The Wild Hunt

Back in 1987, or maybe 1988, between Christmas and New Year’s day, my wife and I were driving back from her sister’s house in DeKalb, Illinois. It was around midnight and near blizzard conditions. No snow had been predicted, but hell, it’s the Midwest near Chicago, and around here we say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

The roads were nearly empty except for us, and a few other fools, and it was all farmland with few houses. The housing development boom hadn’t gotten west of the Fox river yet, and being Illinois, the terrain was mainly flat, so the wind could pick up some speed. We were heading east with the wind behind us, gusting from a few miles an hour to a sudden thirty or forty miles an hour and then to nothing, just as fast.

As we neared a road we had to go north on, the wind picked up and the snow went blasting heavily past the car. I asked the wife,”Anything feel weird to you?” She said it felt really eerie out, as though something was riding in the wind. That was exactly what I sensed. As I made the left turn onto the northbound road, a huge gust nearly shoved the car into the ditch. I drove a few hundred feet north and pulled off to the side, wanting to wait a bit to see if things would lighten up a bit, weirdness-wise.

The wind increased to a steady gale. We both saw what looked like human forms, forming and disappearing in the blasting snow overhead.

Sounds like hunter’s horns and dogs baying seemed to issue from the wind. Tingling sensations ran up and down our spines, probably our hairs trying to stand on end.

A few minutes passed. The whole shebang, wind, snow, and all, headed off to the east. I pulled back onto the road and drove us home.

What was all this shenanigans? I think it was the Wild Hunt.

The Wild Hunt is a European folk myth. Versions of it are found from the British Isles through the whole of Europe into the Slavic countries.

Jacob Grimm thought the myth was a remnant of pre-Christian Europe. The hunt, led by a god and a goddess, either visited “the land at some holy tide, bringing welfare and blessing, accepting gifts and offerings of the people” or they float “unseen through the air, perceptible in cloudy shapes, in the roar and howl of the winds, carrying on war, hunting or the game of ninepins, the chief employments of ancient heroes…”

The leader of the hunt varies from country to country. In Wales it is Gwynn ap Nudd, king of the Tylwyth Teg, the Fair Folk, the Fairies. In the Germanic and Nordic countries it is Odin, under his various names. The point of the hunt is usually variations on a theme. That theme is death. They have come to hunt the souls of the dead and bring them to judgement.

What were they doing there that night back in the late 80’s? Were they hunting my wife and me, or someone else? My wife and I survived, obviously, and there were no new wars, calamities, or even news of anybody dying in the storm.

I think the answer is quite simple. It was late night, the Holiday season, and these buggers were just out for a joyride.

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

 

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