This is a myth prevalent with Northern, Western and Central Europe. I best know it from Peterborough where I used to live. Wherever the local legend is heard it is the same, a phantasmal steed with a group of huntsmen who madly pursue something either along the ground or just above it.

Seeing the Wild Hunt was through to be a precursor to a catastrophe such as war or a plague, or at best (yeah lovely this) it meant the death of the witness. Mortals getting in the way of the hunt might well find themselves kidnapped and taken into the land of the dead.

The Norse god Odin came to be associated with the Wild Hunt, the passage of this hunt was known as Odin’s Hunt and those who saw it and mocked it were cursed, those that
joined in sincerely would be rewarded with gold. In the passing storm identified with the hunt a large black dog would be seen afterwards. To remove it the dog would have to be
tricked out but if not they would need to keep the hound and tend to it for a year.

In England this associated with St Guthlac who reported that Hereward the Wake participated in a Wild Hunt. In the Peterborough Chronicle there is a record of the hunt appearing at night, beginning with the appointment of an Abbot, Henry d’Angeley in 1127 that proved disastrous.

…many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The
huntsmen were black, huge, and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black
he-goats, and their hounds were jet black, with eyes like saucers, and
horrible. This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough, and
in all the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the
night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns

In Wistman’s Wood, Devon, England as an example it is said that the hunt is comprised of hell-hounds that chase sinners or the unbaptised. In Devon tey are know as Yeth or
Wisht Hounds. Spain – Count Arnau is a legendary nobleman from Ripollès who was known for his cruelty and lechery is condemned to ride followed by the hounds as his flesh is devoured by flames.

The ring wraith’s from Lord of the Rings seem to have been inspired by a similar idea with the large black horses and their unknown faces. They are also a particularly awe inspiring sight on the big screen!

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