The Wild Hunt: ghosts, goddesses and witches in medieval Europe (Public Lecture, 16th February)


the wild hunt

An eerie roar, a whirl of wind, the cover of cloud, and a group of ghostly huntsmen charging past you. A premonition of war? Of the plague? Your own death? This is the ‘wild hunt’, a folkloric belief that forms the topic of the next lecture in the Ghosts: The Evidence of Spirits series, with Professor Ronald Hutton. Come along on Tuesday 16th February at 18.15, in Elvet Riverside 140.

The Wild Hunt is a phenomenon which looms large in the modern Western consciousness, both in works of fiction and in those of history; and in the latter it has recently achieved a special importance as one of the building blocks of the idea of the witches’ sabbath. It is generally viewed as a nocturnal cavalcade of ghosts and fairies, led by a supernatural male or female figure and derived from pagan antiquity. This lecture aims to answer the questions of where this idea comes from, how much it corresponds to actual ancient and medieval belief, and how much it did contribute to the concept of the witches’ sabbath.

This series of lectures is organised as part the Institute of Advanced Study’s year on the theme of ‘evidence.’ Future lectures will look among other things at ghosts in the city from Baudelaire to Hilary Mantel, and gothic cinema; full listings can be found at the Institute of Advanced Study. Podcasts from the first lectures in the series are available now.

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