The Wild Hunt is in Celtic and Germanic folklore, a furious bunch of ghosts of the restless dead who ride through the sky on their phantom horses accompanied by their spectral hounds, shrieking and making wild noises (see ghosts, Hauntings And Witchcraft). The hounds and horses are black, with hideous eyes. In various medieval versions of the Wild Hunt, witches join the phantoms, and the ghostly train is led by pagan goddesses-turned-devils (by Christianity), including Diana, Holda, Herodias, Hecate and Berchta.
A Cornish version of the Wild Hunt, Devil’s Dandy Dogs, is the most diabolical of ghostly packs, hunting the countryside for human souls. The Sluagh, or the Host, is a band of the unforgiven dead of the Highland fairy folk (see Fairies). Diana’s night train punished the lazy and wicked but were generous on occasion: if a peasant left out food for them, they ate it and magically replenished it before they left.
The Wild Hunt is still seen flying over the countryside on Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve.
FURTHER READING :
- Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1972.
- Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.