03 July 2009

The Evil Quality of Vampires

The topic of vampires and evilness is laden with controversy. Lucius and Calista are not in complete agreement with me on this subject. I write what I believe, and they can augment or contradict my arguments as they feel necessary. Please respond with your own opinions.

Recent literature has depicted vampires as altruistic and empathetic creatures. The Twilight saga takes this notion to the extent of creating a family of "vegetarian vampires" who risk their well-being for that of a single human. Prior to this fantasy, vampires were subject to a slow progression from the vile Undead to the mystic Immortals. So now the question arises, Are vampires evil?

Although legends of vampires appear throughout the world in many cultures, the Western culture will be the focus of this discussion. Similarly, the religious definition of "evil" will be that of the Christian doctrine.

The traditional position of the vampire is as the enemy of The Church. Prior to the development of organized Christianity and in places where other religions prevail, the vampire is the enemy of the earth. The Church excommunicates the vampire, and "Mother Earth rejects the unclean dead" (Barber 151).

Originally, the vampire was a scapegoat for misfortunes. Death of children, by illness or infanticide, was a common problem to the ancients. The most ancient blood drinkers--the empusa and the lamia--were accused of the slaughter of children and youth, who might have died at the hands of the adults they trusted.

During the move of the vampiric tradition from the Balkans and Eastern Europe into Western Europe (early 18th century), there was a "transfer of the Vampire from a folkloric entity to a symbolic literary type, capable of embodying metaphorically a host of shifting contemporary concepts and social evil." Vampires were deemed intrinsically wicked when the importers misunderstood the "scapegoat" attribute of the vampire and "presumed [the] evil as authentic" (McClelland xiv).

"In Poland, the Roman Catholic clergy have laid hold upon this superstition [of the vampire] as a means of making war upon the great enemy of the Church," (Satan) "and there the vampire is merely a corpse possessed by the Evil Spirit, and no longer the true Vampire of the ancient Slavonians." The difference is clear when compared with the original notion (as seen in Bulgaria) that the vampire is not "a dead body possessed by a demon, but a soul in revolt against the inevitable principle of corporeal death" (Summers 816).

"Christians regard death as the penalty of sin, the divinely appointed punishment of the crime in Eden" (Cavendish 55). All humans are saddled with sin from the beginning; even "infants contract original sin" (Augustine 420). If all individuals--human and not-so-human--are sinful by nature, then how can humans consider vampires -more- evil than themselves?

In Christian theory, "Christ's life and death on earth had broken Satan's inexorable grip on mankind and had brought back to men the possibility of immortality which Adam had forfeited" (Cavendish 55). Therefore, humans who claim the salvation of Christ are saved from slavery to Satan and their natal sin.

Lucius (@LucRevenant) asserts that because vampires have redeemed themselves from the grave, they have not accepted the salvation of the Christ, and are therefore still blanketed with sin. The sin that the vampire bears may be that of the original humans, although Calista (@CalistaThan) claims that vampires are a different species than pure humans, or it may be the sin that they accumulate from violating their conscience by continuing to kill. With the exception of some modern fantasies, vampires continue to kill humans for sustenance even when they feel guilty for their actions. "The vampire's nature is fundamentally conservative--it never stops doing what it does" (Gelder 141).

Vampires are predators. They are not intentionally sinful parishioners. Without blood a vampire cannot persist. Is it a sin for an individual to intentionally starve himself to death? Sins against one's own body are forbidden in both the Old and the New Testament.

Could it be that vampires are only following nature's guide when they kill? Vampires are "condemned as 'against nature'" and against humanity, but their condition "proves to be a phenomenon of the natural realm" (Heldreth). Vampires cannot help but kill humans. It is a requisite of their condition, and should not be conscripted to evil.

But even without religion, aspects of the culture associate the inescapable nature of the vampire with evil in the minds of humans. Original tales of vampires were all told from the point of view of the prey. Folkloric tales were used to explain away ill-fated events and warn against misdoings. When vampires are granted a legitimate voice in stories, humans become enamored with them. For evidence of this, look to Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles or Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint Germain. In these stories, vampires are adored by their human companions. They are perceived as creatures that blend supernatural powers with the capacity for human emotion.

So, we return to the incipient question. Are vampires innately evil? It is my opinion that if vampires are intrinsically wicked, then humans must be also. Drinking of blood is the original sin of the vampire--it is a necessity of the condition. If humans are in need of salvation, then so are vampires, but vampires are not the devil incarnate. Blood drinkers are not bodies possessed by evil spirits; they are simply predators and humans are the prey.


Heldreth, Leonard G. Mary Pharr. The blood is life.
Gelder, Ken. Reading the Vampire.
Summers, Montague. The Vampire in Lore and Legend.
McClelland, Bruce. Slayers and their vampires.
Cavendish, Richard. The powers of evil in Western religion, magic and folk belief.
Augustine, Maria Boulding, et al. Answer to the Pelagians: Volume 1. Version 23.


  1. I agree with the position that vampires are not innately evil. In my book Fire and Ice, the Secret Vampire Society, they are portrayed as a superior species. Humans are their prey, their food source. That doesn't make them evil, but it does mean they consume human blood. A quote from Novel # 2 Fire and Ice, Vampire Slayers that will be out before the end of the year :
    “I’m sorry that you even have to know any of this Carmen, but you are my wife and that makes you a part of my world. I can see that in your point of view; it would be murder, but from mine it isn’t. That would be like accusing the mountain lion of murder for eating a rabbit.” His eyes looked into mine carefully “Sorry for putting it so bluntly, but that’s just the way it is.”
    He reached across the table and took my hand. “You are just going to have to deal with the reality of being married to a vampire.”
    I looked at him angrily. “Is that what I am to you, a rabbit?” I had to ask.
    His eyes narrowed. “Maybe a rabbit with some very serious teeth,” he answered back. “I am very aware that you could probably kick my butt if you wanted too, Carmen. You are a vampire slayer and I’m not likely to forget that.”
    I had to smile a little at his comment. I could never imagine anyone kicking Adrian’s butt, especially me.

  2. Two predators locked in an unlikely romance, hmm? Thank you for sharing your story.