Wild Hunt

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Wild Hunt

Asgardsreid, Furious Host, Furious Hunt,

Gabriel's Hounds, Gandreid, Jolerei,

Julereien, Raging Host, Yuletide Host

If one listens closely to the swirling winds of a stormy winter night, eerie voices seem to howl in the darkness. In past centuries much folklore from northwestern Europe interpreted these sounds as a sign that the Wild Hunt was abroad. People invented many names for this unruly procession of ghosts, goblins, and deities that stormed across the night skies. For the most part, the wailing spirits frightened listeners, but in some places they also aided human beings.

Belief in the Wild Hunt was especially strong between the ninth and fourteenth centuries. Historical records indicate that some medieval Europeans believed the Wild Hunt capable of rampaging through their dreams, carrying their spirits off on unwholesome adventures while their bodies slumbered. Folkloric records indicate that the Wild Hunt might appear in the skies at any time of year. Nevertheless, in many locales the ghostly riders were thought to be most active during the Twelve Days of Christmas, especially Twelfth Night.

The leaders, members, and purpose of the Wild Hunt varied somewhat from region to region. In Wales, Gwyn ap Nudd, king of the Underworld, led the hunt. In England some believed the Wild Hunt was led by King Arthur. Others referred to the noises on the wind as the baying of Gabriel's Hounds. The phantom hounds represented the souls of unbaptized infants, and their passing signified a death to come. In Norway the Hunt was known as the Gandreid, which means "spirits' ride." According to Norwegian folklore, the spirits of those who had died during the past year charged across the night skies during the Gandreid, increasing the fertility of all the fields they passed over. The Gandreid was most active around Epiphany, or Twelfth Night. In German-speaking and Scandinavian lands the Hunt was known as Asgardsreid, literally "Asgard's Ride," and was thought to occur most often during Yule or the Twelve Days of Christmas. Asgard was the home of the Scandinavian gods. Many believed that the fearsome, one-eyed king of the Scandinavian gods, Odin, led the wild ride across the skies to Asgard, mounted on his eight-legged steed. He and his riotous following were sometimes called the Wild Hunt, the Raging Host, the Jolerei or the Julereien (the Yuletide Host), and it was believed dangerous for Christians to see them. Nevertheless, some peasants left the last sheaf of grain in their fields as an offering for Odin's horse. In some locales Odin's wife Frigga headed the throng of spirits.

In other German-speaking areas the noises on the wind meant that the goddess Berchta and her following of wraiths, fairies, and the souls of small children rode abroad. Berchta roamed the world during the Twelve Days of Christmas, but was especially active on Twelfth Night. She rewarded the industrious and punished the lazy. In northern German lands the Furious Hunt or Furious Host was led by a similar goddess, Holde, who commanded a similar band of followers. The passing of Holde and her followers blessed the lands below, ensuring that crops would double during the coming year. (See also Germany, Christmas in.)

Further Reading

Guerber, H. A. Myths of Northern Lands. 1895. Reprint. Detroit, Mich.: Singing Tree Press, 1970. Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1991. Leach, Maria, ed. Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythol-ogy, and Legend. New York: Harper and Row, 1984.

Wild Hunt

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

As the wilde Jagd the Wild Hunt is part of Teutonic folklore, although it was known across most of northern Europe. In France it is known variously as Chasse Maccabei, Chasse Artu, or Mesnie Hellequin. It is a procession of beings, usually female and including ancient deities, across the sky. Names of the deities known in southern Germany include Perchta, Berhta, or Berta, called "the bright one" and sometimes aligned with Diana. Other names associated with the Wild Hunt include Holt, Holle, or Hulde; Faste; Selga; Selda; and Venus. In France the names Abundia and Satia are used; in Italy, Befana, Befania, or Epiphania.

The Wild Hunt took place not only across the sky. In some areas it was supposed to pass along the country roads, especially on sabbat dates. Witches were commonly believed to be a part of the Wild Hunt. It was first described in the Canon Episcopi

of c. 900 CE, which stated, "Some wicked women. . . seduced by illusions and phantoms of demons, believe and profess themselves in the hours of the night to ride upon certain beasts with Diana, the goddess of the Pagans, and in the silence of the night to traverse great spaces of the earth, and to obey her commands as of their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on certain nights."

By many accounts the Wild Hunt was led by Satan himself, attended by the hounds of Hell. Reports have it accompanied by a cacophony of baying hounds and blowing horns. For whose who heard it approaching, the only safe thing to do was to lie flat on the ground, face down with eyes tightly shut, and hold on to any plant or bush until the hunt had passed.

The Wild Hunt was believed to ride in various parts of England. In Shropshire it was led by Wild Edric, the hero who held out against William the Conqueror for several years. In Warwickshire an unknown hunter led a pack of hounds known locally as the Hell Hounds, the Night Hounds, or Hooter. Across Windsor Great Park, on the night of the full moon, Herne the Hunter led his pack of hounds (and, according to many, still does). Across Dartmoor, and some other areas of England, Woden led the hunt. In the 1940s, during the war years, it was reportedly heard at Samhain, passing through West Coker, near Taunton, Devon.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (1127 CE), as reported by Brian Branston in The

Lost Gods of England (1957), contains the passage: Let no one be surprised at what we are about to relate, for it was common gossip up and down the countryside that after February 6th many people both saw and heard a whole pack of huntsmen in full cry. They straddled black horses and black bucks while their hounds were pitch black with staring hideous eyes. This was seen in the very deer park of Peterborough town, and in all the wood stretching from that same spot as far as Stamford. All through the night monks heard them sounding and winding their horns. Reliable witnesses who kept watch in the night declared that there might well have been twenty or even thirty of them in this wild tantivy as near as they could tell.

References in classic literature ?
The master of the hunt, however, often saw and approved the great judgment of the stranger in drawing the dogs when they were at a fault, and hence conceived a very high opinion of his understanding, as the number of his attendants inspired no small reverence to his quality.
Mike Nicholas, of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "We are calling for this master of the hunt and convicted badger baiter to step down and for the hunt to be disbanded.
1635), stands alone on a wall, introducing us to other magnificent court portraits, including Juan Mateos, the Master of the Hunt, which is sensitively positioned next to the portrait of the sculptor Juan Martinez Montanes (1636).
Master of the hunt Mark Shotton with the Cleveland Hunt
Michael Gibbon, master of the hunt, said: "We were totally delighted with the support we had in Cowbridge, which was as strong as ever.
A pounds 1,500 cheque was presented to JCB group HR director Joanne McAdam prior to a February meet at Wootton Hall, in Staffordshire, which is owned by Johnny Greenall, joint master of the hunt.
In Mediaeval Egypt, the Mamluke Amir Aqsunqur was one of the chief advisors and Master of the Hunt to Sultan an-Nasir Muhammad.
Or even bumbling solicitor Sam, who just happens to be the owner of a great country pile, and master of the hunt.
Michael Gibbon, master of the hunt, said:"Wewere totally delighted with the support we had in Cowbridge, which was a strong as ever, but, due to the weather conditions, thingswere very difficult for the horses and we could not risk their safety.
Someone, presumably the master of the hunt, can be held responsible.
Accompanying fforbes-Hamilton on her journey of self-discovery was her loyal but decrepit butler Brabinger (John Rudling), her old schoolfriend friend Marjory Frobisher (Angela Thorne) and Master of the Hunt Brigadier Lemington (Anthony Sharp).

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