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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Lesbian Vampire Killers of 1871

The Page of Cups, or Knave of Holy Water,  from Vampire Tarot by Robert Place, is represented by the fictional character Carmilla, from the novella of the same name by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Published in 1871 and inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem 'Christabel', the novella introduces the first lesbian vampire. So! All those 60s and 70s horror flicks like 'Vampires' (1974) , Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Blood and Roses (1960) were not just sleazy exploitation films -- they come from a long tradition of lesbian vampires, a tradition that predates the creation of Dracula (which didn't appear until 1897). In fact, the first screen lesbian vampire appeared in 1936 in a film called 'Dracula's Daughter', and Carmilla herself appears for the first time on the silver screen in the above-mentioned movie 'Blood and Roses'.

The 1871 novella 'Carmilla' concerns itself with the (seemingly) 19-year-old young woman called Carmilla who is taken into the home of narrator Laura, after Carmilla is involved in a carriage crash just outside Laura's home. Carmilla's mother says she is on urgent business and cannot delay, and Laura's father agrees, after Laura's urging,  to allow Carmilla to convalesce in their home.  Bad plan. Find a full plot summary here: Carmilla Plot Summary. And if you want to go all out and read the whole thing, it is online here:  Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. If you don't have time for either, allow me: Carmilla and Laura become constant companions. Laura finds Carmilla both beautiful and repulsive. Laura has disturbing dreams. She and Carmilla do quite a bit of kanoodling (as much as 19th century literary sensibilities would allow), though not always willingly on Laura's part. Laura discovers a portrait of one of her own ancestors, Mircalla of Karnstein, painted in 1698, who looks exactly like Carmilla. Carmilla begins to bloom with health while Laura fades. A family friend, General Spielsdorf, tells a tale of how his own niece had had a friend called Millarca who bloomed while the niece faded, and finally died from it. He had seen Millarca draining the niece of her last drop of life blood. The General and Carmilla recognise each other and fight. She wins and runs away. Then Baron Vordenberg, vampire killer, turns up, they hunt Carmilla in her lair and drive a stake through her heart. The End.

Now, how that can be the Page of Cups is up to Robert Place to explain. He writes, 'The card represents someone or something that is alluring and magically influential but that may not be what he or she seems.' Not very Page of Cupsy, but we'll go with that.


  1. I remember reading Carmilla years ago as part of a collection of short stories. I learned a great word from reading it: "phantasmagoria", which is defined as a "sequence of real or imaginary images like those seen in a dream." And vampires are known for the amorous, alluring qualities.

    Perhaps we see Carmilla as the Page of Cups in that she is seemingly a young, passionate lover. She could represent the dreamy-eyed state of new romance, and how one may not see someone for what he or she really is due to being caught up in the energy of this card.

    Although, it would seem like that the character of Laura could also inhabit some qualities of the Page of Cups, as she is young, naive, and somewhat wrapped up in her emotions with Carmilla. So ultimately, maybe its the themes explored in the story itself that are analogous to the Page, rather than the individual characters.

    But all this is just speculation on my part. Really, who knows? Either way, this was a fun, little post, and I now I'm thinking I may have to check out this deck. Thanks for sharing. n_n

  2. Yes, I agree that some elements of the story could lend themselves to Page of Cups qualities, though personally I associate that sort of blinkered lovesickness to the Knight of Cups. Thanks for your thoughts! Much appreciated. :)

  3. I'm with you, Carla, more Knight of Cups than Page. There seems no innocence in Carmilla. If it had been Laura, that might have been a different question :)