Since the first Twilight film launched, interest in vampires has snowballed. To help sort the fact from the fiction, we spoke to Merticus, a founding member of the Atlanta Vampire Alliance and world renowned vampire expert.
Let’s start by clearing up some myths. Like most of those who consider themselves 'sanguine' or psychic vampires –those with a physical need to consume human blood or the life force energies of others
- Merticus doesn’t sleep in a coffin. He doesn’t have tattoos, piercings or fangs, has no problem with daylight and if he’s exposed to the latter, his skin certainly doesn’t sparkle. He admits to having several bulbs of garlic in his kitchen at any one time, and even has a 17th century cross hanging above his desk – a nod to his job as an antiques dealer.
In 2005, Merticus, who prefers to keep his real name a secret, set up the Atlanta Vampire Alliance with four like-minded individuals. “We’re a relatively close-knit friend group of thirteen individuals representing an eclectic slice of the modern vampire community,” he explains. “Most of us are in our mid to late thirties and identify spiritually as everything from Christians to Agnostics, and Luciferians. Our membership includes everyone from rocket scientists to nurses.”
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In the Twilight films, Edward’s heightened sense of smell and telepathic powers set him apart, but Merticus points out that in reality, things are slightly more complicated. “Vampires generally refer to the realisation of their vampiric nature as an awakening. I’ve personally identified as a 'real vampire' since 1997; although I consider vampirism to have been a part of who I am since birth,” explains Merticus.
“I spent several years researching everything I could find regarding a range of psychic and analogous experiences in the dark recesses of the special collection sections of university libraries. It was from this that I eventually came to accept the concept of vampirism and realised its resonance in my life. As illogical as it may sound, I’ve never felt at harmony with the time period I inhabit or even humanity as a collective.”
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When it comes to the issue of “feeding”, Merticus says that sanguinarian or psychic vampires are unique in that they have a genuine need to consume either blood or the life force energies of others, and will experience physical discomfort if they don’t. “Sanguinarian or psychic vampires are individuals who cannot adequately sustain their own physical, mental, or spiritual wellbeing without the taking of blood or vital life force energy from other sources. Without feeding a vampire will become lethargic, sickly and depressed,” Merticus explains.
Critics point out that such symptoms could well indicate potentially serious medical conditions, but Merticus says genuine vampires will eventually discover that these feeding sessions are often the only cure for the symptoms they’re experiencing. “After the initial awakening, many vampires feel an intense pull towards others like them and have an insatiable thirst or hunger – with hunger in this case meaning an unspecified or peculiar craving; we eat and drink like everyone else of course! Through either trial and error - as is often the case with blood: a cut on a friend's finger, a bloody steak, or a craving for something that tastes like blood, for example - or finding educational resources in on the internet, a vampire realises what’s necessary to curb their hunger.”
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Whilst some modern-day vampires wear prosthetic fangs, you’re unlikely to come across any who use them to bite necks. “Drawing blood through biting isn’t safe,” points out Merticus. “Medical lancets and sterilised blades are often used for extracting blood from donors. A sanguinarian vampire will be very concerned with the donor’s health and the blood being free from disease and parasites - we require screening and medical evaluation of our donors. The frequency of feeding varies but generally one or two tablespoons of blood once a week is sufficient.”
As for his opinion on films such as Twilight? “I’m looking forward to the Twilight franchise fading from memory!” he admits. “The mainstream culture has become increasingly interested in exploring the vampire archetype. I was a vampire before Twilight and True Blood and will be one long after the fanfare has subsided. These programmes are forms of entertainment and not representative of the practices or beliefs held by real vampires.”
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So, we’ve established that Merticus neither sleeps in a coffin nor detests daylight. His favourite times of day are early evening and mid-morning. His job as a successful antiques dealer and his reputation as an expert on vampirism mean that cramming his life into a 7-day week can be tricky.
In addition to founding the Atlanta Vampire Alliance, Merticus also co-founded Suscitatio Enterprises, an organisation set up to conduct research into vampirism, and has contributed to articles that have appeared on ABC news, and in newspapers such as the Miami Herald. Indeed, this dog-loving, married 33 year old Atlanta native, who lists target shooting and world travel as his interests, really isn’t that different to everyone else.
“When we’re not writing research surveys or giving PowerPoint presentations on the subject of real vampirism, we enjoy social gatherings which range from upscale restaurants or coffee and dessert bars to the weekend Goth or Industrial club scene,” he points out. Indeed, Merticus feels that if there’s one good thing to come out of the current obsession with vampires, it’s the opportunity to correct the misconceptions. “I view the increased interest and commercialisation of vampirism as a chance for the public to learn about real vampirism on our terms since at no prior time were we as organised, widely published, or educated as a collective on the aspects of real vampirism as we are today.”
So, if you’re ever in Atlanta and bump into a dog-loving antiques dealer, why not buy him a coffee? We promise he won’t bite….
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