June 23, 2010 – Vampires, Heresies, and Medieval Militant Religious Orders

My husband and I have some of the most interesting conversations sometimes.  This comes from both of us being very educated history buffs, as well as having a well-rounded knowledge of other subjects, such as astrophysics, anthropology, philosophy, and firearms and small artillery.  Our best conversation to date was at the local Mexican restaurant where my husband, over the course of about an hour, proceeded to show me exactly how the English beat the French at both Crecy and Poitiers using the salt and pepper shakers and several packets of artificial sugar. 

Last night we were both lying in bed, reading (he a book on the Templars and me a book on the supernatural), when he came across a very interesting tidbit of information that he shared.  In the middle ages, there were a number of heretical groups that the Church managed to squash fairly effectively (Protestants being the one group they didn’t manage to squash).  A popular theme, apparently, among heretics was the idea of dualism.  Dualists believe that the entire world is divided into good and evil, and that the Devil is just as powerful as God, and he works just as hard to tempt people as God does to save them.  In short, the entire universe is in a constant state of warfare between the forces of good and evil.  This is different from the Catholic belief that God created everything, everything is good, only man has the potential to sin and mess things up, and that the Devil only does what the Devil does because God allows him to tempt people to test them.

One small heretical group of little note (I believe it was the Paulicians) began with some hermits somewhere in the Byzantine Empire.  After a couple hundred years, they got big enough to be a nuisance and the Byzantine Emperor kicked them out.  As my husband pointed out, this just gave them a chance to convert some new people, and they spread like wildfire up through the Balkan region.

Like many dualist heretical religions at the time, the Paulicians believed that everything that was matter (especially flesh) was evil and wrought by the Devil.  Only intangible things like light and the soul belong to God.  Having children, therefore, was evil, because it trapped a beautiful, pure soul in a corrupt body.  Groups like the Albeginsians (I am probably butchering the spelling of these groups, but it’s all good—spelling wasn’t standardized during the middle ages, so they’d answer to anything close) taught strict celibacy (surprisingly, this was the most popular of the heresies).  But apparently the Paulicians had a way to get around not creating children while still taking care of the dirty, corrupt needs of their sinful flesh: anal sex. 

Oh, but wait, there’s more!  Remember how I said that the Paulicians had spread to the Balkans?  What people do you think joined their group in the largest numbers?  The Bulgars (from whence the country “Bulgaria” gets its name).  From the word “bulgar” came the English word “bugger” to describe exactly what it was those Paulicians were doing.

As my husband said last night, “Who says history is boring?”

From medieval buggering we somehow slipped into conversation about my book (see, I am bringing this back around to something relevant).  My husband encouraged me to read this Templars book because it has a lot of information on early Christianity, as well as Judaism at the beginning of the first millennium—information I need if I am going to put Joshua there. 

I also brought up the fact that I need an alternate location for the Council to meet when Jerusalem is deemed too dangerous—a government-in-exile if you will.  That has happened on more than a few occasions throughout the vampires’ history.  My husband suggested Jaffa, but that’s still in modern-day Israel, and I said that’s nearly as bad as being in Jerusalem.  No, they needed a place a bit further away, away from the fighting that frequently happens in and around Jerusalem.  Like maybe Cyprus.  Cyprus was a common destination for Franks after Jerusalem fell, so it has a long history of taking in people exiled from the middle east. 

Then my husband suggested Malta.  The Knights of Malta, which are still in existence, absorbed the Knights Hospitaller (or should it be termed that the Hospitallers evolved into the Knights of Malta?), so their history goes back nearly a thousand years.  He thought it would be a cool idea if the Knights of Malta played host to my vampires-in-exile every now and again.  The Catholic Church knows of the existence of vampires—it excommunicated them a long, long time ago—so they’re not really a secret at the highest levels.

Of course, hosting a bunch of Jewish and excommunicate vampires could get dicey for the administration.  But then, the militant orders were never known for toeing the Church’s line all the time.  That’s part of what got the Templars in trouble.  Yes, important men in Europe owed them more money than they could hope to pay back, but if the Templars had had the backing of the Pope, they would have never been taken down by the likes of the King of France.  But the Pope was against them because they were so powerful they rivaled him, and there was a pretty real danger that the Templars might, during some disagreement with the Pope, break off and form their own religion.  That would have been a heretical group so powerful that the Church would have next to no hope of squashing it.

Of course, it plays into the whole popular notion of there being some sort of secrets that those militant orders keep.  What better secret than vampires?  The Knights Hospitaller (and later, the Knights of Malta) could serve as a liaison between the vampires and the Pope (Joshua has contacts with the Pope, because every time a new one comes around, he asks that the excommunication be lifted off those of his people who are Catholic).  When it suits their interest, though, the Knights of Malta could do more for the vampires than they allow the Church to know.  It’s a power thing.  A secret that they keep to themselves.  Of course, after the Templars were eradicated, it’s a safety measure as well: try and do us in, and we’ll tell everyone that the church has been in cahoots with vampires.  Or, just flee to the vampires for protection.  Become either Yaechahre or Canichmeh and you have the full support and defense of some pretty powerful people (erm, vampires).  Try to burn me at the stake, will you?  Take it up with my vampire!

Anyways, an interesting tidbit to consider.  I will have to do some research on the Hospitallers and Knights of Malta to see if it’s a plausible connection.  It’s unlikely to be anything more than something mentioned in passing.  I don’t have any plans at the moment to set any books at a time and place that would necessitate actually seeing where the Council goes when it’s in exile. 

I have a re-enactor friend who portrays a Templar, and while he’s generally against Hospitallers (it’s an old rivalry), I know his library probably has all I need to know about all of the military orders, and he would probably delight in the idea of tying up vampires and at least one of the medieval militant religious orders.


One comment on “June 23, 2010 – Vampires, Heresies, and Medieval Militant Religious Orders

  1. bittenblog says:

    wow! fascinating stuff! Dualism and the Paulicians….who knew?? lol

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