Monday, August 27, 2007

Mistress of the Wild Hunt

This piece was inspired by traditional tales of the Wilde Jagd (German for "Wild Hunt") gleaned from various sources, and specifically by a particular entry describing Frau Goden as the main huntress of this spectral procession in German folklore. "Goden" is likely a morphing of the name of the God Woden/Odin who was also said to lead the Wild Hunt in Teutonic lore, and She is likely His female counterpart. Frau Holda in some cases also takes this role.

The Wild Hunt in various forms existed across many European cultures as a group of hounds and riders spilling out from the Otherworld in a fevered search for quarry. In Scotland the Wild Hunt was expressed in the form of the Sluagh or the Host and was composed of the restless spirits of the Unforgiven Dead. In other cases, the daimons which ravenged the countryside could be composed of the souls of the unbaptized, fallen angels, and/or the fay Themselves.

The faery hounds accompanying the Hunt are often said to be either black or white with red-tipped ears, and they have also accumulated their own share of names depending upon the locality including: Gabriel Hounds, sky yelpers, Gabriel Ratchets, Yell-Hounds, Yeth-Hounds, Wish Hounds (these former three terms are said to refer to a headless variety), Devil's Dandy Dogs, Cwn Annwn, hell hounds, etc.

In my depiction of this fey mistress she carries a horn inscribed with Norse knotwork, and woven through her fingers she balances a stone-tipped arrow. In the past, the discovery of Neolithic arrowheads was often attributed to faery craftsmen. The fey were said to use such arrowheads in the infliction of the "elf-shot" or "elf-blow" which could cause immediate paralysis and indicated that the soul of the person or animal wounded had been carried off by Them, leaving only a physical shell behind.

If you are interested in learning more about the Wild Hunt in folklore, and especially in the context of Germanic culture, I would highly recommend Penance, Power, and Pursuit: On the Trail of the Wild Hunt.

Size: 4.5" x 6"
Media: Prismacolor colored pencils, acrylic, ink, and watercolor on wood panel (the actual panel has semi-circular shapes which are cut out of each corner)