Confessions from
Teresa of Avila

Written by Petra Tomljanović

So you want me to tell you the story of my life.

As I said, that’s what I do.I interview people. What do you say we get started? What do you do?

I’m a vampire. I’m a saint.

I haven’t heard that before.
You mean this literally, I take it?*


You see, nine months after I died in 1582, they opened my coffin and found my body to be intact, undecayed, and with an enchanting smell of roses. Those “holy” relics diggers, an equivalent to today’s art dealers, were fast as hyenas to catch their precious prey: they came forward to dismember me. They passed my right foot and part of the upper jaw in Rome; bowed my left hand to Lisbon; my left arm and heart were gifted to my hometown Alba; one finger pointed to Paris and the other to Sanlucar.

The most precious parts of my body (and I can say this from experience), my left eye and right hand (gently encapsulated by a silver glove encrusted with citrine, sapphires, and chrome tourmaline) they treasured in Spain. These enchanting protheses of mine, have a colorful life of their own. With them, I get to experience the alienation of my human body.

You really believe this, don’t you, that you’re a vampire? And also a saint?

We can’t begin this way..

I always knew I was different, with expanded interior mental, and spiritual awareness. I brilliantly showed that a woman can raise herself as high as a man when, by astonishing chance, a man’s possibilities are granted to me.* But it was more than just the human condition for me.

It was through visions, ecstasies, transverberations: my beautiful exploration of the relationship between eroticism, death, mysticism, heaven, and spirit. Human nature is always complicated. In every vampire, there is a saint, and every saint drinks the blood of others…

That morning, I was not yet
a vampire…

… and I saw my last sunrise.
I remember it completely…*

I will tell you how it was:

Body and spirit dwell in the throes of exquisite pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, in complete unconscious helplessness, and periods of apparent strangulation. Sometimes such ecstatic transports literally cause the body to be lifted into space. This state may last as long as half an hour and tends to be followed by relaxation of a few hours of swoon-like weakness, attended by the absence of all faculties while in union with God.*

I named it Devotion of Ecstasy.
It’s the ultimate stage of my quest.
After that seance, I always get so thirsty!

It’s a good story,
but why should I believe you?

Why should I lie?

Everybody knows that I was admired in my town dispensing wisdom from behind the convent grille, but I was also known for my raptures, especially levitating ones. I would make this small theatre around my levitating episodes and asked other nuns to sit on my body so I don’t fly away. Silly, you might think - I can fly and history took this seriously, as a sign from God. That was the second time I thought to myself that I am becoming both a vampire and a saint.

Haha, you must be thinking about that rascal Lacan! Men cannot imagine thatthere could be something that goes beyond the phallus in pleasure. For me, itwas about experiencing a female jouissance, which is beyond orgasm. This takesme to that extreme point where the erotic borders upon death. Where we alldrink the blood of Christ.

Our body has this defect that,
the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.*

It is a sort of intellectual sex, like bondage. One must understand the abstraction in order to enjoy it.

Do you still want death?
Or have you tasted it enough?

I’m dead two times. To become a vampire I died hundreds of years ago, as a saintI’m cut in pieces and live in hundred places at once. Still, I am much more alivethan you will ever be. But since I’m a saint I will be merciful to you and showyou what life can be.

(she slits his throat and
sucks his blood,
continues her story)

I was supposed to become the national titular saint of Spain, but then Spaniards decided to choose that guy St James the Apostle instead. They think he was clean…That moment my body became multiplicity: that of a vampire and that of a saint. I was so fed up with it and
with all this toxic masculinity.

And now I hide mostly in Bernini’s folds: you surely know the very sensual statue of me in Rome from 1622 (I really love it, but I would rather describe myself as a butch during my human life). But anyway, I’m a great fan of that dress too- a centerfold - its vibrating dynamic of the pleats, creases, draperies, furrows, bows, and ribbons of high baroque fashion.

The fold engaged me in a game of
concealing and revealing the body in motion. With that sculpture, it became all about eros. The fluid, flowing, flexible folds of baroque reveal ever closing or opening of the body, or the matter to the world. The fold, or the process of folding, is a process of becoming. If a matter can fold, it is capable of becoming.*

No human can know.
The statue seemed to move, but didn’t. The world had changed, yet stayed the same. I was a newborn vampire, weeping at the beauty of the night.*

But don’t get me wrong - I enjoy my luxurious, self-expressed freedom. I love playing with my fetishes - and funny indeed, how the church never actually wanted to figure out my kink. They like the theatrical play, where nothing is ever explicit and you can’t really talk about things. But that’s the level of complexity I appreciate.

A good knot is not easy to tie. I love light, but I prefer to live in the dark. It really depends on my mood. I’m ardent on epiphanies and apparitions as you would expect from a saint and definitely enjoy blood, as you would expect from a vampire.

(the interviewer gets back to conscious, with new, elevated senses)

Good stuff.
I assume I need no introduction.
I feel better already.*

References and quotes:
* Interview with a Vampire, Anne Rice, 1976*
The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir, 1949
* Teresa de Avila, The Autobiography, ca 1580
* The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, Gilles Deleuze, 1988

Vampires and witches