|.I HAVE A SNAKIPEDER IN MY GODDAMNED GARDEN!|
I am not impressed. Husband and family are amused. I hate everyone. That is all.
I missed two Mythic Mondays because I had a cold from hell. Therefore, I'm returning some hellishness in tonight's MM, in honor of my favorite season AND the season two premier of Sleepy Hollow, which I adore. Tom Mison's Ichabod Crane is NOT the weasely, big nosed, wimpy dude in Washington Irving's tale: his interpretations of the silliness of modern culture (compared to 1776) is fantastic. In addition, being the mythology freak I am I LOVE where the writers took the Headless Horseman tale...but that's all I'll say since spoilers are just rude.
So. Washington Irving wrote a short story in the 1820 called The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. If you haven't read it, go forth and get it for Halloween: it's wonderful. It's not the original: it's just the first American version of the tale of a headless horseman.
Irving's Horseman was a Hessian (Germanic) mercenary fighting for the British in the American Revolution whose head was removed by a cannonball. Cursed, he rides the roads around Sleepy Hollow, searching for his head and generally causing havoc...including taking heads. It's entirely possible the Galloping Hessian started during the war as terror propaganda, after all, and Irving only wrote the story down forty years later: no reason he wouldn't have heard some handed down scary tale from an old war veteran when he was a child. What better way to demonize the losing side than by making a monster out of their soldiers?
But Sleepy Hollow wasn't the first town to get a Headless Horseman. The Grimm boys found a Headless horseman tale in their wanderings around Germany. Yes indeedy: the same Germany which produced the Hessian mercenaries...it's possible our legend came over to America with them, or with the Dutch settlers in New York. Interestingly, The Grimms reportedly SAW the Horseman...twice. Quite impressive, really: HH in every version was pretty darn violent and heads were generally taken.
In Ireland the HH was Dullahan: a SERIOUSLY TERRIFYING headless man in black who chases down people on Halloween and throws buckets of blood. If the blood hits you, or if he calls out your name, you're going to die the next day. This is not a children's story villain who throws scary carved gourds at people and runs away. Much like the Banshee, only more aggressive (no wailing for this guy), Dullahan and Banshees are sometimes seen together, chasing people down in a chariot pulled by six black horses and using a human SPINE as a whip.
Yeah. Pleasant. Obviously Dullahan owned the original Mortal Kombat fatality bonus move.
In any case, the Galloping Hessian of Sleepy Hollow may be the first Headless Horseman legend in the Americas, but he's definitely not the last. Many states have a version of the creature in some Halloween tale. In Texas there's a legend of a beheaded horsethief who wanders the countryside on a grey horse. (Maybe he'll come take care of my snake problem). Even Disney got in on the HH act, not only with an Ichabod Crane cartoon but with the Horseman showing up places like Fantasia and Mickey's House of Mouse.
I personally suspect the HH is a throwback to legends of The Wild Hunt. Truly, The Hunt deserves its own blog post which is in the works for October, as there are variations of the Gods and/or the Fae (depending on your area) tearing across the countryside (and woe to they who get in the way, or even SEE). But I do see some connections between a Headless Horseman who haunts and chases down night travelers in vengeance for his violent death and the Fae riding down the unwary, who are never seen again.
Bottom line? If you hear thundering hooves on Halloween night, run like hell and don't look back. It could be the Horseman, come to collect your head.