In many countries in Europe people believe that in the cold and stormy winter nights the “wild hunt” is roaming the skies. It is better to stay at home at certain nights. There are 12 particular nights called in German the “Rauhnächte” between “Saint Thomas Night” till January 6, which are the most dangerous nights. It is the time of the longest nights of the year and our ancestors were simply afraid the sun might not return.
The “Wild Hunt” is the army of lost souls and hellish creatures and they are out hunting for more souls. In some northern myths it is Odin or Wotan leading the Wild hunt, sometimes it is simply the “wild hunter”.
Beware if somebody or something knocks at your door or even your window during one of these nights! If you are out and hear the army of ghosts avoid looking up. Because you could become mad, or worse, the curse can come upon you and then you become part of the “wild hunt”.
Modern scientists may say that certain weather-patterns triggered this kind of ideas. In middle Europe there are often strong west-wind drifts with lows and storms around Christmas. Not long ago previous generations had a different interpretation of weather-phenomena. The howling of the wind and the disturbing noises in the forest may have triggered the imagination.
There are also more disturbing theories and speculations. Some say that this is a time where the gates between our world and the other world are open. Malevolent radiation from beneath and from the skies is around. Maybe. What I can tell you is that strange dreams are not the only thing that happens during these nights.
The people in the Alpine countries had certain strategies to protect themselves from the dark energies. One idea is to become the demon yourself. Till today there are huge celebrations with masks and with different kinds of demon-costumes, similar to the traditions of carnival which has also pagan origins. Fact is that traditions like this exist all around the world, think of Indian tribes or Voodoo ceremonies.
I think it is more behind these traditions rather than symbolically exorcising the winter demons (which is a common interpretation of the spectacle). By becoming the demon yourself for some moments you get more familiar with the demonic forces. Feel the demon and you know what you are dealing with.
This sounds to me a good ritual preparation for any journey into the OTHERWORLD. But what I need to know is how do I shift my role back again, what, if I forget that I am not the demon?
My guess is that our ancestors had the appropriate rituals to end the role play. The societies of the masked men in the villages, often called the “Perchten”, have a lot of strict rules and keep their secret knowledge. And not any one is allowed to play a demon or “Percht” during the long nights.
But what about modern men?
Aren’t we more vulnerable to become possessed? Without the right rituals the demons will play their game in The Forest Dark.