02 July 2009

Vampires and water (Part 2): Holy water

The previous blog post addressed ancient superstitions regarding salt water and flowing water in relation to vampires. This entry will discuss blessed or holy water.

Water "is perhaps humanity's oldest symbol of life". To humans, it is sacred. If water can wash away dirt and grime, it can also be used for spiritual cleansing. "Ritual bathing, also known as ablution" exists in the oldest of religions (Altman). "It follows ...that water blessed by a priest--holy water--should have added potency as a weapon against evil" (Gregory 126). In the eyes of probable victims, blood-drinkers are evil. Vampires are amoral, and they are enemy of The Church. Therefore, they should be vulnerable to the holy symbols, incantations, and curses.

The idea behind holy water is that "thus anointed...water can...be thrown in the face of a vampire, where it will have the effect of burning like acid" (Gregory 127-8). Not only does the notion fuel the morale of would-be-victims, "the efficacy of...holy water against [vampires] proves the existence of God" (Paulson 172). Peasants turned to The Church for protection against their fears. "Russians would pour holy water on the upyr [definition: vampire/witch] when they found it in the coffin" (Konstantinos 31). By declaring blessed water a weapon against evil, The Church reinforced its grip on the congregation.

The Church declared war against the vampire and developed its own arsenal of holy weapons, including holy water and the crucifix. "Like the crucifix, holy water appears to have been introduced at sometime around the fourth century" (Gregory 126). Nearly all "Post-Stoker vampires" in fiction "are vulnerable to human products: rosaries and holy water" (Auerbach 36). Yet, "modern-day vampires scoff at some ancient superstitions, especially those concerning crosses, holy water and garlic" (Renoux 32). They say: "There is nothing to fear in the sign of the Cross, nor the Holy Water, nor the Sacrament itself" (Rice 225-6).

Why do modern vampires disregard holy water? Well, they believe that their blood is more ancient than the spiritual symbols, and therefore more potent. However, unlike the crucifix, "water, the universal solvent, is the oldest symbol of purification and cleansing" (Gregory 126). And, supposing that the creator deity listened to the pleas of the priest as he blessed the water to make it holy, then there is no reason to believe that the ancient purifying symbol would not retain the power of the god. Of course, if blessed water had the ability to scald a vampire, it would also abrade any human who is not a faithful devotee to that deity. I suppose that the potency of holy water depends on the faith of the one who speaks the benediction and the one who wields it as a weapon.

But, after examining the modern-day church, I see that vampires have no need to fear the faith of the clergy or the parishioners. Can you attest otherwise?

Do svidanja,

Auerback, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves.
Gregory, Constantine. Craig Glenday. Vampire Watcher's Handbook.
Konstantinos. Vampires: The Occult Truth.
Paulson, Ronald. Sun and Evil.
Renoux, Victoria. For the Love of Garlic.
Rice, Anne. The Vampire Lestat.

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