Sunday, June 17, 2007

Vampires of the Church

When you look at the roots of the vampire belief you can travel many ages back. They suggest that the vampire folklore is spread to the Mediterannean, the Balkans and the rest of the Europe via arteries of commerce like Silk Road from the Far East and India and by the immigrant societies like gypsies from Egypt. But the cardinal piece of the vampire cult of today is occupied by the two millenia old religion Christianity and its imagery. The church, the cross, the holy water or the priest which are the symbols belong to Christianity, appear in many works of art about vampires and are shown as means of defence against vampires. On the other hand, there are few other works which dont cover any of these items, or even ignore them totally. Today’s succesful vampire novelist Anne Rice, to surprise many of her fans, is writing on the life of Jesus Christ instead of writing vampire novels. The critics say that what has been told in her new series are not compatible to the Christian history and they only depict the version of Christianity which only belongs to Anne Rice who returned to Catholic religion and put an end to her vampire chronicles in which her vampire hero Lestat drank Jesus Chrsit’s blood. Although the hypothesis that the vampire belief was spread from the Eastern Europe has already become antiquated, there are many reasons why the vampires are considered as the evil enemies of the church. First of all, among the causes of the dominant effect of Christianity on vampire cult, stands the existence of themes such as “the blood of Christ, exorcism and resurrection”.

From the Middle Ages until today, the Church positing everything belongs to paganism as “evil”, is considered as the only center of power against vampires. The main reason why vampires are believed to get scared of the cross is that it symbolize the resurrection of Christ as an anti-thesis of vampires’ being born into darkness. In the Middle Ages, the Church accepted the donation of lands from people who didnt want their beloved ones return from the grave as vampires. Because according to the common belief, a dead person buried in the sanctified soil of a land wouldnt become a vampire and all the land that were sanctified belonged to the Church of course. The pagan beliefs which were considered as superstition were in the base of the fears that caused these people to be exploited like that. The old pagan beliefs such as sprinkling poppy or millet over the grave of a vampire would detain the undead, were then replaced with Christian items like the holy water, the holy bread. Besides some pagan items such as garlic and silver were kept in use with other Christian symbols. Paganism still exists today, like the vampire belief, it carries on its existence with the neo-paganist schools. In other words, vampires already have their own churches today.

There are some conflict beliefs about vampires among Christian churches as is the case in many other plots. While the Catholic church believed that the preserved corpses belonged to the saints, the Orthodox church believed unrotten bodies belonged to vampires. According to the declaration of preserved corpses were considered as saints, the embalming of the dead had become a common practice. Though it’s quite inconcievebale that the Church cogitated a lot about vampires that were just a motif in pagan culture. Because everything known as supernatural or indeed everything natural could cause someone to be labeled as a witch. Especially in the 18th century, the vampire incidents that took place in the Eastern Europe led the Church’s inquisitions on the matter. There were also some ecclesiastics like Antoine Augustin Calmet of the era who studied on vampires. After Maria Theresa, the empress of Austria missioned someone to investigate this matter and declared that vampires dont exist, the hysteria of vampires in the Europe came to an end for a period time. But with the special interest of the world of art in vampires in the following years put the topic back on the agenda once again. It’s still unknown if the vampires exist or not but the belief in them still carries on. 22nd of April (or 4th of May according to Gregorians) the eve of St. George and 30th of November the eve of St. Andrew are still known as the special dates when the evil forces are in charge of their evil deeds every year.