“Keep your secrets,
Keep your silence,
It is a better gift than truth.”
– Anne Rice, The Queen of the Damned
Akasha is the core of the web of blood and seeming telepathic link which spreads out from her to the metaphysical circulatory systems of all vampires. She is the mother of them, the one initially infected by the spirit Amel as he sought to have a part of the flesh, to experience what humans (those creatures he always envied) experience.
The word ‘Akasha,’ and its many variations in differing languages, means essentially the basis, the core of all things. In Sanskrit, this word transcribes into aether, to imply both the elemental and metaphysical motes that combine to create the universe from whence all other things are created. Therefore, it stands to reason, that Akasha, as we see her in The Vampire Chronicles is both the literal core binding these blood drinkers to one another, the literal element which sparked their creation and keeps them under the umbrella of one family. But, symbolically, she is also the force which ties their existences into the spiritual, up to the events which occurred in The Queen of the Damned, Akasha (and Enkil to a lesser degree) are the higher power to which vampires attribute their existence, their ideal of the ‘divine.’
Akasha of Kemet was Enkil’s queen circa 5000 BC and is the first of the blood drinkers, the mother of them all. During her reign as Queen she vehemently strove to eradicate the tradition of cannibalism from all lands over which her king held dominance. This can be attributed to the knowledge that she herself came from a people who abhorred such practices in Uruk. This is the argument she uses to drive Enkil’s men into the land inhabited by Maharet and Mekare’s people. In truth, she became obsessed with the notion of the supernatural and required any feasible excuse to bring the two most powerful witches she could locate to her court.
The Queen is described as being pretty to the point of being too pretty to be beautiful, so pretty, in fact, that one could not sense any depth to her or mystery. But Akasha is a fatal warning that one’s appearance can often seduce the onlooker into a sense of lull; a woman whose ‘prettiness’ disguises a deep moral malfunction, the inability to perceive that her actions (while seemingly just to her) are evil in nature.
Anne Rice has called Akasha a monster – and she is that precisely. The most inhumane of the vampires prevalent in this series, but it runs far deeper than just this; she was a monster when she was human as well. A human monster – a far more dangerous creature than a simple vampire can be. Her actions as a mortal included ruining the funereal feast laid out for the twins’ mother (essentially condemning the tribe to losing the power and spirit of one of their most revered witches), having two innocent women publicly raped and humiliated, having their respective eyes and tongue torn out, betraying her most trusted servant to satiate the hunger within her, and having her ‘children’ locked in boxes and set adrift at sea.
Akasha and Enkil, being the first of their kind, begin their existence being virtually ravenous, starved, constantly, as the spirit in them clamours for blood. But as the blood is dissipated, as the numbers of their children increase, their need for blood is less and soon they become living statues. However, the divinity surrounding them does not easily die as oral tradition leads their children to suspect that there is a core (of sorts) within them; that they might be the end of all blood drinkers just as they are the beginning of them.
“The spirit who inhabits her animates us all. Destroy the host, you destroy the power. The young die first; the old wither slowly; the eldest perhaps would go last. But she is the Queen of the Damned, and the Damned can’t live without her.”
– Anne Rice, The Queen of the Damned
The two are passed into the hands of a keeper who eventually gets driven to the brink of insanity by their endless silence, their refusal to respond to stimuli and places them in the sun, hoping to end the misery of his existence. The effect is that blood drinkers across the globe are burnt beyond healing, the youngest dying, and the oldest being severely injured, whilst the mother and father seem to have taken barely any injury. Nor did they attempt to pull themselves out from the cruelty of the sun. Again here, one must wonder why Akasha chose to remain in the sun for the duration of the day. It would seem that this is another of her less compassionate mannerisms, perhaps to punish their keeper, without consideration or concern for those others that may die or suffer severe injury in the process. The decision, undoubtedly, did not rest with Enkil as, it is revealed in the early novels by those that study the two, that Enkil has no whim, really, of his own, other than to protect his queen or lay some notion of ownership over her.
It is through tales of this burning that Marius finds Akasha and Enkil and is driven to take them from Egypt and care for them himself by small visions and urgings from Akasha. He coins the terms ‘Those Who Must Be Kept’ for them and proceeds to do exactly this. In fact, through most of Marius’s life, his decisions, his choices are coloured by hints as to what Akasha would have him do.
Finally, in the 1980s, Akasha awakens to the call of Lestat’s music, the second time that she has awoken for him, and proceeds to put into action a plan she has been plotting in all that time that she was silent, beginning with draining her king dry and burying her keeper – Marius – under the rubble and ice of his own ruined home. Like a furious, metaphysical fire, she burns away those of her children that are weak enough to die at her hands and leaves only the strong to survive, as well as the ones that have significance to Lestat.
Akasha’s moral block has only been exacerbated during her millennia of silence and she puts forth – to these blood drinkers who have been allowed to survive – a plan to repair the damage done to the world by men, whom, she has decided, are responsible for society’s ills. It is intriguing to note that Akasha herself is a woman, but she does not see that one of the greatest crimes that can be committed against a woman was done at her command when she was young more than six thousand years ago. She ordered Khayman to rape the twin sisters – from whom she was seeking guidance with the spirits – when she should have been reined in by a mortal conscience. This may imply that she has none, and never did.
The notion that she puts forth does not come across as an altruistic endeavour, but rather as a desire to, once more, be worshipped as a ‘good queen,’ a force of change for the better, as she sees it. She wishes to redesign the world, just as she wanted to be the one to eliminate cannibalism from it millennia ago.
Akasha is a symbol of monstrosity before she ever becomes a blood drinker. She is the monster that vampires are thought to be – deceptive in their appearances. And her sweet, pretty looks are almost enough to mask her cruelty, her drive to fill the emptiness inside herself. If it were not for her impressive ambitions, she may even have succeeded in fooling those that brought demise upon her.