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Page:A book of folk-lore (1913).djvu/79

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magician who performs wonders with his bat at Christmas.

Belief in the Wild Hunt is general throughout Northern Europe, alike among Celtic and Teutonic peoples, because what has originated the superstition is a simple natural fact that has been wrongly explained. On the approach of winter flights of bean-geese come south from Scotland and the Isles, Iceland, and Scandinavia. They choose dark nights for their migrations, and utter a loud and very peculiar cry. A gentleman was riding alone near the Land's End on a still dark night, when the yelping cry broke out above his head So suddenly, and to all appearance so near, that he instinctively pulled up his horse as if to allow the pack to pass, the animal trembling violently at the unexpected sounds.

In Durham the Wild Hunt goes by the name of the Gabriel Hounds, and in Yorkshire it is the "Gabble retchit". I cannot explain the derivation. We may, I think, see in the wild huntsmen either the Teutonic god Tiu or Tyr, or else the Celtic Duse. "Old Nick" is none other than Woden, the chief god of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers, who has bequeathed to us the name of Wednesday. He was also called Hnikare or Nikarr. In Norway he has been degraded into a water-sprite of Nix.