Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Vampires and the Church – An Unlikely Connection by Kathryn M. Hearst

The question I’m most asked about the Order of the Sinistra Dei series is “How did you come up with the idea of immortals working for the Catholic Church?”

This idea came to me as I researched the faith in preparation for adult catechism classes. (Yes, I converted to Catholicism.) The more I learned, the more intrigued I became with Church history and lore, specifically the unlikely connection to creatures of the night.

Vampire myths have existed in most cultures since well before the establishment of the Church. The Mesopotamians and Persians told tales of vampire-like creatures who drank the blood of their victims. Ancient Babylonians called their vampires Lamashtu and Lilitu, which some scholars believe later became synonymous with the Hebrew myth of Lillith. These creatures were often portrayed as beautiful women, sexual predators who fed on the flesh and blood of babies and mothers. Ancient Greece, ancient India, Celtic, Viking, and many other cultures also have documented versions of blood suckers.

As Christianity struggled to convert the common man, most of whom were poor and uneducated, the Church superimposed many of its holidays and symbols upon those of the pagan masses. Anyone needing additional proof of this practice should research Saturnalia. This celebration lasted the week of the winter solstice and culminated on December 25.

What does this have to do with vampires? During this time, the Church inadvertently gave credence to many of the myths and superstitions of the masses. Rather than ignoring tales of vampires, witches, and werewolves (to name a few), Christianity equated the vampire with Satan and offered a new way to protect oneself against evil.

Reverend John Christopher Atkinson sums it up perfectly in his book, Forty Years in a Moorland Parish, “Christianity turned the nature deities into devils, spells into magic, and spaewives into witches–but could not banish the ideas from the imagination of men. So adopted stones and wells turned spells into exorcism and benedictions and charms into prayers.”1

Instead of discrediting the vampire myth, the Catholic Church conducted many inquiries regarding the existence and extermination of supernatural creatures throughout history. A notable example of this research is The Malleus Maleficarum, published in 1486. This work became the witch and vampire handbook of the 1600s. The Treatise on The Appearance of Spirits and on Vampires by Dom Augustin Calmet, a Benedictine monk, hints at the existence of vampires, though it doesn’t go so far as to state it as fact. There are many more examples of religious texts mentioning the existence of witches, werewolves, and vampires.
Did the Church actually believe in vampires? YES! No. Maybe?

Much of the pagans’ beliefs and superstitions have been lost to the sands of time, yet vampire lore is as immortal as the creatures themselves. I can’t help but wonder if human fascination with vampires would continue today had the Church ignored the myths from the beginning.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Would Stoker’s Dracula or Rice’s Lestat exist in our collective conscience if not for the Church recognizing them as evil?

1 Reverend John Christopher Atkinson, Forty Years in a Moorland Parish: Reminiscences and Researches in Danby in Cleveland (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 255.

Feast of Mercy
Order of the Sinistra Dei
Book Two
Kathryn M. Hearst

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Crushing Hearts and
Black Butterfly Publishing

Date of Publication: October 4, 2016

Number of pages: approx. 300
Word Count: 75,000

Cover Artist: Marcela Bolivar,
Designer Shawn T. King

Book Description:

An ancient feud. A threat from the Vatican. Two lovers caught in the middle.

Nick never wanted to live forever, and he certainly didn’t want to join the Order of the Sinistra Dei. Unfortunately, before he’s able to get used to the idea of immortality, the High Judge from the Vatican arrives in New Orleans to investigate the strange events of Fat Tuesday. If Nick doesn’t play his cards right, his forever could be a whole lot shorter.

Marin, a relatively new immortal, is forced to serve as assistant to the High Judge while he investigates the alleged crimes of those she holds most dear. She’ll do what she has to do to protect her clutch. However, her efforts bring her closer to facing the executioner’s blade.

As their world spins out of control, Marin and Nick struggle to reconcile past hurts and hold onto their budding relationship. New enemies, new abilities, and new desires threaten to tear them apart. It isn’t long before they realize love can’t heal all.

Loving someone means you want the best for them...but what happens when what’s best isn’t you?

Feast of Mercy is the second book of the Order of the Sinistra Dei series, an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance like no other. If you like mysterious supernatural creatures, conflict-ridden romance and a lot of heat, then you’ll love this series.

Short Excerpt:

Nick expected sounds from her—moans, maybe a scream or two. What he didn’t expect was for her to bolt upright and let out a blood curdling scream. Déjà-fucking-vu.
“Get out,” Marin shouted.
For a brief terrifying second, Nick thought she spoke to him, then a male voice spoke from the door.
“Marin, I require your services,” a man said from behind him.
Nick covered her body with his unsure of what else to do. He didn’t recognize the voice, though he detected a European accent. Anyone who called her by name would have recognized him, even with his face buried between her legs. It had to be Lysander.
When the door clicked shut, he hopped off. “Who was that?”
“The High Judge. He’s practically a priest. A freaking priest saw my boobs.” Marin scrambled off the couch in search of her clothes.
“He’s not a priest. Worse.” Nick laughed deep in his gut. If looks could kill, he’d be stone cold dead, for keeps this time. “I’m sorry. Do you think he recognized me?”
“Where is my bra, dammit?” She pulled her jeans on commando style.
Nick handed her the scrap of lace she called panties. “Where are we going?”
“You aren’t going anywhere. You’re going to hide here until he’s gone, then go back to Gia’s. I need to find out what the hell he wants.” She snatched her bra from the edge of the desk and rushed it on.
Nick ran his hand through his hair. “Shit. This is bad.”
“Call Gia.”
“I will.”
“Now.” Marin slipped out the door.
Gia’s phone rang until he thought it would go to voicemail. “Hey, Nick.”
“Gia, the High Judge came looking for Marin.”
“Where? Did he see you?”
“The bar.” Nick’s stomach clenched. “I don’t know if he saw me.”
“Did he say why he wanted Marin?”
“No, but you need to be careful. Nicholai and Serena are still in town. If he comes to the townhouse, Nicholai doesn’t need to be the one to answer the door.”
“Shit, hang on.” She spoke with someone. “Okay, where are you now?”
“I’m still upstairs in the office, he barged in and caught us…um…making up. I didn’t get a look at him.”

About the Author:

Kathryn M. Hearst is a southern girl with a love of the dark and strange. She has been a storyteller her entire life, as a child, she took people watching to new heights by creating back stories of complete strangers. Besides writing, she has a passion for shoes, vintage clothing, antique British cars, music, musicians and all things musical (including theater). Kate lives in central Florida with her chocolate lab, Jolene; and two rescue pups, Jagger and Roxanne. She is a self-proclaimed nerd, raising a nerdling.

The Order of the Sinistra Dei is her first series and includes titles, Feast of the Epiphany and Feast of Mercy. Kate's novel, The Spirit Tree, won a publishing contract with Kindle Press through the Kindle Scout contest. Her short stories have been published in various anthologies.

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