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Power of Christ Compels You! ...why?

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  • Power of Christ Compels You! ...why?

    Well I know I'm not the first person to wonder over this but why does Christian symbols such as crosses and holy water effect vampires?

    We know it's not "faith" that drives it as Willow, who was Jewish, used crosses and apparently a Star of David wouldn't work as a substitute.

    We also saw Holy Water burn a Turok-Han, a vampire predating Christianity.

  • #2
    I think there are people who can answer this better than me, but I think that it's because the idea of 'vampire' is, in the western world, a monster/myth that has existed for a long time, and the western world where the myth has been strongest/most lasting (to me, anyway) is Romania, and then England/America- where the stories have been retold and retold- Dracula is so prominent! So essentially, if it's a people who fear the cross (as in holy fear) who create/retell/believe in the vampire myth, it stands to reason that it's their version of good that counters the bad. If holy water washes away the sin of an ordinary person, surely it will be ever more effective on a being that is entirely evil.

    Then, at the end of the day (in Jossverse), well, Joss is a product of American mythology, as inherited from a western world of mythology.

    That's what I think, anyways- good question

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    • #3
      The lame answer is what we know to be true anyway -- Joss constructed his vampire mythology to have as many classical elements as he could build in, so the crosses became a part of it.

      It's a much bigger quesiton to ask what the metaphysical implications *in* the Buffyverse are that it's so. The Christian God seems to have metaphysical substance in the Buffyverse. It doesn't matter if the Turok-han predates Christ; the same Bible will tell you that Christ has existed since the beginning of time, after all.

      I think the *most* stunning example of Christian "insight" and defense against vampires is in "Angel" 1.14 "I've Got You Under My Skin". The nun in that episode recognizes Angel as a vampire on sight.

      While I doubt Joss is *intending* to establish Christianity as a metaphysical fact in the Buffyverse, the argument is certainly there. Maybe he'd prefer to say that those symbols are closest in line with the Powers' own otherwise ambiguous nature, and as such are rejected by vampires for some reason.
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      • #4
        I think that in the first season they set ground rules about vampires. And they had to stick to them after they were set. Good represents god and anything that goes along with god(crosses, holy water) Bad is anyting souless and evil. So with that in mind anything that is assocaited with god hurts/kills the vampires.

        Plus Joss obviously wanted to stay closs to the rules the movie made, and all the legends made. You do have to put that in mind, in the "buffy the vampire slayer" movie all that stuff applied.. so he had to go with it. So i guess i contradicted myself. sorry.. But it is a great question.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Nikkolas View Post
          We know it's not "faith" that drives it as Willow, who was Jewish, used crosses and apparently a Star of David wouldn't work as a substitute.
          It could still be faith-related - not the vampire's or victim's faith, but the predominant one in the region the story takes place in. Meaning a Star of David would work (and a cross wouldn't) in Israel, a Buddha statuette (?) in China, etc.
          Highly unlikely but not strictly ruled out by canon, I think.

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          • #6
            Maybe the first vampire ever, was afraid for the Christian god? And this is projected on all the other vampires?

            Because it's fear I think; Spike can touch crosses because he is not longer scared for crosses in season 4. Spike never showed fear for God or religion. He had probably a Christian childhood, but he was never really impressed by it. But a person like Angel, who is in some way all about religion ... will probably never lose his fear for God and will burn himself to crosses, the bible, holy water etc. He is strong enough to handle the pain, but not to handle the fear.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Nina View Post
              Because it's fear I think; Spike can touch crosses because he is not longer scared for crosses in season 4.
              When did Spike show he was able to touch crosses in season four? Sorry I just don't remember?

              Spike never showed fear for God or religion. He had probably a Christian childhood, but he was never really impressed by it. But a person like Angel, who is in some way all about religion ... will probably never lose his fear for God and will burn himself to crosses, the bible, holy water etc. He is strong enough to handle the pain, but not to handle the fear.
              But if it were down to religious beliefs doesn't that mean VampWillow wouldn't have been effected by the cross because she was Jewish? Though I guess strictly speaking she wasn't that strict about her faith.. "I have to go over to Xander's house just to watch a Charlie Brown xmas every year" and she clearly celebrated Xmas with Oz in 'Amends' and the Scoobies in 'The Body.'

              Honestly, to look at an *in-verse* reason, I'd fanwank it as being a condition set in place to the first vampire. And just like how it died, became the way they all died, how it couldn't walk in the sun meaning no vamps could, this was another weakness that passed on to all vampires. Why? Not really sure. But I don't think it has anything to do with the individual vampire. As Angel tells Spike in 'Destiny' "as if you're any different."

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              • #8
                Wasn't it Spike? I probably had visions of him learning to get over it by Adam. *crazy*


                Well I was going with the idea the first vampire ever must be afraid for the Christian God and that this means that all his 'kids' have the same fear until they really going to fight it. It can be of course a psychological thing, a vampire knows that it hurts, so it hurts. But in the end, nothing makes sense. I like the idea that vampires are afraid for god and religion ... but in this case, they had to pick more than just one religion.

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                • #9
                  In mythology, it is said that a religious symbol, with faith backing it, will repel a vampire because it is an evil soulless creature. I think it goes along the lines of, if you believe enough, your religious deity will protect you from harm. Normally the cross/holy object is suppose to be silver and you must have faith to use it.

                  However, Joss is always breaking with mythology and creating his own. Like Willow being able to use a cross to repel a vampire. She is Jewish...technically she should be using a Star of David. I wonder if Joss decided to just use a cross so that he didn't have to bring so much religion into the show? Kinda just dumb down the mythology a bit so it is simple and pleasant to watch.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Nina View Post
                    Wasn't it Spike? I probably had visions of him learning to get over it by Adam. *crazy*
                    Perhaps you're thinking of the Master in 'Nightmares?' Or maybe the vampires in 'Who Are You?' who attack the church? Adam asks them to find what they fear and to confront it. Neither situations really made either vampire 'overcome' any physical conditions associated with the cross though. The Master learnt to overcome the pain rather than let it hold him back, but he never prevented the cross from actually doing him harm, it still sizzled when he grabbed it. And although there was a giant cross at the alter of the church, the vampires were just confronting their fears of what the church symbolised rather than any physical harm bestowed upon them as a species, Angel has entered churches before, they do no physical harm to vampires as a rule.

                    Well I was going with the idea the first vampire ever must be afraid for the Christian God and that this means that all his 'kids' have the same fear until they really going to fight it. It can be of course a psychological thing, a vampire knows that it hurts, so it hurts. But in the end, nothing makes sense. I like the idea that vampires are afraid for god and religion ... but in this case, they had to pick more than just one religion.
                    The only thing that I find somewhat problematic with the idea of "they know it hurts so it hurts" is that the cross physically *burns* them, we see it isn't just mentally but actually does them physical damage. Even when the vampire isn't prepared psychologically for the pain, under the spell of the dead lovers in 'Waiting in the Wings' Cordy and Angel only break off each other because the cross on her necklace slips out of the palm of her hand and brushes against Angel's cheek as they kiss, causing Angel to flinch and push back because of the pain. He never telegraphed it, or even saw the cross with his eyes so it pretty much rules out anything psychological going on there.

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                    • #11
                      When did Spike show he was able to touch crosses in season four? Sorry I just don't remember?
                      Spike used a giant cross as a weapon against Angel in the Destiny fight in season 5, but it still burnt him. He just ignored the pain.

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                      • #12
                        Okay I give up,

                        There is no big logic behind it, just like the problems with the reflection of a vampire. It's how it is because they said so. It would be better if all religions could harm vampires ... is there canon prove that a vampire can't be hurt by a David cross or the Koran? Maybe they do, and in that case ... I'm okay with the rule.

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                        • #13
                          or maybe way back in the christian era, some group of monks/priests/nuns decided they needed to fight vampires by putting restrictions on them; so, using their own belief system, they made vampires unable to touch/desecrate holy christian iconography. could have also been them who created the house-invitation limitation.

                          that's my main theory. obviously someone--and i'm leaning towards a very christian-leaning group--put limitations on vampires.

                          it'd be interesting to see a pre-christian vampire flashback (anything B.C.).

                          while angel is probably the most devoutly (still) religious vampire we've met (liam and angelus both also showed heavy catholicism), william/spike did have his moment of pointing to god in the church scene in beneath you. william/spike isn't as overt, but he does have moments. he fears god and wants cosmic forgiveness far less than angel, though. both fear a very christian concept of hell, however.

                          despite joss' atheism, he has spoken about being quite entranced with using religious iconography and ideas. plus, i can't help but suspect david boreanaz's overt catholicism (also heavily influential on bones) might have influenced how the writers (namely david greenwalt) chose to create the character.
                          Last edited by NileQT87; 10-08-08, 02:33 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
                            Honestly, to look at an *in-verse* reason, I'd fanwank it as being a condition set in place to the first vampire.
                            That can't be right, vampires are older than Christianity.
                            Originally posted by Nina View Post
                            is there canon prove that a vampire can't be hurt by a David cross or the Koran?
                            Nothing really conclusive, that I can recall. I guess we could assume that Willow is using crosses in the un-invite spell for her room simply because they happen to have the Christian version of the spell on hand, and that there is an equivalent Jewish one that could be used instead...
                            Originally posted by NileQT87 View Post
                            or maybe way back in the christian era, some group of monks/priests/nuns decided they needed to fight vampires by putting restrictions on them; so, using their own belief system, they made vampires unable to touch/desecrate holy christian iconography. could have also been them who created the house-invitation limitation.
                            That's an interesting idea. If Willow, based on work done by others, can change the metaphysical rules governing the Slayer line, it doesn't sound too far-fetched that someone else would have the power to change the rules governing vampires.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Nina View Post
                              Okay I give up,

                              There is no big logic behind it, just like the problems with the reflection of a vampire. It's how it is because they said so. It would be better if all religions could harm vampires ... is there canon prove that a vampire can't be hurt by a David cross or the Koran? Maybe they do, and in that case ... I'm okay with the rule.
                              Like I said in my last reply, though Joss Whedon seems to ignore it, vampires can be harmed by other religions. If you are a strong believer in the Jewish faith a Star of David will act like a cross does. There is also mythology that praying while holding a religious symbol, or just praying can ward off vampires and other evils. If you take other mythology into account, if you do not truly believe in Christ than holding a cross to a vampire shouldn't really do anything.

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                              • #16
                                I know this is the lame answer, but I really think this issue is one that can't be fanwanked away. It's one of those things that are just there. Vampires being afraid of crosses is one of the most common limitations vampires have in all sorts of vampire myths and legends, and I believe that's the only reason Joss put it there. Like their faces morphing into demonic faces when they vamp out; it's not at all a common feature in most vampire legends but the producers put it there, according to Joss (I think he said it in the Innocence commentary, but I'm really not sure) just so it didn't look like Buffy was killing people. There's no real explanation for it in the show.

                                I just wanna add - the fact that Willow is Jewish doesn't actually tell us anything about her faith. We know she follows some Jewish customs but it seems that she does it simply because it's what her family's done all her life, not because she actually follows the religion.

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                                • #17
                                  Talking about the faith of the characters, how many of them are really religious? We know that Riley is religious (wasn't he the only one who actually went to the church?), Drusilla and Angel were very religious, Angel is maybe still the greatest believer of them all ... but Buffy, Xander, Cordelia etc. never showed any connection with religion. Still, the crosses do work ... also when they don't want it/notice it (the dance in 'Angel' by example).

                                  I agree with icecreamkiller, there is no fanwank for this. It's a nice symbol, but no logic.

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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by kassyopeia View Post
                                    That can't be right, vampires are older than Christianity.

                                    Nothing really conclusive, that I can recall. I guess we could assume that Willow is using crosses in the un-invite spell for her room simply because they happen to have the Christian version of the spell on hand, and that there is an equivalent Jewish one that could be used instead...

                                    That's an interesting idea. If Willow, based on work done by others, can change the metaphysical rules governing the Slayer line, it doesn't sound too far-fetched that someone else would have the power to change the rules governing vampires.
                                    Vampires may predate the first Advent, but they wouldn't pre-date the actual existence of Christ as actually practiced in Christianity -- that extends to the beginning of time itself. So perhaps vampires B.C. were warded by what other symbols of that faith there were -- Moses' staff, the Ark of the Covenant, a burning bush.

                                    There *is* a logical explanation, it's just not one Joss intended or that most Buffy fans might feel comfortable with -- it's the face value explanation that there is a substance to the meaning behind those objects that is lacking in others.

                                    Like I said in my last reply, though Joss Whedon seems to ignore it, vampires can be harmed by other religions. If you are a strong believer in the Jewish faith a Star of David will act like a cross does. There is also mythology that praying while holding a religious symbol, or just praying can ward off vampires and other evils. If you take other mythology into account, if you do not truly believe in Christ than holding a cross to a vampire shouldn't really do anything.
                                    What this fails to explain, IMO, is why such symbols would still affect vampires in the abstract, with no human to "charge" them with their own intrinsic faith. Spike was burned by a cross in "The Harsh Light of Day" in nobody's company but his and Harmony's. There's no reason to think that would have happened any differently had the scene taken place in a cave in Saudi Arabia or Burma or anywhere else where the prevailing faith isn't Christianity. Same as him burning his hands on the cross in "Destiny", or his chest on it in "Beneath You". There has not been a single demonstration in the Buffyverse of a vampire, even a Turok-han, who is completely immune.

                                    Talking about the faith of the characters, how many of them are really religious? We know that Riley is religious (wasn't he the only one who actually went to the church?), Drusilla and Angel were very religious, Angel is maybe still the greatest believer of them all ... but Buffy, Xander, Cordelia etc. never showed any connection with religion. Still, the crosses do work ... also when they don't want it/notice it (the dance in 'Angel' by example).
                                    Riley was ostensibly a weekly church-goer. Either Catholic or, I think, Lutheran or Methodist, since most of the visual cues were the same.

                                    If I were to guess, Xander is probably lapsed Catholic or Protestant. Drusilla and Angel were both Catholic in life. Willow is Jewish, albeit, as a practicing witch with world-destroying potential, arguably the worst Jew ever -- her family is obviously pretty reform, but I imagine they went to Temple. Buffy and Cordy, there's really not enough insight to say one way or another.
                                    Last edited by KingofCretins; 10-08-08, 07:06 PM.
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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by icecreamkiller View Post
                                      I know this is the lame answer, but I really think this issue is one that can't be fanwanked away.
                                      I think Nile's explanation definitely works, the only problem with it is that there it's not rooted in canon at all.
                                      I just wanna add - the fact that Willow is Jewish doesn't actually tell us anything about her faith. We know she follows some Jewish customs but it seems that she does it simply because it's what her family's done all her life, not because she actually follows the religion.
                                      Oh, yes. If she's religious, she's a Wiccan, but even then it has more to do with experience than with belief.
                                      Originally posted by Nina View Post
                                      Talking about the faith of the characters, how many of them are really religious?
                                      There's the scene in "Ted" in which he's saying grace. It very much comes across like something Buffy and Joyce would never ever do of their own accord.
                                      Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                                      Vampires may predate the first Advent, but they wouldn't pre-date the actual existence of Christ as actually practiced in Christianity
                                      Yes, I was referring to Christianity as an organized religion in the modern sense, should've made that clearer.
                                      There *is* a logical explanation, it's just not one Joss intended or that most Buffy fans might feel comfortable with -- it's the face value explanation that there is a substance to the meaning behind those objects that is lacking in others.
                                      Good point, I never thought of that. Then again, if it really isn't the one Joss intended, it must be wrong, no matter how logical it is.
                                      her family is obviously pretty reform, but I imagine they went to Temple.
                                      She talks about her Bar Mitzvah in "Hell's Bells", which means that her family must have been part of the religious community, I think?
                                      Last edited by kassyopeia; 10-08-08, 07:20 PM.

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                                      • #20
                                        Actually the earliest Christian symbol was a fish, but the cross became predominant in the fourth century (I think).There is much ancient and mythological support for the idea that the willing sacrifice of innocent blood has enormous spiritual power. This is what the cross represents and I don't think other religious symbols have exactly the same connotation.

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