Thursday 9 May 2024

Dracula and the Bible

One Saturday, our rabbi pointed out how much Bram Stoker had relied on the Bible when writing his famous vampire novel, Dracula. At this time of year there are some rather mysterious Biblical readings about what to do if you have a skin disease, or if your house has dry rot, or if your yarn is infested with clothes moths. There are various methods for combating these creeping plagues: scrape your walls, wash your yarn, go into isolation. It is easy to see symbolism in these instructions – plagues can take the form of insidious ideas, or corrupt business practices. Marx himself saw capitalists as vampires, sucking the blood of the working classes (Das Kapital, 1867-94).

Leviticus 13:45 Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.

In Dracula (1897), the virtuous Mina Harker is bitten by the evil Count, and feels herself turning into a vampire. Dr Van Helsing and her friends try to protect her by various means including the touch of a consecrated Host to her forehead – but it burns her.

The echo of the scream had not ceased to ring on the air when there came the reaction, and she sank on her knees on the floor in an agony of abasement. Pulling her beautiful hair over her face, as the leper of old his mantle, she wailed out: “Unclean! Unclean! Even the Almighty shuns my polluted flesh! I must bear this mark of shame upon my forehead until the Judgment Day.”

Are there other Biblical parallels?

In 2 Kings 5, the Prophet Elisha heals an Aramaean King, Naaman, of leprosy and refuses payment. Naaman answers: If you won’t take it, please have someone give me as much dirt as a pair of mules can carry. From now on I will sacrifice to the Lord alone. I will not offer any burnt offering or sacrifice to any other gods. (NIV. He takes the earth home so that he can set up an altar to the Israelites' deity.)

Jonathan Harker, while a prisoner of the Count at his castle in Transylvania, discovers where the evil aristocrat sleeps – in a vault full of coffins and wooden boxes: There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which...

When Dracula takes a ship to England he is loaded aboard in a box full of earth from Transylvania. He Count has a minion in England – a mental patient called Renfield given to chanting “The blood is the life! The blood is the life!”

Leviticus 17:10 Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood – I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, "None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood."

You can read the whole story of Dracula here. And the entire Bible is here.

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