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From Cynnian comes this topic:
“Seasonally, maybe elucidate particulars with Odin and the Wild Hunt.”
It’s funny that I got this question when I did. I am currently reading Phantom Armies of the Night by Claude Lecouteux which goes over things like the Wild Hunt, the Furious Host, and other such phenomena. Lecouteux’s books are just awesome, and I highly recommend this for background on origins and theories around it.
Without quoting large swathes of the book, much of the work that he has uncovered tends to cover ideas that the Wild Hunt are, in part, made up of the Dead. In Christian sources these tend to be the unbaptized or especially sinful, and recounts of them tend to diverge into sermons against sin at varying points. However, Odin’s Wild Hunt tends to be composed of other beings as well. At times, valkyries seem to be implied to be part of it, masked folks who have joined it, folks whose hamr (Double as Lecouteux calls it) have joined the Hunt, as well as many other Beings.
Some useful quotes to this by Lecouteux:
“In Denmark, Odin sets out in pursuit of a supernatural being.” (69).
“One of the principal arguments made by scholars in favor of Odin as leader of the Wild Hunt is the motify of the storm.” (209).
“The most solid argument in Odin’s favor is undoubtedly the fact that the Infernal Throng sometimes consists of warriors and horsemen. As the god of war annd the owner of the horse Sleipnir, Odin is at home in this context. He also finds a place as master of Jöl (Jölnir), through his knowledge of necromancy and other magical practices that make him the god-shaman who has mastered the trance journey, and by his Einherjar, the dead warriors that make up the army with whom he will confront the powers of chaos during Ragnarök.” (214)
Another interesting quote is “Nicholas Gryse (1543-1614) cites a Mecklenburg custom intended to appearse Odin, he relays the words of a peasant song:
Wode, take now fodder for your horse
‘Tis now thistles and brambles
Next year it shall be most excellent grain.” (219)
This theme ties in themes of fecundity and fertility that Lecouteux goes on to explore in other contexts.
Lecouteux dedicates an entire chapter to Odin and the Wild Hunt and how it differs from things like the Furious Army, Odin’s Army, and related phenomena. What seems to me to be the biggest difference is the function or purpose of it. The Wild Hunt seems to me to be more restorative in its function than the Furious Army, the Diabolical Hunstman, and other motifs. Whether it is hunting a supernatural being such as an álf, or if it is passing over-through places as a host, it seems to be more of a restorative force or a balancing one, which also seems to have ties to fertility and fecundity, than merely dragging the Dead to hell or to the underworld. Many of the members of the Hunt are Dead, but they also can be other beings as well, and many are masked depending on the recounting.
Lecouteux sums this up pretty well, saying:
“What is most striking in the history of the Wild Hunt is its variability, its ability to meld with other beliefs, to draw elements from them and to combine them. The narratives we have read here allow us to see two large vectors. First is the ancestor worship that encourages the merger of the theme and the table of souls, the fairy repast. Next is the cult rituals culminate in masquerades and Carnival-like processions. Grafted upon this trunk are motifs taken from the legend of the wild huntsman and, when the clerics had taken possession of the Wild Hunt and adopted it in accordance with Christian dogm and other elements of medieval creation, the legend of a cursed hunter, which nothing but a miniature version of the Inernal Hunt that has been reduced to its simplest expression.” (237)
To sum up an excellent book and reams of folklore, Odin and the Wild Hunt tends to be a seasonal occurence (though it may also occur nightly depending on one’s understanding/time period) that brings fecundity, fertility, restoration, and balance back to the land and its people. Getting swept up in it is particularly dangerous whether in body or one’s hamr, but it can also be rewarding if you are prepared and able to handle it. This is where modern Wild Hunt cultus and esoteric work, such as I have experienced with Maleck Odinsson, comes into play.
In my experiences of it, the Wild Hunt does carry these ideas of fecundity, fertility, restoration, and balancing in my own experience of it. Our rituals tend to be oriented around the New Moon, and involve meeting the Wild Hunt in our hamr as it makes its nightly rounds. My experience of the Wild Hunt is that Odin is not is only leader, and that role does get passed around with other noted leaders of the Wild Hunt such as Frau Perchta, and I have seen Frigg lead the Hunt as well.
For preparation, I tend to mask up in my lyke (physical body) with my wolf pelt for the duration of the rite, keeping my taufr bag full of taufr to various Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in my pocket or nearby. Often, I will wear protective taufr and taufr tied to Odin, wolves, Fenrisúlfr, and other Gods, including my valknut, Mjölnir, wolf, and bracelet with úlfheðnar bracteates on them. During the rite my hamr will generally take the form of a werewolf, wolf, or some other similar being, though I have kept a human-like form for the Hunt before. In joining the Hunt, I have found it to often already be in progress. Sometimes I am allowed to hunt certain beings who have caused harm to the community, and other times I am told to stick with the Hunt and hunt who They do. Sometimes it is both.
So what now? You’re in the Wild Hunt. Maybe you’re following it in its round, or maybe you’re being told to go handle something. So you do. Sometimes it is being in the noise of the storm, being the storm. Others, it is a predator on the hunt with your packmates, tearing apart something that has done another wrong. Sometimes it is taking up a spear or a sword and driving it into a vaettr, whether human or not, and letting the blood soak. Sometimes it is merely riding with the Hunt and experiencing it from within. Sometimes the Hunt takes you over and you are a snarling thing, an extension of something, someone else, no longer your own. Whatever it is, the Wild Hunt lives up to its namesake. It is wild, it is chaotic, it is powerful, and it is raw.
Then you come back into a body that feels hungry and tired, and sometimes also so full of energy you feel you could run a marathon. Then the energy crash hits after some food, or a good drink of coffee or tea. The Wild Hunt takes and it blesses. It ravages and rights. It is the use of power to do, and cultivating power to use in the Hunt is, in my experience, part and parcel of doing that Work.
What I find quite interesting is how many of my experiences of the Wild Hunt comport with the writings that are left to us on it. I find it striking in the similarity it carries to other nightly/seasonal spirit flight and spiritwork recountings, such as the benedanti and Thiess of Kaltenbrun’s experiences as a werewolf.
These are my insights into Odin and the Wild Hunt.