A Different Take on Vampire Mythology
When I set out to write Cara Mia my first Immortyl Revolution novel, I read a lot of books on vampire legends. I’ve always been attracted to the figure of the vampire. The all-powerful vampire appealed to me as a kind of dark superhero. Although I decided to go with a more sci fi than magical take on vampirism, I do play around a little with the well-known myths in my books and try to give them a biological basis.
Since our early history, people have understood that if a human being lost a great deal of blood he or she would die. It’s not surprising that myths of blood-drinking monsters arose all over the globe. Usually these stories were connected with sudden or early death of a person. Almost every culture has some sort of vampire myth. Like most people, I was familiar with the Eastern European vampire myths. In these stories, the vampire is typically thought of as an “undead” demon or re-animated corpse that feeds on the lifeblood or sometimes the soul or sexual energy of human victims.
As I dug further into the lore, I found that a lot of evidence points to these vampire legends first appearing in India. This gave me the basis of the Immortyl culture of my vampire series. Indian mythology provides many examples of vampire-like spirits and deities, but one deity often associated with vampirism is Kali, a fierce form of the mother goddess (Shakti) and consort of Shiva. Like her husband, Kali both creates and destroys. She’s often shown standing on the body of Shiva, symbolizing that in the scheme of the cosmos the male principle is subordinate to that of the female.
Kali is a scary figure, usually depicted as emaciated with withered dark blue or black skin and three eyes. She wears the body parts of her victims as jewelry and has a blood-red tongue that sticks out in defiance. Her favorite places are battlefields where she and her attendants, the dakini, become intoxicated on the blood of victims.
Because of this fearsome image and some pop-culture references to her, Kali is an often-misunderstood figure in the West. Historically, only one group associated with Kali was known for violence, the Thugees. These devotees would waylay travelers and use them as blood sacrifices to the goddess. The Thugees were the inspiration behind the Kali worshipers in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, hence a lot of the western misconception.
However, Kali is the goddess of time, not death and only slays evil demons. Symbolically, she annihilates the selfish impulses and ego that bind us to our material bodies. Her aspect may be ferocious, but she is called Kali Maa (Mother Kali) and is revered in many parts of India. The city of Kolkata (Calcutta) is sacred to her and named for the goddess. Tantric cults often focus on Kali. Tantra is an older religious tradition than Hinduism, dating back before the Aryan tribes migrated into India. These groups center on Shakti worship and sometimes use sex and even blood in their rituals. The idea behind this is to gain control over the body to capture divine energy and gain blessings.
The more I read, the more I became fascinated with the stories surrounding Kali and tantric practices. This led me to imagine the origin of the Immortyls and their own religion based on tantra. In my research, I also came across accounts of the devidasi. These were female temple devotees, skilled in music and dance and frequently exploited as courtesans. Some of them wielded surprising power. The devidasi inspired the adepts of the ancient arts in my novels. These extraordinarily beautiful male and female Immortyls serve Kali as singers, musicians and dancers. Like their historical counterparts the devidasi, they are employed as courtesans. The sexual aspect of my adepts’ art is an elaborate tantric ritual symbolizing the act of Immortyl creation.
The latest Immortyl Revolution novel, My Fearful Symmetry, is set mostly in India at the chief elder’s court. Here Immortyls live much as they did three thousand years ago. Nineteen-year-old Cedric MacKinnon, fresh from the modern-day streets of London, is trained as an adept and becomes entangled in a web of political intrigue centered on the revolution started by Mia and Kurt in the first two books. The young man soon realizes that the chief elder uses Kali’s fearsome reputation as a tool to exert control over other Immortyls. Cedric is at first highly skeptical of the Goddess’ power, but after much trial and tribulation he begins to question his disbelief. The neat thing about this book is that it can be read first because the saga is seen through fresh eyes. The reader can jump into the series here and go back later and read Mia and Kurt’s story in the first two books.
One of the great pleasures for me in writing speculative fiction is all of the possibilities that exist for the imagination. Urban fantasy, in particular, allows a blending of the real world with the fantastical. I was recently on a panel at a science fiction convention, where one of the writers suggested that urban fantasy is creating mythology for the modern day. He referenced Joseph Campbell’s books, such as The Power of Myth. I’ve always been a fan of Campbell’s theories. If you haven’t read Campbell’s books and you’re interested in mythology, I highly recommend them. You may be surprised by the similarity of myths from cultures around the world and corresponding themes in a lot of stories that are popular today.
Denise Verrico is giving away 1 eBook copy of her latest novel Twilight of the Gods....the contest will end on October 7th!!!! You have two days, please post your name and email addy and the winner will be picked randomly.