The God as Hunter

The God as Horned Hunter / Lord of Shadows

The most notorious image of the God of the Old Religion is as the Leader of the Wild Hunt, riding through the night sky with a band of followers who gather the souls of the dead to carry into Underworld. The riders of the Rade can be associated with the Valkyrie and other such gathers of the dead. Herla’s Rade is an old tale about a man who boldly invites the King of the Faeries to his wedding, and the King attends. Then years later, the King of the Faeries invites Herla to his Hall for the nuptials of his daughter and Herla boldly attends with some of his men to insure his safety. They party all night and then Herla and his men are sent on their way on horses, but the King of the Faeries gives Herla a little dog to take with him with the instruction, "Don’t get off your horse until the dog wants to be set down." Off goes Herla and his men, and they ride for hours, then it seems to them for days, and still the dog is content to remain in the saddle. Exasperated, Herla stops and one of his men dismounts, only to turn to dust. Horrified, Herla and his remaining men continue to ride to this day, for although the dog is still with them, they stopped before he sought to be let down, and so they are lost in time and unable to dismount lest they perish. In some tellings, the dog leaped down and disappeared when the man turned to dust -- presumably returning to his Faerie home since the prohibition had been broken. Herla’s Rade was seen in particularly severe thunder storms, as is that of Herne the Hunter. Although there has been some attempt at relating Herne to a historical figure of Sixteenth Century England, he is the Horned Hunter by another name. There are legends of body parts falling from the sky when the Rade passes, which to me indicates the existence of tornadoes whereas popular weather truisms say there are none in Europe. The Rade is supposed to make a terrible racket when they pass, and the Hunter is said to blow his horn as they pass by -- but they are not always in the sky as there are tales referring to deserted roads through forests and empty moors, and there is the Death Carriage of more modern Irish legend. Tornadoes also make a racket, which in modern times have been likened to the sound of a loud locomotive. I have a meditation called "A Ride With the Wild Hunt" in Green Witchcraft II and Grimoire for the Green Witch which may help a person relate to the function of the God in this aspect. He is gathering those who want passage into Underworld, to pass into Summerland and onto to rebirth.

Solar Cross

The Lord of Shadows is Dis, Hades, Pluto, or even Death personified, although some cultures see Death as an "agent" of the Lord of the Underworld, rather like the Hunter aspect of the God. As ruler of Underworld, the God offers spirits a place to rest and recover from the travails of their past life before moving on to a new life. I feel that Summerland is a transition place, not quite the same as Underworld, but more along the lines of an Elysian Fields where spirits can be reunited with loved ones, play with the Other People, and feel refreshed before rebirth. Underworld, however, is a place of peace and quiet, where spirits who have endured hardships and loss in the physical world can let the burdens they carry into the afterlife slip away. As they heal, they move on to Summerland to decide whether or not to incarnate again, travel elsewhere, or learn from other sources--just my perspective, but it works for me. I feel it could be that when people contact spirits, the ones who come across as depressed, angry, or otherwise not friendly, are those who are either in transit to, or still in, Underworld. If the latter, they are probably a bit annoyed at being disturbed before their healing is complete, whereas spirits who are friendly and helpful are from Summerland, or beyond. But I agree with my mother that the spirits are good, for when you are in spirit, you are closest to the Divine.