Yesterday I promised a bit more information about my vampires in general, since I don’t want to go into the specifics of my book too heavily (snacking will ruin your supper). But before I tell you what my vampires are like, I’d like to go ahead and defend my vampires’ characteristics—which may seem a little bit backwards, but I suspect that some of you will read about my vampires, become disgusted by the idea of a non-traditional vampire, and fail to read the following paragraph which explains why I can get away with it. So I will defend myself first.
First of all, I did a lot of vampire research when I was in college. In fact, I wrote my senior history thesis on vampire mythology in medieval Eastern Europe. And I’m here to tell you, what separates vampire scholars from vampire wannabe-scholars (those whose sole source of information are movies) is the knowledge that there are no rules when it comes to vampires. Anyone who tells you that a vampire is breaking some vampire rule is a wannabe. When you look at the folkloric vampire, you find that his (or, occasionally, her) traits vary from region to region. Just as you have “yous guys” in New Jersey and “ya’ll” in Tennessee, so you have vampires roaming Bulgaria from sunset to sunrise, but roaming parts of Poland and Russia from noon until midnight. Oh yeah, vampires out in the daylight.
The folkloric or mythic vampire existed to explain things which seemed really bizarre at the time—like plagues. Vampires were made to fit the needs of a specific area or people, so what he did and didn’t do varied from place to place.
When vampires moved out of folklore and into fiction, the same thing held true. Vampires became whatever an author wanted them to become. Metaphor for sex and seduction in Victorian England? Check. Safe place to work out homosexual desires? Check. Way to contemplate the darker, more monstrous side of man? Check.
Vampires, therefore, are whatever you want them to be. Whether you’re an author or a Yugoslavian peasant farmer, you (and I) have the right to say vampires are whatever we say they are. The speed of light is set in stone; vampires are not. Hence the primary difference between science and religion/myth.
Okay, that being said, here’s how my Canichmehah stack up:
- They are not damned (at least they don’t think they are). Or inherently evil. With that idea removed, they can do a lot of things that most literary and folkloric vampires can’t do:
- They can be out in the sunlight. Sunlight is pure, safe (safer than the dark, anyways), and connected to the Son of Man, Light of the World, etc., etc. That’s why folkloric and literary vampires typically can’t be out in the sun. It’s good and they’re evil. But my vampires aren’t evil, so no problem with the sun.
- They can go to church. Or synagogue. Or the mosque. Some of my vampires actively practice religion. Most are at least in some way religious. Micah (who is Jewish, by the way), at one point in the book, quotes Psalm 56. Anselm crosses himself. They all go into a church for a funeral. Take that Dracula, you heathen, godless vampire!
- Silver doesn’t bother them. (The reasons why silver is connected to vampires are many, but the two prevailing theories is that vampires came from Judas Iscariot’s cursed descendants, and silver is an anathema to them because Judas betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver; the other is that silver was a holy metal in many pagan religions and it continued to be thought of that way, even after Christianity came to Eastern Europe. Either way, silver bothers vampires because they are cursed.)
- They can cross running water. Water, in folklore, is pure (think baptismal waters), which is why damned creatures can’t cross it.
- They can enter any building they want. The idea that a vampire must be invited into a house comes from the idea that only you can invite evil into your life. My vampires aren’t inherently evil, so no problems there.
- They are stronger, faster, and better at healing than the average person. They do not die of old age, as far as any of them are aware. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be killed.
- One vampire in the book is killed by being beheaded. Others are killed by being shot with 00 buckshot from a 12 gauge shotgun at close range (there are some wounds too big even for a vampire to heal). One is killed by having his throat—and carotid arteries and jugular veins—torn out (he bled to death faster than he could heal). Man, just listing all of those things makes my book sound really violent. Which, I guess it is, except there are a lot of non-violent things that happen in the middle to tone it down. In any case, vampires can also die from fire and drowning, and one vampire’s husband was, many years ago, crushed to death in a building collapse. So death happens, it just has to be a pretty big, messy death.
- My vampires do not get sick. They do not have any diseases (other than vampirism, which is sort of like a virus). They heal wounds and broken bones fairly quickly.
- Vampires of both sexes are sterile. And unlike many literary—and even folkloric—vampires, they do not have an uncontrollable libido. Which isn’t to say they never get it on, but it isn’t nearly as important for them as it is for humans. They’re perfectly capable of going decades without sex (humans are too, but there’s a much higher chance of humans being mentally warped by it).
- They can control minds. While this usually has to be done through eye contact, older vampires can sometimes do it without eye contact. Also, having taken someone’s blood makes it easier to control the mind without eye contact.
- They are not actually dead. My vampires have a heartbeat and they breathe, they just do both very slowly. However, when a human is turned into a vampire, he goes into cardiac arrest and all heart and lung function does cease for a short period of time (a minute or two), which leads some vampires to refer to the episode as “when I died.” Becoming a vampire is, literally, dying as a human and being reborn as a vampire, but even as a vampire, they’re not technically dead.
- When a human is made into a vampire, they are frozen in time; all aging ceases, but is not reversed. So you wind up with vampires like Micah, who look like they’re 19, and vampires like Joshua, who look like they’re in their late fifties. Joshua has gray hair; Isaac is balding. And unlike some literary vampires, my vampires look the way they did when they were human: some are gorgeous, some are average, and some aren’t terribly attractive. And some people may notice that many of my vampires are short. That’s because when many of them were turned—in the middle ages, for instance—people were much shorter then than they are now. Again, you look exactly the way you did on the day that you died as a human.
- No coffins.
- They drink blood every three days, or more often if they are hurt or have to physically exert themselves a lot.
- They cannot eat or drink anything. Needles to say, toilets and refrigerators are the least used items in their houses.
- They create other vampires by first draining a human of some of their blood to weaken them, then they give their own blood to the human to drink. From beginning to end, the entire process only takes about five minutes.
- People who are simply bitten are not turned into vampires. The vampire virus can only be transmitted through a vampire’s blood.
My longest post yet! Tomorrow I’ll cover the Imuechmehah and what sets them apart from the Canichmehah. For those of you who shudder to think of a non-traditional vampire, you might find the Imuechmehah more to your liking. Which, you know, now that I put it this way, it’s kind of funny: I have my ideal vampire (the good vampires, if you want to know the truth) at war with a more traditional type of vampire (the evil vampires).
P.S. – Canichmeh is pronounced cain-EYECH-meh, with some people pronouncing it more like cain-eyech-may. It is made plural by the addition of ah on the end, and it becomes cain-eyech-meh-ah. It is considered acceptable to translate it into English as Cainite, although most people reserve that word to denote the language, not the people.
Can is the Cainite spelling of Cain, and refers specifically to Cain of the Old Testament. Nich means descent and meh means person, so nichmeh is descendant. Cainchmeh is, therefore, descendant of Cain. Note that there are no double letters in words (doubles only appear when suffixes are added to create plurals or denote tense), so when Can and Nichmeh are compounded, one of the n’s gets dropped.