Friday 31 October 2008

Herne & The Wild Hunt

As today is Halloween, or Samhain, The Bad Witch's God of the Week has to be Herne, who in British Folklore is often portrayed as leading The Wild Hunt.

Herne is a British god of the forests, much venerated by modern pagans who grew up watching ITV's Robin of Sherwood in the 1980s. In the series, which is set in the late Middle Ages, Robin (played by Michael Praed) meets a figure in the woods who is clad in a stag's pelt. He claims to be the god Herne the Hunter and makes Robin promise to protect the poor and downtrodden against the Normans.

To my young and impressionable eyes Michael Praed was quite godlike, so any deity he worshipped was more than good enough for me. I wonder how many other witches of my generation were led along their path by the same attraction?

Herne is sometimes associated with the Celtic god Cernunnus. The website states:

"CERNUNNUS: A very Deer God. He has antlers and runs around a lot with wild animals. He is probably also the entity known as Herne The Hunter, worshipped in Great Britain and very popular with Morris Dancers."

Herne is only one of the deities said to lead the Wild Hunt, others include Woden or even Diana. The Wild Hunt consists of ghosts, fairies, spirits of wild animals and even humans who unwittingly hear the call of its huntsman's horn. This furious pack is said to be abroad on the night of Halloween and anyone in its way either joins the hunt or becomes its prey.

It is, of course, meant to be scary. But that little part of my mind that is still stuck on Michael Praed can't help thinking "Herne can come and hunt me any night he likes..."

The Concise Mythological Dictionary


Anonymous said...

Very funny. I've always had an attraction to Herne or Cernunnos, too. I'll be looking for the hunt this evening--sounds like it would be a rush to get caught up in that. Or is my naivete showing? Always more to learn....

Badwitch said...

Exciting, but dangerous, I expect :) Happy Samhain!

Anonymous said...

I agreed with you about Robin of Sherwood. That started me on the slippery slope to Paganism and The Waterboys,Led Zep and tarot cards helped too.

robin hood said...

Hi BadWitch,

Thanks for the link.

I shall reciprocate with a link back to this post on the posts I've written regarding Herne, and also The Green Man.

Best wishes.

Gilgamesh said...

It is unlikely that Herne is Cernunnos as there is absolutely no evidence that that deity was ever worshiped in Great Britain, as he was a local deity from around what is now Paris. A better suggestion is that Herne comes from Herian, a name for the Old English god Woden.

However, he could just be a more modern local figure is heathen motifs. A sort of heathen myth from outside the heathen era!

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