The Best Weapon Against Vampires Has Always Been The Cross

Here is the second post in our new series from Susannah Clements, author of The Vampire Defanged.

The best weapon we have against a vampire has always been the Christian cross.

Until recently, at least.

In traditional vampire stories, the cross and other Christian symbols are effective against vampires because only the power of God can overcome the forces of darkness. Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula is shaped by Christian theology. Because Stoker popularized the vampire story in Western culture, we can look to Dracula to see how the vampire story used to be Christian.

Stoker used the vampire—the monster with a mostly human face—as a vivid representation of sin. As Jonathon Harker encounters Count Dracula in the first chapters of the novel, the vampire is associated with traditional sins. Dracula explodes in fits of wrath. He gorges on blood until he is bloated and lethargic. He hoards gold and lets it molder in his castle.

But, as the novel continues, this picture of sin becomes even more complex. Dracula’s darkly hypnotic power shows the dangerous lure of temptation. Once infected by a vampire, human victims like Lucy and Mina are helpless against the evil that slowly overtakes them. There is nothing they can do to save themselves, to make themselves good again. And the consequence of a vampire’s bite is always death.

Professor Van Helsing and his small group of allies wage a war against Dracula using an arsenal of weapons, the most powerful of which are Christian symbols (the cross and the Host). These weapons are not random, disconnected objects. The characters use them to consciously invoke the power of Christ. They see themselves as Christian warriors in a spiritual battle against the enemy and against the power of sin. The only way to save Mina, who has fallen under Dracula’s curse, is to destroy the vampire itself. Sin must be defeated before salvation is assured, and victory in the novel comes only through faith.

Christian theology has continued to be an aspect of many vampire stories, although in later stories it is often a spiritual struggle within the consciousness of the vampire itself. Anne Rice’s Louis enters a cathedral to ponder his guilt and God’s existence in Interview with a Vampire. Angel, the vampire with a soul in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, acknowledges himself as a sinner and desperately tries to do good in the world.

Despite this long tradition, vampires are no longer representations of sin in many stories today. Often, they aren’t even afraid of the cross anymore. But the heart of the vampire story has always been a picture of what it means to be a sinner whose only hope for salvation is the finished work of Christ.

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Enter to win a copy of Susannah Clements’s The Vampire Defanged in our current giveaway.

 

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