You may have noticed I got rather excited the other day when I discovered that Odin is lord of the Wild Hunt. If you’re not familiar with the Hunt this may have confused you. So here’s a brief explanation of what the Hunt is, and why it’s important.
The Hunt is featured primarily in Celtic mythology. It takes place once a year, usually on Halloween. It is a wild, primal thing that catches up everything in its path. If you chance across the hunt your choice is to join or die–become hunter or hunted.
Usually in Celtic lore the hunt is made up of fairies led by the Hunter. Or, in the case of the Welsh, the dead, led by Annwn. It’s featured rather prominently in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files as something surpassing the usually fairy politics. It makes an appearance in the Mists of Avalon as a rite of passage for the young Celtic king. It appears in American folklore in the form of songs such as Ghost Riders in the Sky.
The hunt is not an ordered procession. Hunting used to be a very important way of life, but also a noble past-time for young lords. Hunting appears in everything from the Mabigonian to King Arthur to fairy tales. It consists of lords and retainers and hounds and hawks and horses all riding in pursuit of a quarry. It’s an exhilarating chase, culminating in the bloody kill.
In other words, it’s a celebration of death and, by extension, life itself.
So why am I so excited that Odin is also Lord of the Hunt? One, it ties him back into Celtic archetypes and Celtic legends. He’s sometimes a little too classical for the weird backdrop of mythology he comes from with his all-knowingness and cold, aloof, idiocy-ness. By making him Lord of the Hunt I can make him passionate, disorganized, primal–human. It’s also something I think Loki can actually relate to. In fact, I’m reasonably certain that’s how Odin and Loki will meet.
The Norsemen were not Classical Greeks, whatever Snorri Sturlson may say. It’s important to remember that, and not try to cram their stories into that mold. To fin such a direct link between Nordic and Celtic mythology is reassuring