The Wild Hunt is a folklore motif (ATU E501) that historically occurs in European folklore. Wild Hunts typically involve a ghostly or supernatural group of hunters passing in wild pursuit. The hunters may be either elves or fairies or the dead, and the leader of the hunt is often a named figure associated with Woden (or other reflections of the same god, such as Alemannic Wuodan in Wuotis Heer ("Wuodan's Army") of Central Switzerland, Swabia etc.), but may variously be a historical or legendary figure like Theodoric the Great, the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag, the Welsh psychopomp Gwyn ap Nudd, biblical figures such as Herod, Cain, Gabriel or the Devil, or an unidentified lost soul or spirit either male or female.
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. People encountering the Hunt might also be abducted to the underworld or the fairy kingdom. In some instances, it was also believed that people's spirits could be pulled away during their sleep to join the cavalcade.
The concept was developed based on comparative mythology by Jacob Grimm in Deutsche Mythologie (1835) as a folkloristic survival of Germanic pagan tradition, but comparable folk myths are found throughout Northern, Western and Central Europe. Grimm popularised the term Wilde Jagd ("Wild Hunt") for the phenomenon.
Based on the comparative approach based on German folklore, the phenomenon is often referred to as Wilde Jagd (German: "wild hunt/chase") or Wildes Heer (German: "wild host"). 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.
In England, it was known as Herlaþing (Old English: "Herla's assembly"), Woden's Hunt, Herod's Hunt, Cain's Hunt, the Devil's Dandy Dogs (in Cornwall), Gabriel's Hounds (in northern England), and Ghost Riders (in North America). In Wales, a comparable folk myth is known as Cŵn Annwn (Welsh: "hounds of Annwn").
In Scandinavia, the Wild Hunt is known as Oskoreia or Asgårdsreia (originally oskurreia) (Norwegian: "noisy riders", "The Ride of Asgard"), and Odens jakt or Vilda jakten (Swedish: "the hunt of Odin" or "wild hunt").
In Northern France, it was known in Old French as Mesnée d'Hellequin (Old French : "household of Hellequin") and with a large range of variant forms (in Normandy alone as Chasse Saint-Hubert, Chasse Saint-Eustache, Chasse de Caïn, Cache de Caïn, Chasse Artus, Chasse Hennequin, Chasse Annequin, Chasse Proserpine, Chasse céserquine or chéserquine, Chasse Mère Harpine, Chasse du Diable); in Canada it is Chasse-galerie like in Poitou - Saintonge. In West Slavic Central Europe it is known as divoký hon or štvaní (Czech: "wild hunt", "baiting"), Dziki Gon or Dziki Łów (Polish), and Divja Jaga (Slovene: "the wild hunting party" or "wild hunt"). Other variations of the same folk myth are Caccia Morta (Dead hunt), Caccia infernale (infernal hunt), or Caccia selvaggia (wild hunt) in Italy; 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.
The concept of the Wild Hunt was first documented by the German folklorist Jacob Grimm, who first published it in his 1835 book Deutsche Mythologie. It was in this work that he popularised the term Wilde Jagd ("Wild Hunt") for the phenomenon. Grimm's methodological approach was rooted in the idea – common in nineteenth-century Europe – that modern folklore represented a fossilized survival of the beliefs of the distant past. In developing his idea of the Wild Hunt, he mixed together recent folkloric sources with textual evidence dating to the Medieval and Early Modern periods. This approach came to be criticized within the field of folkloristics during the 20th century, as more emphasis was placed on the "dynamic and evolving nature of folklore".
Grimm interpreted the Wild Hunt phenomenon as having pre-Christian origins, arguing that the male figure who appeared in it was a survival of folk beliefs about the god Wodan, who had "lost his sociable character, his near familiar features, and assumed the aspect of a dark and dreadful power... a spectre and a devil." Grimm believed that this male figure was sometimes replaced by a female counterpart, whom he referred to as Holda and Berchta. In his words, "not only Wuotan and other gods, but heathen goddesses too, may head the furious host: the wild hunter passes into the wood-wife, Wôden into frau Gaude." He added his opinion that this female figure was Woden's wife.
Discussing martial elements of the Wild Hunt, Grimm commented that "it marches as an army, it portends the outbreak of war." He added that a number of figures that had been recorded as leading the hunt, such as "Wuotan, Huckelbernd, Berholt, bestriding their white war-horse, armed and spurred, appear still as supreme directors of the war for which they, so to speak, give licence to mankind."
Grimm believed that in pre-Christian Europe, the hunt, led by a god and a goddess, either visited "the land at some holy tide, bringing welfare and blessing, accepting gifts and offerings of the people" or they alternately float "unseen through the air, perceptible in cloudy shapes, in the roar and howl of the winds, carrying on war, hunting or the game of ninepins, the chief employments of ancient heroes: an array which, less tied down to a definite time, explains more the natural phenomenon." He believed that under the influence of Christianisation, the story was converted from being that of a "solemn march of gods" to being "a pack of horrid spectres, dashed with dark and devilish ingredients".
Hans Peter Duerr (1985) noted that for modern readers, it "is generally difficult to decide, on the basis of the sources, whether what is involved in the reports about the appearance of the Wild Hunt is merely a demonic interpretation of natural phenomenon, or whether we are dealing with a description of ritual processions of humans changed into demons." Historian Ronald Hutton noted that there was "a powerful and well-established international scholarly tradition" which argued that the Medieval Wild Hunt legends were an influence on the development of the Early Modern ideas of the Witches' Sabbath. Hutton nevertheless believed that this approach could be "fundamentally challenged".
In the Peterborough Chronicle, there is an account of the Wild Hunt's appearance at night, beginning with the appointment of a disastrous abbot for the monastery, Henry d'Angely, in 1127:
Many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The huntsmen were black, huge, and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black he-goats, and their hounds were jet black, with eyes like saucers, and horrible. This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough, and in all the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns.
Reliable witnesses were said to have given the number of huntsmen as twenty or thirty, and it is said, in effect, that this went on for nine weeks, ending at Easter. Orderic Vitalis (1075–c. 1142), an English monk cloistered at St Evroul-en-Ouche, in Normandy, reported a similar cavalcade seen in January 1091, which he said were "Herlechin's troop" (familia Herlechini; cf. Harlequin).
While these earlier reports of Wild Hunts were recorded by clerics and portrayed as diabolic, in late medieval romances, such as Sir Orfeo, the hunters are rather from a faery otherworld, where the Wild Hunt was the hosting of the fairies; its leaders also varied, but they included Gwydion, Gwynn ap Nudd, King Arthur, Nuada, King Herla, Woden, the Devil and Herne the Hunter. Many legends are told of their origins, as in that of "Dando and his dogs" or "the dandy dogs": Dando, wanting a drink but having exhausted what his huntsmen carried, declared he would go to hell for it. A stranger came and offered a drink, only to steal Dando's game and then Dando himself, with his dogs giving chase. The sight was long claimed to have been seen in the area. Another legend recounted how King Herla, having visited the Fairy King, was warned not to step down from his horse until the greyhound he carried jumped down; he found that three centuries had passed during his visit, and those of his men who dismounted crumbled to dust; he and his men are still riding, because the greyhound has yet to jump down.
The myth of the Wild Hunt has through the ages been modified to accommodate other gods and folk heroes, among them King Arthur and, more recently, in a Dartmoor folk legend, Sir Francis Drake. At Cadbury Castle in Somerset an old lane near the castle was called King Arthur's Lane and even in the 19th century the idea survived that on wild winter nights the king and his hounds could be heard rushing along it.
In certain parts of Britain, the hunt is said to be that of hell-hounds chasing sinners or the unbaptised. In Devon these are known as Yeth (Heath) or Wisht Hounds, in Cornwall Dando and his Dogs or the Devil and his Dandy Dogs, in Wales the Cwn Annwn, the Hounds of Hell, and in Somerset as Gabriel Ratchets or Retchets (dogs). In Devon the hunt is particularly associated with Wistman's Wood.
An abundance of different tales of the Wild Hunt are recorded in Germany. In most tales, the identity of the hunter is not made clear, in others, it is:
Sometimes, the tales associate the hunter with a dragon or the devil. The hunter is most often riding a horse, seldom a horse-drawn carriage, and usually has several hounds in his company. If the prey is mentioned, it is most often a young woman, either guilty or innocent. The majority of the tales deal with some person encountering the Wild Hunt. If this person stands up against the hunters, he will be punished. If he helps the hunt, he will be awarded money, gold or, most often, a leg of a slain animal or human, which is often cursed in a way that makes it impossible to be rid of it. In this case, the person has to find a priest or magician able to ban it, or trick the Wild Hunt into taking the leg back by asking for salt, which the hunt can not deliver. In many versions, a person staying right in the middle of the road during the encounter is safe.
In Scandinavia, the leader of the hunt was Odin and the event was referred to as Odens jakt (Odin's hunt) and Oskoreien (from Asgårdsreien - the Asgard Ride). Odin's hunt was heard but rarely seen, and a typical trait is that one of Odin's dogs was barking louder and a second one fainter. Beside one or two shots, these barks were the only sounds that were clearly identified. When Odin's hunt was heard, it meant changing weather in many regions, but it could also mean war and unrest. According to some reports, the forest turned silent and only a whining sound and dog barks could be heard.
In western Sweden and sometimes in the east as well, it has been said that Odin was a nobleman or even a king who had hunted on Sundays and therefore was doomed to hunt down and kill supernatural beings until the end of time. According to certain accounts, Odin does not ride, but travels in a wheeled vehicle, specifically a one-wheeled cart.
If houses were built on former roads, they could be burnt down, because Odin did not change his plans if he had formerly travelled on a road there. Not even charcoal kilns could be built on disused roads, because if Odin was hunting the kiln would be ablaze.
One tradition maintains that Odin did not travel further up than an ox wears his yoke, so if Odin was hunting, it was safest to throw oneself onto the ground in order to avoid being hit, a pourquoi story that evolved as an explanation for the popular belief that persons lying at ground level are safer from lightning strikes than are persons who are standing. In Älghult in Småland, it was safest to carry a piece of bread and a piece of steel when going to church and back during Yule. The reason was that if one met the rider with the broad-rimmed hat, one should throw the piece of steel in front of oneself, but if one met his dogs first, one should throw the pieces of bread instead.
The Wild Hunt is the subject of Transcendental Étude No. 8 in C minor, "Wilde Jagd" (Wild Hunt) by Franz Liszt, and appears in Karl Maria von Weber's 1821 opera Der Freischütz and in Arnold Schönberg's oratorio Gurre-Lieder of 1911.
The subject of Stan Jones' American country song "Ghost Riders in the Sky" of 1948, which tells of cowboys chasing the Devil's cattle through the night sky, resembles the European myth. Swedish folk musician The Tallest Man on Earth released an album in 2010 entitled The Wild Hunt, and in 2013 the black metal band Watain, also Swedish, released an album with the same title.
In Mike Mignola's comic book series Hellboy two versions of the Wild Hunt myth are present. In The Wild Hunt the hero receives an invitation from British noblemen to partake in a giant hunting, "The Wild Hunt", which they call after the legend of "Herne, god of the Hunt". In King Vold, Hellboy encounters "King Vold, the flying huntsman" whose figure is based on the Norwegian folktale of "The Flying Huntsman (headless King Volmer and his hounds)" according to Mignola.
In film, The Wild Hunt is a Canadian horror drama of 2009 by director Alexandre Franchi. The MTV series Teen Wolf features the Wild Hunt as the main villains of the first half of season 6. It takes the legend a bit further, claiming that the Wild Hunt erases people from existence, and those taken by the Wild Hunt become members after they are erased and forgotten. Αustralian writer Tim Winton's 'The Riders,' shortlisted for the Booker Prize, mentions a vision of the Wild Hunt that becomes the basis for the main character's own 'wild hunt' of the story.
The Wild Hunt features in The Witcher series of fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski and the CD Projekt Red's 2015 role-playing video game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, based on the books, after being referenced heavily during the events and flashbacks of The Witcher 2 game.
In The Elder Scrolls series of role-playing video games, the Wild Hunt is a ritual performed by the Bosmer (wood elves) for war, vengeance, or other times of desperation. The elves are transformed into a horde of horrific creatures that kill all in their path. The Daedric lord Hircine is also inspired by the wild hunt, especially in The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
The Wild Hunt has appeared in various forms of literature, among them Alan Garner's 1963 novel The Moon of Gomrath, Penelope Lively's 1971 The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, Susan Cooper's 1973 The Dark is Rising, Diana Wynne Jones' 1975 Dogsbody, Brian Bates' The Way of Wyrd, Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar trilogy, three of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels (2005 Dead Beat, 2006 Proven Guilty and 2012 Cold Days), the third issue of Seanan McGuire's series October Daye, An Artificial Night, Fred Vargas's 2011 The Ghost Riders of Ordebec, Laurell K. Hamilton’s book Mistral's Kiss and Jane Yolen's 1995 The Wild Hunt. It also features in Cassandra Clare's book series, "The Mortal instruments" and "The Dark Artifices", led by Gwyn ap Nudd. The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr contains a modern Wild Hunt. It is also a major plot point in Peter S. Beagle's "Tamsin." The Wild Hunt is a primary element of R.S. Belcher's novel "The Brotherhood of the Wheel".
The Wild Hunt has been depicted on two different cards in Magic: the Gathering.
The “Åsgårdsreien”, Peter Nicolai Arbo's 1872 oil painting, depicts the Scandinavian version of the Wild Hunt, with Odin leading the hunting party. This painting is featured on the cover of Bathory's 1988 album, Blood Fire Death.
Various practitioners of the contemporary Pagan religion of Wicca have drawn upon folklore involving the Wild Hunt to inspire their own rites. In their context, the leader of the Wild Hunt is the goddess Hecate.  The anthropologist Susan Greenwood provided an account of one such Wild Hunt ritual performed by a modern Pagan group in Norfolk during the late 1990s, stating that they used this mythology "as a means of confronting the dark of nature as a process of initiation." Referred to as the "Wild Hunt Challenge" by those running it, it took place on Halloween and involved participants walking around a local area of woodland in the daytime, and then repeating that task as a timed competition at night, "to gain mastery over an area of Gwyn ap Nudd's hunting ground". If completed successfully, it was held that the participant had gained the trust of the wood's spirits, and they would be permitted to cut timber from its trees with which to make a staff. The anthropologist Rachel Morgain reported a "ritual recreation" of the Wild Hunt among the Reclaiming tradition of Wicca in San Francisco.
The skull-faced Wild Hunt are derived from the European folk villains of the same name.
The tenth and final season of Adventure Time, an American animated television series created by Pendleton Ward, premiered on Cartoon Network on September 17, 2017 and ended on September 3, 2018. The season was produced by Cartoon Network Studios and Frederator Studios. It follows the final adventures of Finn (a human boy) and his best friend and adoptive brother Jake, a dog with magical powers to change shape and size at will. Finn and Jake live in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo, where they interact with the series' other main characters: Princess Bubblegum, The Ice King, Marceline the Vampire Queen, Lumpy Space Princess, BMO, and Flame Princess.
The season was storyboarded and written by Sam Alden, Graham Falk, Erik Fountain, Polly Guo, Tom Herpich, Seo Kim, Patrick McHale, Adam Muto, Hanna K. Nyström, Kent Osborne, Aleks Sennwald, Somvilay Xayaphone, and Steve Wolfhard. The season's multi-episode story arcs include Princess Bubblegum confronting her antagonistic Uncle Gumbald, Finn dealing with Fern's embrace of the dark side, and Betty trying to turn the Ice King back into Simon Petrikov.
The season began with "The Wild Hunt", which was seen by 0.77 million viewers (a decrease from the previous season's finale, "Three Buckets", which was viewed by 0.85 million). It ended with "Come Along with Me", a four-part episode which was the series finale. Critical reaction to the season was mostly positive, and the "Ring of Fire" episode was nominated for a Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Award in 2018. A DVD set of the season was released on September 4, 2018.CD Projekt
CD Projekt S.A. (Polish: [ˌt͡sɛˈdɛ ˈprɔjɛkt]) is a Polish video game publisher and distributor based in Warsaw, founded in May 1994 by Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński. Iwiński and Kiciński were video game retailers before they founded the company. CD Projekt is best known for their The Witcher series, developed by their CD Projekt Red division, and their digital distribution service GOG.com.
The company began translating major Western video-game releases into Polish, collaborating with Interplay Entertainment for two Baldur's Gate games. CD Projekt was working on the PC version of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance when Interplay experienced financial difficulties. The game was cancelled and the company decided to reuse the code for their own video game. It became The Witcher, a video game based on the works of Andrzej Sapkowski.
After the release of The Witcher, CD Projekt worked on a console port called The Witcher: White Wolf; but development issues and increasing costs almost led the company to the brink of bankruptcy. CD Projekt later released The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in 2011 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in 2015, with the latter winning various Game of the Year awards. The company's upcoming project is Cyberpunk 2077, an open-world role-playing game based on the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop game system, for which it opened a new division in Wrocław.
A video game distribution service, GOG.com was established by CD Projekt to help players find old games. Its mission is to offer games free of digital rights management (DRM) to players and its service was expanded to cover new AAA and independent games. The company opposes DRM in video games, and hopes that free downloadable content becomes an industry standard. CD Projekt considers maintaining their independence one of their most important strategies. By September 2017, it was the largest publicly traded video game company in Poland, worth about US$2.3 billion. It joined WIG20, an index of the 20 largest companies on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, in March 2018.Chasse-galerie
La Chasse-galerie also known as "The Bewitched Canoe" or "The Flying Canoe" is a popular French-Canadian tale of Coureurs des bois who make a deal with the devil, a variant of the Wild Hunt. Its best-known version was written by Honoré Beaugrand (1848–1906). It was published in The Century Magazine in August 1892.Cŵn Annwn
In Welsh mythology and folklore, Cŵn Annwn (Welsh pronunciation: [kuːn ˈanʊn], "hounds of Annwn") were the spectral hounds of Annwn, the otherworld of Welsh myth. They were associated with a form of the Wild Hunt, presided over by either Arawn, king of Annwn in the First Branch of the Mabinogi and alluded to in the Fourth, or by Gwyn ap Nudd as the underworld king and king of the fair(y) folk is named in later medieval lore.
In Wales, they were associated with migrating geese, supposedly because their honking in the night is reminiscent of barking dogs.
Hunting grounds for the Cŵn Annwn are said to include the mountain of Cadair Idris, where it is believed "the howling of these huge dogs foretold death to anyone who heard them".According to Welsh folklore, their growling is loudest when they are at a distance, and as they draw nearer, it grows softer and softer. Their coming is generally seen as a death portent.Gwyn ap Nudd
Gwyn ap Nudd (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈɡwɨn ap ˈnɨːð], sometimes found with the antiquated spelling Gwynn ap Nudd) is a Welsh mythological figure, the king of the Tylwyth Teg or "fair folk" and ruler of the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn, and whose name means “white son of Nudd”. Described later on as a great warrior with a "blackened face", Gwyn is intimately associated with the otherworld in medieval Welsh literature, and is associated with the international tradition of the Wild Hunt.Harii
The Harii ( West Germanic "warriors") were, according to 1st century CE Roman historian Tacitus, a Germanic people. In his work Germania, Tacitus describes them as using black shields and painting their bodies ("nigra scuta, tincta corpora"), and attacking at night as a shadowy army, much to the terror of their opponents. Theories have been proposed connecting the Harii to the einherjar, ghostly warriors in service to the god Odin, attested much later among the North Germanic peoples by way of Norse mythology, and to the tradition of the Wild Hunt, a procession of the dead through the winter night sky sometimes led by Odin.Lützow's Wild Hunt
Lützow’s Wild Hunt (German: Lützows wilde verwegene Jagd) is the title of a patriotic German song and a 1927 German silent war film.Maruts
In Hinduism, the Maruts or Marutas (; Sanskrit: मरुत), also known as the Marutagana and sometimes identified with Rudras, are storm deities and sons of Rudra and Prisni. The number of Marutas varies from 27 to sixty (three times sixty in RV 8.96.8). They are very violent and aggressive, described as armed with golden weapons i.e. lightning and thunderbolts, as having iron teeth and roaring like lions, as residing in the north, as riding in golden chariots drawn by ruddy horses.
Hymn 66 of Mandala VI of the Rig Veda is an eloquent account of how a natural phenomenon of a rain-storm metamorphoses into storm deities.In the Vedic mythology, the Marutas, a troop of young warriors, are Indra's companions. According to French comparative mythologist Georges Dumézil, they are cognate to the Einherjar and the Wild hunt.
According to the Rig Veda, the ancient collection of sacred hymns, they wore golden helmets and breastplates, and used their axes to split the clouds so that rain could fall. The clouds were capable of shaking mountains and destroying forests.
According to later tradition, such as Puranas, the Marutas were born from the broken womb of the goddess Diti, after Indra hurled a thunderbolt at her to prevent her from giving birth to too powerful a son. The goddess had intended to remain pregnant for a century before giving birth to a son who would threaten Indra.Peter Nicolai Arbo
Peter Nicolai Arbo (June 18, 1831 – October 14, 1892) was a Norwegian historical painter, who specialized in painting motifs from Norwegian history and images from Norse mythology. He is most noted for The wild Hunt of Odin, a dramatic motif based on the Wild Hunt legend and Valkyrie, which depicts a female figure from Norse mythology.The Game Awards 2015
The Game Awards 2015 was an award show that honored the best video games of 2015. It was produced and hosted by Geoff Keighley at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on December 3, 2015.The Tallest Man on Earth
Kristian Matsson (born 30 April 1983) is a singer-songwriter from Dalarna, Sweden, who performs under the stage name of The Tallest Man on Earth. Matsson grew up in Leksand, and began his solo career in 2006, having previously been the lead singer of the indie band Montezumas. His music has often drawn comparisons to the music of Bob Dylan.Since 2006, Matsson has released four full-length albums and two EPs. He records and produces these in his home, and usually records his voice and guitar together on one track. He is known both by his fans and his enemies for his charismatic stage presence.He was previously married to Amanda Bergman, also known by the stage name Idiot Wind. Together, they wrote the music for the Swedish drama film Once a Year.The Wild Hunt (Grimm)
"The Wild Hunt" is the 12th episode of season 3 of the supernatural drama television series Grimm and the 56th episode overall, which premiered on January 24, 2014, on the cable network NBC. The episode was written by series creators Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, and was directed by Rob Bailey.Yule
Yule or Yuletide ("Yule time" or "Yule season") is a festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the original celebrations of Yule to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.
Later departing from its pagan roots, Yule underwent Christianised reformulation resulting in the term Christmastide. Many present-day Christmas customs and traditions such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from pagan Yule traditions. Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are still used in Nordic countries to describe Christmas and other festivals occurring during the winter holiday season. Today, Yule is celebrated in Heathenry and other forms of Neopaganism, as well as in LaVeyan Satanism.