Jacob Grimm
Teutonic Mythology   

   Translated by James S. Stallybrass
p. 916-18
Another class of spectres will prove more fruitful for our investigation:
...they sweep through forest and air in
whole companies with a horrible din. This is the widely spread legend of the furious host, the furious hunt, which is of high antiquity, and interweaves itself, now with gods, and now with heroes. Look where you will, it betrays its connexion with heathenism.
      The Christians had not so quickly nor so completely renounced their faith in the gods of their fathers, that those imposing figures could all at once drop out of their memory. Obstinately clung to by some, they were merely assigned a new position more in the background. The former god lost his sociable character, his near familiar features, and assumed the aspect of a dark and dreadful power, that still had a certain amount of influence left. His hold lost upon men and their ministry, he wandered and hovered in the air, a spectre and a devil.
I have already affirmed a connexion between this wutende heer and Wuotan, the god being linked with it in name as in reality. An unprinted poem of Riidiger von Manir contains among other conjuring formulas 'bi Wuotunges her'  ('By Wuotunc's host'). Wuotunc and Wuotan are two names of one meaning. Wuotan, the god of war and victory, rides at the head of this aerial phenomenon; when the Mecklenburg peasant of this day hears the noise of it, he says 'de Wode tüt (zieht),' [Adelung s.v. wüthen]; so in Pomerania and Holstein, 'Wode jaget,' Wod hunts (p. 156). Wuotan appears riding, driving, hunting, as in Norse sagas, with valkyrs and einherjar in his train; the procession resembles an army. Full assurance of this hunting Wode's identity with the heathen god is obtained from parallel phrases and folktales in Scandinavia. The phenomenon of howling wind is referred to Odin's wagon, as that of thunder is to Thor's. On hearing a noise at night, as of horses and carts, they say in Sweden 'Oden far forbi' [Odin drives close by]. In Schonen an uproar produced perhaps by seafowl on November and December evenings is called Odens jagt In Bavaria they say nacht-gejaid or nachtgelait (processio nocturna), Schm. 2, 264. 514; in German Bohemia nacht-goid = spectre, Rank's Bohmerwald pp. 46. 78. 83. 91.
In Thuringia, Hesse, Franconia, Swabia, the traditional term is 'das wiltende heer,' and it must be one of long standing: the 12th cent, poet of the Urstende (Hahn 105, 35) uses 'daz wimtunde her' of the Jews who fell upon the Saviour; in Rol. 204, 16. Pharaoh's army whelmed by the sea is 'sin wotigez her,' in Strieker 73b 'daz wuetunde her'; Reinfr. v. Brnswg. 4b 'daz wüetende her'; Mich. Beheim 176, 5 speaks of a 'crying and whooping (wufen) as if it were 'das wutend her'; the poem of Henry the Lion (Massm. denkm. p. 132) says, 'then came he among daz woden her, where evil spirits their dwelling have.' Geiler v. Keisersperg preached on the wütede or wütisehe heer? H. Sachs has a whole poem on the wutende heer, Agricola and Eiering relate a Mansfeld legend. It is worth noticing, that according to Keisersperg all who die a violent death 'ere that God hath set it for them,' and acc. to Superst. I, 660 all children dying unbaptized, come into the furious host to Holda (p. 269), Berhta and Abundia (p. 288), just as they turn into will o' wisps (p. 918): as the christian god has not made them his, they fall due to the old heathen one. This appears to me to have been at least the original course of ideas.
 ...In Switzerland the wild hunt is named diirsten-gejeg: on summer nights you hear the durst hunting on the Jura, cheering on the hounds with his hoho; heedless persons, that do not get out of his way, are ridden over. Schm. 1, 458 quotes an old gloss which renders by duris durisis the Lat. Dia Ditis, and plainly means a subterranean infernal deity.
       In Lower Saxony and Westphalia this Wild Hunter is identified with a particular person, a certain semi-historic master of a hunt. The accounts of him vary. Westphalian traditions call him Hackelbarend, Hackelbernd, Hackelberg, Hackelblock. This Hackelbarend was a huntsman who went a hunting even on Sundays, for which desecration he was after death (like the man in the moon, p. 717) banished into the air, and there with his hound he must hunt night and day, and never rest. Some say, he only hunts in the twelve nights from Christmas to Twelfth-day; others, whenever the storm-wind howls, and therefore he is called by some the jol-jager. Once, in a ride, Hackelberg left one of his hounds behind in Fehrmann's barn at Isenstadt (bpric. Minden). There the dog lay a whole year, and all attempts to dislodge him were in vain. But the next year, when Hackelberg was round again with his wild hunt, the hound suddenly jumped up, and ran yelping and barking after the troop.
       Two young fellows from Bergkirchen were walking through the wood one evening to visit their sweethearts, when they heard a wild barking of dogs in the air above them, and a voice calling out between 'Iwto, hoto!' It was
Hackelblock the wild hunter, with his hunt. One of the men had the hardihood to mock his 'hoto, hoto.' Hackelblock with his hounds came up, and set the whole pack upon the infatuated man; from that hour not a trace has been found of the poor fellow.* This in Westphalia.
       The Low Saxon legend says,
Hans von Hackelnberg was chief rouster of the hounds to the Duke of Brunswick, and a mighty woodman, said to have died in 1521 (some say, born that year, died 1581), Landau's Jagd 190. His tombstone is three leagues from Goslar, in the garden of an inn called the Klepperkrug. He had a bad dream one night; he fancied he was fighting a terrific boar and got beaten at last. He actually met the beast soon after, and brought it down after a hard fight; in the joy of his victory he kicked at the boar, crying 'now slash if you can!' But he had kicked with such force, that the sharp tusk went through his boot, and injured his foot.
He thought little of the wound at first, but the foot swelled so that the boot had to be cut off his
leg, and a speedy death ensued. Some say he lies buried at Wülperode near Hornburg. This Hackelnberg 'fatsches' in storm and rain, with carriage, horses and hounds, through the Thüringerwald, the Harz, and above all the Hackel (a forest between Halberstadt, Groningen and Derenburg, conf. Praet. weltb. 1, 88). On his deathbed he would not hear a word about heaven, and to the minister's exhortations he replied: 'the Lord may keep his heaven, so ho leave me my hunting;' whereupon the parson spoke : 'hunt then till the Day of Judgment!' which saying is fulfilled unto this day.
 A faint baying or yelping of hounds gives warning of his approach, before him flies a nightowl named by the people Tutosel (tut-ursel, tooting Ursula). Travellers, when he comes their way, fall silently on their faces, and let him pass by; they hear a barking of dogs and the huntsman's 'huhu!' Tutosel is said to have been a nun, who after her death joined Hackelnberg and mingled her tuhu with his huhu? The people of Altmark place a wild hunter named Halckeberg in the Dromling, and make him ride down by night with horses and hounds from the Harz into the Dromling (Temme, p. 37). Ad. Kulin no. 17 calls him Hackenberg and Hackelberg: he too is said to have hunted on Sundays, and forced all the peasants in his parish to turn out with him; but one day a pair of horsemen suddenly galloped up to him, each calling to him to come along. One looked wild and fierce, and fire spirted out of his horse's nose and mouth; the left-hand rider seemed more quiet and mild, but Hackelberg turned to the wild one, who galloped off with him, and in his company he must hunt until the Last Day. Kuhn has written down some more stories of the wild hunter without proper names, nos. 63.175. There are others again, which tell how Hackelberg dwelt in the Soiling, near Uslar, that he had lived in the fear of God, but his heart was so much in the chase, that on his deathbed he prayed God, that for his share of heaven he might be let hunt in the Soiling till the Judgment-day. His wish became his doom, and oft in that forest one hears by night both bark of hound and horrible blast of horn. His grave is in the Soiling too, the arrangement of the stones is minutely described; two black hounds rest beside him. And lastly, Kuhn's no. 205 and Temme's Altmark p. 106 inform us of a heath-rider Bdren, whose burial-place is shewn on the heath near Gritnnitz in the Ukermark; this Bdren's dream of the stumpfschwanz (bobtail, i.e. boar) points unmistakably to Hackelbürend. The irreconcilable diversity of domiciles is enough to shew, in the teeth of tombstones, that these accounts all deal with a mythical being : a name that crops up in such various localities must be more than historical. I am disposed to pronounce the Westph. form Hackelberend the most ancient and genuine. An OHG. hahhul [Goth, hakuls], ON. hokull m. and hekla f., AS. hacele f., means garment, cloak, cowl, armour; hence hakolberand is OS. for a man in armour, cf. OS. wapanberand (armiger), AS. asscberend, garberend, helmb., sweordb. (Gramm. 2, 589). And now remember Oðin's dress (p. 146) : the god appears in a broad-brimmed hat, a blue and spotted cloak (hekla, bla, flekkott) ; hakolberand is unmistakably an OS. epithet of the heathen god Wodan, which was gradually corrupted into Hackelberg, Hackenberg, Hackelblock.
         The name of the
Hackel-wood may be an abbrev. of Hakelbernd's wood. The 'saltus Eakel' in Halberstadt country is mentioned first in the (doubtful) Chron. corbeiense ad an. 936 (Falke p. 708); a long way off, hard by Hoxter in the Auga gau, there was a UacwZesthorp (Wigand's Corv. guterb. p. 94. Saracho 197. Trad. corb. 385) and afterwards a Hackelbreite; then in L. Hesse, a Hackelsberg near Volkmarsen, and a Hackelberg by Merzhausen (bailiw. Witzenhausen). But if a hakel = wood can be proved, the only trace of a higher being must be looked for in berand, and that may be found some day; in ch. XXXIII. I shall exhibit Hakol in the ON. Hekla as mountain, hence wooded heights, woodland. In any case we here obtain not only another weighty testimony to Woden-worship, but a fresh confirmation of the meaning I attach to the 'wütende heer'; and we see clearly how the folktale of Hackelberg came to be preserved in Westphalia and Lower Saxony where heathenism lasted longer) rather than in South Germany.
       That the wild hunter is to be referred to Wodan, is made perfectly clear by some Mecklenburg legends.
Often of a dark night the airy hounds will bark on open heaths, in thickets, at cross-roads. The countryman well knows their leader Wod, and pities the wayfarer that has not reached his home yet; for Wod is often spiteful, seldom merciful. It is only those who keep in the middle of the road that the rough hunter will do nothing to, that is why he calls out to travellers: 'midden in den weg !'
A peasant was coming home tipsy one night from town, and his road led him through a wood; there he hears the wild hunt, the uproar of the hounds, and the shout of the huntsman up in the air : ' midden in den weg !' cries the voice, but he takes no notice. Suddenly out of the clouds there plunges down, right before him, a tall man on a white horse. 'Are you strong ? 'says he, 'here, catch hold of this chain, we'll see which can pull the hardest.' The peasant courageously grasped the heavy chain, and up flew the wild hunter into the air. The man twisted the end round an oak that was near, and the hunter tugged in vain. ' Haven't you tied your end to the oak ?' asked Wod, coming down. 'No,' replied the peasant, 'look, I am holding it in my hands.' 'Then you'll be mine up in the clouds,' cried the hunter as he swung himself aloft. The man in a hurry knotted the chain round the oak again, and Wod could not manage it. 'You must have passed it round the tree,' said Wod, plunging down. ' No,' answered the peasant, who had deftly disengaged it, 'here I have got it in my hands.' ' Were you heavier than lead, you must up into the clouds with me.' He rushed up as quick as lightning, but the peasant managed as before. The dogs yelled, the waggons rumbled, and the horses neighed overhead; the tree crackled to the roots, and seemed to twist round. The man's heart began to sink, but no, the oak stood its ground. 'Well pulled !' said the hunter, ' many's the man I've made mine, you are the first that ever held out against me, you shall have your reward.' On went the hunt, full cry : hallo, holla, wol, wol! The peasant was slinking away, when from unseen heights a stag fell groaning at Lis feet, and there was Wod, who leaps off his white horse and cuts up the game. 'Thou shalt have some blood and a hindquarter to boot.' 'My lord, ' quoth the peasant, 'thy servant has neither pot nor pail.' ' Pull off thy boot,' cries Wod. The man did so. 'Now walk, with blood and flesh, to wife and child.' At first terror lightened the load, but presently it grew heavier and heavier, and he had hardly strength to carry it. With his back bent double, and bathed in sweat, he at length reached his cottage, and behold, the boot was filled with gold, and the hindquarter was a leathern pouch full of silver.1 Here it is no human hunt-master that shows himself, but the veritable god on his white steed: many a man has he taken up into his cloudy heaven before. The filling of the boot with gold sounds antique.
      There was once a rich lady of rank, named frau Gauden ; so passionately she loved the chase, that she let fall the sinful word, ' could she but always hunt, she cared not to win heaven.' Fourand-twenty daughters had dame Gauden, who all nursed the same desire. One day, as mother and daughters, in wild delight, hunted over woods and fields, and once more that wicked word escaped their lips, that 'hunting was better than heaven,' lo, suddenly before their mother's eyes the daughters' dresses turn into tufts of fur, their arms into legs, and four-and-twenty bitches bark around the mother's hunting-car, four doing duty as horses, the rest encircling the carriage; and away goes the wild train up into the clouds, there betwixt heaven and earth to hunt unceasingly, as they had wished, from day to day, from year to year. They have long wearied of the wild pursuit, and lament their impious wish, but they must bear the fruits of their guilt till the hour of redemption come. Come it will, but who knows when during the twolven (for at other times we sons of men cannot perceive her) frau Gauden directs her hunt toward human habitations; best of all she loves on the night of Christmas eve or New Year's eve to drive through the village streets, and whereever she finds a street-door open, she sends a dog in. Next morning a little dog wags his tail at the inmates, he does them no other harm but that he disturbs their night's rest by his whining. He is not to be pacified, nor driven away. Kill him, and he turns into a stone by day, which, if thrown away, comes back to the house by main force, and is a dog again at night. So he whimpers and whines the whole year round, brings sickness and death upon man and beast, and danger of fire to the house ; not till the twolven come round again does peace return to the house. Hence all are careful in the twelves, to keep the great house-door well locked up after nightfall; whoever neglects it, has himself to blame if frau Gauden looks him up. That is what happened to the grandparents of the good people now at Bresegardt. They were silly enough to kill the dog into the bargain; from that hour there was no ' sag und tag' (segen bless, ge-deihen thrive), and at length the house came down in flames. Better luck befalls them that have done dame Gauden a service. lb happens at times, that in the darkness of night she misses her way, and gets to a cross-road. Cross-roads are to the good lady a stone of stumbling : every time she strays into such, some part of her carriage breaks, which she cannot herself rectify. In this dilemma she was once, when she came, dressed as a stately dame, to the bedside of a labourer at Boeck, awaked him, and implored him to help her in her need. The man was prevailed on, followed her to the cross-roads, and found one of her carriage wheels was off. He put the matter to rights, and by way of thanks for his trouble she bade him gather up in his pockets sundry deposits left by her canine attendants during their stay at the cross-roads, whether as the effect of great dread or of good digestion. The man was indignant at the proposal, but was partly soothed by the assurance that the present would not prove so worthless as he seemed to think; and incredulous, yet curious, he took some with him. And lo, at daybreak, to his no small amazement, his earnings glittered like mere gold, and in fact it was gold. He was sorry now that he had not brought it all away, for in the daytime not a trace of it was to be seen at the cross-roads. In similar ways frau Gauden repaid a man at Conow for putting a new pole to her carriage, and a woman at Gohren for letting into the pole the wooden pivot that supports the swing-bar: the chips that fell from pole and pivot turned into sheer glittering gold. In particular, frau Gauden loves young children, and gives them all kinds of good things, so that when children play at fru Gauden, they sing:

fru Gauden hett mi'n lämmken geven,
darmitt sall ik in freuden leven.

     Nevertheless in course of time she left the country; and this is how it came about. Careless folk at Semmerin had left their street-door wide open one St. Silvester night; so on New-year's morning they found a black doggie lying on the hearth, who dinned their ears the following night with an intolerable whining. They were at their wit's end how to get rid of the unbidden guest. A shrewd woman put them up to a thing: let them brew all the house-beer through an 'eierdopp.' They tried the plan; an eggshell was put in the tap-hole of the brewing-vat, and no sooner had the 'worp' (fermenting beer) run through it, than dame Gauden's doggie got up and spoke in a distinctly audible voice: 'flc bun so old as Bohmen gold, awerst dat heff ik min leder nioht truht, wenn man 't bier dorch 'n eierdopp bruht,' after saying which he disappeared, and no one has seen frau Gauden or her dogs ever since.
     This story is of a piece with many other ancient ones. In the first place, frau Gauden resembles frau Holda and Berhta, who likewise travel in the 'twelves,' who in the same way get their vehicles repaired and requite the service with gold, and who finally quit the country (pp. 268, 274-6). Then her name is that of frau Gaue, frau Gode, frau Wode (p. 252-3) who seems to have sprung out of a male divinity fro Woden (p. 156), a matter which is placed beyond doubt by her identity with Wodan the wild hunter. The very dog that stays in the house a year, Hakelberg's (p. 921) as well as frau Gauden's, is in perfect keeping. The astonishment he expresses at seemingly perverse actions of men, and which induces him, like other ghostly elvish beings, to speak and begone, is exactly as in the stories given at p. 469.
At the same time the transformation of the wild hunter into goddesses appears to be not purely arbitrary and accidental, but accounted for by yet other narratives.
E. M. Arndt tells the tale of the wild hunter (unnamed) in the following shape: In Saxony there lived in early times a rich and mighty prince, who loved hunting above all things, and sharply punished in his subjects any breach of the forest laws. Once when a boy barked a willow to make himself a whistle, he had his body cut open and his bowels trained round the tree (RA. 519-20. 690); a peasant having shot at a stag, he had him fast riveted to the stag. At last he broke his own neck hunting, by dashing up against a beech-tree; and uow in his grave he has no rest, but must hunt every night. He rides a white horse whose nostrils shoot out sparks, wears armour, cracks his whip, and is followed by a countless swarm of hounds: his cry is 'wod wod, hoho, hallo !' He keeps to forests and lonely heaths, avoiding the common highway; if he happens to come to a cross-road, down he goes horse and all, and only picks himself up when past it; he hunts and pursues all manner of weird rabble, thieves, robbers, murderers and witches.
A Low Saxon legend of the Tilsgraben or devil's hole between Dahlum and Bokenem (Harrys 1, 6) says, the wild knight Tils was so fond of the chase that he took no heed of holidays, and one Easter Sunday he had the presumption to say ' he would bring a beast down that day if it cost him his castle.' At evening the cock crew out that the castle would sink before night; and soon after it sank in the lake with all that was in it. A diver once on reaching the bottom of the lake, saw the fitter Tils sitting at a stone table, old and hoary, with his white beard grown, through tlie table.
In the Harz the wild chase thunders past the Eichelberg with its ' hoho' and clamour of hounds. Once when a carpenter had the courage to add to it his own ' hoho,' a black mass came tumbling down the chimney on the fire, scattering sparks and brands about the people's ears : a huge horse's thigh lay on the hearth, and the said carpenter was dead. The wild hunter rides a black headless horse, a hunting-whip in one hand and a bugle in the other; his face is set in his neck, and between the blasts he cries 'hoho hoho;' before and behind go plenty of women, huntsmen and dogs. At times, they say, he shews himself kind, and comforts the lost wanderer with meat and drink (Harrys 2, 6).
In Central Germany this ghostly apparition is simply called the wild huntsman, or has some other and more modern name.
      But in the same Swabia, in the 16th cent. (and why not earlier?) they placed a spectre named Berchtold at the head of the wütende heer, they imagined him clothed in white, seated on a white horse, leading white hounds in the leash, and with a horn hanging from his neck. This Berchtold we have met before (p. 279): he was the masculine form of white-robed Berhta, who is also named Prechtolterli (Grat. Iduna 1814, p. 102).
      Here we get a new point of view. Not only Wuotan and other gods, but heathen goddesses too, may head the furious host: the wild hunter passes into the wood-wife, Wodan into frau Gaude. Of Perchtha touching stories are known in the Orlagau. The little ones over whom she rules are human children who have died before baptism, and are thereby become her property (pp. 918. 920). By these weeping babes she is surrounded (as dame Gaude by her daughters), and gets ferried over in the boat with them (p. 275-6). A young woman had lost her only child; she wept continually and could not be comforted. She ran out to the grave every night, and wailed so that the stones might have pitied her. The night before Twelfth-day she saw Perchtha sweep past not far off; behind all the other children she noticed a little one with its shirt soaked quite through, carrying a jug of water in its hand, and so weary that it could not keep up with the rest; it stood still in trouble before a fence, over which Perchtha strode and the children scrambled. At that moment the mother recognised her own child, came running up and lifted it over the fence. While she had it in her arms the child spoke: 'Oh how warm a mother's hands are! but do not cry so much, else you cry my jug too full and heavy, see, I have already spilt it all over my shirt.' From that night the mother ceased to weep : so says the Wilhelmsdorf account (Borner p. 142-3). At Bodelwitz they tell it somewhat differently : the child said, 'Oh how warm is a mother's arm,' and followed up the request 'Mother, do not cry so ' with the words 'You know every tear you weep I have to gather in my jug.' And the mother had one more good hearty cry (ib. 152). Fairytales have the story of a little shroud drenched with tears (Kinderm. 109. Reusch no. 32. Thom. Cantipr. p. 501, conf. Wolfs Wodana p. 153), and the Danish folktale of Aage and Else makes flowing tears fill the coffin with blood; but here we have the significant feature added of the children journeying in Perhta's train. The jug may be connected with the lachrymatories found in tombs.
With Beralda we have also to consider Holda, Diana and Herodias. Beralda and Holda shew themselves, like frau Gaude (p. 925), in the 'Twelves' about New Year's day. Johann Herolt, a Dominican, who at the beginning of the 15th cent. wrote his Sermones discipuli de tempore et de sanctis, says in Sermo 11 (in die Nativ.) : Sunt quidam, qui in his xii. noctibus subsequentibus multas vanitates exercent, qui deam, quam quidam Dianam vocant, in vulgari ' die frawen unhold,' dicunt cum suo exercitu ambulare. The same nocturnal perambulation is spoken of in the passages about Diana* Herodias and Abundia p. 283 seq. It is exactly the Vicentine wood-wife, who acts along with the wild man, and to whom the people still offer up gifts. And as Berhta worship in the Salzburg country became a popular merrymaking (p. 279), so a Posterli-hunt, performed by the country-folk themselves on the Thursday before Christmas, is become an established custom in the Entlibuch. The Posterli is imagined to be a spectre in the shape of an old woman or she-goat (conf. p. 916). In the evening the young fellows of the village assemble, and with loud shouts and clashing of tins, blowing of alp-horns, ringing of cow-bells and goat-bells, and cracking of whips, tramp over hill and dale to another village, where the young men receive them with the like uproar.
Eckhart the trusty, a notable figure in the group of Old-Teutonic heroes (Heldensage 144. 190, reeve of the Harlungs, perhaps more exactly Eckewart, Kriemhild's kammerer, Nib. 1338, 3) gets mixt up with the myths of gods. The appendix or preface to the Heldenbuch makes him sit outside the Venus-mount to warn people, as here he warns them of the furious host; so much the plainer becomes his vocation here, as well as the meaning of the Venusberg. Eckhart goes before the furious host with Holda, he is also doomed to abide till the Judgment-day at the mount of Venus: the identity of Holda and Venus is placed beyond question. That mountain (some say the Hoselberg or Rorselberg near Eisenach) is dame Holle's court, and not till the 15-16th cent, does she seem to have been made into dame Venus; in subterranean caves she dwells in state and splendour like the kings of dwarfs; some few among men still find their way in, and there live with her in bliss. The tale of the noble Tanhäuser, who went down to view her wonders, is one of the most fascinating fictions of the Middle Age: in it the hankering after old heathenism, and the harshness of the christian clergy, are movingly portrayed. Eckhart, perhaps a heathen priest, is courtier and conductor of the goddess when she rides out at a stated season of the year.
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