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The Hunt and the Hound: part 1

The Hunt

It is simple: Mankind has broken the covenant with nature – Peter Grey, APOCALYPTIC WITCHCRAFT

Our proper place in the order of things has been forgotten. Our responsibilities to the land have been ignored. The gods have been silenced. The divine marriage of the people and the land has been cast aside and the horse, the symbol of this union, has been fashioned into a money making grotesque and turned into dog food.

We used to be reminded of this balance; the balance between the people in their ‘civilisation’ and the landscape just beyond its boundaries. We used to send our young men out into that wilderness; the mountains, plains and woodlands as a divine exchange. We used to send them out to fight for us, to raid for us and to learn the rituals and mythologies of our culture. We used to send these youngsters out there into the wild and there they would die.  They would be dead things; without name or home, without weapon or family. They would die and yet come back to the settlements of the living as the dead and bring with them fertility and the blessings of the ancestors. The blessing of fertility for the land, the people and their herds was for the dead to give and they gave it to the dead outsiders to return to their tribes and families. With time we stopped sending our men out to die and return, we stopped handing them over to the dead and soon the very idea of doing so became a story and so passed into legend. The dead still returned; led by their Shining White King who led them roaring across the skies. Instead of revelling in their return and the gifts they brought, we feared this Furious Host, called them devils and hid away. The covenant was broken and another bond was severed.

The Koryos was a ubiquitous institution, in one form or another, across the Proto-Indo-European and (PIE) Indo-European (IE) cultures. Young men were sent out from their settlements to live wild in the spaces beyond the walls. There they learnt to fight and hunt, and were immersed in the mythic and religious culture of their people. They raided other settlements, rustled cattle and acted in some ways as a mobile fighting force for their people.  Their exploits reached surviving myths from India to Ireland.

What we can say about them is that they were initiated into these war bands in winter, particularly Midwinter. From archaeological evidence found in Russia, and from mythic sources, we can also surmise fairly safely that the sacrifice of hounds and other canines formed part of those initiation rituals. In fact in some fashion, the men of the Koryos were strongly associated with wolves and hounds; if not in a totemic manner then possibly as part of shape-shifting warfare practices.

What concerns us here is the original practice of the ritual return of the Koryos to the settlements and places of the living; masked, draped in skins or with painted bodies. They would not only embody the dead but literally and in actuality, to those people, become the dead.

The Koryos is an extinct institution now and yet if we consider its functions and roles there is another group of people who in many ways still exist in a similar place; outsiders working beyond civilisation, keeping alive the religious and magical traditions which tie together the people, the gods and the land. If we are going to try to resurrect the Koryos, and once again sing praise-hymns to Koryonos – the God of the Koryos, then it is within the dirt of Witchcraft that it will best take root.

This passage from Kershaw nicely encapsulates the matter;

“…in general, in ancient cults [it is] from the cult itself that the god derives his being. In our case, we will be looking for associations with war, death, the wolf and the dog, with ecstatic states, with initiations and the winter solstice, and, where these do not coincide, with the changing year. We will expect him to share the ambiguity of the Koryos itself and to appear sometimes good, sometimes evil, and always at least potentially dangerous.”

A Witchcraft derived Koryos brought into contemporary times would function very differently, but in some key ways still maintain the connection to one of the many gods who served as the Koryonos.  We could call him and his Hosts to return in winter as before but rather than bring their blessing of fertility and fruitfulness, offer libation and sacrifice and ask them to set the hunt out upon the landscape. Evoke the spirit of the Hunt and direct it towards those who drive a greater wedge between people, landscape and the Gods.  When our ancestors forgot the divine purpose of the Wild Hunt, they began to fear it. It is time that fear was stoked again.

‘Quiet Wolves’ Copyright Rafal Wechterowicz

The Hunted

In our desire to harm none we have become harmless – Peter Grey, REWILDING WITCHCRAFT

If meat and beer is to be poured out again in honour of Koryonos and his Hosts, if we are to use our resource and skill to begin working against those who would sever us further from our land and the gods, if we are to place ourselves back into that outsider role – even if only for a shirt time – who or what is it we should seek to place in the path of the Hunt?

I am from and live in Britain. My political world is focused on it and so the examples and reasoning I will be presenting over the coming months will focus on this island. I make no apologies for that. I consider this ‘my’ land; my flesh, bone and blood are formed from its soil and from its water. My ancestors farmed a small corner of this island for hundreds, and very probably, thousands of years. It is to this little island that my emotional, spiritual and physical attachments are strongest; hence it is the actions of people on this island which attract my ire more than any other.

I see the greatest harm to the land and to the people being perpetrated by a constellation of politicians, corporations and some sections of the media. But the darkest star in that constellation lies with the current crop of politicians in government.

We have a Conservative government who appear determined to dismantle our National Health Service and continue their programme of privatising services which are currently nationalised. They are systematically cutting welfare services whilst working with the right wing press to vilify and demonize the most vulnerable and weakest in our society. They paint a picture of people on out of work benefits as lazy, workshy and feckless even though they account for only 2% of the welfare budget. The list of their actions AGAINST the people of this country goes on and on. They have lived up their label as ‘the nasty party’.

The greatest outpouring of loathing for our government is rightly aimed at the minister responsible for the Department of Work and Pensions. This man has overseen massive changes to how people are supported when out of work, sick or disabled. People are forced into for private companies in order to receive their welfare money, even if they are already volunteering for charities or organisations whilst otherwise looking for work. Recently it emerged over 2000 people who had been declared ‘fit to work’ and had their sickness benefits stopped, had died within two weeks of their support being removed. This stems from contracting out assessments of the sick and disabled to private companies who have no health expertise and who have targets for getting as many people off sickness benefits and onto standard job seekers benefits. This government is systematically pulling the rug out from under the weakest, the poorest and the most disadvantaged in the name of austerity.

There is a surfeit of political names which could be carved into lead and offered up for the Hunt to set its hounds upon.

The Hound

Because of their strong association with death, dogs also were connected with war-bands and warriors in Greek, Latin, Celtic, Germanic, and Indo-Iranian traditions. – Brown & Anthony 2012

I want to lay this magical working out like a recipe, not a blueprint. Something with clear ideas and aims but not limiting those of you who choose to join this Hunt to my ways of working. I hope you take the recipe and make it your own, place your own fingerprints on it and to forge your own links to the Hunt.

With that in mind, I want to spend the next three months laying out my intent for this working and the steps to take towards the goal. I will be publishing a bit at a time and allowing a month to pass between each stage to allow the necessary materials and locations to be found and established.  The final fourth piece will be in December in the descent into the darkest part of the year, this is when we will draw everything together and perform the cairn raising and make the initial libations.

So, onwards.

The intent here is to create a spirit house in the form of a canine skull, be that wolf, coyote, fox or dog or even the traditional substitute for an actual skull; a glass or clay bottle. With this suitably consecrated and occupied skull prepared, it will be taken out beyond civilisation and buried at a suitable place where we will raise a small cairn of stones over it. This cairn and the hound it houses will then become an altar, a shrine and the focal point for libations and offerings to the One Who Leads the Hunt.

The intention here is to create a space beyond the walls of civilisation; a place to slip our societal skin and don that of another animal altogether, a place to pour out our offerings, to shake in ecstasy and to call out to the Koryonos. The spirit house at its core will be our guide and our guardian, its baying to call the Hunt and to set it on its furious flight.

Let us not be under any illusions here, this is a place to spin out malefic magic; calling the Hunt out from the Otherworld and send it into the Land. If we as magical workers, spirit talkers and witches want to change the world – we have to consider using the weapons in our arsenal to effect that change alongside the more mundane actions. Magic is a powerful tool that we have at our disposal and I propose that this Hound and its resting place cairn are to be totems for doing so.

The first stage on this journey is simple; to gather and prepare a canine skull (or appropriate substitute) to be formed into a spirit vessel. Perform whatever cleaning or purification that you deem fit but beyond that nothing need be done to it yet.

Hound

The Hound 

Next month:

The Hunt: the God of the Hunt and the andedion.

The Hunted: the morality and ethics of this malefica

The Hound: raising the cairn


Bibliography

Grey, P. 2013. Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Scarlet Imprint.

Grey, P. 2014. Rewilding Witchcraft. Scarlet Imprint

Kershaw, K. 2000. The One-eyed God: Odin and the (Indo-)Germanic Männerbunde. Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph No. 36. Washington DC

Brown, D.R. and Anthony, D.W. 2012. Midwinter dog sacrifices and warrior initiations in the Late Bronze Age site of Krasnosamarskoe, Russia.

19 Comments »

  1. It will be interesting to see where you go from here!

    I’d add one caveat: these extra-societal institutions were not male-exclusive. Though there are not as many prominent examples, there were women who engaged in these activities, too (in addition to Goddesses and heroines), and I can only surmise that gender-atypical individuals would also have been equally suited to the task as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • totally agree! The prevalence of female leaders and co-leaders of Wild Hunts across Europe for instance suggests it certainly wasn’t entirely male focussed.

      I will plead ignorance – for now – on the roles of non-cis and non-hetero individuals in IE society, though I suspect that their role as ‘other’ was valued if not celebrated and there was a place for them in priestly or mystic roles. I can add that to the list of things I need to do research on.

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  2. I will be following this series with great interest. In Scottish lore, the Hunt is led by the fairy queen Nicnevin rather than a male Koryonos deity. Do you see any significance to this variation?

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    • I think that the Koryos and it’s Koryonos deity/ies was/were originally male, and of a certain ‘type’ as it were. Though as PVSL says above there are instances of female members and female leaders of the hunt.

      My inclination is that in most cases the leader became female through time as the original institution developed amidst different IE cultures and evolved with each of them. As it passed into legend and became less fixed as it were, it was subject to change and re-interpretation across dozens of different and distinct cultures. Heck, we have Arthur as leader in some cases so there is clearly an instance of swapping into the role.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am not sure that there is enough info to suggest that. It may have been a male-dominated institution (and an excess of male population that can be easily controlled has always been a problem for organized societies–hence institutions like this get formed to acceptably cull some of them, in essence), but I suspect it was rarely (if ever) male-exclusive, and given there are so many warrior Goddesses, heroines, and female leaders of the Hunt attested at various stages, and often very early, I suspect the best that can be concluded is that regional variations are the rule of the day.

        In addition to some of the other problematic things about PI-E studies and academic treatments of this issue, gender binarist essentialist biases is one of them, and thus I would be wary of any suggestions that one or another gender being suggested as “original” (and thus by implication–though I know you’re not suggesting it, the academics certainly do, and others tend to agree with such implications unknowingly–“more authentic” and “better”) and any differences “later” (and “late” is always synonymous in these academic treatments with “worse” and “inauthentic” and even “ill-informed”) being due to re-interpretation of a moribund social institution in absence of its “true and original” continuity and integrity as an institution, including its assumed gender biases and preferences.

        Having been trained formally and credentialed in these fields, and seeing the kind of misty-eyed nostalgic reminiscences of days gone by that permeate the discourse of almost universally cis het white men has-beens (who are often closet racists and white supremacists, even if they’re not the Nazi flag-waving kind…though some have been historically!) who have written about these topics, in addition to the linguistic/philological biases these individuals have (i.e. there must be “one original” from which all others are variations or localized reflexes–which, again, are derivative and not-as-good and are even debased), I think we really have to be aware of how those assumptions shape and even end up romanticizing the conclusions reached by such individuals. Other academics realizing this is one of the reasons that PI-E studies has become more and more marginalized now than it ever has been…and that’s one case of marginalization not necessarily being an entirely negative thing.

        And, even if such conclusions are historically accurate, I think we do need to be clear that it doesn’t “have to” be the case, and that doing it in different ways and with different people of different genders is not remotely “worse” for what may occur now, or which might have occurred at various points in the past.

        I know you don’t think such things, but we really need to be clear in expressing these matters in ways that are responsible, that admit of the inherent biases in the discussions as they’ve been laid out (and they were originally laid out in times and under regimes that were explicitly and proudly fascist and were pushing a “let’s return to the times when men were real men and make our young men into real men by re-creating these things” agenda with real-world consequences on a large scale), and that are aware of not only the injustices of the past, but that engender better options for the future in recognition of these grossest errors of the past.

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  3. I would think that that there would be many different covenants with the land in different places and that these might be expressed with many different tropes. But certainly the Wild Hunt is a very widespread mythological motif.

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    • I was at a conference in Glastonbury last samhain I think it was and Kim Huggens gave a talk on the associations between the dead/ancestors an fertility. She gave a lot of examples from African cultures particularly and a couple others outside of the IE groups, so I think something along these lines is quite ubiquitous. Annoyingly I cant recall any of the examples.

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