Tuesday, January 22, 2008


So I've been thinking about vampires and their aversion to religious objects and, overanalysing as is my wont, I have a few questions:

Are all religious symbols valid or just Christian ones? If the latter, does that conclusively prove the validity of Christianity? If the former, do either vampire or victim have to be aware of the nature of the symbol or would it be sufficient for the symbol to exist even in some distant, unheard of tribe somewhere? Would a cross work for a Jew? Does it depend on the religion of the vampire? If a cross would work, would it be forbidden for the Jew to use one because that would constitute idolatry? Is a Magen David a valid religious symbol, given its relatively modern origins and the lack of religious power attributed to it? Could vampire-shunning be used as a test for the religious validity of a practice or symbol? Can the cross be made out of any material and if so, why don't people just make one with their fingers at the critical moments? If there are limitations on material, what are they? Do they relate to the permanancy of the material, the consistency, or is there a closed list of valid materials? Would a plastic cross do the trick? Would a tattoo of a cross work? Must the vampire see the cross or is general presence sufficient? Can he avoid the problem by closing his eyes? How much of a barrier is required to block the influence of the cross? Is a single layer of material sufficient, and if so, could vampires wear sunglasses, or would protective material be required for all exposed areas of skin? If a priest recited a prayer and spat on the vampire, would that constitute holy water? What if the priest is secretly not a very holy person at all? What if a regular person said a bracha and spat? What bracha would you make? Would it be a bracha l'vatala? If so, would that negate the holiness factor?


Halfnutcase said...

haven't you ever seen buffy the vapire slayer? like duh!


but seriously, this is an interesting set of thoughts, and I'm wondering if tobie even knows the basic mythology behind vampires is, and who the first vampire was and stuff like that.

(bonus points, why would loose flax be something with which you could harm a vampire?)

and tobie, I suppose that if jewish symbols work it would be an argument for women wearing tzitzis! :) (I'm going to wave my strings at you!) (look, I've got a 300 dollar mezuza! begone!) (or mabye it only counts if its on a door? but then on vampires can't come in if they don't receive permission for entrence, but now would they be hurt just by passing through the door?) (kinda brings a whole new meaning to a king carrying a small sefer torah on his wrist.)

additionaly, since vampires are christian mythology I think according to them only chrisitan symbols work.

(quote: "no, just a keen fashion sense")

e-kvetcher said...

I used to think about these questions quite a bit since as a kid I would lie awake at night paralyzed by fear of vampires.

During the day I would convince myself that since vampires were afraid of crosses, and as a jew I didn't believe crosses had any power, that had to mean that there was no such thing as vampires, but at night, my irrational fears would overpower my rational faculties.

But if I were to entertain your questions, I would say that you cannot cross realms - in Christian cultures, vampires are afraid of Christian amulets. Jews aren't really part of that mythos - they are too much of a special case.

Of course, Jews have their own grimoires and amulets and legends (despite the fairly specific injunction against magic, I must say!), and unless I am mistaken, non-Jews don't really figure in that mythos.

Halfnutcase said...


since jews are in league with the devil

and the devil is king over all evil

and vampires are evil

then vampires take orders from jews


p_almonius said...

In the movie "Dance of the Vampires" (1967) a woman tries to fend off a Jewish vampire with a cross, and he responds "Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire." I've also heard this told as a joke without crediting the movie, I don't know which is older.

In another movie, "Love at First Bite" (1979) someone tries a Magen David on Dracula, and it doesn't work.

The only Jewish/vampire interface I remember from "Buffy" was that when everyone uninvited Angel from their homes after he turned evil (a vamp cannot enter a private home unless invited, even one with a soul) it involved hanging up a cross in each house, and Willow (Jewish) hid hers behind something so her parents wouldn't see it. And using Google I found that in one episode Xander tries a cross on Willow (he thought she was a vamp - in that episode there were two Willows, one was a vamp, only he tried it on the human one) and no one tells him he should have used a Magen David.

Halfnutcase said...

the buffy tv show? ew....


הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

just a few things; first off;

That post is so well done!

sounds like you've been watching too many vampire movies/shows!

It's not that vampires are against religion, it's that in Europe Christianity was seen as the only religion, hence a cross is seen as an objectivly religious symbol, hence the Jew is as bad as the vampire by being afraid of religious symbols..

I think your questions stress the idea that the Jewish religion is perhaps the most analytical. Halacha is so complex. If a Jew were to become Christian, he would have questions like; how high does the Christmas tree have to be? What are the minimum amount of lights one should place on it? How long after Chrismas must one ditch the tree? Is it a mitzva or just a minhag?! (Which is why Jews almost never became Christian for theological reasons, by the time their logical minds were done with it, it was minced meat!)

Oh, and uh; I saw Sara Michelle Geller in LA! ...she's Jewish..

and halfnutcase; you're a whole nut case ok?; buffy was a cool show!

Tobie said...

Okay, everybody, let's take your work for it that Jews don't enter into the ethos. A lot of the questions are still valid. What about the finger-cross? What about the holy spit? These are practical and useful questions for the average vampire victim! Why haven't they been painfully discussed and over-analysed?

HaTsa'ir etc. (longest blog-handle in the multiverse, btw): I think you are right on the money with the over-analysis. It's what makes Jews so much...fun.

p_almonius: Wow, that was an impressively sourced answer. Kudos.

hnc: I briefly had a period of my life when I was into Buffy, but even then I was too ashamed to own up to it. What can I say, i'm a pushover for witty banter.

Miri said...

According to Chabbad, one can never be harmed as long as they have a picture of the Rebbe on them (in their pocket or wallet or something.)
So, that might keep your bases covered.

Also, I think European peoples in former times considered Jews and vampires to be pretty much the same category (we drink blood after all) so probably Jewish symbols would be ineffective, bc crosses also burn Jews.

e-kvetcher said...

OK, since you're asking for it...

1) You made a generalization that vampires have an aversion to religious symbols. I don't know where that came from since the only evidence comes from Christian symbols. Therefore, I propose that vampires would not be afraid of mogendavids, menorahs, dharma wheels, or anything other than Christian religious artifacts.

2) Vampires are not afraid of crosses - they are afraid of crucifixes, so unless your fingers can form Jesus hanging from a cross, I think you're SOL. A tattoo would probably work. It is my understanding that the presence of the crucifix is sufficient, kinda like cryptonite, so closing your eyes or wearing shades would not work.

3) Spit as holy water has the following issues:
a) I am not sure if saliva actually counts as water. Water is a major component, but saliva is definitely distinct from water. I mean, lemonade is mostly water too, but we don't have holy lemonade.
b) Assuming you could use saliva as water, you would still have the issue of whether the priest could bless the saliva while it is still in his mouth. Typically, the water is set aside and the priest recites a rather lengthy blessing over it.
c) Even assuming that saliva is suitable and the priest can bless it while still in his mouth, the small amount of spit he could generate would do nothing than mildly wound and piss off the vampire, since the effect of holy water on vampires is like that of acid.
d)There is not really a notion of holiness in Christianity similar to that of cohanim. As long as the priest has not been kicked out of the priesthood he has the capacity to bless the water. A regular person has no such capacity.

4)What bracha would you make? Well like I said, holy water is a christian artifact so the term bracha is stretching it, but here is the formulation for catholics(from wikipedia):


Father, You give us grace through sacramental signs, which tell us of the wonders of Your unseen power.

In baptism we use Your gift of water, which You have made a rich symbol of the grace You give us in this sacrament.

At the very dawn of creation, Your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness.

The waters of the great flood You made a sign of the waters of baptism, that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness.

Through the waters of the Red Sea, You led Israel out of slavery, to be an image of God's holy people, set free from sin by baptism.

In the waters of the Jordan, Your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Spirit.

Your Son willed that water and blood should flow from His side as He hung upon the cross.

After His resurrection, He told His disciples: "Go out and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Father, look now with love upon Your Church, and unseal for her the fountain of baptism.

By the power of the Spirit give to the water of this font the grace of your Son.

You created man in Your own likeness: cleanse him from sin in a new birth of innocence by water and the Spirit.

We ask You, Father, with Your Son to send the Holy Spirit upon the waters of this font.

May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also with Him to newness of life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

As well as:

I exorcise thee in the name of God the Father almighty, and in the name of Jesus Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy Ghost, that you may be able to put to flight all the power of the enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that enemy and his apostate angels; through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.


God, Who for the salvation of the human race has built your greatest mysteries upon this substance, in your kindness hear our prayers and pour down the power of your blessing into this element, prepared by many purifications. May this your creation be a vessel of divine grace to dispel demons and sicknesses, so that everything that it is sprinkled on in the homes and buildings of the faithful will be rid of all unclean and harmful things. Let no pestilent spirit, no corrupting atmosphere, remain in those places: may all the schemes of the hidden enemy be dispelled. Let whatever might trouble the safety and peace of those who live here be put to flight by this water, so that health, gotten by calling Your holy name, may be made secure against all attacks. Through the Lord, amen.

There is no concept of a bracha l'vatala in catholicism...

Of course you may also ask the question - why fight it? Being a vampire is not so bad, you get to live forever!!!!
Mwah ha ha haaah!

Miri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tobie said...

Miri: Really? Any picture? How detailed of a picture? Does a sketch work? What is the minimal amount of detail to be a picture of the Rebbe? What about a smiley face with the word Rebbe written beneath it? If you got a tattoo, could you never die? Would the sin of tattoo undo the effect? But tattoo isn't yeharag v'al ya'avor, so would it be muttar?

E-Kvetcher: you absolutely win the game. Yay! The only points that I would make is that 1) true, but if you analyze the mechanism by which Christian things work, why shouldn't it be extendable? If you accept that vampires are 'allergic' to anything holy and accept (in an ecumenical way) that all religions have some holiness, shouldn't they be equally allergic to sifrei torah? 2) Literature has never been makpid of the crucifix as opposed to cross thing. Don't people tear things off walls and turn them into crosses? Unless they're really good at arts and crafts, I'm doubting there's a little Jesus there. 3) You are absolutely right about the spit logistics. Of course, one would have to ask what level of pollution is required for something to stop being 'water' and to start being another form of liquid. Also, how much water can this be said over? Because I don't see why priests wouldn't go and say it over the entire ocean. Would evaporation, condensation, and precipitation undo the holiness or would this simple process make vampires susceptible to all water/ rain? So much to ponder, so little time.

e-kvetcher said...

1) true, but if you analyze the mechanism by which Christian things work, why shouldn't it be extendable? If you accept that vampires are 'allergic' to anything holy and accept (in an ecumenical way) that all religions have some holiness, shouldn't they be equally allergic to sifrei torah?

You assume that there is a 'mechanism' That is a rationalist view. There is a more mystical possibility that there is no mechanism, Christian things just work because of their inherent Christianity. Frankly, since you can't be sure about the whole jewish symbols thing, i'd stick with the more ecumenical, homeopathic remedies - your garlic and rosemary and what not. Of course that may drive away other, not undead suitors. Except maybe the mediterranean types who probably don't mind it so much...

2) Literature has never been makpid of the crucifix as opposed to cross thing. Don't people tear things off walls and turn them into crosses? Unless they're really good at arts and crafts, I'm doubting there's a little Jesus there.

Well, I am not a maven on vampires, but you would have to specify which type of literature. For example, Stoker wrote a piece of fiction, so you cannot hold him to be as reliable as a scholar of vampires. Liekwise for movies - none of them allege that they are 100 percent accurate.

3) Because I don't see why priests wouldn't go and say it over the entire ocean. Would evaporation, condensation, and precipitation undo the holiness or would this simple process make vampires susceptible to all water/ rain?

I don't think the purpose of holy water is to destroy vampires, but you do have a point. One thing is that the notion of holy has to involve some idea of separation, so if all the water was holy, none is holy?

Irina Tsukerman said...

The only sure way to tell is to try it! ; )

Izgad said...

In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, any religious symbol works. Though, in Carpe Jugulum the vampires have trained themselves to be able to tolerate religious symbols. I think Terry Pratchett should be viewed as authoritative.
As to the issue of demonstrating the truth of Christianity, I share the same sentiments as the Pharisee in the New Testament, who argued that the reason why Jesus could expel demons was that he was in league with them. Vampires could simply be a conspiracy hatched by the devil to get people to believe in Christianity.
You have to read the Twilight series. :)

Halfnutcase said...

tobie, I went to a crazy mishechist chabad highschool, and spent more time around tzfasim than I ever care to think about, and I never heard such a thing.

Miri said...

I'm not sure who is o blame for the stories, but I definitely remember stories of people always carrying his picture on their person, and other instances where people were saved from fires or car accidents who happened to have one on them. Coincidence? It's hard to say...

I couldn't tell you for sure. I think it's the likeness though. Such that: Even a sketch might count, if it bore enough resemblance to be recognizable.

But I don't know for sure.

e-kvetcher said...

Don't know if anyone else noticed, but I just noticed how similar the Rite of Blessing(above) is to the Tefilat Geshem from Shemini Atzeret. Both essentially go through major points in scripture in chronological order, emphasizing the role of water...

David said...

Somewhere I read that if a Jew is confronted by a supernatural being (not specifically a Vampire) they should say the Shema. Has anyone else heard of this? Is there something in the Kaballa perhaps?

Financial Artist said...

This has nothing to do with your post, but to a comment you made on The Curious Jew's blog:

The phrase "nashim daatan kalos" is often cut short - the fourth and final word is "lehispatos - to be seduced." The idea of daatan kalos is specific to lehispatos; it's not a blanket description of women. It simply means that women are easily wooed - sexually or otherwise.