Today is the first day of NaNo, and I’m hoping to work on a new writing project (which will, hopefully, end up as blog posts for your entertainment after November), plus I’m still deep in research on Jewish history, so my blog posts are probably going to be few and far between the next few weeks.
But, I do have something interesting (or completely and totally boring, depending on your interest in history) to share. I did some work on my third book this weekend, in which Joshua–acting as a history professor at the vampires’ university–gives some lessons on vampire history and religion. This may or may not make it into the final book (depending on how boring everyone else in the world thinks it is), or may be heavily edited, but if you’re scratching your head on what the Canichmeh Scriptures mean, Joshua explains them here.
This is the first of two explanations (please bear in mind this is a rough draft and subject to change in part or in whole).
“If you don’t already know, I’m Joshua—or I’ll also answer to Y’hoshua. The only thing I won’t answer to is Josh; the last man who called me that is no longer among the living, so don’t get lazy with those last few letters.”
Kalyn was almost positive Joshua was teasing, even if his face was impassive; everyone else in the room, though, looked thoroughly terrified.
“I will be teaching this class this semester. I teach just about all of the history classes here because I’ve lived pretty much all of it. I am one thousand, nine hundred and sixty-two years old, give or take a couple of years. I’ve seen the Temple fall, the Roman Empire fall, the Crusaders fall, the British Empire fall and, finally, I saw the State of Israel rise. I’ll never claim I’m unbiased, but at least I was an eyewitness. Other historians aren’t eyewitnesses and they’re biased too. One thing you must always know about history is that what you hear or read about has been filtered through someone’s lens, and it will be filtered through yours as well. That’s because we all have an inherent need to make things relate to ourselves—to put things in terms we can understand. And as soon as we do that, we color the truth. It’s a Catch-22: we can’t understand the truth unless we relate to it, and yet by relating to it, we automatically alter it. It’s like the old saying, ask two Jews a question and you’ll get three answers—everyone can look at the same truth, but everyone will perceive it slightly differently.”
Kalyn noticed that everyone else was diligently writing down Joshua’s every word. She wondered if they were doing it because they thought he expected it, or if they were really that interested. Not that she didn’t find what he said interesting, but even if she didn’t have perfect recollection, she wasn’t sure if she would have been writing that studiously; after all, there wasn’t going to be a test.
He began doling out handouts. “There aren’t any books for this class, but we are going to be starting with this,” he said. “This will probably be the only written thing I give you all semester. This is known as the Canichmeh Scriptures, although some irreverent persons refer to it as the ‘Vampire Bible.’ As you can see, it consists of three typed pages, so it’s hardly what one would really consider a bible. When we talk about something being a bible, we tend to mean something which gives us complete and total instruction. If you think you can get complete and total instruction in these three pages, you’re getting a lot more out of this than I am.”
Joshua sat down on the edge of his desk. “You may notice that the word ‘Yaechahre’ is never mentioned in the Scriptures, and yet you all know there are laws and customs both regarding Yaechahre. That’s because those laws were written later—after these five… books, for lack of a better term. Actually, they’re more like chapters, really.
“One of the reasons why there is a separation between the Scriptures and the written law, as it exists now, is that the Scriptures are believed to have been written down in the time of the children of Lamech; everything else was written after that.” He looked over the class. “Is everyone familiar with the children of Lamech?” Several people shook their heads a little. Even Kalyn wasn’t sure if she knew everything she was supposed to know about them.
Joshua stood up and went to the whiteboard. He took a blue dry-erase marker in his left hand and began writing backwards. He wrote “n,” “i,” “a,” “C,” in his meticulous handwriting from right to left so, when he was done, it read “Cain.” He drew a line down from it and wrote “h,” “c,” “o,” “n,” “E,” below it in the same backwards manner, so it came out as “Enoch.”
Kalyn watched, fascinated, as more names appeared. She knew many left-handed people came up with tricks to write without smudging the ink with their hand, but she didn’t know anyone who could write words starting with the last letter and working back to the first. It made her brain hurt to think about trying to do it.
“Irad,” “Mehuyhael,” “Methusael,” and “Lamech,” were each carefully written, backwards, one below the other, then he drew a line on either side of “Lamech” and wrote “Zillah” on one side and “Adah” on the other. Under Adah and Lamech’s line were two lines leading to “Yhabal” and “Yhubal,” and under Lamech and Zillah’s line was “Tubal-cain” and “Naamah.”
Joshua gestured at the names with his marker. “Where you see a ‘y’ you can substitute a ‘j’ in English. You’ll see all of these same names in the Book of Genesis, but if you’re reading it in English, all these ‘y’s’ are ‘j’s.’” He retook his seat on the desk.
“Scripture begins with the story of Cain because he’s the progenitor of the Canichmeh people. Humans are descended from Seth—Adam and Eve’s third son. You’ll sometimes see “children of Seth” mentioned in our documents. Depending on the context it can mean any human, but modernly it’s used to denote humans who are not Yaechahre—those who are outside the Orunameh.
“I’m sure all of you are familiar with the story of Cain and Abel. Our Scripture says pretty much the same thing as Genesis, although we’re a little more specific about the offering part. Depending on your translation of the Bible, you might read that Abel brought the ‘firstlings of his flock’ but we specifically say that he brought the best of his flock. And Cain only brought some of his fruits. We make it quite clear that Cain gave God a half-assed offering, while Abel sacrificed the best of what he had for the Lord. So that’s why God was pleased with Abel and displeased with Cain.
“Then,” he continued, “Cain got jealous and killed Abel. And we have a wonderful line, which is not in Genesis: ‘And Cain’s hands were stained red with the blood of his brother.’ It’s a very powerful image—having your hands stained red with blood. And then God adds an extra little bit for us, saying, ‘You have spilled the blood of your brother, which is your blood also.’ This is a very important line.”
Kalyn noticed that everyone was bent over their notebooks hurriedly scratching notes and underlining that part on their handouts.
“Your brother’s blood is yours also,” Joshua said. “To spill the blood of someone related to you is like killing yourself. As John Donne would say a few thousand years later, ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’
“That is really the principal upon which we operate. When one of us dies—Yaechahre or Canichmeh—we all say the Lament: ‘Our souls bleed for you, oh our kinsman. Our hearts weep bitter tears for your death. The world is cold agony, and we are alone, until we join with you and find peace.’ That’s what the Lament is all about. We are one people, and when one of us dies, we all lose a part of ourselves. It’s one thing that separates us from the children of Seth, who do not recognize any common brotherhood amongst themselves.
“Moving along to verse nine—which is a relatively new thing, by the way; we stole the idea of having separate chapters and verses from Christians. Jews ripped off the idea too; the Jewish Bible is organized this way now too just because it makes it easy to reference a particular section. Kind of like quoting a statute of law.
“But anyways, verse nine and ten are pretty different than what you read in Genesis. It says, ‘And the Lord cursed Cain to be a vagabond. Where he went, he was not welcome. Where he planted a seed, it failed to grow. As he cut down his brother, so was he cut off from mankind. And Cain cried out unto the Lord for mercy saying, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear. For what man can survive without his kindred? Surely evil men will come upon me, alone, and slay me.’”
Kalyn noticed that Joshua repeated the words perfectly, even though he wasn’t looking at the handout.
“Genesis says that God cursed Cain to be a vagabond, but it’s a bit hazy on what that means, exactly. Here we see exactly what it means: no one wanted Cain around. He can’t get anything to grow—which is a sad state of affairs for a man who used to be a farmer—and no one will take him in. And then there is another very important line for us: ‘For what man can survive without his kindred?’ That’s why we put a lot of emphasis on our family.
“I don’t know how many of you are aware of it, but among us—the Canichmeh—we are naturally attracted to the scent of our own kind. But among those of us who are related by blood—a sire and child, for instance, but also siblings and slightly more distant relations—that attraction is even stronger. We want to be physically very close to our relatives. And this is to say nothing of the fact that people who are in direct descent can communicate with one another mentally. A sire and his child will have constant mental contact with one another—once the child gets old enough to hear everything coming from his sire—but even a child and his grandsire can communicate if they make an effort. It’s not an always-on thing for them, but they can speak to one another if they want to.”
“We have a physical attraction to our species—especially our kin—and we have a mental connection with our direct ancestors and descendants—as well as with anyone else we share blood with, such as friends, people we adopt as family, and lovers. So you can imagine how horrible life must have been for Cain to be alone. For many years now, capital punishment among us has exclusively been banishment. There is nothing worse for us than to be permanently cut off from our people. That’s why Cain said his punishment was more than he could bear: he was alone and defenseless. Which is another important point, although it’s implied, rather than stated: family keeps each other safe. When you don’t have family, you don’t have anyone to protect you. This was especially true in a time and place where the concept of a police force and even an army didn’t exist. Back before the government took care of your safety, you and your family and your neighbors took care of one another. That’s why, after the Yaechahre were freed, so many of them decided to stay with us and continue to serve us: we promised to protect them against everything that might harm them. That, and we gave them a nice signing bonus.
“Sir?” a boy asked, raising his hand.
Peter swallowed, looking pale. “Um… what was the bonus?”
“When we freed the Yaechahre, we said that anyone who would stay with us would be given housing and we’d set them up in business—whether that was a trade or giving them animals to raise—and we gave them everything they were currently using for themselves—their clothing, dishes… all that sort of thing. People who took their freedom left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Which is why most people chose to stay. But I’ll be covering that in more detail later. That’s still a couple thousand years in the future from where we are now.
“So,” he said, getting back on topic, “in answer to Cain’s plea, God set a mark on Cain so no one would slay him. Our Scripture, unfortunately, is just as silent as Genesis on what this mark was. No one knows for sure, but tradition holds that God gave Cain pointed teeth.” Joshua bared his briefly. “Some people even call this the ‘mark of the beast,’ although that’s a reference to Revelations, which is another story entirely. There’s nothing in Genesis or our Scriptures which say Cain was marked as a beast in any way. A small minority of people say that God gave him the ability to control people mentally, and that’s why no one would slay him; he could prevent them from doing it.
“But, whatever mark God gave him, no one killed him and some woman, somewhere, took him in, because he had a son, Enoch.” He gestured to the board. “There’s a succession of men between Cain and Lamech which we know absolutely nothing about, except that Enoch built a city. We don’t know anything about Lamech either, except that he had these four children, one of which, Naamah, was a daughter. Which, by the way, is the first daughter listed by name in the Bible.
“Genesis has an interesting little monologue by Lamech, though, in which he says that he has slain two men for wounding him, because ‘if Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’ That is entirely absent from our Scriptures, and many have said that’s because we don’t want to teach retaliation. When are you’re strong as we are, it’s easy to strike someone and kill them without any real effort—especially when we’re angry; a quick slap across the face can break someone’s neck. Although some people have said that’s exactly how Lamech ended up killing two men who had struck him—he returned the gesture, but they ended up dying. He is avenged seventy-sevenfold not because he thinks it’s deserved, but because that’s how much stronger he was than they. In any case, that bit is not in our Scriptures, and there’s probably a very good reason for that.
“Lamech’s children are where we get into the really interesting stuff because that’s clearly where we, as a species, originate. And while we call ourselves ‘Canichmeh’—descendants of Cain—we are really the descendants of the four children of Lamech. But that’s a lot harder to say repeatedly, so we’ll just continue to stick with ‘Canichmeh.’
“Something I will add in here: we were working in myth, and now we’re about to step into semi-myth before very going into historic fact. What do I mean by that? Well, I doubt any of us really believe that all of mankind began with just Adam and Eve. Even the Jewish tradition doesn’t really teach that; Adam and Eve were merely the first civilized humans on earth. The history of mankind, therefore, doesn’t begin with mankind, but rather it begins when mankind invents writing and starts recording all of these things. Before that, the concept of history didn’t even exist. People didn’t have any problem in the world embellishing the stories of their ancestors’ times or making up a past all together. The idea of there being a historical truth—a past that is unchangeable—that’s pretty modern. Herodotus and, later, Josephus, really got the idea rolling with that, but people didn’t really get serious about telling history accurately until about the 18th century. And even that wouldn’t be possible without the written word, because that’s when the stories stop changing and become something concrete. ‘Set in stone,’ as the saying goes—although the first writings were probably in clay or wax. When stories and law and everything else is oral, it’s subject to change. It’s like playing that game telephone, where one person says something to the next person, and they transfer it to the next and on down the line until the person at the end has a message which is completely different than the person who started it.
“Now, generally, people are much more careful when they’re dealing with something like the law or sacred text, and they take the time to learn things properly, but even when someone knows every piece of law and history and religious scripture perfectly, they often can’t help but embellish it or attempt to explain it. Then we get into what I was talking about at the beginning of class: everyone sees the truth through a different lens, because everyone alters it so they can relate to it and understand it. Pretty soon, those explanations are getting passed down, and a few generations later no one can tell the added on part from the original part.
“Writing eliminates about ninety-percent of that problem. You can get errors creeping in through copying, and especially in translating, but the Scriptures were written in Cainite, and we have reason to believe that the copy we have in the Archives is the original copy. So anytime we translate that Scripture into another language, we translate directly from the original Cainite, so it’s as error-free as possible. It’s not like the modern Christian Bible, for instance, which is frequently an edited compilation of text from the King James Version, the Vulgate and often a few other sources. Some Christian Bibles, in fact, get their Old Testament from the Greek Septuagint, rather than from older, Hebrew versions of the Bible. We don’t have that problem, though, because we’ve been speaking the same language for several thousand years with little change.
“But, of course, that language didn’t spring forth from someone’s head fully-formed, like Athena from Zeus; it had to evolve like everything else. That the Scriptures appear to have been first written down in Cainite indicates that we were an established group of people before our own creation story begins. Do I think that the children of Lamech were the first Canichmeh—the first people to drink blood and live forever? No. That’s what the Scripture says, but that’s what I think is myth. I think everything prior to the story of Lamech’s children is a myth, and parts of their story is myth and part is fact—which is why I called it semi-myth.
“I think Lamech and before is all myth we ripped off from the Hebrew Scriptures in order to explain how we are related to the Jewish people, because later on we became very close to them. That doesn’t mean that what’s been said isn’t important. What I said about why we don’t kill our own kind, and why we can’t live without our kindred—that’s all very important and our culture undoubtedly both influenced those parts being put in, and those parts have also influenced the way our culture has evolved. But did we spring up from humans in one generation, thanks to the secret knowledge of Lilith? No, I don’t think so. I think we evolved, just as humans evolved.
“That being said, I think there were probably four people—possibly even brothers and sisters—who did come together to organize our people into the collective that we are today. Just as Adam and Eve aren’t literally the first humans to walk on earth, but rather the first civilized humans, so too were the children of Lamech not the first vampires to walk on earth, but rather the first leaders of a unified people.
“And, to come back around to the point I started to make about twenty minutes ago, we have never added subsequent laws or history to the Scriptures because we believe that the Scriptures were actually written down while one or more of the four founders was alive, so it has a special distinction—just as the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible, that Moses personally wrote, has a special honor.
“Now, to get back to the story of how we came to be—which we all agree is fiction, but it’s good fiction. Naamah went into the desert, for whatever reason, and found Lilith. Lilith was a sorceress—or a witch, depending on your definition of the word—and she did something on the ground to divine the future. Probably read something’s entrails—that was common back then,” Joshua said with a small smile. “She tells Naamah that she will never die and Naamah says that’s impossible, because everything has to die. Then Lilith tells her to drink human blood, which is the Tree of Life, and she will never grow old and die.
“It’s pretty obvious what’s going to go on from there, but I want to point out something here that’s very subtle: Lilith tells Naamah that she will never die. If she never died, where is she? She’d be older than me by two or three thousand years, so I’d definitely have to yield my place as history professor to her,” he said with a smile.
“There are two main arguments on this point. One is that we shouldn’t take that literally. After all, when people talk about us, they say we never die. That’s not true; we do die, but we don’t die of natural causes; none of us gets old and dies, like a human. If you look at it that way, then it makes sense that Naamah would have, at sometime, and for some reason, died.
“The other argument, though, is that Naamah is still alive, but in hiding. There is an oral tradition—God only knows how old it is, but it definitely predates me—that after her three brothers died, Naamah went back to the desert to dwell with Lilith, and she will reappear if the day ever comes when our people are fractured, and she will lead us and reunite us and make us of one blood again. This is a common theme across cultures—that some founding father—or, in this case, mother—will come back to earth and reestablish his or her golden age. The Messiah will come and reestablish the age of Moses and the Prophets in Israel; King Arthur will come back to rule Britain in a golden age of peace and brotherhood and chivalry; and Naamah will come one day and save us from falling apart. Of course, many have argued that the reason why we haven’t seen Naamah in a few thousand years is that she’s not needed; so long as we don’t allow ourselves to fall apart or turn on one another, there’s nothing for her to do, so she’s just going to stay on vacation down in the Arabian Peninsula somewhere.
“But, back to the story—Naamah takes what she’s learned back to her brothers and she and Tubal-Cain begin drinking people’s blood immediately, but Yubal and Yubul are resistant at first. It’s interesting that Tubal-Cain follows her so quickly. That may be because he’s her full brother; Yubal and Yubul are only her half-brothers. Oral tradition says that these are not just siblings, but two sets of twins, so Tubal-Cain is actually Naamah’s twin brother.
“Tubal-Cain drinks blood because Naamah tells him he should—in other words, he trusts her. Either that, or he takes orders from her, depending on how you want to look at it. The other brothers, though, only take up drinking blood once Naamah and Tubal-Cain have shown them there’s a benefit to it—that there’s something in it for them. And this is why, on the High Council, the tribe of Naamah is always treated as first among the tribes and Tubal-Cain is second.
“That was something that developed much later, but the representative of Naamah eventually was assigned the task of keep the Archives. This is thought to be the most important task anyone does, since we don’t exist as a people without our history. Naamah created us, so Naamah’s direct descendants keep our history. After that, the person who represents the tribe of Tubal-Cain takes care of our people and our relationships. Marcus—who is the current representative—assigns Yaechahre, helps people move around, and takes care of any interrelationship problems. This is the second big, important task, so it goes to Tubal-Cain’s descendants because he worked in support of his sister. Yabal is associated with accounting and Yubul with diplomacy—although no one knows why they got their specific assignments; maybe one of them was better at math than the other. But dealing with money and with people outside of us are both jobs which face outwards… if that makes any sense. Working with our records and with our people face inward—they deal directly with us. Accounting and diplomacy, though, deal with us very little; rather they deal with other things and other people; they’re not focused on us. Which is, perhaps, appropriate for the brothers who were not too quick to follow their sister.
“So next we see is that God punishes the children of Lamech for drinking blood and trying to be immortal—he makes them sterile. And the children of Lamech wail and cry and say that their curse is too much to bear. But unlike when God came back and helped Cain out a little, God is silent when the four founders cry out; there’s no help for them. Perhaps this is when God really ceases to talk to them.
“As a personal side note, I have to say the curse of being sterile is probably the single hardest thing to bear about being Canichmeh. Not being able to eat or drink is probably second, but it’s way, way down on the list in comparison. Not being able to have children is very hard. And I had eight before I was turned—I had a full family. I can only imagine how hard it is for people who are turned before they can have any at all.
“Naamah went back into the desert to curse Lilith for giving them knowledge that would cause such a horrible punishment from God,” Joshua said. “And Lilith tells her to stop cursing her; all she needs to do is give her own blood to another and that person will become her child.
“Of course, that’s how we make others, and while I have loved all of my omehechareah, they are not the same as having a real child. I’ve had both, and they’re completely different animals, as it were. Yes, you have to teach both, and yes you are incredibly close to both, but a baby is a baby and a person who is sixteen or older is an adult, and they just don’t do the same things. I don’t personally think Naamah should have given up cursing Lilith; omehechareah are only a manufactured substitute for what you should have naturally. And, as with the case of everything, a substitute is not the same as the original in many respects.
“We’ll end the class today with the most important part of the creation story, which is the last line of the chapter, ‘The Children of Lamech:’ ‘And the Lord looked down upon their wickedness and he was wroth with them and His hatred so great, He turned His back upon them.’
“What does that mean? There are probably as many theories about that as there have ever been Canichmehah in the world. One of the more common theories is that we no longer have souls, and that when we die, we cease to exist, or we do have souls, but they’re damned automatically to hell. That, however, is a relatively new idea—and when I say ‘new,’ I mean in the last five hundred years or so. That really took hold after the myth of vampires spread in the later part of the middle ages in Eastern Europe, and also when the Catholic Church excommunicated everyone who was a vampire during the middle ages. Even if you believe you still have a soul, if you’re Catholic, you believe it must now be going to hell.
“An older theory, which is somewhat related to the first, is that when God turned his back on us, He ceased to care what we did. If we commit mass murder, He doesn’t notice. But also if we die saving a busload of children and nuns from certain death, He doesn’t notice that either. Good or bad, nothing we do can garner the attention of God, and when we die, our souls will be treated the same way. We’ll be in a sort of purgatory which we can never escape. We will not be in hell, but we will never be in the presence of God either. We’ll just exist, but without any purpose for all eternity. We will have to suffer Divine neglect and indifference forever—which some people say is worse than enduring God’s anger. Even people in hell will get a form of negative attention; we’ll get no attention at all.
“However, there are those of us who are more optimistic, and we think that if we are good enough, we can attract God’s attention and get Him to look our way again and have pity on us and spare us either hell or neglect in the afterlife. “