I’m attempting to get caught up with Sharon Bayliss’ worldbuilding challenge, so I’m going to be posting a little more frequently than usual (don’t get used to it; have I bitched lately about how dial-up sucks time out of my life like a Count Rugen torture device?).
The Canichmeh vampires are not entirely sure of their origins, as their oldest texts fade into myth. According to those texts, they are the direct descendents of Cain and were taught how to be vampires by Lilith.
In reality, however, they recognize the fact that a blood-borne virus is responsible for making them what they are (the virus alters their DNA, actually making them a separate species), and they think that they and the virus might have evolved together somewhere in Mesopotamia less than 6,000 years ago.
The prevailing theory is that they hooked up with the Jewish people while the latter were in exile in Babylon, and this is when they began organizing their culture into what we see today. It was from the Jews that they came by their organization into family tribes, their laws and court system (based on Biblical law and the Sanhedrin), and their belief in monotheism. It was probably also at this time that they wrote their origins into the Biblical narrative.
The Canichmehah seem to have migrated to Judea with other Jews around 500 B.C., where they lived predominately as nomads. Amongst themselves, they recognized a difference between their people and the Jewish people, and they considered themselves merely an allied tribe (although they may have outwardly acted as Jews). As vampires cannot have natural children, they must turn humans in order to create new members, and it seems that they took most of their number from Jews (based on a statement in one historical text from around the year 0, which stated that almost no one among them–vampire or human—was uncircumcised). So, for most of the vampires, they were both Jews and Canichmehah at the same time.
At this time (or perhaps even earlier, before their immigration into Judea), vampires began keeping humans as slaves. Slaves were considered communal property, owned by all vampires in common (although individual groups, in reality, claimed ownership of individual slaves; all slaves had to wear a seal which indicated which group leader they belonged to). Because they were a common asset, it was illegal to kill, free, or sell a slave; they could only be traded amongst the vampire groups. It was, however, permissible to turn any slave over the age of majority (at the time this was 12 for a girl and 14 for a boy). So, for a slave, the only way out of slavery was death or to become a vampire. Slaves at this period were predominantly Jews by birth or converts as well.
By the year 0, most vampire groups had settled into towns and cities, giving up the nomadic way of life. Outwardly, they appeared to be Jews the same as everyone else, but they continued to maintain their own language, customs, laws, and government in the background.
When the Romans exiled the Jews in 150 AD, many vampires went with them, ultimately establishing groups throughout Europe. Around the year 200, the humans (Yaechahre) were freed. They were offered a choice: leave with nothing but their freedom, or stay and be provided with housing, protection, and a source of income. Most Yaechahre chose to stay. From that time on, becoming a Yaechahre was (at least legally) optional, beginning at the age of majority. The seals that they had worn evolved into tokens which showed that they had agreed to be Yaechahre. (Instead of showing who owns them, it states who accepted their service.)
As Christianity made it increasingly difficult to be a Jew, and as Jews scattered and became a small, isolated people within the larger European community, the demographics of the Canichmehah began to shift. While vampires in the middle east remained, by and large, Jewish-by-birth, the vampires of Europe became increasingly Christian until, by the high middle ages, there were few Jewish vampires still in Europe, and they lived, outwardly, as Christians.
The demographics of the Yaechahre changed too, becoming predominately Christian even earlier than the vampires, as they had to marry in Christians to keep up their numbers and prevent in-breeding. However, neither the vampires nor the Yaechahre forgot their Jewish origins; their laws and system of government continued to be Jewishly-based and their capital continued to be Jerusalem (although it was sometimes temporarily relocated, due to war). The Yaechahre had a system whereby the Christian Europeans intermarried with their Jewish Middle Eastern cousins every few generations. This helped keep the people (Orunameh) from splitting into two separate peoples.
Vampires went to the New World along with other Europeans, establishing groups in North America and some in South America. Later, some established groups in Australia. Currently, there are more vampires groups in the United States than in any other region of the world. American groups make vampires and bring in humans to be Yaechahre at a higher rate than anywhere else (although the Yaechahre in Israel have a higher birth rate than any other region). The current religious makeup of the vampires is about 60% born-Christian, 30% born-Jews, and 10% other. Among the Yaechahre, the numbers closer to 45% Christian, 20% Jews, 35% other.
The age of majority was raised in the 1300’s to 16 for girls and 18 for boys. Other than that, next to nothing has changed since the middle ages, and, in fact, relatively little about their culture has changed since 500 BC.
You can read the history of the vampires in more detail here. You can read their mythological origins here.
Vampire culture has always functioned as a culture within a culture (think Diaspora Jews–maintaining a separate cultural identity while also functioning quite well in the culture in which they live). Their customs and laws are supreme and trump any local or state laws. However, all Canichmehah and Yaechahre are encouraged to be good citizens and to not break local laws unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Because of this situation, vampires have many fewer laws on their books than any equivalent human government. Vampires are odd in that they have one single, central government, and they own all money and property in common (think communism), and yet they are fiercely independent. They much prefer that custom–not law–dictate what is and isn’t done, as custom can change more easily over time and in differing circumstances.
The individual adult vampire is generally allowed to go about his daily business with little interference from anyone else. Vampires are required to live in a group (defined as three or more vampires), and they are given a living allowance, as set by their group leader. Other than that, how they spend their money and their time is their own business. They may turn anyone they want, although they are legally responsible for the actions of that person while s/he is in their majority, and they are only allowed one child at a time.
Each group has a leader, who is democratically elected by the adult vampires of the group (although the opinions of the Yaechahre and the vampires still in their minority are usually heard and considered). This leader serves until s/he decides to step down or until the group votes to remove him/her by a simple majority (a vote of no confidence). The leader is responsible for keeping the group on a fiscal budget (as dictated by the High Council), for taking care of the group’s Yaechahre, as necessary, for Accepting new Yaechahre, for handling any interpersonal conflicts between the Yaechahre and the vampires, and for handling any legal problems–either with internal laws or external laws.
Every group leader is answerable to the High Council. The Council itself is divided into High and Low Councils. The Low Council has little function outside of ratifying all laws and upholding (or denying) a sentence of capital punishment made by the High Council. The High Council concerns itself with the day-to-day operations of the people and with the administration of the law.
The Council has a leader–the Erujtah–wh0, like group leaders, is democratically elected by the other members of the Council and serves for life, unless s/he chooses to step down or is voted out by a 2/3rds majority. While most major decisions require the High Council’s vote, many day-to-day decisions can be made by the Erujtah. Joshua–through his competence and sheer force of character–has greatly expanded the responsibilities of the Erujtah in his 500 years of service, to the point that his role most closely resembles that of a constitutional monarch.
Bonus: One book reviewer thought that my vampires’ origin (i.e. Cain) was lifted from White Wolf, but White Wolf actually took that idea from very old legends. The epic poem, Beowulf, states that Grendel and all other monsters are descended from Cain. (Tolkein took the word “orc” from the Old English word “orcneas,” which was a type of demon mentioned in Beowulf.)
Lilith as a source of monsters and demons is also a very old legend that appears in multiple near eastern cultures (it’s thought that the Israelites got the legend from the Babylonians).