The Wild Hunt is a ghostly group of huntsman, accompanied by horse and hound, who peruse their quarry across the land and stormy sky. This cultural phenomenon has many variations across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The hunters are either the dead or members of the various fairy courts from across and their leader, the Huntsman, can be legendary figures like King Arthur or a god like Odin. It was believed that seeing the Wild Hunt was thought to herald catastrophe and that those who got in the way or chose to follow would be forced to join it ranks either for an allotted time (a year and a day, seven years etc) or eternity.
Britain alone has many versions of the Wild Hunt based on regional mythology and culture but one of the most famous is that of Herne the Hunter. Although Herne may have links to our palaeolithic origins and the god Cernunnos it is Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor that brings him to the attention of many.
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns;
And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle,
And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner.
You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know
The superstitious idle-headed eld
Receiv’d, and did deliver to our age,
This tale of Herne the Hunter for a truth.
— William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor
William Ainsworth’s romantic novel Windsor Castle expands upon tale by setting the legend in the time of Richard II in which the favoured hunter of the king was plotted against by his fellows, leading to his death and resurrection as the head huntsman of a party made up of those men that had plotted his downfall. This has lead to the association of the Hunt’s purpose being to hunt and gather up oathbreakers and mortals without honour.
But then the barking of dogs fills the air, and the host of wild souls sweeps down, fire flashing from the eyes of the black hounds and the hooves of the black horses
Kveldulf Hagen Gundarsson (Mountain Thunder)
Like the winter storms they ride the Wild Hunt sweeps through the land clearing it of malignant spirits that bring harm and sickness to the land. Once they have been taken by the Hunt they are taken to the Land of the Dead where they can harm the Land once more. They are a terrifying by cleansing force which rages through the land when there is need.
Its hardly surprising that 2013 has been a stormy autumn and winter with much damage up and down the UK. Given all the social and ecological injustice being perpetrated against the children of the land is it any wonder that the Spirits of Albion have risen and hunt the land once more?
During the latter half of 2013 many pagans and witches joined forces both in a physical and spiritual battle not dissimilar to that of the Wild Hunt. Echoing back to the Magical Battle for Britain in which many early occultists joined forced to defeat the Nazi’s. It surprises me little that this has been a storming winter, with high winds and flooding and a lot of damage. Equally it doesn’t surprise me that politicians are increasingly unable to face public scrutiny over their policies and have even walked out of sessions of the House of Commons as happened earlier this month.
There is a lot of energy still remaining to be harnessed and focused and I myself will be calling on the Hunt on the evening of the 31st to ride through the land once again to carry it forward into the new year.
“Wodan’s Wild Hunt” (1882) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine.
“Herne the Hunter” by Daniel Eskridge