Buffy the Vampire

For about ten years now I’ve known a woman – we’ll call her B, for the sake of the pun – who is a rare example of a real-life psychic vampire.

It was subtle, when I first met her. Most folks would just describe her as “needy”. At that time in my life, I had a lot of friends with whom I was fairly physically intimate – these were the heydays of the WPA, and the couches in the dormitory kitchen/lounge where we met were almost always filled well beyond capacity. We greeted each other and parted with warm hugs, and no one thought anything of it. But as more and more of the group got into and out of relationships, and just as we got a couple years older, B’s hugs started to change. It wasn’t that she touched anyone inappropriately (not back then, anyway), but when she touched you … you came back diminished. And if you wouldn’t let her touch you, she’d give you the kind of look a kicked puppy gives you: uncomprehending disappointment. After a few months, it got to where I, at least, didn’t feel safe touching anyone when she was around.

The group met twice monthly, and every meeting I came home feeling exhausted. This was a rough period in my life, and the WPA was my only social outlet. I thought that it was dealing with people, putting on a happy face and pretending that I wasn’t coming apart at the seams, that left me so drained. But we had a lot of turnover, that year, including picking up a few people who’d been around the block more than us, and for reasons that escape me now (hell, maybe I never even knew back then), B began to miss about every second or third meeting. And we started to realize that on days B wasn’t there, we all had more fun and still felt good at the end of the night. Those of us who had been practicing magic for years – the group was always a mix of newbies and (relatively) more experienced practitioners – got to where we could feel our energy pouring into her.

We started meeting at people’s homes over the summer, and several of us warded our homes against her. One couple did the classic freezer-binding; I had her, and the rest of the WPA, cast a circle around the house I was living in, then used her part in the circle-casting to teach the wards what they needed to keep a lid on. House-level wards were effective, but almost nothing short was. Strangely enough, it was almost impossible to get people to join the group.

We tried calling her on it, in our various immature ways. “B, your aura’s sticking to me again.” “Can I have my power back? I wasn’t done with it.” She pretended we were joking, but by the time I was setting things in motion to move to St. Louis, I was being more direct: “You’re draining me again. Stop it.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t even know I was doing it” “I know. That’s what makes it even worse.”

Then I moved to St. Louis, and left her in everyone else’s hands. Their town, their problem.

I heard stories occasionally, of course. She found a group to do full, formal circles with, and it was filling her to the brim with power. Mutual friends of mine and hers moved, and found sticky cobwebs of her power after they’d taken down all their own wards. People would learn to shield against her, and she’d ask third parties why so-and-so didn’t like her anymore. Once, when supposedly casting a circle of protection, she ate all the mana out of a wall. On several occasions she has made people sick as fuck. People unaccustomed to her presence feel ill as soon as she walks into a room.

I saw her tonight for the first time in years. My lady-friend and a mutual acquaintance were hit first, almost as soon as she entered the room. It took a little while longer to overwhelm me, but not much: even working in the mall is not as toxic as half an hour in the same room as B. Before we all left, I had to pull tendrils off of each of them – sick, orange things that left a residue like fast-growing fungus.

Merely being in the same room as this woman made most of us exhausted, irritable, and even nauseous.

Tragically, there is not yet any conclusion to this tale. B remains at large, psychically assaulting everyone within reach, and driving newcomers away from the WPA – now the KU Cauldron. Something must be done, but what? Talk to her? Certainly the first step. Bind her? And be bound to her forever? Psychically assault her in return? All three, possibly.

How long will this go one before someone intervenes?

What troubles me most about B – what troubles me most about every one of the not quite half-dozen vampires I have encountered in the almost fifteen years I have practiced magic – is how similar their power is to my own. To heal, to weave … or to drain and bind … these things are not so different. I am partially resistant to her attacks, particularly aware of them, because I am perfectly capable of replicating them.

A Few Introductory Thoughts on Tarot

Cartomancy, to the best of my understanding, lies somewhere between a technical skill and a psychic gift. One selects a deck by intuition, at random, or after careful study. Some bless or enchant their cards, others carefully nurture the spirit of a deck. Some favor traditional decks – true Tarot decks based on the Rider-Waite and Golden Dawn originals – others favor oracle cards whose artists have abandoned the five suit structure altogether. Some people I know have intense visionary and psychic experiences while working with divinatory cards, sometimes almost completely unrelated to the actual cards at hand; others, like myself, are more decoders of the symbols within the cards, occasionally assisted by strong intuition.

The traditional structure of a Tarot deck is of five suits: four lesser and one greater. The lesser suits associated with the ceremonial magician’s tools and with elemental power. Disks, Cups, Swords, and Wands. Earth, Water, Air, Fire. The suits have other names, of course, varying from deck to deck. Disks are known variously as Coins, Pentacles, or even simply Earth; Wands are sometimes Rods, Staves or just Fire; alternative names for Swords and Cups are rare, but not unheard of. The lesser suits are comprised of fourteen cards each:, most commonly known by the numbers and titles: ace through ten, page, knight, queen, and king. The fifth suit, the “Trumps” or “Major Arcana”, are a series of twenty-two ascending images and archetypes, originally from Renaissance Italian theology and popular culture (I don’t have the book on hand for a proper citation, but look to Robert Michael Place’s The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Interpretation) .

The suit of Disks – I favor the name “disks”, for whatever reason, though I recall that my first deck, the Hansen-Roberts, called them Coins – deals with the material world, material things, and material resources. Being associated with elemental earth, themes of fertility and fecundity are also found here. The suit of Cups deals chiefly with emotional attachments, memory, and romance. Being associated with elemental water, there are also some associations with psychic gifts and dreams. The suit of Wands deals with passion, glory, and drive. Frequently, this entails themes conflict, victory, and loss. The suit of Swords deals with suffering and torment. Being associated with elemental air, there are also associations with matters of intellect and understanding.

The major arcana is where the imagery of tarot cards get really, really interesting. It’s also where things begin to vary wildly between decks, as authors and illustrators embrace or discard the original Christian and Hermetic symbolism.

I’ve worked with four decks since I began my practice in 1996.

My first was the Hansen-Roberts deck, and Rider-Waite variant that moved a couple of the major arcana around (I can’t remember which ones, all these years later, and I’ve long since lost the original booklet that explained the decision; it may even be that they made the same moves as the Waite deck from the previous “traditional”, not instead of) and replaced the lackluster art with images that were infinitely more visually appealing, although symbolically similar if not identical. The deck developed a serious attitude over the years I used it, with a caustic voice to rival some (gentler) Thoth decks by the time I retired it. The deck was still in full working order, and I have it to this day, but at the age of 18 or 19 when I stopped reading the cards for a while, I simply couldn’t trust myself to read what the cards said, not what I wanted them to say.

The second is a Tarot deck only insomuch as it has the five suits. DJ Conway’s Shapeshifter deck owes more to the Thoth deck, I think, than the Rider-Waite, but softens the brutal voice of Crowley’s work with the fluffy-bunny attitude one rightly expects from Conway, with a dose of faux-shamanism and animal totem. The art and imagery are beautiful, drawing from that transformative/animal theme. If nothing else, I recommend it as a piece of art.

The third was the Robin Wood, another Rider-Waite variant, even more beautiful than the Hansen-Roberts. I purchased it when I resumed doing card work at about the age of 22. The deck was reliable, consistent, but unfortunately printed on slightly inferior paper, and I was forced to retire it when several of the cards became too badly damaged.

The fourth deck, my current deck, is one of two Art Nouveau decks I’ve found and purchsed, largely because they’re pretty. One of the two I will never use – the imagery is too sexist – but the one I am using has some interesting variations to the traditional themes. The images on the minor arcana are greatly simplified: a single man and woman, seemingly made out of stained glass, in a tableau depicting the theme of the card, with a different couple and color scheme for each suit. The major arcana is similar in meaning, but more modern in imagery and certain themes than older Rider-Waite based decks, and as I begin to explore the meanings of the Tarot, it is to this deck that I will refer most often and in greatest depth.