I’ve been feeling my way around vampires because the Jung-Fire group has also been doing so.
Whilst descriptions of vampires varied widely, certain traits now accepted as universal were created by the film industry. Where did vampires originate? Well, nearly every culture has its own undead cretures which feed off of the life essence of the living but ancient Persian pottery shards specifically depict creatures drinking blood from the living in what may be the earliest representations of vampires. In the 1100s English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of various undead fauna. By the 1700s, an era often known as the Age of Enlightenment, fear of vampires reached it’s apex following a spate of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and the Hapsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734. Government positions were created for vampire hunters to once-and-for-all rid man of this unholy scourge.
Even Enlightenment writer Voltaire wrote about the vampire plague in his Philosophical Dictionary, “These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer.” Movie Myths 101 – Vampires (Amoeblog)
Vampires occupy a class of folkloric beings termed revenant. In this class are all the varieties of beings believed to have returned from being dead. (Ghosts are revenants.) Revenants, as mythologem, have ancient origins. Their genealogy, (given by anthropology and literary history,) is woven in the folklore of almost every culture.
I was moved to do a little digging, in the phenomenological moonlight.
The vampire is one of the representatives of a phenomena part-and-parcel with any ‘folk’ skepticism a person would have when is believed the soul persists beyond bodily death. In Christian terms, a revenant is a work-around. The piper is paid, yet the rules are different than the normative rules for succession into the next life. Revenants are outliers in relation to the normal redemptive scheme. It’s important to understand the revenant is not a formalization, is not part of the strict cast of characters. The revenant–as work-around–is a strain of necessary superstition, is in a sense an archaic adjunct in the folk scheme of life and death.
A vampire lives forever under particular conditions, but our human night is their day. This inversion suggests also an inversion of the christological mythologem.
Yet, this can go beyond a Christian antithesis. It is possible, maybe likely, that wonderment over the finality of death. goes back beyond paganism, penetrates beyond proto-religion, goes back even before the organization of a spirit world. And, maybe even is among the most primitive of all social-existential phenomena; expressing as it does the base quandry, “Is Bubba really dead?”
I take this up in this way to highlight the archaic of a (kind of) archetype. Buried in this quasi-archetype is a very primitive, primeval layer.
From this, I wonder about the brute opposition in these same primal terms: here today, gone tomorrow, yet gone where? I can imagine how mysterious both would be if we, with modest imagination, consider how death was dealt with intrapsychically, long before the mystery was organized and concretized by proto-pagan artifice.
This development would suppose the development of a chain of being as a response to the mystery of mortality. Moreover, this would be a response given by skepticism: ‘is Bubba gone-where did Bubba go?’ This is all prior to the conceptions of salvation, purgatorial penance, damnation. Also, in supposing that the dead could manifest a near semblance of ‘the living,’ or otherwise manifest a phantasmal form, the particulars of types of revenants fit in culturally distinct ways into Preternatural–worlds behind worlds–cosmic, vertical schemes.
Edvard Munch – Vampire
The pagan layer is persistent. Belief in the work-around of the revenant is inflected with the revenant’s mercurial nature, and this seems to be an important aspect of their alternative myth of resurrection. Vampires are worrisome, unpredictable, and, the vampire’s activities could be glossed as: bugging, tormenting, fooling, tricking, gaming, messing around with, the living. After all, vampire and ghost and spectral phantasm, are also kin.
The revenant provides a kind of gnawing reminder: the ‘vertical’ world itself isn’t in the thrall of the light-bearing beings, ‘the angels.’ Revenants are profane. They exemplify in different ways, negative models.
Archetype is darkened, manifest in human enactment of a particular feeling tone, in precise ways, from specific contexts. Vampire, in the imagination, is an archetype of evil, but only from specific perspectives. The Benedictine Calmet sharpened his axe in antipathy to revenant denizens in accordance with his Catholic perspective. Three centuries earlier, the infections of plague, came to be understood in terms committed to explain the spread of death to be a damnation. At that time, the idea was: the dead were able to cause havoc even though ‘they appeared dead.’ Again, in the context of communities dealing with vast contagion, this response is in accordance with the timely intrapsychic ground. The contagion’s agents of punishment were the ubiquitous dead.
Archaic prototypes may infuse attempts at explaining what had befallen the community. Calmet leaned on, railed against(!) the archaic precedent.
So, why the fascination with vampires today? I don’t know anything about the cultural details. I enjoy the tv serial, True Blood, but this isn’t because I get a charge from vampires. I can’t analyze the trend in any Jungian way because I’m not a proponent of Jung’s collective unconscious.
I do note several rough features of today’s, in effect, multi-media vampire. One, he or she is often a very energized erotic figure. Two, often vampires are sorted out into good vampires, bad vampires, and ‘tweener’ vampires. Taking True Blood as an example, it seems to offer ambiguous morality tales. These take place within a decidedly supernatural cosmos, but much of the primitive vampire is not appropriated.
However, the focal point of the ongoing narrative seems to be how living and undead refract one another’s light and dark. Supernatural conceits don’t matter. In this drama, human and vampire are much closer to being two sides of the same coin. There is then, in at least this example, a humanization of the vampire. This would stand against demonization. Humanity inflects profanity.
The contemporary vampire may even be–all too human. This vampire is often a libertine, with sex* subsuming blood lust. Sometimes, as is the case with Bill from True Blood, he is ambivalent, conflicted, a tweener vampire between worlds, yet not able to transcend the vampire rules. Here is the post-modern turn: vampire as loose, identity mashup, This vamp reflects the chancy play of cosmopolitan identity. And, he or she may be more at home in the intoxicating nights’ cape, than in the tightening days’ cape.
Short of any fascination with vampires, the most common way the idea is entertained is when people speak of having their energy glommed onto and sucked by vampire-like pests. In this what’s left of either the token of the irredeemably fallen or the magical explanation for contagion, is: energy-sapping neediness.
The mercurial-work around able to defeat bodily death and enlightened eternal being is a more subtle layer of the undead.
Dr. Jung wrotes in the chapter Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon, (in Alchemical Studies.)
Paracelsus, like many others, was unable to make use of Christian symbolism because the Christian formula inevitably suggested the Christian solution and would have conduced to the very thing that had to be avoided. It was nature and her particular “light” that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.
(Jung earlier in the chapter speaks of the limits of the adept’s “daymind.”)
Archetype possesses the mechanics of refraction in the splitting of dominants and subordinate into further aspects. I’m going to recombine my rough intuitions and suggest the vampire is a subaltern figure–so the contemporary vampire imago stands “outside,” even when the currency of our day’s edgy, camp Vamp, is more the lip-sucking idol, is more sensitive, is more bourgeois. Remember, the contrast between primitive instrumentality and modern character is as stark as that between night and day.
As a practical matter, the attraction to the vampire at least seems to be a worthwhile anecdote to religious neuroticism; does not, as Jung put it, ‘conduce to the very thing that has to be avoided.’
It was nature and her particular NIGHT that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.
*Most psychoanalytic criticism related to vampires focuses on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Maurice Richardson, in “The Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories,” says: “From a Freudian standpoint—and from no other does the story really make any sense—it is seen as a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match”. Phyllis A. Roth finds Bram Stoker’s neurotic fear of sex and women to be the clue to his novel’s popularity; it allows readers “to act out” their own “essentially threatening, even horrifying wishes,” based in the “lustful anticipation of an oral fusion with the mother”. Judith Weissman concurs: “The vampire, an ancient figure of horror in folk tales, undoubtedly represents in any story some kind of sexual terror . . .”. Others, like Christopher Craft and Andrew Schopp, regard vampire literature as a disguised opportunity, as Schopp says, “for acting out socially prohibited roles, and for reconfiguring desire”. p54:Vampire God. The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture, Mary Y. Hallab, SUNY Press 2009 Amazon