The Wild Hunt in the 21st Century

On my playlist and tuned in:  Superman – Five for Fighting

An important and entertaining aspect of history is the fascination and lessons that come from folklore.  These stories vary across time, tradition, and culture, and through a set of practices (oral tradition being one) the many genres (legends, music, fairy tales, proverbs, tall tales, jokes, etc.) are shared.

Recently, I heard about the Wild Hunt.  This belief originates in northern Europe and although the story varies depending on its geographical location, it is basically the same.  A “phantasmal” rider charges through the night sky accompanied by a troop of men and hounds, their passage marked with an uproar of “pounding hooves, howling dogs and raging winds.” In America, the closest known comparison is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The root of this myth lies with the Teutonic god Woden (Norse name-Odin).  It is Woden/Odin who rushes through the sky on an eight-legged horse named, Sleipnir.

The belief was that dead souls were carried away on the winds of a storm and Woden/Odin was the leader of “all disembodied spirits – the gatherer of the dead.”

In this one role, Woden/Odin was referred to as the Wild Huntsman, and his haunting passage as the Wild Ride, Odin’s Hunt, and the Raging Host.

Woden/Odin, followed by fierce winds, thunder, and lightning proved the god was passing.  It was thought that the Wild hunt also foretold misfortunes: death, war or pestilence.  Later, under Christian influences, the Wild Hunt summoned the souls of sinners, evildoers, and unbaptized infants.

This story appealed to me because today we are plagued by similar stories of doom and destruction just about every time we click the channel.  I can no longer take the bombardment of the endless tales of the Mayan calendar predicting the earth’s end and all its inhabitants (it’s not just pestilence, death or doom for evildoers anymore).  With a few more clicks, one can discover ten ways the earth WILL possibly end, the ravages of nuclear and chemical warfare upon the world, biological disasters brought about by environmental changes, and the arrival of hostile aliens.  Not to mention, my personal favorite—an axis shift that would propel us into outer space (any connection to the rapture? Hmm.) For someone like me who suffers from a fear of flying, this path of annihilation is unnerving even to contemplate!!!

In the days of old, we may have heard a storm coming, run into our houses and held our breaths, waiting for the tempest and Woden/Odin to pass, leaving us unharmed. After all, most of us are minor sinners and not evildoers. Today, I think the idea of impending doom makes us hold our breath, at least for a moment. Can this be the Wild Hunt in the 21st century?  What do you think?

About cinzia8

Published writer and teacher.
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2 Responses to The Wild Hunt in the 21st Century

  1. Susan says:

    Do you think the wild hunt also had roots in the Maenads and worship of Dionysus?


  2. cinzia8 says:

    It’s possible. Most of the references I’ve seen are Germanic in origin.


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