Page images

author, otherwise I might have made the experiment, namely, that when the water of the largest is put in a bottle, it continues to jet twice or thrice with the fountain, and if the bottle be corked immediately, it bursts in pieces on the commencement of the following eruption of the spring !!!” The character of this spring is completely altered; it now consists of a steaming pool, through whose clear blue water the three jagged openings are visible. No eruption takes place there, but bubbles wriggle to the top, and hot vapour rolls from off the surface. All explosions must long since have ceased, for moss grows now to the edge of the pool, which it could never do if the level of the water were subject to fluctuations. Having satisfied myself with the wonders of Uxahver, I remounted my horse, and, bidding farewell to farmer and son, we galloped over moor and sand to Langa-Vatn, a pretty lake, at the head of which we baited, and where the worthy pastor left us. After a rest of an hour, we crossed at a handgallop the Hóla sandur, a desert tract of black Sand, where no green leaf shows. Grímr called to Jón and me repeatedly, urging us to go slow, but we paid little attention to his remonstrances. I asked him whether we were going like dee-vils now 2 as he had called a jog-trot a fiend-like pace, on a former occasion. He did not answer, but Jón shouted that our troop Was sweeping over the country like the Yule host. “Pray what is that ?” I asked. So Jón entered into an explanation, which showed me that the Icelanders have a superstition about a wild rout of phantom horsemen careering over the country at certain times of the year; especially at the winter solstice and at Yule. This is none other than the German Wüthendes Heer. Jón could not give me any very particular details; still, the certainty of the existence of this myth in Iceland was satisfactory. Perhaps I may give a short account of it without being tiresome to the

reader. Odin, or Wodin, is the Wild Huntsman, who nightly tears on his white horse over the German and Norwegian forests and moor-sweeps, with his legion of hell-hounds. Some luckless woodcutter on a still night, is returning through the pinewoods; the air is sweet-scented with matchless pine fragrance. Overhead the sky is covered with grey vapour, but a hush is on all the land; not a sound among the fir-tops; and the man starts at the click of a falling cone. Suddenly his ear catches a distant wail. A moan rolls through the interlacing branches: nearer and nearer comes the sound. There is the winding of a long horn waxing louder and louder; the baying of hounds, the rattle of hoofs and paws on the pine-tree tops. A blast of wind rolls along, the firs bend as withes, and the wood-cutter sees the Wild Huntsman and his rout reeling by in frantic haste. The Wild Huntsman chases the wood spirits, and he is to be seen at cock-crow, returning with the little Dryads hanging to his saddle-bow by their yellow locks. This chase goes by different names. The huntsman in parts of Germany is still called Wöde, and the chase after him, Wüthendes Heer.” In Danzig, the huntsman is Dyterbjernat, i. e. Diedrick of Bern, the same as Theodoric the Great. In Schleswig, he is Duke Abel, who slew his brother in 1250. In Normandy, in the Pyrenees, and in Scotland, King Arthur rides nightly through the land. In the Franche-Comté, he is Herod in pursuit of the Holy Innocents. In Norway the hunt is called the Aaskarreya, the chase of the inhabitants of Asgarth. (Hence, perhaps, our word skurry). In Sweden, it is Odin's hunt. This is the Netherland account of it:—In the neighbourhood of the castle of Wynedal, there dwelt, a long time ago, an aged peasant, who had a son that was entirely devoted to the chase. When the old peasant lay on his death-bed, he had his son called to him, for the purpose of giving him a last Christian exhortation. He came not, but whistling to his dogs, went out into the thicket. At this the before the king, and the troop was bidden not to get off the horses till the dog leaped down. On returning to his palace, the king learned that he had been absent for two hundred years, which had passed as one night, whilst he was in the mountain with the dwarf. Some of the retainers jumped off their horses, and fell to dust, but the king and the rest ride on till the bloodhound bounds from the saddle, which will be at the Last Day. In many parts of France the huntsman is called Herlequin, or Henequin; and I cannot but think that the Italian harlequin on the stage, which has become a necessary personage in our Christmas pantomime, is the Wild Huntsman. It is worth observing that Yule, or Christmas, the season of Pantomimes, is the time when the wild hunter rides, and his host is often called the Yule troop. I have said that the Wild Huntsman rides in the woods of Fontainebleau. He is known to have blown his horn loudly, and rushed over the palace with all his hounds, before the assassination of King Henry IV. On Dartmoor in Devonshire, the same chase continues: it is called the Wisht hunt, and there are people now living who have witnessed it. Now for the names Wöd, Herod, Hackelnbärend, &c.; perhaps Icelandic will help us to explain the myth. Wöd is evidently Woden; the name is derived from the preterite of a verb, signifying to rage.

* The German word wuth is cognate with the name Odin. Our old English word wood, equivalent to mad, is similarly related.

old man was struck with despair, and he cursed his son with
the appalling words: “Hunt, then, for ever ! ay, for ever!”
He then turned his head, and fell asleep in Christ. From
that time the unhappy son has wandered restless about the
woods, and the whole neighbourhood re-echoes with the noise
of the huntsman, and the baying of dogs.
In Thuringia and elsewhere, it is Hakelnberg, or Hakeln-
bärend, who thus rides, and this is the reason—
Hakelnberg was a knight passionately fond of the chase.
On his death-bed he would not listen to the priest, nor hearken
to his mention of Heaven. “I care not for Heaven,” growled
he. “I care only for the hunt l” “Then hunt until the
Last Day !” exclaimed the priest. And now through storm and
rain, the Wild Huntsman fleets. A faint barking or yelping
in the air announces his approach, a screech-owl flies before
him, called by the people Tutósel. Wanderers who fall in his
way throw themselves on their faces, and let him ride over
Near Fontainebleau, Hugh Capet is believed to ride: at
Blois, the hunt is called the Chasse Macabée.
Children who die unbaptized often join the rout. Once
two children in the Bern Oberland were on a moor together.
One slept—the other was awake. Suddenly the wild hunt
swept by. A voice called—“Shall we wake the child 2 ”
“No l’’ answered a second voice; “it will be with us soon.”
The sleeping child died that night. Gervaise of Tilbury says,
that in the thirteenth century, by full moon towards evening,
the wild hunt was frequently seen in England, traversing
forest and down. In the twelfth century it was called in
England the Herlething. It appeared in the reign of Henry II.,
and was witnessed by many. The banks of the Wye was the
scene of the most frequent chases. At the head of the troop
rode the ancient British Herla.
Ring Herla had once been to the marriage feast of a
dwarf who lived in a mountain. As he left the bridal hall,
the host presented him with horses, dogs, and hunting gear;
also with a bloodhound, which was set on the Saddle-bow

[ocr errors]

Infinitive. Perfect. Hence the Names Icelandic . . . Watha Oth Othr, Othinn. Old High German. Watan Wuot Wuotan, Wodin. Old Saxon . . . Wadan Wöd Wód, Wödan.

Hackelnbärend is the Icelandic Hekluberandi, the mantlebearer. Herod is derived from Her-rauthi, the red lord. This name is known in the North (Heranth's Saga, Kormak Saga and Fornmanna Sögur, ii. 259). But Dr. Mannhardt derives the name from Hróths—rumour, fame. The name of Chasse Macabée is given from the allusion to it in the Bible (II. Maccabees, v.2–4):—“Then it happened that through all the city, for the space almost of forty days, there were seen horsemen running in the air, in cloth of gold, and armed with lances, like a band of soldiers. And troops of horsemen in array, encountering and running one against another, with shaking of shields and multitudes of pikes, and drawing of swords, and casting of darts, and glittering of golden ornaments, and harness of all sorts. Wherefore every man prayed that that apparition might turn to good.” When men began to name the different operations of nature, they called the storm, from its vehemence, its rage— “The Raging” Wuothan, Wöden; or from its coming at regular times—tempestas; or from its outpourings—Aaskap (cogn. Aarášw, Aatrágow, Aarrow); or again from its breathing —storm (styrma, Icel., to puff; Sturmen, Teut., to make a noise; thus: Gisah trumbaro inti meniga sturmenta; Schilt. Thesaur, sub voce—Christ saw the musicians and the multitude making a noise). Our word gale comes from its whistling and singing; the root is also preserved in nightingale, the night-singer (gala, Icel. cogn. yell), and from this Odin (the storm) got his name of Galdnir or Göldner, and Christmas tide was hight Yule ; or from its gushing forth like a flood, we get the word gust (Icel. geysa and gjósa), or, once more: from the storm cloaking the sky, covering the fair blue with a mantle of cloud, it got its name of Procella (cogn. celo, Trpoka)\otro—I screen with a cloak); and so we find the Wild Huntsman, who, you see, is the storm, called Hackelnbärend, from Hekluberandi, the cloak-bearer. Now, in the first ages, there was no intention whatever of making the raging storm into a god, nor expressing a divine act in saying that the storm chased the sere leaves; yet, by degrees, the epithet Wöden was given form and figure, and became personified as a deity; then, too, the idea of the storm chasing the leaves became perverted into a myth representing Wöden as pursuing the yellow-haired wood nymphs. The same thing has taken place in Greek mythology. For instance, Nyx (night) is represented as the sister of Chaos, and the mother of Hemera (day): in plain words, that is—In

« PreviousContinue »