Mythical Monday: The Wild Hunt by Mae Clair

I’m digging deep into my memory for today’s Mythical Monday post. I’ve read multiple books in which the Wild Hunt factors into the plot, but can’t come up with a single title off the top of my head. Frustrating.

I’m sure I devoured most of them in the days when fantasy novels were my go-to genre. I remember several scenes vividly. Although I don’t read nearly as many fantasy tales as I once did, I still love a good supernatural/sorcerous novel, along with all of the eerie and ethereal beings that haunt the pages.

bigstock-Horse-Eye-In-Dark-39925873I’ve read stories with dragons and necromancers, dark faerie races and repulsive monsters. Ogres, doppelgangers and slithering beasts. Perhaps none is more frightening than the Wild Hunt – a band of ghostly phantoms on spectral steeds. They can be seen racing across a night-blackened sky or hovering just above the ground, a macabre host surrounded by undead hounds. The chilling sound of the Hunt’s horn echoes through lonely meadows and moon-splattered woods, striking fear into the hearts of all who hear it.

Myths of the Wild Hunt can be traced to Scandinavian and Germanic myth; later to Northern European countries. An omen of ill fortune, the Hunt foretells of looming catastrophe, often of plague or war, most certainly death.

Fortunately it is limited to specific times, beginning on October 31st and ending on April 30th, (Beltane Eve), of the following year. The height of the Hunt’s activity comes during the midwinter festival of Yule (December 21st). On that cold wintery night, travelers would do well to stay indoors, gathered close to the hearth where it is safe and warm.

bigstock-Log-Cabin-In-Winter-28568249In Norway peasants superstitiously left a measure of grain outside between Yule and Twelfth Night to feed the Huntsman’s horse in hopes he would pass them by. If caught in the path of the hunt, travelers knew to fall face down in the middle of the road. If fortunate, they would feel nothing but the icy paws of the hounds passing over their back. Legend says the Huntsman will graciously spare those in the middle of the path, but woe to he who attempts to track the hunt. That ill-fated soul will find himself a captive in the land of the dead.

In many tales, the Norse god Odin is the leader of the Hunt, riding astride his eight-legged steed, Sleipnir. The Saxon version defines Herne the Hunter as leader, and in many legends, King Arthur is one of the huntsmen.

When I think of the Hunt I always envision its wintry existence. Perhaps it is nothing more than the chilling specter of something supernatural blending with the innate cold of winter. The two twine effortlessly, conjuring striking images of silver moonlight, snow and phantom horses in my mind.

Winter will soon be officially upon us with the arrival of Yule on December 21st – the shortest day of the year. I love this month, a truly magical time, culminated by the arrival of Christmas Day. Even as I celebrate that joyous occasion I can’t help but be intrigued by the folklore of the past.

By the same token, I prefer to imitate those lodgers who huddled around their hearths on cold wintry nights, safe and secure in the warmth of their homes. As fascinating as the Wild Hunt is I prefer my December nights full of Christmas cheer, good Yule tidings and merriment.

What about you?

23 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Wild Hunt by Mae Clair

  1. I love the images of the Wild Hunt and Herne is a personal favourite of mine for many reasons. It might be because I associate the Wild Hunt with fairies and freedom that I don’t find the idea of them passing close by threatening.

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    • What a unique way to look at it, Daisy. I like the association to faeries. That always makes me think of spring whereas I’ve always associated the Hunt with winter (even though it does extend into spring). Thanks for sharing a new perspective.

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  2. I am drawn to the image of the Wild Hunt, much as I thrill to the power of loud, rumbling thunder (especially when safe indoors). It exhilarates and enlivens. To see the end of life as part of the natural cycle, even though it can be unexpected, traumatic, and violent, as in the Wild Hunt, gives me a sense of peace that we are all part of a whole. Much of the time that is what mythology and folklore does for me. It speaks to a deep, ancient inner self that seeks to understand but also reveres that which is not understood. I love the concept of long winter nights by the hearth! Mae, how did you get the snow flurries on your blog?

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    • I love huddling inside in the winter, Stanalei. Especially if the wind is howling outside and there is snow on the ground. It makes me think of how our ancestors must have felt long ago, safe from the elements and protected with our loved ones.

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  3. I got distracted there for a minute – the snow falling on your blog is moving really fast. 🙂
    I remember a ghostly horse creature in one of L.H. Cosway’s books galloping through a magical forest and diving head first into a lake. I like my evenings in December spent near the Christmas tree with candles lighting, good book on hand and something hot to drink nearby.

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    • We put our tree up on Saturday and that was how I spent last night…. reading a book with the soft glow of the Christmas tree beside me. I love “mood” lighting.
      And hey, you’re right, that snow is whirring by pretty quickly. Hopefully, it won’t accumulate! 🙂

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  4. I can just see planting my face in the middle of the road, hoping the Huntsman wouldn’t see me. LOL But even better would be hanging out by the fire, holding a warm alcoholic beverage, regaling everyone with stories of how I’d “escaped” a dire fate. 🙂

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    • LOL! I think falling down in the middle of the road would be equivalent to what they say when a bear charges you….don’t flee and make yourself prey. Yeah, like that would happen in a moment of extreme terror 😀

      I’ll hand with you at the fire Donna and listen to your tale. I’m sure it would be a humorous retelling, knowing how you always make me laugh. Cheers!

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  5. Mae – once again you’ve pulled off a terrific tale. When we were kids in Kansas, during the cold winter months of Dec through Feb, we would search for headless horsemen in the sky. I don’t think we ever knew exactly what we were looking for and eventually mother’s call for hot chocolate call all of in to a warm house. So my story is not mythical where yours is – but it’s still a fun memory.

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    • Oooh, I love it, Sheri – – looking for headless horsemen in the sky! What a cool memory and an imaginative way to pass those wintry months of December through February. Thanks for sharing a fun memory. I love the thought of the hot chocolate too! 🙂

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  6. There is nothing more horrible than the new Health Marketplace which I am trying to navigate for the umpteenth time and it’s horrible! And so not accurate. Give me the Wild Hunt over this any day! (and please spike my hot cocoa with something – anything! LOL)

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    • Oh, wow, you’re actually attempting the healthcare website? I will cross my fingers for you. It probably makes the Wild Hunt look tame in comparison. Good luck, Cd. I’m cheering you on!

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  7. A warning, perhaps, to stay inside? I can see in those northern climes the risk of people dying in the snow, freezing. How to explain why that person would risk his life to go outside? To run after the hunt, perhaps.

    We are in the midst of blizzards and winter storms right now, and I can see the benefit to keeping close to home – warm and safe. Maybe I can mention the Wild Hunt to my boss as another reason to work from home? LOL

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    • Oh, yuck! Blizzards and winter storms, Lorraine? I would definitely want to stay tucked safely indoors. Yep, I think your boss should make an exception for the Hunt. I mean who knows where that spectral pack is going to roam next, LOL!

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