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Tales of the Wild Hunt

Updated on December 11, 2019
James Slaven profile image

James has written for various magazines, including Celtic Guide, Mythology Magazine, and Pagan Forest.

Asgardsreien - The Wild Hunt of Odin (Peter Nicolai Arbo 1872)
Asgardsreien - The Wild Hunt of Odin (Peter Nicolai Arbo 1872)

True stories of the Wild Hunt! At least, they come from folklore transcriptions and who am I to judge. After all, who amongst us hasn’t heard the baying of dogs, the clopping of horses, and the sounding of a hunting horn while the thunder rolls during a storm?

This also seems like the perfect time of year to share these, as the Hunt is historically seen more often in the winter months, starting at Hallow Mass (Halloween) and into November, but especially at the winter solstice and Yule nights, up through the Twelve Nights of Christmas, which ends with Epiphany on January 6th.

There’s more to come, between all the various aspects of the Wild Hunt (Odin, Gwyn ap Nudd, and Frau Holle, for example) and the activities they perform (watch out if you’re in a barn with both doors open!). For those of you who enjoy a bit of the old-fashioned ghost story telling at Christmas, feel free to use these (they’re public domain after all). I’ve left them in the folklore mode, with the odd grammar and all, and I’ve had good luck with their telling while doing my accents. So enjoy as you revel in the season! The season of joy and the season of dark. MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Woden's Wilde Jagd (F.W. Heine 1882)
Woden's Wilde Jagd (F.W. Heine 1882)

Of the Wild Hunt in the Orkney Isles

I’m telling this tale of my grandpa, who's a fisherman in the Orkney Isles. It was Christmas time, but the family still needed food. So he's going to go out and see if he could catch anything, even though it's frigid. He's going to see if he could get his boat out and go into the icy water. And my grandmother, she said, ‘don't go, Bert, don't go. You know, the eight legged horse is about. Of course, that means Odin on his horse, the eight legged one when he goes galloping around, because at Christmas time, he'll come for your soul.’ But Bert, my grandfather, he went out anyway. And he's out. And it's starting to lightning, starting to flash, and he's starting to get a little worried, not for the Wild Hunt, but because he thought he's going to die. And suddenly hears dogs howling in the distance. And he's not sure how because it's coming from the north and the north of where they're at is the sea. And he starts to become panicked. And he tries to get the oars in. He wasn't far out, but he's still panicked, and he's trying to row back and row back and row back, but he doesn't seem to be getting anywhere. But he finally makes it back to shore. And there on the shore are dark shapes, some hounds, and a man on a horse looking at him. And the man on the horse has a hood on his face and he can't see him but of course he knows who it is. Odin. My grandpa says he'd never been so scared of his life. But Odin simply sets down a net that's wiggling around a bit. And my grandpa and the lightning and the thunder and the lightning and he could see this and he sees fish in it. But then they're gone. Except the net, the baggy net, is still there. And he’s so thankful, he’d always heard that it's bad luck to see the Wild Hunt. So he takes the fish inside. And my grandmother's cleaning them as he's warming up by the fire with a wee dram. And suddenly he hears a shriek from the kitchen. And he goes in and they're among all the fish was a human leg.

Parents Warning about Herne the Hunter

My mom would warn me about going out at night, because we lived close to where Herne the Hunter was. I think it was because they didn’t like me going out at night as a kid, but she’d say ‘yeah, because your dad saw him when he was a kid. And he came after him, and he barely escaped his life.’ And I’d saw this big scar on his stomach and it did scare me off a bit. Later I found out it was my dad’s appendectomy. It still worked at the time, sometimes.

Herne the Hunter (George Cruikshank circa 1843)
Herne the Hunter (George Cruikshank circa 1843)

The Fairies came for my Aunt

Ah, my Aunt Mary died, and we put her to rest and we're staying up with the corpse. Because back in the time, we couldn't always have them taken someplace where they'd be kept, so we had to keep them there for a while until the people could come get her. So we're staying up with her. And of course we have all the sheets on the mirrors and everything because you can't have the corpse, the spirit, coming back. But anyway, we also made sure we closed all of the doors and the windows on the Western side because that's where the fairies would come through, they’d come through in big ravenous groups like birds and ravens, and they would try to take the soul. And so we shut everything up. But we're sitting there staying up with the corpse. And what having some porter because the funerals, of course, you got to have make sure you have whiskey and porter, because people don't want to think you're poor even when you are. So we're sitting there with Mary, my Aunt Mary, and she's wonderful lady, but everything is shut up. But Joe had to go outside to take care of something. And he did and he left the door open, and a huge, huge howling wind came through and blew out all the candles. And we couldn't see anything and a shriek came and we could hear a lot of voices. And we suddenly didn't know what's going on. And we found the candle and a match and we lit it. And as we come on, we all were frightened to death because Aunt Mary's body had sat up and was staring at us and we thought it was the sluagh sidhe who had come through. So we all hustle out of the house and try to chase it down, but when we come back because we couldn't get it all of us being sad, and having many porters, there she was still and we realized it just been the rigor mortis, we think. But to this day, my mother insists that her poor sister Mary, her soul has been taken by the fairies, because they came sweeping through, because of her stupid brother Joe who left the door open.

The Sluagh
The Sluagh

Keep these stories in mind when you go out this winter. Beware any hunting parties and keep your eyes averted if you hear one. Until next time, slainte and Wassail… and pleasant dreams!


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    • James Slaven profile imageAUTHOR

      James Slaven 

      17 months ago from Indiana, USA

      Thanks, Linda!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      17 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      These are scary and interesting stories! I enjoyed reading them.


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