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     Vampires in myth and legend might be viewed as members of one of two broad categories.  The larger grouping consists of revenants; creatures lacking higher faculties and operating on a blind instinct to suck up enough life to keep themselves living.  They are such creatures as re-animated corpses, the evil undead or a shell of a person who has been possessed by some malignant spirit.

     The other branch is vampires who are self-aware.  These are individuals for whom vampirism is a magical act or an evolutionary path.  There are a number of Gods and Goddesses whose legends include acts of vampirism or its functional equivalent though the term may not necessarily be used.  In a few cases the god's vampire traits are predominant ones and he or she can be defined as being one.  More commonly the vampire aspect will be one facet of a complex deity.

     Most cultures consider blood to have a special potency as a magical substance.  Vampirism and sorcery have always been interwoven.  The connection is particularly obvious in Mexico and Central America where it wouldn't be too much to say all magicians were regarded as being vampires.  This perception survived the conversion of the region to Christianity, a standard question the Spanish priests might ask a member of the flock who had drawn suspicion being: "Art thou a sorcerer? Dost thou suck the blood of others?"

     A group of vampire witches that have been part of Mexican culture since ancient times are the Ciuateteo.  Their lore has striking similarities to that of western witches.  Originally women who had died in childbirth, they would wander through the air on broomsticks looking for victims, haunting crossroads in particular.  Their faces were white, their arms and hands were coloured with a white powder and their dress marked by the symbols of their Mistress Tlazolteotl, goddess of all sorcery and evil, closely akin to the Greek Hecate.  One of Tlazolteotl's aspects is that of a moon goddess; she is associated with the screech-owl and the snake and the broomstick is her especial symbol.

     Another vampire type with roots in Aztec culture is the Tlahuelpuchi.  These were (mostly) women born fated to be what they were.  They had no control over their condition and couldn't pass it on to others.  At first menses they acquired the power of shapeshifting and an insatiable thirst for human blood.  The tlahuelpuchi had to have blood at least once a month and some as much as four times a month. (shapeshifting apart, all very similar to modern HLVs*)  They were credited with being able to hypnotise.  Tlahuelpuchi lived incognito in communities, as such blood drinking witches were the objects of fear, especially among couples with infants.  (More on Tlahuelpuchi)

Lion-headed Sekhmet      The myths of great goddess Sekhmet of ancient Egypt are recorded and interpreted several diverse ways.  She is portrayed as a woman with the head of a lioness and is a Lady of many apparent contradictions.  Egyptologist Sir Wallis Budge comments that the name Sekhmet is connected or comes from the word sekhem which means to be strong, mighty & violent.  She is guardian of the dead, with aspects as both a destroyer and a sustainer that parallel Kali's to an extent.  Sekhmet is one of the oldest deities in the world. She is known as the daughter of Ra but is also described as older than Ra.  She's a deity who was imported from another culture but it is not known which culture.  On the walls of the tomb of Seti there is a version of her myth that depicts Sekhmet as a blood drinker.  (For a fuller version: Sekhmet and the Near Destruction of Mankind)   Of her four thousand names, only a few hundred have survived. Some of them hint at a possibly deeper connection to the realm of the vampire: Lady of Transformations, Enrapturing One, Giver of Ecstasies, Mother of the Dead, Lady of the Bloodbath, Devouring One, & Terrible One.

     The pantheons of vajrayana Buddhism, Hinduism and the still more ancient Bon Religion of Tibet feature many deities that are broadly described as "blood drinking".  Defining these beings as vampires in terms of the Western model can be misleading.  Some of what the "wrathful deities" do is distinctly vampiric.  There has always been a symbolic connection in the East between blood and life. The fierce gods will devour blood, life-essence and sometimes the viscera of their victims.  There is passion and bloodlust in their dances.  But the ultimate object is the rending of veils and evolution.  The connection is tantric in nature; if the "victim" yields himself up to the god with the right attitude and awareness he might hope to find transcendence in his "devourer's" embrace.

Kali      Kali the Black has been called "the divine Shakti representing both the creative and destructive aspects of nature".  Clothed only with the veil of space, her blue-black nakedness symbolizes the eternal night of non-existence, a night that is free of any illusion and distinction.  She displays huge fangs and her hands are bloody.  She is the lover and devourer of Shiva.  Kali is a fierce goddess of death and it is believed that she eats time itself.  To her worshipers in both Shakta and Tantra she is a multi-faceted Great Goddess presiding over all of life from conception to death.  Her worship, therefore, consists of fertility festivals as well as sacrifices (animal and human); and her initiations expand one's consciousness by many means, including fear, ritual sexuality and a variety of drugs.

     Cinnamasta, also called "She of the Cut Neck" or the "Headless One" is a goddess concerned with sex/life/death who provides a particularly vivid illustration of the idea of blood as the vehicle of life-essence. The basics of her tale are that her two attendants begged the goddess for food and having naught to give them, she cut her own head, causing three streams of blood to flow from each side of her neck and her throat.  Gushing up through her body, this energy spouts out of her headless torso to feed her devotees and also replenish herself.  Cinnamasta is believed to be she who distributes "vital essence" or "life energy" to all beings.  Perhaps she more properly represents the ultimate donor than a vampire goddess.

     The vajrayana pantheon contains too many flesh eating dakinis and herukas to list individually.  Tibet's greatest sorceror-sage Padmasambhava notably had instances when he manifested as a vampire.  Legends say he ended up going off to dwell on a copper mountain populated by "magical cannibals" or "vampires" depending on how the term is translated.

*HLV=Human Living Vampire