The Wild Hunt
Happy Weird Wednesday!
Today we’re going to train our eyes on the skies! And what do we see? A mighty hunter and a pack of dogs, horses, or other beasts racing across the horizon, making a terrible noise as they rush above you! What could it mean? Well, that depends on who you are.
Let’s say you might be— well, someone who’d end up on Santa’s naughty list. For you, the Wild Hunt can be more than a vision. It’s interactive! We’re talking Ghost Riders in the Sky here, aka Jacob Marley as a cowboy. This type of Wild Hunt is a warning from beyond.
As the riders loped on by him
He heard one call his name
‘If you wanna save your soul
From hell a-riding on our range
Then, cowboy, change your ways today
Or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the devil’s herd
Across these endless skies
For all the terror they bring, the Ghost Riders are actually benevolent. They care about you. So get your life together!
Now, let’s say instead that you might be an average citizen in a time of political upheaval and great anxiety about the future. For you, the appearance of the Wild Hunt may not be so helpful. In some traditions, the Wild Hunt is a bad omen— not just for those who see it, but for the entire society they represent. That’s right, those huntsmen chasing howling wolves across the sky means you’re going to have a war! Except! If the guy leading the hunt happens to be King Arthur or some other long-dead hero. Then you may be relieved, as the day is about to be saved, supernatural-superhero-style.
So far, we’ve talked about people who are witnessing the Wild Hunt. But what if you’re just trying to get some sleep, or possibly pass away peacefully in bed? I’m sorry to say that bed is no safe harbor, my friend, because sometimes the Wild Hunt is led by the devil or the fairies, and as they pass over your house, you may be abducted and taken into the chase— forever.
There are many other nuances to the Wild Hunt (for instance, the German tradition that werewolves from the procession will steal your beer) so the sky’s the limit, really, with writing prompts here.
Some Wild Prompts
- Cowboy, change your ways! If you’ve got a character receiving a warning from the Wild Hunt, they can either heed the advice or not. Perhaps your character wants to put off their repentance until the last moment, as some sinners plan to do. Maybe that works out and maybe it doesn’t.
- Doomed riders. You could focus on the sadder figures here— the poor souls (literally) who are already in the hunt for eternity. Sometimes these are people who committed the usual infractions: murder, theft, drinking, and so on. Or sometimes, these folks have done a Very Specific Thing that they may have be warned not to do, like hunting on the sabbath, or some other odd thing like don’t get off your horse until your dog jumps down. Fairies (and the devil) love this sort of warning! You can make it as absurd as you want, that’s the point. And if you fail in this one strange thing, you are doomed to the hunt forever.
- Abduction of the innocent. Fairies LOVE stealing people at any stage of life, birth through death. People can be stolen because they deserve it, or if they are beautiful or kind— a reverse of the Wild Hunt that serves as punishment for wicked souls. Sometimes the abductee can be rescued by a clever loved one who can pass the fairy trials, and sometimes the bereft simply want to join their lost person, even if it means eternally riding in the Wild Hunt themselves.
- A bad moon rising. The Wild Hunt as an omen of catastrophe can be used in different ways. Maybe it’s a hopeful sign, that big changes are ahead, even if the way will be rocky. Maybe it’s a shock to people leading an otherwise peaceful existence. And of course, the Hunt does not say anything about who is going to win.
- King Arthur returns. This is some Angels of Mons type stuff, where visions in the heavens do presage victory for one side or the other. But what if your character finds they recognize Wild Hunt Arthur as somebody they know? A grandparent, neighbor, or lover? Maybe someone could get abducted into the Wild Hunt only to realize that they themselves are the supernatural hero.
I hope you’ve enjoyed spending your Weird Wednesday on the Wild Hunt! Remember, keep watching the skies!
If you like creepy legends of the American West, feel free to check out Queer Weird West Tales from LIBRAtiger Press, which contains my story The Train Ticket: A man finds himself holding a train ticket to Hell after accidentally attempting to rob a ghost train.