[The Wild Hunt welcomes guest writer Christina Engela. She is a author, witch, human rights activist, blogger and chief researcher for the Alternative Religious Forum. Engela lives in South Africa and writes regularly for Penton Alternative Media.]
Most members of the South African (SA) Vampyre community (VC) who have done a little research know that this community’s recorded history began May 2010 with the foundation of House Valur. Most will know that the community only started growing and taking form with the founding of the South African Vampyre Alliance (SAVA) in June 2011. But little if anything is known about the community in the years before that time.
Sometimes though, one finds little gems that shine a new light on what we already know. This being the case, we will examine the recollections of one of the community’s earliest builders. Also, we will examine the initial overlap of Vampyre culture with other subcultures and societies at the time – in this case, South African Pagan culture. We will look at the role played by vampyric Pagans in laying the groundwork for the growth and formation of the VC, independently of the Pagan community in South Africa. Additionally, these events played an important role in the subsequent and continued relationship between the Pagan and Vampyre communities.
In South Africa under the previous Nationalist government, there was no freedom of religion — that is, not unless you were Christian. Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism were tolerated by the government, but Paganism, the worship of Pagan deities and any Pagan rituals, reading matter, gatherings or practices were criminalized and outlawed under laws pertaining to ‘Satanism.’ If you were vampyric, well – the less said about that, the better. Government-appointed witch-hunters like Kobus Jonker and his police unit enjoyed cult-fame status among naive evangelical Christians, spinning wild and unlikely tales of ‘Satanist’ conspiracies that could not be, and have never been, substantiated.
The adoption of South Africa’s new constitution changed all that – in theory at least. With the dawning of greater religious freedom in the early 1990s, there came a sudden scramble among those who identified as Pagan (including a lot of people who wanted to identify as Pagans) to establish an open and free, publicly visible Pagan body on the cultural landscape of the country. Several such organizations were formed, with one or two looking to speak for and on behalf of all South African Pagans.
At the start of that new age, however, it becomes clear that not everyone held the same understanding of the term “Pagan” and what it was. The Pagan community is, and always has been, diverse. As such, it is (and likely always will be) a breeding ground for a healthy respect for differences. Personally speaking, I have found the South African Pagan community to be generally a trouble-free zone, where people tend to be more easily accepted for who they are than elsewhere. It is also generally, on point of this article, a Vampyre-friendly place.
But it was not always so.
In 2011, when the fledgling South African Vampyre Community initially reached out to the Pagan community bodies in order to establish formal relations, the results were quite dramatic. The VC was completely unaware of any previous issues within Pagan culture. As history bears out, the drama resulting from the vampophobic bias of some Pagans made things a little unpleasant for some time.
Pagan Vampyres became the ‘hot topic’ in Facebook groups and forums. The main Pagan spokespeople openly declared their understanding and acceptance of vampyric people who identified with Pagan beliefs (as long vampyrism didn’t become a part of Paganism), and they welcomed them. Despite that support, it became all too clear that the SA Pagan community was in danger of splitting in two over the issue. Several Pagan writers stormed out of community forums when Octarine Valur accepted an invitation to write a column about vampyrism for a local online Pagan magazine.
Critics refused to accept Vampyres as fact, despite many in the Pagan community who had the ability to identify Vampyres among them by second sight alone. They rejected everything the Vampyres offered in defense of their identity. They were adamant that the purpose of the South African Vampyre Alliance (SAVA) was to ‘coerce’ Pagans to accept vampyrism as a Pagan path or religion.
“Some Pagan elders literally became hysterical,” said Octarine Valur, who is widely recognized as the founder of the SA Vampyre Community, and is regent of the SAVA. “Some of them misunderstood us. They thought we wanted to establish vampyrism as a unique path within Paganism as a religion. Even when we made very plain-language efforts to clarify the point, these seemed to be deliberately distorted by our critics. What our purpose was in contacting the Pagan community, was to clarify that there were Pagans in their covens and groups already who were also vampyric people – people who identify as Vampyres. As SAVA we were simply trying to look out for their interests because of the number of reports we received from vampyric Pagans who were either afraid to be known as Vampyres in Pagan circles, or who had been on the receiving end of prejudice in their Pagan group because they were known as Vampyres.”
Meanwhile, the SAVA had also conducted similar diplomatic outreach efforts, with less success, to other groups. Christianity was the next group which the SAVA reached out to, and later to the SA Goth Society (2013). Christianity is the second most-prevalent religious affiliation in the SA VC according to a contemporary poll. No matter how open-minded the Christian groups thought they were, they did not react as well to overtures of friendship from the Vampyre community as might have been expected. Some of the reactions were rather entertaining, but no further engagement took place in that sector. Some Goths did attend a Vampyre gathering in 2014, but – reportedly – they were simply curious and none of them were Vampyres.
As time went by, things settled down between Pagan and Vampyre communities. The critics’ worst fears did not realize. The Pagan community and Vampyre subculture remain distinctly separate from each other, but there is a lot of cooperation between Pagan bodies and VC bodies. The SAVA and the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) jointly chaired the Alternative Religions Forum in 2013 to combat ignorance, misinformation, and propaganda in the media.
Pagan Freedom Day in South Africa 2009 [Photo Credit: Ginney May / Wikimedia]
Their efforts went on record as having successfully changed how the media portrays ‘occult-related crimes’ and ‘alternative religions’ in its coverage. Vampyre-Pagan covens have organized public celebrations in their locals areas for Pagan Freedom Day
, and they have received praise from both the SAVA and Pagan bodies for those efforts. These days, it is not unusual for Pagan groups to openly acknowledge their vampyric members, and the general knowledge among Pagans about Vampyres and Vampyre nature has dramatically improved.
Again, it was not always so, and a lot had to happen for this to occur. The current state of affairs and the history of the Pagan-Vampyre Dispute of 2011 aside, the goodwill had to start somewhere. Before the SAVA began representing the local VC, before Octarine Valur began her search which led to the formation of House Valur – before all that – there were lone, solitary Vampyres who longed for a community of their own.
It was 2003 that a young lady in Kriel, a small mining town in Mpumalanga, experienced her vampyric Awakening. She had started her Pagan path as a practicing Wiccan in 2000. Then, three years later, she was first awakened to her nature as a sanguine vampyre. Her first donor was her girlfriend at the time and, although the relationship lasted three years, the donor-vampyre relationship lasted for only two of those years.
Following the termination of that arrangement, after a period of extreme hunger and ill-health, she adapted to feed from storms, running water, wind and strong elements. Like most sanguines, she maintains that this is not as satisfying or lasting as a sanguine feed and frequently endures the effects of vampyric hunger in times of ‘good’ weather when a donor is not available.
Like many vamps, Darklady was drawn to Paganism, and perhaps hoped to find others like her in the process. Adopting the Pagan name of Darklady, she began to explore her nature and what Pagan culture she could interact with online and off. At that time, Pagan culture flatly ignored Vampyres and those who identified as vampyric. The subject of vampyric people was not openly discussed in Pagan groups and forums online, and generally seemed to be avoided altogether.
Also at that time, there was no known Vampyre community or subculture in Southern Africa of any kind. Vampyres who were Pagans would generally keep their vampyric interests to themselves, particularly in Wiccan groups. Like most Vampyres who awaken alone, Darklady looked online for information. What she knew about Vampyres she gleaned from reputable VC resources such as ‘Sanguinarius,’ but there was simply nothing in South Africa for her in that regard.
In 2005, Darklady started a forum group on WAP called ‘Vampyric.peperonity.com’ in order to try and attract local Vampyres. It was an attempt to reach out to a local community of real Vampyres. However, at that time, she never found any vamps via that channel, local or not. In May 2006, Darklady relocated to Hazyview, another small town in Mpumalanga.
The Magenta Dragon
In September 2006 Darklady joined a Pagan forum called Wica.co.za under the name ‘Magenta Dragon.’ Known simply as ‘Magenta’ after that, she interacted there for a while, quickly rising to become one of the site’s administrators. In 2007, an argument broke out between Magenta and a rather influential South African Pagan, which escalated quite rapidly. The issue was about freedom of association and elitism in the Pagan community. At that time, nearly a decade after the vaunted new South African democracy had become a fact of life, many of the then SA Pagan leadership expressed the opinion that only hereditary witches and coven-based witches could have a valid voice in Pagan affairs. Solitary practitioners and converts were portrayed as unworthy or lesser than these.
Magenta, a relative newcomer to the Pagan community and a solitary witch, found herself taking a fiery stand against this position, not even realizing that she was butting heads with the leader of the South African Pagan community at the time. Although she was a 19 year old cocky newcomer and virtually an unknown, she did not stand alone for long.
“I was young, and thought I knew all the answers,” Magenta said, smiling. “I’d also only just learned how to use the internet, and it was all new to me!”
Three other Pagans joined Magenta in this dispute, and their number of supporters grew dramatically in a short period. This group of four would lead what some saw as a necessary wave of change in the SA Pagan community at that time. Together they decided to split away from the main body of Pagans as headed by those seen as elitists, in order to form their own free community of Pagans. They would receive plenty of support from solitary witches and those who did not find the idea of ordered, structured and hierarchical ‘Christian-like’ Paganism appealing. To this end, the group expanded to six – and established Way of the Rede July 4, 2007.
The Way of the Rede
The Way of the Rede (WOTR) still exists today and operates the same forum offering free membership, interaction, and acceptance to all who identify with Paganism and other occult paths.
“The point of it all then,” as Magenta explained, “was to have a safe space where people could interact without being judged, or being looked down on for their views – or for not being part of a coven, or being a hereditary witch. You didn’t even have to be a Pagan or a witch to join – you just had to be friendly.”
Through all of her public debates, arguments, and interactions as Magenta, she was open about her vampyric nature in the context of her Pagan beliefs. At the time, she was the only one to do so. However, she was not the only vampyric Pagan. It was on WOTR’s site that she first encountered other Vampyres in South Africa – the first being a WOTR staffer and, quite ironically, an agnostic Christian.
As a reminder, it has to be noted that not all Vampyres are Pagan. Just like a diabetic can hold any religious affiliation, so can vampyric people. That said, perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that Magenta struggled to find Vampyres in South Africa. Others kept their vampyric nature low-key on WOTR, and in fact, Magenta had no inkling that they were kindred until they confided in her much later.
Meanwhile, on WOTR many ideas were openly discussed, including vampyrism. These essentially remained theoretical. People who commented on them generally wanted more information, but these still did not draw out any new local vamps.
“From the day I discovered I was a Vampyre I never hid it.” Magenta explained. “Through all my work in Pagan groups I was serious about building those groups, but I was also trying to find others like myself. I needed to find others like me, and I couldn’t find any.”
There is little doubt that Magenta and the Way of the Rede had a profound effect on Pagan culture in South Africa between 2007 and 2009. That influence included, but was not limited to, challenging the status quo – even if this was just to state a viewpoint held by a majority of South African Pagans – and making those in authority aware that the way they wanted things done was unpopular.
Had the Way of the Rede not started, it is quite likely that the future, for the VC at least, might have been quite different. Magenta might never have encountered other vamps. The SAVA might never have found her, and she may have never found a community for herself – and all would be the poorer for it.
In 2008, when Facebook began operating, Magenta saw an opportunity to reach out to find more like her. She started a group called ‘Real Sanguinarians,’ since she was looking for sanguine Vampyres in particular. Nothing came of it. The group was made up of herself and another member of WOTR. “But,” she reminisces, “Facebook was brand new and much, much smaller back then. The right people were just not there yet.”
In March 2009, Magenta moved from Mpumalanga to the Western Cape in the hope of finding better employment opportunities. While there, Magenta remained in general contact with other WOTR members – through real life gatherings and social media. And, she basically lost hope and stopped looking for other Vampyres in the country. She knew they existed, but they were just so hard to find.
That year was not a good one for Magenta. She felt isolated, as she had little in common with her social circle, and struggled to make ends meet. Her attention turned increasingly to matters of day-to-day survival. In February 2010, Magenta moved back to Mpumalanga and began interacting less and less with Way of the Rede. This was partly due to an introspective re-evaluation of her beliefs, as she began to move away from Wicca and adopted a more eclectic and atheistic view.
Meanwhile a new Vampyre group called House of Havoc appeared on Facebook in December of that year. It was based out of Centurion, Pretoria in Gauteng. Over the next few months, Izak Havoc made various postings on Facebook looking for Vampyres in South Africa, and experienced as much lackluster a response as Magenta. And oddly enough, the two never apparently encountered each other online, until they met in the SAVA in 2011.
In 2010, Octarine Valur, the woman who would later became Regent of the SAVA, joined Way of the Rede and fleetingly made contact before she founded the SAVA a year later. She had created an account with WOTR, but only made one post to introduce herself, and then never came back.
SAVA’s Logo. Each of the symbols represents one of the nine provinces of South Africa.
“At that time I had joined as many forums and groups as I could just to try and find Vampyres in South Africa,” Octarine said. “It was so hard to keep track. The fact is, I sometimes simply lost links and URLs and never found them again.”
“Val had the right contacts to make the community work,” Magenta said of Octarine. “She’d already been part of the American VC for some time and had support from mentors there to draw on. Looking back, she succeeded where the rest of us failed. She was also more tenacious, I think.”
The first time that Magenta heard of any kind of actual Vampyre community existing in South Africa was around the time of SAVA’s first news interview in 2011. It featured Octarine and Nereo and made News24’s headlines. Shortly before that news break, SAVA had begun to search in earnest for vamps in South Africa. Psion Valur De Nocte, who had been a member of WOTR since 2007 under a different user name, approached Magenta. She too was vampyric, and a member of the newly formed group. She invited Magenta.
Magenta joined SAVA that June as Kay Valkir Noctem, and the rest as they say, is history. The persona of Magenta gradually faded away, while Kay Valkir Noctem’s activities increased within the young and growing South African Vampyre community. Between 2011 and 2013, Kay was a fierce recruiter who discovered many of South Africa’s lurking vamps, and also contributed several significant articles to the VC’s cultural repository, including articles on energy feeding and healing through feeding on disease.
Kay is also credited with creating the Mintaka Code glyph used to symbolize community. By mid-2012, Kay Valkir Noctem had become one of the two Praetors to the Regent of the SAVA, alongside her sponsor, Psion. Additionally, in October 2012, Kay was elected Magister for Ilyatha Halo (Mpumalanga) in the SAVA High Council.
Time marches on, and in 2013, Psion Valur De Nocte retired from SAVA and was succeeded by Lunah Valur d’Eir – one of Kay’s recruits – as Praetor. Since 2013, Kay Valkir Noctem has acted as SAVA’s Ambassador to the Dark Nations, and became a member of the prestigious international VC body, the VVC (Voices of the Vampire Community) in February 2016.
“Back then we didn’t think about the long term repercussions of what we were doing,” She said, smiling. “We just did what we did, we did it for freedom, to be free of the tethers of organized religion.”
Looking back, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when these things changed in South Africa’s Pagan society. However, gone are the days when people not initiated into registered covens are looked down upon or dismissed as ‘wannabes.’ If some Pagans couldn’t accept non-initiated or non-hereditary witches among them, then there would be no way they would accept Vampyres. In some ways, Magenta says, she feels the stand for broad-based equality in opposition to puritanical Paganism paved the way for later acceptance of Pagans who were also Vampyres.
Kay Valur Noctem, as she is known today, still continues to serve the VC in the capacity of Praetor. Since relocating from Mpumalanga in 2016, she has become a member of Coven Veritas within House Valur. This past March, after an absence of several years, Kay resumed an active interest in the Way of the Rede and, as one of its founders, plans to welcome Otherkin (including Vampyres) into that forum as well, now as Kay Valur Noctem.