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Friday, January 28, 2011

In Search of Herne the Hunter by Eric L. Fitch

According to legend King Richard the second was hunting in Windsor park when a wild stag attacked his horse almost killing him. Lucky for King Richard Herne his head woodsman jumped in to save the day. Herne wrestles the stag to the ground and kills it with a knife, In the process Herne is injured and close to death. The Wizard has him carried out on bed made of oak wood and mistletoe. Two stag horns are tied to Hernes head and Herne gets better but he loses his hunting ability. Eventually due too slander and the loss of his hunting ability Herne wanders into the forest and becomes a wild man. Eventually he hangs him self on an Oak Tree. His ghost haunts the woodmen who slandered him. After enough haunting the rival woodmen turn themselves over to the wizard. They all commit suicide and become part of Hernes wild ride.

Herne is mentioned is Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor and Ainworth castle. This book examines the source and the root of the legendary Herne the hunter. One of the first analysis undertaken by the author is the examination of Herne's name. He things it may derive from the word Cern which means horn. There also could have been a poacher in the kings wood named "Horn" who was found and committed suicide. Another meaning behind the name is the word "Heron" There was in fact a Heron farm nearby whicch grew the birds. Here was also a "Heron the Hunter" from Thrace who was brought over to Britain by the Romans. The brought Isis and Mithras with them to Britain. The British horned God Cernunnos is often equated with Jupiter, who is lightning god.

With in the legend of the Herne story are several motifs. The first motif is the Oak Tree. The Oak Tree is sacred to the Ancient Brits. It is said to protect a house from lighting and it also attracts lighting. They say to have one near your house protects it from being struck by lighting. British ruler are said to have hidden in Oak Trees when time were tough. The Oak Tree is also believed to house a spirit called the "Dryad"

Oak Trees are mentioned across cultures. They were mentioned in the Bible. Other cultures held them sacred. Mistletoe was said to enhance fertility and was used by the Druids to access faerie realms.

The Second Motif is horns. All across Europe and the world there are horned gods. Usually the horns denote fertility, virility and strength. Pan was a horned god as was Osiris and Baal of the Canaanites. There were also horned gods mentioned as far a field as China. Horns have been found in burial mounds. They are believed to help the soul reincarnate into another life. Horns also have a rejuvenation effect because on the red reindeer they fall off in winter and grow back in the spring. In China antler horns were used in medicine to help vitality.

Horns were also worn by ancient people. They were used during hunt to disguise themselves as animals. but more importantly they were used in sympathetic magick to help them with the hunt. The cave painting in Lasceux show them hunting the animal. Horned Gods were in charge of the hunt and regulating the game.

Another source of the legendary Herne comes from Anglo saxon mythology. Woden hung himself from a tree in an acct of sacrifice. But he also had a train of demon dogs much like Herne had. According to Christian legend the Demon dogs were the sould s of the damned. Often times if one was caught in the way Herne or Woden for that matter they could find themselves being killed or kidnapped. This square with the mythology of Woden.

THe book then examines some Pagan customs that survive in Britain. One of them is a dance where 6 dancers have antler skulls. 3 are painted white and three are painted black, A hunter comes and shoots them and they scatter. People also used to dress up as animals and the most noteable is the hobby horse which the person in disguise harrasses people. Sometimes the festivities get out of hand that authorities had to be called. People would dress as animals because many tribes felt that a certain animal was the parent off their tribe and also that they could absorb the qualities of the animals spirit.

aNOTHER tradition is the sacrificial king. THe king would sacrifice himself for the good of the community. His blood would drench the land bringing forth vicctory and productivity. Herne definitely sacrifices himself on the tree as does the British God Cernunnos.

This is an excellent book for understanding the horned god in Britain and Europe well woth the read.

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