Wild Hunt

The wild hunt: Asgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo

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,[1] and the leader of the hunt is often a named figure associated with Woden[2] (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.[3] People encountering the Hunt might also be abducted to the underworld or the fairy kingdom.[4] In some instances, it was also believed that people's spirits could be pulled away during their sleep to join the cavalcade.[5]

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.[2] Grimm popularised the term Wilde Jagd ("Wild Hunt") for the phenomenon.

Comparative evidence and terminology

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,[6] the Devil's Dandy Dogs (in Cornwall),[7] Gabriel's Hounds (in northern England),[8] and Ghost Riders (in North America).[9] 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"),[10] and Odens jakt or Vilda jakten (Swedish: "the hunt of Odin" or "wild hunt").

In France, it was known as Mesnée d'Hellequin (Old North French: "household of Hellequin"); in Canada it becomes Chasse-galerie. 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) 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.

"Wodan's Wild Hunt" (1882) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine
Other Languages
Alemannisch: Wildes Heer
العربية: وايلد هانت
беларуская: Дзікае Паляванне
Boarisch: Wüde Jogd
čeština: Divoká honba
Deutsch: Wilde Jagd
한국어: 빌데야크트
Bahasa Indonesia: Wild Hunt
Limburgs: Wil Jach
Nederlands: Wilde Jacht
norsk: Oskorei
norsk nynorsk: Oskoreia
polski: Dziki Łów
português: Caçada selvagem
русский: Дикая охота
svenska: Odens jakt
українська: Дике Полювання
中文: 狂猎