Through mere glimpses of him, however, demonic accuracy is achieved: Dracula is an Antichrist. He cannot attack unless willingly engaged. He baptizes his victims in his blood even as he drinks theirs in a sacrifice that gives eternal “life” in animated death. He unites captive souls to his existence, thriving on the unhallowed. He twists scripture to his purpose, lusts for worship … and fears Christ. Crisis Magazine, Oct 2013
Over at Father Z’s blog (several years back) he made a (joking) post about how sad he was that he didn’t get a vampire hunting kit for Christmas; one comment pointed out that we can’t sell blessed objects. (Technically false; blessed objects can be sold for their intrinsic value, without added price for the blessing, but accurate in terms of buying a Vampire hunting kit which would be pretty worthless without blessing.) This got me thinking about the various legends related to vampires, and Catholicism, especially with how often it is gotten wrong.
The most famous example of really bad theology would probably be from Dracula; at one point, Van Helsing makes a putty out of consecrated Hosts and uses it vampire-proof a room.
Needless to say, this isn’t respectful of the Body of Christ, and if the vampire is reacting to the Body of Christ then it probably wouldn’t be effective, either:
With respect to the presence of Christ, most theologians would hold that, although the host externally remains intact for several days, the real presence would cease as soon as the host is fully soaked with water as from that moment the species is no longer exclusively that of bread.
Dracula is rather well researched on the folklore of vampires. For example, the crucifix has power in and of itself, since it has a representation of Christ on it, while crosses depend more on the person holding the cross invoking God directly. In various times and places the cross (or other objects, such as holy medals) being formally blessed was held to be enough to invoke God – those objects are called sacramentals, things that recall the sacraments. (Dracula’s mistaken abuse of the Host is in keeping with someone who didn’t recognize transubstantiation, but viewed it as a sort of super-stong symbol.) The most obvious sacramental, which is also used in popular pieties and commonly available for the asking, would be holy water– many parishes even have dispensers. It should be kept in mind that the people who really believed in vampires weren’t trying to use holy water or any other sacramental for some kind of a magical effect, but to invoke God’s protection from forces of evil.
Some of the things vampires fear are symbolic instead of sacramental– running water calls to mind baptism and the washing away of sins, silver is “white” metal and thus pure, garlic and various plants were believed to be medicines against corruption. Even salt, because of its powers of preservation, was thought in some places to ward off evil– including vampires.
Now, for someone wanting to do a Catholic friendly Dracula type vampire? You might consider using an unconsecrated host– if the image of the body of Christ on the Cross works, then the object originally intended to become His body would work better. (Credit to Vathara, an author who poked at things long enough to get that spark moving. If you like urban fantasy along the lines of Harry Dresden, but wish they had a little more theology, she’s got an awesome series started– first book is A Net of Dawn and Bones. It’s not exactly Catholic, but it’s not hostile, and it takes theology seriously, which is a nice change.)
Vampires not having a reflection probably grew out of the folklore of the soulless not having a shadow and the way that mirrors were once backed with silver. Some more folklore savvy stories have had digital cameras work to record vampires, but not silver-based movie cameras, and at least one used silver nitrate in the blood to kill off a vampire.
Speaking of souls, this is probably the biggest problem with vampire stories: all too often, authors write “vampires” that by all evidence possess rational souls. To shamelessly steal–er, borrow– from Jimmy Akin’s highly enjoyable Theology of the Living Dead, there are four basic options for any flavor of living dead:
animal soul- this is the most traditional, but has more in common with modern zombies as far as behavior goes; modern vampires are generally more intelligent than the average human.
non-human rational soul – Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s vampires– they are evil, but the “demons” animating vampires aren’t Satanic, and a lot of the other “demons” shown are know to just be multidimensional travelers. The theology of that show makes my head hurt….
human souls – the ‘vampire’ subculture would be an example of this, or if a story had vampirism as a sort of disease
No soul – the body is remote-controlled, either by technology (nanobot vampires) or perhaps demonic possession. (As I understand it, demons are spirits, rather than souls, and couldn’t inhabit a body the way a human soul would. I’d highly advise a lot of mythology research before anybody tried to write this!)
Most vampire stories these days are either humans with a disease or non-human souls animating a body; some of them aren’t “allergic” to blessed objects, even. Obviously, if they have rational souls, we have to treat them as people rather than monsters…but it doesn’t make any sense why holy objects would harm them, then. On practical levels, anything that smokes on contact with a holy object is not to be considered a good neighbor!
I hope this struck your fancy as much as it struck mine!