Monster Feature: The Wild Hunt

[So after missing one of my favorite TV shows last week (@NBCGrimm), and an episode on top of that which dealt with one of my favorite chimerical monsters—the manticore—I rushed to find out what was happening with this week’s episode. To my pleasant surprise, Grimm will be covering the folkloric tradition of…the Wild Hunt (hopefully the one they are featuring is the one I’m sharing with you about tonight)! With that in mind, here’s a bit of background and info about the legend of The Wild Hunt.]

Wild Hunt ClassicWe are nearing the end of Winter, so those of you who are the outdoorsy types might want to listen close. As we end the season associated with death, darkness, and the bleaker shades of life, beware of any harsh winds, thunderous storms, or ghostly figures clopping through the sky!

The Wild Hunt, is a popular legend throughout Europe, and varies widely.

In Celtic myth it consisted of all sort of wild and strange faeries, from fair elves to horrible goblins and imps. It was led by a god of the afterlife named Gwyn and his hellish hounds. Sometimes, the woodsy Cernunnos, Horned God of faeries, would play host, and after the spread of Christianity, it was said that the Devil himself would lead the fray, trailed by his demons. If you reached a little farther into history, to its Norse roots, it was led by Woden, who rode in a one-wheeled cart like royalty.

Odin, Like A Boss

Odin, Like A Boss

(Woden, the all-seeing god with one eye—or Wotan or Odin depending on the region—also had an eight-legged steed. Riding in a cart with only one-wheel, I have to wonder if the guy had a thing against the laws of math and physics. “Oh, horses only have four legs? Psh, meet my horse, Sleipnir. And while you’re at it, watch me do donuts in my one-wheeled cart of awesomeness.) 🙂

Whatever part of Europe you were in, the Wild Hunt was a terrifying sight, these giant gods and their huntsmen thundering through the woods or the sky on a storm. It was a vision you did not want to see, either, as it was considered a bad omen, probably of your death. If you did not die, then you might have been one of the men or women whose souls were whisked up and away into the rumpus, forced to ride along the monstrous huntsmen for all of eternity.

Sorry, man. Tough luck. It reminds me of the song Ghost Riders In The Sky, and I kinda’ have to wonder whether or not the song was inspired by the phenomenon.

As always, I find the parallels between myth and legend in culture fascinating, especially when one story covers a good portion of a continent. Even more fascinating is when those stories can be found in separate parts of the world. The wild hunt bears a striking resemblance to one of my favorite Japanese myths, the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons.

Again, if you caught site of this parade, you were pretty much about to die. Unless you had an invitation from the yōkai general. Good luck with that!

Wild Hunt 2Moral of the story? I don’t think there was one for this old legend. Perhaps it was just shifting seasons, or maybe a reminder that when you hear thunder and you’re out there all alone, you need to get to cover. Whatever the reason, if you ever hear those hooves thundering in the sky, remember, don’t look up!

This week’s Monster Feature written by C. Michael McGannon.

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