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Holy Is Not Safe

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Take note: God prefers charcoal over gas.

"But He said, 'You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.'"
God to Moses, Exodus 33:20, The Bible (New King James Version)

Everyone knows it's a bad idea to mess around with evil. If you're foolish enough to poke a concentrated ball of malevolence, you've got no one but yourself to blame for the consequences. Conversely, we should expect goodness to be more, well, user-friendly, right? Less liable to reduce you to a pile of ashes for looking at it crosswise?

Don't count on it.

Even when Light Is Good, it can still be too hot to handle. Maybe holiness is judgment untempered by mercy, and only the most incorruptible people can come in contact with it and come away unscathed. Maybe it's really temperamental, and objects violently to being used for any but the most noble causes. Maybe it's just that light burns, and enough holiness in one place is naturally dangerous to anyone, not just the wicked — and maybe, when compared to pure, unfettered holyness and goodness, everyone is at least a little bit wicked. In any event, you'll probably rest easier with some safe distance between yourself and anything really holy.

This may be the logical extreme of White Magic. While Black Magic involves drawing power from others, and has a tendency to kill or corrupt anyone, White Magic generally helps others through self-sacrifice and purges evil. Think about the implications of this: purging evil can range from the depraved villain to the Noble Demon to even an Anti-Hero to anyone even remotely human, because all people carry the seeds of sin. Another way to think about is thus: If you aren't willing to make the sacrifice, you get punished, but if you are worthy enough, you get sacrificed. Likewise, anyone helped by your sacrifice is likely to be saved or punished by its effects.

Closely related to Holy Hand Grenade; the distinction is that this trope refers to holiness being inherently dangerous to Muggles, whereas Holy Hand Grenade is when holiness is weaponized in a way that is at least somewhat safe for the user. Also compare and contrast Holy Burns Evil and You Cannot Grasp the True Form. Sometimes manifests as Cast from Hit Points or Brown Note. See also Humans Are Flawed for a possible reason Holy Is Not Safe. Contrast Revive Kills Zombie, in which something beneficial to normal beings is harmful to unholy and/or undead ones. The Good Counterpart to Evil Is Not a Toy (though there are differences: Holy things will usually only vaporize the offender, while Evil is much more likely to corrupt the victim and turn them into a monster... best not to make any assumptions, though).

See also Artifact of Hope.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bakugan:
    • The Infinity Core, the source of positive energy for Vestroia in the first season. When Naga got sucked into the Silent Core trying to take control of it, the Infinity Core was forced out of place. It then crashed into Wavern, and just as the Silent Core took her brother, the Infinity Core took her before traveling to Earth. Eventually however, just as her brother managed to master the Silent Core, Wavern managed to do the same with the Infinity Core, merging with it with no ill effects.
    • From Gundalian Invaders, the Sacred Orb, the true originator of all Bakugan, as well as the vessel for the goddess of the Bakugan, Code Eve, is this, or rather, it’s Code Eve who’s this. In "The Secret Of The Orb", angered by the 4-way battle between Fabia, Marucho, Ren, and Nurzak, she unleashes what Fabia calls a "dimensional twister", which would doom anyone caught in it to drift across random dimensions for all eternity. Then, in the finale, "Destiny Revealed", after Barodius and Dharak attempt to seize the Sacred Orb's power by force, she seemingly vaporizes them. Then Mechtanium Surge reveals what really happened to them: she sealed them in armor made from their own evil and sealed them in another universe, bound together in isolation for all eternity.
  • The Innocence in D.Gray-Man is the Divine Crystal used as a weapon by Exorcists. As such it is obviously harmful to evil beings... but it can just as well be harmful to the good guys. Parasitic type Exorcists (whose weapon is a part of their own body) are stated to have a short life-span due to the sheer amount of energy it consumes. Also, any Exorcist who forgets his mission will be eaten by the Innocence from the inside, and die after turning into an uncontrollable monster that indiscriminately destroys everything around it for several hours. Finally, non-Exorcists cannot stand being exposed to pure Innocence, even if they aren't evil.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: The Big Good digimon Azulongmon provided a "digi-core" that could provide a great deal of power to the DigiDestined, but when Gennai showed up with it in hand, he warned them that it was extremely powerful, and offered them a chance to back down from using it, implying this trope was in effect. They took it anyway, and it allowed the original 8 kids' digimon to reach the Ultimate level, and gave Paildramon the ability to digivolve to Imperialdramon.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run:
    • The corpse of Jesus Christ, which has the potential to become an Artifact of Doom in the wrong hands. The "Holy Corpse" as it's known in the story possesses the power of equivalent exchange, redirecting any misfortune suffered by the wielder somewhere completely random. President Funny Valentine wants to use its power to give eternal prosperity to America. This would have catastrophic consequences for the rest of the world as all that misfortune has to go somewhere.
    • To a lesser degree, the Devil's Palms scattered across America which are places where pieces of the Holy Corpse were laid to rest. Anyone passing through them will either die or gain a stand, and the chosen few will receive that location's holy corpse part along with a stand.
  • Holy weapons in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid are completely non-judgmental in who they hurt, with Tohru mentioned that the sword that pierced her back would have Mind Raped any mortal who touched it (Kobayashi was only able to remove it because she's an atheist). Also, the one named character shown wielding one was a blatant racist trying to bring about a war.
  • In Scrapped Princess, Ginnungagap is the highest known military grade offensive spell, and is so powerful that it must be sanctioned for use, by way of unanimous decision, by the High Council. The attack itself covers a wide area and is devastating enough on its own, but the real threat is resulting shockwave triggered by it. When used, it caused a mega-tsunami that devastated the majority of the continental coast!
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! gives us the Egyptian God Cards, the most powerful and dangerous monsters in the game. Only a chosen duelist can summon a God Monster; anyone else who tries (or who uses a counterfeit card) will be struck down. Even when they all end up in Yugi's hands, they're still extremely dangerous, and Yugi resolves to be careful with how he uses them.

    Comic Book 
  • The Darkness: The Angelus represents the light of creation and is the divine embodiment of law and order, but is indiscriminately dangerous to all who get in her/its way of purging the Darkness. The Angelus was known to have destroyed The Tower of Babel, torn down the Walls of Jerusalem, and ripped apart Krakatoa simply as a display of its holiness and ferocity.
  • Fantastic Four: Johnny Storm the Human Torch had the bad luck of being burned by Hellfire and the Flaming Sword of an archangel in the same story arc. The archangel's sword was more painful.
  • JLA (1997):
    • This is an important plot point in a story where Earth is being invaded by a renegade king angel called Asmodel to hunt down the fallen angel Zauriel, because Zauriel knows about Asmodel's plan to rebel and try to take control of Heaven. The angelic soldiers and their weapons, including their massive flying ship, use holy power, and Zauriel is horrified because he knows that such powers and objects are too much for the mortal world.
      Zauriel: We're talking about a higher order of reality entering this plane. The world they come from, the world I come from, has... more of everything. I don't think you understand yet; the light of Heaven would slash open your corneas. The music of Heaven would puncture your eardrums and drive you insane. The air in Heaven would burst your lungs and boil your blood. Only spirit can bear Heaven's touch.
    • Averted in a Chosen One kind of way with Superman in the very same story arc. Just when Asmodel is about to finish the Martian Manhunter, Superman shows up and tells J'onn to stand down and let him take care of Asmodel. Superman holds his own and stands toe to toe with Asmodel, and, when Asmodel gets desperate and blasts Superman with holy light, Clark completely No Sells it. When Asmodel, baffled by this, comments on it he also inadvertently confirms what everyone already knows about Superman.
      Asmodel: How? How can you bear the scouring light of heaven? Only the purest of souls can gaze upon this flame and not be driven mad!

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Phoenix Fire, which is intrinsically cleansing, and has a particular antipathy to dark magic and darkness in general. Unfortunately, if not carefully controlled, its approach to cleansing tends to be 'burn absolutely everything', and overuse of it in a single place risks burning holes in reality. And then there's the fact that a wielder can become corrupted and corrupt their piece of the Phoenix in turn, becoming the Dark Phoenix.
    • Artifacts blessed by gods in general, such as the Swords of the Cross, Mjolnir, Carol's uru shield (enchanted by Odin), also qualify. If they're nice, like Mjolnir, they'll just refuse to work. If you have any shred of supernatural darkness about you, maybe not even that, they'll outright burn you. And that's not even getting into the wielders, who tend to epitomise Good Is Not Soft.
    • Harry's sword, Curtana. The latter is a puzzling case, in that it was originally forged by Uhtred and enchanted by Loki, later reforged by a lightning bolt from Dracula whilst it is bathed in Harry's blood and embedded in his shoulder, imbuing it with certain Phoenix related properties, something sealed by Doctor Strange. In any case, Loki suggests that it might "bite" the unwary, and it tends to appear when Harry's feeling particularly uncompromising.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Seeking Powernote , the Elements of Harmony are various shades of cursed artifact, the worst being Laughter:
    Trixie: Laughter sounds more and more like a cursed artifact the more I learn about it. That’s what, three red flags now? It brought Luna to ruin, or at least helped; it has an unnatural appeal; and it has a morally dubious effect. And Lyra said there was a second effect.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Corona, the Tyrant Sun. Unlike most of the 'verse's other villains, she is a genuinely good pony who only wants to destroy all the threats to her little ponies and keep them safe. She is also a threat so terrifying that for a thousand years fear of her has been the bedrock of pony culture.
  • In SPECTRUM's Snowbound story the latent magic remaining in the corpse of Sint Erklass in Alaska is messing with the PER expedition in ways that bring an Artifact of Doom from a Cosmic Horror Story to mind. For example a character is watching a newfoal building a scaffolding only for a board he's hammering to move out of alignment (despite being partially nailed in place already making it impossible) making the newfoal miss and make the whole thing collapse, he also notes that the hammer lands on the snow without actually sinking into it.

  • Dogma uses the idea that God's voice is fatal to mortals as a plot point. It places Metatron (whose purpose it is to relate God's words to mortals) in the role of Mr. Exposition, and is used to destroy the renegade angels.
    Metatron: Humans possess neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God's true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that one out.
  • Indiana Jones
    • As in the scriptures, The Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark is an inherently dangerous artifact. Indy and Marion aren't killed by it because Indy remembers the Bible saying not to look upon the open Ark. Those Wacky Nazis aren't so lucky, and pay the price in nightmarish fashion for their greed and arrogance.
    • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the artifact is the Holy Grail, which isn't deadly itself, but has some rather deadly traps protecting it (including fake replicas of the Grail which are deadly). Elsa discovers this the hard way when she attempts to take the grail towards the exit and sets off the self-destruct sequence. In a Take My Hand! scenario, she obsessively tries to reach for it, despite hanging over an abyss. She falls to her death and Indy almost does the same, until his father tells him to “let it go.”
  • Played for Laughs with the Holy Hand Grenade of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which contains long and repetitive instructions about how to safely use it.
  • The Ten Commandments (1956): As with the source material, the presence of God is dangerous. The burning bush prematurely ages Moses, and so does the pillar of fire. The stone tablets destroy an idol and all it's worshipers.

  • The Young Wizards series likes this trope:
    • The Archangel Michael manifesting at full power strains the fabric of reality nearly to the breaking point.
    • The True Name of God is so potent that, if not kept in two separate pieces, its raw power would destroy entire universes.
    • If more than one of the Four Great Treasures of Ireland is kept in the same house without proper preparations, the result would "make a nuclear bomb look like a wet firecracker". The spirit of the Spear Liun, whose element is fire, is particularly temperamental: it wants to burn the evil, darkness, and entropy out of things, and it hurts to look at because entropy is bound to some degree into every living thing.
    • The Book Of Night With Moon, the book (at least as it appears to humans) that defines the operating parameters of the Universe, is described as "blindingly bright" (in a psychic sort of way) and most adult wizards fear the idea of being a conduit for such immense power when someone has to read from it to remind the Universe how to behave.
  • The sword Dyrnwyn in The Chronicles of Prydain, the only weapon capable of slaying the undead Cauldron Born and the Dark Lord Arawn, also has a pronounced tendency to kill any unworthy person who tries to wield it.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry receives the Soulfire power from Archangel Uriel, an ostensibly holy ability that is basically the fires of Creation ... which is powered by his own soul. Though according to Bob, this really isn't as big of a deal as Harry thinks it is. The soul is pretty malleable, and any portion of his soul that he uses up will eventually come back. So long as he doesn't use Soulfire too much in a short amount of time, he'll be fine. If he does, then as Bob put it, "if you subtract five from five..."
    • By the same token, the Knights of the Cross are holy warriors tasked to defend the world against the forces of darkness, each one wielding a blessed sword imbued with one of the nails from the Cross. Yes, the capital "C" Cross. They're also world-class swordsmen, capable of carving through baddies like a hot knife through butter. The Knights are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet, willing to lay down their lives to protect the long as you're not on their bad side.
    • Angels can be quite dangerous if just looked at. In the few times they appear, they tend to take the appearance of a police officer in dress uniform, or somebody otherwise entirely normal. Whenever Harry tries to get a good look at one in with the Wizard's Sight, they would politely but forcefully keep him from using that magic sense, saying that seeing them through it would harm him.
  • The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien:
    • The Silmarils were gems of light that burned everything and everybody trying to touch them who wasn't Incorruptibly Pure. This of course meant Morgoth got horribly burned when he seized them (though he refused to relinquish them out of pride), but when the two surviving sons of the Silmarils' maker finally got them—after Kinslayings, and betrayals, and abandonments, and all sorts of other faith-breaking with friends and allies—the Silmarils burned them. With their millennia of grief and struggle All for Nothing, Maedhros threw himself into a nearby chasm of fire while still holding the gem. His brother Maglor did not, casting his Silmaril into the sea, but took up Wandering the Earth to sing songs of lament.note 
    • Eru Ilúvatar, the ultimate Creator, left the Valar in charge of the world to guide and help the humans and elves. When the Númenoreans decided to declare war on the Valar and invade their land, however, the Valar were unsure what to do and asked Ilúvatar to momentarily take control of the world once again. He responded by immediately sinking the Númenoreans' whole country into the sea, leaving only nine ships of faithful survivors.
    • Earlier in the First Age, when the inhabitants of Middle-earth finally managed to get a messenger across the sea to the Valar to say (paraphrased), "Hey, sorry about that dust-up a couple thousand years back, but there are a lot of innocent people over here who had nothing to do with that, and we could REALLY use some help against the God of Evil. Do a brother a solid?" So, the Valar came over en masse to kick Morgoth out of creation. The resulting battle sank the better part of the continent into the sea. Wanting to avoid a similar catastrophe is a big part of why they adopted a relatively "hands-off" policy during the Third Age in general, particularly the War of the Ring, with the Wizards being explicitly banned from directly contending with Sauron for power. Saruman violating this policy caused his fall and corruption. Gandalf, on the other hand, returned with his restraints somewhat loosened, but still didn't contend directly with Sauron — the closest he got was confronting the Witch-King at Pelennor Fields.
    • There's a variety in Morgoth's Ring where Aman, the Blessed Realm, is said to be forbidden to most mortals precisely because it grants those who dwell there extended bodily life. It doesn't stretch the lifespan of your soul correspondingly. The possible fates of mortals there when their lifespan ran out are terrifying, and one assumes the only actual cases of mortals going there (as a reward) were exempted somehow:
    "he would become more like a beast, though one tormented within. Or else, if his [soul] were strong, it would leave the [body]. Then one of two things would happen: either this would be accomplished only in hate, by violence, and the [body], in full life, would be rent and die in sudden agony; or else the [soul] would in loathing and without pity desert the [body], and it would live on, a witless body, not even a beast but a monster".
  • David Eddings used this in both his epic-fantasy series:
    • The Belgariad: Zig-zagged with the Orb of Aldur. For thousands of years, it was said that only a true innocent, someone who had no evil in his soul, could even touch the Orb, much less use its power. However, in practice the Orb seems to have an unusual definition of "evil": as an instrument of the Prophecy of Light, it seems to equate "evil" with "not an instrument of the Light." So it will react violently if anyone touches it who fits that definition. But someone who is such an instrument can handle it safely, whether they have "evil intent" as humans would define that term or not. Even for those who can touch and use it, though, it still isn't safe, because it has the power of a god and the personality of a very eager-to-please puppy. One has to be careful what one asks it to do.
    • In The Elenium/The Tamuli, Bhelliom is the Spirit of Creation that was accidentally forced into solid form. It is not happy about this, and tends to vent its anger on anyone who touches it. Only a few entities have ever been able to touch it safely, and only two have ever been able to use its power. Anyone else who touches it dies.
    • Also in The Elenium/The Tamuli, the Styric Child-Goddess Aphrael is dangerous in a different way. Her preferred form is that of a young, innocent, happy girl. She knows exactly what effect this has on those around her, and she is completely unscrupulous about using it to manipulate them. Anyone who interacts with her has to be on their guard every second, or else they find themselves doing what she wants without even realizing it. Even Bhelliom isn't immune.
  • In VALIS, the narrator notes that Horselover Fat's encounter with God was no better for Fat's sanity than the illegal drugs he used to take. Also, the meeting with God had the side-effect of giving cancer to all Fat's pets. (On the other hand, it's possible that the entity Fat met was not actually God—it's a point that gets debated extensively by the characters, and never completely resolved.)
  • Works by C. S. Lewis:
    • In The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan, the local Jesus-stand in, is explicitly described by Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as "not safe, but good." He's also a Phrase Catcher for "not a tame lion." He doesn't harm anyone arbitrarily, but he may render judgment on people without immediately letting them realize it's a moral lesson, as with Aravis in The Horse and His Boy whom he clawed in punishment for her callously allowing her servant to be beaten.
    • In The Silver Chair, when Jill Pole first meets Aslan, she asks him if he eats little girls.
      "I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
    • Lewis has his literary avatar of J.R.R. Tolkien encounter this in Perelandra, the second book of The Space Trilogy. Lewis barely manages to fight his way past the fright tactics of harassing demons, to reach a friend's house. There, he sees a beam of unearthly light and hears an inhumanly beautiful voice speaking to him, realizes he is in the presence of an angel ... and is even more terrified. Justified, as the first thing any angel says in the Bible when they show up to talk to someone is, "Do not be afraid." He muses that the reason is because when you're confronted by something evil, you can still hope for something good to rescue you. When you run into something good and are still terrified...
    • The Great Divorce: Heaven as a landscape is actually painful and dangerous to the hellish ghosts: being so much less real than even inanimate objects in Heaven, they can't so much as bend blades of grass by stepping on them, so the grass stabs their feet. Once they give up their Fatal Flaw and become a real Person, this is no longer problem, and they can interact with heavenly matter normally.
  • In Dragon Bones, the protagonists make camp in the ruins of an ancient temple. Turns out the temple is haunted by the god himself. Ciarra is possessed by the god, and Oreg suffers horribly because he couldn't protect her. Though the latter is caused by the magic with which Oreg was Made a Slave, the god doesn't seem to have much compassion, either. Needless to say, the main protagonist, Ward, is quite angry at that Jerkass God.
  • Ravelling Wrath: The Stern God (which is the closest to stereotypical "holiness" among the gods) values personal sacrifice and uncompromising commitment to principles – and its magic reflects that, for better or for worse.
    Justicar: If need be, the Stern God will grant me weapons capable of damaging the fabric of the Otherworld itself. But it has always been my duty to minimize the harm that is done.
  • In the Hellboy novel On Earth As It Is In Hell by Brian Hodge, Seraphim (angels) can be summoned by anyone for any purpose, as long as it involves destruction. Hellboy says they are described in scripture as "Heaven's stormtroopers." One of the renegade priests who has seen them describes them as beautiful, but "incomplete" - no more and no less than the purest manifestation of God's wrath.
  • In The Starlore Legacy, the all-powerful Protector incinerates people who put it on without proper respect (including a hapless Reekojan marine in LORE). By the time of the Kaynian invasion in OATH, no one even dares to wear it any more.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alien Nation: In order to open the ancient Tenctonese artifact The Heart of Tencton requires training as the artifact must be opened in a very precise manner. Humans and Newcomers who opened the artifact without proper training meet with a very warm ending.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • The Elders are the ultimate Big Good, or at least keep order on the side of good. Whitelighters can be promoted to Elder status and are treated with utter reverence. While they have the power to heal and do other benevolent things, they also have fearsome lightning based powers that they can use to kill particularly powerful threats. In fact, Leo is nearly killed by them in a big group attack, with only his Avatar powers protecting him from them.
    • The Charmed Ones themselves are destined to be the most powerful good witches in existence, able to protect the innocent from evil. The Power of Three is a force of great good, but it tends to obliterate any demon it's used on.
    • Wyatt is said to be a "twice blessed child", born from the union of a whitelighter and a Charmed One, and powerful enough to wield Excalibur. His powers were able to heal Piper while she was pregnant and protect her with a magical forcefield around the womb, but they are also raw and uncontrollable once he's born; including one memorable episode where he manages to conjure a dragon out of the TV when Piper wasn't looking. The plot of that season is his brother's future self trying to stop him from becoming an evil dictator in the future.
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers the Zeo Crystal can grant superpowers by accessing the Morphing Grid, however, it is protected by a force field that is deadly to anyone with evil in their hearts (thus explaining why Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa haven't already used it despite it being in a cave right under their palace.) Tommy Oliver ends up having to grab it, but is almost destroyed in the process due to having been forcibly turned evil by Rita at one point, though he survives, presumably because it wasn't his fault he turned evil.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg see the Omega molecule as the pinnacle of perfection and seek it with an almost religious reverence. When Seven of Nine observes Omega molecules self-stabilizing in "The Omega Directive", she reacts as if she is having a religious experience. However, Omega molecules are among the most dangerous substance in the universe, capable of generating deadly radiation, creating massive explosions, and destroying the fabric of Subspace (utilization of which is vital to interstellar society).
  • Supernatural:
    • Angels and demons both have to possess a human in order to walk the Earth. Angels require the consent of the human who is to be their vessel, but just because they're angels doesn't mean it's all going to turn out okay. Many angelic vessels are killed or left broken like victims of bad lobotomies after the angel is finished with them. Nor does it have to be willing consent: during the apocalypse arc, angels aren't shy about trying to torture selected mortals into giving permission.
    • When Pamela calls on Castiel to show himself (she's trying to find out who got Dean Winchester out of hell at the beginning of Season Four), he burns her eyes out because humans can't look upon an angel's true form. Did we mention that their true voices shatter glass, shakes buildings and makes your ears bleed?
    • The Archangel Michael does the same thing to some hapless humans who happen to be sitting in the same bar as Zachariah (a middle-management angel). Unlike Castiel, he doesn't seem to regret it.
  • Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego: There's a being that's implied to be an Eldritch Abomination called "Omnicia" that the Chronoskimmer rarely contacts. Make no mistake: she's good: every time they contact her, she provides information helpful for recovering the loot and stabilizing the timeline. But that doesn't make contacting her a safe proposal; hence the paucity of times they contact her.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • This is Older Than Feudalism. In Greek Mythology seeing the undisguised glory of a god would strike mortals dead, as happened to Semele, one of Zeus' many human lovers and the mortal mother of Dionysus.
  • From The Bible:
    • The Book of Exodus provides the page quote. Moses asks to see God's face. God answers that this would kill Moses, but He does arrange for Moses to see His back* instead. Even just His back has the result of Moses' face glowing for several days and having to wear a veil in the meantime.*
    • Even before that point, God's appearance at the top of Mount Sinai, just prior to giving Moses the Ten Commandments, is marked by thunder, lightning, deafening noise, and cloud of impenetrable darkness. God also warns the Israelites that they will die if they so much as set foot on the mountain, and only Moses is permitted to actually go up there.
    • Nadab and Abihu were priests serving the Lord's tabernacle. When they deviated from the established procedure of worship by offering a "strange" fire to God, they were immediately struck dead for their troubles.
    • The Ark of the Covenant was far too holy for any ordinary person to come in contact with, hence why the priests carried it with poles. Attempting to touch it, even for a good reason, as in the case of the Israelite Uzzah in 1 Samuel who tried to prevent it from falling on the ground, would result in that person being struck dead instantly. One exception is when the Ark resided in the home of Obed-Edom (right after the death of Uzzah), where the Lord blessed his household for the three months that it stayed there (although maybe nobody touched the ark there).

      At another point in 1 Samuel (Chapters 4-7) the Israelites tried to use it as a good luck charm in battle against the Philistines. Its presence ended up galvanizing the Philistines who ripped the Israelites a new one and captured the Ark. Then the Philistines made the mistake of keeping it in the same room as an idol of Dagon, and God destroyed the statue and struck them with a plague of tumors and rats. The Philistine cities started playing hot potato with the thing and eventually decided to send it back to Israel with a guilt offering. The Israelites promptly had a whole bunch of people die from looking into the Ark. Seriously, compared to the Ark of the Covenant, nuclear waste is safe.
    • Jewish tradition has the archangel Metatronnote  whose job is to be the voice of God, employed any time in the Bible when people hear the voice in the sky. Presumably hearing God's voice is just as dangerous as seeing His face.
    • Even angels aren't safe. The Seraphim only fly with their last pair of wings, and use their other two pairs to cover their faces and feetnote  respectively while they cheer God on. Mind you, the Seraphim themselves are this trope, since they're God's personal throne guards and any mortal who looks upon them is instantly incinerated.
    • Despite warnings from the priests, King Uzziah attempted to burn incense in the temple as a sacrifice to God. God got extremely angry at him for performing a task exclusively reserved for priests and so the king was struck with leprosy.
    • In St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, he warns that Communion is not safe for those lacking reverence and holiness. While it gives life to those who have been prepared to approach the Table of the Lord, for those who are not prepared, it brings curses, illness, and can even kill you.
    • In Acts Saul/Paul was on the road to Damascus and then struck blind by a heavenly light.
    • Subverted in one of the beatitudes: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • The Islamic version of the aforementioned story about Moses asking to see the face of God/Allah has it that after making a similar warning about the dangers involved, Allah told Moses that He would reveal His Face to a nearby mountain (and only that mountain), so as to let Moses witness what could happen. The result? The mountain is instantly reduced to be as even as the land around it. The implication from other Islamic traditions is that all creations of Allah cannot help but completely humble themselves before His fully unveiled glory, and that what happened to the mountain was the equivalent of an extreme Pose of Supplication. As for Moses, he understandably fainted from the spectacle.
  • Bhagavadgita has a downplayed version of the theme employed in the three above examples: seeing Krishna's true form, the god Vishnu, does not harm humans (at least, as long as he doesn't mean harm), it just freaks them out real bad.
  • In later interpretations of Arthurian Legend, the Holy Grail tended to be this. Only Sir Galahad, the purest of knights, could survive looking upon it. This might also be said to apply to the Siege Perilous, Galahad's seat at the Round Table, which marked the knight destined to complete the Grail Quest. Anyone other than Galahad who sat in it would immediately die.
  • In Hawaii, lava rocks and black sand are considered sacred; they are considered to be Pele's "babies." Legend has it that taking them from wherever you find them will awaken Pele's Mama Bear tendencies and bring some kind of bad luck. For this reason, many lava rocks end up being mailed back after those who took them as souvenirs attribute to them whatever misfortunes have befallen them.
  • In Asian mysticism, Yang, the energy of light and Heaven,note  has to be balanced with Yin, as otherwise your body will be unbalanced and suffer from excess Yang, with things like fever and excessive anger being common symptoms.
  • Native American cultures, big time. While magic (usually in the form of medicine and songs) is a big part of traditional life, its abuse (accidental or otherwise) is extremely dangerous, and practitioners are highly trained and expected to be diligent in its use. Sacred artifacts (especially those whose owners have died or place in the society has been lost) are treated about how a modern day person might treat a canister of radioactive materials or an improvised explosive, and for much the same reasons.
  • The Wrathful Deities in Tantric Buddhism are monster-like hybrids whose work is to kill or subjugate demons.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Positive energy is a type of magical energy closely associated with life, and spellcasters often channel it when casting healing spells, Holy Hand Grenades, or Turning Undead. The Positive Energy Plane is made entirely of the stuff, and trying to visit it without appropriate protection will cause your body to become overloaded with life energy, which will vaporize you if you spend too long there. Depending on your Constitution, "too long" ranges from a few minutes to literally seconds.
    • From the Book of Exalted Deeds 3E sourcebook:
      • The Words of Creation are a precursor tongue to Celestial considered inherently good to the extent that no evil creature can speak them or bear their sound. However, most uses of the Words cause the user to suffer varying amounts of nonlethal damage (for example, speaking another creature's true name inflicts 5d4 damage on the speaker).
      • Sanctified spells are spells available only to good-aligned spellcasters who prepare spells before casting them. Like the Words of Creation, most are Cast from Hit Points in the form of varying levels of ability damage or, in the case of Exalted Fury, death.
    • Radiant dragons are magnificent golden beasts from the Upper Planes, unswervingly dedicated to Law and Good, and powerful foes of the wicked. They are also terrifying beings, whose dedication to opposing evil turns them into merciless, unstoppable whirlwinds of light, power and death when facing the wicked.
      Radiant dragons are simultaneously wonderful and terrible, awesome in their righteousness and fearsome in their dedication to destroying evil.Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons
    • When you read the 5th Edition's version of the Book of Vile Darkness and have an alignment of Neutral or Good, you need to make a save or instantly become Neutral Evil. Obviously, the inverse would be so for the Book of Exalted Deeds, no? Actually, if you try to read it and aren't Good-aligned, it instead vaporizes you. This is because Evil corrupts. Good respects agency and free will, so if you are evil and choose to expose yourself to the epitome of Holiness, well then, you determined your own fate...
  • In Nomine: While true of all the angels, who are extremely powerful cosmic beings with long reaching plans at the best of times, a few entities really hammer this home. Dominic has a code of morality so strict and rigid that it threatens fellow angels, Jordi hates humanity for the damage it has done to his charges and is just barely held back from wiping us out, and Gabriel is a living natural disaster that Heaven has basically lost control of. On the lower levels, the Kyriotates are full-on angelic abominations that can cause mental damage simply by being looked at, and the Malakim are murderous shadows who embody Heaven's ruthless wrath.
  • Magic: The Gathering contains many white cards that brings holy destruction everywhere, every block usually containing at least one of these. The most iconic examples being Wrath of God and Day of Judgment, both of which destroy all creatures (including the caster's). While Light Is Not Good is in effect in the setting, it does tend to be fair, and what's more fair than destroying everything?
  • Warhammer 40,000: Astropaths are psykers who make brief psychic contact with the nearly dead God Emperor of Mankind so they can safely use their psychic power for FTL communication. This has the unpleasant side effect of burning out the astropath's eyes.
  • The World of Darkness: Princess: The Hopeful: Bathing in the Light of the Dreamlands is beneficial, but going any deeper than the shallow end of the pool will obliterate everyone, including the Light's own champions.

    Video Games 
  • By implication in Aoi Shiro. The <<Sword>> is a holy object but in addition to being the Key to the Lapis Lazuli Gate it has a corrupting influence on humans and oni alike unless they have enough power to fight off the influnce or the right sort of power to neutralise its effects.
  • In the Bayonetta series, the Umbra Witches need to make a Deal with the Devil with the demons of Inferno in order to gain their powers. The Lumen Sages, their light-based counterparts, do something similar, making contracts with angels in Paradiso... however, the angels in this universe are anything but benevolent, despising humanity for their weakness. Also, just as Umbra Witches get their souls dragged down to Inferno when they die, the souls of Sages are taken into Paradiso, where it's insinuated that their souls are used to create Cannon Fodder soldiers for the angelic armies.
  • The land of Cvstodia in Blasphemous has been visited by an incarnation of divine will they rightfully call "The Most Grievous Miracle"... which has twisted Cvstodia into a hellish realm where mortals are warped into undying, pain-fueled monsters of manifest guilt and sorrow. In fairness, there are hints that it might have been warped into doing this by Cvstodia's Martyrdom Culture... but there are also hints it might just be due to the cosmic entity behind the Grievous Miracle being an utter dick.
  • The Zombie Apocalypse that nearly destroys New Tristram in Diablo III is eventually revealed to have been inadvertently caused by the power of Justice: the zombies were the remains of people unjustly killed during previous conflicts between humans and demons, brought back to life because the power of Justice became unregulated after the Archangel of Justice, Tyrael, renounced his position and fell to Sanctuary to take a more active hand on humanity's behalf against the forces of Hell.
  • In Elden Ring, the "Holy" element is mostly associated with the Golden Order and worship of the Erdtree, and while several of its Incantations take the form of healing or protective effects, just as many involve smiting with divine fury. The Golden Order isn't exactly...very benevolent, and even the hunters of the undead are represented as zealous murderers, since undeath isn't shown as inherently evil. A few bosses also make extensive use of holy powers, most notably the final bosses of the game, Radagon of the Golden Order and the Elden Beast, whose attack are almost exclusively Holy-aspected.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The eponymous Elder Scrolls themselves are referred to as "fragments of creation", and are (usually) kept under close guard by the Cult of the Ancestor Moth, a sect of specially trained "Moth Priests" who are the only people typically allowed to access or attempt to read the Scrolls. Despite the divine nature of the Scrolls, mortal readers are typically struck blind and insane following readings. Moth Priests undergo a lifetime of rigorous training which allows them to overcome these side effects, but only for a finite number of readings before they too are struck blind.
    • While most of the series Legendary Weapons and other artifacts of great power are associated with the (often amoral) Daedric Princes, the (often more benevolent) Aedric Nine Divines have gifted objects of great power to mortals as well. The Crusaders Relics are prime example - a set of blessed armor and weapons granted to Pelinal Whitestrake, the divine champion of St. Alessia in the 1st Era during her conflict with the Daedra-worshiping Ayleids. Included are a mace and sword enchanted to inflict fire-damage. Pelinal used this equipment to commit near-genocide against the Ayleids. This equipment needs to be recovered and sanctified in Oblivion's Knights of the Nine expansion, where the Player Character is "Pelinal Reborn" and needs to defeat Pelinal's ancient enemy, Umaril the Unfeathered.
  • Those playing Fallout: New Vegas with Wild Wasteland perk on can find Holy Frag Grenades. These are frag grenades with white cross painted on them and have much bigger 'boom' than regular version. This also means it is much easier to get caught in the blast than for standard version if one throws it too close.
  • Final Fantasy VII:
    • The White Materia, Holy, is the Planet's ultimate defensive measure. It wipes away anything it judges to be a threat to the Planet. While this obviously includes the incoming Meteor, there is a risk it could consider humanity itself to be a threat to the Planet and wipe humans out too. Its only thanks to a last-minute intervention by Aerith via the Lifestream that it actually doesn't.
    • The various WEAPONS (giant monster creatures, not actual swords/guns/etc.) are the backup in case Holy doesn't work. However, since the Big Bad who's actively trying to destroy the Planet is hiding behind a shield that even the WEAPONS can't penetrate, they opt to go after the #2 threat to the Planet instead. Which would be humanity.
  • After the final battle of Final Fantasy Dimensions, all the light that had been sucked out of the world begins to flood back. When Diana asks if that isn't a good thing, Dusk says it is, except for the fact that they are right in its way. In the end, Dusk and Alba are ready to perform a Heroic Sacrifice to hold it back (although they're forestalled) and Castle Avalon is vaporized when the light rushes out of the gateway to Nil.
  • In Fire Emblem Gaiden, Black Magic and White Magic alike are Cast from Hit Points. Many of the most expensive spells are White Magic, so it's always wise to keep a second healer around to heal your first healer (the basic heal spell only costs 1 HP).
  • The Apollo Sanctum in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is bathed in light so intense that it can incinerate anyone who approaches it unless they're wearing the Umbra gear, which covers the person in darkness. However, the heart of the sanctum (which your party needs to access in order to banish the darkness threatening to consume the world) has the light that's even more intense than normal and not even the Umbra gear can give adequate protection. Volecheck decides to fire the Apollo Lens in your party's place so that he sacrifices himself instead and he gets incinerated by the light.
  • Hexen II weaponizes holiness with one of the crusader's weapons. It is a beam of holy light that burns even on the most minor of guilt that exists in all living things.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Master Sword from has always been a holy sword that Only the Chosen May Wield (or at least remove from its pedestal). Breath of the Wild, however, reveals that to remove it from its pedestal requires a test of strength - it drains the life from whoever grasps its hilt, and if they aren't worthy or aren't stopped from pulling it, then they die. Link has to undergo this test in order to claim the Master Sword, and if he doesn't have enough hearts then the sword will kill him.
    • The Triforce is an object of near-unlimited power tied directly to the creator gods of the setting. While it's the most holy artifact of the Hylian faith and the physical embodiment of its three cardinal virtues, the Triforce itself has one critical flaw: as it embodies morally-neutral virtues, it makes no distinction between good and evil. It will grant at least some of its power to anyone who makes contact with it as long as they have enough of at least one of its virtues regardless of their intentions. For most of the games he appears, Ganondorf has used the Triforce fragment to transform himself into a demon king and enact countless atrocities on the world.
  • Lunacid: The description of the Holy Water item mentions that it needs to be diluted to keep those who are "less than saintly" from being burned by holy light.
  • Large parts of the angelic plane of Elysium in Nexus Clash can and will burn anyone who isn't a full-blown angel to death no matter what their ranking on the Karma Meter.
  • In Planescape: Torment, Trias the Betrayer's has a pair of charred, skeletal wings. The first explanation you get for this is that they were mutilated by prison guards (which is plausible, since he is currently imprisoned on a plane which is basically one giant prison). In actual fact his wings were burned to a crisp when he was cast down from the heavens. He claims that all of the fury of the Abyss pales in comparison to the divine wrath that burned his wings off.
  • At the end of Riddle Of The Sphinx, clicking on the light from The Ark of the Covenant knocks your character out temporarily.
  • Gaia/Yggdrasil/The Immaculate Machine in The Secret World is a massive divine supercomputer within and without the Hollow Earth, with its Magitek symbiotic bees being the source of all player characters' magical sensitivity. It also has the usual slew of Alien Geometries, unknowable truths and burning white light inflicted upon those with no magical aptitude who happen upon an entrance to Agartha.
  • The Hallow in Terraria, a spreading biome filled with holy energy that forms colourful trees, and rainbows as opposed to The Corruption and The Crimson. Sounds pleasant? It contains pixies, unicorns, and gastropods that will tear you apart (and in the case of the latter, Beam Spam you) with frightening ease. It also houses Empress of Light, a Superboss that surpasses hardmode-upgraded versions of Corrupt bosses by a couple tiers if you fight her at night. If you let the fight run into daylight, her attacks will turn into unstoppable instant-kills. Fighting her entirely during the day is the hardest challenge in the game but also drops the most overpowered weapon if you manage to pull it off.
  • The Trader of Stories has several examples:
    • The Oak's sap sends people on Vision Quest, but they don't always wake up. The Servants typically undergo strenuous preparation before they partake.
    • Using a Guardian sword will kill any mortal who tries. Except for Myo, but the sword in question has been tampered with.
    • Touching the Messenger has deadened the nerves in the hand of one character mad enough to do it. His gaze supposedly brings bad luck. Even the immortal Guardians avoid him.
  • Twilight Syndrome features this in "The Last Train", where the supernatural phenomena in the train station implied to be Holy Ground tends to be very unsafe for the living, and "Reverse Town", where the titular Afterlife Antechamber contains an eternal sunset that gradually wipes away people's memories of the living world so that they can move on to the beyond unburdened— regardless of whether the people it's affecting are actually dead or not.

  • The entrance to the Maze of Many in Goblins is built into the blade of an angel's sword, lost in some long ago cosmic war. The sword is the size of a building, and while the portal is relatively safe to pass through touching the sword itself instantly vaporizes the poor schmuck that did so. Kin has to prevent Minmax from peeing on the sword before they go in.
  • Marble Gate Dungeon: Even though the Highfather is by all accounts a benevolent and righteous god, channeling his power still badly hurts an untrained Colleen.
  • The titular protagonist of Witch Hunter can charge silver with holy energy, causing it to burn people in proportion to the severity of their sins. It's specifically noted that this charged silver will sting him as well, to remind him that he is himself a sinner and not to get proud.

    Western Animation 
  • Angel Wars: One character suggests taking The Seven down to Earth to help out when a guardian's fight doesn't go well. Paladin shoots this idea down, as their heavenly engines would wreak havoc on physical matter.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Equestria Girls spin-off movies it is shown that the magic coming from the Elements of Harmony — artifacts which are normally used to banish or purify evil by the heroes — can not only turn people in the human world very powerful, but also monstrous (not just in appearance), crazy, extremist or all at the same time.
    • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: After the already nasty resident Alpha Bitch Sunset Shimmer gains hold of Twilight's Element, it turns her into a demon. She then goes onto brainwash the whole student body into an army of zombies and then tries to outright kill the protagonists with a fireball.
    • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games: When the socially awkward Human Twilight is coaxed into unleashing all of the magic her pendant has absorbed up to that point, it corrupts her into her Superpowered Evil Side, Midnight Sparkle, and she very nearly ends up destroying reality in her attempt to try to gain access to more knowledge about magic.
    • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree: A workaholic Gloriosa Daisy is under heavy stress from the threat of losing her family's camp and tries to make everyone's time there as best as she can with the help of the magic coming from the Equestrian geodes. It eventually corrupts her and she tries to trap the campers to the point of nearly harming them, while claiming she's trying to preserve Camp Everfree for them.


Video Example(s):


The Opening of the Ark

As in the scriptures, The Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark is an inherently dangerous artifact. Indy and Marion aren't killed by it because Indy remembers the Bible saying not to look upon the open Ark. Those Wacky Nazis aren't so lucky, and pay the price in nightmarish fashion for their greed and arrogance.

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Example of:

Main / HolyIsNotSafe

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