In movies & books, crosses repel vampires and do all sorts of other semi-magical stuff. Now the only non-Christian religious symbols I can think of right off the top of my head are the Hindu “Om” and the Arabic symbol, which I think says “Allah O Akbar” (please feel free to correct me).
Have there ever been legends of icons such as these performing in the same way as a cross? When I was a believer, I always thought this might be a bit of a problem were a vampire to come my way. Crosses can be made with popsicle sticks but I’m not a believer in crosses, so they wouldn’t work for me. You CANNOT make an ‘Om’ out of popsicle sticks, not even if you are very talented. I suppose you could write it but it’s not exactly the same power, is it? When did you ever hear of a protagonist drawing a cross and waving the paper at a vampire?
Have a look for the Chinese films Mr. Vampire and Chinese Ghost Story. Both have the heros using small scrolls of religious writing against Vampires and monsters, they tend to be used with magic as quite explosive weapons in these films.
Well, in some manga or anime, the characters will have little spells or chants written on paper that have some power to defeat evil. An example everyone has probably seen is from Sailor Moon–Sailor Mars uses them, since she works at a temple in real life. Or something along those lines.
One interesting thing about that is that Christian symbols are used as markers of weird, occult-type goings-on–since that’s the ‘foreign’ religion. A guy wearing a cross is likely to be doing magic that isn’t so good. And there’s an odd little series about a nun and a boxer, where she prays and things go a bit spooky around the crucifix. She’s good, and trying to help this boxer fellow, but the cross is a little weird.
Not that I know much about manga, mind you; this is all stuff I’ve learned from my sister. I could be getting it very wrong indeed. [/disclaimer]
The vampire as an undead-thing that cheats death and thus (directly) defies Christianity is a western/Christian notion. Most other religions’ vampires are not so explicitly directed at the religion, but are just monsters of the night – demons and similar nasties. It’s only in Christianity that the concept of defying death is a direct taunt to the basic premise underlying the religion. Hence, the cross as an antidote to the vampire is a logical outgrowth.
In Jewish mythos, for instance, nasty blood-sucking night-demons may be repelled by amulets and special incantations. But they’re not specifically “undead.”
I can’t speak for symbols from other religions, but Christianity is the only religion to have taken a symbol to such enormous prominence.
Moderator speaketh: Yeah, I’m not sure where to put this either, but we’ll leave it here and hope for the best.
The Star of David is the Jewish symbol, and has infrequently been depicted as effective against Vampires if either A) the Vampire was Jewish in life or B) th eperson presenting the symbol is of devout Jewish faith.
I can’t recall any explicit examples of A), but I recall at least one of B), when Kitty Pryde of the X-Men used her Star of David to protect herself from a vampire.
Amusingly, in Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy, all the various religious symbols are depicted as ineffective against the risen Mummy, as a particular weasel character tries cycling through the half-dozen he wears around his neck, muttering prayers in each appropriate language.
I couldn’t remember how active it was, so I phrased it ambiguously.
Dungeons and Dragons, of course, has a long tradition of Clerics of any Faith being able to repel or control the undead, but once upon a time vampries in D&D were repulsed from any Holy Symbol of a Lawful Good religion, even when held by a non-cleric. A handful of other roleplaying games have similar situations.
The Pentacle/Pentagram is often depicted as useful for binding creatures, though its role as such may predate the Wiccan use of it as a holy symbol. Not certain.
Non-religious, but similar, Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos has the Elder Sign, a symbol that repulses the eldritch cyclopean horrors.
In the Marvel comic book circa 1970 Tomb of Dracula a Jewish individual holds off Dracula with a Star of David. Dracula explains that its influence isn’t as powerful as the cross (since he had been Christian in life), but was still effective, and that all religious symbols worked against him.
On the other hand, in Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers a Jewish vampire responds to someone trying to hold him off with a crucifix: “Oy! Have you gor the wrong vampire!”
In Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend (the basis for the films The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man), the hero holds off a Jewish Vampire with a copy of the Torah (I think that a crucifix didn’t work.)
I seem to recall other cases where moden davids worked against vampires, but can’t cite any other names. Suffice ity to say that it’s pretty much up to the whims of the writers, and there’s no canonical basis for any of this. Bram Stoker himself was making it up as he went along, often only with hints from folklore. Since the folklore he drew on was Christian, I’ll bet there wasn’t any evidence of the effectiveness of non-Christian symbols. Note that, in addition to the crucifix, Stoker also had the Holy Wafer (communion wafer) and Holy Water effective against vasmpires, not to mention the non-religious Wolfbane and Garlic (but not sunlight).
I’ve never heard, aside from the Tomb of Dracula mentiion above, of other religious symbols like crescents, “Om” symbols, Hindu symbols, Zoroastrian fire, etc. being of any use against vampires.
By the way, “vampires” are almost universal – see Montague Summers’ book, or Burtons translation of "Vikram and the Vampire, or Donald Glut’s “V is for Vampire”, or Donald F. Glut’s books or… well, you see. I can’t recall any other traditions in which religious symbols ward off the local equivalent of the vampire. The idea of the Star of David working seems to be a logical extension from 19th century literary vampire orthodoxy derived from Chrisdtian traditions. (whew!)
I was kind of thinking the same, myself. Most people consider Judaism and Christianity to follow the same God for all practical purposes so it’d be a logical carry-over to say if a Christian holy symbol works, a Jewish one should as well since both derive their power from the same source.
Unfortunately, I’m not up on my “necklace appropriate” holy symbols from other faiths. I guess you could try using an ankh but most people I’ve known who wore ankhs would’ve probably been more interested in hanging out with the vampire than driving it away
In the extremely low-budget horror film Equinox, only one of the four people who encounter evil incarnate has a cross to defend herself; the rest make other “holy symbols” out of willow branches. The religion/s these symbols belong to are not specified, but they seem to be circular in shape, and evil is kept in some abeyance by them (until they are lost or destroyed).
Harry Turtledove’s The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump has an excellent discussion of the efficacy of religious belief and symbols in dealing with the supernatural. The protagonist is Jewish, and uses passover wine to power some of his mystical artifacts.
Anaamika, are you looking for instances of religious symbols being used against masty ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties in general, or against vampires specifically? For the former, there’ve been plenty of occurrences in Hellblazer of John Constantine using non-Christian symbols and artifacts to great affect against supernatural beings.