Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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American Wild Hunt

Seventh Day of Yule, and the Wild Hunt is off and running. 

Last night we heard Old Storm and his buddies the Winds out howling and crashing, all night long.

This morning, there were broken tree limbs down all over the city. The streets were littered with them.

The Wild Hunt, all right, right on cue.

If you look at the folklore about the Wild Hunt, you'll see mostly scare stories, and, indeed, you really don't want to meet them out on the prairie, or anywhere, really. Then a broken limb would be getting off easy.

But, as usual in the Wonderful World of the Many that is polytheism, that's not the whole story.

For the Wild Hunt also has another side.

Any field over which the Wild Hunt rides, they say, will bear double its usual yield during the year to come.

The Deitsch of Eastern Pennsylvania tell the tale that during their first winter in America in the 17th century, they were facing sure starvation until the Wild Hunter and his companions drove a herd of deer over Kittittany Ridge and so saved them all.

And from the bloody froth that drips from the Hunter's steed's mouth, white and red, up spring the white-flecked red-cap mushrooms that shamans use to fly.

Just like the Rider Himself, the First Shaman.

Film-maker Brian Branston (in his thoroughly-engaging book Lost Gods of England) was the first that I know of to suggest that the classic song Ghost Riders in the Sky refers to an American incarnation of the Wild Hunt.

If we're talking folkloric continuity, I doubt it.

But if we're talking about one of those perennial ideas that constantly reemerge because they're part of the fabric of things and always will be, you can sign me on.

They've got to ride forever on that range up in the sky,

on horses snortin' fire; as they ride on, hear their cry.

One way or t'other, it's a song I find myself singing a lot these days.

Along with the other Yule carols. 


Peter Nicolai Arbo, The Wild Hunt of Odin (1868)


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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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