23 June 2009

Vampires' aversions to metals

Silver amulets protect individuals against vampires, right? Well...

In the television show True Blood vampires are severely allergic to silver--so much so that it burns their skin and even small chains can immobilize the vampire. Is there any truth behind the silver allergy or is this just a myth?

According to Rosalyn Green, "Silver is one of the few metals that is assigned spiritual qualities." She maintains that the "etheric counterpart of silver can injure etheric forms, while merely physical bullets can pass right through" (Magic of Shapeshifting, 105). In other words, silver harms the vampirical essence that resides within the reanimated corpse. Holding to this idea, if a bullet or stake were fashioned out of silver, then the silver should render the vampire powerless and the bullet or stake should kill the body.

Paul Barber cites Wlislocki in the claim that
In fiction, a vampire may be killed with a gun, but only if the bullet is silver. In folklore, guns may either kill or scare away vampires and revenants, even without silver bullets. One account by a Serbian immigrant states that a silver coin with a cross on it could, if broken into four pieces and loaded into a shotgun shell, be used to kill a vampire (Folklore Archives, UC Berkeley)

Silver is assigned a magical property. It represents purity and healing. Silver amulets and coffin nails are reported to prevent evil from rising out of the grave. Would a silver bullet kill a vampire? Perhaps, but no more easily than any other bullet.

Silver "is certainly not the only substance thought to have magical efficacy against the vampire--iron, for example, is often cited as well" (McClelland, Bruce. Slayers & Their Vampires). "Surprisingly, silver was not as traditional a protective metal as supposed in popular fiction - iron was the material of choice. Iron shavings were placed beneath a child's cradle, a necklace with an iron nail was worn, and other iron objects were placed strategically around the place needing protection" (Whyte, Lesa. Vampire).

According to Pliny in his Natural History, "iron has valuable attributes as a preservative against harmful witchcrafts and sorceries", and consequently "iron and steel are traditional charms against malevolent spirits and goblins" (Sacred Texts). Around the world, iron is assigned magical properties that far extend the power of silver in more modern myth. From Japan to Westphalia, and from Ireland to Egypt iron has the ability to ward off evil spirits. Theories about the origins of such myths include disparity of ages (evil was ancient, hence from the stoneage, while iron was a new metal and therefore superior to the weapons of the evil creature) and its relation to primitive surgery. You can read more folklore surrounding iron and its magical properties in Sacred Texts.

Now, the question is: does silver or iron harm vampires? Are vampires allergic to either/both? Far be it from me to reveal vampiric secrets or dispel your protective myths completely, but do your research before you charge after a vampire with a silver crucifix, hoping that it will save you.



  1. Silver is also known to have antimicrobial properties (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver#Medicine) and may have been used as a successful preventive measure for those infected with vampirism (or thought to be infected, as some argue that vampirism is not in fact spread virally). This potency would be extended in mythology to work against actual vampires, not just their viral vectors, as well.

    As for iron, it would be odd for vampires to have an allergy to that, as they consume it constantly in hemoglobin. Iron is traditionally only of use against creatures of faerie. But iron weapons have been known to be of use against the undead.

  2. Don't you find it odd notion either way? [Honest question: no sarcasm] How would a vampire develop such an allergy that being around silver (or iron) or being touched with it would so severely weaken the vampire that he/she is unable to function? Even if viruses/microbes are involved, such an effective treatment would be miraculous. Negative effects to vampires from silver (in folklore & fiction) rather reminds me of Superman and kryptonite.

    As far as iron and faeries, I believe you are correct. This is why people nail horseshoes above their doors and surround cemeteries with iron fences. As you know, folklore is a muddled collection of superstitions and presuppositions. This case wouldn't be the first time that faeries & revenants were confused in lore. Afterall, these practices evolved from people terrified of the evil creatures that lurked in their world...whatever they may be.

  3. My perspective is that supernatural beings are rarely ever "allergic" to a material (in the way Superman is allergic to kryptonite), but that different materials negatr different types of magic/energy. So if a particular entity is reliant on their magical abilities to heal wounds and that power is negated by an iron weapon, for instance, their wounds would seem comparatively more severe.
    The idea that vampires or fae would suffer merely from touching silver or iron does seem far fetched to me, though some might have a psychological defense mechanism that causes them to stay away from such materials due their inherent risk.