The Sacred Boar and the Dark of the Year (Samhain 2012)

BoarFor the last few weeks I have been feeling the presence of the Boar.  This would not be completely out of the blue as the Boar is the sacred animal for the last lunar cycle of Gort – representing tenacity and ruthless strength. In my spiritual practice, I travel into the Otherworld and typically discover allies with animals.  My first step in getting to know an animal that has become present, I do the research.

“The Boar is the beast of death,” (Graves, 210), and much of what we read about Boars and pigs is in general connected with death.  Death is a concern in most religions and contemplation of death takes on a special vividness and immediacy.  The Boar is, among other things, a devourer; it is a menace to crops and to people, it is voracious and it is omnivorous.

In his famous song, “The Mystery” Amergin sang, “I am a ruthless Boar.” The Boar is the last of Four Sacred Animals to be mentioned by him.   Stories about the Boar deal with the “hinge” of the year, the passage across the boundary between Light and Dark. The Boar is the creature that represents the never ending continuity of divine energy and is seen as chased from one realm of energy-manifestation to the other.  The Boar’s expression changes, becoming either a dark creature of destruction or a solar teacher.  This is similar to the Stag, who changes from the antlered apparition to the earth-bound power at the heart of the greenwood.  So here at the time of Samhain in the Northern Hemisphere, as we move into darkness, the Boar becomes the harbinger of death, riding on the active energy of growth into darkness.

But the Boar’s descent into the Underworld is not just a journey of destruction.  In spite of any other roles it may play, the Boar is a creature of fertility.  It plants the seeds of renewal. It is as if the many fragments of life retain that life within themselves and, buried like seeds in winter soil, they will be nurtured by the darkness of the dark until the next bright season.

In addition to representing fertility and wealth, Boars symbolize courage and strong warriors (MacCulloch, 356) for they are strong, dangerous, and very hard to kill. Their appearance in dreams and visions also indicates warriors. Isolt’s forewarning of the death of Tristan, a great warrior, came in a dream about the death of a great Boar (Spector, 85-86). Statues of Boars are occasionally found in the company of statues of armed warriors, (Powell, 176) further indicating an association between Boars and warriors.

Great importance is attached to the bristles of the Boar. Perhaps they are the distinguishing characteristic of the animal or symbolize its strength. For example, Fionn is killed by stepping on a Boar’s bristle after breaking a geasa against hunting Boars (MacCulloch, 150). Some of the extraordinary Boars that King Arthur fights in Culhwich and Olwen have bristles that are gold or silver. Conversely, when Menw tries to steal treasures from Twrch Trwyth, he is only able to take a bristle. The pig herders at the start of the Táin, Friuch and Rucht, are named after the bristle and the grunt of the Boar, respectively. It is the bristle of the Boar, Friuch that proves to have the most power; in the end, Friuch reborn as Donn Cuilnge destroys Rucht as Finnebach Ai. The bristles of the Boar are mentioned many other times implying that they are an important part of the animal.

In my researched on the Boar I discovered that the Boar is the animal that both Freyr and Freyja rode – specifically Freyja’s association.  Most of the information I obtained came from the Lay of Hyndla.  It seems that Freyja’s Boar, Hildsvini, was her lover, Ottar, who had been changed into a Boar and upon whose back Freyja rode. Certainly there are sexual overtones here; in fact Freyja was accused of being promiscuous by Hyndla for it!

So, having completed my research, I was ready.  I went into meditation and invited Freyja to join me.  I found myself in a dense forest sitting on a tree stump.  While I could not see Freyja, I spoke with her.  I told her what I was looking for and that I hoped it would be a Boar but asked her to guide me.

I explained to Freyja why I was looking. I got up and started walking into the forest feeling expectant.  After about five minutes I came around a corner and standing there was a Boar.  He was pretty darn big!  I really expected to be afraid and thought perhaps he would not be friendly but actually he was friendly toward me.  Perhaps he had been instructed by Freyja – I don’t know.  I walked over to him and ran my hands on his back and talked with him.

I explained what I needed, that I wanted him to help me ferret out information when I needed it and when it was being difficult to obtain.  I told him I admired his tenacity and that I hoped we could work together as a team.  He never answered me but when I hopped up on his back he made no protest.  I again ran my hands on him around his neck and sort of laid myself down over his neck and gave him a hug.  After that I got down and he wandered off.

It seems very right for this Boar to be entering my life.  Earlier this year after a dance of a year or so, the Stag came into my journeys and now the Boar.  The Stag represents the Light of the year and the Boar the Dark.  I don’t know yet if the Stag will stay with me in my journeys or be replaced by the Boar as a seasonal variation.  Only time will tell.  When I see the Boar again I will call him Elohx.  If he is both Stag and Boar, the name is fitting for both.  As related to the Rune Algiz – elk-sedge – he will be a strong guide and helper in stripping away “bark” to reveal the wisdom I seek.

In my next meditation, I was alone and decided to take a little journey.  It had been very quiet and frankly, I was so bored I needed to do something.  I was listening to a song on my computer that I had downloaded and was sitting back in my chair with my eyes closed.  The next thing I knew I was walking in the woods. So I decided to go looking for the Boar.  I sent out a call and asked him to come meet me.  I walked a little further and then suddenly, there he was.  I greeted him and asked him if I might call him Elohx.  He still did not speak to me but I sensed a slight nod of his head.  I reached out and ran my hands over his fur which was quite thick and I sensed that I needed to be careful not to go the wrong way as they seemed somewhat sharp.  Really beautiful – like very thick hair!  So I asked if we might go somewhere and I climbed up on his back.  I expected us to trot along much like riding on a horse, but no we left the ground and flew!  Right up over the trees.  His feet were tucked back and I held on and we went soaring over the trees – it felt rather odd but I would like to get used to it! About that time, I was brought abruptly back to this world by the ringing of my phone.

So I took the call and then sat back and closed my eyes once more.  I wasn’t on his back anymore and surprising – he didn’t seem to be too disturbed by my sudden departure – strange how things can be in the world of trance.  Anyway, I apologized and said I had better go.  I thanked him and said we would meet again. I hope to be able to journey with him when I have a question!

I have added Boar bristles to my drum and look forward to journeying with Elohx through the remaining darkness of the year.

Robert Graves, Robert, White Goddess.  The Noonday Press, 1969.
Kondratiev, Alexei, The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual, Citadel Press, New York, NY, 2003.
MacCulloch, J. A. The Religion of the Ancient Celts. T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1911.
Powell, T.G.E. The Celts. New Ed., Thames and Hudson, New York, NY, USA, 1980.
Spector, Norman B., trans. The Romance of Tristan and Isolt. Northwestern University Press: Evanston, USA, 1973

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