In case you missed it, here are the basics of what a vampire hunter is, and what they do.
Mostly, what they do is get killed by vampires. Some, though, are actually kind of dangerous. Vampire hunters devote huge chunks of their lives to learning the vampire lore and hunting us down. Not all vampire hunters are equal. Some are very skilled and spend decades hunting. Some are not skilled and die right away. Some vampire hunters see vampires as a dark monolith that needs eradicating. Some pity us and want to kill us "for our own good." Some only hunt vampires who kill a bunch of people at once and stick out like sore thumbs.
So, where did vampire hunters come from? How did they start out? Where do they get their information from?
Image Credit: Van Helsing (2004) and Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997) Image description: two pictures side by side. The first is a movie poster for Van Helsing, the second is a photo of Buffy The Vampire Slayer holding a knife. End description.
Or maybe "always" is the wrong word. Nothing has always existed, and vampire hunters haven't existed as long as vampires have. In this case, though, the chicken predates the egg by about about a millennium. That sounds like a long time, but consider this; homo sapians are only 200 millennia old. Modern humans have been hunting vampires for all but 0.5% of their existence.
Vampire Hunters have gone by many titles. Of course, "Vampire Hunter" is the most common. It's grandiose and straight-to-the-point. Some simply call themselves "hunters" and those guys typically go after more than just vampires. Otherwise, they seem to go by the title "slayer" and those who do usually insist that they were chosen by some higher power to hunt vampires. Makes sense, a lot of vampire-hunters are ultra-christian.
The very first hunters seem to have originated in the Balkans (although that isn't really a surprise considering that Romania is part of that region and we all know how much vampires love to live there.)Pre-christianity, shamens called Krsniks began to wander the region in the form of animals at night to kill vampires. These shamens were the first vampire hunters. The earliest vampire hunters did not carry religous symbols, but crowbars, ropes, mallets, and stakes.
After Christianity became more wide-spread, vampire hunters began using crucifixes and holy water and oil in their hunting practices. The vampire hunter's kit that we know and hate today originated in The Balkans. It typically contains holy water, crucifixes, holy oil, candles, silver knives, wooden stakes, amulets, garlic, salt, pistols with lead bullets, and bibles. Some hunters claim to own amulets that let them "tame" and control vampires. I've only ever heard of these in legend but if they exist they are exceedingly rare and require the blood of the vampire in question to work. In the 19th century, these kits were sold en masse to travelers in Eastern Europe. This is about the time when vampire hunting evolved into something those born more recently recognize.
Many places have unique forms of vampire hunting. One such region with rich vampire-hunting history is Japan. Holy shit, Japanese vampire hunters are creative. It was a Japanese vampire hunter who invented the most effective vampire-killing gun. The Bloody Rose is a modified M1911 that fires bullets capable of killing vampires. Before this, hunters had been using silver bullets to kill werewolves, but this guy said "hey let's do vampires next." Some of them just straight up fist-fight us. That's BANANAS. Have you ever fist-fought a vampire?? I'm guessing not since you're still alive!
Possibly the most famous hunter, Professor Abraham Van Helsing, is from The Netherlands. His innovations on hunting include electric lamps attatched to the chest and necklaces made from garlic blossoms. He likes to accessorize.
Vampire hunters in England are a little more tight-knit and standard. The Vanhelsing Organization are a group of vampire hunters who defend the crown and queen of England. Losers.
Some vampire hunters are more spiritual and magical than others. Wiccans have never liked vampires much, it seems. Some magic-using hunters will wear protective sigils to ward off vampires or make themselves impervious to being turned. It doesn't always work, though. I've seen vampire hunters get turned and it isn't a pretty sight. Most "mercy kill" one another or themselves and some simply starve themselves for refusal to live as one of us.
Image credit: Vampire Knight (2004). Image description: The three main characters of Vampire Knight in front of a red background. End description.
I hate to break it to you, Buffy, but the only higher power calling you in are the hunters themselves.
If you're asking yourself how one gets started in this trade, wonder no more. Most vampire hunters' family trees are just hunter after hunter after hunter. Kiryu, Winchester, VanHelsing, De La Cruz, the surnames are seemingly endless but chances are you'll meet a vampire hunter from one of these clans at some point.
"Saving people, hunting things, the family business!" It's plain as day. Sam and Dean Winchester were indoctrinated into the hunter life just like many others before and after them. Whether they do it because they believe it's righteous, or necessary, or they believe they don't have a choice, hunting is like breathing to these people.
Some hunters are even born with "the sight" and can sniff out supernatural creatures by nature. For these humans, slaying is nearly a necessity. They have special blood and some vampires and demons will seek them out to drink from them and grow stronger. The manga "Black Bird" deals with this, although it's not entirely accurate.
They used to be easier to avoid. Now, with the internet and everything, they're EVERYWHERE. They used to get their vampire lore from old tomes and familial tradition. Now it's easier than ever for them to track vampires and figure out what actually works on us. That's why I'm not telling you what does or doesn't work. I'll just say that before photography, nobody realized how old I was! Now the entire world is under surveillance. Big brother is watching and he's a vampire hunter. It BITES!