Connecting with the Wylde Hunt

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Friday’s @2019grimoirecchallenge prompt deals with connecting with Otherworldly energies and working with them in spiritual practice. By now, I’ve made it sort of clear which spirits and the like I work closely with, so this post is dedicated to the Wylde Hunt and my experiences working with them.

So, briefly: The Wylde Hunt is a phenomena that occurs across northern and western Europe, and in some parts of North America. It’s characterized by spectral figures, horses, or hounds which ride through the night and generally create some chaos and terror. What it is they’re hunting or changing depends upon the myth you’re reading- in fact a lot of the elements of the hunt vary depends upon the version of the story you’re dealing with. It can include fae, fallen heroes, gods, spirits of the dead, etc. etc. I go a bit more into detail on this in this post here.

My particular Wylde Hunt seems mostly to be human spirits and fae. Goblins are sometimes included in that, and they’re all led by a horned deity that up until very recently I was referring to as Herne, but who has come to be known by a different name, which is mine alone to know.

My work with them started back in October of 2011. I was working on homework the one night and got this sudden and urgent nudging to go outside. I ignored it for probably a good twenty minutes, like “No. I need to finish my homework…” But it persisted, so I grab some tarot cards and a pendulum and head outside. And standing at the firepit in our yard is this beautiful white tail doe. And she stares at me, and we kinda stand there for a bit… and then I gently creep closer… and she bounds off away to stand over on this hill near the tree I usually leave offerings at. So we stare at each other again… and then I gently creep closer once more, until off she bounds into the northwest and disappears into the trees.

Now, this hill was where I was intending to go in the first place; I was really fixated on dragons and leylines and thought there was going to be a connection there or something, but now I was fixated on this deer and the forest- like I could feel her still watching me from the tree line. And the name Wild Hunt kinda… came to me. I’m sure I’d read it in passing a few times; I’d recently started my journey with Celtic paganism, so it was likely it’d come up. But I didn’t have any real prior knowledge or interest in it- until this point. So, I break out the cards and the pendulum, and that becomes the answer I get for the question: “Who’s trying to contact me? / Who has a message for me?”

So I start to do research, and most sources recommend not contacting the Hunt at all, because, well, they’re sort of notorious for being dangerous. But I decide that I’m going to reach out and figure out what they want: so I go back to the hill a couple days later and I say “If you wish for me to work with you, if this is a partnership you’re seeking, let me see crows or ravens within a week’s time.” Crows and ravens are my sort of sign that something is afoot magically speaking, and they’re relatively common in our area. So, when suddenly there’s no sign of them for 6 days… I’m getting worried.

Halfway through the 7th day: I’m waiting for my mom to pick me up from retaking the ACT, and there’s suddenly a whole murder of crows behind me making a whole bunch of noise. And I’m like “Woah. Okay. I hear you.” And I look back towards the parking lot, and beyond it, there’s a hawk or falcon or something that comes up from the forest there, does maybe three circles, and then dips back down into the trees.

It took some time for me to really figure out how they were going to become a part of my practice. Their leader was my patron deity, so that wasn’t so hard to figure, but The Hunt itself is another thing altogether. Like anyone with any real knowledge of fae, I’m reasonably skeptical when it comes to just swearing allegiance to things, making deals, etc. They seemed to enter my life at the most inconvenient times: right when things were tumultuous and changing dramatically. At some point I realized that was probably the point.

In the video post linked above, I discuss my beliefs as to what they are and what purpose they sort of serve in the grander scheme of things: essentially they are psychopomps and agents of necessary destruction and change. They shake things up and carry you from one state of being to the next. When I realized this, they quit being quite as scary.

It was October of 2014, I believe, that I really properly dedicated myself to The Hunt in a formal sense. I had made a poppet to represent myself and taken it under the Hunter’s Moon out into the grove where we did much of our spellwork and gathering. I left it there in the crook of an oak at the center of the grove, I made offerings of alcohol and incense to them, and I swore myself to their service, which included:

  • Maintaining my altar and sacred space as a place for them to rest and visit. Essentially, I entered into a mutual bond of hospitality: when I did journeying work, I often visited their camp. They also were welcome at my hearth.
  • Creating poetry and artwork which focused on their myths and legends as well as my own new experiences with them. I took up the mantle of their bard, and you’ll notice I still write quite a bit of poetry inspired by them.
  • Working with them through periods of change. When I need help to clear the way; when I find myself getting stuck in a rut. I call on them. It’s amazing how much more controlled change can be when you willingly yield to it rather than fighting it. I also became interested in taking a similar role myself: in helping others through periods of transitions. I intend to undertake celebrant training with the OBOD following the completion of the Bardic Grade to work rituals for funerals, weddings, etc. I want to be help in those periods of transition for other people.
  • Developing skills related to hunting, outdoorsmanship, etc. I’ve casually taken up archery as a skill I want to learn. I’ve tried to educate myself whenever possible about things in my local environments: trees, wildlife, stars and the cycles of the seasons. The more I understand, the closer I feel to them. This has also included trying to be more conscious about what things I leave as offerings, recycling, using less energy, etc. to help mitigate at least a little harm done to the environment, and to vote in favor of policies that will benefit and help the natural world. That last part feels more important than ever these days.
  • Riding with the Hunt. I’ve mentioned already that I do journeying and visualization work. Some of it includes riding with the Hunt. This bullet point also includes my beliefs about my afterlife- that I will join them following the end of my life, and ride with them forever more.

These are the terms of my working with them, and are by no means the terms everyone should or would want to seek out.

I contact them in a number of ways but some off the top of my head are:

  • Taking hikes in the forest.
  • Leaving offerings of whiskey, dried meats, or bread.
  • Drumming.
  • Reading my poetry aloud somewhere like my backyard or the forest.
  • Calling to them in ritual work.
  • Visiting their camp in my journeying work.
  • Lighting a candle for them on my altar.

My advice when approaching any entities be they gods, fae, angels, whatever is this: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Know what exactly it is you’re working with, how people have historically interacted with these beings, what sort of tales exist about them, what offerings are common, etc. BE RESPECTFUL! Just like you’d probably be pretty polite and considerate when meeting a new friend or potential employer, you want to be polite and respectful of the powers that be. BE YOURSELF. Don’t go posturing or doing anything unnatural though. They have a sense of humor, and there’s a difference between being polite and serious about what you’re doing and taking yourself too seriously.

Best of luck, and forest blessings,
Rachel

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Hunters’ Engyln

Over several months, I’ve been playing around with different poetry styles and formats, and so as Winter rears its head, a snow and Wylde Hunt inspired group of englynion for you all to enjoy!

Shrine to the Horned One

Heavy laden with snow, the pines leaning
With ice gleaming—bend in time
To hoofbeats: the seven-tined

Lord of Hunters, he cloaked in feathers comes.
Beating hearts drum—break tethers—
Vanish in mists and heather.

Riders on the icy night winds beckon:
“Heed not reckoning nor sin.
Wildness comes and stirs within!”

Thinking About: Personal Deities

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This is a topic I’ve been wanting to take on for some time, but have been unable to find the proper words to do so- perhaps there never really are any. Something I’ve been working on over the past year or so is my relationship with deity. For several years, I’d defined myself and my path by them: “I’m a devotee of Herne the Hunter” or “I worship the Goddess Cerridwen” etc. I spent countless hours reading and re-reading myths, researching, learning, reaching out…

And over time had my own experiences that I then would try to rationalize against the mythologies. “I experienced x, is it y trying to contact me? How do I know?” I see these questions posted all over the online pagan communities- as though you were going to a doctor. List the symptoms, and someone will hopefully be able to tell you what it is you have. List your experiences and maybe someone who’s been practicing and studying longer than you will know the god or goddess who matches.

But when is a raven a messenger of Odin rather than a messenger of Bran or The Morrigan- or none of those at all? What if all signs point to Cerridwen, except this handful of experiences that don’t match anything in the established lore and practice of those already worshiping her? Does it matter? Does it make it less valid? How does one justify it?

What if, as it happened to me in the springtime of last year, you are faced with the divine who is such a myriad of things that she seems not to be able to fit in any one goddess’s body of myth?

Moon Goddess
The goddess in question appeared to me in several dreams and meditations cloaked in the deep blue of the starry night, half her face in shadow the other luminescent and beautiful like the moon. She carried in one hand a staff of birch that held a silvery sickle-moon crescent, and in the other a lantern that cast a cool blue light. She was a guardian of the cauldron, a washer of the ford, a wanderer in the mists, the cold kiss of death, the hands that wove the stars… And though I saw her face echoed in the stories of Morrigan, Cerridwen, Arianrhod, Hel, Artemis… I could not attribute a single one of these goddesses to her.

moon goddess sculpture

For a time, she worried and confused me. Who was she? I wanted to find an answer in a book or a blog post, or some obscure myth in fragment over the tides of history. The more I looked, the more pointless the search became, but still she called to me more than any deity ever had, and I knew I must answer her call.

I moved away from myth and tradition- though they have their place as things to honor, to draw inspiration from, to find guidance in- and started to simply interact with deity in the way it presented itself to me. What I have found is something more deep, profound, and personal than any relationship I’ve ever had. There is a goddess I worship whose name has, perhaps, only been whispered on my lips. She guides me in the darkness.

Horned God

A similar issue had arisen during college with my relationship with the Horned God. There was a darker side to the Hunter that I did not find present in existing myths, and I tried fruitlessly to pinpoint: Is it Herne, or some other being I work with? Now it does not matter. He appears to me dragon scaled or clad in a cloak of feathers, his eyes dark like the soil or the midnight sky, and like the Lady with the Lantern, he has names that only I call him, and my path is all the richer.

I guess what I am saying is that it is perfectly fine to connect with particular gods and goddesses, to reach for them or find inspiration and connection within the stories that exist about them. It’s more than okay to try and follow traditions and old ways and rationalize. But there’s something deep and rich and worth exploring, in not worrying about the who’s and why’s and letting the divine express themselves to you in the ways that they wish.

Blessings of the Forest, Frost, and Moon,
Rachel

 

A Whispered Return

You know me by the redd’ning leaves-
That touch of ice in the dawn.
Your every inch of being stills
In that brisk moment of my gaze- then… gone.
Ragged breath from ragged creature drawn-
Sharp.
In the knowing that my time is nearing,
And is that lustful anticipation or fearing that
Comes with the end of Cicada’s song?
You know that when the sunlight weans
I will ride in windy throng.
And each falling acorn in that clearing
Staccato.
Startling.
…Calm,
Draws you, begs you, calls you on-
To rest there on silken, fallen leaves.
Lie your head upon the moss-
For I am the truth the forest breathes,
He who in those shadows sees,
The whispered name amongst the trees,
The tingling in your spine that knows:
The Hunter comes again to call.