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The wild hunt: Åsgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo

The Wild Hunt is an ancient folk myth prevalent across Northern, Western and Central Europe.<ref name="Shön1">Schön, Ebbe. (2004). Asa-Tors hammare, Gudar och jättar i tro och tradition (Fält & Hässler, Värnamo). ISBN 91-89660-41-2 pp. 201–205.</ref> The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, with horses and hounds in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground, or just above it.<ref>Katharine M.Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, s.v. "Wild Hunt", p 437. ISBN 0-394-73467-X</ref>

The hunters may be the dead or fairies (often in folklore connected with the dead).<ref>Katherine M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature, pp 49–50 University of Chicago Press, London, 1967</ref> The hunter may be an unidentified lost soul, a deity or spirit either male or female, or may be a historical or legendary figure like Theodoric the Great, the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag, the Welsh psychopomp Gwyn ap Nudd or the Germanic Woden<ref name="Shön1"/> (or other reflections of the same god, such as Alemannic Wuodan in Wuotis Heer ("Wuodan's Army") of Central Switzerland, Swabia etc.).

It has been variously referred to as Wilde Jagd (German: "wild hunt/chase") or Wildes Heer (German: "wild host"), Herlaþing (Old English: "Herla's assembly"), Woden's Hunt, Herod's Hunt, Cain's Hunt,<ref>"In the Middle Ages the wild hunt was also called Cain's hunt, Cain being another progenitor of the Wandering Jew": Venetia Newall, "The Jew as a witch figure", in Katharine Mary Briggs, and Newall, eds. The Witch Figure: Folklore Essays by a Group of Scholars in England 2004:103f.</ref> the Devil's Dandy Dogs (in Cornwall),<ref>Encyclopaedia of the Celts: Devil's Dandy Dogs – Diuran the Rhymer.</ref> Gabriel's Hounds (in northern England),<ref>Called so in the north of England, according to Robert Chambers, The Book of Days: a miscellany of popular antiquities, vol. II, 1883, s.v. "October 11: Spectre-dogs";
"...He oftentimes will start,
For overhead, are sweeping Gabriel's Hounds,
Doomed, with their impious lord, the flying hart
To chase for ever through aërial grounds," (William Wordsworth), "Though narrow be that old man's cares" (1807), quoted in Edwin Sidney Hartland English Fairy and Other Folk Tales, 1890, "Spectre-Dogs"; "Gabriel's hounds are wild geese, so called because their sound in flight is like a pack of hounds in full cry", observes Robert Hendrickson, in Salty Words, 1984:78.</ref> Ghost Riders (in North America),<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Mesnée d'Hellequin (Old North French: "household of Hellequin"), Cŵn Annwn (Welsh: "hounds of Annwn"), divoký hon or štvaní (Czech: "wild hunt", "baiting"), Dziki Gon or Dziki Łów (Polish), Oskoreia or Åsgårdsreia (originally oskurreia) (Norwegian: "noisy riders", "The Ride of Asgard"),<ref>The origin of this name is uncertain, and the reference to Asgard is reckoned to be a corruption by some scholars (a Dano-Norwegian misinterpretation).</ref> Odens jakt or Vilda jakten (Swedish: "the hunt of Odin" or "wild hunt"). divja jaga, meaning "the wild hunting party" or "wild hunt", in Slovene; Caccia Morta (Dead hunt) or Caccia selvaggia (wild hunt) in Italian; Estantiga (from Hoste Antiga, Galician: "the old army"), Hostia, Compaña and Santa Compaña ("troop, company") in Galicia, Güestia in Asturias, Hueste de Ánimas ("troop of ghosts") in León and Hueste de Guerra ("war company") or Cortejo de Gente de Muerte ("deadly retinue") in Extremadura.

Seeing the Wild Hunt was thought to presage some catastrophe such as war or plague, or at best the death of the one who witnessed it.<ref>See, for example, Chambers's Encyclopaedia, 1901, s.v. "Wild Hunt": "[Gabriel's Hounds]...portend death or calamity to the house over which they hang"; "the cry of the Seven Whistlers... a death omen".</ref> Mortals getting in the path of or following the Hunt could be kidnapped and brought to the land of the dead. A girl who saw Wild Edric's Ride was warned by her father to put her apron over her head to avoid the sight.<ref>Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, "Infringement of fairy privacy", p 233. ISBN 0-394-73467-X</ref> Others believed that people's spirits could be pulled away during their sleep to join the cavalcade.<ref>Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy, p 307, ISBN 0-631-18946-7</ref>

In Germany, where it was also known as the "Wild Army", or "Furious Army", its leader was given various identities, including Wodan (or "Woden"), Knecht Ruprecht (cf. Krampus), Berchtold (or Berchta), and Holda (or "Holle"). The Wild Hunt is also known from post-medieval folklore.

"Wodan's Wild Hunt" (1882) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine

Wild Hunt sections
Intro  Origins  Regional variations  Leader of the Wild Hunt  Connections to the witches' sabbath  In modern culture  See also  References   Bibliography   External links  

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{{#invoke:Hatnote|hatnote}}

The wild hunt: Åsgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo

The Wild Hunt is an ancient folk myth prevalent across Northern, Western and Central Europe.<ref name="Shön1">Schön, Ebbe. (2004). Asa-Tors hammare, Gudar och jättar i tro och tradition (Fält & Hässler, Värnamo). ISBN 91-89660-41-2 pp. 201–205.</ref> The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, with horses and hounds in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground, or just above it.<ref>Katharine M.Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, s.v. "Wild Hunt", p 437. ISBN 0-394-73467-X</ref>

The hunters may be the dead or fairies (often in folklore connected with the dead).<ref>Katherine M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature, pp 49–50 University of Chicago Press, London, 1967</ref> The hunter may be an unidentified lost soul, a deity or spirit either male or female, or may be a historical or legendary figure like Theodoric the Great, the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag, the Welsh psychopomp Gwyn ap Nudd or the Germanic Woden<ref name="Shön1"/> (or other reflections of the same god, such as Alemannic Wuodan in Wuotis Heer ("Wuodan's Army") of Central Switzerland, Swabia etc.).

It has been variously referred to as Wilde Jagd (German: "wild hunt/chase") or Wildes Heer (German: "wild host"), Herlaþing (Old English: "Herla's assembly"), Woden's Hunt, Herod's Hunt, Cain's Hunt,<ref>"In the Middle Ages the wild hunt was also called Cain's hunt, Cain being another progenitor of the Wandering Jew": Venetia Newall, "The Jew as a witch figure", in Katharine Mary Briggs, and Newall, eds. The Witch Figure: Folklore Essays by a Group of Scholars in England 2004:103f.</ref> the Devil's Dandy Dogs (in Cornwall),<ref>Encyclopaedia of the Celts: Devil's Dandy Dogs – Diuran the Rhymer.</ref> Gabriel's Hounds (in northern England),<ref>Called so in the north of England, according to Robert Chambers, The Book of Days: a miscellany of popular antiquities, vol. II, 1883, s.v. "October 11: Spectre-dogs";
"...He oftentimes will start,
For overhead, are sweeping Gabriel's Hounds,
Doomed, with their impious lord, the flying hart
To chase for ever through aërial grounds," (William Wordsworth), "Though narrow be that old man's cares" (1807), quoted in Edwin Sidney Hartland English Fairy and Other Folk Tales, 1890, "Spectre-Dogs"; "Gabriel's hounds are wild geese, so called because their sound in flight is like a pack of hounds in full cry", observes Robert Hendrickson, in Salty Words, 1984:78.</ref> Ghost Riders (in North America),<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Mesnée d'Hellequin (Old North French: "household of Hellequin"), Cŵn Annwn (Welsh: "hounds of Annwn"), divoký hon or štvaní (Czech: "wild hunt", "baiting"), Dziki Gon or Dziki Łów (Polish), Oskoreia or Åsgårdsreia (originally oskurreia) (Norwegian: "noisy riders", "The Ride of Asgard"),<ref>The origin of this name is uncertain, and the reference to Asgard is reckoned to be a corruption by some scholars (a Dano-Norwegian misinterpretation).</ref> Odens jakt or Vilda jakten (Swedish: "the hunt of Odin" or "wild hunt"). divja jaga, meaning "the wild hunting party" or "wild hunt", in Slovene; Caccia Morta (Dead hunt) or Caccia selvaggia (wild hunt) in Italian; Estantiga (from Hoste Antiga, Galician: "the old army"), Hostia, Compaña and Santa Compaña ("troop, company") in Galicia, Güestia in Asturias, Hueste de Ánimas ("troop of ghosts") in León and Hueste de Guerra ("war company") or Cortejo de Gente de Muerte ("deadly retinue") in Extremadura.

Seeing the Wild Hunt was thought to presage some catastrophe such as war or plague, or at best the death of the one who witnessed it.<ref>See, for example, Chambers's Encyclopaedia, 1901, s.v. "Wild Hunt": "[Gabriel's Hounds]...portend death or calamity to the house over which they hang"; "the cry of the Seven Whistlers... a death omen".</ref> Mortals getting in the path of or following the Hunt could be kidnapped and brought to the land of the dead. A girl who saw Wild Edric's Ride was warned by her father to put her apron over her head to avoid the sight.<ref>Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, "Infringement of fairy privacy", p 233. ISBN 0-394-73467-X</ref> Others believed that people's spirits could be pulled away during their sleep to join the cavalcade.<ref>Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy, p 307, ISBN 0-631-18946-7</ref>

In Germany, where it was also known as the "Wild Army", or "Furious Army", its leader was given various identities, including Wodan (or "Woden"), Knecht Ruprecht (cf. Krampus), Berchtold (or Berchta), and Holda (or "Holle"). The Wild Hunt is also known from post-medieval folklore.

"Wodan's Wild Hunt" (1882) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine

Wild Hunt sections
Intro  Origins  Regional variations  Leader of the Wild Hunt  Connections to the witches' sabbath  In modern culture  See also  References   Bibliography   External links  

PREVIOUS: IntroNEXT: Origins
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