Saturday, October 12, 2013

Some More Thoughts On Vampire Hunters

Earlier I lamented the necessity of vampire hunters requiring supernatural powers in the modern vampire media.  You probably remember it here.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me that I have more to say on that subject.

Prior to the magical hunter revolution vampire hunters, and monster hunters in general, had a different way to deal with their particular foe.  Or rather ways.  I classify these things when I am stuck in traffic.

A classic monster hunter is like any other hunter in that they take the time to learn about their quarry, and I don't mean they dig rocks.  Just as a hunter learns the habits, behaviors, environment and capabilities of deer, bear, turkeys and what not, a monster hunter should know about the particular monster or monsters they are given to hunting.  Without knowledge of weaknesses and strengths all the skills in the world are of little use.  Skills are both general, such as weapon use or building devices, and specific applications of knowledge of the enemy.  Professor Abraham Van Helsing is the paradigm for knowledge and skill in the world of vampire hunters.
Comparison of common tools
The tools of the trade vary by monster, but are the core set of items that are used to incapacitate and/or destroy the foe.  For vampire hunters the traditional tools of the trade are:
Stakes-The stake has become the de facto vampire killing tool since the stage adaptation of Dracula.  It is most often used these days as a sure-fire solution to vampire problems and more often than not results in a pile of dust or a gooey mess.  The modern stake must be made of wood because, apparently, vampires are highly allergic to it, even in those shitty "scientific" vampire films where the supernatural has been all but removed, which is stupid because vampires are obviously supernatural (I actually read in The Vampire Combat Manual by Roger Ma that we don't know why this is, but we suspect it is something in the resins in the wood that interferes with vampire heart functions...okay...because a stake through the heart is not just lethal or anything).  The original purpose of the stake was far more straightforward and logical: it holds the bloodsucking bastard into the earth so it can't get out.  Simple and effective, non?  Doesn't have to be the heart either, the body will do.  If you follow the older Slavic traditions you know that the corpse must drink blood to stave off the corruption of the flesh and once the flesh is gone and naught but bone remains the soul departs the earth (in about 7 years).  Thus, we see that pinning the monster in the grave prevents the rising of the corpse and leads to the eventual destruction.  For obvious reasons the stake needs to be quite long since it must be driven deep into the corpse and the earth to do any good and only need be wood if the particular cultural tradition requires it.  A piece of rebar should work just fine but if you want to be traditional I recommend hawthorn.
Holy Water-Water that has been consecrated by a priest has the power to upset evil.  In the more dramatic cases holy water acts on vampires as acid does on people leaving horrid burns and causing great pain.  According to the CW television series Supernatural it is a great test for the demon possessed as well.
Garlic-Garlic is a superfood.  Screw the avocado, the French were right about garlic from jump street.  Garlic is good for the blood, good for the body, and apparently the soul.  Whether it should be garlic flowers or the bulb (raw) is a matter of some debate.  Most people choose the bulb.  It is far more recognizable and photogenic and it goes great in a white wine with some shallots.
Silver-I don't much hold with this one but many hunters do it seems, so I put it on the list.  George Hamilton's Dracula, however, had no problem with the moon metal.  Alchemically speaking gold would be better being related to the life giving sun and being a pure element, but ever since Universal's Wolf Man (1941) silver has been the monster killing weapon.  Iron used to work on monsters long, long ago...
Holy Icons-The symbols and icons of religions, save those devoted to evil, can hold the undead at bay and sometimes do them physical harm.  In Chapter 16 of Dracula Professor Van Helsing uses the Holy Eucharist, which he is allowed to take from the church by special Indulgence.  Now some traditions will suggest that the holy icon is a matter of faith and not the item itself, but Van Helsing's use of the Host is a more concrete example due to transubstantiation.  Transubstantiation is also why he had to get special permission to use the Eucharist.  An unblessed wafer is merely bread, but once consecrated the bread becomes the body of Christ thus giving it great power against the forces of vile darkness.  This is, of course, the tac nuke of holy icons and works because Dracula, being a thing of pure evil, can no longer use the earth in his earth boxes to rest and replenish his strength.  Be that as it may, an atheist with a holy icon should probably start looking for a more practical solution.
Fire-The all-purpose sanitizing agent.  Fire destroys everything if you get it hot enough.  Some vampires recoil from fire like they are made of straw.  Also useful against animated scarecrows.
Mirrors-Supposedly vampires do not reflect in mirrors because they do not have souls.  Do a little research on fetches and the like and this all makes sense.  Because they do not reflect they tend to avoid them so you can really upset one when you whip one out.
Balls-See next category

Since vampire types and weaknesses vary by culture the tool list is by no means exhaustive.  As time has changed both the vampire in popular culture and the available technology for hunters, we could include such items as UV lamps, Special Bullets (including the ridiculous UV bullet), Crossbows (for dealing with vampires that explode should the tiniest sliver of wood get into their hearts), and Magic.
Visual Aid 
Vampires are (were) things of evil.  Things of evil are best fought with faith and courage and a strategically placed foot-to-the-balls.  One need look no further than Cushing's Van Helsing in Hammer's 1960 The Brides of Dracula (an inappropriately named film as it lacks both Dracula and any weddings) to see the best example of this principle.  I shan't go into details here as so spectacular of a display of vampire fighting prowess is it that it deserves its own our Peter Cushing spotlight!
Now faith is a tricky subject in these enlightened (read bullshit) times, but I make no apologies for it.  The vampire is a cursed/soulless/damned thing of evil.  None of your mamby pamby pseudo-psychological feel-good moral equivalency bollocks here at the Pumpkin.  Vampires=Evil.  As soulless undead fiends of the night the original champions faced them with a strong faith in their cause, the concept of good, and working under the aegis of their particular deity.  Van Helsing certainly did.  This should not be misconstrued as supernatural powers, however.  I'm not talking about the DnD Cleric's undead turning, here.  I'm talking about the ability to turn a pair of candlesticks into a cross to smack Dracula down (See Cushing, Peter).
Courage is not so tricky.  Monsters are scary.  If they were not we'd call them something other than monsters.  We'd call them puppies or librarians, for example.  Monsters are not just scary like your 3rd grade Social Studies teacher was scary; monsters are scary and can actually do something about it.  Courage is one of the prime weapons in the fight against vampires and other vile monsters.  Courage should not be confused with foolhardy and reckless behavior, however.  One can be both brave and smart.  It is still a mark of courage to track your foe to his lair around noon and venture inside to kill him there.
A foot-to-the-balls I should not have to explain.  It hurts and it is not a low blow if your foe has only a select set of weaknesses.

Consider this a primer for more discussions of select vampire hunters and stay tuned for more CPPSAs you can use!

Keep your pumpkins lit.

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