Playlist for the Wylde Hunt

Another fun #2019GrimoireChallenge prompt from several weeks ago: music! Now I have different playlists for different moods: one that’s strictly speaking pagan tunes like Damh the Bard, Wendy Rule, S.J. Tucker, etc. for studying to; one that has music from Florence & The Machine, Stevie Nicks, Hozier, etc. that’s sort of my “witchy vibe” playlist; another of sea shanties that’s relaxing, but also sort of mournful and sad; one of musical scores from different films for writing to; the list goes on. What I wanted to share today though was my playlist specifically for The Wylde Hunt (the full Spotify Playlist is linked here and prolifically long because I like to be able to spend hours listening to music of a similar vibe). For purposes of this blog post, however, I’m going to pick 10 songs to share with you from it. So, in no particular order, just how they ended up in the list on Spotify:

  1. “Become the Beast” -Karliene Technically a fan-made song for Hannibal this is a wonderfully dark and spooky song that I had to include on my list. I actually have a lot of Karliene’s music on the playlist. She covers songs from films, writes music of her own, has her own renditions of some folk tunes, all around good stuff, and I recommend you check her out!
  2. I Don’t Speak Human” -OMNIA I also have a lot of OMNIA’s music on that playlist. This one speaks about humanity’s destruction of nature, and as the Wylde Hunt is sort of one with the forests, I saw it as particularly fitting.
  3. “Fehu” -Wardruna You might recognize this one from the show Vikings. It was used during one of the battle scenes in an earlier season of the show (Gods, I’m so behind on it; this makes me want to go back and binge-watch to catch up!). I can’t remember if I discovered the song before or after it was used on the show, but it’s got an awesome beat and makes me feel like going out and fighting all of my troubles. It’s a similar feeling to listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack while you’re going about your day. You just feel as though you have more purpose and can accomplish anything.
  4. “If I Die In Battle” -VanCanto VanCanto was shown to me by my boyfriend a couple of years ago. They’re mostly an a capella group + a drummer. This song is freaking epic: the vocals are powerful, the video is fantastic, and really what isn’t there to love about an a capella metal band, yeah, you heard that right: a capella metal. Please. Go watch this. It’s worth it.
  5. “The Parting Glass” -Loreena McKennitt OR Damh the Bard I can’t pick a favorite rendition of this song but I deeply love both Loreena McKennitt and Damh the Bard’s versions of them, so here I have included them both. It’s a little less battle-song and more folksy. I like to imagine I’m sitting at a pub with the hunters, or maybe around their campfire as I hear this song. Also, not to be morbid or nihilistic: I really want this song played at my funeral. It’s sad, but like, in a parting-of-friends way. I dunno. I just really love this song.
  6. “Fith Fath Song” -Damh the Bard Because I love Damh and need to give him more attention in this playlist, I’ve added this song. Again, a bit more folksy than some of the others I’ve listed here. It reminds me of the chase scene between Cerridwen and Taliesin in their myth, and felt appropriate for something I could imagine one of the members of the Wylde Hunt singing. I have several of Damh’s other songs on the playlist. He’s long been one of my very favorite artists as far as pagan / folk musicians go. He also runs the Druidcast for the OBOD. I’ll link his website here.
  7. “Safe & Sound” -Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars Heading back into the dark and spooky vibe, we come to “Safe & Sound.” I’m not really a fan of Taylor Swift, honestly, but I really like this song, and the Civil Wars, which brings me to…
  8. “Kingdom Come” -The Civil Wars this beautiful and haunting song that just gives me all of the autumn, Wylde Hunt lurking in the trees sort of vibes.
  9. “A Pict Song” -Emerald Rose This one is again folksy and kind of got that rearing for battle kind of a feel to it. One of my favorite areas of history to study is the Roman invasion of the Celtic lands because it’s where much of what little we know about the ancient Druids comes from. Imagine wild hunters from the lands of the Picts, still bitter about Roman invasion. I just really love this song.
  10. “If I Had A Heart” -Fever Ray This is another one from Vikings, and another sort of dark, primal, spooky song.

Do you make playlists for your spiritual workings? What sort of music do you associate with your deities / guides? Share them in the comments below!

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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Parting

Parting (1).png

When I am gone, my last slow breath
Adrift in the room’s stillness there,
Do not weep, nor seek, nor deny…
Where Death has come, in darkest depth,
I’ve risen thence into night’s air,
And Hunters lift me up to fly…

So find me in whispers of winds
That shake the cottonwoods; in light
From endless stars on coldest eves.
Hear singing- my voice- there adrift
On tides crashing in with the night.
See green- my eyes- in summer leaves.

And knowing wildness, you’ll know best:
I’ve flown with Hunters ever west…

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

The Sacred Hearth: The Importance of Fire in my Path

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I’ve been on a bit of a creative streak the past few days. In addition to a new YouTube video, and a number of Tumblr posts, I’ve been working on a personal digitization of my thirteen years’ worth of study. I’m unfortunately not able to share that particular project because of the number of things not properly sourced in it, but I can share some of the ideas that come from it, and the original writing that goes into it.

This particular post is going to deal with fire and more particularly the hearth fire. Some weeks back, I’d made a post detailing my “must-haves” as far as tools of my practice go. In it, I included the lantern which I hold a space for on my altar in honor of my moon goddess, but I realized that I had failed to include something of equal importance as I was working on my larger grimoire project: my small “hearth” which is represented by a miniature chiminea candle holder and a more literal hearth that I carved out of Sculpey to represent the hearth shrine I have within my sacred inner space.

For centuries the hearth or the need-fire was a central part of the household and community. Fire kept predators at bay. It provided warmth, comfort, and light. It provided the heat necessary to perform the alchemy of cooking or preparing medical remedies. It was a gathering place; a place where music, stories, and wisdom were shared among members of the community. And, to an extent, this is still true today. Who doesn’t feel warm and inexplicably at peace and connected while around a bonfire, sitting beside a fireplace, or while cooking in the kitchen? Our modern hearths are a little different, but their sense of sacred energy remains the same.

For me, a large part of my devotional path with the Wylde Hunt revolves around the hearth. I light a candle in the little chiminea at the beginning of ritual. I bring fire there when I’m sitting down to meditate or study. I offer a spot beside the fire in my sacred space for my gods and guides, to share that peace and warmth, to hear their wisdom, to share my music and poetry with them.

The candle holder in question reminds me also of an oven or a forge, and the power fire has to transform matter. Alchemy takes place in the flames, and food or metal is shaped and fired into something new. So I light my candles there also to bring about that power: of turning knowledge gained into wisdom and practice. To forge ideas and energy into manifested results.

How do you represent fire in your sacred space? Which energies of fire do you honor?

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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