Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Wild Hunt

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 2, 2014

Marutas

Einherjar

Wild hunt

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

In Hinduism the Marutas, also known as the Marutagana and sometimes identified with Rudras, are storm deities and sons of Rudra, forms and followers of the god Rudra-Shiva that make eleven of the Thirty-three gods in the Hindu pantheon, and Prisni and attendants of Indra, an ancient Vedic deity who later came to be identified with Shiva.

Hymn 66 of Mandala VI of the Rig Veda is an eloquent account of how a natural phenomenon of a rain-storm metamorphoses into storm deities. The number of Marutas varies from 27 to sixty (three times sixty in RV 8.96.8).

They are very violent and aggressive, described as armed with golden weapons i.e. lightning and thunderbolts, as having iron teeth and roaring like lions, as residing in the north, as riding in golden chariots drawn by ruddy horses.

According to the Rig Veda, the ancient collection of sacred hymns, they wore golden helmets and breastplates, and used their axes to split the clouds so that rain could fall. They were widely regarded as clouds, capable to shaking mountains and destroying forests.

According to later tradition, the Marutas were born from the broken womb of the goddess Diti, after Indra hurled a thunderbolt at her to prevent her from giving birth to too powerful a son. The goddess had intended to remain pregnant for a century before giving birth to a son who would threaten Indra.

In the Vedic mythology, the Marutas, a troop of young warriors, are Indra’s companions. According to French comparative mythologist Georges Dumézil, they are cognate to the Einherjar and the Wild hunt.

The Wild Hunt is an ancient folk myth prevalent across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, with horses and hounds in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground, or just above it.

The hunters may be the dead or fairies (often in folklore connected with the dead). The hunter may be an unidentified lost soul, a deity or spirit of either gender, or may be a historical or legendary figure. Seeing the Wild Hunt was thought to presage some catastrophe such as war or plague, or at best the death of the one who witnessed it. Mortals getting in the path of or following the Hunt could be kidnapped and brought to the land of the dead.

In Germany, where it was also known as the “Wild Army”, or “Furious Army”, its leader was given various identities, including Wodan (or “Woden”), Knecht Ruprecht (cf. Krampus), Berchtold (or Berchta), and Holda (or “Holle”). The Wild Hunt is also known from post-medieval folklore.

The ritual re-enactment of the Wild Hunt was a cultural phenomenon among many Gallic and Germanic peoples. In its Germanic manifestations the Harii painted themselves black to attack their enemies in the darkness. The Heruli, nomadic, ecstatic wolf-warriors, dedicated themselves to Wodan.

The Norse god Odin in his many forms, astride his eight-legged steed Sleipnir, came to be associated with the Wild Hunt in Scandinavia because of his aspect of berserking. Odin acquired the aspect of the Wild Huntsman, along with Frigg. The passage of this hunt was also referred to as Odin’s Hunt. People who saw the passing hunt and mocked it were cursed and would mysteriously vanish along with the host; those that joined in sincerity were rewarded with gold (H. A. Guerber, 1922).

In the wake of the passing storm, with which the Hunt was often identified, a black dog would be found upon a neighboring hearth. To remove it, it would need to be exorcised similar to the custom for removing changelings. However, if it could not be removed by trickery; it must be kept for a whole year and carefully tended.

Otto Höfler (1934) and other authors of his generation emphasized the identification of the hunter with Odin, looking for the traces of an ecstatic Odin cult in more recent customs from German-speaking areas.

In view of this, John Lindow of the University of California, Berkeley (Lindahl et al. 2002:433) notes that more recent scholarship “would argue a basis in an Indo-European warrior cult in which young warriors imbued with the life force fight with the characteristics of animals, especially those of wolves, and are initiated into a warrior band […].”

The Hindu document Bhagavata Purana mentions a similar appearance in south Asia: “This particular time is most inauspicious because at this time the horrible-looking ghosts and constant companions of the lord of the ghosts are visible. Lord Shiva, the king of the ghosts, sitting on the back of his bull carrier, travels at this time, accompanied by ghosts who follow him for their welfare.”

In Norse mythology, the einherjar (Old Norse “single (or once) fighters”) are those that have died in battle and are brought to Valhalla by valkyries. In Valhalla, the einherjar eat their fill of the nightly-resurrecting beast Sæhrímnir, and are brought their fill of mead (from the udder of the goat Heiðrún) by valkyries. The einherjar prepare daily for the events of Ragnarök, when they will advance for an immense battle at the field of Vígríðr; the battle which the “ein” (here meaning single-time) refers to.

The einherjar are attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, the poem Hákonarmál (by the 10th century skald Eyvindr skáldaspillir) as collected in Heimskringla, and a stanza of an anonymous 10th century poem commemorating the death of Eric Bloodaxe known as Eiríksmál as compiled in Fagrskinna.

Scholarly theories have been proposed etymologically connecting the einherjar to the Harii (a Germanic tribe attested in the 1st century AD), the eternal battle of Hjaðningavíg, and the Wild Hunt. The einherjar have been the subject of works of art and poetry.

The Harii (Latinized West Germanic “warriors”) were, according to 1st century CE Roman historian Tacitus, a Germanic people. In his work Germania, Tacitus describes them as painting themselves and their shields black, and attacking at night as a ghostly army, much to the terror of their opponents. Theories have been proposed connecting the Harii to the Einherjar of much later Norse mythology, and to the tradition of the Wild Hunt.

Regarding the Harii, Tacitus writes in Germania: As for the Harii, quite apart from their strength, which exceeds that of the other tribes I have just listed, they pander to their innate savagery by skill and timing: with black shields and painted bodies, they choose dark nights to fight, and by means of terror and shadow of a ghostly army they cause panic, since no enemy can bear a sight so unexpected and hellish; in every battle the eyes are the first to be conquered.

According to John Lindow, Andy Orchard, and Rudolf Simek connections are commonly drawn between the Harii and the Einherjar of Norse mythology; those that have died and gone to Valhalla ruled over by the god Odin, preparing for the events of Ragnarök.

Lindow says that regarding the theorized connection between the Harii and the Einherjar, “many scholars think there may be basis for the myth in an ancient Odin cult, which would be centered on young warriors who entered into an ecstatic relationship with Odin” and that the name Harii has been etymologically connected to the -herjar element of einherjar.

Simek says that since the connection has become widespread, “one tends to interpret these obviously living armies of the dead as religiously motivated bands of warriors, who led to the formation of the concept of the einherjar as well as the Wild Hunt”.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, called the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ to Saint John the Evangelist at 6:1-8. The chapter tells of a book or scroll in God’s right hand that is sealed with seven seals.

The Lamb of God, or Lion of Judah (Jesus Christ), opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons four beings that ride out on white, red, black, and pale horses. Although some interpretations differ, in most accounts, the four riders are seen as symbolizing Conquest, War, Famine, and Death, respectively.

The Christian apocalyptic vision is that the four horsemen are to set a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment. In Hinduism, Kalki (Devanagari: meaning ‘Eternity,’ ‘White Horse,’ or ‘Destroyer of Filth’) is the final incarnation of Vishnu in the current Mahayuga, foretold to appear at the end of Kali Yuga, the current epoch.

Religious texts called the Puranas foretell that Kalki will be atop a white horse with a drawn blazing sword. He is the harbinger of the end time in Hindu eschatology, after which he will usher in Satya Yuga.

Lord of the universe and all unlimited parallel dimensions, Vishnu is another name for the almighty God. Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent, his final reincarnation revolves around the Eternal sun which revolves around the Armageddon, the moon and end of time.

The name Kalki is a metaphor for eternity or time. Its origins may lie in the Sanskrit word kalka which means foulness or filth. Hence, the name translates to the ‘destroyer of foulness,’ ‘destroyer of darkness,” or ‘destroyer of ignorance.’ Another etymology from Sanskrit is ‘white horse.’

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