Hubert, Patron Saint of
By ©Mitch Ballard
Jagermeister label showing stag with
cross suspended between antlers.
Some historical scholars estimate the year was 705 A.D. while others claim it was 656. Regardless, St. Hubert, the Patron Saint of Hunters was born in the European city of Maastricht of French nationality. All the scholars agree Hubert died at Fura (the modern city of Tervueren) in the province of Brabant on May 30, 727 A.D.
Hubert was the oldest son of Bertrand, Duke of Aquintaine and grandson of Charibert, King of Toulouse - a descendant of The Great Pharamond.
Hubert was reportedly a great lover of pleasure and his chief passion was the chase, to which he devoted nearly all his time. According to the legend, Hubert was afield the morning of Good Friday (while the faithful were crowding into church) and he was participating in the chase of a deer on horseback with his famous hounds.
The Catholic Encyclopedia states: As he was pursuing a magnificent stag, and in a clearing in the forest, the animal stopped and turned. Hubert was astounded at perceiving a crucifix suspended between its antlers, while he heard a voice from the figure of Christ say, "Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly fall into the abyss of Hell!"
Hubert dismounted immediately from his horse, fell prostrate on the ground and asked, "Lord, what would you have me do?"
He immediately received the reply, "Go and seek Lambert and he will instruct you."
At the time, Lambert was the Bishop of Maastricht, who kindly received Hubert and became his spiritual advisor. Complicating matters even further, Hubert lost his wife during the childbirth of their first son shortly after his vision in the woods. Hubert decided to renounce all his honors, titles and military rank. Plus he relinquished his birthright as heir to the Duchy of Aquintaine, giving it to his younger brother Eudon, whom he also made the godfather of his infant son, Floribert.
Another version of the legend reports Lambert taught Hubert self discipline by forcing him to live alone as a hermit in the Ardennes (the Great French Forest) for a while.
After distributing all his wealth among the poor, Hubert entered upon his studies for the priesthood and was soon ordained. Shortly afterward he became one of Lambert's chief associates in the administration of his Diocese. Upon the advice of Lambert, Hubert made a pilgrimage to Rome and during his absence, Lambert was assassinated, but that's another story in itself. At the same hour as the Pope was giving an audience to Hubert, the Pope was distracted by a vision of Lambert's murder and on the spot he appointed Hubert as the new Bishop, replacing Lambert. Hubert returned to become the 31st Bishop of Maastricht (and the first Bishop of Liege) and was eventually described as the "Apostle of the Ardennes."
According to the legend, idolatry still lingered in the Ardennes Forest and "risking his life, Hubert penetrated the remote lurking places of paganism in his pursuit of souls and finally brought about the abolishment of the worship of idols in his neighborhood."
Eventually, Hubert went to dedicate a new church but had another vision, this one of his impending death. He continued anyway, preaching a valedictory sermon and fell sick almost immediately. Within six days, Hubert died while repeating The Lord's Prayer. The Roman Catholic Church has designated his feast day as November 3, appropriately enough since the rut is usually at or near its peak by then.
Hubert reportedly also worked several miracles during his life by exorcising those possessed by demons and curing a case of rabies after making the sign of the cross over the victim. Hubert is also the patron saint for archers, forest workers, furriers and trappers, hunters and huntsmen as well as hunting as a profession. He is also the patron saint for mathematicians, machinists, precision instrument makers and smelters along with those stricken with hydrophobia (rabies) and dogs.
In a related topic, bloodhounds (which are well known for their scenting ability and commonly acknowledged as ancestors of many different hunting dog breeds) reportedly originated from a cross between the black hounds of St. Hubert and the white hounds of the House of Talbot - both of which are from the Ardennes. Records from the House of Talbot provide further credence to this theory and tradition indicates many bloodhounds in Europe are still known and registered as the "Ohien de St. Hubert."
Hubert's representation is a stag bearing a cross or crucifix between its antlers: Hence the Master Hunter's (or Jagermeister's) Badge of Honor.
In fact the bottle cap on an imported bottle of Jagermeister herbal liqueur is a duplication of the Master Hunter's badge. The bottle's label also has the same representation of a stag with a shining cross, suspended between the antlers, as the brand's logo. Surrounding the label is a German phrase, which loosely translated means: "This is the hunter's badge of honor, which he protects and wears as his shield, to guard, while in the fine and honorable profession of hunting; which also honors the Creator and his creations."
Literally translated, Jagermeister means Master Hunter in the German language. The term is applied to those who have rightfully earned the respect of their peers and regular citizens as well. German heritage requires much more of hunters than simply passing an eight-hour safety course before being issued a license. In that country it is a privilege to go afield with a firearm and the sport requires many seasons of apprenticeship.
Following four years of apprenticeship a hunter is then allowed to take the exam for Jagermeister certification. This distinct traditional heritage is from the country that also brought us the legend of Bambi. You'll recall the bad guys in the original Bambi story were "poachers," not hunters. There is no anti-hunting social agenda in Germany since the sport is highly regulated and steeped in tradition. Hunters are welcomed everywhere.
German hunters also participate in extensive rituals following the death of a big game animal taken while hunting, along with other cultural heritages including a toast to the fallen animal itself. Caveman instincts bond all hunters when they're in the field - no matter what modern civilization has done to each person.
Quite possibly those centuries-old traditions are what has evolved into the North American big game hunter's need to participate in some form of ceremony following the kill. Maybe they are unsure of just where or how it started, but many hunters (including Native Americans) repeat a prayer, or chant, or simply express their joy with a shout of excitement after the shot is confirmed and the animal is down.
Anything from smearing the blood of a freshly killed deer on your face (similar to war paint) to saying a brief prayer of thanks to loud whoops, or simply firm handshakes all around pretty much describe the range of activities surrounding a freshly killed deer or elk here in America. It certainly is a rite of passage for a youngster to take their first big game animal and it's an experience they'll never forget.
Regardless, giving thanks to the dead animal, and to God, for the resulting nourishment must be what it's all about. Respect for the fallen, and seeking a blessing for the meat, and honoring the death of one of God's creatures must be the catalyst for these traditions. Of course tagging fresh venison is the object, but preparing for and participating in the hunt is almost as rewarding. Activities surrounding the hunt as well as the camaraderie involved with the "tribe" provide untold pleasure as it creates lasting memories.
It is very inappropriate to desecrate, actually violating the sacredness, of any mounted animal with sunglasses, hats, or cigarettes shoved into a taxidermist's work of art. Humoring people who've never participated in the honor of taking a wild game animal's life is disgusting. Domesticated animals provide suitable protein but they don't enjoy the freedom of the wildness experienced by game animals during their lives in the forests and fields. Our teeth and stomachs convert that deer's living energy into our own and we owe it much deserved respect.
So, if you wish, say a prayer of thanksgiving or ask a blessing of St. Hubert when you kill your next deer or elk; just remember to honor the death of the wild animal and utilize the meat with respect. It died so that you might live.
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