We had to banish a vampire from our community. She came last year and was charming and likeable. She was allergic to garlic and once she moved in, we couldn’t cook with garlic anymore, not without all the windows open and her safely away in another room. Of course the connection between garlic and this vampire was a coincidence, and at any rate, she was allergic to many foods. But she was, indeed, a vampire.
She didn’t pierce our skin and drink our blood; but she broke our bonds and drank our power. First she gained our trust; she said all the right things; she was charming and open; she gave tokens of gratitude and affection. Then she asked us for little favors and praised us for our generosity and unusual kindness. And so the trap was set, and the fangs dug in. The favors grew bigger and we were drawn into games of guilt and manipulation. We empathized and worked to support and empower her. Soon she was leeching power and empathy from us as we grew weak and confused. We felt drained and failed to set boundaries and practice self-care and we became agitated with each other. Our community was breaking from the inside out. But she had underestimated us. We are Witches and Heathens and we cast our wards, we called in light, we reclaimed our power, and we banished the vampire.
Like many evangelical Christians, I grew up reading C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I liked their stories and I justified their use of ‘magic’ by telling myself that it was ‘redeemed’ because of their Christian faith. Later I fell in love with Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories and the idea that myths hold power to “steal past those watchful dragons”. I was fascinated by the love the inklings had for story, myth, and magic. I was fascinated, but I didn’t understand. My literalistic reading of the bible blinded me to the depth and wisdom found in myth.
When I was dealing with this psychic vampire in my community, I discovered the power of myth, the truths hidden in ‘fantasy’. Once we identified her behavior as vampirism, we set a course of action. We understood that she was feeding on us and that she needed our emotions and our power because she didn’t know how to find her own from within.
We know that vampires start out as humans who are bit by other vampires. In the beginning they don’t want to hurt others. They themselves are badly hurt by a vampire. The other vampire sucks on them but then their own need takes over and controls them. They are no longer humans in control of themselves, they have become slaves to their thirst. Vampires can be pleasant and warm and loving, until the shadow of their need takes hold and their fangs come out.
Vampires avoid light, so we decided to shine light on our vampire. We worked to take back our own power and stand in our own light. The myths teach us that we gain power over a creature when we learn its true name. We had seen shifts in our vampire’s behavior whenever we came close to identifying the nature of her shadow. So we planned a meeting with her.
I was to take the lead and be the spokesperson. There were three of us confronting her. One of my allies had been the first to see through her. The other had walked with me through doubt and confusion and helped me reclaim my power. They were powerful Witches, ready to speak up and lend whatever support needed.
I had never before excluded someone from a community and I hated having to do it. I can’t stand confrontation at the best of times, so I knew this was going to be hard. We grounded, we centered, and we cast sacred space to shed light, to see and speak clearly.
As expected, she tried manipulation to elicit empathy, but I was prepared. I told her that she needed to listen carefully. She twisted my words, but I repeated them, again and again, until she heard them. It was an exhausting psychic struggle, but I was shedding light, and I had my allies. The facade was crumbling and the message was getting through. Little by little she appeared to be shrinking, her energy becoming smaller, taking up just a small space on the couch. I held eye contact as I spoke.
And then suddenly her demeanor changed. Her face fell, and she said: “I didn’t want this, I didn’t want any of this,” and I knew it was true. My eyes left her eyes and as I named the need, the shadow that possessed her; my gaze was drawn away from the crumpled body on the couch and I stared at an invisible form on the chair to her left. It was an empty chair, but I sensed an entity there, I felt the presence of the shadow that had split, left her form, and hovered over the chair. I had named it, and my gaze was locked on it, and it was no longer with her.
“This is not what I wanted”, she said again and I glanced at her and my heart broke. “I know!”, I thought, “of course you never wanted any of it, and this is the real you, the you I loved and wanted to be in community with.” I looked back at the chair and Shadow was still there, strong, weary, defiant.
“So what do you want me to do?” I heard the human form on the couch ask. This was the part where I was supposed to tell her that she needed to leave. But I was transfixed on Shadow. It was so real, so tangible, so her and yet so not her. I stammered. My eyes went back and forth, from the body on the couch and to the shadow on the chair. I was overwhelmed by the experience and couldn’t speak. My friend asked if I needed her to take over and I nodded.
I don’t remember much after that. I know my friend told her she had to move out and she said something like “now that my worst fears have come true…” and then we talked logistics. At some point she reunited with Shadow and together they left. My two friends asked me why I had faltered and was staring at that empty chair. As I struggled to put words to my experience I knew they would understand. They know the power of myth and they know the truths and wisdom that lie hidden in the realms of fantasy. They see the same unseen and know that there are worlds within worlds. They know that vampires are real and that together we had just exposed and banished one.