10 September 2009

Vampire hunters

A reader requested this topic. I am not an expert on vampire hunting, and I do not know the 'secrets' associated with the -sport-. The tradition of the vampire hunter is as complex and detailed as vampire lore. I can only give you a brief glimpse at this sinister world. Undoubtedly, someone will respond that vampire hunters and blood-drinkers are fictional. To that dear one I say: I wish you were right.

"Into each generation a slayer is born. One girl in all the world, a chosen one. One born with the strength and skill to fight the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers" (Buffy). Aficionados of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will recognize this legend, but vampire hunters are much older and much more prolific than you may imagine.

"The vampire slayer is cut from the same cloth, is the product of the same social or religious violations, as the vampire" (McClelland 107). "The vampire and the vampire slayer are similarly marked as 'non-Christian'; they are in a sense related to each other and in all likelihood reenact a mythological struggle that pre-dates Christianity. In other words, where Christianity finds the vampire, it also finds his slayer" (105). "The notion of a vampire slayer has a very ancient precedent, which existed in a time and place where it was socially more useful to produce a vampire as a guilty criminal than to incriminate one's friends and neighbors" (29).

As is often the case, the vampire is the scapegoat for socially shunned actions, ills, and evils. "Ordinarily, no one would admit to being a vampire of any sort (since to do so would be to acknowledge one's marginal or negative social status, as well as to confess that one was in fact dead)"; however, the same is not true for the vampire hunter (104). Like the vampire, the slayer operates outside of society and is not inhibited by law, yet often, the slayer is excused from immoral or questionable activities by the virtue of their abilities. Furthermore, "while the vampire slayer is marked by a connection to the demonic, this special status is not something that must be hidden" (104).

Surely, there are those hunters who prefer to hide their identity to maintain safety and sanity, but nondisclosure is not conscripted. Generally, vampire hunters know and abide by the rules of society provided that they do not interfere with their mission. Educated or well-trained individuals set the bench-mark for vampire hunters in fiction. Van Helsing appears "to represent the epitome of the vampire hunter: an older man experienced in both science and the occult who knows what to do but who remains fairly secretive" (157). Anne Rice transforms the idea of a vampire hunter into a semi-secret society that studies vampires--the Talamasca. In Rice's Vampire Chronicles, "the idea of the vampire hunter...is rather curiously inverted: it is the vampire protagonist who must tell the vampire hunter" (in the case of Interview with the Vampire, "the reporter-narrator-interlocutor) of his actions and therefore his evil identity" (28). The would-be hunters are not slayers in traditional sense, so much as they are watchers.

The notion of a watcher, who is very familiar with the legends and histories of vampires, resurrects in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Here, the watcher fulfills the "wise old-man" role from Van Helsing. Buffy takes on the aggressive violent role and "restores some sense of the original power relationship between vampires and vampire slayers by establishing a fairly simple superhero who acts outside the rule of law...the structure also mimics the centuries-old folkloric idea that only someone who possesses special powers can see or destroy a vampire" (28).

Vampire hunters go by many names in folklore. Some of the more common are the dhampir, the glog, the vampirdzia, and the sabotnik. Each individual of these types has the possibility of becoming a vampire. The dhampir, glog, and vampirdzia are the hybrid offspring of humans and vampires. The individuals can awaken to their vampiric nature by consuming blood or they can transform into a "vampire hunter who had extraordinary powers" that are "derived from the vampire" (Ramsland 161).

The sabotnik is not necessarily the child of a vampire. These individuals are distinguished by the day of their birth. "Saturday, especially the Saturday before Easter, is a dangerous time to be born: if the native does not become a vampire, (s)he may become a sabotnik" (McClelland 100). A sabotnik is a seer of vampires. Often, these individuals regard their gift-of-sight as a curse.

All vampire hunters in folklore "can recognize vampires" easily and are in that way predisposed to acting as slayers, although they are often regarded as sinister individuals by average society (Handeland 131). "In order to quell the dead intruder without reinforcing the deceased's alienation, a special person is identified to take care of the social problem. That person becomes a vampire hunter or slayer, a surrogate and mediator who battles violence with counteractive violence" (McClelland 29).

An intriguing duality between the vampire and the slayer emerges in folklore. A vampire is brought into the world by violence, whether it be a violent death, the rape of a human mother, or the grisly bite of vampiric monster. Once the revenant exists in the mortal world, it can only be disposed of through violence by the hand of the slayer, "who has the capacity to become a vampire" by virtue of birth. In essence, the slayer "ritually reverses the vampire's coming into existence by reenacting the violent scene that promoted a victim to a villain" (McClelland 98).

In this dualistic scenario, who represents Evil, and who represents Good? Is the vampire, who struggles to survive against all odds, evil? Is the hunter, who tortures and murders an already abused victim, good? Obviously, I may be slightly biased...


Celebrity Wonder. (image)
Handeland, Lori. Doomsday Can Wait.
McClelland, Bruce. Slayers and their vampires: a cultural history of killing the dead.
Ramsland, Katherine M. The Science of Vampires.


  1. A most interesting read, I've always had an interest in vampires and the mythology and history surrounding it. You've got me tuned in!

  2. As with many things, there must be a Yin to a Yang. The idea that we need vampire hunters assumes all that vampires need to be hunted. Like in all things, there is good and evil in everything. Buffy did kick ass IMO however. She did all of her evil vampire hunting in cute outfits and typically in high heels as well :)