We all accept the idea that there are things that go bump in the night. Some of us more accepting and/or curious than others. Many just want to know more, and a few are terrified of what they learn.
The Gothic Bite Magazine has reached out to the Vampire Community and several members have been gracious enough to talk with us.
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors/Interviewer/ Interviewees do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Gothic Bite Magazine or official policies of Gothic Bite Magazine including its writers/authors.
This month we’re talking with Belfazaar Ashantison, the current Elder and Founder of the House of Mystic Echoes and one of the Founding Member of NOVA (New Orleans Vampire Association).
Belfazaar sat down with Corinth Noctem Aeternus to shine some light in the dark corners of the Vampire Community.
Corinth Noctem Aeternus (CNA): Who are you in the Vampire Community?
Belfazaar Ashantison (BA): My name is Belfazaar Ashantison. My family and close friends call me “Zaar”. I am the current Elder, as well as the Founder of the House of Mystic Echoes.
I am one of the Founding Members of the New Orleans Vampire Association (NOVA). My first entry into the community was in 1978. Yes, dear readers, there was a community before the advent of the internet.
CNA: How do you identify yourself within the Vampire Community, i.e. real vampire, donor, living the lifestyle, etc?
BA: I identify as a Vampire who happens to be a sanguine feeder.
CNA: How did you come to know you were a vampire?
BA: Long story short, I was always set apart from everyone else in my family. My family made statements that proved this to me on a daily basis. I already had a keen sense that boys were my thing (being gay).
I already had a sense that magic existed in my world. I already had an expanded consciousness of God (I just couldn’t fit him in that little box that so many Christians seem so comfortable with putting God in).
There was an incident that took place when I was eleven years old. It happened on a church bus. There was a woman who witnessed it, who ended up becoming my first Elder in the community, Ashanti Whitemantle.
She talked to my mother first, then to me. When she told me that I was a vampire, like her, my first thoughts weren’t “Woohoo! I have superpowers!!!”… No. They were, “Great. Something else to make me different from my family and others around me.”
It was Ashanti who taught me that it was nothing to be ashamed of or worried about. She taught me to revel in what I am without lording it over others.
CNA: What goals do you have for the community?
BA: The only goal I have for the community is for it to realize that we don’t have to fall under one banner to be a community.
Just like every other community on the face of the planet, each little pocket, each little sub-group within that pocket, each individual within that sub-group within that pocket all have their own merit, worth, and insights to offer.
The only true thing needed is for communication to be open and flowing without giving away inner workings of sub-groupings, such as Houses, Clans, Covens, Orders.
CNA: Who is/was your greatest inspiration in life or mentor?
BA: My greatest inspiration in my life would have to have been my grandparents. It is from them that I learned the art of caring about others, even as I was set apart from my family.
It is from them that I have learned to reach out to those in need and to be made available should people truly need me.
After seeing so many “courts” come and go within the New Orleans community, due to abuses of power by their leaders, it is also the reason that NOVA was created differently and set up as a “round table”.
CNA: What is the hardest part about being a vampire or what is the hardest part about your role in the Vampire Community?
BA: The hardest part about being a vampire in today’s community is easy. The popularity contest that people have started to prove how much better they are than anyone else.
Those people who fall into this category have forgotten what it means to be a vampire, let alone a productive member of the community and are only seeking to ingratiate themselves with the “in crowd” instead of spreading information, aid, and support towards the bulk of the community.
The second hardest part about being a vampire in today’s community is that people will push from the outside of one community to have their friends be in the lead in a particular community, even if that person has done some seriously heinous things to others within those particular communities.
The third hardest part is to get people to understand the sheer depth of the community and how many levels there truly are. You have role-players, those who live the life-style, Donors, Swans (people who know about the Vampire Community, but are not a part of it), enthusiasts, and then, of course, the Vampires, themselves.
All too many times, people have tried to say that one of these parts don’t belong in a community, yet every community on the face of the planet has the same sort of levels that make their communities “whole”.
It’s not a popular thought within the community, however, it is a realistic thought process and based in real world observations and human development.
CNA: What advice would you give someone who believes they may be a vampire?
BA: Before settling down with any one group, whether it be a House, Clan, Coven, Order or just an Organization, do your research into the people who lead it.
Learn everything good and bad about them. Then ask questions from them. Get their side of the story on anything good or bad so that you have a full picture.
“There’s absolutely nothing stating that you have to be part of any House, Clan, Coven, Order or Organization. So, do not let people bully you into it. Learn the ins and outs of your condition (being a vampire) from every angle possible”. – Belfazaar Ashantison
Speak from your heart, whether you know the proper and/or acceptable ‘terms’, so that you can get your questions out and your point across.
Change your ‘terms’ as you learn new things, however, don’t change who you are for anyone in the community.
CNA: Are you a poly or mono theist and would you please, elaborate?
BA: First. My spirituality is separate from my physicality. They are merely facets of my being. As to my spirituality, I am a monotheist.
New Orleans Traditional Voodoo is a monotheistic tradition that believes there is one Creator God (Olodumare, Bondye, God depending on which name you are taught and where you grew up).
Second. It is just my personal take on things, however, I believe that vampirism is a physiological condition, and like many physiological conditions, it can have an effect on several aspects of our being.
Physical, emotional, mental, and even our spiritual nature is affected by our vampirism. Much like depression, or even my leukemia, it hits people differently and has effects on several aspects of our being.
CNA: How do you feel about being a public figure for the vampire community and do you hold yourself to specific standards (your own set of morals)?
BA: Personally, I have a set of moral codes that I live by. I also live by my House’s Code of Ethics and Donor Bill of Rights. Although this may seem restraining, it is actually quite liberating to follow, especially in the face of many a rumor about me due to my sexuality.
CNA: Describe yourself in your own words?
BA: Hmmm… how to describe myself. I’m opinionated, not afraid to share it, perpetually learning and growing, wholly dedicated to my spiritual path, loyal to those that I call family or friend (to a fault sometimes).
I’m tired of the bs spouted by younger members of the community, as well as some of the more established members of the community who push for segregating a portion of the community because they feel “different and don’t want to be associated with the word ‘vampire’…”
Tough it up, buttercups. It has been this way since before I came into the community and will be that way long after your little temper tantrums over what we’re called is over. We’re vampires. No matter how we feed.
CNA: Where are you from/ where do you call home?
BA: Where I am from and where I call home are two different places. I was born in Kokomo, Indiana, however, I have lived in New Orleans, where I call home, for close to 29 years on and off. I even stayed during Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild my city and my community.
CNA: What do you hope to achieve for the Vampire Community, any personal goals?
BA: I think I answered this before, as to community goals, however, my personal ones have never changed.
To enlighten those around me as to the nature of my condition and find like individuals to exchange information with. The more I understand my own condition, the better I can help others understand theirs.
CNA: Do you have a pet peeve within the community and if so, what is it?
BA: Adding me to groups without freaking asking me is beyond a peeve to me. I have so much on my plate that I can barely keep up with the groups that I want to be part of.
CNA: What is your favorite legend and why?
BA: None of them and all of them. There isn’t one particular legend that I am a fan of because I think they all play a part in our evolution.
Each myth and story carries with it a piece of our overall history somewhere. Sifting through the grains to find the truth is going to be the hard part in all of this.
Separating that which was meant to keep mundane minds at bay, while finding the kernels of truth for those of us who are or identify as a vampire.
I do tend to share my great-grandfather’s tale of our origin. I even have it on my Facebook in the notes section.
CNA: Do you play role playing games and if so, which one is your favorite?
BA: Yes. I do play RPGs. Marvel, Villains and Vigilantes, AD&D (prefer 2nd Edition), and, yes, White Wolf games are in there.
CKD: Do you LARP (live action role play)?
BA: I have done it before, however, it is not a favorite past time of mine. I prefer tabletop games to LARPing. The last time I LARPed, was a massive game of Changeling; the Dreaming. And it has been more than ten years since then.
CNA: Opening up the interview to you. What haven’t we talked about that is important to you and what would you like to put out there for our readers?
BA: In the end, vampires are much like the people around them. Filled with love, hope, fear, joy, sadness, anger, and any other thing you can name in the human condition.
Many of us work regular jobs. I hate to be all “Kindred; the Embraced”, however, we are all around you.
CNA: If you could tell the world one thing about the Vampire Community, what would it be?
BA: Vampires exist, however, not in the form of myth and legend. We’re not monsters, though some of us can be a-holes. We’re not delusional, though some of us may seem so. We’re not mentally ill, though some of us can be. Though we identify as “vampires”, we are pretty much like anyone else in the world.
CNA: Do non-vampires have a reason to be afraid of you?
BA: Sadly, much like any communities out there, we do have those in our community that are less than stellar and carry with the potential to be harmful to the world around them.
On the whole, the community is not harmful, and we tend to stay to ourselves. Except for the occasional seekers, authors, tv, radio, internet shows, and vampire researchers, we pretty much just stick to the shadows and our own little communities.
CNA: How would you explain to someone outside of the community the crossover between certain members, for instance, the ones living the life-style (or dressing lavishly) versus real vampires?
BA: Like every community, you have those who seek to represent themselves in whatever they consider the “proper attire” for that particular group. It does not make them fake vampires, it means that they like to “dress up”.
Let me make one thing clear though. Not every vampire out there likes to dress up every day. Some of us, like myself, are jeans and t-shirt vampires.
We “deck out” for special occasions only, and enjoy it because it is a special occasion. Such as one of the balls that happen within our community. They’re meant to be a time in revealing in what we are, as well as who we are as an identity group.
So, what’s next?
An interesting exploration of the Vampire Community. We will continue to explore the this aspect of everyday vampires and its membership, in an effort to help build a bridge between the Vampire Community and non-vampires that like I said before, might be curious about their world.
Not all vampires share the same beliefs and we encourage anyone who is curious about the Vampire Community to do their own research and as much research as possible. Many in the community are open to communicate and encourage learning.
But like many things online, understand that not everything you will read, hear and see are real. Not everything is what it seems and we encourage you to use your own judgement and common sense throughout your research.
Until next time!