Whenever gatherings of individuals turn into formalised groups, rules seeking to structure and regulate are a natural consequence. The Vampyre Subculture is no exception in this regard and its decentralised, fractured nature has led to a multitude codices, guidelines and rule sets. Many of them intended to not just ban unwanted behaviours, but also to make certain unspoken rules explicit. And while small infractions are usually not penalised, more serious violations can and do result in punishments ranging from public apologies up to banishment from a group.

Different types of rules imply different types of infractions. Violating a dress code is not the same as engaging in shunned or banned behaviours, with the latter obviously being a much more serious matter. How guilt is determined and punishment is administered varies, as do most things in Vampyric society, but generally either group leaders or the collective group as a whole will decide on such matters. A clear separation of powers, in the manner of a state, is usually impossible due to the small scale nature of most Vampyric groups. And even if one nominally exists, any appointed judge, inquisitor, or sheriff is bound to be part of a leading inner circle by virtue of their position.

Many times judicial proceedings within the Vampyre Community start out with a conflict between two sides within a group, and determining at which point an offence committed by one member against another becomes the business of the entire group is not always easy. Because of that, a focus on quick interventions in and resolutions of conflicts tends to prove more useful than a strict, formalised judiciary.

As essentially voluntary groups operating within overarching nation states, the repertoire of punishments Vampyre groups have at their disposal is quite limited. All forms of punishment thus become in essence voluntary, just like any other engagement in a court, house or community would be, and are only backed up by the only power the group has over an individual member; Banishment. The threat of exclusion is the only incentive to submit to any other form of punishment, so as the only sharp sword in a Vampyre group’s armoury it must be handled with special care.

Historically, banishment has been used by societies stretching back to antiquity, and is probably much older. Being banished or exiled meant becoming an outlaw, loosing any and all legal protections afforded by society, sometimes with further spatial and behavioural restrictions in effect. It was either one step below or practically identical with a death sentence, and the man banished was forced to either live in the wilderness, or seek shelter in a different tribe or kingdom.

Similar to this historical type of exile, being banned from one group in the loose network of Vampyric society doesn’t mean that one is banned from all of them, and a shunned exile of one group can be a respected member and even leader in another.

So far so good, some might say, those are the limits of our power as voluntary groups in a decentralised subculture, why state the obvious as if it was a big deal?

There is however one further implication of this way of doing things. Word can travel fast in our circles, after all, the one thing Vampyres love more than blood is drama. Sometimes groups are public about their banishments, but it is much more common for both community leaders and regular members to privately network and spread such news unofficially. I’m sure that everyone who has engaged in the Vampyre Community for some time can think of at least one, if not many names of Vampyres who would be unwelcome in many groups they have never before interacted with. The infamy gained through banishment is akin to, if not even greater than that gained through other conflicts, and turning into a persona non grata in wide parts of both the online and real world subculture happens fast.

And while I a certainly the last one to call for something as ridiculous and impossible as a centralised judiciary for our subculture, an implicit taste of mob rule, character assassination and reverse nepotism is also undeniable to me. Not to mention that banishment can and often does come with a time limit, chances to appeal the decision or redeem oneself, none of which is possible for those turned into untouchables through infamy.

Of course it is only sane and pragmatic for communities to avoid known troublemakers, and some people have certainly earned their status as personae non gratae, but ideally each of us individually and all of our groups should seek to judge each other based on merit. After all, this is what we would want for ourselves, rather of being rejected because of a reputation garnered in a fringe community which love nothing more than bickering and drama.

Perhaps there are similar subcultures with different solutions, which we may seek out to try ourselves. Or maybe this is still the best way of doing things given what we have, and all we can do is to make the best of it. Either way, I hope these ramblings will prove food for thought and future discussion.

Written by Cinis for Black Rose Society.

Sigil of Black Rose Society