Thursday, July 29, 2010

Joseph Laycock: Vampire Bible: Will Smith and The Legend of Cain

Vampire Bible: Will Smith and The Legend of Cain
Some are incensed by the idea of vampires in the Bible. But is the idea so new?
By Joseph Laycock article link
July 26, 2010 | Religion Dispatches

On July 16 it was announced that Will Smith has agreed to play the titular character in The Legend of Cain. The story of Cain, the son of Adam and Eve who murdered his brother Abel, comes from the Hebrew Bible, though Cain also appears in the New Testament, the Qur’an (where he is called Qabil), and in numerous stories and legends throughout Western culture. Smith’s new project brings an added twist, however: Cain was a vampire.

Although no director or studio has yet been connected to Cain, the idea has created quite a stir on the Internet. Already some Christians have objected that writing vampires into the Bible is sacrilege, while others assert that the story plagiarizes White Wolf games. White Wolf, which produced the popular role-playing game Vampire: the Masquerade, first imagined ‘Caine’ as the original vampire in 1991. (In 2003, White Wolf sued Sony Pictures over the film Underworld, which also appeared to borrow some of their ideas about vampires and werewolves.) However, the connection between vampires and the Bible—if not Cain directly—has a much older history.

Our idea of vampires comes from the folklore of Eastern Europe. While there was a tradition that someone killed by a vampire would also become undead, it does not appear that these cultures were preoccupied with “the origin” of vampires. In folklore, infection was not necessary. A corpse could become a vampire for any number of reasons such as if the individual had been excommunicated or violated social taboos. Some people were simply fated to rise as vampires.

Western curiosity about “where vampires come from” likely began with the Victorians. Vampires interested Victorian anthropologists like E.B. Tylor and Sir James Frazer who were obsessed with finding the origin of religious belief. Then in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published, vividly depicting the contagious spread of vampirism in London. Many readers were left wondering: If Dracula turned Lucy Westenra, who turned Dracula? Who was the “patient zero” of vampirism?

As early as the Enlightenment, vampirologists turned to the Bible and other ancient sources for answers. In 1746, biblical scholar Augustine Calmet said of the vampire panics then occurring in Eastern Europe, “It is certain, that nothing of this sort was ever seen or known in antiquity. Search the histories of the Jews, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and you will find nothing that comes near it.” Conversely, Montague Summers, writing in the early twentieth century, argued that there are hints of vampirism throughout the Bible.

Modern vampire writers had no trouble imagining their subjects’ ancient origins. In 1988 Anne Rice placed the first in ancient Egypt, where the wicked Queen Akasha accidentally became trapped between life and death. In Dracula 2000, the first vampire is none other than Judas Iscariot, which explains the vampire’s aversion to silver (It reminds him of the coin he received to betray Jesus). Cain was first described as the original vampire by White Wolf games in 1991. In 1993, Sam Chupp and Andrew Greenberg produced the Book of Nod—an apocryphal Bible text—as a prop for the game. In this version of the story, Cain kills his brother out of love, not jealousy. To show his devotion to God, he sacrifices that which is dearest to him: his own brother. His curse is to wander the earth forever as a vampire.

So is White Wolf solely responsible for linking Cain, the first murderer, with vampires? If we start from vampires and work back to Cain, then the answer may be yes. But if we start at Cain and work forward, a different story emerges. In Genesis, Cain’s behavior is almost childlike. He is motivated by sibling rivalry and a severe lack of impulse control. But in later retellings he becomes an increasingly demonic figure.

In the first Epistle of John, the author warns his readers to, “Be not like Cain, who was of the evil one.” In some of the legends of Jewish midrash, Cain is actually the product of an adulterous affair between Eve and the fallen angel Samael. Tellingly, Eve has a dream prior to the fratricide in which she sees, “the blood of Abel flow into the mouth of Cain, who drank it with avidity.” The idea that Cain was the progenitor of evil appears again in the Epic of Beowulf, where the monster Grendel is described as one of the outlawed “clan of Cain.”

With such a legacy, it should hardly be surprising that Lord Byron and Bram Stoker—the forefathers of modern vampire literature—also wrote gloomy poetry and short stories about Cain. All things considered, Will Smith’s role as the vampire Cain may actually be an inevitability within the exhausted genre of vampire movies. As for the accusations of sacrilege, perhaps we should look at the link between vampires and Cain not as a revision of a biblical story, but a testament to this story’s enduring effect on the Western imagination.

Joseph Laycock is a doctoral candidate studying religion and society at Boston University. He is also the author of Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampires.

Religion Dispatches Articles by Joseph Laycock
Religion Dispatches home page


The Progenitor Bloodline (physical begettal, close-near): the high-bred vs. the hybrid

Vampyre - the Aristocratic-Desposyni (source fire within); Predatory (Life-Blood Systemic); Immortal (the Continual); SAGE (Mammon); the Sun/Son "a comsuming fire" - daylight (Christ the day-star); the self-Illuminated (dark-)nightwalkers; [Mid-17th century via Latin pyra | Greek pura | pur "fire"]; dead to Christ yet claiming the resurrection (King-lineage).

(Vere-)Werewolf - Truth-Benjamin Totem; COG Inc., the Anti-Anointed; Full Moon Holy Days (Passover/political freedom, FOT/economic freedom); [Old English werewulf | were- "man" + wulf "wolf" | Indo-European, "man"] [Early 17th century directly or via French | medieval Latin veracitas | Latin verax "truthful" | verus "true"]; ravenous pack/beasts (wolf in sheeps clothing; Lycan); Secular-Judeo-Christianity (Desposynic lineage/authority physically/spiritually); [Early 17th century via modern Latin | Greek lukanthropos | lukos "wolf" + anthropos "human being"]; Zion-Davidic Priests (Mt. Zion: Tribe Benjamin territory).

Hybrid - Progenitor Bloodline "Descendant Responsibility" - Body of Christ: Messianic servant-Priests, servant-Kings; [14th century | Latin , "begetter" | progenit-, past participle of progignere | gignere "beget"]; spiritual begettal, the Begotten-Desposyni; apotropaic, preventing evil [late 19th century; | Greek apotropaios | apotrepein "turn away" | trepein "to turn"]; non-SAGE "eye of the needle" - custodians (protector-preserver; upholder) vs. the dynastic claim and the withholding (the keepers of the dogma).

Mammon or Messiah meta previous post


Post a Comment

Mammon or Messiah meta contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of "fair use" in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic, social and spiritual issues. The material on this site is presented without profit for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.