The Wild Hunt, winter solstice celebration demonized by Christianity

The Wild Hunt days are soon coming and I thought it would be perfect timing to talk a little bit about pre-Christian traditions and how these got to influence our sacred celebration of Yule.

If we follow the path of the moon and the sun, at the moment we are approaching the beginning of the Winter Solstice, when the new light is reborn and the days become longer once again after a period of darkness after Midsummer. Following the lunar and solar calendar gave us 11-12 extra days after counting 12 lunar cycles (months) before the sun rises again. This period of ‘’extra time’’ got to be most mystical for our ancestors that believed there was a reason behind these almost uncountable days. Days of mystery.

These got to be indeed the days when The Wild Hunt would take place. A pack of forest spirits raided the countryside and forests, sometimes visiting us, sometimes hiding in the deepest of the forests, guided by the All-father (Odin, in Scandinavia) or the Green Man (in England and Ireland).

It is believed that Christianity washed this tradition willing to demonise it and rather communicating that the forest spirits were rather demons, ghosts or undead. There is no source that claims people were scared of the Wild Hunt spirits, on the contrary, the Alpine female version of the Wild Hunt guide, Frau Holle, is seen as a generous spirit that gifts those that worked all year around. The Wild Hunt brings a snow blizzard and 12 days where day is stating to win over the night. This cannot possibly be translated as the Christian religion has dictated as malefic and evil. This is the return to life, in Europe.

”The Wild Hunt” by Johann Wilhelm Cordes (1856)

Is the All-Father blessing us?

Just like Frau Holle, in the northern parts of Europe, The Wild Hunt is usually guided by the All-father, Odin, who comes raiding either collects or spreads blessings. Often believed that the forest turns completely silent while only one of Odin’s dog is heard barking.

People still hold pre-Christian believes and until not long ago, in southern Sweden (Småland), when one would go visit church during Yule, one shall carry a piece of steel and bread in their pockets. If they’re to meet Odin, then throwing the steel piece in front of oneself helps, if meeting the dogs first, then throwing the bread.

Balder comes to life, again

And it happens when light wins over dark, when the line between the realms is so thin, that souls of our beloved, gods and goddesses and other spirits are tempted to raise and let themselves seen in front of humans – when the Wild Hunt starts.

Balder comes to life, after being slain by Loki using a mistletoe arrow (yet another symbol). The majority of what are now adopted as within the Christian tradition are deeply rooted in something way more complex and ancient, also known as: the Sun.

The header painting is ”Åsgårdsreien” by the Norwegian painter Peter Nicolai Arbo.