The Wild Hunt or chasse sauvage is a pack of spectres and demons, usually as hunters on horses, sometimes accompanied by hounds which used to crawl in the sky at night to gather the departed souls. A tumultuous racket of pounding hooves, howling dogs and raging winds usually announce them and for those who had no time to hide, seeing the Wild Hunt was considered a very bad omen, usually foretelling a time of strife or death. This strange and awesome folk belief with many variants was endemic in Britain and Northern Europe, especially France and Germany during the early Middle Age.
The Wild Hunt originates in the old pagan beliefs but has been demonized, associated and confused with the Sabbath after the XIII century. The form of the Wild Hunt, the name of the Hunter as well as the quarry of this spectral horde vary across each of the geographical locations in which the tradition was found.
Descriptions of the Wild Hunt are broadly the same: the Hunt is preceded by a great noise of baying, barking and shouting. Then a tall rider on a black, white, or gray horse, storm through the air with his hounds followed by a host of strange spirits.
The rider is often black, sometimes headless and the spirits bear the battle-wounds that would have caused his mortal demise. Fire spurts from the mouths and noses of the phantom horses and hounds which are often only two or three legged. Often the recently dead are seen in the infernal train.
There are numerous local adaptations like in the Okehampton district (UK) where the spirit of death rode in a carriage made of human bones, preceded by a one-eyed black dog.
The Wild Hunt is considered a folklore motif (Motif E501 in Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk-Literature) that occurs in the folklore of various northern European cultures. A motif being a granular element of folklore,
“A motif is the smallest element in a tale having a power to persist in tradition. In order to have this power it must have something unusual and striking about it”.
- The Herlathing in England
- The Yeth or Wish Hounds in Durham
- The Yule Host, Wutan’s or Wuet’s Army, the Raging or Furious Host in Germany
- La Chasse Maccabée, la Chasse Artus , and the Mesnée d’Hellequin in France
- The Oskorei in Norway
- The Nuada also known as The Fairy Cavalcade in Ireland
- Gabriel Hounds or Gabbel Ratchets or Retchets in North Yorkshire
- Odensjakt in Denmark and Sweden
- The chasse-galerie or witched canoe in Quebec
- The Santa Compaña in Galicia
Across Europe, the Wild Hunt appears at various times of the year, being frequently seen in spring and fall, but most commonly over the Yule season. This is not surprising as Yule was regarded as the season in which supernatural visitations were most common. In particular, the spirits of the dead were allowed to return. The hauntings in Eyrbyggja saga take place at Yule, as does the death of Glam in Grettis saga. Folk tales of all the Scandinavian countries have trolls or elves making their appearance at Yule.
“These times are intercalendary periods in Celtic and Teutonic year-reckoning, the paradoxical ‘time between the times’ when the crack appears and the paths between the worlds are laid open. They are periods of ‘ritual reversal’ when the dead enter the world of the living and the living enter the world of the dead.”
Sightings of the Wild Hunt
The first full description of a procession of ghosts was written in Paris about a night in January of 1092 (Ordericus Vitalis). The priest Wachlin, coming back from visiting a sick person, saw a swarm led by an enormous warrior swinging a mighty club in his hand. The shapes that followed wept and moaned over their sins; then came a horde of corpse-bearers with coffins on their shoulders — the priest counted some 50 coffins. Then women on horseback, seated on saddles with glowing nails stuck into them; then a host of ecclesiasticals on horseback. The priest knew many of these people who had died recently. He concluded at last that he had seen the “familia Herlechini,” of whom many had told him, but in whom he had never believed: Now he had truly seen the dead.
In 1123 in Saxony, Germany, in the diocese of Worms, the residents witnessed nightly a multitude of armed horsemen leaving in troops from a nearby mountain, only to return to it at the hour of nones. Bearing a cross before them, they questioned one of the riders, who said he and the rest were indeed dead, the souls of knights killed in battle.
Orderic of Vitalis, cleric of the abbey of St. Evroult in the diocese of Liseaux in Normandy wrote in 1133 of the priest Walchelin’s encounter with them on the night of Jan. 1, 1091 near the church of Bonneval. Walchelin was petitioned by some of the spirits to deliver messages to their surviving loved ones, but refused to heed them; foolishly he attempted to steal one of the riderless horses to bring back as proof of his experience, but was burned by the horse’s red-hot bridle, and again by the hand of a knight who caught him at it. The scar on the back of his neck proved to be the only souvenir he was able to show to Orderic. Walchelin was saved only by the intercession of his own brother, lately dead, who was part of the procession.
The description of the strange procession as a hunt first appears in England, in the Peterborough Chronicle entry for the year of 1127.
“Then soon thereafter many men saw and heard many hunters hunting. The hunters were black and large and loathly, and their hounds all black and broad-eyed and loathly, and they rode on black horses and black bucks. This was seen in the same way in the town Burch and in all the woods from that town to Stanford, and the monks heard the horns blowing, that they blew at night. Trustworthy men who watched at night said that they thought that there might lit well have been about twenty or thirty horn-blowers. This was seen and heard from when they came thither all that Lenten-tide to Easter. This was its incoming; of its out-going we can not yet say. God fore see.”
In the Peterborough Chronicle, the chronicler attests the Wild Hunt’s appearance at the appointment of a disastrous abbot for the monastery. Around the year 1132, the anonymous monk wrote:
Tha huntes waeron swarte and micele and lardlice, and here hondes ealle swarte and bradegede and lardlice, and hi ridone on swarte hors and on swarte bucces…. (“Then the hunters were black and large and terrifying, and their hounds were all black and broad-eyed and terrifying, and they rode on black horses and black goats….”)
This particular Wild Hunt was banished by the intervention of the monks of the monastery and the local nobility.
While these Wild Hunts are recorded by clergymen, and portrayed as diabolic, late medieval English romance like Sir Orfeo, the hunters are rather from a faery otherworld, as in Celtic countries, where the Wild Hunt was the hosting of the Sidhe, the fairies; its leaders also varied, but they included Gwydion, Nuada, and Herne the Hunter. Thereafter, the description of a ghostly hunt does not appear until the folklore collections of the nineteenth century. By that time, however, it seems to have been thoroughly established.
For the Strassburger Chronicle of 1516, Jakob Trausch writes that
“Not only this year, but also many years since, one has heard that thing named the Wuetten-Hor in all lands, particularly Alsace, Breisgau, and other places, not only by night, but also by day, in woods and mountains. By night they went over the fields with drums and pipes, also through the city with great shrieking, with lights … “
in Freiburg a woman saw her man who had fallen in war, and therefore ran into the horde, to him whose head was split, she ran to him and bound his head together.”
Hans Sachs’ poem, “Das wutend heer der kleynen dieb” (1539) describes the furious host in gruesome detail, with the ravens flapping above and plucking out the eyes of the dead, till at last “there came one behind, who had been hanged the same day, had still his eyes and saw me.”
The procession of the dead is, as one might expect, closely connected with foreboding death. In the Schwabian Zimmerische Chronik (1564-76), it is described how a nobleman, von Seckendorf, sees the grisly nature of his own death and has it prophesied by the furious host a year before the event, which duly takes place.
In Northern Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, the Wild Hunt seems to have come more and more into prominence, overshadowing the Furious Host described by Scheffes in the 1600s; the Hunt aspect never appears in Norway, however. The “Wilde Jagd” described by Flörke in Rostock, 1832, has aspects of both.
“… the Wild Hunt, also called the Furious Host and in Mecklenburg the Wohl, a thing, of which I heard many shuddersome tales in my childhood and also afterward. Our field-workers … were set in fear by the Wild Hunt, so that they only with trembling dared to go to work in the evening. First they heard a dog-barking of rough and fine voices through one another; as these came nearer, they saw many glowing coals flying through the air, and then, if they had not already run away, roared the whole host with horrifying raging, barking, blowing, as with hunting horns, and hard breathing among them. In my youth it was considered a wholly definite thing, that these were old robberknights, who had no rest in the grave, and for a little while drove forward through the Overworld with their hunting hounds, as they had been used to in life; a pious priest told me, however, that it was no one other thou the Devil himself with several evil angels, who amused themselves by frightening humans. The Devil took on for this the shape of the old heathen god Wodan, under which he had previously been worshipped in these lands, from which also the name Wohl came, which was corrupted from Wodan.”
A rare modern example of a Wild Hunt legend dates from the 1950s: a group of boys vandalizing trees in Windsor Great Park came across a horn. Two of the boys refused to touch it, but the third picked it up and blew it. The call was answered by the cry of the hunt and the baying of hounds. The boys ran for a nearby church, but the boy who blew the horn fell behind. The hounds grew closer, there was the sound of a loosed arrow and the boy who blew the horn fell dead. No arrow was found, nor was a wound.
History of the Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt appears to have been incorporated into several different myths; in some areas it seems to have been part of a fertility cult with the Huntsman/woman being wild spirits (selvaggi, salvatici or homines selvatici) , which may explain their connection with animals, notably the stag.
In other places the Hunter was not a God, but the leader of the fairies, such as Gwyn ap Nudd who was seen as the leader of the Welsh fairies (the Tylwyth Teg) and who led the Hunt in Wales and the West of England.
Toward the end of the middle ages, however, the Wild Hunt became more and more associated with witchcraft. Instead of saying that the Hunt was led by a spirit of God and featured many other spirits, it began to be said that witches participated in the Hunt and that their leader was either Satan himself or a demonic spirit. This belief also seems to have become muddled up with the idea that Witches rode in procession to Sabbaths upon animals, or flew in the sky, and this idea became one of the major charges used in European witch hunts.
As the old name was corrupted and its meaning lost, leadership of the Hunt was transferred to real or imaginary leaders of the past. In Denmark its leader was the celebrated King Waldemar, hero of many tales or else King Christian II.
In nineteenth-century England the demonic huntsman might be any one of a number of local heroes or villains, usually of the landowning class – often a hunting squire such as Dando and his Dogs, condemned to. hunt for evermore for hunting on a Sunday, or someone who had otherwise achieved fame or notoriety, for example Sir Francis Drake and ‘Wild Darrell’. In the Marcherlands, it was Edric the Wild, and in the southeast it was associated with Herne the Hunter.
Though the ancient Herlething was forgotten under that name, beliefs connected with it long survived not only in traditions such as these concerning spectral huntsmen and their hounds, but probably also that of the sinister ‘hell waine’ listed by Reginald Scot in his Discovery of Witchcraft (1384) among common apparitions.
Belief in the hell wain as the wagon in which were borne the souls of the dead survived until recently in Wales and the West Country, and seems to underlie the many reports of phantom coaches with headless horses from East Anglia and elsewhere.
More recently the myth of the Wild Hunt has been separated from its connection to demonolatry, and has become gradually incorporated in modern culture as a fantasy prop.
Modern Pagans have made Herne the Hunter on of their God and a powerful myth for men in particular. Listen to Bjork’s song : “The Hunter”. Because of this masculine attributes as well as the wildness of nature he represents, Herne is often confused with the Green Man or the Lord of Misrule that belong to different myths.
Various practitioners of the contemporary Pagan religion of Wicca have drawn upon folklore involving the Wild Hunt to inspire their own rites. In their context, the leader of the Wild Hunt is the goddess Hecate. The “Wild Hunt Challenge” takes place on Halloween and involved participants walking around a local area of woodland in the daytime, and then repeating that task as a timed competition at night, “to gain mastery over an area of Gwyn ap Nudd’s hunting ground”. If completed successfully, it was held that the participant had gained the trust of the wood’s spirits, and they would be permitted to cut timber from its trees with which to make a staff.
The role of the Wild Hunt
Mortals who saw the Hunt were in grave danger: it was thought to presage some catastrophe such as war or plague, or at best the death of the one who witnessed it. Mortals getting in the path of or following the Hunt could be kidnapped by the spectral rampage and dropped many miles from home or brought to the land of the dead.
Not only humans but also animals were in grave danger; In England when Herne drove the Hunt across the skies people would hide away in their houses and lock away their animal, as any animal found out-of-doors during the Hunt would be chased and perhaps killed.
The Norwegian oskorei stops either at places where someone has been or shall be murdered, in a manner to the Baltic werewolves described by Olaus Magnus in Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (1555), who, like the oskorei, come uninvited, drink up the ale and mead in the cellars, and whose Yule visit also portends a death in the approaching year. In England, the Wild Hunt comes to fetch the souls of the evil; in Jutland, the Hunt’s strong riding foretells war and its passing through a house in West Jutland is a sign of great bad luck to come (Olrik, “Odinsjageren i Jyland“, Dania VIII, p. 146). Landstad reports how the Telemarker Tor saw the “Aasgaardsreiden” with his brother Gredgard riding in the host. He hurried at once to his brother, only to find him sitting “dead as a stock or a stone” (Norvegs Folkslagsminne 13, p. 17).
Certainly the hounds are everywhere supposed to be portents of death and disaster, and a belated traveler hearing them would fling himself face downward on the ground to avoid seeing them (cf. the precautions taken by the miner and his daughter, in Clun Forest, seeing Edric the Wild and the Hunt prior to the Crimean War – Edric is said to appear whenever England is threatened with invasion and leads the Hunt towards the foe). Henderson (Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties, 1879) tells us:
“Sometimes they appear to hang over a house, and then death or calamity are sure to visit it. A Yorkshire friend informs me that when a child was burned to death in Sheffield, a few years ago, the neighbours immediately called to mind how the Gabriel hounds had passed above the house not long before.“
In the Zimmerische Chronik, one man bandages a ghost and becomes ill, another man answers the hunt with the same result. In Pomerania and Westfalia, the Hunt chases travellers to death. M. Landstad cites a Telemark story of the “Aasgaardsreid” leaving a dead man hanging where they had drunken the Yule ale. “He was dressed as a Nummedaler and had silver buttons on his best. The Aasgaardsreid had taken him in Nummedal and carried him along, and they had presumably ridden so bard that he had burst” (Norsk folkeminnelags skrifter 13, p. 20).
The motif of the living person who is picked up by the horde and carried somewhere else is particularly common in Germany and in Norway. A curious form of this theme which is unique to Norway has people undergoing a sort of involuntary separation from their bodies, which lie as if dead while their souls are faring with the oskorei, as Landstad describes: “She fell backwards and lay the whole night as if she were dead. It was of no profit to shake her, for the Asgardsreid had made off with her.” The woman then awakes to tell how she had ridden with the host “so that fire spurted under horse-hooves” (p. 15). In Pomerania, doors are closed against the Hunter to keep children from being carried off; in Bohuslän, it was said that “Oden fares from up in the air and takes creatures and children with him.”
A number of the tales of the Wild Hunt describe the punishment of someone who mocks at the hunt, as in Neuvorpommern, where :
“A miller’s boy stood before the mill, when the Wild Hunt went over him. ‘Take me with!’ the youth cried. ‘Half part!’ Wode said, and as he came back, cast a human leg before the mill, crying, ‘Häst du wullt jagen / Kannst ok mit gnagen!’ — If you wanted to hunt, you can also eat. The boy tried to get rid of the leg in all possible ways, but nothing worked” (Jahn, Volkssagen aus Pommern und Rugen, pp. 7-8).
Variants of this story are repeated a number of times in Northern Germany.
Those who help the Hunter or members of his train, however, are often rewarded with gifts. In the Strassburger Chronicle’s example of the Freiburg woman who bandaged her dead husband, the woman was given
“a great golden head, from which she should drink … the woman held the head in her hand, and nothing happened to her. It was found afterwards, that the golden head was good, and had been no betrayal. The devil had certainly stolen it somewhere.”
Those who hold the hounds of the Danish Wolmar are given apparently worthless trifles which later turn into gold. In the North German stories, similarly, the foam which a hound-holder wipes from the Hunter’s horse turns into gold pieces (Jahn, p. 12), and a man of Boeck who fixed Frau Gauden’s carriage wheels was given the dung of her hounds, which afterwards became gold (Grimm, III, p. 926). A combination of both themes appears in another North German tale in Jahn’s collection, where the man who calls to the Hunt is given a horse-leg with the words, “There have you also something for your hunting,” but the next day the horse-leg has become gold (p. 30).
While it takes a foolhardy person to interfere with the Hunt, only the courageous survive when the Hunt accosts them. In “Local Traditions of the Quantocks” (Folklore XIX, 1908, p. 42), C.W. Whistler reports that a man
“dared to cross the path in the dark, and was overtaken by the Wild Hunt as it passed overhead. And when he looked up, there was the devil himself following the hounds and riding on a great pig. What was worse, the devil pulled up and spoke to him. ‘Good fellow,’ he called, ‘how ambles my sow?’ The man was most terrible feared, but he knew that he must make some answer, so he replied, ‘Eh, by the Lord, her ambles well enough!’ And that saved him, for the devil could not abide the name of the Lord, so that he and his dogs vanished in a flash of fire!” Another well-known Mecklenburg legend has Wod engaging in a tug-o-war with a peasant whom he meets on the way, but the man is clever enough to tie the chain to an oak, so that Wod cannot pull him up into the air. “‘Well pulled!’ said the hunter, ‘many’s the man I’ve made mine, you are the first that ever held out against me, you shall have your reward.'”
The peasant is then given some blood and a hindquarter from Wod’s stag, which have turned into gold and silver by the time he has reached his cottage (Grimm, III, pp. 924-925).
Jacob Grimm in his Deutsche Mythologie (1835) interpreted the Wild Hunt phenomenon as having pre-Christian origins, arguing that the male figure who appeared in it was a survival of folk beliefs about the god Wodan, who had “lost his sociable character, his near familiar features, and assumed the aspect of a dark and dreadful power… a specter and a devil.” Grimm believed that this male figure was sometimes replaced by a female counterpart, whom he referred to as Holda and Berchta. In his words, “not only Wuotan and other gods, but heathen goddesses too, may head the furious host: the wild hunter passes into the wood-wife, Wôden into frau Gaude.” He added his opinion that this female figure was Woden’s wife.
As Kris Kershaw has exhaustively documented (Kershaw 2001), the ritual reenactment of the Wild Hunt was a cultural phenomenon documented among many Gaulish and Germanic peoples. In its Germanic manifestations the Harii painted themselves black to attack their enemies in the darkness. The Heruli, nomadic, ecstatic wolf-warriors, dedicated themselves to Wodan. Later the berserkers, brutal warriors that believed to be transformed into animals by rage, are most commonly associated with the cult of Odin from ninth century Norway onward.
Odin’s name is derived from the Old Norse Odhr which means “Fury, ecstasy, inspiration”, Woden is similarly derived from the related Indo-European word – the Saxon Wod. Apart from thus showing why the Hunt is “Wild”, and supporting ideas of ecstatic trance and spirit flight, this clue may lead us to a possible origin of the Wild Hunt. By donning animal skins or believing themselves transformed into animals by their rage, Berserkers can easily be seen as the hounds of Odin’s Wild Hunt.
Witness Snorri’s description:
“[Odin’s] own men went without byrnies, and were as
mad as dogs or wolves, and bit on their shields, and
were as strong as bears or bulls; menfolk they slew,
and neither fire nor steel would deal with them: and
this is what is called Bareserks-gang.”15
The comparison of Berzerkers with wolves (they are referred to as “wolf-coats” in Hrafnsmal) makes them symbolically dead – wolves are synonymous in Old English with outlaws and criminals, who are considered socially ‘dead’ – so the Wild Hunt of the dead could be derived from their exploits.
The death-dealing chaos of the Berzerks in action relates to the dark, wild side of nature, and particularly the privations of winter. Thus the myth of the Wild Hunt seems to be a part of the drama of the turning year, re-enacted by the Berzerks as part of an Odinic cult.
Attempts have also been made to interpret the legends as based on natural phenomena. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Wild Hunt was often compared to the storm winds of winter. A more plausible explanation was offered by the Danish scholar H. F. Feilberg: in “Hvorledes Opstar Sagn i Vore Dage” (Dania II, 198294, p. 121) he describes how, one evening near Odense, he heard a great rustling and hound-barking in the air over his head, and how he thought at once of the Odinsjaeger, but “Next day I asked the teacher of natural history at Latin school which migratory birds it was that I had heard.” Hylten-Cavallius (Wärend och Wirdarne vol. I, p. 216) cites the Wärend expressions, “that is Oden’s hunt, those are Oden’s hounds that can be heard in the air” for the passing of the wild geese, and in eastern Hinterpommern, the Wild Hunt comes in the spring and fall, when the migratory birds come and go. It cannot be denied that the eerie barking voices and rustling of a flock of geese passing overhead is very likely to have contributed to the longevity of the belief in the Wild Hunt; however, it does not explain the legend. Wild geese, after all, do not visit the northern countries around Yuletime, when the Wild Hunt most often rides.
Otto Höfler, in his Verwandlungskulte, Volkssagen, und Mythen, has strongly put forth the idea that many of the medieval records of the Wild Hunt were actually descriptions of a ritual folk-procession. The fact that the host appears by both day and night, coming into the city streets as well as terrifying lonely travelers in the dark wood, may support this theory, as does Vulpius’ 16th-century description of the Nürnberg Fastnacht train as
“the wild host, very strange figures, horned, beaked, tailed … roaring and shouting … behind, on a black, wild steed, Frau Holda, the Wild Huntress, blowing into the hunting horn, swinging the cracking whip, her head-hair shaking about wildly like a true wonder-outrage.”
Vulpius also calls this procession “das wuthende Heer” (Meissen, p. 124). Similar living trains appear in the Tirol, such as the Perchtenlauf described by J.V. v. Zingerle in 1857:
“The Perchtenlauf was earlier usual on the last Fasching-evening. It was a kind of masked procession. The masked ones were called Perchten. They were divided into beautiful and ugly…. The beautiful Perchten often distributed gifts. So went it loudly and joyfully, if the wild Perchte herself did not come among them. If this spirit mixed among them, the game was dangerous. One could recognize the presence of the wild Perchte when the Perchten raged all wild and furious and sprang over the well-stock. In this case the Perchten ran swiftly away from each other in fear and tried to reach the nearest, best house. For as soon as one was under a roof, the Wild One could not have them any longer. Otherwise she would tear apart anyone, who she could get possession of. Even today, one can see places where the Perchten torn apart by the wild Perchte lie buried” (Sitten, Bräuuche, und Meinungen des Tiroler Volkes, in Höfler, p. 59).
This idea of a Yule/masking game becoming terrifyingly real also appears in a Danish folk-tale, where a young woman dances with the Yule-buck, which then comes to life as the Devil himself and batters her to death against the barn walls (Simpson, Jacqueline. Scandinavian Folktales, pp. 80-1). Christine N.F. Eike, in her article “Oskoreia og ekstaseriter” extends Höfler’s investigation to the Norwegian materials, concluding that there may well be an original relationship between the living bands of young men that travel about during the Yule season riding horses, drinking beer, and so forth, and the tales about the bands of the dead who do the same.
Overall, the legends of the “Furious Host” or “Wild Hunt” seem to have maintained a remarkable degree of consistency through their wide range of time and space a consistency which can, perhaps, be best explained by the essential reality of the underlying belief to those who held it, from the heathen period through the time of our own grandparents. So when you go out into the night this wintertime, listen carefully for the barking of dogs and the cry “Midden in dem Weg!” Do not mock at the horde that sweeps past, but be ready to carry home whatever Woden or Holda should give you, for the lowliest of gifts from the Hunt’s leader may be found to turn to true gold like the very folk-stories themselves, whose quaint dialects and humble words cloak the gold of our forebears’ souls.
Leaders of the Wild Hunt
- King Valdemar Atterdag
- Christian the Second
- Wild Edric, a Saxon rebel
- Hereward the Wake
- King Arthur
- Herne the Hunter
- St. Guthlac (683-714)
- Old Nick
- Tregeagle, a Cornish lawyer who escaped from Hell and is pursued by the devil’s hounds
- Arawn or Gwyn ap Nudd, the Welsh god of the Underworld
- Sir Francis Drake
- Charlemagne (King of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor)
- Charles the Fifth
- Gilles de Rais
- The King Herod pursuing the Holy Innocents (Franche Compte)
- Hugh Capet
- King Arthur
- King Wenzel (Wenceslas) of Bohemia
- Dietrich of Berne
- Wildes Gjait
- Theodoric the Great (6th century king of the Ostrogoths),
- Berend van Galen, the bishop of Münster, Germany
- Some of the names appear only in Wild Hunt legend, as Ritter Alke of Greifenhagen, Graf von Ebernburg of Zabelsdorf, and Hans von Hackelnberg/Hackelberend of Westphalia.
- Hereward the Wake (died ca 1070)
- Frederick I (1122-1190), called Barbarossa
- Herodias (Rides with witches at sea)
- Gait met de hunties/hondjes (Gait with his dogs)
- Derk met de hunties/hondjes (Derk with his dogs)
- Derk met de beer (Derk with his wild pig)
- het Glujende peerd (the flaming horse)
- Ronnekemère, Henske met de hondjes/Hänske mit de hond (Henske with his dogs)
- The witch Gurorysse
- The oskorei is led by Sigurd Svein and Guro Rysserova (“Gudrun Horse-tail”)
- Sigurdhr Fáfnisbani and Gudhrun Gjúkadottir of the Eddic lays.
- Alemannic Wuodan in Wuotis Heer of Central Switzerland
The Huntsmen are shadowy beings, of varied race and gender, who follow the Master. They wear black, gray, or white cloaks, and ride horses the same colour as their clothes. They are a variety of classes, but all can attack with spear or short bow.
In France they were called Hellequin’s Hunt, and consisted of not only hunters but an entire parade of the damned, first commoners and tradesmen, then monks and clerics, then knights, all suffering various tortures according to their sins on earth.
Johann Geiler von Kaiserberg, writing in Strassburg in 1516, says that
“those who die before the time which god has set for them as those, who enlist in the army and were stabbed or hanged and drowned, they must therefore walk long after their death, till that end comes, which god has set for them, and then god works so with them, as his godly will is”
The Hounds of the Hunt
See this article
- The Folklore of the Wild Huntand the Furious Host by Kveldulf Hagen Gundarsson,
from Mountain Thunder, Issue 7, Winter 1992.
(first presented as a lecture to the Cambridge Folklore Society at the house of Dr. H.R. Ellis-Davidson)
- Brunk, August. “Der wilde Jager im Glauben des pommerschen Volkes”, Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde XIII, 1903, pp. 179-192.
- Celander, Hilding. “Oskoreien ok besläkade forestall-ningar I äldre och nyare nordisk tradition”, Saga och sed 1942, pp. 71-175.
- Elke, Christine N.F. “Oskoreia og ekstaseriter”, Norveg 23, 1980, pp. 277-309
- Feilberg, H.F. “Hvorledes opstar Sagn I vore Dagar?”, Dania II, 1892-4, pp. 81-126. Feilberg, H.F. Jul (2nd ed, 2 vols).
- Ruben A. Koman, Dalfser Muggen Profiel, Bedum 2006
- Jeffrey Burton Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (London: Cornell University Press, 1972) p49 note.
- William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor Act IV, Scene IV in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Ed. W J Craig (Oxford University Press, 1987) p75.
- Charles Squire The Mythology of the British Islands: An Introduction to Celtic Myth, Legend, Poetry and Romance (London: Wordsworth Editions, Ltd, 2000) p155.
- Doreen Valiente Witchcraft for Tomorrow (London: Robert Hale Limited, 1978, 2002 reprint) p51. This page deals with the representation of the Wild Hunt performed by Ms Valiente and others, and of its history as connected to Witchcraft.
- Man, Myth, and Magic, vols. 10 & 22 (Cavendish; NY, 1070)
- The Minor Traditions of British Mythology- Lewis Spence (Benjamin Blom; NY 1972)
Ghosts In The Middle Ages- Jean-Claude Schmitt (Univ. of Chicago Press; Chicago, 1998)
- Gods and Myths of Northern Europe- H.R. Ellis Davidson (Penguin; 1964)
John Masefield’s poem, ‘The Hounds of Hell,’ in GHOSTS, ed. by Marvin Kaye (Doubleday; NY, 1981)
- Banks, M.M. (1944). “The Wild Hunt?”.
- Binnall, Peter B. G. (1935). “On a Possible Version of the Wild Hunt Legend in North Lincolnshire”.
- Bramwell, Peter (2009). Pagan Themes in Modern Children’s Fiction: Green Man, Shamanism, Earth Mysteries. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
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The Wild Hunt in fiction
- William Butler Yeats evoked the Wild Hunt in “The Hosting of the Sidhe”, the opening poem in his collection inspired by Gaelic faery lore, The Celtic Twilight (1893, 1903)
- The Wild Hunt, presided by Arawn and run by the Cwn Annwn, are a key plot point in Diana Wynne Jones’s 1975 fantasy novel Dogsbody.
- Legends of the Wild Hunt have been used by science fiction author Julian May in her series “Saga of Pliocene Exile (British series title, Saga of the Exiles).”
Peter Beagle’s novel Tamsin has the Wild Hunt as one of the main themes, along with some other Celtic beliefs.
- Similarly, Nigel Kneale tied the legend to a racial memory introduced by prehistoric Martian attempts at colonizing Earth in the famous television serial Quatermass and the Pit.
- In the 1940s, Stan Jones encoded the story of the Wild Hunt in his country song “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” (song written some time around 1948), which transposes the story to a group of cowboys who chase the devil’s herd of cattle through the night skies, tormented by madness and thirst.
- In Susan Cooper’s series The Dark is Rising, the Hunt is led by Herne the Hunter and is responsible for driving back the Dark (the enemy in the series), after seeing the six signs collected by Will Stanton, one of the main characters.
- The Wild Hunt also appears in the classic computer game “Darklands” as a recurring event.
- In Mercedes Lackey’s urban fantasy novel The Chrome Circle, protagonist and human mage Tannim and his companion in the book, the half-kitsune, half-dragon Shar encounter the Wild Hunt in their attempts to escape the darker, more evil-controlled pockets of Underhill.