Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Archetypal Emergence & Liquid Dreams

With all this talk of vampires it seems fitting to present an interview I did with a behavioral hypnotist I know who also happens to be a noted vampirologist. In 1977 Martin Riccardo founded the Vampire Studies Society in Chicago, and began publishing The Journal of Vampirism, one of the first journals to focus specifically on the archetype of the vampire.

Through correspondence with various scholars, aficionados, and practicing vampires, Martin amassed an unwieldy amount of materials on vampirism. After conducting a five-year survey of people's dreams and fantasies about vampires Martin wrote Liquid Dreams of Vampires, detailing the mythology of the vampire, and the emergence of this archetype in the collective unconsciousness.

In Liquid Dreams of Vampires you investigate dreams that people experience that involve vampires, how often did this archetype emerge in people that wouldn't normally be thinking about vampires?

In the 1990s, a woman wrote me a letter that contained the following passage:

"I know there is a fascination lately about vampires, a lot of people have it. But I've been having these dreams, dreams of myself killing like a vampire, dreams of vampires coming to me and giving me their Dark Gift. Now, I know I'm not the only one who has has these before, but you have to understand that I'm not that kind of person, never before have I had these visions of killing, or I should say drinking blood. It's honestly been driving me crazy lately, I don't want these feelings."

I have found that vampires appear in dreams of people who do and people who do not have an interest in them. This comes as no surprise since the vampire is a blatent archetype of the dark repressed urges in humanity.

In many ways the vampire image is an expression of violence, sexuality, death, and many dark passions. It is in dreams that the primal and primitive human drives of the Jungian Shadow or the Freudian Id can find an outlet in the form of the vampire. While the conscious self often chooses not to acknowledge the inner darker aspects of one's own human nature, they become unleashed as vampires in the subconscious playground of dreams.

Was there a common significance that you found when someone was dreaming of vampires? An event or emotion that preceded the dream?

While there is no specific circumstances that always trigger a vampire dream, my research has indicated that they often occur after a person has had a strong reaction to a movie, novel, or something similar. This effect is common to all types of dreams, not just vampire dreams. The emotional connection that people feel to certain characters or situations in film or fiction then carries over into their dream life. It can relate to the fear they experienced, the anger they felt, the attraction they felt toward a character, or many other feelings.

At any particular period in time, many vampire dreams will be an offshoot of the most popular novels, movies, or television shows of that time. However, I have found that one particular film has had a strong effect through several generations. Many people have told me that the 1931 movie Dracula, featuring Bela Lugosi as the Count, had a powerful effect on them when they watched it, and they often had vampire dreams afterwards. While the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker received some acclaim, it was actually this 1931 Universal film that made the vampire into a worldwide sensation. Lugosi's commanding and otherworldly presence in the film seems to evoke a response in people to this day.

Were those who identify as vampires more likely to have dreams about vampires?

Certainly. I believe that some dreams are an outlet for wish fulfillment. The same would apply to those who identify with astronauts, cowboys, or rock stars. Those who told me that they felt they were vampiric in some way usually had vampire dreams of some kind.

How has working so closely with the vampire archetype affected your life?

While I have enjoyed my activities of writing, researching, collecting, and lecturing, I can't say that vampires have had a huge effect on my actual lifestyle. It's always nice to share information with those who are interested in the subject, and I can't say that I've have any major unpleasant experience with the public at large.

However, I do suspect there are those who feel the subject is unwholesome. I often get calls from libraries about the possibility of doing a lecture. Libraries are a perfect place for this since vampires are quite significant in folklore, literature, and popular culture. Occasionally the librarian who called me will call back saying that their superior would not approve the lecture. While I don't get the reasons directly, I sometimes learn from indirect sources that the authority feels the subject of vampires might have a bad effect on a library audience. I not sure exactly what they feel might happen. Perhaps the forces of darkness might possess some of those listening. Perhaps some would choose to convert to the vampire lifestyle. Others might simply go stark raving mad as they heard me talking. For some libraries, it just isn't worth taking the risk.

What do you think of the comparison of unethical corporations to vampires? Insulting to vampires?

In the 1990s my friend Gordon Melton got a poster of President Bill Clinton as a vampire biting into the neck of the Statue of Liberty. Years later he picked up a tee shirt with Presdent Bush as a vampire biting the Statue of Liberty. Just recently I saw a cartoon image on the Internet of guess who? It was President Obama as a vampire biting the Statue of Liberty. Demonizing someone you don't like as a vampire is almost as common as painting on a Hitler mustache, and it shows the same lack of creativity.

It's like the joke--Why won't a vampire bite a lawyer? Professional courtesy.

Do you have any thoughts on the recent resurgence of popularity in the vampire myth? What social factors do you think are at play?

There are a variety of reasons that vampires have surged in popularity. One reason is that since the 1970s there has been a deliberate attempt to focus on the sensual and romantic appeal of the vampire. Another factor is that while novels in general have become more and more sexually explicit, many vampire novels, including the Anne Rice and Twilight novels, have been distinctly nonsexual. The intimacy of blood has replaced sexual intimacy, and this has touched a chord for millions of readers who find this more appealing.

What is different with today's positive portrayal of the vampire in books/movies like Twilight different from the more anti-heroic elements found in prior depictions?

For centuries, the vampire of folklore and literature was always pure evil. By the twentieth century, some vampires, such as Barnabas in the Dark Shadows television series, developed some sympathetic qualities, making them a kind of antihero. It was the comic book character Vampirella, who first appeared in 1969, that may have been the first true vampire hero or heroine in fiction. The kind of handsome, conflicted, and brooding male vampire that we find in Twilight and Vampire Diaries has now become the standard for the good vampire who is focused on protecting his mortal female love interest.

Are there any historical antecedents to the "good" vampire?

Not that I can think of.

What is guided visualization?

Guided visualization is simply the process of directing someone into a mental fantasy as you are talking to them, and it usually includes some relaxation techniques. I have used this in some of my workshops to allow people to experience what it might be like to encounter a vampire or to be a vampire.

Do you think that your guided visualization techniques could be used to help people experience other archetypal forms?

This is commonly done in guided visualizations by some people. It is considered a way to get in touch with various aspects of yourself and the universe, especially higher levels.


David Metcalfe is an independent researcher and artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is author of “Of Dice and Divinity – Some Thoughts on Gambling and the Western Tradition,” forthcoming in The Immanence of Myth. Writing and scrawling regularly for The Eyeless Owl, his illustrations were brought to life in the animated collaborative grotesquery A Serious Enquiry Into the Vulgar Notion of Nature featured at select venues in downtown Chicago during the Spring and Fall of 2010. The Long Now Foundation has made the unlikely decision to include one of his illustrations in their 10,000 year library vault. He also co-hosts The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.

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