Sunday, October 27, 2013

If You Drink My Blood, You Will Live Forever: Vampire Edition

Ever wonder why vampires enjoy such eternal popularity? Let's see. They are immortal. They have supernatural powers. And if you drink their blood, you will live forever. Sound like anybody else you know? The legend of vampires seems like an incredibly twisted version of Jesus and the Eucharist. But it hooks into people's deep longing for immortality. No folk tale, fairy tale, or great work of literature can punch us in the collective gut and grab our attention for centuries unless it bears at least some resemblance to the greatest story ever told. The legend of vampires does this with a vengeance.

The dark difference is that drinking a vampire's blood will only give its victim eternal physical life, whereas partaking of the Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist will give your soul eternal life in heaven. And drinking a vampire's blood puts you on the fast track to damnation. A vampire is like an anti-Christ.

Bram Stoker played on this gruesome parallel in the 19th century novel Dracula, which launched the modern fascination with vampires. Dr. van Helsing, the Catholic hero of Dracula, placed crushed consecrated hosts around the doorjambs of houses to keep the vampires from entering, and the vampires could not pass. In this literary allegory, Christ in the Eucharist vanquishes the anti-Christ.

The author also put Biblical words on the lips of his anti-hero, similar to Satan quoting the Bible to Christ during Jesus' temptation in the desert (Mt 4:1-11):
Dracula, Bram Stoker’s creation, told Mina when he forced her to drink his blood in the pivotal scene in his novel, “And you, my best beloved one, are now to me flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, kin of my kin; my bountiful wine press for a while; and shall be later on my companion and my helper” (Dr. Seward’s Diary ch XX1).
Dracula's words are an eerie echo of the Book of Genesis, where God makes woman as a helpmate for man and Adam responds, "This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Gen. 2:23).

For centuries throughout the world, vampires were recognized as the worst of monsters. The folk legend of Lilith, supposedly Adam's wife before Eve, depicted Lilith as the blood-sucking Queen of Demons. In ancient times, even Satan was regarded as a quasi-vampire.

So how did vampires' image change from the most hideous of paranormal serial killers to the ultimate hotties? In the popular modern-day Twilight series, it's hard to tell who wants to drink the other's blood more -- Edward the vampire or Bella the human. From almost the beginning of this bizarre romance, Bella begs to drink Edward's blood. Her desire is met when Edward must bite her to save her from dying while birthing his baby. The potential for parody is vast.

We live in an age when grey is the ruling color. Evil has lost the capacity to shock us, and the conversion of evil to good has become trite. It seems as if a good person now has to embrace evil in order to be loved. This is the worst kind of despair. Because outside of the pages of a novel exists the real world, where a bargain with evil can't lead to everlasting love.


  1. This is interesting. I think vampires were consciously shaped by myth-makers like Stoker into a grotesque Jesus parody in part to push our buttons, at a time when society had a greater Christian identity. But these watered down vampires are vapid and will not endure; they may well destroy the genre. I don't think it's a coincidence that the teening of vampires has been accompanied by a great rise in the popularity of zombies, who at least for the moment and the foreseeable future, are neither sexy or noble. They are just gross--as vampires once were. Thus, they are the ones now providing Biblical contrast, as in the term "Zombie Apocalypse," or as in the line from "The Walking Dead"--AMC's zombie apocalypse series--in which a character wryly comments, “Christ promised a resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.”

    1. Great point about zombies. I think you're right!