends, i kind of sink into myself. My mind is clear, calm, at peace. If i can, i like to just curl up where i am. I like to be huggled, kept warm, cradled. This is, i think, the moment when i feel most vulnerable, when i need to put myself back together, turn my inside the right way out. But it is also the most intimate, the most relaxed. I can talk of anything with the vamp, floating on a cloud of gentle relaxed comfort.

But then, see, that is how it feels for me. For other donors it will surely feel different, and how it feels for me has also evolved over time and with experience. And this is also only a best effort, the description feels inadequate at best, misleading at worst. But it’s all i can manage tonight.