MICHELLE BELANGER TIMELINE
1973 (January 11): Michelle Belanger was born in Ravenna, Ohio.
1991–1994: Belanger wrote the earliest iteration of The Psychic Vampire Codex.
1991–1996: Belanger edited the gothic literary magazine Shadowdance.
1995: Belanger founded the International Society of Vampires (ISV), a group for real vampires that emerged out of correspondence through Shadowdance. Belanger started a newsletter for members of the ISV called Midnight Sun, which featured a serialized version of The Psychic Vampire Codex.
1996: A group of friends formed what would later become House Kheperu. A version of The Psychic Vampire Codex was distributed under the title “Codex Vampiricus.”
1999: House Kheperu was formally named as such, when it was invited to join The Sanguinarium.
2000: Belanger helped to revise “The Black Veil,” a set of ethical guidelines for the vampire community created by Father Sebastiaan.
2000 (October 13): House Kheperu hosted its first open house. This featured workshops on energy work and was attended by about forty people.
2002: A new version of “The Black Veil” was released, following a meeting of several vampire groups at the Endless Night Festival held in New Orleans.
2004: The Psychic Vampire Codex was printed by Sam Weiser, a publisher of occult books.
2008: Belanger appeared in several episodes of the A&E network’s show Paranormal State.
Michelle Belanger was born in Ravenna, Ohio, in 1973. [Image at right] She had a Catholic upbringing and sang in her church’s choir, but became dissatisfied with the authoritarian structure of the Catholic Church and its ban on female ordination. She was an avid reader and had an interest in the occult and paranormal from an early age. Belanger suffered from poor health in her youth due to a heart defect and noticed that her health often improved after certain forms of close interaction with others, such as giving back massages. After reading Psychic Self-Defense (1930) by occultist Dion Fortune, she began to fear that she was unconsciously a “psychic vampire,” an individual who siphons off the psychic or vital energies of others in order to maintain their vitality. Fortune and other occult writers of the late-nineteenth century generally frame psychic vampires as dangerous, if not morally evil. As Belanger began to think of herself as a psychic vampire, she struggled with the ethical implications of this possibility. In college, she began to keep a notebook based on her own observations that outlined a general theory of how and why psychic vampires draw on the energies of others. These writings would eventually become The Psychic Vampire Codex, a text that helped shape an emerging community of psychic vampires in the 1990s.
The so-called “real vampire community” began to coalesce in the 1990s, drawing individuals from a variety of milieus including role-playing game enthusiasts and fan culture, Pagan and occult groups, gothic and BDSM (Bondage and Discipline/Dominance and Submission/Sadism and Masochism) subcultures, and the holistic health culture. Belanger was integral in this process and her writings helped to create a unique sense of identity for the emerging vampire subculture. In 1991, she began editing Shadowdance, a gothic literary magazine. The role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade was also published in 1991 and Belanger became involved helping to organize large live-action sessions of the game. Through these avenues, she was able to correspond with others who identified as vampires. In 1995, she organized a group known as the International Society of Vampires (ISV), which consisted of self-identified vampires and vampire enthusiasts she met through Shadowdance. The ISV had its own newsletter, Midnight Sun, which featured a series of articles drawn from Belanger’s early draft of The Psychic Vampire Codex. In the Fall of 1996, Belanger became part of a coterie of friends near Cleveland, Ohio, with an interest in vampirism and psychic energy. The group members felt that they had known each other in a previous lifetime during which they had all belonged to a temple in an ancient civilization. This idea became a core myth of what eventually emerged as House Kheperu.
Several religious and quasi-religious vampire movements were forming in the 1990s, and Belanger formed working relationships with some while eschewing others. She reached out to the Temple of the Vampire, an occult group that claimed to offer initiation as a vampire, but disliked the group’s authoritarianism, secrecy, and reliance on expensive membership dues. She had a somewhat more productive relationship with Father Sebastiaan (b. 1975), who was attempting to organize the vampire subculture into a formal organization. At the time, the organization was to be called “The Sanguinarium” and was to be a confederation of different “houses” of vampires. These were “houses” in the heraldic sense of a great family, rather than a physical place. In 1999 Belanger was invited to register her informal group as a house of the Sanguinarium. Joining the Sanguinarium effectively compelled House Kheperu to become a formal organization, adopting a name and a symbol. Belanger found the name “Kheperu” in Egyptian Mysteries (1981) by Lucie Lamy. It is an Egyptian word meaning “to transform” or “become.” This term spoke to the narrative Belanger and her group had formed about themselves as people who were different and whose work with psychic energy was part of the process of transformation that extended across lifetimes. “Kheprian” became the adjective to describe traditions related to House Kheperu. As its symbol, House Kheperu adopted an Egyptian ankh adorned with a scarab, a symbol of rebirth. Over the winter of 1999–2000 House Kheperu also established a web presence. Belanger continued to collaborate with Father Sebastiaan for several more years and helped to revise “The Black Veil,” a set of ethical guidelines for the vampire community.
Belanger has become an ad hoc spokesperson for the vampire community, appearing in numerous documentaries and news segments. Her ideas about metaphysics, psychic energy, and reincarnation, shared through her writingsand workshops hosted by House Kheperu, have shaped the real vampire subculture substantially. Belanger has also written on other aspects of the occult, mysticism, and the paranormal, including communication with the dead or “ghost hunting.” In 2008, she appeared on the A&E show Paranormal State where she was asked to use her abilities as a psychic to investigate alleged hauntings. Belanger also continues to work on a number of creative projects, including writing several novels and producing a musical album produced with the group Nox Arcana. [Image at right]
Belanger’s writings and ideas have been influential in shaping how the real vampire community understands vampirism. The primary vampire groups existing prior to House Kheperu such as the Temple of the Vampire and Order of the Vampyre, a group within the Temple of Set, were closely tied to religious Satanism and presented real vampires as something one could become through a process of occult initiation. By contrast, Belanger has presented vampirism as an inherent identity somewhat akin to a sexual orientation. Instead of being “transformed” into a vampire through initiation, one discovers that they have always been a vampire or energy worker. As early as 1991, Belanger began to popularize the term “awakening” to describe this process of discovery. Another concept popularized by Belanger was “the beacon,” referring to the idea that vampires can detect each other’s presence and are intuitively drawn to each other. This idea was crucial to the formation of House Kheperu.
Members of House Kheperu regard themselves as “energy workers,” meaning that they have a special ability to detect, influence, and manipulate psychic energy. Some, but not all, members consider themselves to be “psychic vampires” like Belanger. Belanger [Image at right] and House Kheperu favor a pragmatic approach to metaphysical truth claims, viewing them more as powerful ideas than dogmas or intellectual propositions. The motto of House Kheperu is, “Seek your own truth,” and Belanger has described a major theme of her work as “mythopoesis,” or the creation of mythology. Belanger’s ideas about vampirism, psychic energy, and reincarnation, are neither empirically verifiable nor do they spring entirely from the imagination: Instead, they are woven from intuitive experiences, meditation, “dream work” or insights drawn from dreaming, and memories of past lives. (Belanger said she began recounting her previous lives at the age of three).
When the members of House Kheperu discussed their subjective experiences together, they arrived at the idea that they had all known each other in previous incarnations in an ancient civilization resembling Egypt. House Kheperu has emphasized that this civilization was merely like Egypt; therefore, while they frequently utilize ancient Egyptian motifs and words, they do not claim to be reconstructing a historical Egyptian religion. In these previous lives they worked together at a temple that had three castes: priests who led rituals, warriors who defended the temple, and counselors who attended to the emotional needs of the community. Each caste had a special role in manipulating psychic energy during temple rituals. In their present lives, the former temple members are again drawn together so they can continue their process of evolving as energy workers. For members of House Kheperu, this narrative explained why they shared a social bond and why they seemed to be so different from other people. Members of House Kheperu undertake a process of introspection to determine which of the three castes of energy workers they belong to. This designation determines both how they understand themselves and their role during rituals. This idea of caste subsequently spread to several other vampire organizations, which incorporated a similar structure into their traditions.
Belanger and the members of House Kheperu have developed numerous rituals, many of which can be found in The Vampire Ritual Book (2007) and House Kheperu Archives: The Outer Teachings of House Kheperu (2011). Most Kheprian rituals are understood to involve the strategic manipulation of psychic energy for a particular purpose. During group rituals, participants may perform various ritual functions according to their caste. For example, counselors might dance in a circle to generate a large amount of psychic energy, priests may locate themselves at the center of a circle where they can best gather and manipulate the energy, and warriors may position themselves at the perimeter where they can “guard” against negative influences that might disrupt the ritual.
Many of these rituals are esoteric and open only to the initiated, while others are accessible to the public. Belanger is a licensed minister in the state of Ohio and has performed Kheprian versions of weddings and funerals. House Kheperu also honors the Pagan “wheel of the year” with a series of eight rituals marking the solstices, the equinoxes, and the mid-points between them. Finally, House Kheperu holds an annual “open house” or “gather” that has become an important tradition. The first open house was held on October 13, 2000, and was attended by about forty people. The open houses are now usually held at a hotel conference center and attract between 125 and 150 attendees. They feature a weekend of workshops on manipulating psychic energy and other metaphysical subjects.
As is common with metaphysical groups, House Kheperu is wary of authoritarian voices. The group is small and has no official offices, but Belanger is sometimes referred to as an “elder,” denoting her role in founding the group and the respect given to her insights and experience.
The real vampire community has undergone rapid changes in the past two decades due to an increased fascination with vampires in popular culture, near universal access to the internet, and growing attention from the medical community and helping professionals. Increased media attention has inspired a backlash in which some people have not only rebuked self-identified vampires as insane, but also criticized social workers and researchers who have attempted to interpret their identity claims. The vampire community is also prone to personal grievances and internecine struggles that have fractured many vampire groups, including House Kheperu. This situation has caused some self-identified vampires who were influential in the 1990s to withdraw from public view. Today House Kheperu admits new members only rarely, but Belanger continues to write and give public talks on a variety of esoteric topics. [Image at right]
Image #1: Portrait of Michelle Belanger. Courtesy of Michelle Belanger.
Image #2: Cover for musical album “Blood of Angels,” a collaboration between Michelle Belanger and musical group Nox Arcana. Courtesy of Michelle Belanger.
Image #3: Michelle Belanger. Courtesy of Michelle Belanger.
Image #4: Portrait of Michelle Belanger. Courtesy of Michelle Belanger.
Belanger, Michelle. 2011. House Kheperu Archives: The Outer Teachings of House Kheperu. Print on demand.
Belanger, Michelle. 2007. The Vampire Ritual Book. Print on demand.
Belanger, Michelle. 2004. The Psychic Vampire Codex. York Beach, Maine: Red Wheel Weiser.
Belanger, Michelle. 2017. MichelleBelanger.com. Accessed from https://www.michellebelanger.com/ on 24 August 2017.
Belanger, Michelle, ed. 2010. Vampires in Their own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn.
Belanger, Michelle. 2005. Sacred Hunger: The Vampire in Myth and Reality. Print on demand.
Fortune, Dion. 1930. Psychic Self-Defense. London: Rider & Co.
Lamy, Lucie. 1981. Egyptian Mysteries. New York: Thames and Hudson.
5 April 2018