Since about Thanksgiving this year, I have been drawn to the Wild Hunt, which is a rowdy spectral procession across the night sky during the entire old Germanic intercalary period commonly known as Yuletide . Around Thanksgiving, I committed myself to identifying and reading various articles about the Wild Hunt, everything from folklore to Pagans’/Heathens’ contemporary experiences with the “Furious Host” as it is also known. Thus far, the most substantial sources I have found are as follows:
The Folklore of the Wild Hunt and the Furious Host by Kveldulf Gundarsson. The images at this link were added by the site’s blogger to spice it up a bit. Ignore the images and enjoy the content. Thorough coverage of where and when the Wild Hunt was known to ride. Also, very well cited in true KG style.
Penance, Power, and Pursuit: On the Trail of the Wild Hunt by Ari Berk and William Spytma. Also good. The information is well organized and the authors’ interpretations of the “data”, i.e. the lore that they present, are not too far fetched.
Running with the Hunt by L. Beth Lynch in Issue 7 of Hex Magazine. Lynch gives a vivid description of her Yuletide practices including her new tradition of running with the hunt in a park nearby to her home. It is important to note that Lynch is a seidhrkona and a spirit-worker, so her decision to ride with the Wild Hunt was influenced, I am sure, by the “ordinariness” of her ties with the otherworlds.
The common characterizations of the Wild Hunt that emerged from the first two articles ( i.e. the more myth/lore focused ones) are that it is grizzly, dark, and terrifying (in a gory and frighteningly “real” sense) but the encounter is most often made good or ill by the person’s response to the Host and the One Who Leads Them. Depending on when and where the Host rides, it includes the dead, maimed warriors, ancient and often cursed or simply otherworldly Kings, taken human souls and sometimes (once Christianity set in) criminals, suicides, unbaptized babies, and other such beings. The leader or Hunter as he is sometimes known is variably Odin, Wodan/Wotan, Cernunnos, and various deceased or mythological Kings. Exactly what the Host and the Hunter are seeking is uncertain. Sometimes its a beautiful “faery” maiden, other times an animal, and still other times the unfortunate souls who would foolishly dawdle out of doors after dark during the Yuletide.
I am certain that whenever or wherever the Wild Hunt takes place, whomever the Hunter and his Host may be, and whatever the quarry, there is a Mystery in the Hunt for those who would seek it (at their own risk). The Wild Hunt scares the crap out of me, most grizzly, gory, maimed things do, but I have been considering journeying to join the Hunt on the first night’s ride (aka Winter Solstice, the day after my birthday) simply because something at my core says that I should and that I need to. I feel driven toward the purpose but fear threatens to derail me, but the Hunter’s Call is hard to resist. Odin, the primary Hunter to my thinking, is extending a hand; dare I reject it! If I am unable to overcome by Solstice the fear that would keep me from his train, I may try to gather the courage for another day during Yuletide. My main concern with attempting to choose another day during Yuletide 2010 is that the window of opportunity will be gone. At this point in time, for some reason completely unknown to me, I feel like I have an invitation of sorts but the RSVP deadline seems to be drawing near (perhaps it is December 31st, the last night of Yuletide, maybe much sooner). If I fail to accept his invitation (on time), frankly I am not sure it will come again and the risk will be exponentially greater should I consider joining the Hunt in a future year.