A Different Take on Vampire Mythology
A Guest Post By Denise Verrico
When I set out to write Cara Mia my first Immortyl Revolution novel, I read a lot of books on vampire legends. I’ve always been attracted to the figure of the vampire. The all-powerful vampire appealed to me as a kind of dark superhero. Almost every culture has some sort of vampire myth. Like most people, I was familiar with the Eastern European vampire myths. In these stories, the vampire is typically thought of as an “undead” demon or re-animated corpse that feeds on the lifeblood or sometimes the soul or sexual energy of human victims.
As I dug further into the lore, I found that a lot of evidence points to these vampire legends first appearing in India. This gave me the basis of the Immortyl culture of my vampire series. Indian mythology provides many examples of vampire-like spirits and deities, but one deity often associated with vampirism is Kali, a fierce form of the mother goddess (Shakti) and consort of Shiva. Kali is an intimidating figure, usually depicted as emaciated with withered dark blue or black skin and three eyes. She even wears the body parts of her victims as jewelry and has a blood-red tongue that sticks out in defiance. Her favorite places are battlefields where she and her attendants, the dakini, become intoxicated on the blood of victims.
Because of this fearsome image and some pop-culture references to her, Kali is an often-misunderstood figure in the West. However, Kali is the goddess of time, not death and only slays evil demons. Symbolically, she annihilates the selfish impulses and ego that bind us to our material bodies. Her aspect may be ferocious, but she is called Kali Maa (Mother Kali) and is revered in many parts of India. Historically, only one group associated with Kali was known for violence, the Thugees. These devotees would waylay travelers and use them as blood sacrifices to the goddess. The Thugees were the inspiration behind the Kali worshipers in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, hence a lot of the western misconception.
Tantric cults often focus on Kali. Tantra is an older religious tradition than Hinduism, dating back before the Aryan tribes migrated into India. These groups center on Shakti (female principle) worship and sometimes use sex and even blood in their rituals. The idea behind this is to gain control over the body to capture divine energy and gain blessings. The more I read, the more I became fascinated with the stories surrounding Kali and tantric practices. This led me to imagine the origin of the Immortyl culture and their own religion based on tantra. In my research, I also came across accounts of the devidasi. These were female temple devotees, skilled in music and dance and frequently exploited as courtesans. Some of them actually wielded surprising power.
The devidasi inspired the adepts of the ancient arts in my series. These extraordinarily beautiful male and female Immortyls serve Kali as singers, musicians and dancers. Like their historical counterparts the devidasi, they are employed as courtesans. The sexual aspect of the adepts’ art is an elaborate tantric ritual symbolizing the act of Immortyl creation.
The latest Immortyl Revolution novel, My Fearful Symmetry, is set mostly in India at the chief elder’s court. Here Immortyls live much as they did three thousand years ago. Nineteen-year-old Cedric MacKinnon, fresh from the modern-day streets of London, is trained as an adept and becomes entangled in a web of intrigue centered on the revolution started by Mia and Kurt in the first two books. The young man soon realizes that the chief elder uses Kali’s fearsome reputation as a tool to exert control over other Immortyls. Cedric is at first highly skeptical of the Goddess’ power, but after much trial and tribulation he begins to question his disbelief.
I like to call Cedric my naughty boy. He’s highly irreverent, funny, sexy and flamboyant. If he had his druthers, he’d be the front man of a rock band. The boy is irrepressible. Even after all the crap I put him through, he fights on. It was a blast writing from the point of view of this male character after writing two books from Mia’s.
If you haven’t read the first two books, never fear. My Fearful Symmetry can be read first in the series because the saga is seen through fresh eyes. The reader can then go back later and read Mia and Kurt’s story in the first two books.
For more from this author: Denise Verrico
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