Vampires and Sunlight
Written by: Michelle Belanger
This is an eearly version of an article that appears in Michelle Belanger's 2005 release, Sacred Hunger that addresses one of the classic Hollywood stereotypes of vampirism ... and explains why it might be true.
It’s straight out of every cheesy vampire movie you’ve ever seen: the vampire gets up, walks out into a room flooded with light, and if he doesn’t burst into flames, at the very least he winces and puts on a pair of sunglasses. It’s an inescapable stereotype: vampires can’t stand bright light. Now, it is of course silly to presume that real vampires, when exposed to sunlight, will go up in flames and be reduced to ash. As far as I’m aware, that belief was created entirely by Hollywood and has no basis in vampire folklore whatsoever. Stoker had Dracula running around London during the day – he just made it clear that Dracula’s powers were weakened when the sun was up. Most of the vampires in folklore need the help of a good, roaring pyre to be reduced to ash, although folklorically speaking most of the old myths agree that vampires prefer the night for their predations and can rarely be caught out of their coffins after sunrise.
But that’s the undead – the myth that has grown up over the ages. Folklore might have a grain of truth to it, but most of it is just nonsense, right? After all, real vampires sleep in beds just like ordinary folk, and it should follow that real, living vampires shouldn’t have too much trouble walking around at noon. But there is the uncomfortable reality that sunlight has some kind of effect on us that most of us cannot explain.
I wrestled with this one for quite a while. I tried to convince myself that it was all just in my head and all those uncomfortable physical reactions I was having were purely psychosomatic delusions. I even valiantly tried swearing off my sunglasses on a family trip to Arizona. But it didn’t take much of the brutal desert sun to convince me that, psychosomatic or not, I was still completely unable to see unless I had something to shade my eyes. And that’s to say nothing of the headache, nausea, and distressingly rapid sunburn.
But then someone made an off-hand observation about sunlight and suddenly it all made sense. The answer was so simple and so obvious that I was amazed that it hadn’t occurred to me before. Sunlight is radiation. It’s not just visible light. It’s heat and ultraviolet rays and a whole lot of other things we can’t properly see all pounding down on us. Because of our metaphysical natures, we are highly sensitive to all forms of energy. We react and interact with it in strange ways. How many of us have walked by a television or radio only to have the reception fuzz out in our presence? When we move, whatever disturbance we were causing with the radio waves settles down and the reception clears up again. How many of us have accidentally blown out lightbulbs or other electrical appliances with our mere presence? So why wouldn’t we have an unusual reaction to sunlight as well?
It’s so basic. Sunlight is energy. Metaphysically speaking, it’s solar chi. Now, plants are probably the organisms that are best equipped to process solar chi, but most people like feeling the sun warming them as well. It’s healthy for them to get a few rays once in a while. Vampires, as discussed earlier, are somewhat disconnected from the ordinary scheme of things. Although we’re as human as everyone else physically, something about our spiritual natures makes it almost impossible to process solar chi in any kind of positive fashion. It’s too much.
It’s too something, because nearly every vampire I have ever spoken with has had about the same complaints regarding sunlight: it hurts their eyes. Prolonged exposure makes them dizzy, nauseous, and weak. The warmth of the sun on their skin does not feel pleasant; it feels prickly, uncomfortable and very, very hot. They burn very easily and in the end have all the symptoms of heat exhaustion or sunstroke after only ten or fifteen minutes outside. Sometimes the reactions are more severe, sometimes they’re a bit more bearable, but generally speaking, the vampires who are most sensitive to energy have the most extreme reactions.
Sunlight is radiation. These days, with the ozone layer being depleted so rapidly, the rays that come through to us are pretty unhealthy. Sunlight is getting to be too much even for ordinary people to bear, as can be evidenced by the rising numbers of cases of skin cancer each year. Most ordinary people still don’t feel anything negative in the sunlight streaming down on them, but that’s because they’re so divorced from their subtle senses. When we go out into direct sunlight, our bodies are telling us something. Messages like that are not idle ones. Sunlight is harmful. We’re hypersensitive to that harm. We just have to accept that and learn to live with it.