From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us!” – Anon
The things that go bump in the night, that rattle windows and howl around the dwellings of men – these are the things that concern us as sorcerers. At certain times of the year, we note the encroaching darkness and cold – the way the shadows lengthen and the days shorten.
Even today, the doors are shut and barred, lights blazing in the windows to keep out the night. The fire burns more fiercely now, the fuel stored up begins to be used. Such is the law of combustion – movements become pointed, resources husbanded as the dark comes in. The goal, of course is to survive, to endure and pass into the realms wherein the Sol Invictus returns unconquered.
It is said that the Unconquered Sun arises to bless mankind with its order – the shape of things may once more be discerned clearly. Mithras slaughters the Bull, tossing its haunch into the night sky to look down upon us as the Plough. A Messiah is born in an inherited cave-cum-stable, Mithras’ younger brother stealing the birthright from the elder. It’s Jacob and Esau all over again – appropriate for a religion emerging from the monolatry of Judaism.
But what of us, who incline our hearts and minds to a sun that is Black?
The Egyptian scarab-god Kephera is said to push a ball of dung across the sky, and even through the Duat on the solar-barque. Dung is of course, waste matter – that is to say it is the byproduct of a metabolic process in a creature which can no longer be reduced by that same organism. It is the organic left-overs which then may be further processed by other creatures capable of such metabolism. Most waste matter eventually is broken down and metabolised by other organisms, but for the purposes of symbolism, the sun-as-dung is telling.
Life based on such principles is ultimately broken down – the structures dismantled and consumed to feed yet another form of existence. It is intriguing to note that in Norse myth, the god Thor travels often to do battle with the jotnar in the lands of Utgard which may be Anglicized as Outgarth – garth being an Old English word that is cognate with yard, an enclosure.
Jotun (Old Norse) or Eoten (Old English) are now translated as ‘giant’, a term that is also applied to the Sons of Muspell who will march at Ragnarok and burn the World Tree. Further, one only has to look to look to folklore of giants, trolls, ogres and the like to discover they are often perceived as beings with strange and terrifying appetites:
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll have his bones to grind my bread.’
Also, we have the murderous Grendel devouring the sleepers in the hall of Heorot, in the ancient poem Beowulf:
‘As a first step, he set his hands on a sleeping soldier, savagely tore at him, gnashed at his bone joints, bolted huge gobbets, sucked at his veins, and had soon eaten all of the dead man, even down to his hands and feet.’
Though there are giant-kilers, many of these men are killers by cunning, rather than righteousness. The tales of Northern Europe, in which the author dwells and lives, show a peculiar understanding which is echoed in the words of Nietzsche:
‘He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. ‘
We, as would-be sorcerers acknowledge the truth of this. In fact, it is that monstrous nature, that living sentience of the Out-garth, which we strive to recall through resurgent atavisms. As monsters are the embodied fleshly sigils which point the way and intrude upon the age of man, his lighted settlements which consume so desperately in the face of the Dark, so the sorcerer understands that the movements of those in the dark appear to violate the ‘natural order’.
Acceptance and cultivation of this heritage is paramount, and the tides now present us with an emblematic point of reference. Here, the internal distillation of the sorcerer through the rays of the Black Sun and Red Moon is made external. Here, the Neither-Neither is made to emerge from the physicality of the environment.
Here, in the freezing twilight, the roaring winds in the trees, comes that time and tide when the division between living and dead falls away. It does not matter that our ancestors, our ghosts and guests, are not part of the world. Indeed, this need not be.
Nos Galan Gaeaf, All Souls, All Hallows Eve, Winternights, Samhain.
All through Northern Europe, these festivals exist – in varying forms. Even the Roman Catholic Church gets in the act. In the 7th Century Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon to the Blessed Virgin and the Martyrs on May 13th – the culmination of the 3 day festival of the Lemures. In the days of Charlemagne, following the tradition of Pope Gregory III, the festival had moved to November the 1st.
The Lemures were liminal spirits of darkness and dread, figures which were propitiated yearly so as not to interfere with the living – in this sense, they may be similar to the original meaning of ghost – as supernatural figures which inspire terror in the darkness. Cognate with the larvae (singularly larva) meaning ‘masks’ – we begin to uncover the features of fearful apparitions lurking in the dark, ancestral cthonic deities and otherworldly spirits raging across the world with moral ambivalence.
Interestingly, the biological use of the word larvae for juvenile forms of insects and other creatures is used since these forms often conceal the final adult forms. The connexions continue along the threads of wyrd when one considers the conception that certain insect larvae are parasitical, requiring a host.
A host in its original sense was in the Latin hospitem meaning lord of strangers. Thus, a host as reference to army or multitude was in the sense of these strangers banded together. This replaced the Old English here which shares a root with ‘harry’.
Thus, one might conjecture that these ‘harriers’ of the living, these who frighten and terrify and upset in this no-time – this terrible and sacred in-between – are a veritable band of seemingly noxious spirits which echo the quote at the beginning of this piece.
For this is the time of the Wild Hunt, led by varying figures throughout Europe – whether they be Perchta, Frau Holle, Gwyn ap Nudd, Herne the Hunter, Odin, Woden or many others. The author cites personal experience that, while these Hunts may vary in folklore or purpose, what is constant throughout the lore is their terrible and fearsome nature, bound to ride – seemingly forever – across the sky as the embodiment of Freedom-Through-Bondage.
This may at first seem an oxymoron, until one considers such things from a cultic perspective. One notes that the members of a particular cultus are dedicated to its Mysteries, in whatever form they may be expressed. Additionally, the bond between members is one of initiation via shared experience. For this reason, it might be said that such things are elitist.
Such assertions would be correct.
This separation is Saturnian in the extreme – the initiate has, often through extreme severity – become a stranger to the society in which they were once embedded. One might see a more culturally understood notion of this in the ‘thousand-yard stare’ of combat veterans.
For the sorcerer, within the context of the becoming-as, one is essentially alone. The acknowledgement of that which lies beyond the threshold as necessary to, and integral to their existence – the ability to move as other-than is that which enables survival and prosperity in impossible conditions.
As the Wild Hunt is made of a multiplicity of individuals, it is, in and of itself, a singular thing. To the Germanic people, and others also, a king’s power was tied to his people and land. If we consider the warband as exemplar of this, then the notion of the might and main of the leader strengthening his men and vice versa is exceedingly important.
As such, the sorcerer may be considered part of the sabbatic stream – that is to say, co-equal with all those who indulge in sorcery and are sorcery. One may call and command those spirits as leader, only when one is aware that one is host to them.
This is not to say that the sorcerer creates them – quite the contrary. The sorcerer is re-created by them. By participating in that masked dance, as one of the dead amongst the living, he leaves behind the lighted world of men.
As one of the Wild Hunt, the flow from its members – allied in a way beyond ordinary comprehension – initiates the sorcerer into its Mysteries of darkness and ecstasy. As the Many, becoming-as One.
That One is the Silent Watcher, Hooded and Hidden. It stands, waiting. Only when the sorcerer accepts that One as the Ancient Unborn and accepts the Nature of the same, as it runs through the blood of all of their fellow initiates and invigorates the Self, will the runa be theirs.
And in that moment, the mask becomes flesh and blood. The gate is open, and the Master comes from the North.