By Michelle Belanger
According to occultist Dion Fortune, an astral vampire is created when a powerful magickal worker refuses to submit to the “second death”, or death of the astral shell. This astral shell is essentially the same vessel one projects when engaging in astral travel, and according the Fortune’s views, it naturally expires a short while after the physical body dies. If somehow the astral shell is sustained past the death of the physical body, then it behaves much like a ghost. In order to maintain this half-life, however, the astral shell requires vital energy — hence its identification as an astral vampire.
Some modern occultists are inclined to believe that these cast-off astral bodies have no inherent sentience, although they may react to currents and tides of energy. For Dion Fortune, however, these astral vampires were not only sentient, they were also a source of deep malevolence. She likened astral vampires to the vampires of folklore, suggesting that these hungry ghosts were the truth behind the myths.
Writers like Paul Barber and Katherine Ramsland have suggested that early vampire beliefs resulted from an incomplete understanding of how the body decays after death. Certainly there are ample records detailing how distraught villagers resorted to exhuming corpses in search of vampires. When a corpse reaches a certain state of decay, it can look as if liquid blood is seeping from its mouth, suggesting a vampire that has recently fed. However, this theory presumes that villagers were digging up corpses first and connecting them with vampires later — but a belief in vampires preceded any widespread exhumations. According to Dion Fortune’s theory, vampires came first and bloody corpses were only convenient culprits, dug up after the fact. Rather than corpses rising from their graves, Fortune felt that the dead lingered in the form of astral vampires, feeding upon friends and relatives in order to perpetuate their earth-bound state. Those who were being attacked turned to the cemetery only after recognizing the energy of the being responsible, and realizing that this was someone recently dead.
There may be some truth to Fortune’s assertions. It’s interesting to note that the majority of reported attacks that hail from the vampire heartland of Eastern Europe do not describe the supposed vampire as a risen corpse. On the contrary, the vampire behaves much more like a spirit, covering great distances as if by flight, entering locked rooms and buildings as if sieving through the walls. One of the most famous cases of vampire folklore involves a former soldier named Arnold Paole. Paole himself believed he had been attacked by a vampire while he was in the service. Paole’s vampire attack came at night, and sounds much like the kind of nightmarish visitation others might call a Hag attack.
A modern writer describes a night-time visitation that could easily be mistaken for a centuries-old report of a vampire attack. Konstantinos, in Vampires: the Occult Truth, recounts how a friend woke one night to see a strange form hovering above her. She experienced all the classic symptoms of a night terror, particularly the paralysis, pressure, and sense of dread. The thing she saw hovering in the air above her resembled a serpent, and yet it also reminded her of an elderly woman of her acquaintance. This serpent with a woman’s face continued to hover above her, and it seemed as if it drained the very life from her. Tired and shaken in the morning, she ultimately sought Konstantinos’ help in protecting herself from further attack. The only difference between this report and something hailing from the seventeenth century is the fact that the old woman playing the part of vampire was still very much alive.
Vampires and Dreamwalking
When I first read Dion Fortune’s description of astral vampires in Psychic Self Defense, I experienced a feeling of dread. I recognized many of the things she was describing — not because I had been attacked by astral vampires but because I often functioned like one myself. After reading all of her material on astral vampires, there was no denying the parallels. Even the way astral vampires would take energy by visiting victims in their sleep sounded suspiciously like dreamwalking, an art I had been using for years to feed.
There were only two jarring facts that salved my conscience. First, Fortune saw astral vampires as universally malevolent. In her own words, the kind of magickal workers who sought to perpetuate themselves after physical death were black magicians of the darkest sort. Secondly, astral vampires were, by definition, not alive as we understood that word. Their physical bodies were dead, and what remained was a disembodied force. Near death experiences as a child aside, I was quite alive, and I very obviously still had a physical body. Because of these rather noteworthy differences, I clung to the hope that my suspicions were wrong. A letter from a friend would dash that hope but bring a new understanding.
Martin V. Riccardo is the founder of Vampire Studies. A native of Chicago, Riccardo has been writing and lecturing about vampires since the 1970s. In the early nineties, while I was doing a great deal of my own research, Marty was corresponding with people in the burgeoning vampire scene as part of the preliminary work for his book, Liquid Dreams of Vampires. Although I didn’t exactly fit the bill as someone who fantasized about vampires, Marty and I still maintained a correspondence because of our mutual interests.
Marty was one of the first people I discussed my vampirism with openly. Early in the nineties, we exchanged a series of letters, comparing our ideas about vampirism and feeding. In one of these letters, Marty casually asked about astral vampirism. Did I feed astrally? he wanted to know. The discussion that ensued made me revisit Dion Fortune’s work on astral vampires with dreamwalking in mind.
When I dreamwalked to someone, I did not feel like I was astrally projecting, but what was it like on their end of things? We’ve already seen that, at least under certain circumstances, dreamwalking can elide into something very close to astral projection. It doesn’t seem to happen each and every time, but especially if the target is awake, the dreamwalker’s presence may manifest outside of the realm of dreams. What if there is a kind of presence that can be sensed even when the dreamwalker is only in contact with the target internally? What happens when the target wakes up, but the dreamwalker is still there? What does that person feel — or see?
The Living Dead
In the thirties, Dion Fortune identified an astral vampire as the remnant of someone already dead. She draws clear lines between these bodiless predators and the undead of European folklore. Konstantinos recounts a clear case of astral vampirism — but the “spirit” in question belonged to a living woman. Living vampires, when encountered in a non-physical state, are completely indistinguishable from dead ones. This is one time when a modern vampire’s claim of being the “living dead” rings all too true.
When we send ourselves out to dreamwalk, we occasionally also interact with the physical world. Whatever part of our non-physical selves this aspect might be, it functions like a ghost. When it is interacting with something in the physical world, it can be perceived like a ghost. And if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…then it can be battled magickally like any other unwanted and invasive ghost.
In my book, Psychic Dreamwalking, I mention having my best friend ward my room to keep me inside. What I did not mention was the fact that he used the same kinds of wards that he would have used against any other spirit. Normally, one sets up such wards in a room to keep unwanted spirits from getting in. All Jason did was switch things around a bit so unwanted spirits couldn’t get out.
And it worked. On me. The spirit.
If our dreamwalking selves function like ghosts, then we have to accept that dreamwalking involves a little bit of risk. Sufficient Will can conquer quite a lot of things, but a mountain of defenses can eventually erode one’s desire to continue the battle, even if it fails to overcome one’s Will. Approached as a spirit, a dreamwalking vampire — and likely any other dreamwalker — can very easily be kept at bay. Wards, shields, and other techniques can help protect individuals who have been targeted for a dreamwalk.
The only thing that might counteract this on the vampire’s side are deeply established, emotional links. As covered in the Codex, links are the easiest focus to follow when targeting a person for a dreamwalk. One of the ease of links is that they are not just lingering energetic connections. They have an emotional element as well. As long as the target person, on some level, wants to be connected to the vampire — even if this desire is purely subconscious — the vampire can sneak in through the links. They’re like an open invitation, a door that is left slightly ajar, just in case the desired party visits in the night.
No amount of warding in the world will keep a vampire out if those links remain active, even on the most subliminal level. The only way to close that door is to resolve the emotional entanglement. If the person on the other end of the link can manage this, then the door doesn’t simply slam shut: it ceases to exist.