What Is Kheprian Ritual?

What is Kheprian Ritual?

In 1996, I started something which has grown into what can only be described now as a spiritual path. Over time, it developed into House Kheperu, and House Kheperu itself spawned the Kheprian system and many Kheprian-inspired systems, such as the Kherete Path. A significant part of House Kheperu’s yearly practice involves regular rituals. But I think many people develop misconceptions about what these rites and rituals are, simply based on the term “ritual.” Specifically, I think it’s important to note that our rituals are not precisely religious in nature. I define religious ritual as a rite or ceremony devoted to worship of a God or gods. And gods really don’t play a part in Kheprian ritual. Our rites are more about community. I designed them very intentionally to be that way.

It’s no secret that religious studies played a role in my undergraduate work. It was during classes with Dr. Joseph Kelley and Paul Nietupski that the seeds of Kheprian ritual as it is performed today were sown. Drawing upon the works of anthropologist Victor Turner and mythologist Joseph Campbell (not to mention a healthy dose of the theories of Carl Jung), I designed a ritual system that is a-religious, in the sense that it is not focused on the worship of any God or gods. Instead, Kheprian rituals, and especially our seasonal rites, are expressions of community and identity. They are celebrations of the group and the people that make up the group, and they serve to reaffirm why we choose to call ourselves a group in the first place.

Reading Victor Turner’s work on Rites of Passage was the main source of inspiration for me: his fundamental premise is that ritual is a psycho-social function of human groups which fulfills necessary needs for affirming identity and community. Boldly stated, ritual is any set of formalized actions which celebrate and contextualize peak experiences of individuals in relation to their their community, such as the passage from childhood into the adulthood, the turning from one year to the next, or the binding of individuals into a familial bond.

There are loads of secular rituals celebrated throughout the US, and most people never think of them as rituals because they lack any overt religious trappings. But consider the rite of intoxication on one’s 21st birthday in the States, or throwing the first pitch across home plate at a baseball game. One is a coming of age ritual, the other is a seasonal rite celebrating the beginning of the baseball year. Tradition, symbol, and even a certain amount of solemnity, are attributed to these and other secular rites (though the solemnity rapidly deteriorates to Dionysian revels with the 21st birthday rite). There is often a certain way of doing things, and the rite becomes a communal expression of what binds that group or society together in shared values and experiences.

Developing Relevance

For Kheprian ritual (and by extension, the rites and rituals I designed for the Sanguinarium and the greater vampire community in the early 2000s), there was no desire and no need for us to gather together to mark shared worship of an externalized divine being – our rituals are not like going to Church in that sense. Our rites are focused on our sense of community — what defines us as a group and why we choose to be a group in the first place. In this respect, it was necessary to find common themes and experiences shared by that community, and to build the rites around them.

As many of us recognized and were sensitive to the shifting tides of energy that move through the solar year (and frankly, the idea of getting together for formal ritual more often than that seemed unworkable for us), I chose to build the seasonal rituals around the Wheel of the Year. And while the peak dates of the solar year, based on the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarters, are shared in common with the more widely recognized Pagan Wheel of the Year, still, we did not share the same experience of these holidays as traditional Pagans.

The Pagan Wheel of the Year is inspired by an agrarian society and focuses on the season’s relations to natural changes as pertains largely to the impact of those seasonal changes on crops (notably, the word paganus, from whence comes Pagan, refers to people who live in the country and therefore led rural lifestyles). We’re not farmers, and we really don’t share that deeply-felt connection to the natural world. That particular interpretation of the Wheel of the Year, with planting and harvest rituals, was definitely not going to work for us. It held little to no relevance to our collective personal experience. And so to further make the rites relevant to the social expression of House Kheperu, it was necessary to find out how we experienced these solar dates as a group, to discover how these temporal markers were relevant to our experience of the physical and numinous worlds.

Admittedly, the first drafts of the Kheprian ritual system were based upon my personal experience and observation of the energetic shifts throughout the year – but they were redacted over the life cycle of our group as more perspectives were added until the ritual system developed into what we have now: eight seasonal dates, divided into a lightside and a darkside of the year, one half devoted to spiritual concerns and rituals related to death, rebirth, spiritual transformation, and spirits, and the other half devoted to life, here-and-now concerns, mundane identity, and our place in the current physical world.

As I relate so thoroughly to the darkside of the year, I would never have been able adequately to develop a complete ritual system were it not for the contribution of my co-High Priest, Aarin, who leads the House through the more grounded but no less important lightside of the year. Together, we devised a balance between the otherworldly experiences of our spiritually diverse group and the sacralization of ordinarily secular issues such as career, family, and mundane identity.

Each rite marks an important point in the passage of time throughout the year, and uses those temporal markers to highlight an issue of identity and community relevant to the House and its beliefs: the vows we have taken as a group, the numinous connections we feel bind us together as a Family, the spirits that have touched our lives from the Otherside, the habits or qualities we have chosen to grow beyond in our lives, our sense of personal transformation through energetic alchemy, our celebration of personal identity in this life, now.

As you can see, while our rites may share the same calendar as the Pagan Wheel of the Year, they bear little resemblance to the originally agrarian rites adapted by Pagans for use in their modern practices — even though I still personally have a soft spot for the Pagan celebration of Samhain, not to mention the secular and no less delightful celebration of Halloween.

Living Ritual

Our rites are performed through a process which I labeled “living ritual” as I developed this system in the 90s. Living ritual is a flexible system inspired by my extensive work in improvisational theater – largely unscripted, yet with a loose, functional guideline for the general form and ultimate goal, living ritual acknowledges the uniqueness of each rite based upon its individual moment in time and the specific collection of individuals participating in the rite.

Living ritual is a very “this moment, now” system that favors spontaneous expression over standardized recitations, providing a loose guideline for the performance of the rite, but allowing the exact combination of words, symbols, and ritual actions to be determined as needed by the ritualist in the moment of the ritual itself. To provide a certain amount of structure, rites are bookended by short formulaic statements, the Kheprian Charge and the Family Prayer (the Charge is derived from the opening sections of our foundational text, The Psychic Vampire Codex). Both of these are statements of identity and intent, similar in nature to the Catholic Nicene Creed (although significantly shorter) in that they express in ritualized language who we are, what we choose to believe, and how this defines us as a community.

These brief recitations at the very beginning and the very end of our rites provide a sense of stability and familiarity for each rite. This then allows for a more flexible expression within the framework provided by the “prayers.” Over time, certain traditional actions and statements have emerged for each rite, but even these are allowed to (and encouraged to) change as the needs of the group change. Some may change within the same rite should a different expression feel right, better suiting the mood and energy of the group at the time.

Although our ritual system is a-religious in the sense that it is designed to answer the social and psychological needs of the group over any sense of formalized worship, we are nevertheless still a spiritual society. Our perception and experience of energy in the phenomenal world is the prime shared thing which binds us together, and energy – as a numinous substance not accepted as “real” in a physical or scientific sense of the world – is by default part of a spiritual experience and thus a spiritual worldview.

That energy, and the sense of an enduring, energetic form – an immortal soul – possessed by each individual participating in the group, is the foundation of our worldview as Kheprians. All other beliefs follow from it and rely upon its existence. We do share a sense of inherent order in the universe – with the sort of awe-inspiring but largely impersonal complexity perceived in fractals – but as for gods (or goddesses), or the sense that any of us are bound to worship other beings, that is not a part of our system. Any such worship is left up to each individual member, should they feel the need to pursue a devotion to divinity in their private, daily practice. Our first and foremost dedication is to the Self and the constant process of personal transformation that enriches the Self from one life time to the next.

— M. Belanger

Reaching Beyond the Bounds

Author’s Note: A version of this article, under the title “Dreamwalking and Crisis Dreams” has been previously published in House Kheperu’s site kheperu.org. You can find that original article, along with many other articles on psychic phenomenon, energy work, and psychic vampirism in the House Kheperu archives.

Reaching Beyond the Bounds: Dreamwalking and Crisis Dreams

Dreamwalking is where out of body experience and lucid dreaming intersect. A technique that harnesses the interconnectedness of the collective unconscious where many of our shared psychic experiences begin, dreamwalking is part projection and part telepathy, and hearkens back to the visionary journeys of ancient shamans.

Dreamwalking is of particular interest to psychic vampires, as it is often experienced spontaneously when a vampire’s energy gets too low and there has been no adequate opportunity to feed directly from a willing donor. Individuals already connected to the vampire (frequently because they have been feeding partners previously), are visited by the vampire in dreams. Though ephemeral, this contact nevertheless can provide enough of a psychic connection to be sustaining energetically (more on the phenomenon of dreamwalking as it pertains to feeding appears in The Psychic Vampire Codex, and dreamwalking in general is addressed in Psychic Dreamwalking). Psychic vampires can learn to harness this phenomenon consciously, but most will still resort to it instinctively and spontaneously if they are in an energetic crisis.

Although little formal writing has appeared on the topic of dreamwalking, this is not to say that the capacity to connect to other people in dreams has never been recorded in the annals of occult literature. The following story, linking the psychic vampire tendency to spontaneously dreamwalk when in deep need with other kinds of crisis dreams, recounts a possible dreamwalking episode from the 17th century. Such crisis dreams are almost always an unconscious attempt to reach out to loved ones over a distance, either to inform them of the crisis, or to seek emotional support. The intersection of crisis dreams and dreamwalking is eloquently demonstrated by a report from Baxter’s 17th century book, Certainty of the World of Spirits.

As She Lay Dying 
In 1691, Mary Goffe of Rochester England was taken ill. In June of that year, her condition worsened, and she was taken to her father’s house in West Mulling where there were more people to take care of her. As the final hours of the illness settled in, Mary became very agitated by the fact that she had not seen her children for several weeks. She seemed to sense her impending death, and she complained to those at her bedside that she wanted to see them one last time. Her own home was nine miles away, and despite her pleas, the doctor did not feel it was possible for her to survive the journey.

As a solution to this dilemma, Mary Goffe, who we can presume had no prior metaphysical training, managed to visit her children in their dreams. But the story gets even stranger.

Between one and two o’clock in the morning, the woman who was watching over Mary noted that she fell into a sort of trance. Her eyes were partly open, but glazed, and her jaw was slack. The condition was noted primarily because the attendant first thought that Mary had died. Some life remained in her, however, although her breathing was very faint.

At that same time, the nurse who watched over Mary’s children had a singular experience. She saw someone moving down the hall near the children’s room. When she went to investigate, she saw none other than Mary Goffe standing by the bedside of her eldest child. The younger of the two children slumbered not far off. According to the nurse, a widow Alexander, Mary was plainly visible in the children’s’ room. She seemed to be speaking, but no sound emerged from the phantom’s lips. Both children slept on, apparently oblivious to the presence if their mother’s ghost in their room.

The nurse stood watching this spectacle, transfixed, for nearly a quarter of an hour. When the clock struck two, she demanded the apparition to tell her what it was, whereupon it disappeared.

Unaware of the strange story her nurse was telling incredulous neighbors nine miles away, Mary Goffe awoke from her trance to tell her mother that she had dreamed of seeing her children. Mary’s fears of dying before getting another chance to spend time with the children seemed allayed, and she died shortly thereafter, the morning of June 4th. The widow Alexander was deemed a sober and credible witness, and the Rev. Thomas Tilson, who investigated and recorded the entire affair, firmly believed that events occurred as they were recounted by all parties involved.

If this story, recounted in Andrew Lang’s book on Dreams and Ghosts, is true, then a phantom of Mary Goffe appeared at the bedside of her children while simultaneously she visited them in dreams.

— M. Belanger

On Ghosts and Thought-Forms

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt about ghosts and spirits from a longer article hosted on Kheperu.org, the site of my group House Kheperu which boasts a large archive of articles on spirits, energy work, and related metaphysical topics. If curious, you can read the read the original in its entirety by clicking here. 


On Ghosts and Thought-Forms

From my experience, when a human being dies and his or her spirit lingers, that spirit retains its personality, memories, and ability to reason. Depending on how you accept that ghosts (human remnants specifically) become earthbound, this retention of a large portion of who and what they were in life is a fundamental characteristic of lingering human spirits. There are phenomenon labeled as ghosts which are not human spirits. These can manifest as an apparition of a person, as a sense of their presence, the sound of their voice, even the scent of their perfume. In some rare cases, these manifestations will involve all of these things. The manifestations are not necessarily static. Quite typically, they repeat a specific series of actions, over and over again. The vast majority of manifestations witnessed on the field of Gettysburg fall into this category.

These manifestations are what I’ve called “memory ghosts.” They are an imprint or an echo that has been stamped upon the energy of the subtle reality. They are almost always the product of a highly emotional situation or event: a murder, a battle, a suicide. They have all the sentience and free will of an image projected onto a screen. They repeat the seem actions endlessly because they are nothing more than a recording on infinite repeat. As the energy that made the impression fades over time, the repetitions can fade or cease altogether. But the spirit of the actual person who generated the energy to create this effect is long, long gone.

Some constructs exist that might be perceived as ghosts. The most famous example of this is one given by John Keel in The Mothman Prophecies (now a completely inaccurate motion picture!). There is a house in Greenwich Village where residents kept seeing a figure in dark clothes, a flowing cape, and a wide-brimmed slouch hat stalking through the corridors. The face of the figure was always indistinct, but some said it had a very piercing, intense gaze. This apparition was seen numerous times by a succession of people. Concluding that the house was haunted, the history of the house was researched, but it seemed that no one had ever died in the residence (I could go on my rant about how everyone seems to think that someone has to have died in a house in order for their spirit to haunt it — suffice it to say that it just ain’t so). Someone came up with the theory that this figure was the ghost of a Civil War soldier or even a spy — it projected a sneaking, almost sinister air about it to those who perceived it.

After coming up with dead-ends on the identity of this mysterious figure, someone learned that the house had once been the residence of a rather prolific writer by the name of Walter Gibson. Gibson had spent some of his most productive years in the house, turning out page after page in a series which revolved around one specific character. The character was The Shadow — “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows …” as the old radio show used to go.

It just so happens that the Shadow stalked around in dark clothes with a muffled face, a flowing cape, and a wide-brimmed slouch hat. The “ghost” in the Greenwich Village house was a construct birthed by Gibson’s fertile imagination and all the energy he put into the form as he worked on his series of tales.


— M. Belanger

Shielding 101

Author’s Note: Ever since my very visible work on the television show Paranormal State, I find myself asked again and again about psychic protection techniques — both from spirits and from the energies of the living. The following article, previously posted on the House Kheperu website (which hosts an extensive archive of similarly useful articles, all of which are also collected in this book), addresses the most fundamental technique of psychic protection: shielding. 


Shielding is a technique which allows you to keep outside energies from intruding upon your energy. With shielding, you set up a barrier between you and everything you want to keep out. Shielding is an essential technique for sensitives and natural empaths, for without the ability to erect a barrier between themselves and the outside world, they can easily be overwhelmed by the assault of thoughts, emotions, and energies.

There are many different ways to shield, but in all cases, the concept is the same: you extend energy around yourself to form a solid barrier. There are innumerable ways this barrier can be envisioned and there are many advanced techniques for focusing and shaping the energy it is made out of. Size and thickness can vary, and the visualization process you use for erecting the barrier will be different for everyone.

For now, all we want is to learn how to make a basic shield. The simplest and easiest form a shield can take is that of a bubble or sphere. From a centered state, where you have gathered some of your energy inside of you (for more information on that see the article, ‘Closing the Circuit’), take some of this energy and expand it outward. Push it out in front of you, behind you, above your head, and below your feet. As the sphere expands around you, envision its walls getting thicker and more substantial. When you are finished, you should see the energy as a large translucent sphere that encloses you on all sides.

The walls of the sphere should be thick but not so thick they’re oppressive to you. Most beginners tend to envision a sphere of glass, but remember that your symbol — and the associations you attach to that symbol — strongly affects the character of the energy you’re working with. So if you envision a glass sphere around you, it will be as clear as glass but it will also be as fragile as glass — and it might just shatter the first time anything hits against it.

From my experience, it’s best to think of the sphere like a thick polymer or plastic — something that’s clear enough to see through and thick enough to keep things out, but with a little give and toughness to it so it won’t break immediately if something slams up against it.

The importance of envisioning a sphere as opposed to a wall, of course, is to make certain that all of you is protected. A wall, even if you build it all around yourself, still leaves space above and below where you are vulnerable to invading energies. The sphere should ideally cover the area above your head and extend a little into the ground beneath your feet to make certain that area is not vulnerable either.

The sphere, of course, should move with you, and there should be a little more give on your side than on the outward side.

When you want to let down a shield of this nature, the simplest thing is to just reverse the process of expansion and take the energy back into yourself. As the sphere shrinks, its walls get thinner and less substantial, until, when the energy you used for the shield is gathered back into your center, you can allow it to loose cohesion and disperse back among the rest of your energy.

When should you shield? The answer to that question often depends upon how sensitive you are, whether you feel you are in a hostile environment or not, and numerous other things. In general, if you feel that someone is consciously attacking you with their energy, that’s a very good time to put up a shield. The shield will of course help to keep attacking energies away from you, although some attacks may get through depending on your type of shield, level of concentration, personal skill, and so forth.

In any situation where you feel someone is unconsciously attacking you with their energy (that really angry, grumbly room-mate for example, who has no idea that he’s a projecting empath), that is also a good time to shield. When you are in a place with a lot of chaotic energies or energies that you find uncomfortable or unpleasant, shielding will help to keep these away from you.

In all of the situations recommended for Closing the Circuit, you can choose to shield as well. Again, this is a matter of personal preference and also a matter of severity. If you try centering yourself by Closing the Circuit and it’s just not good enough, go immediately from the centered state to projecting a shield. If shielding doesn’t help either, then you may just want to walk away from the person or place that’s causing you such discomfort and find some quiet place where you can ground and recuperate.

— M. Belanger

The Nature of Vampirism

Author’s Note: This article was originally posted to the House Kheperu website and is hosted there at kheperu.org along with a large archive of similar articles on vampirism, metaphysics, and energy work. The article itself dates to the early 2000’s and reflects my role at the time as a tolerance advocate for the community.


The Nature of Vampirism

Being a vampire in this day and age is not an easy thing. It is hardly the glamorous life it is made out to be in books or movies. It is often a great liability, creating unwanted hassles, hate and distrust from those around you. Among the many real vampires I have had contact with over the years, I have learned that a number of them would change their nature if they could. But vampirism is hardly a choice. It is something we carry within us, and whether latent or realized, it affects every aspect of our lives. We cannot be other than what we are.

Because vampirism is so poorly accepted and so misunderstood, most true vampires find themselves isolated, confused, and constantly tortured by self-doubt. It is so much easier for us to disregard our personal experiences as delusion and simply pass our nature off as a fetish rather than accept the truth of what we are. It is a joyous and almost frightening moment when we finally realize that we are not alone, and that the lifestyle we are driven to lead is both a natural and a legitimate one.

But what is a vampire exactly? There are a lot of blood fetishists out there who call themselves vampires, but in my experience vampirism goes beyond mere flesh and blood. Just drinking blood does not make you a vampire. If we were to define vampirism through blood-drinking alone, then we would exclude a whole portion of the community who feed off a far subtler manifestation of the life force.

Vampirism is an essentially spiritual hunger, a need to reach out to others and drink in their very life. Call it prana or chi or orgone energy, it’s still the same: it’s that subtle electric fire that courses through us beyond the flesh. Blood may touch it and carry a rich store of it throughout the body, but it is so much more than blood.

Although it is spiritual, vampirism is not necessarily supernatural. We do not claim to be undead beings like Dracula or Lestat. We don’t possess super-human powers. Much of our natural abilities can be learned by others skilled in magickal work. Our hallmark talent is energy manipulation, and that’s being taught these days in weekend seminars for Reiki and Qi-Gong. What we are and what we can do only seems esoteric to the uninitiated. It’s not really all that strange once you accept that there is energy moving within you and around you, constantly, and that some people are able to interact on that subtle energy level.

So what makes vampires unique, really? The thing that sets us apart from the typical person is our need to feed upon the life energy of those around us. Our systems work upon an energy deficit which we must make up for. I believe that most of the energy manipulation powers we manifest were honed because we must rely upon them to sustain ourselves. Where others might live their entire lives oblivious to such potential within themselves, we have no choice but to rely upon it. It’s a survival technique. All of the abilities and powers that might make us seem gifted beyond the ordinary person are just compensation for what some have described as a “psychic handicap.”

Magickal workers, particularly Pagans and Wiccans, have criticized vampires a great deal in recent years because they believe what we do is wrong. They call us “energy thieves” (or worse) and revile us as creatures that work against Gaia, the generative Earth Mother. They assert that our very nature is anathema to their primary law: An it harm none, do what thou wilt. In our defense, I think what we do is simply natural. Although it is a vulgar comparison, I believe that feeding is no more a wantonly evil or destructive act than eating a hamburger. It is something we must do to survive, and sometimes survival requires that one organism must prey upon another. Feeding upon others is just our nature, and I think denying our nature is a more potentially destructive act than accepting it.

Vampires feed upon life. It’s not that strange a concept. Think of it as energy, if you must — the biological electricity which runs our cells and allows our synapses to function. Other cultures have called it prana or chi, ruach or mana. It is that vitalizing force which healers and yogis can harness in such practices as Reiki, Tantra, Qi-Gong, yoga, and T’ai Chi. It is really only an alien concept to Western culture. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, for example, it is taken for granted that certain individuals produce more energy than others. It’s part of the balance of Yin and Yang. Those who do not produce enough chi to maintain themselves take it from those who produce more than they can use. In the West, we call this vampirism. In the East, it’s a simple fact of life.

The only reason vampirism is such a big deal in the West is because Western concepts of reality lack the spiritual depth of similar concepts in the East. In the West, we have sacrificed the notion that everything possesses vital spirit in favor of living in a sanitized and controllable technological world. It is, however, a world without a soul. In such a world where the natural exchange of energy between all living things is debunked as delusional and esoteric, of course vampirism is misunderstood. It has been marginalized into superstition and folklore. At best, even those who believe in energy manipulation and magick consider vampires “evil” and terribly misguided. The energy workers can use their own energy to heal. They can find room to believe in a positive exchange. Yet they find it hard to believe that anyone — save the most base black magicians — could have the capacity to take energy as well.

Vampires are real, and what’s more, we are a part of the natural order of things. Everything must have its opposite to balance it out. For every light worker who gives energy to heal, there is one of us who must take energy for ourselves. It’s Yin and Yang. And in order to understand vampirism and ourselves, we simply must accept that. And if you, my non-vampiric reader, can open yourself up to such “esoteric” concepts as Reiki, Feng Shui, and the world soul, vampirism really isn’t as far-fetched as you think.

— M. Belanger

Origins of the Strigoi

Since its first appearance in a 1996 issue of the International Society of Vampire’s newsletter, the Midnight Sunthe loan-word “Strigoi” has been picked up by portions of the modern vampire community and used as an alternate label of self-identification. However, those familiar with the word strega may wonder how and why strigoi  — so close to the Italian word for “witch” — came to be associated not with witchcraft, but with vampirism.

Within the modern vampire community, the term strigoi has become synonymous with “living vampirism.” Although vampires of the undead variety are the most widely recognized vampires of folklore, it is important to note the most of the Eastern European countries from whence our folklore about vampires originates acknowledged living vampires as well. In the folklore of Romania, several words are used to denote vampires. One of the most common is strigoi (fem. strigoica), followed by moroi (sometimes also spelled moroii). Both terms generally refer to vampires of the undead variety but can also be used to refer to living vampires.

In Romanian and related folklore, living vampires are mortal men & women who are able to (even driven to) suck the “power” from people, animals, and even the land itself. It is interesting to note that the Romanian word for this “power” is mana, another loan-word frequently used in English to denote the energy or essence of magick.

The line between vampire and witch in this case is a thin one indeed, and there is a great deal of crossover. However, living vampires are believed to always come back as the undead variety after their passing. Furthermore, they are believed, during life, to have the ability to send their souls out of their bodies, often while sleeping, in order to appear to & prey upon others. The language & imagery used to describe this power of soul-flight is strongly reminiscent of astral travel.

Notably, in this E. European folklore, those born as vampires have no choice in the matter. They are born, not made, and will remain living vampires until their death at which time they are typically believed to linger post mortem as the more traditional variety of undead vampire, hungering either way.

Main Sources:

Were-Wolf and Vampire in Romania by Harry Senn. East European Monographs: 1982*

The Vampire: A Casebook. Edited by Alan Dundes. University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI: 1998

Agnes Murgoci. “The Vampire in Romania” (essay in Dundes book): “As regards the names used for vampires, dead and alive, strigoi (fem. strigoica) is the most common Romanian term, and moroii is perhaps the next most usual.” (pp 13-14)

*It was a review of Senn’s work that sparked the discussion of strigoi in the ISV’s Midnight Sun so long ago. The library at my college, John Carroll, had a copy which was instrumental to my own research on vampire folklore in the early 90s.

— M. Belanger

Discovering Your Ideal Self

Author’s Note: I have a confession to make. I’m a writing hoarder. From notebooks to coffee shop napkins, if I’ve scribbled something down on it at one time or another, I feel compelled to keep it. Sometimes this just leads to more boxes neatly labeled on the shelves in my basement. And sometimes it leads to re-discovering little gems like the following, from a journal dated 1994, on self-mastery and the discovery of one’s path:


The first step to mastery of yourself is self-knowledge. Through meditation and looking inward, you must come to know yourself completely. Know what motivates you, what troubles you, what gets you through the day. Know your fears, yours joys, your passions, and your sorrows. Know the light in you, but also know the darkness. Even if you would rather turn a blind eye to something that is a part of you, force yourself to look at it. Pick it up and turn it around in your hand. Analyze it until you know why it is there, why you dislike it, and whether or not you can safely discard it or suppress it without compromising the essence of who you are.

Once you have come to know yourself wholly, only then can you begin shaping yourself into your most ideal Self. Discover who you are and who you would like to be. Uncover those aspects of yourself that must be changed or abandoned in order for you to reach that ideal, then do the work you must in order to get there. The road is not an easy one, and it takes only a small defeat sometimes to throw you back into a state where you would rather be blind to yourself than to struggle so hard toward your ideal. Here I cannot say, “Don’t give up hope!” for you must find hope and everything else on your own. I cannot walk the path for you, nor can I (or anyone else) show you how you must walk in order not to get lost. At best, I can show you where the path begins. After the first step, your journey is your own.

–M. Belanger

Questioning Psychics

I have written a lot of material about psychic development and what some might call “ESP.” Given the profusion of books & articles I’ve produced over the years on these topics, you might make the mistake of assuming that I am overly-credulous of every claimed instance of psychic experience. However, if you read my published work closely, you’ll see that this is not the case.

Although I believe in the reality of psychic perceptions, I also firmly believe that many people misinterpret perfectly ordinary experiences as psychic perceptions. What’s more, among those individuals who label themselves “psychics” or “mediums,” I also believe that there are just as many who engage in fakery and self-delusion as there are those with legitimate abilities (hard things to hear, but still true). I think it is not only healthy for people to question psychics and psychic perceptions — it is essential. Psychic impressions are, at best, soft facts and should always be taken as such.

Consider that psychic impressions go through at least three filters that could possibly skew them before ever getting to you, the listener:

First, there’s the step of perception. Let’s assume there’s something legitimate to be perceived. How clearly a person receives that perception is limited by their ability — this isn’t me copping an elitist psychic attitude. Consider that our eyes and ears are also not created equally. I can’t read road signs without corrective lenses. As there are no eyeglasses for the third eye (yet) accept for the moment that some people’s psychic sense is not as clear as that experienced by others.

Second, there’s the interpretive filter. We do this with every perception even from our five physical senses (and sometimes we do it incorrectly, as we see with phenomenon like pareidolia). The raw data of the perceptive experience must be rendered and interpreted in our brain.

Finally, there’s the language filter. When we report our sensations and perceptions, we have to put them in language that others can understand. Most psychic impressions do no neatly line up with any of the five physical senses, but because we are used to perceiving the world through the medium of those senses, psychics tend to use language that implies that a psychic sense is very much like a physical sense — consider that most such experiences are described in terms of sight or sound. And yet, speaking to psychic after psychic as well as from my own experiences, I know that these perceptions manifest as like sight or sound (or sensation) but are not typically one-for-one with physical sight, sound, or sensation. So language has to be chosen to accurately reflect the impression itself.

And if the psychic does any attempt at interpretation in the middle of this three-fold process — that is, trying to make sense of the impression, rather than simply letting the impression flow in the closest words possible — that can also skew the results. I’ve done this several times myself — you get an impression, automatically reject it as nonsense, then try to make it make sense. When reporting the raw impression, as ridiculous and off-the-wall as it sounded, would have lead to more accuracy.

Is it possible to test and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that psychic abilities exist, given this threefold process? The problem with studying, controlling, or otherwise proving psychic perceptions is the very human element involved in the process. There’s a great deal of individual psychology — from personal symbol sets to internal judgment issues with reporting — that comes into play with all psychic experiences. We self-edit, we interpret, we fail to report the whole picture because it simply didn’t seem relevant. That doesn’t mean the impressions aren’t there, and that they don’t give us useful data — simply that the human mind is an imperfect lens when it comes to any method of perception.


— M. Belanger

Learned Vampirism

When I talk about psychic vampires to a wider audience — for example, the folks in the paranormal community — one question that consistently comes up is this: are the psychic vampires different from those people who drain others just because they can?

There is a difference, and it’s a fairly significant one from my perspective. It is a difference in need, if not effect. The mechanics for taking energy from others — well, to be honest, anyone at all can learn to take energy. There are some occult organizations whose express purpose is to teach their members how to willfully prey upon the energies of others in order to increase their own power. Fortunately, such organizations are few and far between.

In the modern vampire community, we don’t consider such people vampires. They’re predators at worst, pathetic wannabes at best. We may describe them as “learned vampires” because, again, anyone can learn how to take whether or not they have an expressed need to do so. Those who learn how to do this simply for kicks or a sense of empowerment over others — well, frankly, they’re the lowest of the low.

The people who have a real need — well, there are always a few who never quite figure it out and they simply go through life unconsciously feeding off of everyone around them. They’re why most of the psychic self-defense literature exists, and they’re why “psychic vampire” is still a dirty word in some circles. I’ve interacted with people like this. They’re exhausting. Not to mention irritating, because they often try to get more energy out of people by pushing all of their emotional buttons just for effect.

Folks who are self-aware vampires (we often use the term Awakened) become aware of their relationship with energy and make conscious choices about how they express that relationship with others. Generally, if they abstain entirely from taking energy from others, their own health suffers rather significantly. Common reactions include acute arrhythmia and tachycardia, flare ups of fibromyalgic-like symptoms, autoimmune responses, and the like (there are charts listing the most common complaints from a sample of over 1000 self-identifed vampires from around the world on the VEWRS site).

Those for whom human vital energy is a distinct and undeniable need tend to have a greater respect for how that energy is taken and the people it is taken from than any “learned vampires” out there. We take (or “feed”) from consenting donors who are active participants in the process. We know we rely on these giving, willing donors for our health and well-being. So we don’t abuse them. And we have codes of conduct within our community that mandate their protection and respect.

A bit of trivia: the code of conduct that I’m responsible for writing, known as the Black Veil, was quoted directly in the CSI episode of “Suckers” as the reason why the real vampires featured on the show were not in any way responsible for the murder that was the focus of that episode.

— M. Belanger

Ethics of Vampirism

Within the magickal subculture, there is a lot of fear when it comes to psychic vampires. The vast majority of material published on psychic vampires approaches the subject from the perspective of psychic self-defense – which of course implies that psychic vampires, if they are anything, are predatory individuals whose main interaction with others is to victimize them.

While I don’t like it, I can at least understand some of this fear. The vampire you see in fiction and film, although powerful, is still controllable.  There are significant limits on his activities because of his sensitivity to light.  Most movie vampires burst into flame when exposed to the sun, are repelled by crosses, garlic, and a host of other easily acquired items, and are generally pretty easy to spot in a crowd  (the long, flowing black opera cloak does it every time).  The thought of real people who can look just like your neighbor who have the ability to silently and invisibly go out at night and siphon the life force from anyone around them is pretty intimidating.  To enter someone’s dreams, to influence them while sleeping or awake by interacting with their energies – that’s the stuff that real horror movies are made of.  What locks can you put on your house to protect yourself from someone like that?  No crosses nor garlic nor anything else can keep away something you can’t even see.  I know that I wouldn’t do anything to hurt someone with what I can do, but think about it from their perspective for a moment.  I have to admit, we’re pretty scary.

Almost all of the vampires that I know would never abuse the people around them with their powers.  But there’s no guarantee of this.  The only person regulating their behavior is them.  And let’s face it, not everyone is good or moral all the time.  Even I’ve fed off a few people through dreams without their permission, although it was usually more out of desperation than a malicious desire to cause an “astral attack”.  But what do you do if you’re a magickal worker who knows there are people like us out there and who knows the full extent of what we can do?  And you know that the only thing protecting others from being preyed upon is the vampire’s good conscience?  I can forgive the Wiccans and Pagans a little for their attitudes toward us when I look at things this way.

Most of the vampires I know do not maliciously feed upon people in order to cause a “psychic attack.”  Almost all of them prefer willing donors who are fully aware of what they are and what that means.  When we feed upon people without their knowledge or permission, it’s usually in a large crowd situation where it’s not going to hurt or personally affect anyone in the crowd anyway, and making the group aware of what we’re doing would be more harmful to all involved.  But not every group operates selflessly and with the consideration of others in mind.  A lot of young vampires who are just discovering what they are and exercising their powers willfully hurt and manipulate people.  Few of them really understand the severity of what they’re doing, and once they realize that their actions have long-term and serious effects on others, they stop.  But not all of them grow out of it.

So how do we regulate our behavior?  Most communities have an ethical code that goes hand in hand with their beliefs.  Through a system of promised rewards and punishments, the ethical code regulates people’s behavior for them.  The rewards and punishments have meaning within the context of the belief system, and so members of the community are obligated by their own faith to behave.  Essentially, God becomes the watchdog of their actions, and hazy areas of morality are defined for them so they don’t have to make a difficult ethical choice.

Because the vampire community is so spread out and so diverse, there is no single belief system that all of us adhere to.  Contrary to popular opinion, vampirism is not a religion, so even our idea of “God” or divinity is vastly different from one person to the next.  Some of us are Wiccan or Pagan, some are agnostics, and some don’t believe in anything at all.  And therefore there is no ethical code that we are spiritually obligated to follow.  There is no easy path of morality laid out for each of us and enforced by a wrathful deity.   It’s not that easy.  Each of us is responsible for making our own ethical decisions, and the gray areas are places that we have to wrestle with ourselves.  And in a world where almost every other system regulates individuals’ behavior, having a group of spiritually active people who make all those decisions for themselves bothers a lot of people.

Most individual groups of vampires, like my own House Kheperu, have developed their own code of conduct.  Almost all of this is common sense behavior that comes down to the simple philosophy of “don’t do something unless you’re willing to accept the consequences of your actions.”  In recent years, as isolated groups have begun to contact one another and a true network of community has started to grow up, a couple valiant souls have tried to formulate an ethical code that holds true for all of us.  I think given the vast diversity of the vampire culture, it is impossible to expect everyone to adhere to one system, but I respect the attempt.

Whether you choose to follow the Black Veil, the Donor Bill of Rights, or one of the other sets of ethical guidelines that are out there, it’s important to keep in mind here that there is still no one regulating your actions but you.  It’s not like some vampire enforcer is going to wind up on your doorstep someday and inform you that you broke rule number six and would you come along nicely so we can put you in the pillory.   The accountability of your actions is your own responsibility.  Contrary to the assertions of more strict ethical systems (such as Christianity) the same set of rules does not and cannot hold true for every single situation and every single individual.   Morality is never black and white.  You get into dangerous territory indeed when you try to separate the world into stark dualities like that.  So even within this guideline, the hard choices are something you have to make on your own as each situation dictates.

*Want to learn more about psychic vampires? Explore my seminal work The Psychic Vampire Codex.

–M. Belanger