Today I learned about the Houston Vampire Court and the Vampire Court of Dallas/Fort Worth, both member-driven organizations for "Sanguinarians" — humans who sustain themselves through blood (animal, or human) or by "draining" "psychic energies" from other humans. These are, perhaps unsurprisingly, largely off-shoots or goth and/or fetish subcultures, but there's something heartwarming about the sense of community they're able to build together. (Unless "heartwarming" is kind of ableist in this context?)
From Fodor's Travel:
Texas is one of many states that boasts of vibrant vampire communities, known as courts. Self-identifying vampires can apply for membership in their city. To an outsider, these vampire courts may sound eerie. For the vampires, the courts are a place they can find belonging.
"We celebrate the dark, the macabre, and the spooky, and we recognize that it's part of culture throughout history," says Mikael Kage, king of the Houston Vampire Court (HVC). "No matter how weird or how spooky you think your passions and ideas are, you have a place where you're not judged for it."
These courts remind me a bit of the Satanic Temple, in the embrace of seemingly-dark counter-culture concepts that turn out to be surprisingly empowering. Ironically, the courts seem to do better than the Temple at fulfilling that traditionally church-like function of building community. The same article notes that these vampire courts also involve themselves in a lot of important charitable and philanthropic work:
The [Vampire Court of Dallas / Fort Worth] which is a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit, consists of 70 members who vote on which philanthropic projects and local charities to get behind. The VCD has raised more than $20,000 over the past four years for local causes. Blood drives, children with medical needs, heart research, exotic animal shelters, and domestic abuse prevention are just a few of the many causes the VCD has contributed to in its community.
In Houston, Kage remarks on the collective passion in the group's philanthropic endeavors. "People could see that change, and it kept them motivated to keep trying to do good things and to look for more local projects we can take on," he shares.
One of HVC's most successful efforts is its annual drive to pay-off student lunch debts. The court discovered that families who make too much to qualify for free school meals, but not enough to afford daily lunches are in a precarious situation. If a student cannot pay for their lunch and accrue a certain debt, they can be denied lunch or get a less substantial meal.
COVID-19 has certainly impacted their abilities to gather for sanguination, or philanthropy; the Fodors article, while certainly interesting, oversells this point and under-delivers on the payoff. But like any community, these vampire courts still function as a support group for each other, which is particularly important during a time of so much stress, anxiety, and loneliness. And I just like seeing any sort of situation where people who might be outcasts in other parts of life can find some sense of solidarity.
There Are Real Vampires in Texas. We Interviewed Them. [Jillian Goltzman / Fodor's Travel]
Life Among the Vampires [John Edgar Browning / The Atlantic]
Image: Bryan Ledgard / Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)