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Christianity and Vampires

The history of vampires has always fascinated me, every time period viewed them in an entirely different way. In older times, organized religion drastically changed how the undead were seen by the people, this is something I have read countless times in a handful of books, but I recently read a different take on Christianity and vampires. In Dr. Bob Curran’s book on vampires he takes a deeper look into the church and their views on the undead.

Dr. Curran writes that back in the day in Celtic Western Europe the Christian Church had to compete with old pagan beliefs, many of which they eventually incorporated into the Church’s own religious dogma. One belief was the notion of the Celtic Otherworld, where spirits went after death. This, obviously, didn’t fit with the Church’s idea of heaven and hell. So, a kind of compromise was made. Like many pagan ideals, the otherworld became incorporated into Christianity in the guise of purgatory, a place where a soul waited before receiving its final reward or punishment. Dr. Curran says that this was clever of the Church, for it incorporated pagan beliefs, while at the same time creating the potential to make money.

See, a soul could be released from purgatory only through having prayers and Masses said for it. The only person able to do this was a priest, who had to be paid to do so. Conveniently so, a special day was set aside for the remembrance of the dead when Masses were said for the souls: All Saints Day. This day coincided with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a day for remembering the dead. The Church then taught that God permitted the dead to return on the evening before All Souls Day to remind the living of their duties to them. If their families were neglecting such obligations the angry dead might take physical revenge against them. Additionally, the dead who were not correctly buried according to the rites of the Church (which once again involved paying a priest) might return to punish the living for their neglect.

The notion of the vengeful dead caught on, the idea that the undead would return to prey upon surviving family members, cattle and livestock. They would suck blood from the animals, leaving the weak and useless. And sometimes, in an act of extreme punishment, they would drink the blood of humans. So, the myth of blood-drinking undead was created and the mass hysteria spread, with countless frightened people paying priests for protection.

Dr. Curran adds that Christianity isn’t the only religion to do something like this, after all, each and every country and religion has its own views on the undead. So please keep in mind that this is just one version of the vampire legend, one of hundreds.

I have to give props to Dr. Curran for his excellent research and well thought out ideas. Personally, I found this chapter on religion and vampires incredibly fascinating. I highly suggest picking up the book and reading it entirely.

But, back to the post, what do you guys think about this? The Church mixing old and new beliefs with the fear of their patrons in order to make money? Hmm.

– Moonlight

CelticchristianityDr. Bob CurranpaganreligionVampiresVampires: A Field Guide To The Creatures That Stalk The Night

Moonlight • August 12, 2010


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Comments

  1. Vampire18 August 12, 2010 - 9:37 am Reply

    that book sounds totally like a good read to me, and something i would buy. i think Dr. Curran was a genius for publishing a book like this, i believe a lot of people would buy it. its also so cool because there are a lot of people into religion and a lot of people into vampires, so maybe this will make religious people a lot more tolerant about those who are into vampires.

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  6. Leslie August 21, 2010 - 1:13 am Reply

    Actually the incorporation of earlier “pagan” religion rites into Christianity was promoted by Saint Augustine of Hippa (see City of God for his reasoning circa 5th century), and it was about getting pagan people to accept the burgeoning religion of Christianity by incorporating seemingly minor and less important aspects of their rites into those of the new religion. Thus, getting them “saved.” It was not, at least at that time, about earning money through praying people out of purgatory — which was not even a noun (place) at that point in time although praying for the souls of departed loves one was in place in Judaism well before the attainment of an actual word/place status in Catholicism. What is gained/lost when the idea that Catholicism incorporated pagan ideas into their religion in order to make money by demanding that people pay for prayer that will hasten their loved ones time spent in purification?

    I will; however, give Dr. Curran kudos for tackling the relationship of Christianity and Vampires. This is dangerous territory which generally garners fire from both sides: The vampire lovers and the Christians.

  7. Little Monster August 26, 2010 - 12:50 pm Reply

    I believe that I am a christian, and I enjoy reading vampire books as well. I don’t see a problem with liking vampire books just because of religion, and I think the only thing to remember is that vampire books are completely fiction, and made for enjoyment, not actual vampirism.

  8. Ty Martin May 26, 2013 - 9:51 pm Reply

    read ‘Memoir of a Vampire from a born again teenager’ by Dee Martin.
    is Drake a dream or a scream? Does Kat choose Life or ???????Be Blessed

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