Mentorship as an institution is close to my heart, so it makes sense to comment on the topic from my perspective as a mentor as well. The following article was written by me for House Sauromatos, and I provide it here as a practical guide to delve deeper into the subject.
Mentors in Vampyre Society are an aspect of Vampyre Culture whose existence and status is often criticized, much like Houses, Covens, and equivalent traditional Vampyric organizational forms. Many find fault with the potential for manipulation and abuse inherent in such structures. Many are sceptical of the benefits of such structures to the individual and to Vampyre Society. They are met with suspicion. In fact, there is a lack of positive and, above all, visible examples of successful mentoring structures, a circumstance that needs to be changed, but which may explain the sentiment of distrust.
Mistrust is antithetical to successful mentoring relationships, which can only be based on trust as a foundation. The creation of trust, building trust as a resource, its consolidation and maintenance, is therefore of utmost necessity for both mentors and traditional Vampyric organizational forms, which at their core are nothing other than organized mentoring structures.
This requires clarity and a certain degree of transparency, to which these lines also want to contribute by shedding light on the following questions:
What makes for successful mentoring relationships? What is the role of a mentor and what are the characteristics of an effective mentor? How do you find a suitable mentor? How do you structure an effective mentoring relationship? What to do when a mentoring relationship fails? What to look out for regarding mentors within a Vampyric Household?
Successful mentoring relationships
What can a mentoring relationship ideally accomplish? Experience has shown that mentoring programs support the formation, inclusion and retention of active, committed, and responsible members within a particular context and social environment. For Vampyre Society, this model is particularly suitable, as the existence of Vampyric communities directly depends on the continuous level of activity, commitment, and sense of responsibility of their members. Mentorship as an institution fosters the aforementioned qualities on both sides in the long term, both in committed mentors and their prospective protégés.
The necessary resources to successfully shape and master Vampyric life in and outside of corresponding communities are passed on by the mentor from the pool of personal experience to the protégé in an individually tailored form. An individualized way of imparting knowledge and resources corresponds to the importance of individual answers in Vampyre Society, which is culturally characterized by different coexisting perspectives on the subject. Thus, the traditional institution of mentorship can rightly be described as a significant pillar of Vampyre Culture.
The mentor imparts to the protégé all that they personally require to be able to exist as an upstanding member of Vampyre Society, such as the ability to navigate the terms and structures of Vampyre Society, to develop individual explanations for their own Vampyrism and to be able to present them in an appropriate form, basic historical knowledge of the local as well as international Vampyre Society, but also practical basics of Sanguinary Praxis, and finally, it is also up to the mentor to accompany and support the protégé’s deeper study of the Vampyric nature in both Dayside and Nightside, including the occult aspects of the latter.
Experience with this process of individualized knowledge transfer additionally enhances one’s ability to teach. Experienced mentors, accordingly, become more effective mentors, just as protégés gain valuable experience that potentially finds its application after adopting protégés of their own. Finally, and perhaps most remarkably, the institution of mentorship, through serious engagement over multiple iterations, is itself able to refine the quality of the knowledge being taught. Particularly with regard to the exploration of Vampyric nature, which can only take place in the domain of the personal, this is a more than promising vision.
Mentorship often fundamentally provides the potential protégé with access to opportunities and experiences that are denied to most and opens doors that are generally closed to the larger Vampyric community.
Role of the mentor
A good mentor resembles the archetypal guardian angel in many aspects. They observe, monitor, and accompany the progress of the protégé, and then intervene when the situation requires it to correct the protégé’s course, to save them from aberrations, dead ends, and mistakes by enabling and supporting the protégé to master them.
A Mentor qualifies as such, of course, primarily through extensive experience in the area of Vampyrism and a corresponding reputation within Vampyre Society, as an upstanding member of it. The Mentor’s position is based on knowledge and wisdom.
Central to the effectiveness of the mentor is the ability to assume the role of an active listener, to focus on the protégé, to determine at what point in the protégé’s development they are and what problems and obstacles they are facing, to jointly find solutions to them and to set goals accordingly.
Honesty, openness and above all trust form the necessary foundation of any successful mentoring relationship and it is up to the mentor to cultivate these aspects in the relationship. If the protégé loses trust in the mentor, and the mentor allows this to go uncorrected, the mentoring relationship will likely be eventually doomed to failure. The cultivation of honesty and openness, on the other hand, is significant as a direct prerequisite for the effectiveness of communication between mentor and protégé, and thereby for the effectiveness and longevity of the mentoring relationship.
A good mentor will be careful not to betray or abuse the trust placed in them. Likewise, a good mentor respects the pace of their protégé and avoids putting unnecessary pressure on them.
What is required of a good mentor overall is an attitude that is as altruistic as possible, that looks out for the best interests of the protégé, in order to prevent the mentor from shaping the protégé solely according to their own ideas, thus playing God in the spirit of the initial metaphor of the mentor as a guardian angel. The mentor must not see themselves in the role of the creator within the genesis of the Vampyric personality of their protégé, rather their role corresponds to that of the psychopompos, the archetypal soul guide, who leads the person safely from one life to the next. It is necessary to identify, together with the protégé, the individual strengths and limitations of the protégé and to make the focus and direction of the mentor’s support dependent on this. Only in this way can the formation of a truly independent and individual Vampyric personality be supported by a mentor figure.
Last but not least, the mentor must also be accessible to the protégé. A mentorship takes up a lot of time as well as personal resources, and regular contact is essential for a functioning mentoring relationship.
Finding the mentor
In order to find the suitable mentor for yourself, you must prove yourself to be a suitable prospective protégé. Good mentors do not usually recruit indiscriminately from the pool of individuals found within the larger Vampyric Society. In most cases, it is the prospective protégé who, by their potential alone, attracts the mentor’s attention. The initiative of the prospective protégé is nevertheless expected in many cases, and in some circumstances, it is established by tradition.
It is the prospective protégé who repeatedly seeks advice from the mentor, ideally showing appreciation and enthusiasm, valuable indicators for the mentor that their counterpart potentially perceives them as such. Thus, a mentoring relationship can become apparent before it is formalized. Accordingly, a formal mentoring relationship is only the eventual consequence of an organic development and the continuation of an already existing dynamic. The formal mentorship has the advantage over an undefined loose relationship in that expectations can be clearly communicated, especially with regard to a permanent arrangement. However, entering into a formal mentoring relationship naturally also represents a definite commitment and should therefore be a well-considered step. This is of particular importance for mentors affiliated with a Vampyric Household, Coven, or equivalent Vampyric organization, as in these cases a formal relationship with an affiliated mentor may express a closeness to the mentor‘s organization. It is important to consider in advance the extent to which one wishes to commit oneself and the extent to which one’s own ideas are compatible with those of the potential mentor.
Also conducive to a congenial mentoring relationship are shared interests and backgrounds, whether these are of a professional, economic, cultural or ideological nature. The long-term relationship between mentor and protégé is of a friendly nature, and corresponding attention should therefore be paid to compatibility.
It is obvious that it is advantageous to have several options in the choice of a mentor. A prospective protégé does not always have several options to choose from, often depending on the degree of involvement in Vampyric structures. Contact with a Vampyric Household in this regard often means access to multiple House-affiliated mentors. Houses, Covens, and equivalent Vampyric organizations may take the form of an organized association of experienced mentors, and therefore often offer valuable assistance to prospective protégés in choosing a mentor, but also usually expect a closer association or future commitment to the organization itself.
In addition, if the opportunity to speak with former protégés of a potential mentor presents itself, a serious prospect should always take advantage of this, whether House-affiliated or not. This way, the prospective protégé can already get an idea of the nature of the mentor-protégé relationship through first-hand information.
Structuring the mentoring relationship and the role of the protégé
It is not uncommon for the protégé to be eventually responsible for effectively structuring the mentoring relationship, especially with regard to the determining external context, the regularity of contact with the mentor, and the content of joint discussions. Punctuality on a time level is just as important as punctuality on a content level. As a protégé, it is therefore highly recommended not only to keep agreements, appointments and deadlines as a matter of course, but also to think in advance about how to occupy the mentor’s time. It is often helpful to set goals for each meeting.
Mentors should ideally take on a supervising role here and recapitulate the content of past conversations at the beginning of each meeting. Overall, the direction of the conversation rests in the hands of the mentor. For example, in a three-step sequence, the mentor should first discuss certain, perhaps still unclear, theoretical facts in the area of Vampyrism, then secondly the social development within the protégé’s Vampyre social circle, and finally thirdly personal progress and private problems.
A good protégé shows initiative and appreciation, brings trust and respect towards the mentor, cultivates reliability and critical faculties, is willing to accept challenges, to be flexible and to re-evaluate situations and facts, formulates goals and plans independently and last but not least understands the necessity of open and honest communication in order to realize them.
A good protégé avoids at all costs the development of an excessive dependence on the mentor figure, is careful not to idealize them or the mentoring relationship, does not fall into mere tacit acceptance, does not allow decisions concerning their own person to be taken away from them, and, finally, is careful not to over-communicate in order to preserve the context of the teaching relationship as such and not to strain the mentor’s personal resources in this way.
Keeping all of these points in mind may improve the prospects for a successful mentoring relationship.
Failure of a mentoring relationship
Mentoring relationships can fail, of course. Often this is an experience from which one can learn for the future, if it cannot be avoided. The reasons why one decides to dissolve a bond are many, including loss of trust, lack of communication, differences in backgrounds, lifestyle, and orientation that are too great, insufficient time, and simply external circumstances that can derail an effective mentoring relationship.
Communicating in a timely manner on a factual level why the mentoring relationship is in danger of failing may often prevent an unfortunate development. Re-communicating positions may lead to a renewed rapprochement and improvement of the mentoring relationship, or at least allow the parties involved to end the relationship in an orderly and constructive manner if an end is inevitable.
It may be advisable to bring in a third party to mediate, if there is an opportunity to jointly analyze the problems of a failing mentoring relationship and possibly develop sustainable solutions for the same. Within a Vampyric Household or an equivalent organized structure, there may be separate regulations and corresponding provisions for this case.
Basically, both sides of a formal mentoring relationship should have the possibility to disengage at any time without personally losing face. This principle must always be upheld in a good mentoring relationship. This is primarily the responsibility of the mentor, and may be the responsibility of the Vampyric Household or equivalent organization if the mentor is so affiliated.
Mentorship within the Vampyric Household
Finally, this last supplementary point will be devoted to the potential for abuse of mentoring structures and will more precisely compare mentoring relationships within and outside of Vampyric Households or equivalent organizations from this point of view.
Mentorship occupies a central position in the offer of many Vampyric Households so that in many cases one can speak of a Vampyric Household as an organized mentoring association. Vampyric Households are able to take on an organizing, structuring, monitoring, and safeguarding role with regard to mentorship and can thus significantly influence the type and quality of mentorship. The type and quality of mentorship is therefore often directly dependent on the organization under whose auspices it takes place. Potentially, a good organization also means good mentors who offer correspondingly good mentorship.
It is therefore not correct to assume that a hierarchical organization necessarily has a negative impact on a potential mentoring relationship. Conversely, the offer of independent mentors is not fundamentally associated with a higher risk of abuse than the offer of mentors within a Vampyric Household. The offer of mentorship within the organized Household differs in direct comparison by the mentors’ access to additional resources of the House and, above all, by a certain oversight to which the mentors are subjected from the side of their organization. This does not eliminate the risk of abuse; it is present in both cases, both inside and outside Vampyric Households or equivalent organizations. However, when mentors are part of an organized association, compared to independent mentors, this possibly provides the prospect with another level of assurance, that the quality of mentorship will indeed meet the expectations. The prospect can also use the reputation of an organization as a guide in addition to the reputation of the potential mentor.
Vampyric Households or equivalent organizations ideally have binding guidelines to counteract the abuse of mentoring structures. In the spirit of transparency, the interested party should be granted some insight into these by the House. In general, the degree of openness with which an organization addresses the issue of internal and external abuse can be significant. For example, the mentor’s affiliation with an organization that takes a clear stance regarding its offer of mentorship can be a helpful indicator of a promising potential mentoring relationship. In comparison, offers from independent mentors can appear less reputable to the interested party, and thus less attractive.
Written by Mikhail Sauromatos. Translated for Black Rose Society.
BLACK ROSE SOCIETY 2021