Wild Hunt: The Legend of Herne The Hunter

Herne the Hunter and hisWild Hunt having been roaming the grounds of Hampton Court Palace in London, England, since Herne’s betrayal in the 1300’s.

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                 Imagine this: you are strolling about the grounds of Hampton Court palace, enjoying the lovely English twilight. Suddenly, you hear pounding hoof beats, baying hounds and, the calls of hunters. The band thunders past, and you see that the hunt is led by a man with antlers! As the last horse passes, the sound fades, and the hunters vanish before your very eyes. Congratulations, you have just witnessed Herne the Hunter and his Wild Hunt, who have been haunting England for centuries.

                Just who was Herne the Hunter, and why does his ghost still roam the grounds of Hampton Court Palace? The tale begins sometime between 1377 and 1399, during the reign of Richard II. According to the legend, Herne was the king’s Royal Huntsman. During one fateful hunt, a wounded stag charged the king. Herne threw himself in front of the stag, saving the king but suffering a mortal wound in the process. A wizard then approached the king, and said the king could save Herne’s life by tying the dead stag’s antlers to Herne’s head. King Richard did so, and Herne miraculously recovered.

After Herne’s noble act, the king felt indebted to Hearne, and the hunter became a court favorite. The king showered the hunter with favors and gifts, causing Herne’s fellow hunters to become extremely jealous. The hunters plotted to shame Herne in the king’s eyes, and drive him from court. The plot succeeded, and Herne was ousted from the king’s court. Despairing, Herne hung himself from and oak tree on the palace grounds.

                Ever since, there have been many sightings of Herne the Hunter leading a ghostly group of hunters and hounds, called the Wild Hunt. Herne’s ghost is usually said to appear wrapped in chains and having stags antlers growing from his head.  One of the first sightings of Herne and his Wild Hunt was reported by King Henry VIII. While there are no reports of Queen Victoria actually witnessing the Hunt, she ordered the tree purported to be the one Herne used to hang himself burned in order to release his soul when it blew down in 1863.

                Herne the Hunter and his Wild Hunt are said to appear whenever England is in danger. Sightings occurred before World War II and the 1931 depression. It is said that Herne is ever watchful and will continue to warn England of disasters till worlds end.

                `If you want to attempt a sighting of the Wild Hunt, the most common places for Herne and his Hunters to appear are on the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, located in the London borough of Richmond  on the Thames and the nearby forest of Windsor Great Park.

References:

The Element Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Hauntings, by Theresa Chung

The Complete Idiots Guides to Ghosts and Hauntings, 2nd Edition, by Thomas Ogden

www.visitlondon.com

Image via Wikipedia

 

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