The Long Mynd & the Wild Hunt
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
Rising high along “The Marches” borderlands between England and Wales (where Mercia derived it's name), The Long Mynd is a huge plateau topped with a windswept moorland. Around seven miles long it's steep gulley scarred eastern slopes face the earthworks of the old Brittonic castle Caer Caradoc while the moorland atop rolls gently down to the west.
Many tales are told of this rugged place, both ancient and modern in origin, but one name will always be tied to the Long Mynd – Wild Eadric.
Eadric did indeed exist in reality and we have records of his exploits in chronicles by both John of Worcester and Orderic Vitalis – two of the most relied upon names when piecing together Anglo Saxon history. He was a thegn during the closing years of the era, owning lands around Herefordshire and Shropshire but crucially did not fight at the Battle of Hastings. Thinking he might bide his time and perhaps strike a deal with the new Norman occupiers he was aghast when all of his lands were instead taken and given over to invading barons. Perhaps hoping to redeem himself Eadric retreated into Wales and formed an alliance with Blethyn of Powys - who himself had been placed in power by none other than King Harold Godwinson so his alliance with the Saxons was strong. This combined force joined in the nationwide uprisings against the Normans and attacked Shrewsbury, destroying the town but failing to take it's castle. After this Eadric took to launching small scale guerilla attacks against the occupiers, ambushing patrols and convoys then disappearing back into his forest hideout. He was one of many English rebels who took to living in tents within remote forest strongholds in order to stay alert and prepared and it is for this he gained the name Eadric Silvaticus – meaning “of the forest” or “living wild” - which became Wild Eadric. These “silvatici” may even have been the source of the Robin Hood legend, forest dwellers and thorns in the Norman sides as they were.
The “real” history fizzles out here as Eadric was captured during fighting at Stafford and (forced to?) swore loyalty to William of Normandy. It is known that he then fought on behalf of William both in Scotland and France. Yet it is also here that his legend begins. The story goes that Eadric, his wife Godda and all of his men were captured by an army of local Saxons and imprisoned in a cave within the gnarled Stiperstones hills. Incensed at his turning coat to the Normans, the Englishmen bade a wizard enchant the cavern, trapping the host for eternity within and only allowing them temporary freedom whenever England was again in grave danger. They became known as the Wild Hunt, escaping often and riding forth into the night sky to swoop on travellers, or conversely to inspire Englishmen to rise against enemies.
On the eve of Britain entering the Crimean War a local girl was hurrying home with her father across the Long Mynd when she saw the approaching mass of skyborne warriors. Hurling her flat to the ground, her father shouted to her not to look directly at the passing hoard. As horns blew and horses screamed above her the girl could not resist witnessing their passing and turned – to see Eadric and Godda themselves, both clad in forest green and with horns and daggers at their belts. Lady Godda had golden blonde hair that billowed behind her and Wild Eadric sported feathers stuck in his dark medieval bowl cut. Others since have heard but not seen the passing of this spectral squadron, always passing from east to west.
The fable of Wild Eadric's first meeting with his wife Godda takes on a more eatheral, magical tone. Hunting in Clun forest, the thegn became lost and wandered bewildered in an unknown part of the weald. He spied a group of strange women singing and dancing in a strange building in a clearing, and crept closer. Eadric staggered back, gobsmacked, as he saw the most beautiful women he had ever seen, bathed in magical light and surrounded by a circle of equally enchanting ladies. Seized by a madness he strode into the circle, wanting with every fibre of his being to be with this fairy for ever. He grabbed her, hurling her over his shoulder and making for his horse. The fae clawed and fought to hold onto their sister but he escaped with her, galloping into the forest. By a strange magic he rode directly home to his stronghold with the woman offering no resistance. When they entered his hall the fairy told him that her name was Godda and that he was the luckiest man on earth, for he had taken a fairy from her home, she had read his mind and judged him a good man, and she was ready to be his wife. Riches, luck and fortune would shower upon him as long as he stayed true to her and was never, ever, to speak ill of her or her sisters being fae.
Eadric was true to his word and the good times rolled, even taking them to the court of William of Normandy as word of this “it” couple spread far and wide. Their hall became a castle and the thegn's power grew and grew – but it was not to last. Returning from a battle in Scotland tired, hungry and irritable, Eadric found the castle empty. Godda returned that night but wine had passed his lips in no small amount and he scorned her, bellowing that her devil sisters had dragged her back to hell. As soon as the words came out he knew he had wronged her, but there was no second chance. She faded in a shaft of light, never to return, and the castle crumbled and fell around him. He became a forest fugitive, hunted by all, and was said to return many times to the place where he first saw Godda to sob into the earth. The Wild Hunt is said to be his ghost and those of his men crushed in the castle, riding forth in bitter aggression.
The moors on top of the Mynd are ruggedly beautiful, with riderless wild ponies roaming across it's windswept heath. The walk up along it's valleys and waterfalls can take one's mind to other times and once upon it's plateau, on a dark and windy day, it is not hard to imagine hearing the approach of the Wild Hunt...
The Stiperstones, legendary prison of Wild Eadric, Godda and the Wild Hunt
Wild horses roam the Long Mynd
The Wild Hunt by Franze Stuck, a darkly evocative vision of this ancient European tradition
The Long Mynd
Gullies and streams criss cross the slopes
Looking back from the path up to the plateau atop the hills