Holy Burns Evil

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A possible form of Glamour Failure and, depending on execution, a Weaksauce Weakness. Some biologically or spiritually evil—or not exactly evil—things react violently to holy stuff, causing not just physical pain but violent and fearful reactions. Tangentially related to Revive Kills Zombie, as a related fantasy Kryptonite Factor.

In video games with Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, if Holy and Darkness are elements, this trope will always work, and occasionally the inverse will be true as well.

Vampires tend to have at least one weakness of this kind. Especially old, powerful, or insane vampires may be able to Fight Off the Kryptonite thanks to their Cross-Melting Aura and attack.

For whatever reason, people who experience this trope usually hiss. Probably because of the aforementioned vampires.

Occasionally, creatures that are merely supernatural and not normally associated with evil, such as fairies, are subject to this trope. When the hero uses this to his advantage, see Depleted Phlebotinum Shells.

Compare to Kill It with Fire and Weakened by the Light. A subtrope of Good Hurts Evil. See also Protective Charm. Most examples that are played for laughs are also Faux Horrific.

Examples of Holy Burns Evil include:

Anime and Manga

  • Alucard from Hellsing has holy silver crosses melted down to make his vampire-destroying bullets. And then there's that one time where he can't be bothered to wait for the melted silver to be cast into bullets...
    • Alucard himself is affected by stuff of this nature (most notably Anderson's blessed blades), but is so ridiculously powerful that he can generally shrug it off.
  • In Chrono Crusade, demons are weak to holy water. The bullets in Rosette's guns "use holy water instead of an explosive charge," and in the anime Chrono burns his hand once when he attempts to use it against a demonic enemy.
  • The protagonist of My Balls encounters a succubus posing as a nurse, and tries to scare her off with a cross improvised from a scalpel and his own erect penis. It doesn't work. (Incidentally, does this count as Crossing the Line Twice?)

Comic Books

  • A slight variant is used in Marvel Comics with their vampires, in that a given holy symbol must have faith behind it, as in the faith of the person using the holy symbol is channeled through it. In one memorable exchange, Wolverine tries to use an impromptu cross to force Dracula to back off, who replies with something to the effect of "You idiot, you don't believe, that can't hurt me." Cue Nightcrawler, a devout Catholic, who jumps in and declares, brandishing a cross, "But I DO believe!" And Drac does the usual fall back, hissing schtick.
    • It's not Marvel Comics original, nor the only one, but still (at least) coherently used. Note that any holy symbols will work, as Kitty Pryde uses her Star of David. Well more specifically, Kitty initially tried driving back Dracula with a crucifix, however after starting to fall back, Dracula realized that it didn't burn, and grabbed Kitty by the throat. Which of course was where she was wearing a Star of David pendant that immediately scorched Dracula's hand.
    • Marvel also has it only work if it is a symbol of a god worshiped in the time the vampire was alive. The first vampire Varnae cant be hurt by crosses, for example, because the crucifixion didn't happen until he was over 16,000 years old.
    • Marvel also has it that vampires can actually successfully use holy symbols against other vampires (who better than a vampire to know in the power of faith). Dracula himself once drove off a group of vampires hunting him with a large cross, and only suffered minor burns while flying for hours in bat form carrying it to chase them off. This might be a case of 'God was nice' as Dracula had to immediately drop the cross near morning once the threat was over and he was no longer accidentally protecting a young human female and realized he was holding a cross. Obvious this is an extremely rare deal.
  • In one issue of Fans!, idealist Trekkie Rikk is able to hold off a vampire with a Vulcan salute.
  • In Hellblazer, John Constantine makes brilliant use of this by sharing a drink with the Devil - and then disrupting a spell that keeps the liquid from reverting to holy water. He then glasses the Devil in the face with a broken bottle and kicks him into a well full of the stuff.
  • In I Am Legend, the "vampires" are only hurt by holy symbols if it was symbolic of the religion they followed in their previous life. For example, a former friend of Robert's is undeterred by a cross, yet recoils when presented with a Torah.
  • The Simpsons Comic: Mr Burns takes over the Springfield church, at first simply to promote his autobiography and later to become Pope (yes, Lovejoy explains why he should have thought that through). He compares the Church to a book club where they talk about the same book every week. "Now, the Bible is a fine book, but - AGH! It burns!" In the next panel, he's holding it with oven mitts.


  • Dogma and the blessed golf clubs. Weaksauce.
  • In Fright Night, one gets the feeling Peter Vincent, once he believes, would have the same effect on the vampire without need of a cross.
  • In The Exorcist, the priest throws (what he claims to be) holy water at Regan, who is under the control of a demon, who screams out this trope's former name.
  • In Hellboy, John Myers throws Hellboy his dead mentor's crucifix to remind him of his acquired humanity. It burns his skin while he holds it.
  • Constantine. Holy water burns the skin of half-demons and makes them much more vulnerable to attack.
  • In Bill Cosby's So Bad It's Good movie Leonard Part Six, exposure to meat burns the Big Bad's vegetarian minions.
  • In the first Harry Potter book, Harry defeats Quirrel hosting Voldemort by holding his hand to his face. Quirrel's face burns off because of The Power of Love from Harry's mother.
  • Inverted in Van Helsing: the titular character pulls out a cross in front of Dracula, the count grabs it and it burns up in his hand. It burns him, but he also gets off on it.
  • In Hocus Pocus the witch Winnie sneezes, prompting a passing-by girl dressed as an Angel (it's Halloween) to say "Bless you!" All three sisters react with terror.
  • Subverted in The Devil's Advocate when the Big Bad sort of exposes himself by immersing a finger in a church water basin (along with an Aside Glance). The water boils but the Devil is rather more amused than hurt.
  • Played with in The Dead Matter. Vellich has this reaction to holy symbols through and through, particularly when he dies by shoving a cross down his throat, but the drug the "new" vampires are taking allows them to be immune to both faith symbols and sunlight.
  • In Santo En Atacan Las Brujas, the mere sight of a large cross wielded by the heroic Masked Luchador El Santo is sufficient to cause all the titular witches to burst into flames. Earlier in the film, Santo is able to make some of the witches' wrestling minions flee by simply standing with his own body in the shape of a cross in front of a light source.


  • In Stephen King's vampire opus 'Salem's Lot and its miniseries, this happens when vampires are touched by holy water, any crucifix, or any cross-shaped object that has been blessed. Father Callahan even burns his hands on the front doors of the church when he has been turned by Barlow.
    • Interestingly enough, the symbol itself doesn't seem to be explicitly needed. If Father Callahan had showed his faith by throwing the cross away as he agreed, the vampire wouldn't have been able to touch him. Since he lied and refused to throw away the cross, it lost all effectiveness, allowing the vampire to turn him.
  • In The Silmarillion, the Silmarils, as pure and holy objects containing the light of the Two Trees, burn anything evil. When the villainous werewolf Carcharoth swallows one, the pain causes it to go insane. Similarly, when Anti-Villain Maedhros and Maglor finally manage to recapture them, after spending the entire book trying to kill anyone who has one and steal it back, the Silmarils burn their hands. This causes Maedhros to commit suicide and Maglor to wander the shores of Middle-earth forever in self-imposed penance. A Silmaril also burns Big Bad Morgoth for life and robs him of his ability to change shape.
  • In Scott Westerfeld's "Peeps" The hunters refer to the fear of an object that occurs as an Athame. The vampire-like infected hate things that they used to love. So in older times when people were generally more devout many vampires were warded off with holy objects. In one of the first encounters Cal has with a peep in the book he uses a picture of Elvis as her Athame .
  • In Good Omens, Crowley kills Ligur by dumping holy water on him. It's his weakness too, and that's why Crowley is extremely careful handling it.
  • In Never Ceese, the Christian vampire and werewolf novel (No, really!), vampires and werewolves are cursed so that they react poorly to anything related to God or Christianity. This includes the typical weaknesses, as well as feeling sick when they quote or even think about scriptures.
  • In Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Fey novels, holy water dissolves Fey. Even a cloth that's been stored close to some holy water turns out to be a slow killer. The twist is that holy water is only deadly to fey because a human who was desperate for a weapon threw some at an attacking fey, and inadvertently used a forgotten magic to transform it into a weapon that would only work against them.
  • The Betsy the Vampire Queen series by Mary Janice Davidson has vampires vulnerable to anything holy, even holy names. Say "God" in front of one and he'll recoil. Covering their ears doesn't help, as the words worm into their psyches.
  • The Dresden Files The Black Court have all of Dracula's weaknesses, so they react to sunlight, holy water, and garlic. Religious items' power against vampires is based on faith; Dresden states that a cross would be useless in his non-pious hands, while a pentacle can channel his faith in magic.
  • The Discworld's vampires have varying weaknesses, except the Magpyr family, who go through conditioning to overcome those weaknesses.
    • When they lose that conditioning, they act like this to everything. Partially because the Disc has so many gods that almost everything is a holy symbol to someone, and partially because they've filled their castle with holy symbols as part of their resistance training.
      • Also because of said resistance training, they actually learned and memorized every single religious symbol on the Disc (which is why normal Discworld vampires don't react that way to everything.
  • In the 1990 novella version of F. Paul Wilson's Midnight Mass, an improvised Catholic transubstantiation is done with cheap wine (in a Coke can!). One scoffing vampire drinks the wine. Hilarity (and burnination) Ensues.
  • In one book of SERRAted Edge series, one character blessed Seltzer Water and sprayed it right at a Banshee Whose throat was completely burned/melted away, keeping it from screaming.
  • The Big Bad... thing... in Summer of Night by Dan Simmons is hurt by holy water. Its servants dismiss this as a habit picked up during its time in the Vatican, leaving open the question of whether Christianity or God really has anything to do with it.

Live-Action TV

  • In the Buffyverse, vampires are burned by crosses and holy water. Crosses are handy as vampire detectors (but awful as vampire killers). In "Helpless," Buffy dusts a vampire by tricking him into drinking holy water.
    • Bibles also burn vampires, as shown in a flashback in Angel.
      • Bibles and other holy books are often decorated with images of crosses.
  • Used for a joke on Scrubs when Dr. Cox wants Jordan to promise him something.

Dr. Cox: I'd make you swear on The Bible, but I know how contact with holy stuff makes your skin sizzle.

  • Parodied on Will & Grace, when Will expresses surprise that Karen Walker can wear a nun's habit without her skin burning
  • Holy water will burn demons in Supernatural. Bobby apparently sanctifies all the drinks he offers people in order to weed out those who are possessed.
  • Forever Knight vampires are vulnerable to holy objects from any faith, not just crosses and Christian articles. LaCroix's daughter Divia is affected by the Egyptian sun disk in one episode.Nick has a bit of a tolerance to holy items, but it was still interesting when he had to testify in court and put his hand on a Bible. The cross burned into his palm.
  • Being Human (UK) seems to use this with the proviso that you must have faith in the symbols being used. George and the chaplain drive off a pack of vampires; the former using his Star of David and the latter quoting scripture from the Bible.

Professional Wrestling

  • Would you believe that Vince McMahon has begun to transcend mere Corrupt Corporate Executive-dom to become a supernatural evil? WWE certainly implied such in a vignette where Vince and his son Shane are using a church as a backdrop to mock Shawn Michaels' faith; Vince imitates Triple H's water-spitting entrance using the holy water, then rubs his throat and comments, "That kind of burns a little!"

Recorded and Stand-up Comedy

  • Sarah Silverman has a joke about religious harmony where she says that her Catholic boyfriend doesn't care that she's Jewish; in fact, he gave her his St. Christopher medal. "He says if it doesn't burn through my skin it will protect me."

Tabletop Games

  • In the Warhammer 40,000 universe the Inquisitors of Ordo Malleus (aka. the daemon hunters) use a variety of holy objects to harm daemons, including the Incinerator, which uses this trope in the most literal sense: It's a flamethrower that fires Holy Promethium (Imperial equivalent of blessed napalm)! Not only it will reduce daemons into puddles of goop, but it's just as effective against more mundane enemies.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons most evil undead and some evil other planar creatures are harmed by holy water.
    • Further, evil undead aren't so much destroyed by holy areas as they are weakened by it, certain divine spell caster classes may even consecrate or hallow areas at a cost putting them at a distinct advantage against undead. Certain undead 'are' however harmed more deeply by spells that simulate sunlight and in real sunlight such undead, specifically vampires, are destroyed quite quickly.
  • Demon: The Fallen had another variant—demons could not set foot on holy ground without taking damage (unless their Torment was low enough to be considered "benevolent" spirits).
    • In Vampire: The Masquerade, True Faith can empower its possessors against Vampires. Under V20's default rules for it, you only need one dot of True Faith to ward off vampires with an appropriate holy symbol, or deal aggravated damage with its touch—but the degree of pure devotion to your beliefs that even one dot of True Faith represents is rare.
  • Exalted codifies this with the 'Holy' and 'Creature of Darkness' mechanics. Put simply, anything that is such a threat to Creation that the Unconquered Sun hates it, it gets put on a list. Some powers (designated 'holy') then have additional effects when used against those on the list. These are political designations, though... some things are condemned simply because their energy signatures are close to truly evil things without being evil themselves, and there are no moral strictures about whom one can wield Holy power against, nor how.
    • Becomes almost hilarious when you get to the Solar charms that allow you to put specific things on the list yourself. Conjures up images of a Solar with a sharpie waiting for the Unconquered Sun to go on a bathroom break to scribble on someone's name.

Video Games

  • In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, it technically runs both ways. But, there are exactly two Holy-elemental types of enemy: angelic archers in the Chapel, and the boss Richter. So the inverted version is basically useless.
    • In Aria of Sorrow, "J" uses holy attacks against you.
    • You could invert this in Portrait of Ruin to defeat the Belmont-based Bonus Boss.
      • Even better, one of the Darkness-based weapons is a cream pie. That means you can beat the Whip's memory of Richter Belmont by throwing cream pies at it.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic IV has Holy Water as an item. It can be used either to buff the hero drinking it with the spells "Bless" and "Death Ward" or to injure The Undead. Humorously, an Undead Hero can drink it and get the bonuses with no ill effects.
  • Holy Water has been a standard item throughout the Devil May Cry series... blasts all Mooks nearby when used, and takes a good chunk out of any boss's health-meter. Handy on the lower difficulty-levels, a vital resource on the higher ones. Many of the games have had 'No Holy Water Run' as a Self-Imposed Challenge.
  • In many Roguelikes holy water hurts demons and the undead, and blessed/holy weapons do extra damage against them.
  • In World of Warcraft, you can find holy water in crates inside Startholme instance. It hurts the undead. In addition paladins have the exorcism spell that only deals damage to demons and undead (in patch 3.1 it will do damage to other enemies too, but always critically hits when used against demons and undead).
  • In Chrono Trigger, Magus's defensive powers are negated by the Masamune, and later on in the Northern Ruins if he is in your party when making amends with Cyrus's ghost, he recoils behind his cape at the flashes of light given off by Masa and Mune.
  • Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall let you set your character to take damage from sunlight or holy places. You could also acquire these aversions by becoming a vampire. The sequels of Morrowind and Oblivion continued the vampire aversion to sunlight, but dropped the aversion to holy places.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The reoccuring Master Sword, also known as "The Blade of Evil's Bane". A divine sword that was further purified by several holy fires, evil cannot survive its touch - in the games, it is often one of the few weapons that can deal any damage to the Final Bosses, including series Big Bad Ganon.
    • The first game in the series did not have the Master Sword, instead requiring strikes from the White or Magical Sword and a single Silver Arrow to finish Ganon off and claim the Triforce. Silver Arrows would reappear in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and the Light Arrows serve a similar role in many other entries, e.g. Ocarina of Time - both are often capable of destroying some enemies in a single hit.
  • In The Binding of Isaac, being a Religious Horror plot, the Bible is an item that can grant Isaac some extra abilities and can destroy some mooks - and even some bosses - in one hit. However, it does not work on Satan, and trying to use it will result in him killing Isaac in one hit. No explanation is given as to why he is immune to its power - maybe he simply gains Unstoppable Rage from seeing a book that portrays him as a big jerk.

Web Comics

Erwin: You know that's holy water you're sitting in, right?
Evilphish: It burns! It burns!
Dust Puppy: Erwin, it's just Vanilla Coke.
Evilphish: IT BURNS! IT BURNS!

Web Original

  • The online story Tales of MU. Half-demon Mackenzie is harmed by holy stuff...and people have recently threatened her with holy water.

Western Animation

Peter Griffin: [as two New Yorkers begin to feud at church] Fellas, this is God's house...and the Patriots kick off in about 45 minutes, so can we move this along?
New Yorker: Patriots suck!
Peter Griffin: [gasps] Blasphemy! [splashes Holy Water in the guy's face, creating a sizzling sound]
New Yorker: Ahh! Ahh! It burns! Ah, Jeez! [cutaway to a scientist in his laboratory, opening a package]
Scientist: Holy water? Where's that acid I ordered?

  • Apparently, Moe from The Simpsons can be burnt with holy water.
    • Don't forget the time that Homer takes a baptism for his kids to keep them from becoming Flandereses. It doesn't seem to do any lasting damage, but the sound effect and Homer's demonic growl fit pretty well.