Never being much of one for vampire stories, I finally read the original Dracula, in preparation for reading the Twilight series, sometime in the near future. I couldn’t bring myself to read those lightweight pop remixes of the Dracula story without first reading the original (even though I’m aware that there were some vampire predecessors to this most famous one). And wouldn’t you know it? I ended up really enjoying the book. Sure, it was bloody and seemed a bit cliché at times (but then again, when it’s the source of the clichés, can you really call it cliché?), but it had surprising depth, especially in regards to the messages it sent about faith and Jesus’ power vs Satan’s power.
Modern day vampire stories romanticize the bloodsuckers to the point where they lose their devilish associations. They stop being in league with Satan, and instead, they’re just misunderstood, angst ridden, pale faces. (Okay, I haven’t read Twilight yet, but I’m also alluding to plenty of other popular vampire stories). But back in the original, the Satanic allusions are very clear. Dracula is Satan’s representative, an anti-Christ, and a devil himself, out to steal souls.
So that’s what all the religious icons are about. Dracula hates a crucifix and a communion wafer more than anything else. How do you protect yourself from Dracula? You affix a crucifix around your neck and crumble communion wafer all over yourself.
Of course, I would be reading this book when I took communion last Sunday at our church, where we do communion a little differently than most churches. We walk to the front of the church and take a chunk of bread and dip it in a common cup. Leave it to me to accidentally grab two chunks of “Christ’s flesh.” Maybe it was because I was reading the book, maybe not, but I had a little conundrum. Should I put one piece back, thereby touching it and getting my germs all over it for the next people in line? Or do I just take my handful and dunk both into the wine, or just one? Communion has never been so complicated before. I don’t think I would have stressed this much if I hadn’t have been reading this book and dwelling on the power of this symbol. I’m sure Stoker is going with the whole Catholic transubstantiation thing, where Christ’s body is actually in the wafer, but for us Protestants, it’s still a big deal. As one pastor told me, “People have died for taking communion in the wrong way.” I wonder if that means that they took more than one piece? Probably not. (I ended up keeping both, dunking one, palming the other, and eating them both…it didn’t seem right to throw the undunked one away).
Back to Count Dracula. I like the symbolism that the battle against Satan and his lackeys happens with spiritual weapons. But in all vampire stories, old and new, the symbols have lost their associations, and non-Christian vampire fighters are wildly wielding impotent crosses and wafers without the power behind them, which is the spirit of Jesus that lies in the believer.
Oh, and the garlic, I can’t find that one in the Bible anywhere but here (Numbers 11:5). But it tastes great in Italian food, especially fresh and finely minced.