The Wild Hunt!

The Wild Hunt is a supernatural force that sweeps across the land at night. The actual object of the Hunt varies from place to place. In some areas it searches for anything that might be unforunate enough to be in its path. Others say it hunts evildoers.

The leader of the Hunt also varies. In Celtic Britain it is usually led by Cernunnos, the horned god. In Wales it is led by Gwyn ap Nudd, and sometimes Bran. After the Anglo-Saxons had settled in England, Cernunnos became Herne the Hunter.

The night hunt by the Slaugh with their terrible hounds. They are said to kidnap humans they encounter during their rides.

In Wales, Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Fairies and of the Dead, is the leader of the Wild Hunt, or the Cwn Annwn, the Hounds of Hades, with white bodies and red ears. On stormy nights he sweeps across the country-side, tracking down the souls of the newly dead, precisely as did the .sluagh of Scotland. Walter Map, who dealt in curious lore, tells us how a certain Herla, a king of ancient Britain, who once visited a fairy mound, was warned not to dismount from his steed on his return, lest, like all those who tarry in the bounds of Elfin, he might crumble to dust when his feet touched the earth. So he and his companions, with their hounds, were doomed to ride onward for ever, and many were to be found who asserted that they had seen him and his host galloping through the wilder parts of Herefordshire. Arthur is also associated with the tradition of the Wild Hunt, more particularly in Scotland, and as a spirit of the wind. As an old Scottish rhyme has it:

Arthur o’ Bower has broken his bands

And he’s come roaring owre the lands,

The King a’ Scots and a’ his Power

Canna turn Arthur o’ Bower.

By many writers the Wild Hunt has been claimed as a typically Teutonic myth, with its leader being Woden or Odin. That this is not so, its Celtic and British variants reveal. Nor is it probable that it was a Teutonic importation, accepted by the Celtic peoples. The Lowland Scottish “fairy rade”, or mounted procession of the elves, is merely a variant of it. To primitive man, the sound and fury of the tempest at night gave the impression of a furious host riding by, and he imagined that the gods or the spirits of his fancy were abroad, and, with their hounds, were engaged in “rounding up” the souls of the newly dead, bearing them off to the country where the deceased had their abode. The myth was certainly popular among the peoples of Europe at an early period. In later times it came to be associated with popular heroes, Arthur, Barbarossa, and others, and was even connected with the nightly revels of witches, Dame Holda, Herodias and Aradia, an Italian form of Titania, or Diana, the hunting-goddess, who was accompanied by a pack of hounds. The circumstance that a legend exists which tells how Gabriel, the Angel of Death, sends out his ratchets, or hounds, to discover those who were about to die, and that they were supposed to do so by their powers of scent, makes the significance of the earlier form of the myth perfectly clear.

So what exactly is the Hunt? A force of good or of evil? Is it exclusively a Celtic phenomenon, and have enemies of Celtic cultures created stories of the evil Hunt as propaganda? Or have the Celtic gods allied themselves with a force of evil, to better hunt other evil? The true answer is: none of the above. The Wild Hunt is neither good nor evil. It is purest neutral, indeed representing the force of the hunt and chase within nature.

The Wild Hunt exists for the chase. It is capable of following its prey though any environment, from the densest jungles, to the deepest deserts, even across the sea, or into the airless reaches of space. The Hunt is tireless, hounding prey until they catch it. And the hounds of the Hunt seem to never lose the scent, being able to track over solid stone, or running water, or any other substance. Indeed, the hounds are capable of tracking even beings that should not leave a scent, like spectres or beings of energy.

The Hunt usually does not leave its home on the Outlands. For it to go elsewhere, it must be summoned. To summon it, a powerful connection with nature is very helpful. This is why the Celtic powers so often use the Hunt; they are very in tune with nature, and find it particularly easy to call on it. Other pantheons also summon the Hunt, although much more rarely.

Powerful mortal spellcasters can also summon the Hunt. Wizards use a very potent spell to do so, on the level of wish or prismatic sphere. Priests can also summon the Hunt, although they must be granted one of the powerful magics known as quest spells by their god to do so.

Once a being is being tracked by the Hunt, it immediately feels a terrible supernatural fear. A being so pursued usually thinks only of fleeing in terror, regardless of whether it knows what is after it. It takes a very powerful will to resist this. The Wild Hunt can always travel just slightly faster than its prey is going, allowing it to reach its quarry in two to eight days. Of course, often the Hunt is told to simply chase a being, not catch it, so it will nearly catch up to the prey, then slow slightly so that the prey can keep just far enough ahead.

The Hunt is almost impossible to shake off. The Hunt can follow the trail of its quarry through any medium, including vacuum. Any normal form of spatial travel is completely useless in losing the Hunt. The only known way to lose the Hunt is to shift planes, and even this is not guaranteed to be effective.

The Wild Hunt lives in the Outlands, in a forested realm near Tir Na Og. The land is differentiated from the realm of the Celtic powers by the density and unsettled nature of the forest there. Even in the deepest regions of Tir Na Og, the trees do not grow as closely, or the underbrush as tangled, as in the Stalking Ground.

The Stalking Ground is an area dedicated to the hunt and kill. The Wild Hunt roams through the woods, tracking anything that strikes their fancy. Often, the hunt breaks up into smaller groups that each hunt alone. The Stalking Grounds seem, to the casual traveller, to be relatively small. They can be traversed in only a day or two. However, travellers in the Stalking Grounds risk a dreadful danger. Any being within the Wild Hunt’s territory is considered fair prey. If the Hunt decides to go after a person, the Stalking Ground suddenly becomes much bigger. The person pursued suffers all the effects of anyone pursued by the Hunt. They immediately try to run as far and as fast as they can. People trying to reach the edge of the Stalking Grounds, however, are in for a nasty surprise. While they are being pursued, the region seems to go on forever.

No being has ever told of reaching the border while they were being hunted. Usually, the Hunt will pursue for a few days, then give up, if they have not caught their prey. After they stop hunting a person, he or she can once again find the border without difficulty. However, a far different fate awaits those who the Hunt catches. Usually, prey run to ground is torn apart by dogs, or killed by the huntsmen.

This, however, is not the end for the unfortunates caught by the Hunt. On the dawning of the next day, they rise again, fully healed of all wounds and weariness. In fact, they have even more than they started with, for they are now completely capable of taking care of themselves in the wilderness of the Stalking Grounds. But there is a great drawback to this “miracle”: people caught and killed by the Hunt can no longer leave the Stalking Grounds. To them, it is infinite in scope. They may wander as long as they will, but they will never find the end. They may not be hunted all the time, but every being in the Stalking Grounds runs the risk of being hunted, and slain by the Hunt again. Not even powerful magics such as wish are able to remove a person from Hunt’s domain. To date, prayers to the Powers have been ineffective, or at least unanswered. It is unknown whether the Powers are prevented from interfering with the Hunt, or whether they simply do not wish to.

An interesting fact is that the Hunt never seems to leave the Stalking Grounds, even when they have been summoned. They seem to have the ability to endlessly duplicate themselves, going to all the various planes to which they are summoned, and still staying within their land.


About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).