Herne is English form of the Horned God known also as Cernunnos and Cerne
in Celtic lands. Herne is associated with the Wild Hunt, just as the God
Gwynn ap Nudd is in Welsh mythology. While certainly some stories have
captitalised on the Pagan elements of the story of Robin of Locksley,
it is not that improbable that some form of Paganism or at least Pagan
elements remained in the thirteenth century. Occasionally throughout
the Middle Ages the Church and States throughout Europe found it necessary
to issue warnings about making sacrifices, dancing at Pagan festivals, etc.
While the Church tried to incorporate as much Pagan tradition as possible
into a Christian framework, it was at times taken about with the robust
abandon with which parishoners practiced the Old Faith, especially in
anything to due with planting or fertility. It is difficult to get
people to give up tried and true methods which have worked for generations.
Also, our very words "pagan" and "heathen" refer to rural people (i.e.,
people of the country, people of the heath), indicating that the
Christianisation of Europe began in the cities and with the ruling class
and only slowly made its way down and out. The fact that Pagan festivals
still made it to the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century (fanciful
Victorian recreations not included) makes it plausible for a stronger
current in thirteenth century England, which is only a century or two since
the coalation of Christianity through orthodoxing synods and the Crusades.
(And after all, Robin is supposed to be a supporter of Richard I, who
was in fact particiapating in this process). The age of heresy and
Inquisition which followed reflected this concept of correctness--
prior to it there was a lot of leeway on belief, and as long as parishioners
tithed or made it to the Church occasionally, and baptised and married
within it, the priests were happy. And in fact they while they did not
prefer so-called "Greenwood" marriages (made alone by the couple) they
supported them once they were told, especially if there was issue.
Two excellent renditions of Herne are the BBC _Robin Hood_ with Michael
Praed (and later Sean Connery's son, Jason), and Susan Cooper's books
for children _The Dark is Rising_ (_Over Sea, Under Stone_, _The Dark
is Rising_, _Greenwitch_, _The Grey King_, and _Silver on the Tree_).
The BBC Robin has him chosen by Herne to protect the forest and the
people from tyranny. Cooper's books blend myth and magic brilliantly,
not only that of Herne, but of Arthur, Myrddin (Merlin), Wayland the
Smith, and the Drowned lands, and like the BBC Robin, celebrate the
power of ordinary mortals (and a few chosen ones) in the eternal
struggle between Light and Darkness. Cooper's books were my first
window into the beauty of Wales and Cornwall, the Old Gods, and
British legends, and my love of things Celtic, long before I really
realised that it was my heritage as well.
Elisabeth Eilir Rowan
[log in to unmask]