View Full Version : 'The Religion of the Teutons', by Chantepie De La Saussaye [full text]

Monday, July 4th, 2005, 08:20 AM
by P. D. Chantepie De La Saussaye, trans. by Bert J. Vos

"Folklore (Volkskunde) undertakes to investigate all the manifestations of the life of a people, that is to say, of a definite complex of human beings, be it thousands or millions, whose boundaries, historically and geographically, are accurately defined." It is, therefore, "a national and historical science." In one of its branches it investigates "the popular religious opinions and observances, usually comprised under the name of superstitions."

These are the words of K. Weinhold in a very brief but excellent essay, in which he pleads for an historical treatment of what is usually called folklore, a name that has been the subject of some controversy. Accepting Weinhold's exposition, we shall, therefore, have to reserve a place in our historical survey for Teutonic folklore of the Middle Ages and of more recent times.

The task of mythology in the study of folklore is to point out the heathen elements in various Marchen, customs, popular usages, and legal institutions. From the nature of the case, we can here only draw the main outlines and bring forward illustrative examples.

At the very outset we must draw a rather sharp line of demarcation between the stories and the customs. The latter have struck far deeper root in the life of the people than the former. Scholars have long given the Marchen undue prominence. Myths were traced in them; the Marchen was "the poor relation" of myth and heroic saga, the "patois" of mythology. The Sleeping Beauty in the forest was Brunhild; the tale of the faithful John, the myth of Freyr and Gerdhr; and account of the burgomaster of Cologne, who killed a lion in the year 1276, could be nothing else than the myth of Tyr. But this view, although apparently supported by a large number of examples, is now recognized as untenable. In the first place, it is not obvious how and why so large a number of myths should have been converted into popular tales. It has, moreover, been proved that many of these tales are of Oriental origin, having reached Europe through literary channels, and were preserved only after being recast in the popular imagination. Finally, a large number of identical story types may be traced in myths, heroic sagas, and popular tales. Their agreement and spread do not admit of a further explanation.

The case is different with respect to the numerous elements of popular belief and popular usage that may be reduced to conceptions which everywhere characterize the lower stages in the development of the human race. The belief in souls and spirits that roam about, in demoniac possession, in metamorphosis, in a correspondence between vegetable and animal life, in the universal character of soul, in the magic power of various formulas and practices,—in what since the time of Tylor has passed under the general name of "animism,"—is encountered everywhere. In the case of more highly developed peoples, this is held to represent a survival of the primitive savage state. From this point of view "ethnographic parallels" are constantly sought for; what is found, for example, among the Teutons is illustrated by similar customs, perchance of Polynesians, or, nearer at hand, of the nations of classical antiquity. It is obvious, however, that this method does not result in reproducing a picture of the life of a definite people; that in the present instance not what is characteristically Teutonic, but Teutonic parallels for general conceptions, no matter how rich, are brought into relief. Thus Mannhardt arranged the material gathered from the series of questions he had sent to all points of the compass, not historically, but according to certain general points of view.

The question naturally presents itself, whether there is a sufficient amount of material at hand for a different, for a truly historical, treatment of folklore. Fortunately, so far as the Teutonic nations are concerned, this question can be answered in the affirmative. The data usually comprised under the name of folklore constitute part of the material through which we become acquainted with the civilization, the manner, and the customs of a people in the different periods of its historical existence. Folklore is an important study only in connection with this history of culture, and nowhere are we better able to study folklore in its historical environment than on Teutonic soil.

Of a number of usages, we possess direct testimony that they have come down from heathen times, in that they were prohibited as such by West-Gothic, Frankish, or Anglo-Saxon synods, or in ecclesiastical documents. Heathen games, horse races, banquets immediately preceding Ascension day, worship of springs, various kinds of magic blessings, and similar customs, the church strenuously sought to eradicate as survivals of Teutonic paganism. In popular legal forms also and in symbolic actions there is not a little that may be classed under this head. Even in the late Middle Ages a throw with a stone hammer determined the boundary of a field, a custom that must certainly be of ancient origin, since a stone hammer was not a tool commonly used by an archbishop of Mainz or a count of Nassau. The same applies to the figures of the ancient gods that lie concealed behind the personages of Christian saints. Donar-Thor, with his hammer, his red beard, and the dragon that he slays , is clearly recognizable in St. George and St. Olaf; Wodan, with hat, mantle, and dapple-gray horse, or as a wild huntsman, appears in the guise of St. Martin and St. Michael.

There is an extensive literature on the subject of pagan elements in popular belief and observances. In studying these elements, a distinction must be made, not only between what is national and what is universal, what is Teutonic and what is foreign, but also between what has really come down from heathen times and what originated at a later period. In the Middle Ages and even in modern times, the people formed mental images and fashioned customs of life on the pattern of pagan conceptions. Pagan ideas and pagan figures thus continue to exist, but not in fixed, immutable forms. The people are not bound to them, but preserve the old in new and characteristic combinations, adding to the old various new features. Only in this way can we account for existing facts and vindicate for Teutonic folklore an historical character of its own, as an important element in the general history of culture. A few examples will serve to illustrate these statements. We must perforce be brief in our consideration of the subject, since the detailed treatment does not lie within the scope of the present volume.

The collections of popular tales and sagas, arranged according to districts, show how all manner of stories are associated with particular with particular places. Especially forests and springs, but also old castles, are still visited by white women or the old lords of the castle. What strikes us in these stories is that the references to elemental spirits or souls haunting the earth are not of a general character, but that definite occurrences are related. Hence these tales constitute and essential part of the life of the people. Several of their characteristic features have been derived from prehistoric heathen times.

Forests were held in especial veneration by the ancient Teutons. Similarly, Christian synods were compelled to inveigh continually against the worship of springs. We have repeatedly pointed out how much value was attached to keeping alive the memory of the old ancestors and to doing homage to the semi- or totally mythical progenitor of the tribe. But what the peasantry still tell and believe is not simply the echo of the belief of fifteen hundred or more years ago. Historical occurrences from the earlier or later Middle Ages are found as well in these accounts. A collection such as that which Mullenhoff made for the district of Sleswick-Holstein shows this very clearly. Various stories are still current among the people of the ancient mythical characters of Sceaf and Scyld. Tales are also told of a black Griet or a tall Pier, people who have actually existed, but who are treated entirely on the same basis as mythical characters. Finally, a variety of stories are told among the people, the origin of which is not to be traced to either myths or sagas: restricted to a definite locality, they represent a poetically imaginative continuation of ancient belief and custom.

The calendar is especially instructive in this regard. To take an example from the months: In Iceland the names of the first four months of the year are Thorri, Goi, Einmanadhr, Harpa. There is no mythology behind these names. They are largely appellative in origin. But a myth has been created out of them: Thor and Goi are the parents of Einman and Harpa. Each was fetched in and welcomed at the beginning of his or her month: Thor by the husbands, Goi by the wives, and Einman and Harpa by the boys and girls, respectively. The bondi who brought Thor in limped around his house, clad in a shirt and with only one leg in his trousers, and gave a feast, at which there was great merriment. These are customs that have a heathen look about them, and which yet do not go back to heathen times.

The festival of Nerthus and the ship of Isis show that, as early as the days of Tacitus, the change of seasons was celebrated among the German tribes with processions. We are therefore justified in regarding the numerous springtime processions in which a ship was drawn about on a wagon, encountered especially in the region of the Lower Rhine, as a continuation of a heathen custom. But the people did not stop there. Everywhere the new season is brought in and the winter driven out; or verdant summer, symbolized by a girl dressed in white and gaily bedecked with ribbons, and winter bundled up in straw and furs, sing an alternate song; or merry guests fetch in the May queen, or the Pfingstlümmel. All this represents a new warp on an old woof. It would be as preposterous to trace all this to Teutonic paganism as to attribute to it any special religious significance.

Similarly, in the case of the fires kindled to ward off misfortune, the so-called Notfeuer (need-fire), and the many observances connected with the harvest and the breeding of cattle. Doubtless these are survivals of heathen customs. In the case of the Scandinavian North, it is expressly stated they Freyr received sacrifices for the fruitfulness of the soil. But it would be far-fetched to trace all the details of modern usage to the heathen period. The greater part of it has sprung up from a root of paganism in a Christian soil. Such religious significance as may be detected in it bears a heathen character, even where the customs are of later origin. But in the case of the "last sheaf," and the magic brooms with which cattle are touched to drive out the spirits that cause sickness, and the like, the religious idea has come to be quite secondary. This much is certain, that the observances as found at present have become and integral part of German peasant life and, having been modified to meet local conditions, constitute an essential element of the historical life of the people.

The conception of the Wild Hunt or the Furious Host plays an important part in popular belief. Since the Middle Ages, such conceptions are met with under various names, the former more commonly in North, the latter in South, Germany.

The general notion underlying this conception may easily be determined. In the raging and howling of the tempest the wild hunter and his train are recognized. This hunter is usually Wodan, the god of the wind, who is at the same time to god of the dead. This train is made up of the souls of the departed. Dying we find occasionally designated as "joining the old host." While the elements that enter into the conception are therefore two in number, the wind and the company of souls, there have not only been added a number of other features, but in many places and in various localities the conception has assumed a special character. In one place the train issues from a particular mountain, in another particular individuals are designated as forming a part of it.

Here, again, the student of folklore should not seek exclusively for general parallels with conceptions that are current elsewhere, but should first of all inquire what special features distinguish the Teutonic conception. The "host" rushing through the air is found in a large number of special variations. The "wild Hunt" or "furious host" is connected with various time of the year, with definite localities,—more especially mountains,—with semi-mythical stories, such as the chase in pursuit of an animal or woman, with the fate of the soul after death, with individual persons whose savagery seemed to deserve this punishment of being compelled to wander about restlessly, with various prognostications associated in the minds of the people with wind and aërial phenomena, and with many other things. We do not, of course, claim that the enormous mass of material gathered on this subject in the way of popular tales and stories, of observances and superstitions, admits of strictly historical arrangements. Nor is it maintained that all of it, as existing in the Christian Middle Ages and in the life of the peasantry in modern times, has been handed down from Teutonic heathendom. The popular imagination has given further development to an already existing germ. It is clear, at any rate, that in this Wild Hunt the great "hell-hunter," Wodan, still survives among the people. If not necessarily, the Wild Hunt is at least frequently, directly connected with the god Wodan, and the whole conception attains among the Teutons a vividness, clearness, and variety that is equalled nowhere else. The historical element in folklore, therefore, implies that, apart from the numerous historical reminiscences to be found in the hunt or the host, one or more of its members may be identified with persons of whose memory the people still stand in awe.

Everywhere in Teutonic folklore we meet with giants and dwarfs. In whole series of popular tales and narratives they play the chief rôle. They persist, furthermore, in a number of popular customs; the elves, at any rate, are even accorded some species of religious worship. It is, of course, an easy matter to trace general ethnographic parallels for giants and dwarfs. Elemental spirits of mountain, forest, and water, wild men of the woods, giant mountain spirits, dexterous gnomes, teasing goblins, are found among various peoples. To picture the life of this queer folk, the Grimms turned to Ireland.

But alongside of these general features the Teutonic world shows much that is characteristic. Not merely that we can here gather the richest harvest of examples of this widespread belief, but the giants and elves have also taken on the character of the land and people. They too are localized, are connected with definite mountains or springs, are interwoven with the history of a village or family. Many of them, dwarfs especially, bear names and have thus become real personages. While among Balto-Slavic nations the family and house spirits play the leading role, among Teutons this is taken by the spirits of nature. The distinction is, of course, not an absolute one., but merely one of degree. The special characteristics of the giants are unwieldiness and wisdom, of the dwarfs skill and cunning. In the Norse mythology of the Edda there are indications of a conception of the giants as an older race of gods, a power inimical to the Æsir. This idea has not, however, been developed as systematically as in the case of the Greek Titans and Giants. In German folklore, and in that of France and England as well, there appears now and then the poetic conception that elves strive through the love of man to acquire an immortal soul. The conception is popular, but not heathen in origin.

In discussing Teutonic folklore, we are continually struck by the fact that it is not possible to draw a sharp line of demarcation between the figures of the "lower" mythology which still live on in it and those of mythology proper. The theory which explains the one as the development of the other is as unsatisfactory as that which sees in folklore merely a popular degenerated form of mythology. There are several classes of beings which we cannot group exclusively on either the one side or the other. So in the case of the giants and dwarfs, who belong to folklore, but at the same time play a part in numerous myths, and who even occupy a place in the cult. The same applies to the Norns and Walkyries. The Norns especially play a rôle in many a Marchen, and yet they also require consideration in connection with the pantheon, in which the Teutons believed.

We are here only concerned with giving specific examples, and there is no need of largely multiplying these. The Norse Berserkers alone still remain to be considered. These raging and foaming heroes, who during the intervals when they are possessed are endowed with supernatural strength, are also encountered elsewhere. But who could overlook the characteristically Norse way in which they are treated? Whenever the warlike Scandinavians make mention of ecstatic conditions or supernatural powers, they have in mind exclusively the exhibition of physical, superhuman strength. Hence the Berserkers are not to be regarded chiefly in the light of ethnographic data, to be grouped under the head of demoniac possession or metamorphosis, but they typify the history of Norse ideas and sentiments.

In this historical treatment of folklore a question suggests itself, which has frequently been asked, and whose consideration may fittingly find a place at the close of our historical survey. What line of historical development would Teutonic paganism have followed if its course had not been interrupted by the introduction of Christianity? Does not this enormous mass of folklore, which has struck such deep roots in the life of the people, prove that paganism still possessed vitality; that when the current was shut off from the higher circles of life it flowed along in another bed, that of the life of the people, for the sole reason that it was forced to do so?

Questions of this kind, that concern what might have been but was not, can never be answered with absolute certainty. An yet we may, the present instance, arrive at a decision with some degree of assurance. We have found no trace, either among the southern Teutons, who were converted to Christianity at the migrations, or among the Scandinavian nations, of a system of doctrines evolved or handed down by priests and which become a power among the people. In the attempts made by the Scandinavians to systematize their myths, motive of a religious character may be detected perhaps only in the case of Völuspa and Lokasenna, and here only to a certain extent. The opinion that the Teutons, if they had not been Christianized, would have arrived at more spiritual and monotheistic conceptions, has absolutely no basis on which to rest and it is in view of our knowledge of existent conditions wholly inadmissible.. An organize form of worship, too, is altogether lacking among the Southern Teutons, and is found among the Scandinavian peoples in only the simplest forms. How little the priests were interested in maintaining paganism we have seen both in the case of the Anglo-Saxons and of the Icelandic godhi.

Alongside of the political and national motives influencing Frisians, Saxons, and Norsemen, the strongest bulwarks of paganism were the attachment to the ancient sacred places and observances, the belief in the presence of divine beings in forest and stream, the old processions at the changing of the seasons, the vows pledged over the cup to this or that god. These beliefs and customs survive as folklore, although by no means all of the survivals date from the heathen period. Indeed, by far the larger part are of later origin. At the same time we recognize in this folklore a form of historical continuity, the bond of union between the life of the people in pagan and in Christian times.

Monday, July 4th, 2005, 08:21 AM
by P. D. Chantepie De La Saussaye, trans. by Bert J. Vos

Jacob Grimm begins his chapter on Magic by drawing a distinction between divine Wundern and devilish Zaubern, not altogether justly so, inasmuch as Teutonic paganism did not observe the distinction. He is happier when he defines the various notions entering into the conception as including "doing, sacrificing, spying, soothsaying, singing, sign-making (secret writing), bewildering, dazing, cooking, healing, and casting lots." For the same notions we commonly use the expressions practicing magic, witchcraft, divination, soothsaying, and conjuring (Frisian tjoene, Danish trylle).

Magic constitutes an important part of every religion, some scholars regarding it as the most original element, others as "a disease of religion." Such questions, however, form part of the general phenomenology of religion and not of the history of each special religion. Without entering, therefore, upon this general problem, we shall here attempt to arrange what is know to us of magic and divination among the Teutonic peoples. Both folklore and Norse literature furnish a wealth of material, although much of what is found in the former is of more recent origin.

The first question that confronts us is that of the connection between magic on the one hand, and mythology and cult on the other. Many a magic charm and many an incantation is efficacious in itself, without resort to higher powers, but as a rule witchcraft is connected with a belief in soul. Thus the young Svipdag learns from his deceased mother Groa the magic songs which are to shield him from all manner of danger. The magician and the vlva stand in relationship with the spirits. At the same time magic power proceeds from the Æsir, Vanir, giants, dwarfs, and elves as well. It is a well-known fact that Odhin is preëminently the god of magic, but Thor, Tyr Heimdallr, etc., are also invoked in the practice of magic. The power of magic in such cases rests ultimately, as Uhland has put it, upon the basis of an actual event that has taken place in the world of gods or spirits.

The exact connection between the magical and the mythical is by no means always clear. In the first Merseburg Charm the effect of the incantation for the loosing of bonds seems to be intimately connected with the work of the Idisi. But Hávamál, 148, and Grógaldr, 10, mention incantations that produce the same result without a single hint of a mythological basis. Magic of a similar kind, but covered with a Christian varnish, is to be found in Bede. He tells us of a youth who had been picked up on the field of battle and been taken prisoner. Al efforts to bind him were in vain, because his brother, an abbot and presbyter, thinking him dead, was saying masses for the repose of his soul. The mass for the dead is here attended by the same result as the magic incitation that looses bonds. In the second Merseburg Charm the connection between the mythical incident contained in the introduction and the charm proper is even less apparent. It is at any rate of some importance to know that myth and magic charm are linked together. Hence, also, at the dawning of the light of day, some incantations lose their power, as may, for example, be inferred from an otherwise somewhat obscure strophe (Hávamál, 160):

Before Delling's doors the dwarf Thjodrerir sang his magic song: strength he sang to the Æsir, skill to the elves, and wisdom to Hroptatyr.

Various gods are invoked in the practice of magic: Tyr, for example, at the graving of sword runes, which conferred magic power on certain swords, such as Tyrfing in the Hervarar Saga. The names of the Æsir and elves seem to possess special magic power. The magic effect produced by particular words is likewise seen in the practice of erecting a so-called spite-stake (nídhstng). These bore an inscription and were surmounted at times by a human figure, or again by the head of a horse turned in the direction of the dwelling of the enemy. The est know example is that of the scald Egil, who erected a nídhstng against king Eirikr and his wife, bearing the following words: "I here erect a nídhstng and direct this spite (nídh) against the spirits (landvættir) that inhabit this land, so that they may all fail of the right path, and none find or reach his destination before they have driven king Eirikr and queen Gunnhild out of the land." The magic stake and the conjuration were accordingly also thought to be effective against the spirits of the land (landvættir).

The Edda gives a list of magic charms at three various times: Hávamál, 145-163; Grógaldr, 6-14; Sigrdrifumál, 6-13. In these passages a number of things are enumerated which were sought to be obtained by magic, such as help in sickness and danger, aid against enemies, safeguard against harmful influences, acquisition of knowledge and skill, safety in journeys on land and on sea, power to heal wounds. It would be quite impossible, in the case of the Teutons as with other peoples, to enumerate all the benefits that were looked for from magic in both public and private life, the pursuit of agriculture, of cattle breeding, etc. Magic also plays a considerable part in the art of healing. In all this it is quite impossible to draw a sharp line of division between what is pagan and what is Christian: much that comes under this rubric may be of medieval origin, such as the accounts of supernatural powers, of metamorphoses, of magic food and draughts of forgetfulness, of magic hoods (Tarnkappe) and of hidden treasures. The same observation applies to the practices condemned by the Indiculus Superstitionum and the Homilia de Sacriligiis, such as philacteries and incantations.

Conjuring is effected by means of the magic song (Norse galdr), and the magic charms employed usually derive their power from the runes that are graven on them. These runes among the Teutons are older than the runic letters, which they borrowed from the Latin alphabet, and with which the marks (notæ) on the magic lots in Tacitus have accordingly nothing in common. Run occurs in numerous proper names of an early date: Sigrun, Hildrun, Albrun, Heidrun, etc. Halibruna in Jordanes is another early example. The word "run," from the same root as the German raunen (to whisper), "signifies, in the first instance, whispering, secret speech, and then mystery in general, in doctrine, witchcraft, song, symbol, or letter." The designation applies to magic sign as well as to magic song (Old Norse ljódh, spjll,galdr). Thus the lists of magic charms in the Edda referred to above are called runes. The ancient connection between incantation and runic symbol crops out in a later romantic saga, in which the sorceress Busla utters specially potent galdrar (plural of galdr, magic song), to bewitch kin Hring. To these incantations a series of runic letters, six in number, are subjoined, which, while also forming a sort of riddle, are at the same time thought to possess magic power. The Egils Saga, Chapter 72, furnishes another example of the great power of runic signs. In an effort to cure a sick peasant girl, false runes had been graved on fish gills (tálkn); Egil discovers this, replaces the false runes with the true, and an instant cure results. It is therefore not surprising to find the knowledge of runes embracing practically every domain of superhuman power: he who is possessed of "ever-during runes and life-runes" is all-powerful and is safeguarded against every misfortune.

A specifically Norse form of witchcraft is called seidhr. By some it has been thought that seidhr was introduced from Finland, but while this is not impossible, it has at least not been clearly proved. Seidhr is attributed to Odhin, Ynglingasaga, Chapter 7 , and Lokasenna, 24; to Gullveig, Völuspa, 22. The work is usually employed in an evil sense, referring to base, harmful arts which cause tempests and thunderstorms, kill enemies, and create delusions. However, it also occurs as applying to magic arts that are used as safeguards, or which serve to divine the future. King Harald Fairhair, we are told, was violently opposed to these sorcerers and had eighty of them burnt, among them one of his own sons.

Seidhr was practiced on an elevated seat (seidh-hjallr), and consisted of beautiful, alluring, majestic songs, sung by the seidhmadhr (man) or seidhkona (woman), or by their attendants. Thus the rvarodds Saga tells of a vlva and seidhkona Heidhr, who was accompanied by fifteen boys and fifteen girls, all with good voices, who were to sing the song. The seidhkona seems to have been of more frequent occurrence than the seidhmadhr. The Ynglinga Saga, Chapter 7, explains this as due to the contemptible character of the magic arts, hardly correctly so, inasmuch as the sorceress and prophetess were highly esteemed and wielded great power.

Women who practiced magic and soothsaying were called vlur (plural of vlva). While the vlva, or spákona (wise woman), is not necessarily a seidhkona (seidhr-woman), the distinction between the two classes is frequently lost sight of, and more than one vlva is also said to be versed in seidhr. The word "vlva," derived from vlr (staff), signifies staff-bearer, the name referring either to the magic staff of the vlva or to the staff with which she wanders from place to place. To acquire her supernatural power the vlva sometimes for several nights in succession sat out in the open air (spáfr, wisdom-faring; útiseta, sitting outside), where she then received revelations from Odhin, or from spirits and the dead. Finnur Jónsson is of the opinion that such vlur, in the character of wandering sorceresses and soothsayers, were found in Norway alone, whereas in Iceland they retired into the background, only a few women who otherwise followed the ordinary walks of life possessing magic power. But wandering vlur are to be found in Iceland and Greenland as well: witness for Iceland, Oddbjrg in the Viga Glums Saga, Chapter 12, and for Greenland, Thorbjorg, "the little vlva," whose doings are so picturesquely described in the Eiriks Saga Raudha. We quote the passage in its entirety, because it presents the clearest picture of a heathen ceremony that we possess. On account of dearth, famine, and failure in the catch of fish, it was resolved in Greenland that Thorbjrg, "the little vlva," should be consulted. She was the only one remaining of nine sister, who had all been prophetesses. "It was Thorbjorg's custom in the winters to go to entertainments, and she was especially sought after at the home of those who were curious to know their fate, or what manner of season might be in store for them." Thorkel, "the chief yeoman in the neighborhood," was accordingly to consult her regarding the famine.

A high seat was prepared for her, in which a cushion filled with poultry feathers was placed. When she came in the evening, with the man who had been sent to meet her, she was clad in a dark-blue cloak, fastened with a strap, and set with stones quite down to the hem. She wore glass beads around her neck, and upon her head a black lamb-skin hood, lined with white cat-skin. In her hands she carried a staff, upon which there was a knob, which was ornamented with brass, and set with stones up about the knob. Circling her waist she wore a girdle of touch-wood, and attached to it a great skin pouch, in which she kept the charms which she used when she was practicing her sorcery. She wore upon her feet shaggy calf-skin shoes, with long, tough latchets, upon the ends of which there were large brass buttons. She had cat-skin gloves upon her hands, which were white inside and lined with fur. When she entered, all of the folk felt it to be their duty to offer her becoming greetings. She received the salutations of each individual according as he pleased her. Yeoman Thorkel took the sibyl by the hand, and led her to the seat which had been made ready for her. Thorkel bade her run her eyes over man and beast and home. She had little to say concerning all these. The tables were brought forth in the evening, and it remains to be told what manner of food was prepared for the prophetess. A porridge of goat's beestings was made for her, and for meat there were dressed the hearts of every kind of beasts which could be obtained there. She had a brass spoon, and a knife with a handle of walrus tusk, with a double hasp of brass around the haft, and from this the point was broken. And when the tables were removed, Yeoman Thorkel approaches Thorbjrg, and asks how she is pleased with the home, and the character of the folk, and how speedily she would be likely to become aware of that concerning which he had questioned her, and which the people were anxious to know. she replied that she could not give an opinion in this matter before the morrow, after that she had slept there through the night. And on the morrow, when the day was far spent, such preparations were made as were necessary to enable her to accomplish her soothsaying. She bade them bring here those women who knew the incantation which she required to work her spells, and which she called Warlocks; but such women were not to be found. Thereupon a search was made throughout the house, to see whether any one knew this incantation. Then say Gudrid: "Although I am neither skilled in the black art nor a sibyl, yet my foster-mother, Halldis, taught me in iceland that spell-song which she called Warlocks." Thorbjrg answered: "Then art thou wise in season!" Gudrid replies: "This is an incantation and ceremony of such a kind, that I do not mean to lend it any aid, for that I am a Christian woman." Thorbjrg answers: "It might so be that thou couldst give thy help to the company here, and still be no worse woman than before; however, I leave it with Thorkel to provide for my needs." Thorkel now so urged Gudrid, that she said she must needs comply with his wishes. The women they made a ring round about, while Thorbjorg sat up on the spell-daïs. Gudrid then sang the song, so sweet and well, that no one remembered ever before to have heard the melody sung with so fair a voice as this. The sorceress thanked her for the song, and said: "She has indeed lured many spirits hither, who think it pleasant to hear this song, those who were wont to forsake us hitherto and refuse to submit themselves to us. Many things are now revealed to me, which hitherto have been hidden, both from me and from others. And I am able to announce that this period of famine will not endure longer, but the season will mend as spring approaches. The visitation of disease, which has been so long upon you, will disappear sooner than expected." Thorbjrg also prophesies a happy marriage and a safe return to Iceland to Gudrid, and besides foretells the future of many others.

We see from this account how much importance was attached to dress and even to food, and also that the vlva was herself dependent upon the women that knew the "warlocks" (vardhlokkur), to lure the spirits. Whether only soothsaying is intended her, as would seem to be the case, or whether the sorceress, through the influence that the songs exert upon the spirits, effects the cessation of the famine, is not altogether clear. At any rate, the vlva represents a remarkable combination of inward and outward witchcraft. She is herself prophetess and sorceress, but is at the same time dependent, in the practice of her art, upon her seat, her dress, and her song. These do not, however, constitute signs which she interprets, but are merely aids to her magic and divination. While descent (nine sisters) and tradition (Gudrid has learned the song from her foster-mother) influence the possession of this art, there is not a single trace of Shamanism, the being inspired by the spirits of deceased Shamans. At the same time the magic power bears the character of divine art rather than of human skill. Grimm's words, "Imagination, tradition, knowledge of medicinal properties, poverty, and idleness turned women into sorceresses, while the last three causes also turned shepherds into sorcerers," apply to later medieval conditions alone.

Up to this point we have not always been able to distinguish sharply between sorcery and soothsaying. We now pass to a consideration of divination proper. From Tacitus we know that the Teutons attached great importance to "omens and lots." Ariovistus' refusal to fight was explained by the prisoners on the score of "the custom which obtained among the Teutons that the mothers should by means of lots and prophecies determine whether or not it would be advantageous to fight a battle." According to Ammianus Marcellinus (XIV,9,10), the Alemanni felt all their courage desert them when the auspices or the authority of the sacred rights prohibited their entering battle. A number of other passages that deal with divination might be cited, from the historians (e.g. Agathias, II,6), from the vitæ of the missionaries, and from the Norse sagas, but it will be more profitable to subject the passages of Tacitus to a somewhat closer scrutiny and to group our material around these.

Tacitus distinguishes omens and lots (auspicia and sortes). Concerning the latter he remarks:

The mode of consulting lots is simple. They cut off the twig of a fruit bearing tree and cut it into little wands. These they thereupon distinguish by certain marks, and scatter them at random and fortuitously upon a white garment. Thereupon the priest of the state, if the occasion be a public one, or the father of a household, if it be private, after and invocation of the gods, and lifting his eyes up to heaven, thrice take up one wand at a time and interprets the wand taken up in accordance with the marks previously made on them. It they forbid, no further consultation concerning the same matter takes place on that day; but if they permit, a confirmation by means of omens is still required in addition.

However simple this mode of consulting lots may have been, the words of Tacitus are hardly such as not to require comment. The first question that presents itself is just what was the nature of the marks upon the wands. If they stood for yes and no, which forsooth would have been the most simple of all, then what need was there for more than two pieces of wood, and for an interpretation besides? The marks from which the priest of father of the family divined with prayer (coelum suspiciens) the will of the gods must, therefore, have been something else than mere signs for yes and no, although the answer was the main positive or negative (permissum or prohibitum).

With these bits of wood (surculi) in the account of Tacitus the Norse blótspann ("sacrifice-chip," divining rod; plural blótspænnir), showing that the lot was accompanied with sacrifice, and the Frisian teni (teina, twig), which we meet in Frisian judicial procedure, are to be compared. On these teni of the Frisians certain marks (signa) were made, belonging to individuals concerned in the suit. The procedure is described in the lex Frisionum. If a murder has been committed, lots are drawn by means of two pieces of wood, on one of which there is a sing of the cross, while the other is unmarked. Seven persons suspected by the plaintiff are brought forward, and if the unmarked lot be drawn the guilty person is among these seven. Each of the latter thereupon makes his own sign upon the teina, the seven lots are covered over, an innocent child draws six of them, and the owner of the seventh is the guilty man. In like manner lots were drawn in case of disputes involving property. Here, accordingly, the lot designates particular persons.

Tacitus places omens and lots alongside of each other, as is also done in Hymiskvidha, I:

Divining rods they shook and blood inspected.

Concerning omens (auspicia) Tacitus notes the following:

They also know how to consult the cries and the flight of birds; it is peculiar to this people that they in addition deduce presages and admonitions from horses. These are fed at public expense in sacred forests and groves, are milk-white and undefiled by human labor. Yoked to the sacred chariot they are accompanied by the priest and the king, or chief of the state, who carefully observe their neighing and snorting. In not other omen is greater faith reposed, not only by the people but also by the nobility, for they regard the priests as the ministers of the gods, and the horses as cognizant of the divine will.

The cries and the flight of birds were, therefore, looked upon as omens. Some birds, as the swallow, stork, and eagle, bode good fortune; other, as the dove (Leichentaube), owl, and cuckoo, bode ill fortune. Tacitus dwells at some length on the most important oracle of all, the omens derived from horses. These horses were kept in the sacred groves, as were the white horses of Freyr near his sanctuary at Drontheim. They performed no daily tasks, but on the occasion of the sacred procession were yoked to the chariot, as at the procession of Freyr in Sweden. The chariot of Nerthus, on the other hand, was drawn by cows. The remark that not only the people but also the nobility believed in these auspices is doubtless made in view of the skeptical attitude prominent Romans assumed toward such matters.

A third kind of divination through which the Teutons sought to forecast the outcome of war, Tacitus describes as follows:

A prisoner of the tribe with which they are at war, taken in any manner whatsoever, they match with one of their own men, chose for this purpose. Each fights with the weapons peculiar to his own country. The victory of either is regarded as an augury of the result of the war.

It will be observed that this combat is not designed to bring the war to a close, but merely to obtain some presage as to its final issue. The single combats mentioned by Gregory of Tours (II,2) and Paulus Diaconus (I,12), that put an end to wars, are therefore not at all parallel.

A Scandinavian form of the single combat to decide disputes is the hólmaganga

("holm-going"), which one could not refuse to make without being branded as infamous. Von Amira is skeptical towards the supposed religious significance of these combats and regards, in fact, most of the so-called ordeals (Gottesurteile) as Christian in origin.

Tacitus does not make mention of divination in connection with sacrifice—sooth-saying from blood and entrails and possibly also from the brains of animals—nor of conjuring of the dead, although both of these forms of divination are doubtless to be regarded as Teutonic.

Alongside of these official forms, numerous conceptions and usages in connection with divination can be gathered from folklore, a few of which may here be briefly referred to.

Dreams are of very frequent occurrence in both Norse and German literature, the best know example being perhaps Kriemhilt's dream in the Nibelungenlied. In the main these dreams bear, however, the earmarks of conscious literary fiction, and Grimm, in his mythology, has accordingly attache little importance to them, despite the fact that certain special dreams, such as that of the treasure on the bridge, as well as the putting faith in dreams in a new house, in the wedding night, in New Year's night, etc., have obtained wide currency in popular tales. The Teutons, at any rate, never possessed systematized oneiromancy. Omens from what is encountered on the street (Angang) and other occurrences are enumerated (Reginsmál, 20-24). Careful attention was paid to sneezing, slips in speech, stumbling, falling, and various aërial phenomena. Belief in lucky and unlucky days was also very widespread, Friday being, for instance, generally shunned for setting out on a journey, for contracting a marriage, or starting any undertaking. Most of these things are, however to be regarded in the light of "ethnographic parallels" rather than as relics from pagan antiquity, although it is to be acknowledged that ecclesiastical regulations and such writers as Burchard of Worms, Regino of Prüm, and Pirmin combat these popular customs as pagan in character.

Monday, July 4th, 2005, 08:22 AM
by P. D. Chantepie De La Saussaye, trans. by Bert J. Vos

"From the ancient grave-mounds no clear voice, but only confused sounds reach our ears." "These remains afford but a glimpse of only a few aspects of culture, and these the less important ones."

While acknowledging the value and significance of archæological studies, such statements should warn us against overestimating them. We possess numerous material remains from ages on which history proper sheds no light. We find stone monuments, stone chambers, stone circles, graves, lake dwellings, skulls, bones, utensils, implements, weapons, and ornaments. Through these abundant and varied remains, prehistoric archæology seeks for a solution of such problems as the distribution of races, the conditions of primitive times, and the origin of civilization. Archæological research in this way joins hands with geology, both having positive data at their command.

From finds made in the lakes of Central Europe, in the grottoes and river-beds of France, along the coast of Denmark, and in various other localities, conclusions may be drawn that are unassailable. It has been definitely established, for example, that in Europe as elsewhere the age of man on earth is to be reckoned by thousands of years, and it is equally certain that the life of our race during this prehistoric period did not present in idyllic picture. It is hardly possible to form too low an estimate of the civilization of these prehistoric people, who knew no domestic animal other than the dog, were ignorant of agriculture, with difficulty warded off the attacks of wild beasts, found a scanty subsistence by hunting and fishing, were in certain localities doubtless cannibals, and possessed only the rudest weapons and implements.

We should, however, be on our guard against basing too bold and comprehensive theories on the results of these studies. What these material remains have to tell us, they tell us clearly enough, but their testimony is not nearly as far-reaching as many are disposed to believe. The finds, while numerous, are fragmentary. Alongside of objects whose origin and purpose are perfectly clear, there are others that allow wide scope for conjecture. Stones and bones are, after all, mute; they afford some indications as to outward conditions, but they do not allow us to penetrate into man's thoughts and feelings. It is well therefore to heed the warning of those who would dissuade us from attempting to give a complete sketch of the culture of the stone age, or from constructing theories concerning the origin of civilization on the basis of archæological study.

Due caution must be exercised in any endeavor to gather the fruits of these researches. The material found in Scandinavian countries is especially important. While much has been brought to light elsewhere, the remains from Denmark and Sweden, deposited for the larger part in the museums at Kopenhagen and Stockholm, are exceptionally valuable for prehistoric investigations.

The first question that presents itself is whether the prehistoric remains shed any light on the earliest migrations. Of what race or family were the people whose stone chambers and implements are found in Scandinavia and elsewhere? For a long time it was supposed, though without sufficient reason, that they must be regarded as a race entirely distinct from our own.

The general scheme on which this supposition was based did indeed seem attractive. During the stone age, it was held, Finns and other Mongolian tribes far into Central Europe. The bronze age was identified with the Kelts and the iron age with the Teutons. It was thought that a dolichocephalous population of noble Indo-European blood was at any rate everywhere in Europe preceded by a brachycephalous people of a lower race. The facts as we now know them have lead to a reconsideration of these theories, and have entirely done away with these hypothetical autochthons, of unknown or at least of foreign race. The skulls from the so-called giants' chambers in Denmark and the Swedish stone graves most probably belong, not only according to Scandinavian scholars but according to such an authority as Virchow, to ancestors of the same race as the present inhabitants. Moreover, if successive archæological periods always coincided with the conquest and domination of a new people that displaced the old, then there would be a sharp line of division between those periods. But this is by no means the case. The transitions are gradual. Neither suddenly, nor indeed universally, does bronze take the place of stone, or iron that of bronze.

The oldest remains give no indication of an extermination or dislodgment of one people by another. This does not, however, furnish an answer to the question whence these people came, nor does it exclude the possibility of foreign influences. The evidence, so far as we are able to penetrate the past, goes to show that no sudden changes or shiftings took place, at least not in the North. And While in Central Europe we know even in historic times of various changes in population, there are still strong reasons for believing that even the Alpine like villages were inhabited by people of Indo-European blood.

The mode of life of these ancient Europeans has commonly been held to have been nomadic. They were thought to have come with their flocks from Asia, and until the beginning of our era, or even later, to have remained nomad shepherds. Some passages from classical authors were thought to lend color to this view. Strabo claims that the tribes on the other side of the Elbe wandered up and down with their flocks. How this inhospitable, thickly wooded country afforded the requisite pasture, and of what these flocks consisted, is not clear. Cæsar's statement, that the Teutons did not engage in agriculture, is at variance with the mention of corn by the same author, and with the picture drawn by Tacitus, from which it appears that tilling of the soil was not unknown to the Teutons of the second century of our era.

If we are unable to regard the Teutons at their appearance on the stage of history as nomads, all the evidence in hand also argues against such a supposition in the case of the far more ancient prehistoric population. In the first place, neither Central nor Northern Europe can possibly have been a country adapted to a population wandering about with camels and sheep. The evidence gathered from the remains is to the same effect. When in the Alpine lakes we can count piles by tens of thousands, this certainly points to fixed habitations. The same argument applies to the large stone buildings and walls in Germany, England, and Scandinavia. Nomads may perhaps here and there erect heaps of stone, but they do not build hünenbedden (giants' hills), giants' chambers, and stone walls. Also the so-called Kjökkenmöddings (refuse heaps), along the Danish coasts, forming accumulations of remains of crustaceous animals and of the implements and utensils of the prehistoric inhabitants, show clearly that these people had settled there where the oyster beds along the coast furnished them with food ready at hand. The oldest inhabitants found perhaps a scanty subsistence in hunting and fishing, and what nature provided of its own accord, but fixed habitations must soon have led to the beginnings of agriculture, as in fact the objects found in the heaps indicate.

Archæological study clearly points to the definite establishment of three periods in the development of man: the ages of stone, of bronze, and of iron, the material in use indicating the existing degree of civilization. Danish scholars more especially have expounded this system at great length, each of the three periods being again separated into two large subdivisions. From the older stone age we posses the remains along the coast of the Cattegat, the refuse heaps, which are believed to go back to at least three thousand years before the beginning of our era. The later stone age is that marked by the large monuments and therefore known as the neolithic or megalithic period. Stones and implements already show better workmanship, and the beginnings of decorative art make their appearance. Between the ages of stone and bronze there lies perhaps a period of transition, in which copper was worked without an admixture of tin. Then follow the older and later bronze periods, which bring us up to, and perhaps even across, the border line of historic times. Last of all, iron weapons and implements come into use. What dates are to be assigned to these several periods is subject to great doubt. For Southern and Central Europe these periods must have set in several centuries earlier than in the Scandinavian North. In the latter region we know that iron was in use some centuries before the beginning of the Christian era.

At the same time, it must be noted that this entire theory of a succession of three periods still encounters occasional opposition. Lindenschmit among others combats it violently. While it may be admitted that originally it was merely a "working hypothesis," it has yet withstood the test of time and has on the whole permitted a satisfactory classification of the material. New discoveries too have tended to strengthen rather than to weaken it, and the system of three periods, in an expanded form, is at the present time endorsed not only by Norse scholars but by the majority of investigators in every land. The objection frequently brought to bear against it, that such a division has regard exclusively to the material of which objects are made, is no longer valid, inasmuch as more recent investigators, Sophus Müller, for example, in determining dates also attach great importance—too great according to some— to the form, ornamentation, and decorative motifs. Moreover, the fact that these periods have been named from stone, bronze, and iron does not imply the character of the culture depended wholly on this difference in material, but merely that the periods into which their culture may be divided coincided to a large extent with the use of these materials. Recently scholars have also taken into consideration that it is not always feasible to draw a hard and fast line between what belongs to an earlier and what belongs to a later period.

The prehistoric remains also shed light on the question of foreign influences on the inhabitants of the North. The proposition, indeed, that all work in bronze was of foreign importation, coming from either Phœnicia or Southern Europe, can no longer be maintained; for along side of what was unquestionably obtained through import, the Northern people themselves must have worked objects in bronze. On the other hand, it is more than probable that the spiral ornamentation which makes its appearance for the first time in the bronze age has a connection with Mycenæan art. This view is favored by the fact that a continuous strip of land, from Greece through Hungary and Germany down to Denmark, exhibits these spiral ornamentations on objects of bronze.

We may go farther and maintain that the entire culture of the bronze period,—the same period in which gold was first worked,— in the case of a land that produced neither copper nor tin, points of necessity to intercourse with other countries. On its side the North possessed elektron (amber), which was so highly prized in Greece, and which has even been found in Egypt in graves of the sixth dynasty. We must accordingly assume that, even at a very early time, a traffic in bronze on the one side and in amber on the other connected Southern Europe, that is to say, Greece and Etruria, with Denmark and the Baltic. Nor was this trade carried on by the sea alone, through the Phœnicians, with their intermediate stations along the coasts of Western Europe, or even by way of Southern Russia to the Baltic; but we know of a certainty that there existed several trade routs through the very centre of Europe, both to the British Isles and to Denmark. One of these followed the Danube, another the Rhone, Aar, and Rhine, though it is to be noted that this trade did not establish direct connections between the North and the civilizations of Italy and Greece. Here too we must assume an undulatory motion. The wares probably passed from one tribe to a neighboring one, and in this way the barter of barbarians with one another may have established communications between Southern and Northern Europe.

While the thesis here proposed is more or less conjectural, it is yet a conjecture resting on established facts, and which furnishes the best explanation of the facts. It is evident in any case that, from the earliest times, the culture and civilization of the Teutons ere derived from foreign sources and that whatever the intermediary road may have been, the use of bronze was derived from the ancients. It is no longer possible to determine what other features are due to borrowing outside of this metal and the ornamental motif, but inasmuch as the connection was not a direct one, it is not likely that there are many . Material objects pass more readily from hand to hand than ideas and customs, but, since the way was open, the possibility of a certain degree of influence must be taken into account.

We have dwelt upon this subject at length in order to supply the necessary setting in the pursuit of our main inquiry, namely, the religion of which these ancient remains give evidence. We have already warned the reader against entertaining too high expectations of the results of this inquiry. The remains we possess are fragmentary, and it is always a hazardous task to evolve thoughts and feelings from mute monuments. In times gone by numerous explanations were ventured that are now no longer regarded within the range of possibility. The well-known stones near Salisbury, for example,—the so-called Stonehenge,—were certainly not erected as a memorial to the four hundred noblemen slain by Hengist in the year 472, as Nennius thought, who first mentions this monument in the ninth century. Nor are the to be looked upon as the remains of a Roman temple, Inigo Jones claimed in the middle of the seventeenth century. Similar remains in Denmark Ole Worm (1643) regarded as old meeting-places for the "Thing," where justice and law were administered and kings chosen, or as the space laid out for single combats or for the erection of altars on which sacrificial offerings were made. Thus people groped about in the dark. There was a disposition to regard as a sacrificial object every knife brought to light, and to identify every hammer without further proof as the insignium of Thor. Thomsen and Worsaae were instrumental in putting an end to many arbitrary combinations of this sort, but not without at times substituting for them others no less dubious.

Even at present all manner of popular tales of giants and spirits are associated with the Jættestuer and Troldstuer, but scholars are generally agreed that hüenbedden and giants' chambers and the like were in the main graves. The objects found in them can readily be explained as offerings to the dead or as magic charms for their protection. What purpose the large stones on the grave subserved cannot be stated with certainty. Were they monuments raised in honor of the dead? or was the stone to bar the soul of the dead from coming back to the world of the living, thus serving as a protection to the living against dangers from this source? Or, since the fate of the soul in another world depended on the uninjured state of the body, was the stone placed there as a protection of the corpse against wild animals? Each of these views has its advocates; and the grounds for giving to any one of them a preference over the others are forthcoming solely in the uncertain, and by no means entirely unequivocal, analogies with usages found among other tribes more or less distant.

The same observations apply to most of the other characteristic features of the remains. A large number of stones in Sweden have holes apparently made for some other purpose besides ornamentation. At present it is the custom of the people to lay gifts for the elves in these holes and then speak of them as elf-mills (Elfvekvärnar) or elf-stones. Among the objects that have been found, a number seem to be amulets and offerings to the dead. It has been observed that many of the skulls are trepanned, and in some cases this surgical operation was perhaps a magic practice performed long before death ensued. In the tombs of the stone age, traces of fire are frequently found beside the buried bodies, be it to cheer and warm the dead or to ward off evil spirits from the grave. While all these facts are absolutely certain, their interpretation remains, from the nature of the case, more or less vague and divergent. That the objects found are to be connected with worship of the dead and with conceptions as to the fate of the soul after death is fairly clear, but it is impossible to define this general character in more specific terms.

The Heimskringla tells us that the mode of disposal of the dead differed in successive periods of the distant past; burning of the dead is stated to antedate burial, and a distinction is drawn between the usage in Denmark and in the other two countries. Archælolgical finds show in the main graves from the stone age, and traces of burning from the bronze age, but a sharp line of demarcation does not exist. The transitions are gradual. On the island of Bornholm, as well as elsewhere, remains of burnt bodies are found with implements made exclusively of stone, while at the side of buried warriors occur bronze weapons.

While we may not, therefore, attribute this change to a sudden or a general upheaval, it is yet obvious that a different attitude of mind must be assumed to exist in a people who value the preservation of the body from those who regard its annihilation as the very condition of a happy life hereafter. In the stone age the body was placed in the ground, covered with a large stone, or put into a stone coffin, or in later times in large tombs. With the bronze period burning came into vogue, which according to Grimm, was intended as a burnt sacrifice to the gods. It is more satisfactory, however, to see in this observance indications of a belief in a separate existence of the soul, which is freed by burning of the body,—an idea expressed in Goethe's Braut von Corinth:

Open up my wretched tomb for pity, . . . . . When the ashes glow,
When the fire-sparks flow,
To the ancient gods aloft we soar.

In the iron age, however, we again find burial in use, at least for the wealthy, in large mounds. It might be supposed that from these various forms of disposal of the dead we could deduce the conceptions entertained in regard to the regions inhabited by the soul after death: those buried being supposed to dwell in an abode on or under the earth, while those burnt ascended to an upper world. But history does not confirm this view. Whereas the ancient Egyptian Kings were laid to rest in pyramids or graves cut out from the rocks, their souls journeyed away in the sun ship and visited regions celestial as well as subterranean. On the other hand, Patroclus in the Iliad desires that his corpse be properly burnt so that he may not suffer any harm in Hades. Nothing, therefore, as to the conceptions of the prehistoric Teutons concerning the abode of the souls can be deduced from their mode of disposal of the dead.

Nor can conclusions be based on the implements and other objects found in and near the graves, inasmuch as it is not clear how far these were intended as sacrificial offerings for the dead, or were given them with a view of caring for their needs in the abode of souls. In the graves of the earlier iron age few weapons are found, but much that was to serve in eating and drinking,—a clear indication that at this time the chief occupation in the hereafter was held to be not fighting, but feasting.

More light seems to be shed by the symbols that are frequently met with on stones, rocks, grave urns, weapons, and implements. Among these are the Helleristninger (rock tracings) found cut in the granite rocks of Sweden (especially in Bohuslän), in Norway, and to a lesser extent, in Denmark. In addition we find such symbols as hammer, _, wheel, Å , rectangular cross (fylfot), and triangle (triskele). While most of these designations belong to the iron age, that is to say, to the historical period, in part they revert doubtless to the periods of stone and bronze. The rectangular cross and the triangle are found in the North in the bronze age, and on the whole their distribution throughout the world coincides fairly well with that of the burning of the dead. In any case, the rectangular cross (croix gammée, Hakenkreuz) and the ansate cross (croix ansée) are each confined to definite districts, the latter to Egypt, and Western Asia, the former to India (svastika) and the whole of Europe.

These results furnish some additional evidence with regard to the connection and intercourse between the peoples of the North and those of Southern Europe, but they shed no light on the signification of the symbols themselves. With some degree of probability the wheel and rectangular cross have been interpreted as symbolical of the sun. Far more doubtful is a supposed connection with individual deities. While in a later period the hammer is the well-nigh inseparable attribute of Thor, and the triangular cross was here and there interpreted as symbolical of the three chief gods, Odhin, Thor, and Freyr, there is nothing to show that this connection was original.

The most important question of all, that which concerns the use and purpose of these symbols, is also the most difficult to answer. Frequently, no doubt, they were of a purely ornamental character, but originally they must nevertheless have been made with some useful purpose in view. It is likely that magic power was attributed to them, but we are in the dark as to the exact nature of this power. Did they serve to ward off evil, to bring a blessing, and to secure the protection of some particular divinity? The case in hand illustrates in a striking manner how little is gained by the use of such words as "magic" and "amulet," when we can only hazard a guess as to the character of the thoughts and feelings that lie at their basis.

We have now reached the border-line separating the prehistoric from the historic, and might, therefore, consider the present chapter closed. But, on the one hand, the dividing line between these two periods is by no means sharply drawn, and, on the other hand, the light shed by the monuments on the centuries that may be called the twilight of history is of the same indistinct, hazy character as that of the preceding period. We should hence be separating what is homogeneous, if we did not here add what may be gathered from the monuments for the centuries that follow.

First of all, the coins demand our attention; Roman, Byzantine, and, later on, Cufic coins, have been found in large numbers along the Baltic, on the Danish islands, and in the southern parts of Sweden and Norway. They testify to the existence of trade routs from Southern to Northern Europe, from the first centuries of our era; trade routs not by way of the western islands, but through Germany and Russia, by way of the Oder and Vistula. They furnish, therefore, a confirmation of what we already know concerning the channels along which the bronze and amber trade of the prehistoric era moved. In the North itself money was first coined in the tenth century.

Of more importance are the signs and representations found on monuments, with and without runes, on ornaments, and on the so-called bracteates, thin golden plates chased on one side and at times used as necklaces. These bracteates date from the sixth or seventh century onward; some have come down from the Viking period. The so-called Runic Monuments have been found in every part of the Teutonic world. They are most common in the Scandinavian countries, but are also of frequent occurrence in England and Germany. Even in so distant a place as Bucharest, a Gothic, and at Charnay—in a so-called Merovingian grave—a Burgundian, ornament with runes have been found. The runic alphabet of twenty-four signs (i.e. the older one, futhark, found on the bracteate of Vadstena, and elsewhere) again yields testimony of the same general character as that which we have before had occasion to note; these written signs reached the North from the South,—in the present instance Italy,—not through direct communication, but by gradual transmission from tribe to tribe.

We cannot here enter upon a discussion of these runic signs. Some attention must, however, be paid to the figures and scenes depicted on the objects mentioned, inasmuch as some authorities are disposed to attach great importance to them. In the year 1639 and 1734, respectively, there were found in Southern Jutland two large golden horns. At the beginning of the present they were unfortunately converted into bullion, but we are still able to judge of them from drawings and descriptions. These horns, dating according to Worsaae from the fifth or the beginning of the sixth century, were held to show, after the manner of a mythological picture book, the following persons and objects: Thor, Freyr, Odhin, Freya with the necklace Brisingamen, Hel, Walhalla with the Einherjar engaged in combat, and finally the tree Yggdrasil; in the centre several scenes from the myths of Baldr and Loki were recognized. If the origin of these precious horns is really to be assigned to so early a date, then their evidence is of great importance. In that case it would appear that the North about the year 500 already possessed a splendid cult and a connected body of myths of gods. The conceptions of this early period would show a most remarkable agreement with medieval Norse mythology in its fully developed form, and the latter would therefore have existed in the North in a practically unchanged state, from the period of migrations onward. All that has been said concerning the later and foreign origin of this mythology would accordingly be refuted by the evidence of these horns. What is even more significant, the very elements that scholars are at present inclined to regard more and more as later additions, Walhalla and Yggdrasil, are made to appear especially prominent on these horns. But all these deductions rest on an extremely insecure foundation. We possess only the pictorial representations, and these, unaccompanied as they are by an explanatory text, permit equally well the allegorical interpretation of old Ole Worm as the mythical one of Worsaae. There is no evidence of any consequence that these figures really represent Norse Mythology. With fully as much inherent probability Sophus Müller recognizes foreign motifs in them. Even though the horns in question, therefore, are, like the silver kettle found in Jutland in 1891, to be assigned to an even earlier date than does Worsaae,—something that is quite within the range of possibilities,—they would in no wise vindicate the ancient character of Norse myths, but rather point to that same connection with the culture of Central and Southern Europe to which reference has repeatedly been made.

Nor can much more be gained from other pictorial representations, of which we possess more or less detailed descriptions and investigations. On Swedish rocks are found scenes from the Sigurd Saga, on an Anglo-Saxon rune casket, scenes from the Wieland Saga. The former are of uncertain date, but both show how wide a circulation these motifs had attained. Two English monuments, the so-called Ruthwell Cross and the Gosforth Cross, show a curious admixture of pagan and Christian motifs. Still other monuments might be mentioned, but they would not alter the final result.

It then we sum up what is actually known concerning the prehistoric period, it appears that the monuments do not allow us to draw any safe conclusions as to "origins." Archæology teaches us that as far north as Sweden there dwelt a Tonic population some thousands of years before the Christian era. At a very early period these tribes borrowed, if not directly yet extensively, from the cultured nations of Southern Europe. The undulatory motion through which material objects as well as the products of man's skill passed from one country to another no doubt followed various roads and was more rapid at one time than another. It required more than nine hundred years before Christianity reached Scandinavia in this manner. The dwellings, graves, household utensils, and weapons indicate to some extent the material conditions prevailing in these prehistoric times and the degree of practical skill acquired by the population. We may safely assume that alongside of such objects as were imported there had also arisen a more or less free imitation and appropriation of ideas, but we possess no criterion for discriminating between the one and the other. With regard to the thoughts and feelings of these people we are thrown back upon conjectures, with inherent probabilities and analogies as our sole guides.

Nor is the testimony of the monuments from the historical period at all of a certain character. Evidence that would at first blush seem to argue in favor of the originality of Norse mythology appears in a different light as soon as it is more closely examined. While much points to a dependence on Southern Europe, this applies more to ornamentation and art than to religion and mythology. What may be gleaned from the monuments for the study of Teutonic mythology is extremely meagre.

Monday, July 4th, 2005, 08:23 AM
by P. D. Chantepie De La Saussaye, trans. by Bert J. Vos

It would lead us too far and lies beyond the scope of this volume to examine anew the general question as to the animalistic elements present in religion. The belief in souls, while nowhere totally lacking, also nowhere constitutes the whole of religion. While animism is doubtless primitive, it does not by any means form the origin of all ideas about higher beings. Many animistic conceptions are, moreover, of comparatively late growth. In the present instance we are, at any rate, concerned only with tracing the specific forms which belief in souls and spirits assumed among the Teutons.

In keeping with the conception of the soul as breath or wind, which leaves the body at death, the belief has established itself that souls dwell in the air. The souls flit away through windows; in storm and whirlwind they sweep shrieking through the air, especially during the Twelve Nights, which are ordinarily reckoned as falling between Christmas and Epiphany, although the term does not everywhere designate exactly the same period. We have already seen that the notion of the Furious Host or the Wild Hunt, with or without Wodan as leader, combines a nature-myth, i.e. the wind, with the belief in souls. Similarly, the souls of heroes continue the combat in the sky, above the field of battle. It is even quite conceivable that the story of the combat between Hgni and Hedhinn contains an historical reminiscence, and that the souls that are thus said to continue the combat after death are those of historical personages. It is, at any rate, certain that the Norsemen held the belief that heroes who had fallen in battle entered Walhalla as Einherjar.

In Norse literature, and in Teutonic popular belief as well, we frequently meet with the tradition that souls in the guise of small flames frequent the neighborhood of the place where the corpse lies buried. They likewise roam about to expiate a crime. Cross-roads are thought to be haunted by souls, and the church accordingly inveighed against worshipping at bivia and trivia; but this latter belief is perhaps of Roman origin. In Norse sagas it is not an uncommon occurrence that the body of a person who was believed to haunt the earth was dug up and burnt.

A permanent abode of souls is mentioned in several sources. This abode of the souls is at times conceived as lying beyond the sea; souls or corpses must therefore be conveyed across this or be left at the mercy of winds and waves. In a noteworthy passage in Procopius, Britain is called the land of the dead. On the opposite coast, in Frankish territory, dwell the mariners who, without catching sight of their passengers, carry the dead across the channel. At midnight they are notified in a mysterious manner, and setting out with their heavily laden boats succeed in reaching the island of Britain in a single hour. Upon their arrival the souls are called out by name, and the ferrymen thereupon return with their empty boats. Claudian (fifth century) likewise tells us that at the extreme limits of Gaul, i.e. opposite the British coast, "there is a spot, where Gaul stretches out its furthermost shore opposite the waters of the ocean, where they say the Ulixes with a libation of blood stirred up the silent folk. There the mournful plaint of shades fitting about with a gentle whir is heard. The natives see the pallid forms and the figures of the dead depart." According to other sources, the land of souls is situated in the mountains, and it is there that the historical and mythical heroes have their abode: Barbarossa in the Kyffhauser, Holger Danske under the rock of Kronburg (Denmark), Siegfried in Geroldseck, and the three founders of the Swiss federation at Grütli in a cleft in the rock near the Lake of Lucerne. Souls of unknown men issue forth from the mountains as well: "armed hosts of horsemen," "souls of fallen soldiers," including even women and others besides warriors. Icelandic sagas too repeatedly refer to the belief that the dead dwell in mountains. We have here a special form of that translation, which Rohde, Psyche, was the first to treat at length, but to which even Jacob Grimm devoted a separate chapter containing a large number of examples.

Some scholars hold the view that the souls are thought of as dwelling in ponds and springs, from which children are also supposed to come. It is clear that the belief in an abode of the souls must in any case not be represented as having assumed a thoroughly systematic form. The souls were conceived as roaming about in the vicinity of house or grave, in the air or in the mountains. The heavenly "sun garden" and the "subterranean meadow" of the lower world are, like the Walhalla of the scalds, the product of later poetic invention. It is impossible to determine with any degree of certainty how old or how general is the conception of Hel, as the dark and dismal place, the destination of all the dead. That the latter include warriors appears from a passage in Widukind, cited by Grimm, where Widukind, amazed at the number of those who had fallen in a battle between the Saxons and Franks, exclaims, "Where might there be a Hel (infernus) so large that it could receive such a multitude of the slain?" Baldrs Draumar, 2, 3; Gylfaginning, Chapter 49; and Helreidh Brynhildar likewise depict the miseries of Hel; not, however, as a place of punishment, such as Nastrand, where perjurers and murderers expiate their guilt.

The Rosengarten (rose garden) is a creation of medieval German poetry, as the Walhalla is of Norse poetry. A large number of Rosengärten have been localized in Tyrol and elsewhere, the most famous being that of Gibich, Kriemhild's father, near Worms. These Rosengärten, now pictured as paradise, and again as churchyards, represent another peculiar form of the abode of souls. Thither too a ferryman conveys the souls across the water; there too the heroes engage in combat.

From the finds in graves, both of the prehistoric and of later times, as well as from accounts in literary monuments, and from what we read in Jordanes concerning the funeral games of Atilla, we learn that the Teutons placed all kinds of objects in the graves of their dead: weapons and horses; jewels and ornaments; needles for women and toys for children. It would also seem that slaves and widows, willingly or unwillingly, at times accompanied their lord and master to the land of the dead. Some of the gifts that were placed on the funeral pyre or in the grave may have had a sacrificial intent; others were no doubt designed for use in the land of the dead. From this we may infer that the soul when separated from the body was thought of as still subject to wants similar to those of men upon earth. The Teutonic conception for the life after death was therefore probably that of a shadowy continuation of earthly existence.

Everywhere in Norse literature we meet with the notion of a man's second ego, his double (doppelgänger), his fylgja (follower). This fylgja is nothing less than man's soul, which dwells in the body, and leaves it at death, but which even during one's lifetime already leads an independent existence, so that in one instance a person is even said to have stumbled over his own fylgja. Similarly, Helgi's fylgjur (plural) are seen before his death. The fylgja stands on the border line dividing souls from spirits. The fylgja is the soul which leaves man in his sleep, which after his death passes over to his son, so that the personal fylgja (mannsfylgja) becomes a family fylgja (attarfylgia). It may also be feminine in form (fylgjjukona), a sort of goddess (dis) who premonishes man in dreams, appears to him more especially shortly before his death, at time vexes, and then again protects him. Such fylgjur ar referred to in Atlamál, 27:

Methought dead women came hither by night, poorly clad; they wished to choose thee; they bade thee forthwith to their benches.

Aside from the animistic basis, the conception of fylgjur includes, therefore, the notions of second sight, of dream spirit, and of guardian or attendant spirit.

Similar notions are associated with the Swedish vård and the Old Norse hamingja. The latter word is explained by Mogk as referring to the form (hamr) which the soul assumes when becoming visible, which is frequently that of animals. Thus Atli's hamr appears as eagle. E.H. Meyer, following out a suggestion of Grimm, connects hamingja with the caput galeatum, the caul about the head with which certain "lucky children" are born. This membrane, the seat of the soul or of the guardian spirit, is in such cases carefully preserved.

Related to fylgja is the mare, nightmare (French cauchemar), or incubus. The derivation of the word is uncertain. The mare torments men at night in their sleep, at time even killing them, as happened to the Swedish king Vanland, according to Ynglingasaga, Chapter 16. The story is told us in a strophe of the scald Thjodholf:

Now the witch-wight
Drove king Vanland
Down to visit
Vilir's brother.
There the troll-wise
Blind-night's witchwife
Trod all about
Men's over-thrower.
The jewel-caster,
He whom the mare quelled,
On Skuta's bed,
There was he burning.

The origin of the whole conception may be traced to the nightmare, the distressing dream that is accompanied by the feeling of physical pressure; the "mare," usually thought of as feminine, causes a feeling of suffocation and depression, and, as incubus or succubus, is also represented as holding carnal intercourse. This nightmare may also attack animals, but ordinarily it torments only men. Sometimes it is the soul of a man that issues forth at night to thus visit some other person in his sleep. Numerous names are used to designate these tormenting spirits; mare, alp; Trut or Trude in Bavaria and Tyrol; and in Upper Germany such names as Schrettele, Schrat, Ratz, Doggele, Druckerle, Letzel, etc.

But departed spirits do not merely visit men in their sleep with the physical feeling of suffocation; they also appear to them in their dreams. Thus the dead that cannot gain rest in the grave appear to men for various purposes: to avenge themselves; to make amends for some neglect; or to warn men and foretell the future. Such manifestations are closely related to apparition of ghosts, for which latter the Old Norse draugr (Old High German gitroc) was in use. Notwithstanding the tormenting character that these dreams frequently assumed, it was still accounted a defect if a person lacked the susceptibility for them, and was draumstoli (dream-stolen). As the dead exert influence on the living, so also conversely: excessive grief of the living disturbs the rest of the dead; witness the story of the Jug of Tears and Bürger's Lenore. Helgi likewise says of Sigrun's constant weeping:

Thou weepest cruel tears, thou gold-dight, sun-bright lady of the South, before thou goest to sleep: every one of them falls bloody, dank cold, chilly, fraught with sobs, upon my breast.

But the dead do not merely roam about and become visible; they also now and then come to life again. While the account of Asinius Pollio to be found in Appianus, that the Teutons of Ariovistus fought so bravely "on account of their hope that they would come to life again" is ambiguous, several Norse sources mention this restoration to life on earth in a wholly unmistakable way. Thus, in the Helgi Lays, Helgi and Svava are reborn as Helgi and Sigrun, and we know that in the Kara Lays, which have not come down to us, they were represented as having once more returned. For "in ancient times," thus the prose passage at the close of Helgakvidha Hundingsbana, II, tells us, "it was believed that men could be reborn, but at present this is considered old woman's talk." This return was regarded not as a misfortune, but as a blessing and we hence find the curse pronounced on Brynhild: "Never be she born again." Examples of rebirth are, however, not numerous. In the person of the holy Olaf it was said that a former king had been reborn. Here and there, in the naming of a child after a dead person, the idea of a rebirth of the latter in the person of his namesake seems also to have been taken in a far more physical sense that which we now attach to it.

These animistic conceptions are to be sharply distinguished from the belief in immortality. This latter, in the Platonic sense of the term, is entirely lacking. the soul roams about, appears to men, is at time reborn and for all these manifestations no period of time is set, no limit defined. Men continue to be seen as long as they are not forgotten. Apparitions of unknown souls at times inspire fear. A definite dogma of immortality cannot be deduced from animism among such a people as the Teutons.

When wandering about and appearing in visible form , the soul may assume various shapes, more specially those of animals. Norse literature and folklore furnish an abundance of examples. A number of times the soul is represented as having the form of a mouse, as in the well-known story of the sleeping girl from whose mouth a red mouse was seen creeping forth. A companion turned the sleeping girl around, and when the mouse returned it could no longer find its way back, wandered about aimlessly for a while, and then disappeared. But the girl did not again awake: she was mausetot ("mouse-dead," i.e. stone dead). The mice that pursued the cruel bishop Hatto of Mainz into his tower near Bingen on the Rhine were likewise the souls of the poor people, whom he had burn alive, because he could not furnish them with food. Similarly, the rats in the tale of the Pied Piper of Hameln are the souls of the little children. Once upon a time, when king Gunthram was resting in the forest from the chase, his soul crept out of his mouth in the shape of a snake. Over the sword of one of the king's companions it passed a little brook and entered a mountain, afterwards returning again to the mouth of the king by the way it had come. The king in the meantime had dreamt that he crossed a bridge over a river, and arrived in a mountain full of gold. The treasure, we are told was afterwards actually lifted. Paulus Diaconus considered this account so remarkable that he inserted it in his History of the Lombards, notwithstanding the fact that it concerns a Frankish king. In one of the battles in which Hrolf Kraki was engaged, his most valiant hero, Bjarki, was nowhere to be seen, but in his stead a stout bear fought at the side of the king, and with his claws slew more enemies than five warriors could have done: it was Bjarki's fylgja, which fought while his body was asleep.

There is scarcely any limit to the examples that might be added to the above. The fylgja may assume the form of a great variety of animals: of wolf and bear, bird, snake, and other animals that are seen in dreams; likewise of all kinds of birds,—ravens, crows, doves, and swans. Bees, beetles, and flies are also frequently souls. While in the case of animals it is not always an easy matter to draw an exact line of demarcation between animistic and various other conceptions, it can in any case not be gainsaid that the belief in migration of the soul into the bodies of animals has given rise to an extensive and varied "soul fauna." At times a connection may be traced between the character of an individual and the animal whose shape he takes on, men that are shrewd appearing as foxes, those that are cruel as wolves.

Less frequent, though not altogether rare, is the mention of trees as the abode of souls. The conceptions that cluster around the worship of trees are of a somewhat complex nature. The tree may itself be conceived of a possessing a soul; it bleeds when struck, and the violation of trees is in such cases a real crime. Parallel with this we meet the notion that the souls of the dead are imprisoned in trees. Trees are also frequently held to be the residence of the life spirit of an individual (trees of life), or of the guardian spirit of house and home (the Swedish vårdträd or botra). Tree worship represents, therefore, both a bit of nature-worship and a belief in human fate, associated symbolically with a definite species of the vegetable world. Side by side with this there exists the animistic conception of the relationship of the human soul with the soul of plants, and of the migration of the human soul into plants.

The belief in werewolves is not peculiar to the Teutons, but is found among many other peoples. Characteristically Scandinavian, however, is the closely related belief in Berserkers. They are people that possess the power of assuming other shapes. They are eigi einhamir, i.e. not of one shape; or hamramr, hamhleitha (feminine), i.e. changing form. Either by donning a wolf's skin or a belt made out of wolf's skin, or by reason of a natural tendency through which this metamorphosis comes upon them at certain stated times, such men run about in the shape of wolves, the eye alone retaining its human appearance. The werewolf (i.e. man-wolf) is known to us both from Norse literature and from medieval and modern popular belief. Thus the beginning of the Egils Saga tells us that the progenitor of the Myramen was toward evening subject to sudden attacks which made him wholly unlike himself, for which reason he bore the name Kveldulfr (evening-wolf).

Norse literature abounds in stories of Berserkers. We have already mentioned how Bjarki, one of Hrolf Kraki's warriors, fought at his side in the form of a bear. Ordinarily, however, these "bear-skin clad" retain their human shape, although their actions when the Berserkrgangr comes upon them are no longer human in character. An uncontrollable frenzy seizes them; their mouths begin to foam; they bark like dogs and growl like bears; they walk through fire, are invulnerable to iron, gnaw their shields, devour glowing coals, and carry all before them. When the attack has passed by, Berserkers are no stronger than ordinary men. The Norwegian kings were fond of having a few Berserkers among their followers and at time presented them to one another. They are also frequently mentioned in Icelandic sagas, where they decide the issue of many a struggle. It not rarely happens that this peculiarity is characteristic of a family: thus the seven sons of Syvaldus, the twelve sons of Arngrim, Angantyr and his brothers, were all sturdy Berserkers. Outside the North traces of Berserkers are to be found only among the Lombards.

The belief in witches also contains elements that are drawn from the animistic conceptions of Teutonic paganism, such as the riding through the air and the changing of shape. We do not, therefore, with Soldan, derive the origin of this belief solely from classical antiquity. At the same time the belief is of too complex a character, and has been too largely combined with later and foreign elements, to allow us to regard the witches as part and parcel of Teutonic mythology and to identify them with the Norse troll and vlur (wise women), or with the "dead women" of some of the Eddic songs. we do not, therefore, consider the witches as properly forming a part of our subject, and shall not consider them in this connection.

The belief in souls gave rise to numerous customs in connection with the dead, which the church sought zealously to eradicate. Several of these continue in vogue until the present day. We here mention a few whose animistic basis is at once apparent: the closing of mouth and eyes of the corpse, either to prevent the soul from returning through these openings, or to ward off the evil eye; the carrying out of the body under the threshold, or through and unusual opening, to keep the soul from finding its way back again; the burning of a light near the corpse, to keep evil spirits or the soul itself at a distance; the covering of the mirror, that the soul may not see its image and thus be held fast to the spot; the burying in a remote place, to banish the soul to a distance; the opening of doors and windows, to facilitate the egress of the soul; the watching over the corpse; the announcing of the death of the master of the house to all manner of objects in house and yard and to the bees in the hive; the calling out of the name of the deceased, which causes souls and mares that roam about to disappear; the giving along, or the placing on the grave, of food, at times also of shoes and staff; the careful tending of the house-snake, which is the residence of the soul of the deceased and as such a beneficent tutelar genius of the home, a sort of lar. All these customs lie near the border line separating popular observance from religious worship. While soul-cult belongs rather to the former,and is not part of a more or less official and organized worship, it has none the less struck deep roots in the life of the people. Its purpose is on the one hand to keep the soul that is feared at a distance, on the other to provide for its wants, but these two phases, the dark and light sides, frequently coalesce. It is not clear which of these two classes the dadsisas belong, against which the Indiculus Superstitionum inveighs as constituting "idolatry over the dead." These were songs sung for the dead at night ("devilish songs") and either served to ward off the soul, or were invocations through which oracular utterances concerning the future were obtained from the dead. Or else they were mere lamentations over the dead, to which no magical significance was attached, similar to those that were raised over Attila. The fact that the dadsisas were repeated on the grave would, however, seem to argue against this latter supposition.

Funeral banquets are also met with; the church sought to prevent drinking bouts at the grave. In the North the funeral feast is frequently call erfil (heir-beer), inasmuch as it was given not only in memory of the deceased, but also formed the solemn occasion on which the heir entered upon his inheritance. This latter frequently took place a considerable length of time after the demise of the head of the house; at any rate not before the exaction of the blood-vengeance, in case the deceased had been murdered. At times a large number of guests assembled on these occasions: we know of "heir-beers" to which more than a thousand persons sat down. The church sought to give these feasts a Christian dress, and, in order to make them a source of income, sent priests to be present at them and consecrated beakers to Christ and St Michael. Now and then the soul of the deceased himself is supposed to take part in the feast. Of a man who had been drowned we are told that he appeared at his own "heir-beer", which was held to be a favorable sign as regards his fate with Ran in the depths of the sea.

The worship of ancestors and heroes, while related to that of soul worship, is yet distinguished from it by certain definite characteristics. Ancestors and heroes are departed ones, but they likewise possess a personality, and other elements besides the nature of the soul enter into their cult: it serves to maintain the continuity of the life of the family, the kin, and the tribe as well. While it is not always possible to draw the exact line of demarcation, it is yet perfectly clear that ancestor worship is a particular form of soul-cult: soul-cult of the family, of kindred, and of the people.

Numerous examples of ancestor worship are to be found among the Teutons. The heroic saga, to be sure, as it has come down to us in medieval epic poetry, is based on historical data and myths of nature, and has no connection with religious worship, but from Tacitus, Jordanes, and the genealogical tables we know that the Teutons deified the progenitors of the various tribal groups, whereas later Norse literature did exactly the reverse; represented the gods euhemeristically as men of the prehistorical period.

Adam of Bremen, in a noteworthy passage, tells us that the Swedes also worship men, "whom on account of their mighty deeds they endow with immortality." In illustration he refers to an example to be found in Rimberts Life of Anskar, Chapter 26. We there find a detailed account how king Ericus became on of the gods. Anskar attended a large gathering at Birka, where he found king and people no longer favorably disposed, but had fallen into great error. A man announced to the king and his people that he had been present at an assembly of the gods, at which the latter complained of the neglect into which their service had fallen owing to the spread of Christianity. "If you wish," so the gods are reported to have said, "to have a larger number of gods, and are not content with us alone, we herewith unanimously admit to our guild your former king Ericus, so that he be one of the company of gods." They thereupon built a temple for this new god, offered sacrifices, and made vows to him. The incident shows very clearly how, in the declining days of paganism, hero worship was called upon to lend support to the service of the gods

A nearer approach to a cult of souls and of the dead is made when we read, in Burchard of Worms, of "the offerings that in certain places are made at the tombs of the dead." While the reference is here, no doubt, to graves in general, Norse literature also furnishes some examples of the graves of particular persons. Thus we read of a king whose body was claimed by four different districts, "deeming that they who got it might look to have plenteous years therewith: so at last they agreed to share the body in four, and the head was laid in a mound at Stone, in Ringrick. Then each of the other districts took away its share, and laid it in a mound; and all the mounds are called Halfdan's mounds." Especial importance seems here to be attached to the head, which is doubtless due to the fact that it is frequently regarded as the seat of the soul. This latter would also explain why in some localities headless corpses have been found.

Monday, July 4th, 2005, 08:23 AM
by P. D. Chantepie De La Saussaye, trans. by Bert J. Vos

1. "The language of a people constitutes a far more potent witness concerning them than is afforded by bones, weapons, or graves." "The significant periods in the existence of a people, with the consequent changes,—now rapid and violent, now slow and gradual,—are bound to leave so indelible an impression on the language as to betray the traces of every past event, in short of its entire history."

These are the words of Grimm and Müllenhoff, the two great masters of Teutonic philology. One might accordingly infer, as has in fact been done, that linguistic science furnishes, in the hand of trained and painstaking scholars, positive results concerning the remote past, including prehistoric times. And yet such has not proved to be the case, even as regards the work of these eminent scholars. J. Grimm stoutly maintained that Getae and Daci were identical with Goths and Danes. Through the annexation of these "Thracian" tribes, it was supposed that our knowledge of the Teutonic prehistoric period could be carried back much further than was formerly considered possible. No student of linguistics entertains such views now; and though the edifice reared by Müllenhoff may perhaps rest on a more secure foundation, still more than one of its supporting stones has also been loosened. He enunciated the correct principle that the origins of national existence in the case of the Indo-European peoples are to be sought in their historic abodes. He hold the region between the Oder and the Vistula to be the mother country of the Teutons, and the land in which the Teutonic language first acquired an individual character. The former of these assertions is undoubtedly correct, the latter highly probable. On the other hand, results that Müllenhoff considered equally well established, such as the pastoral character of the life of the ancient Aryans, a supposed foreign aboriginal population in Europe, a close kinship between Teutons and Letto-Slavs, and many other points, have been in large part rejected by more recent students of language.

Not only in respect to details, but also as regards matters of prime importance, has the confidence that was so readily bestowed upon the results of linguistic science been rudely shaken. The study of language was thought to enlighten us concerning the original home of the common ancestors of the Indo-European family. At present no scholar ventures to speak with any degree of positiveness concerning either this original home or this primitive people.

The cradle of the Indo-European family has been sought in various localities,—in Bactria, Armenia, and other parts of Asia, and even in Europe, from Southern Russia to Southern Sweden. There is some support for each of these views, but for none of them are direct proofs available. Most idyllic pictures were drawn of the material and intellectual culture of this primitive race: the family life of these patriarchal shepherds was marked by great purity, and the shining sky was worshipped as the heavenly father. As the knights in the fairy tales, were they thought to have entered upon the stage of history, with horses and chariots, subjugating or dispossessing everywhere the people of inferior race. When this theory was first broached, doubts arose in some quarters as to the possibility of ascribing to the ancient Italians and Teutons in their primitive condition such a pure and relatively high degree of culture, but the certainty of linguistic results seemed to dispose of all objections.

The more than fifty years that have elapsed since the beginnings of these scientific studies have somewhat disillusioned men's minds. The laws of sound-change in language have been far more sharply and accurately formulated, and as a consequence a number of etymologies that at one time seemed established have now been abandoned. Moreover, together wit the laws of sound-change, more attention has been paid to the meaning of words, which have often in the course of time been considerably modified. Finally, scholars have come to recognize the fact that sameness is not always to be explained on the score of unity or origin, but may also be due to borrowing. What is common to a number of languages is therefore by no means always original. No one, for example, would conclude from the sameness in all European languages of such words as "church" and "school," "priest" and "bishop," "bible" and "altar," that the Indo-European primitive race was acquainted with Christianity.

In this way the ancestral inheritance, which was held to have been the common possession of the sole Indo-European stock, has greatly dwindled. The happy days when every new etymology seemed to add to that inheritance have forever passed away With the linguistic principles that formed it foundation, the structure itself has collapsed. The one great result of linguistic science, however, the unity of the Indo-European family, still stands. Not only has it in no way suffered in the general downfall, but recent methods of study have even served to confirm the theory. At present, the comparison, instead of being made between single disjointed words, is made between entire groups of designations of beings and objects of a similar nature, and it is such correspondences which are held to demonstrate a common origin. Questions concerning the mother country and the primitive race have to a large extent been dismissed. We no longer suppose that in a certain prehistoric period an Indo-European primitive people dwelt in a definite locality and from there spread over the earth in groups.

It is evident that wit such conceptions there does not remain much scope for an Indo-European mythology. We no longer ask ourselves: What gods and myths did the Teutons take with them as an inheritance form their ancestral home? Loose parallels count for nothing, and similarities of names no longer mislead. Tacitus, for example, mentions the existence among a Teutonic tribe of the cult of two brothers, who he compares with Castor and Pollux. Now the heroic saga also shows the figures of the Hartungen, and the question might therefore present itself whether in the mythical motif of Dioscuri or Açvins, which is also encountered outside of Indo-European territory, a fragment of original Indo-European mythology has not been preserved. The Teutonic Æsir, the Irish Esir, have been identified by some scholars with the Indian Asuras, but here the connection and similarity are again very doubtful. It is not even certain that the Indian Asuras are truly Indo-European; it has been suggested that they are Semitic in origin. Amid all these storms of doubt and conjecture, the old Indo-European god of the sky seemed to stand firm as a rock, Tiu being considered cognate with Dyaus, Zeus, and Jupiter. But even this equation has not escaped the scalpel of some more recent, relentless grammarians. That Tiu bears the same name as the other sky divinities is at present denied by several scholars of authority, although there are other voices of equal weight that still uphold the old theory.

We should,however, be on our guard here against misunderstandings. The view that the individual peoples, among them the Teutons, set out from the common ancestral home with a stock of culture and mythology has been abandoned; and with this also the problem of tracing this common original possession by means of linguistic science. However, this does not exclude the view that the worship of the sky god was primitive among the Teutons, as among other peoples of the same family, as it was, in fact, among Mongols and Semites.

These remarks are not intended to detract from the value and importance of linguistic science for the study of ancient peoples; but this value has assumed a different aspect from that which obtained when the school of comparative mythologists based its results on linguistic studies. Through the progress made in the study of language, these quasi-results have been shown to be ill-founded. Withal, the study of language still remains our chief guide in the investigation of prehistoric and of the earliest historic times. By the side of the "genealogical theory" it has place the "wave theory," that is to say, it does not, as formerly, ask us to assume that individual peoples spread over the face of the earth equipped with a full stock of knowledge, but rather emphasizes the importance of the historical connections through which one tribe exerts an influence upon a neighboring one. This gulf stream of civilization we have already had occasion to mention. What is common in the life of different peoples is as much the result of historic contact as of unity of descent. Such a view accounts better for existing facts and conditions; and while it modifies, it in no wise lessens, the value of linguistic study.

The contradictions between the results of archaeological and linguistic inquiry also disappear of their own accord. If the linguistic method of the comparative school of mythologists were sound, it would be impossible to regard the prehistoric population, who have left behind them the material remains which we have discovered, as Indo-Europeans, and we should furthermore be involved in the difficulty of having to assume that the Teutonic tribes mentioned by Tacitus, and even the Cimbri and Teutones defeated by Marius, already carried about with them the entire system of "Indo-European"" mythology. The latter inference we could at any rate not escape. No such chasm lies between these two fields of investigation in the present state of our knowledge, although the two sciences continue to yield results differing in kind. If archaeology chooses to regard the lake dwellers as Indo-Europeans, linguistic science does not interpose a veto. We no longer demand that language study should furnish us with an outline picture of a vague, nebulous primitive people. On the other hand, it frequently enables us to trace historical connections between different peoples.

2. We have no definite knowledge concerning the first migration of the Teutons. We know neither when it took place nor the immediate occasion that brought it about. It was tempting to some scholars to connect this migration with the expedition of the Persians under Darius to Scythia. Müllenhoff holds that the origin of the Teutonic people in the region between the Vistula and Oder is of as early a date as the first settlements of the other Indo-European groups in Greece and Italy. However, we really know nothing about this, just as we are entirely uninformed concerning the motives which induced the Teutons to settle in lands so inhospitable as to prompt Tacitus to declare that it was incredible that any people should have forsaken a more favored abode for such a wild region with so raw a climate.

From the shores of the Baltic the Teutons spread, principally in a western direction. They were not shepherds; the land, covered with forest and swamp, was entirely unsuited to grazing. It was only gradually, as scant crops rewarded their labors, that they become acquainted with the elements of agriculture. Even in the time of Tacitus, salt could be obtained in the interior only through the application of the most primitive methods, and the tribes waged war for the possession of the saline streams. The climate and their manner of life made these tribes hardy and warlike, but the conditions essential to the development of an indigenous civilization were lacking. Such a civilization arose on the banks of the Nile and the Euphrates, but not on the Oder and Elbe, nor on the Rhine and the Danube. From the very outset the Teutons borrowed whatever culture they acquired from more highly developed peoples with whom they had directly or indirectly come into contact. The results reached by archaeological investigation are thus borne out by the character of the country and the nature of the soil. The study of language too has in various ways thrown light on the foreign relations of the ancient Teutons, and more especially on the contact with Kelts and Romans.

The value of linguistic science is not limited to tracing such external relations. The history of a language, with its various phonological and morphological changes, enable us to distinguish its periods of developments; and we are accordingly led to divide the Teutons into two, or rather three, main group, belong Swedish and Danish on the one hand, and Old Norse (in Norway and Iceland) on the other. The largest group is the West-Teutonic; it embraces Anglo-Saxon and Frisian, Low and High German with their various dialects—such as Saxon, Frankish, Bavarian, Alemannic, etc. This division of tribes and peoples into groups furnishes a secure basis also for a study of the history of religion.

It would be in vain to attempt to elicit the same results from what Roman authors tell us concerning Teutonic tribes. While it was undoubtedly the intention of Tacitus in setting up a threefold division—Ingævones, Herminones, and Istævones—to embrace the entire people, as a matter of fact his classification includes only the West Teutons. But Tacitus does not adhere strictly to this division. With the words "quidam affirmant" he introduces other names: Marsi, Gambrivi, Suevi, Vandili,—all of which are also to be regarded as groups; and what is still more significant, in his treatment of the individual peoples he entirely loses sight of his own main grouping. In his treatment of the tribes best know to him he follows an order from the West to North and East, distinguishing at the same time the Suabian from the non-Suabian peoples. Pliny mentions five groups, adding to those of Tacitus the Vandili and the Peucini or Bastarnæ, along the coast of the Black Sea, whom Tacitus had classed among the doubtful frontier tribes. We encounter the Hellusii (who in Tacitus are lost in the mists of the North) in the Hilleviones of Pliny. Among the names of the separate tribes in Tacitus there are some which subsequently disappear from View: the Bructeri, Cherusci, Semnones, Nahanarvali, etc. Others endure: Suabians, Frisians, Angles, and Lombards. New names also put in an appearance in later times: Alemanni, Burgundians,—the latter already mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy,—Saxons, and Franks. The value of the ethnographic material furnished by Roman authors is of course unquestioned, apparent contradictions being in part due to the lack of sufficient data. Thus we find Tacitus distinguishing between what he knew with certainty and what he had from hearsay. Furthermore, during the centuries covered by the Roman accounts extensive changes were taking place in the interior of Germany. Tribes were alternately vanishing and again appearing upon the scene or seeking new habitations, and with the help of the geographies, maps and historians we new and then catch a glimpse of these great shiftings. Besides, the peculiarly Roman point of view and attitude of mind have colored the accounts; so doubtless in case of the grouping into five or into three main divisions. This grouping is a geographical one; the Romans naturally taking as their point of departure the West. One may conclude from the words of Tacitus that the memory of the three sons of Mannus, the progenitors of the three groups, was still kept alive in old songs of the Teutons themselves, as is in fact indicated by the alliteration of their names; but it is after all by no means certain that the Teutons themselves intended by these groups a complete division of all tribes. The Frankish roll of nations, too, does not prove anything in favor of the old tradition. It makes Romans, Britons, Franks, and Alemanni the four offshoots from the common ancestor Istio, thus reflecting the political and geographical conditions existing in the time of Chlodowech (A.D. 520).

Valuable therefore as the accounts of Roman historians and geographers are, inasmuch as they transport us to a period concerning which we possess few reliable data, their classification of the Teutons does not coincide with the grouping based on the criteria of language. The North-Teutonic (Scandinavian) group remains almost wholly outside the Roman horizon, and even the East Teutons, who subsequently played the chief role in the migrations of nations (Goths, Vandals, Burgundians), are only incidentally mentioned.

Much attention has of late years been bestowed on the signification of the tribal names, and while this line of investigation has neither yielded positive results nor proved very fruitful in advancing our knowledge of Teutonic religions, it is a phase of the subject which must not be passed by in silence. J. Grimm distinguished three kinds of tribal names. The first class consists of patronymics, such as Herminones from Irmin and Goths from Gaut. The question at once presents itself, Which of the two is original,—the name of the tribe or that of the eponymous hero? If we accept the former alternative, the name of the tribe remains unexplained. A second class, the most numerous of all, indicates qualities: Frisians, franks (free men), Lombards (Longobardi). Under this head Grimm ventures a number of bold conjectures,—e.g. when he explains the Suabians (Seubi) as men who are sui juris. The third class comprises tribes named from the district which they inhabited: Ubii, Ripuarii, Batavi (men from the Auen), Mattiaci (men from the Matten), Semnones (forest dwellers). Here too the correct interpretation of the names is frequently subject to doubt. In fact most of the problems raised in this connection still remain unsolved. In the case of each particular name the question presents itself whether it was originally native or whether it was given to the tribe by neighbors. Probably there are quite a number of nicknames and encomiastic names among them. Reference to a cult is found only in the name Ziuwari, borne by the Suabians. The attempt has been made to explain Ansivari in a similar manner, and the Nahanarvali have even been regarded as worshippers of the Norns, but both of these etymologies are undoubtedly incorrect. It is worth noticing that among the tribal names no designations of plants or animals occur; for the Chatti (Hessians) have, or course, no connection with cats.

We may define more sharply, if not the origin, at least the use, or the words "germanisch" and "deutsch." As to the derivation of the term "Germanus" the most fantastic theories are current. Most probably the name originated in Northeastern Gaul in the century preceding our era, be it that the Kelts called the foreigners "neighbors" or that they were called "the genuine," in contradistinction to the peoples in whose midst they lived. The designation deutsch is related to the word "people" (Gothic thiuda) and means vulgaris. It reminds one of the ancient "Teutones," which is probably derived from the same stem. Little, indeed, is definitely known of these Teutones, who together with the Cimbri were the first Teutonic peoples that came within the Roman horizon. Müllenhoff seeks their origin along the Middle Elbe, whereas more recent scholars are convinced from an inscription found on a boundary stone at Miltenberg on the Main, on which their name occurs, that the Teutones were originally a Keltic tribe. However that may be, the name "deutsch" came before A.D. 800 to be used of the language and has since the ninth century steadily gained in currency, both as a designation for the language of the people, lingua Theodisca, and for the people itself.

It is unfortunate that between the words "germanisch" and "deutsch" no fixed and uniform distinction is made. As a rule, germanisch is the more general term, embracing the entire family—Germans, Goths, Anglo-Saxons, and Scandinavians. The tribes and people inhabiting Germany are called deutsch in the narrower sense. We therefore speak of the language of Germany as deutsch, but of germanische Philologie, in the comprehensive sense in which, for example, Paul uses it in his Grundriss der germanischen Philologie. This usage is, however, subject to exceptions in view of the fact that the Romans called the Germans and other tribes all Germani. Jacob Grimm has added to the confusion by using the word "germanisch" only rarely, and by employing "deutsch" sometimes in the narrower, and again in the more comprehensive, sense. In English the terms "German" (deutsch) and "Dutch" (niederländisch) have acquired in everyday speech a special signification, so that for the whole field the name "Teutonic" has been used. This usage is again not uniform, some preferring "Germanic" (germanisch), but this is open to the objection that it does not admit of the formation of a corresponding substantive. In any case, it is essential that we should carefully note the usage of others and be ourselves consistent in the employment of the various terms. In the present treatise "Teutonic" will be used for the entire group, "German" for the special subdivision.

The names that we have just mentioned constitute only a very small part of the large stock of proper names, of persons as well as of places, that have come down to us. While these are important witnesses in ascertaining ancient conditions and interrelations, they must yet be used cautiously and judiciously. A proper name does indeed tell us as a rule to what language group it belongs, but it does not tell us whether the people that gave it or bore it dwelt in the place where they left this token of their presence as strangers or as natives, as rulers or slaves, whether permanently or for only a brief period.

For the study of religion the numerous names derived from gods, especially in the North, and the names of persons deserve attention. They frequently enable us to determine approximately how far certain legends and cults had spread. From proper names we know that the worship of Thor was far more deeply rooted in Norway than that of Odhin. That Baldr is almost totally absent from names is a fact of great importance in arriving at an estimate of myths connected with him. A number of proper names testify to the currency of the German heroic saga in England. Proper names, accordingly, reflect not only the possession of each individual tribe, but also the intercourse of the tribes with one another.

Our knowledge of the various tribal religions of the ancient Teutons is derived from their names, their genealogies, their tribal legends, and the accounts of Roman authors. To the reader of Tacitus no fact appears more evident than that the individual tribes had each their own religious centre, that at times a few neighboring or related tribes united to form a common cult, and that the main groups in their old songs glorified their tribal progenitor, who was probably a tribal god. Since the publication of an investigations by Müllenhoff it has usually been assumed that the three great groups mentioned by Tacitus had separate cults. The Irminsleute (Herminones) preserved the worship of the old heaven god Zio; the Ingvæones worshipped the Vanir god Freyr; the Istvæones, Wodan and Tamfana. The identification of the eponymous tribal hero with the great gods is in two or three instances more or less probable: Irmin-Tiu and Ingv-Freyr frequently occur in combination, whereas this is not the case with Istv and Wodan. Teutonic mythologists in proposing such an identification of a hero with a god, or of one god with another, go on the theory that what is seemingly a proper name is in truth only a surname, the hero or god of lower rank being regarded as an hypostasis of the higher god. That one and the same god is worshipped under various names is, indeed, not a rare occurrence, but in the case of an identification of a hero with a god, a greater degree of caution is required. Taken as a whole, the conjectures here referred to rest on an insufficient basis.

Many scholars expressed the opinion that this investigation of Müllenhoff had resulted in establishing a new basis for the study of Teutonic mythology, and to a certain extent this is actually the case. Müllenhoff himself never denied the existence of elements of belief that were common to all Teutonic peoples. On the contrary, the range within which he allowed this view was wider than at present seems admissible, but the results obtained by Müllenhoff do not constitute as great an advance as at first appeared to be the case. We have already seen that the division into three groups does not by any means embrace all Teutons. Thus the Suebi, who, it will be remembered, were styled Ziuwari, correspond only in part to the Herminones. Furthermore, the line of demarcation between groups and tribes are not so sharp as might seem to be implied in the classifications made. Internal conditions of affairs in Germania were in a constant state of Flux, and this necessarily affected the life and existence of the tribes. In addition, account must be taken of that intercourse between the various tribes through which one tribe could borrow legends and cults from another.

Some students of Teutonic mythology cherish the ideal of treating the mythology of each tribe separately, and the historical method would indeed seem to demand this. If no such attempt is made in the present instance, it is not merely because we are deterred by the meagerness of the data available for such a separate treatment, but even more largely on account of the further consideration that it is impossible to detach with a sufficient degree of certainty a tribe or group from its environment. The historical method itself cautions us against ignoring any part of the data at our command, such as that which concerns the mutual intercourse of the tribes. We may attempt to determine here and there the origin of a legend and the chief seat of a cult, but we have no right to deny the tribe what we do not find expressly predicated of it, in case we find it existing among other tribes. The main principle, at any rate, remains undisputed, and we may feel confident of the positive result that the central point around which the life of an individual tribe revolved was the worship of a definite god together with the tribal legends with which it brought its origin into close connection.

3. In these tribal legends various elements, in part of later origin, are intermingled. It is convenient, however, to treat them in the present connection. If we analyze the tribal legends we find: 1. Myths concerning the origin of man in general, connected more or less closely with accounts of the ancestors of a particular people. 2. Accounts relating to, or an enumeration of, eponymous heroes; or genealogical table which derive the royal families from ancient heroes or gods. 3. Legends concerning ancient adventures—largely expeditions or migration of the tribes. 4. Various foreign traditions derived from the biblical or the classical world. In the picture that the individual tribes draw of their origin these threads are woven together in various ways.

We find even Tacitus bringing the origin of the tribes into connection with the origin of man. The progenitors of the three groups (Germania, Chapter 2) are the sons of Mannus, the man, and the latter is himself the son of Tuisto, whom Tacitus designates as "deum terra editum." To infer from this name, Tuisto, that he was of a dual nature and was conceived as an hermaphrodite is unwarranted. The emphasis falls on the autochthonous character and on the divine ancestry, which, it nay be noted, are again expressly mentioned in the case of the other tribes. Nothing beyond this can be deduced from the words of Tacitus. This applies also to a recent most arbitrary emendation of the text of Tacitus, according to which man had sprung from trees. Völuspa 17, to be sure, and Gylfaginning 9, as well, make man originate from Ask and Embla (ash and elm?), but this, as well as the descent of the three classes—thræl, karl, and jarl—from the god Rig (Heimdallr, in Rigsthula), is found only in comparatively late Eddic songs.

We shall begin our treatment of the separate peoples with the Goths. Their royal family, that of the Amali (among the East Goths), is regarded as of divine descent, the genealogical series being Gaut, Haimdal, Rigis, Amal. There is no way of determining from this list whether Gaut is simply and eponymous hero or, as has been assumed, another name for Wodan. Rigis, here separated from Haimdal, is elsewhere usually a surname of this god. Jordanes, to whom we owe this account of the divine origin of the Amali, makes the goths come from Scandza, the cradle of nations ("quasi officina gentium aut certe velut vagina nationum"), an island in the North, where it is too cold for bees to gather honey, but from which place nations have spread like swarms of bees. In three ships the Goths crossed the ocean, the foremost two carrying the East and West Goths, the slower on the Gepidæ. Landing on the coast, these tribes moved onward in a southern direction.

The Lombards were also said to have come from the "island" of Scandinavia. Their real name, it is said, was Vinili, and they constituted the third part of the inhabitants of this over-populated country. They had been designated by lot to leave their fatherland, and under two leaders, Ibor and Ajo, they sought new homes. They came into collision with the Vandals, who implored Godan (Wodan) for victory over the newcomers, but the god replied that he would give victory to those whom his eyes should first behold at sunrise. The crafty Gambara, the mother of Ibor and Ajo, sought counsel from Frea, who gave the advice that the women should join the men and let their hair hang down their faces like beards. When on the following morning Godan saw this host of Vinili, he asked: "Who are these Longobardi?" and Frea rejoined that having given them their name he must also grant them the victory. According to this account, which the Christian historian of the Lombards calls an absurd story, this people is traced back to the Baltic. Whether the mention of the divinities Wodan and Frea is to be regarded as a original element in this account has been doubted by some scholars.

The genealogical tables tracing the origin of rulers and peoples to eponymous heroes or gods—the Goths to Gaut, the Scyldings to Scyld, the Scefings to Sceaf, and possibly the Batavi to a Bætva (?)—are know to us in detail in the case of the Anglo-Saxons in England only. Bede himself tells us that Hengist and Horsa, and the royal families of many English nations as well, were descended from Voden. The medieval English chronicles, with variation as to details, give us these genealogies of the Anglo-Saxon royal families, and these tables, dating from various periods, contain side by side with historical reminiscences also some fragments of myths and legends. The lists that hove been compiled are largely the result of poetic fancy. Now and then they furnish investigators with a clew towards tracing a connection between traditions and episodes that lie seemingly far apart; so in the case of the two kings named Offa, and of such heroes as Beow (Beaw), Scyld and Scef (Sceaf). Of the latter it was related that he landed, as a new-born babe, in a rudderless boat and with a sheaf of grain, on the coast of Sleswick, the country over which he was afterwards to rule. The tables contain few traces of legends that are of native English origin, and almost every feature points to a connection with the original home in Holstein, Sleswick, and Jutland. The tables ascend to Woden as progenitor; that his name is at time found in the middle of the list is probably owing to later additions. Of the other divinities Seaxneat (Saxnot) occurs a few times, as for example in the Essex table, where a number of names representing personifications of the idea of battle are all designated as sons of Seaxneat. Names compounded with Frea are numerous. That Bældæg, who is mentioned repeatedly, is Balder is confirmed by the name Balder itself as found in one of the genealogies. In passing it may be noted that some of the chroniclers have felt called upon to trace the family back to the common ancestors Noah and Adam.

Several of the tribes in Germany proper are rich in legendary lore. So the Saxons, concerning whose origin various traditions are current. According to one report their first king, Aschanes (Ask?), whose name the medieval chronicle changes to Ascanius, sprang up from the Harz rocks in a forest near a spring. A popular rhyme also makes mention of girls growing on trees in Saxony. Widukind of the tenth century, who entertained a warm affection from his Saxon people, was, however, of the opinion that they had come across the sea and mentions various accounts as to this origin; they were thought to be descended from the Danes and Norwegians, or were regarded as the remnants of the army of Alexander the Great which had scattered in all directions. Whether it would be possible to trace a connection between this Macedonian origin and Trojan descent need not here be discussed. Of more interest is the fact that this Saxon tribal legend, combined in part with the Thuringian, contains various semi-historical reminiscences; such as the war between Saxons and Thuringians for the possession of the country, the struggle between the Franks and Thuringians, whose king Irminfrid had married the daughter of a Frankish king, and especially the exploits of the Thuringian hero Iring, who played the chief rôle in this war and who is usually regarded as a mythical figure.

An unusually rich store of legends was found by Uhland among his "Suabians." According to an account of the twelfth century concerning the origin of the Suabians, the Suevi too, although in the days of Tacitus already possessing fixed habitations in Middle Germany, had come from the North. The cause of this exodus, as in the case of the Vinili and perhaps also of the Goths, is said to have been famine. That the legends also show a connection between Scandinavia and the Suebi, Uhland has attempted to show by citing a number of characteristic episodes from the saga of Helgi, whose connection with the Suebi does not rest merely on the accidental resemblance of Svava to Suebi.

We find in these various tribal sagas and unmistakable, though not historically definable, background of reality. Imperceptibly saga passes over into history, and the ancient sage too, nebulous and mingled with myths as it at times was, no doubt preserved recollections of an old mother country and or earlier fortunes. At times a tradition no doubt owes it origin solely tot he attempt to explain a name, just as the inhabitants of the Swiss canton Schwyz thought that they had come from Sweden. In the case of some other accounts, we cannot even approximately state what the basis or reality is. An instance of this is the curious statement of Tacitus that Ulixes had landed somewhere along the Thine and that an altar had been raised in honor of him and of his father Laertes. There is no doubt, however, that some of these legends are purely learned invention, without historical basis. In this latter category belong the tales, everywhere current in the Middle Ages, of the Trojan origin of various peoples.

Following, more or less closely, Vergil's account (Æeneid, I, ll.142 ff.) of Antenor, who had escaped from Troy and reached Illyria and more distant shores, stories of Trojan exiles who had made their way to remote regions and distant coasts were told in the various provinces of the Roman Empire; and when we remember how much value was attached by distinguished Roman families at the end of the Republic and at the beginning of the Empire to Trojan lineage, it will appear altogether natural that the nations incorporated with the Empire should have fallen in with this fashion and have boasted of Trojan descent. Our present sources no longer enable us to trace the details of the ways in which this tradition was carried out, but it is clear that distinguished Gauls, more especially, and their successors the Franks traced their origin from Troy.

Gregory of Tours, to be sure, tells us nothing of this character in the dry and rather confused account in which he sums up what older writers had related of the fortunes of his people. He makes the Franks come from Pannonia and does not refer to any connection with Greeks or Trojans. We first come across this latter legend in the Chronicle of Fredegar (of about 660) and the Gesta regum Francorum (725). According to the former, Priam at Troy was king of the Franks. After the fall of Troy the people repeatedly separated. One division went to Macedonia, another under king Friga (the Frigii) reached the Danube. Part of this division under Turchot (the Turks) remained behind, while others under Fancio (the Franks) moved onward and began the construction of a new city of Troy on the Rhine, which was, however, never completed. Theudemer and, subsequently, the Merovingi are descended from this Francio. With a slight variation from the above account, the Gesta make Æneas the king of the Trojans. The Franks are descended from the Trojan exiles who built the city of Sicambria on the frontiers of Pannonia and subsequently aided the emperor Valentinianus in his war against the Alani (Alemanni?). From his they received the name of Franks, that is, the wild, proud people! In any case the tradition of the Trojan descent of the franks had struck deep root. Paulus Diaconus thought that he recognized in the name of Frankish major domo, Anschis, the Trojan name Anchises.

It is clear that these Frankish accounts do not represent native traditions, but merely form the continuation of threads that passed form Latin authors into the later literature. Nor is more value to be attached to what is related elsewhere during the Middle Ages of Trojan descent. The English highly prized the tradition, and even in Norse literature belief in it has assumed a characteristic form.

This whole cycle of legends is still unknown to Saxo Grammaticus, who does not seem to have heard of either Troy or Priam in this connection. He does indeed mention, but with out signifying his own concurrence, the opinion of Dudo, a writer on Aquitanian history of the end of the tenth century, that the Danes derived their name from the Danai. Saxo also refers to an ancient king, Othinus, who had established relations with Byzantium, but he is unaware of any connection between Asia and Scandinavia.

The latter notion we meet in the Ynglinga Saga (Heimskringla) and in the Preface (of later origin) to the Prose Edda. Odhin is there said to have come to the North from Asgardh on the Black Sea, and the narratives of the Vanir war, of Mimir and Hœnir, are interwoven with the story of that journey. In the afore-mentioned Preface (formáli) Troy and the expedition of Pompey are referred to by name.

There was not the slightest cause for mistaking the true character of these tales by endeavoring to find genuine tradition in them, as has been done by some scholars. There is not even the least evidence that the ancient Norsemen were eager to connect their past with the classical world. The instances just mentioned stand isolated and are the work of mythographers, who, by combining various unrelated elements and overriding all chronology, constructed a pseudo-historical narrative devoid of all value from either the historical or the mythological point of view. It would be in vain to seek genuine fragments of Teutonic legends here.

4. Even in a brief survey some attention must be paid to the relations of the Teutons to other nations before and at the dawn of the historical period.

We shall probably never fully succeed in tracing the boundaries dividing Kelts from Teutons in the prehistoric times, or in determining the lands which each of these peoples originally occupied, or in fixing the tribes of which they were composed. However, linguistic investigations, more especially of names of places, have already shed considerable light upon the subject, and we now know that the whole west and south of Germany exhibit Keltic names. The Kelts in their various expeditions roamed also over the southern peninsulas of Europe, Spain, Italy, and Greece. These results are firmly established and cannot be affected by warning cries which have been raised against the extravagances of Kelto-mania. Such warnings are to a certain extent justified. Thus we cannot concur in the view of some scholars that the Kelts, or more especially the Gauls, were of old a highly civilized people, possessing great technical skill and a profound symbolism. At the same time there cannot be any doubt as to the wide extent of the territory covered by the Kelts in prehistoric times, or their superiority to their Teutonic neighbors in culture.

The original boundary between Kelts and Teutons was doubtless situated in the country between the Oder and Elbe. Müllenhoff locates it in the Harz and Thuringia, which would at once mark the boundary towards both the south and west. Nothing is known concerning the relations existing between these contiguous peoples in Central Germany, any more than concerning the causes for the advance of the Teutons and the manner in which it took place. Nor do we know to what extent the two peoples intermingled. It is clear, however, that they did mix in various ways, and that there was no such sharp line of division or such a mutual aversion between them as we must assume to have existed between Teutons and Slavs. In Central Germany, as subsequently on the Rhine, on the left as well as on the right bank, the contiguous Kelts and Teutons have assuredly not always waged war on each other, but have frequently lived in peaceful intercourse. This mutual influence was so strongly marked that it is not always possible to determine from the sources at our command whether in a particular case we have to do with a Teutonic or a Keltic tribe. In fact, during the first centuries of our era most of the tribes to the west of the Rhine do not bear an unmixed character.

It is evident that the Teutons reached the Rhine, and even crossed it, about the beginning of our era. Roman accounts, from Caesar onward, as well as numerous inscriptions, inform us how Kelt and Teuton met in these regions. The question therefore naturally presents itself, What elements in their religion belong to each of the two peoples? From the nature of the case such a question can be fully answered only by a series of detailed investigations. Common characteristics do not, however, necessarily imply always either influence from the one side or the other, or borrowing. There is, for example, no reason for attributing the worship of springs, which we find among both nations, originally to the one rather than to the other. This is a cult which is found among Slavs as well as Teutons and Kelts, and, in fact, among a large number of peoples. It odes not furnish a sufficient basis for assuming an historical connection.

The greatest obstacle that we encounter in attempting to trace the nationality of various gods lies in their foreign, that is to say their Latin, names. Several divinities bear on inscriptions the name of Hercules, and the grounds on which they have been called Keltic or Teutonic are not always conclusive. There is, moreover, still a third possibility. The Roman soldiers in the provinces must have brought along their own divinities. It is highly probable that the Hercules Saxanus of a number of inscriptions found in the valley of the Brohl and the vicinity of Metz was not a Teutonic Donar or Saxnot, but the genuine Roman tutelar deity of the miners. On the whole rather too much has been claimed as the property of the Kelts.

This latter observation does not, however, apply to the matres, or matronae, that are found represented or inscribed on various monuments of the first centuries of our era, and whose Keltic origin is at present quite generally recognized. These mother goddesses frequently form groups of three; they bestow a blessing upon the fields and make them fruitful, and hence are frequently represented with fruits and flowers, with ears of corn or a horn of plenty. Their cult must have been very widespread, reaching from Britain to Switzerland. The great extent of this territory is no doubt to be accounted for in part by the fact that the cult was spread by Keltic soldiers in the armies. On the right bank of the Rhine the matronae are only rarely met with. Their surnames bear to a large extent a local character. That among these latter there are some of Teutonic origin—especially those ending in ims—does not alter the fact that the matronae themselves are of Keltic origin.

We must assume, therefore, that Teutons and Kelts, living for many centuries in constant and active intercourse, mutually influenced each other, the influence of Kelts on Teutons being undoubtedly stronger than that of Teutons on Kelts. While the contact between Teutons and Slavs was of an altogether less intimate character, it too demands some attention. The ancient accounts all indicate that the Vistula formed the original boundary between Teutons and Slavs. The group that is a times simply called Slavs really comprises two distinct groups: the Balts or Letts (the Æstii of Tacitus) and the Slavs (the Venedi). Tacitus gives us little information concerning these peoples. That they led a free and rude mode of life was practically all that his informants could tell him. The Æstii he still classes among the Teutons and compares them with the Suebi. That they too worshipped a mater deum possesses from our point of view no special significance, inasmuch as the Romans when interpreting unfamiliar divinities took into consideration only a single characteristic, and we are, therefore, in no way compelled to compare this mater deum with the terra mater (Nerthus) of the Teutonic tribes along the seacoast. Tacitus classes the Venedi with that mass of semi-barbarous peoples whom he dismisses with a few words expressive of horror, although he does not deny the possibility that they too were Teutons. Other Roman accounts furnish little additional information.

When during the period of the migration of nations one Teutonic tribe after another—Vandals, Goths, Gepidæ, Heruli, Lugii, Burgundians—began to push forward to the south and west, the region between the Vistula, Oder, and Elbe must have become depopulated. The Balto-Slavs to the north- and south-east took advantage of this opportunity to extend their domain. With the expedition of the Lombards in the sixth century these migrations came to an end, and in the seventh century the power of the Slavs in Europe reached its extreme limits, extending from the Baltic to the Ægean and the Black Sea, and from the Elbe to the Dnieper and the Alps.

From these facts we may infer that the Balto-Slavs and Teutons were brought into contact on every side, and since with the migration of a people there are always some that stay behind, the two races must undoubtedly have intermingled in the region between the Vistula and the Elbe. The influence thus exerted was, however, not nearly as great as we might be led to expect. The Teutonic tribes always had their faces turned to the west and south and it was the contact with Kelts and Romans, and not with Balto-Slavs, that molded them. Besides, what could they borrow from their neighbors on the east, who were their inferiors in civilization? The two peoples had a strong aversion towards one another, which continued uninterruptedly and to which the medieval chronicles when speaking of the Slavs constantly recur. The wars, as a consequence of which the Saxon emperors of the tenth century again drove the Slavs out of the old Teutonic country to the east of the Elbe, were characterized by the greatest fierceness and animosity. Nor did the conversion of the Slavs to Christianity engender more fraternal feelings between them and the Teutons. From the very outset they declared allegiance not to Rome but to Byzantium, and while the schism between the Eastern and Western Church was not yet in existence. the Slavs, nevertheless, through this dependence on Byzantium remained outside the circle of the european body politic of the Middle Ages. Even at the present day, after the lapse of so many centuries, the Wends living in various parts of Saxony are regarded as a class quite distinct from the Germans round about them.

It is, therefore, not to be expected that a comparison with Balto-Slavic observances and conceptions will shed any great light on the religion of the Teutons. Here, again, not much importance should be attached to similarities of a general character. That the Balto-Slavs too regarded forests and springs as sacred, that parallels may be found in the folklore, does not constitute an argument for the existence of active intercourse between the two peoples. Such parallels are encountered everywhere. An inspection of the names of Lithuanian gods will show that the resemblance to Teutonic mythology is but slight. And yet, despite the aversion existing between the two races, contiguity of habitation and the wars waged between them must have left decided traces in legends and customs. The Scandinavians more especially came into close contact with the Slavs. Vikings founded, in the country of the Wends, the Jomsburg, which plays such and important rôle in the history of the North during the tenth century; and in Gardariki (Russia) a Swedish family established its rule. It is perfectly legitimate, therefore, to endeavor to explain certain characteristic features of the myths and customs of the two peoples on the score of this intercourse. Such attempts have actually been made, although they have met with little success. The prophetess (vlva), the divine race of the Vanir, Kvasir, who had sprung from the spittle of Æsir and Vanir, and from whose blood the poets' mead was made, the phallic symbol of Freyr, are some of the elements to which a Slavic origin has been attributed. This, however, is to a large degree conjectural, and in order to support the claim in any one instance a special investigation is called for. The theory of the Slavic origin of the Vanir, more especially, runs counter to all that we know about these gods.

In the case of all such parallels we should hesitate a long time before assuming an historical connection. The following may serve as illustration. An Arab, Ibn Fozlan, travelled in 921 as ambassador of the Caliph of Bagdad to the Wolga and there witnessed the funeral rites of a distinguished Russian. A funeral pyre of wood was erected on a ship, a girl set aside to accompany the body in death, the sacrificial victims, consisting in part of horses, were slaughtered, and finally the whole was set afire. This union of two modes of disposal of the dead, first entrusting the body to the sea in a boat and then burning it, is so characteristically Scandinavian, and it reminds one so strongly of the well-known episode of the burning of Baldr's body, that we seem almost compelled to assume a connection. And yet such a connection is strenuously denied from both sides, by Slavic as well as by Teutonic mythologists. The agreement is after all of a general character, consisting of isolated correspondences, such as are found among various peoples, and side by side with points of agreement there are also important differences to be noted. One might venture an opinion in favor of the one view as against the other, but certainty cannot be attained.

To sum up, the parallels between Teutons and Balto-Slavs are doubtful in character and unimportant. We may at any rate safely assert that no great Slavic current ran though ancient Teutonic life.

Monday, July 4th, 2005, 08:24 AM
by P. D. Chantepie De La Saussaye, trans. by Bert J. Vos

Various names were in use among the ancient Teutons for a sanctuary. In the Gothic translation of the Bible, "temple" is rendered by alhs, a building being always referred to in the particular connection. The Old High German wîh (Norse vé) and haruc are rather indefinite in their meaning, being applied without distinction to fanum, delubrum, lucus, and nemus alike. Both occur in a number of names of places. Tacitus repeatedly mentions sacred forests in which the tribes assembled and worshipped their gods; the "temple" of Nerthus is perhaps also identical with the sacred grove (castum nemus) of a few line previous. The sanctuary of Tamfana of the Marsi, that Germanicus razed, was probably a building, although it is not inconceivable that even this was a sacred grove with its enclosure, which were levelled to the ground.

In these sacred forests the ceremonies connected with the cult took place, and the sacrifices were offered. They were also regarded as the abode of the gods, and were approached only with a feeling of awe and terror, as may be gathered from the remarks of Tacitus on the sacred forest of the Semnones. In these forests were kept the figures and emblems—at times representing animals—that accompanied the armies into battle. Here also the prisoners of war were sacrificed on altars, and their heads hung on the trees, as we know was done with the soldiers of Varus.

Survivals of this reverence and of these usages are met with even in the Middle Ages. The church inveighed against them and sought to destroy the sacred forests and hew down the sacred trees. Thus we are told by Adam of Bremen (II, 46) that archbishop Unwan built churches with wood from forests that had formerly been held sacred. In the fifth century there existed in the city of Auxerre—the possibility of this being Keltic must therefore be reckoned with—a pear tree, on whose spreading branches, according to a poem of the ninth century, quoted by Grimm, hung heads of wild beasts.

When Grimm remarks in the same connection, "The transition from the notion of a forest temple to that of a single tree to which divine honors are paid is an easy one," he places the two rather too closely together: the forest as temple, and tree worship, are two distinct and separate things. In Tacitus, as a matter of fact, only the former is to be found, but in popular belief numerous observances point to the conception of trees as possessing a soul and as constituting objects of worship.

Even in the days when the cult itself was carried on in the temple the forests did not lose their significance. The beech groves in Seeland were none the less sacred because a temple had been erected at Lethra. Near Alkmaar (formerly Alcmere, i.e. the temple near the sea, in the Netherlands) lies Heilo (the sacred forest). At the sanctuary at Upsala the sacrificial animals were hung up in the forest. Not merely the building of a temple but all the environs were sacred, as in the case of Fosite's land (Helgoland), with its temples, springs, and pastures. From the centuries immediately succeeding the time of Tacitus the names of very few temples have come down to us. From the sixth century on we possess considerable evidence concerning the existence of sanctuaries and temples among the Burgundians, Franks, Lombards, Alemanni, etc., but as a rule these references consist of a bare mention. We are acquainted with Frisian sanctuaries through the biographies of the missionaries; such existed on the island of Walcheren, near the Bordena, near Dokkum, and on the island of Fosite. Among the Anglo-Saxons the temples must have been both numerous and large. Bede repeatedly mentions both sanctuaries and images, among others the sanctuary "with all its enclosures" which the chief priest Coï_ himself destroyed. In the remarkable letter in which pope Gregory discusses the missionary methods to be followed, he advises that the people be won over "by steps and degrees and not by bounds," and that the heathen sanctuaries are accordingly not to be razed, but to be arranged for Christian use, "in order that when the people see that their own sanctuaries are not being destroyed they may banish their error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more freely assemble at the accustomed places."

Important temples are actually known to us only in the case of the Scandinavian peoples. Especially prominent among these were the temple at Lethra in Seeland and the temple at Upsala, which, while not as yet mentioned in the life of Rimbert, is described with considerable detail by Adam of Bremen (IV, 26). It was wholly equipped with gold, and was situated not far from that ancient sanctuary at Sigtun (Sictona) where, according to the Ynglinga Saga, Chapter 5, Odhin had taken up his abode and had instituted the bloody sacrifices. On the island of Gotland stood another large temple, with hundreds of images and large treasures, which Hakon Jarl seized. In Norway there likewise existed a large number of temples: we know of about one hundred by name. They are frequently mentioned in the sagas, especially those at Throndhjem, Gudhbrandsdalir, and Hladir. For the most part these were consecrated to the worship of Thor or of Freyr, of whom they contained images of all dimensions. Such a hof (the Norse name for "temple") was usually constructed of wood, only rarely of stone. In iceland it was at time built of peat, or wood brought along from Norway, as in the case of the temple of Thorolf, a description of which, to be found in the Eyrbyggja Saga, we cited under the head of "Thor."

In view of our meager knowledge of ancient Teutonic temples, the construction and arrangement of these Norwegian and Icelandic temples possesses the greater interest for us. Such a temple consisted of two separate but adjoining buildings, together forming and oblong, which on one of its sides was semicircular. The following figure will serve to make this clear. The open spaces represent doors. The dimensions of these temples varied, but one part was always larger than the other. This larger division was designed for use at the sacrificial feast, and was arranged like a common hall, with the hearth-fire in the center and the seats arranged on the two sides. Prominent among the latter was the high-seat for the priest (ondvegi), with its pillars (ondvegissulur), which were adorned with a row of nails, and also at time with carved images of the gods. The smaller building was called the afhus (off-house), and contained the images of the gods and the stallr, a sort of altar, on which lay the ring that the godhi put around his arm at the sacrifice. On the stallr burn also the sacred fire, and there likewise stood the sacrificial bowl (hlautbolli), with its sacrificial whisk (hlautteinn), with which the priest sprinkled the images and at time also the walls, Around the temple was an enclosure (gardhr, skidhgardhr) of about a man's height. That the plan of such and Icelandic temple is an imitation of the architecture of a Christian church, with its nave, choir, and apse, as Golther would have us believe, is not at all probable for the centuries (ninth and tenth) of the Icelandic emigration.

We know from Tacitus that the forests, among the Semnones and the Nerthus tribes, were regarded as peculiarly sacred, and were dreaded. Among the Frisians sever penalties were attached to profanation of temples. "Whoever has broken into a temple and has taken any of the sacred things, is conducted to the sea, and in the sand which the tide of the sea is accustomed to cover, his ears are slit, he is castrated and offered up to the gods whose temples he has violated." In the North the carrying of arms within the temple enclosure was forbidden, and he who violated the sacred peace of the temple was put under the ban as an outlaw, as a vagr i veum, a wolf in the temple.

The holy places were of old closely connected with the political life, as we know from Tacitus and from the conditions among the Frisians and Saxons of a later period. This applies to the Scandinavian countries as well. The four large Danish temples, at Viborg (Vebjorg), at Odhinsvé (on the island of Funen), at Lethra, and at Lund (from lundr, sacred grove) in Scania, formerly belonging to Denmark, are also political centers. The same is true of Upsala, in Sweden, and of the Norwegian temples, to be found in each separate fylki (shire). Scholars have a times gone too far in assuming a complete religious organization in these countries, such as really existed in Iceland alone. This island was divided into four parts, one of which had four things, while the others had three each. Each of these thirteen things had three temples (godhordh), each with its own hofgodhi, who also levied the temple tribute. These thirty-nine temples coincided with the religious organization of Iceland, each godhi being at the same time priest and political head. Private persons also possessed the right of erecting a temple of their own, but without performing in that case the public functions or enjoying the public rights and privileges of the godhi. These political conditions survived paganism and continued until the very end of the Icelandic republic.

Tacitus states that the Teutons had no idols ("nulla simulacra"), and he attributes this to the lofty ideas they entertained of their gods ("ex magnitudine caelestium"), a philosophic observation in which we need scarcely follow him. Just what was the outward form of the symbols to which he refers by such phrases as "effigies signaque," "signa et formas," "ferarum imagines," we have no means of ascertaining. Nor do we know whether the numen ipsum of Nerthus, which rode about on a wagon and was cleansed in the lake, was an image or a symbol. The Irminsul was, however, not an image. Nor are images mentioned in connection with Fosite's island. The vitæ of Willehad, Willebrord, and Liudger repeatedly refer to images, among which the great idol on Walcheren, which Willebrord himself destroyed, is to be especially noted. The earliest testimony concerning an image of a Teutonic divinity is that of Sozomen, who states that the Gothic king Athanaric had an image (x _a n o n ) drawn about on a wagon, commanding the people to worship it an to offer us sacrifices to it. When we are told that the Christian Burgundian consort of Chlodowech says to him, "Your gods are only gods of stone, wood, and metal," this is perhaps nothing more than a conventional phrase of Gregory of Tours, which proves nothing at all in regard to Frankish idols.

In the Scandinavian North there were numerous images either in the temples proper or on the stallr, where several stood side by side. Now and then we hear of a large number in one temple. Images were also found on high-seats and on prows of ships. Miniature images were frequently carried about on one's person. Images were usually made of wood—at times also of gold and silver,—were richly adorned and often accompanied by their attributes,—Thor by his hammer, Freyr "ingenti priapo." A number of images were famous, such as the colossal statue of Thor erected on the island of Samsö by the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok; the stone statue of Thor, splendidly adorned with gold and silver, in the temple at Gudhbrandsdalir, of which the peasants expected, even in the age of the holy Olaf, that it would annihilate its adversaries; and, likewise at Gudhbrandsdalir, the image of Thor, together with those of Thorgerdh Hlgabrudh and Irpa, on a wagon, all three adorned with golden rings.

Of greater importance than a further multiplying of examples is the question, What ideas were associated with these idols in the minds of the people? Von Richthofen denies that the Frisians thought of their images as animated. In the case of the Scandinavians, however, it is evident from a number of stories that the gods were conceived of as operative images. Thus in the example cited above, in which the statue of Thor was expected to make a stand against the enemy. In the tale of Thrond of Gate, embodied in the Fœreyinga Saga, we are told how there stood an image of Thorgerdh in a temple, just opposite the entrance, and how, from the attitude that the image assumed, the petitioners were able to infer the answer of the goddess. "We shall have it as a mark of what she thinks of this, if she will do as I wish and let the ring loose which she holds in her hand." But she held fast to the ring, and not until he had repeated his prayer was the jarl able to wrest the ring away The story also of Gunnar and the young priestess of Freyr, to which we have before referred, is based wholly on the belief "that Freyr was a living person...and the people supposed that the woman lived with him as his wife," Freyr being throughout this story identified with his image. Chapter 150 of the same saga affords another example. King Olaf makes every effort to persuade a certain Raudhr to adopt Christianity, but the latter puts his trust in Thor, inasmuch as the god by blowing in his beard caused a tempest t rise against the king. All this, however, was to no purpose, for, as Thor himself had predicted, the king reaches the island of Raudhr notwithstanding. Finally a decisive test was proposed and agreed upon: Thor and the king were to stand on opposite sides of a fire, and, in order to show which was the stronger, each was to attempt to draw the other into the fire. Thor proved to be the weaker of the two, and was burnt to ashes. This image accordingly was made of wood.

It is hardly possible to regard this conception, that the god is actively present in his image or symbol, as a more recent development. The ancient tribes would certainly not have brought forth their symbols from the forest, to accompany them into battle, if they had not been of the opinion that with these the gods themselves took part in the conflict. While images among the Teutons, as also elsewhere, seem to be of later date than symbols, we may yet assume that the ida of vitality present in the image was there from the very beginning.


The earliest testimony regarding Teutonic priests, or rather regarding the absence of priests, is to be found in the well known words of Cæsar: "They neither have druids, who superintend divine worship, nor do they make frequent use of sacrifices." The evident contradiction between these words and the data of Tacitus has never been satisfactorily explained. It has, indeed, been contended that Cæsar is merely intent on drawing a contrast between the Teutons and the Gauls, the latter being accustomed to frequent sacrifices and having a organized priesthood; but such considerations do not alter the fact that he expressly denies the existence among the Teutons of priests "who superintend divine worship," whereas from Tacitus we are absolutely certain that such priests existed. To maintain that in the century and a half which separates Cæsar and Tacitus a development took place which would account for this difference, is a gratuitous assumption. As a solution of the problem, Seeck suggests that the Gallic druids, when driven from Gaul by Roman persecution, crossed the Rhine and became the nucleus of the Teutonic priesthood. Wresting divination from the hands of the old women, they founded a power that was ever increasing, and which might have led to a theocracy, if its course had not been interrupted by foreign dominion and by the spread of Christianity. Ingenious as this hypothesis is, it does not harmonize with the data at hand: there is not a single trace to indicate that the Teutonic priests were of foreign origin, a fact which would also certainly not have escaped the eye of Tacitus. It is equally inconceivable that the Gallic druids reached, for example, the Frisians, among whom priests also play an important rôle.

As is usual, the evidence of Tacitus on this point is weighty but fragmentary. We learn to know the priests more especially in their political capacity. While they also perform the sacred functions of the state, bring sacrifices, and consult omens, they are equally important from the political point of view: they administer justice (the priest being in fact called êwart, "guardian of the law") and preserve peace in the army and popular assembly. When Tacitus (Germania, Chapter 7) discusses the limited power of the kings and leaders, he adds: "But only the priests have power to put to death, to put in chains, or even to inflict stripes; not by way of punishment, nor at the command of the leader, but as if ordered by the god, whom they believe present with those engaged in war." By way of an anticlimax the power of deciding over life and death (animadvertere), of casting in chains, and of inflicting the ignominious punishment of scourging are here denied the leaders and assigned to the priests alone, who acted in the name of the god, the latter being present in the army as well as in the popular assembly. There is no good reason for invariably identifying this god with Tiu: the divinity was doubtless a different one among different tribes.

In Germania, Chapter 10, the priest is regarded as the sacerdos civitatis (priest of the state), who consults the omens for the state, as does the pater familias in the personal and domestic affairs of life. Together with the king or chief, the priest accompanies the wagon drawn by the sacred horses and gives careful attention to the neighing of these horses, priests and chiefs alike regarding themselves as servants of the deity. Chapter 11 of the Germania tells us of the functions performed by the priests in the popular assembly: "Silence is commanded by the priest, who also has the right to enforce it." They were not what we are accustomed to call leaders or presidents of an assembly, but they invested judicial procedure with a certain sanctity, and guarded justice and peace in both the thing and army, meting out punishment upon the violators. With the office of law-speaker, such as existed in the Icelandic republic, Tacitus was not acquainted. It is, however, quite generally assumed that the office of the Frisian âsega also bore a priestly character.

It is certainly imputing a meaning to the words of Tacitus that they do not of themselves possess, when, to the exclusion of the chieftains, we invest the priests, apart from their priestly functions, wit the entire criminal jurisdiction. If such had been the case, the public life of the Teutons would practically have borne a theocratic character, which is scarcely conceivably in the absence of a fixed organization of the priesthood. The priests belonged most likely to noble families and were accordingly of the same rank and station as the chiefs. The office may even have been a hereditary one. Their political functions, consisting of the maintenance of peace in thing and army, were important and doubtless gave them considerable influence and power. Only few priests are mentioned by name; by chance the name of a certain Libus, a priest of the Chatti, who took part in the triumphal procession of Germanicus, has come down to us. Sinistus, a name that occurs for the chief priest of the Burgundians, seems to have been a title, signifying "the oldest." Ammianus Marcellinus (XXVIII, 5, 14,) tells us that he was irremovable, whereas the king could be deposed in case of failure of crops or of defeat. We do not anywhere else meet such a chief priest, but only priests of particular sanctuaries. Tacitus usually speaks of priests (sacerdotes) in the plural.

In the discussion of the individual tribes, in the second part of the Germania, priests are occasionally mentioned. The goddess Nerthus has a male priest, whereas the god Freyr, at Upsala, had an attendant priestess. At the cult of the Dioscuri, among the Nahanarvali, there presided a priest bedecked like a woman (muliebri ornatu). This latter probably refers to the hairdress. Among the Lugii and the Vandals the royal family was called Hazdiggôs, i.e. men with the hairdress of a woman, like the Merovingi among the Franks. The priesthood therefore shared this characteristic with the nobility. Neither the Norse vlur, nor such godlike women as Veleda and Albruna, of whom we hear occasionally, are to be classed among the priests.

In the case of a number of Teutonic peoples our information concerning their priests is very meager. Among the Goths the priests, like the kings, belonged to the nobility (pileati, "wearing a cap"), as over against the people (capillati, "with flowing hair"). Among the Anglo-Saxons it was not "lawful for a priest either to bear arms or to ride on horseback, except on a mare."

Least of all are there traces of a priestly caste among the Scandinavians. In Norway it is the king or jarl who at the thing conducts the sacrifice, presides at the festive meal, and makes the libation. While temples possessed officiating priests (blótmadhr, spámadhr), it nowhere appears that these possessed exclusive powers of prerogatives. It is difficult to estimate just what rôle they played in public and private life. In Iceland the godhi was the proprietor of the temple and the leader at the thing. They were not exclusively nor even primarily priests: they combined priestly and political functions, and retained the latter even after the conversion to Christianity. The organization of Iceland, with its office of law-speaker, had in any case little of a priestly, theocratic character.

Prayer and Sacrifice

Jacob Grimm was of the opinion that prayer owed its origin to sacrifice He distinguishes three states: sacrifice without prayer, sacrifice with prayer, and prayer without sacrifice. This view, however, is erroneous. From the very outset the gift bestowed was accompanied by the words with which it was to be dedicated to the gods, and through which its purpose was indicated, just as divination was accompanied by the invocation of the gods. Tacitus tells us that when a priest or the father of a household sought to divine the future by drawing lots "he invoked the gods and lifted up his eyes to heaven." When the magic runes are employed for obtaining victory Tyr is invoked, while for the safe delivery of a woman in labor the dísir are called upon.

As regards ritualistic practices, the baring of the head and bending of the body seem of old to have been in vogue. The Gothic priests formed, however, an exception to this customary baring of the head: "They made sacrifices with caps (tiaræ) on their heads," and were accordingly call pileati. Whether the bending of the body was meant to signify, as Grimm thinks, "that the human suppliant presented and submitted himself as a defenseless victim to the mighty god, his vanquisher," we do not venture to decide, but the notion seems rather lofty. In the Norse sagas men kneel or even cast themselves down upon the ground before the divine images. While praying, the suppliant looked towards the north. Christianity introduced the custom of looking towards the east, and by way of contrast, at the abjuration of the heathen gods, the convert was made to face the west. A trace of a ritual, upon the observance of which the success of sacrifice and prayer depended, is thought to be contained in some lines of Hávamál, 143, and 144:

Knowest thou how once is to pray? Knowest thou how one is to sacrifice?...

It is better not to pray than to make sacrifices to excess.

Oaths were likewise sworn with invocation of the gods. Von Amira maintains that this adjuring of the gods is unessential, and that the oath consists of the pledging of certain objects. Thus one swears by one's beard, sword, and various other things, that are thereupon touched with the hand. But it is obvious that, when a person taking an oath touched the staff of the judge, or the ring of Ullr dipped in sacrificial blood, these were not objects that were being pledged. There can be no doubt whatever that oaths were sworn by water and rocks, and by numerous gods that are know to us by name.

For sacrifice the usual word, especially common in Old Norse, is blót. We also find in Old High German kelt, Old Saxon geld. The oldest Teutonic sacrifice or which we possess a record is that of the Cimbri, related by Strabo. Among the women that accompanied the army were soothsaying priestesses, with gray hair, robed in white, with an upper garment of fine linen fastened on the shoulder, wearing a girdle and going barefoot. With drawn swords they advanced towards the prisoners, crowned them with wreaths, and conducted them to a bronze sacrificial vessel which held about twenty amphoræ. One of the priestesses ascended a ladder and bending over the caldron cut the throats of the prisoners. Some prophesied from the blood that flowed into the basin, others from the entrails of the victims. The three characteristic features of this account to which attention may be called are: (1) that prisoners of war are slaughtered; (2) that the sacrifice is exclusively for purposes of divination; (3)that no god is named to whom the sacrifice is made.

The sacrifices mentioned by Tacitus have already been touched upon. They comprise: that of the Roman prisoners whose skulls were fastened to trees; the great sacrifice with which the war between the Chatti and Hermunduri was to end; the sacrifice in the forest of the Semnones, in which a man was slain in behalf of the state, but where it is not clear whether the victim was a prisoner of war, a criminal, or simply a member of the tribe; the drowning of the slaves of Nerthus. In Germania, Chapter 9, we are told that on stated days human sacrifices were brought to Mercury, which must, of course, not be taken as implying that no other gods received human offerings. "Hercules and Mars," Tacitus continues, "they appease with allowable animals," which we must not interpret as meaning that the offerings consisted of the special animals sacred to each of the two gods, but that the sacrifices were admissible from a Roman point of view, i.e. not horrible human sacrifices. The term for appropriate sacrificial animals was Ziefer, Geziefer (German). Only the exuviæ, the hide and head, were given to the gods, the rest being eaten at the sacrificial feast.

A large number of sacrifices are mentioned by the historians of the period of the migrations, in the vitæ of the missionaries, and in the laws enacted against paganism. At his invasion of Italy Radagais vowed that he would bring the blood of the Christians as a libation to his gods. The Goths sacrificed their prisoners to Mars. The Franks threw the captive women and children into the Po before crossing the river. Among the Frisians prisoners of war and those who had violated a temple were sacrificed. Among the Saxons Charles the Great had to forbid human sacrifices. We must not suppose that criminals and prisoners of war alone were sacrificed. Of the Franks, Heruli, and Saxons we are told that "they were confident that the wrath of the gods was appeased by the shedding of innocent blood; that they might be restored to the good favor of their gods, they had been accustomed to sacrifice their kinsmen." Similarly, the Vita Wulframi, Chapter 2, relates how the two sons of a widow had been designated by lot "for sacrifice to the gods and for death in the waves of the sea."

There is no reason for supposing that the ancient Teutons possessed a fixed sacrificial ritual any more than they possessed an organized priesthood. While offerings were made at stated times (certis diebus), and in the sacred places which formed the centers of the amphictyonies (Semnones, Nerthus nations, Marsi, Frisians), there also were sacrifices on special occasions, as when a victory had been won or a river was to be crosses. Three kinds of sacrifices may be distinguished: those subserving purposes of divination; human sacrifices to appease the wrath of the gods; sacrifices of animals followed by the sacrificatory feast. We frequently read of song and dance accompanying the sacrifice, as among the Lombards at the sacrifice of a goat: "At this same time, when the Lombards had obtained nearly four hundred prisoners of war, they offered up to the devil, in accordance with their custom, the head of a she-goat, consecrating it to him by running about in a circle and by impious songs." The sword-dance in honor of Tiu and the choral songs were likewise from an early time accompanied by sacrifice. Even Saxo still mentions in connection with the sacrifice at Upsala "the effeminate gestures and the clapping of the mimes on the stage, and the unmanly clatter of the bells."

There are numerous detached references to heathen sacrifices in the religious literature of the early Middle Ages. In Burchard of Worms we read of "nocturnal sacrifices to the devils" on graves and at funerals, of song and festive meals, of jest (joca) and dance, of the bringing of tapers, bread, or gifts in general, to wells, stones, and cross-roads. Similar evidence may be found in Eligius, the Indiculus Superstitionum and elsewhere. These observances are doubtless partly old and partly new, partly universal and partly local. They furthermore represent soul cult, nature-worship (more especially of water and wells), and gifts to the gods, without our being able in each particular instance to distinguish sharply between these several sides. Most of the gifts here named were bloodless, but in the case of persons sacrificed to water, as was at time done, the victims were drowned. The customs here forbidden must from the nature of the case, even in prehistoric pagan times, have been popular observances rather than part of the public cult.

For the Scandinavian peoples the material at our disposal is far more abundant. Numerous instances of human sacrifices are recorded. The Norsemen were dreaded in Western Europe more especially on account of their practice of cutting the "bloody eagle" (blodhorn), in which they cut away the ribs of their victim near the spinal column and through the openings thus made drew out the lungs, doubtless as a sacrifice to their gods. In their own land criminals and slaves were, on the occasion of the meeting of the thing, still sacrificed on the altar or drowned in the sacred pond. At time royal and even sacred blood had to flow; in a period of great famine the Swedes had during the first year sacrificed oxen, the second year men, and still the crops continued to fail. "Then held the great men council together, and were of one accord that this scarcity was because of Domald their king, and withal that they should sacrifice him for the plenty of the year; yea, that they should set on him and slay him, and redden the seats of the gods with the blood of him; and even so they did." For similar reasons the Swedes burnt king Olaf Tree-shaver (trételgja) in his house and "gave him to Odhin, offering him up for the plenty of the year." Another king, Aun or Ani by name, at Upsala, had contrived to prolong his life to an unusual limit by sacrificing nine of his ten sons to Odhin. Although already imbecile from old age, he would have slain the tenth also, had the people not prevented it. When king Vikarr and his men were detained by adverse winds, the lot designated the king himself as the victim to be offered up to obtaining favorable winds, and Starkad obeys the decree by handing king Vikarr on a tree, and piercing him with a spear.

Not from the sagas alone, but from times that are wholly historical, accounts of human sacrifices have come down to us. Thus jarl Hakon in his fight with the Jomsvikings offers up his son to Thorgerdh Hlgabrudh, and king Olaf Tryggvason threatened that if he was to return to paganism, he would have to hold a big sacrifice; "and neither will I choose hereto thralls and evildoers; but rather will I choose gifts for the gods the noblest of men," whom he thereupon proceeds to call out by name from among those present. The Kristni Saga relates, in connection with the period of conflict between heathen and Christians in Iceland, how the former proposed to sacrifice to their gods two persons from each district, but were unable to secure the victims, whereas the Christians easily found two who were willing "to devote themselves to a purer life." On the island of Gotland the inhabitants sacrifices their sons and daughters, as the Historia Gotlandiæ informs us. The accounts that Thietmar of Merseburg and Adam of Bremen give of the great human sacrifices at Lethra and Upsala may be somewhat exaggerated; even though we allowed large deductions, what remained would still be considerable. When a ship was launched, it was let run over the body of a victim, whose blood thus colored the rollers (hlunn-rodh, "roller-reddening"), a custom that is parallel to that of walling up a child in the foundations of a building. There is not trace, however, of this latter custom among the Scandinavians, although there are a number of instances of it on record among other Teutonic peoples.

A description is given in the saga of Hakon the Good of a sacrificial feast on the occasion of the thing.

It was the olden custom that when a blood-offering should be, all the bonders should come to the place where was the temple, bringing with them all the victuals they had need of while the feast should last; and at that feast should all men have ale with them. There also was slain cattle of every kind, and horses withal; and all the blood that come from them was called hlaut, but hlaut-bowls were they called wherein the blood stood, and the hlaut-tein a rod made in the fashion of a sprinkler. With all the hlaut should the stalls of the gods be reddened, and the walls for the temple within and without, and the men-fold also besprinkled; but the flesh was to be sodden for the feasting of men. Fires were to be made in the midst of the floor of the temple, with caldrons thereover, and the health-cups should be borne over the fire. But he who made the feast and was the lord thereof should sign the cups and all the meat; and first should be drunken Odhin's cup for the victory and dominion of the king, and then the cup of Njordhr and the cup of Freyr for plentiful season and peace. Thereafter were many men wont to drink the Bragi-cup; and men drank also a cup to their kinsmen dead who had been noble, and that was call the cup of memory.

Those who sat down to this feast were called sudhnautar, i.e. partakers of the sodden. It was not permissible to omit the cup in memory of the dead. Vows made over the cup occur, Helgakvidha Hjrvardhssonar, 32, 33. On the occasion of such a sacrificial banquet Hakon was reluctantly prevailed upon to take part in the heathen ceremonial, which the nobility refused the abandon.

In the Scandinavian North these sacrifices were usually designed to promote fertility, and in German folklore too we meet with a number of usages, connected with agriculture and the breeding of cattle, that are to be classed among sacrifices. They sought to ward off harmful influences and to promote the fruitfulness of the soil. It is obvious that the same ceremonies that were employed to conjure pestilence, hailstorms, and similar calamities would, from their very nature, also serve to insure the success of the harvest and the welfare of the cattle.

A prominent place among the expiatory sacrifices was occupied by the need-fires, which doubtless owed their existence to the presence of plague among the cattle, but gradually fell together with the St John fires. We do not venture to decide whether this custom is based solely on the ida of the purifying power of fire as a natural element, or whether the sun is also concerned in the matter, although the use of the wheel (as emblem of the solar disk) might seem to point in the latter direction, one method of generating this fire being the turning of a piece of wood inside a wheel; a burning wheel was also hurled in the air or rolled down a hill. As a rule, the flame was kindled by rubbing two pieces of wood against each other, all the ires in the village having previously been extinguished. The Indiculus Superstitionum et Paganiarum, drawn up in the year 743 by the synod of Listines, speaks of "fire produced by friction, i.e. nodfyr," and in the preceding year another synod had referred to "those sacrilegious fires which are called niedfyr." Through this fire the infected flocks are driven: swine, cattle, horses, and geese. Men also leap through the flames and blacken their faces with the cinders. With the firebrands fruit trees, fields, and pastures are fumigated, and they are also used to start new fires on the hearths. Burnt-out cinders and ashes are placed in the mangers and strewed about in the fields. There is nothing to show that these usages were connected with particular deities. That their origin is to be traced back to heathen times is at least probable.

Pagan origin is certain in the case of the processions held of old for Isis, Nerthus, Freyr, etc. These are also condemned in the Indiculus under the head of "the image which is carried about through the fields (per campos)." The greater part of these processions may be explained as representing the entry of a particular deity at the beginning of a new season. They too are connected with the yearly increase of field, pasture and orchard. With songs the images were carried per campos; people went about with a plough or with animals for the sacrifice, to promote the fertility of the soil.

On every hand there still exist among the people various sacrifices and observances at sowing and reaping, either to insure fruitfulness for the coming year or to obtain some omen in regard to it, the observances frequently bearing a decidedly magic character. The question has been raised, whether these disjecta membra can be combined to form a connected whole; whether, in other words, these separate observances constituted part of an ancient pagan sacrifice ritual. Observing certain necessary restrictions, Jahn has attempted to reconstruct such a whole. According to this point of view, both the expiatory sacrifices in time of disaster and the animal sacrifices for the furtherance of agriculture and the breeding of cattle, including the private sacrifices of a family and the public ones of a community, represent ancient pagan customs that persist among the people.

We shall here attempt to give a sketch of such a public sacrifice, without presuming to determine whether it actually eve took place with this degree of completeness in a historical milieu. At the approach of the heat of summer, both the herdsman and the husbandman fear the perils with which this season is fraught: the plague that attacks the flocks, the hail that beats down the grain. To ward these off, they choose for a sacrifice their finest animals (or those which on that particular day were the last to reach pasture) and adorn them with garlands, horses, cattle, and dogs being set apart for Wuotan, swine and cats for Frija, he-goats, geese, and fowl for Thunar. Twigs are cut from special kinds of trees, and, interwoven with flowers, these are fastened to the tails for the animals intended for the sacrifice. Drenched with dew, these switches are turned into magic brooms, which are put to various uses: cattle are struck on the back with them to drive away the demons of sickness;stables and barns are swept with them, they are planted on the dung-hill; and they are hung as a talisman over the door of the house. The milk of the cow thus exorcised is, with eggs and herbs, prepared for the sacrificial meal. The procession now begins. Leading the sacrificial animals, bedecked with garlands and colored ribbons, and preceded by an image of a god, the procession passes throughout the village, thereupon makes a circuit of the fields, a halt being made at each of the four corners to pray to Thunar that he may spare the fields, and finally ends up at the village well, into which each of the participants throws a sacrificial cake for Frija, and from which he thereupon takes a drink. From the height of the water in the well predictions are made concerning the success of the year's harvest. Water is drawn into a cask and taken home to act as a safeguard, in time of need, against misfortune and the evil spirits.

While the herdsmen and husbandmen are thus making the rounds, the children visit the houses of the village, gathering fuel to start a big fire on the village square or a neighboring hill. In it they burn the figure of a doll, i.e. the evil spirit or witch.

Meanwhile evening has come. The heads of the animals to be sacrificed are cut off; dogs and cats are burnt on the pile in their entirety, of the other animals only the hide, the bones, and the entrails. With dance and song they circle around the flaming fire, and from the smoke all manner of things are prophesied regarding weather and harvest, and life and death in the family. As in the case of the need-fire, people run about with the flaring brands or leap through the flames. The meal has now been made ready: the meat sodden, the sacrificial cakes baked, beer and minne-drink prepared. All make merry at the banquet that follows, every one taking part, and even the stranger not being excluded. The feast continues through the night, and remnants of the food are taken home; they are powerful magic charms against sickness and calamity. Similarly, at the slaughtering of the sacrificial animals people show great eagerness to get possessio of certain leavings.

It is evident, therefore, that the various observances are capable of being united to form a connected whole, even though we are unable to assign it to any particular pagan period.

Monday, July 4th, 2005, 08:26 AM
by P. D. Chantepie De La Saussaye, trans. by Bert J. Vos

As compared with the elves, the giants maintain a less constant intercourse with mankind, and are to a lesser extent objects of worship. They are, however, equally well represented in the Märchen, take a more active part in the heroic saga, and also play a far more important rôle in Norse mythology. They are personifications of savage, untamed natural forces, such as the storm and the wild roaring sea. Their real home is, accordingly, in regions that are mountainous and near the coast, in Tyrol and Norway, and to a slighter degree in England and the plains of Northern Germany. Giants are on the whole invested with a more pronounced individuality than the elves: they usually appear singly, less often in groups or large collective bodies. Not a few giants, especially those of particular mountains, such as Watzmann and Pilatus, are wholly bound to a single spot, and may be regarded as mythical personifications of specific locations. It frequently happens, therefore, that giants and elves (dwarfs) inhabit, though in a different manner, the same realms of nature. Nor are they always kept entirely distinct. Regin and Fafnir are brothers, but the former is represented as a dwarf, the latter as a giant.

The following designations for giants may be noted: 1. Old Norse jtunn (plural jtnar), Anglo-Saxon eoten, Swedish jätte; 2. Old Norse Thurs (Middle High German türse); 3. Swedish troll; 4. German Riese; 5. Anglo-Saxon ent; 6. hüne (in Westphalia and part of Drenthe). Here and there we also meet the loan word gigant. To designate giantesses the Old Norse employs gýgr.

Giants differ greatly in form and stature; their general characteristics are huge body and superhuman strength. They are frequently beautiful: witness Gerdhr, Skadhi, and numerous other giantesses who move the hearts of both gods and men to love. There are monsters among their number, with many heads and hands, one-eyed, ugly, misshapen, and repulsive. The dogs and wolves that bring about the eclipses of sun and moon (Managarmr, Hati, Skll) are also thought of as giants, and such names as Ktt (tomcat), hyndla (bitch), Trana (crane), Kraka (crow), likewise contain a reference to animal shape.

The traits of character that are ascribed to giants reveal similar contradictions. They are kind of heart and possess a childlike joyousness, but are uncouth and awkward. They possess a great store of wisdom, as e.g. Vafthrudhnir, who is visited by Odhin, and Hyndla, who informs Freyja concerning the genealogies, but their knowledge differs in character from the shrewdness and nimbleness of the elves and dwarfs. They are preëminently faithful: trolltryggr (faithful as a giant) became proverbial. They reward services done them, but if their wrath (jtunmódhr) has been provoked, nothing is secure against their violent onslaughts.

These various phases in the character of giants, their faithfulness and kind-heartedness as well as their frightful wrath, play a part also in Märchen. They are immoderate in the use of food and drink, and at times hanker after human flesh, as in the tale of Tom Thumb. Their hostility to agriculture is likewise frequently mentioned,—a trait that is not at all surprising in the case of spirits representing the forces of wild and inhospitable nature.

By the elements is hated
What is formed by mortal hands.

this antithesis between giants and tillers of the soil is encountered in numerous sagas, as e.g. in that well-known story from Alsatia in which the daughter of a giant playfully captures a farmer in the act of ploughing and puts him in her apron, and is greatly delighted with her new-found toy. But her father admonishes her that this is not a fit toy, for if the farmer does not till the soil bread will be lacking also in the rocky castle of the giant.

Giants are famous builders. They do not produce works of art like the dwarfs, but colossal structures, castles, walls (compare the Cyclopean walls of antiquity), hünenbedden, roads built from blocks of stone, and bridges across rivers. Under this same category falls also the account of the giant builder of the burgh of the Æsir to which reference has repeatedly been made.

We now turn to a consideration of the giants as identified with the various domains of nature. There are first of all the water giants. The North Sea is especially rich in these: Grendel and his mother from Beowulf and Wate from Kudrun will at once occur to the reader. In part they are monsters, like the eight-handed giant of the Alu waterfalls in Norway, and Starkad, who has been blended with the hero of the saga. The shape of horses and bulls assumed by giants is also of common occurrence, the former, for example, in the case of the giantess Hrimgerdhr. The midhgardh-serpent and the Fenris-wolf are likewise examples of sea monsters belonging to the race of giants. With the former we may compare the stories abounding in sea lore of sea-serpents that have been seen rising to the surface.

Chief among the sea giants is Ægir (called also Hler and Gymir), whose name the scalds in a few instances even employed appellatively to designate the sea. His relations with the Æsir are of the most friendly character: he prepares a banquet for them at which Fimafengr and Eldir are the attendants, and is in turn Odhin's guest on Hlesey, the isle of Hler. He is generally regarded as personifying the calm open sea. Less benign in nature is his kin. His wife is the fierce Ran, who with her net draws drowning men to the depths. She is the death deity of the sea. The nine daughters of Ægir and Ran represent, as is evident from their names, the surf and the turbulent waves of the sea. Gerdhr too is called a daughter of the giant Gymir, and her beauty is highly extolled, but there is nothing in the myth of her union with Freyr that suggests the water demon; on the contrary, it is rather reminiscent of the earth in springtime.

The principal water giants that play a rôle in the god-myths have already been mentioned. Among them was the wise Mimir, between whose wisdom and his character as water demon there is doubtless a connection. The inhospitable nature of the sea is personified in Hymir, who with frosty beard dwells in the midst of icy peaks, as is graphically told in the Eddic song that bears his name. The myth itself has been treated under the head of Thor. Hymir should not be identified with the primeval giant Ymir, who is also associated with the water, but whose chief place in the cosmogony. Fenja and Menja, the giantesses with the quern, are likewise to be classed among the water demons.

The wind giants are no less numerous, although not all beings that move about in the air are to be grouped under this category, certainly not Odhin with the souls constituting his train. There is an utter lack of such evidence as would connect the Wild Hunt with the giants, and the views of those more recent mythologists who assume such a relationship are erroneous. Nor are the demons of vegetation, mentioned under the rubric "Elves" to be classed as wind giants. With greater show of reason, certain poetical expressions used by the scalds for the wind, such as brjótr (shatterer), bani (slayer), skadhi (harm), might be cited under this head, but the personification contained in these kenningar is after all of too incomplete a character to serve as the basis for such conclusions.

The wind giants are really storm giants, so e.g. Ecke and Vasolt of the German heroic saga, with whom Dietrich of Bern enters into combat. Norse mythology boasts of a large number of wind giants. Thrym and Thjazi, who in the shape of an eagle carries off Loki, have before been referred to. At the edge of heaven, in the form of an eagle, sits Hræsvelg, who sets the sea in motion and fans the flames of fire. Kari causes ice and snow, and in general wind giants are frequently giants of winter, Hrímthursar, rime or frost giants, several names being compounds that have hrím as first component part. Hrungnir has also been counted among the wind giants, because he rides on the stallion Gullfaxi, but the myth dealing with him is even less simple and transparent than those of Geirrödhr and Suttungr, which we discussed in connection with Thor and Odhin. In these and other accounts the elaboration of the story-motif at the hands of the mythographers and poets has entirely obscured the nucleus of the original nature-myth which they may contain. It is, at any rate, impossible to determine to what sphere of nature these giants belong.

The mountain giants (bergrisar), although necessarily restricted to definite localities, are very numerous. By their fantastic and grotesque forms certain rocks involuntarily suggest the idea of petrified giants, and stories are accordingly told of savage giant kings who on account of their cruelty were changed into rocks. On the other hand, we also hear of benevolent giants and giantesses inhabiting the mountains, such as Dofi and his daughter Fridhr in Norway. While giants also dwell in the forest, there are hardly any instances of individual forest giants.

There is no need of continuing this enumeration of giants. Among them are some figures that belong only in part to the race of giants; thus Jrdh and Rindr are sometimes classed among the giantesses and again among the Asynjur. The giants of night and day that inhabit Jtunheim do not rest on a basis of popular belief: their genealogy is artificial.

It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that giants in general did not constitute an integral part of popular belief. Such was most decidedly the case, the more so because they were, even to a greater extent than the elves, identified with definite localities. They stand in all manner of relations to mankind, friendly as well hostile, but are generally feared and held in awe. There are, however, only slight traces of giant cult, too slight to warrant the conclusion that there existed at an earlier period a widespread giant worship. Giants are invoked now and then in incantations, as e.g. Vasolt in a weather charm of the eleventh century, and a certain Tumbo, who is called upon to heal wounds and to staunch blood. In Norway a certain giant, Dumbr, is styled heitgudh (i.e. a god who is invoked) and bjargvættr (guardian spirit), and in the Kormaks Saga, Chapter 27, a blótrisi (a giant to whom sacrifices are made) is mentioned, whose indigenous character is, however, not above suspicion. Finally, in the North, at Yuletide, beer is also brought to the giants' hill for the giants.

It is of more importance, therefore, to inquire what position literature has assigned to the giants. Norse literature has provided them with a systematic genealogy: they are descended from Fornjotr (the ancient giant), whose three sons, Hler, logi, and Kari, represent respectively water, fire, and wind, trilogy, accordingly, that is parallel to that found in the world of the gods. This genealogy is unquestionably specifically Norse, the parallels among other Teutons that have been claimed for it being extremely weak. Its home is in the region of the Cattegat. Norr, also, the eponymous hero of Norway, is stated to be a descendant of this ancient giant. Kari is furthermore made the ancestor of a number of semi-personified beings, the appellative origin of whose names is still perfectly clear. They are: Jkull (glacier), Frosti (cold), Snær (mountain snow), Fnn (heap of snow), Drifa (snow-whirl), Mjll (snow-dust). A number of these personifications of nature are at the same time thought of, in euhemeristic fashion, as ancient kings, of whom various stories are told and whom numerous Norwegian families regard as their progenitors. Sporadically we also find Fornjotr identified with Ymir, from whom the giants are descended according to Hyndluljódh 34, and again with Thrivaldi or with Allvaldi, the father of Thjazi.

The home of the giants was regarded as lying in the northeast, or, at a later time, in the southeast. A distinction is sometimes drawn between Jtunheim and Risaland. In Alvíssmal, the giants, like the Æsir, Vanir, and dwarfs, have separate and distinct designations for beings and objects. Similarly, things have different names with Hel and with men, but these five or six different languages are mere scaldic fiction.

In both the Eddic poems and the Snorra Edda essentially different conceptions regarding giants frequently stand side by side, or are even commingled. The part giants play in the cosmogony (viz. Ymir) and in the eschatology (viz. Surtr) will receive consideration in the following chapter.

In both Eddas the conception of kinship and close relationship between giants and Æsir is dominant. Odhin and his brothers constitute a younger race that has succeeded the giants. Tyr is the son of Hymir; Thor and Vali have as their mothers the giantesses Jrdh and Rindr, respectively. Thor, notwithstanding the fact that he is sworn enemy of numerous giants, yet greatly resembles them, and Loki too is of their race, and is, in fact, even designated "the giant." The Æsir have intercourse with giantesses,—Odhin with several, Freyr with Gerdhr, Njrdhr with Skadhi. Odhin seeks wisdom from Vafthrudhnir, and mimir is his friend. Freyja visits Hyndla in her cave to learn hidden things.

But in the myths to which we alluded in the above résumé the giants and the Æsir also frequently appear as other's enemies. In the case of Thor and Loki, the mere mention of their names will suffice to make this fact evident. The union between Freyr and the giantess Gerdhr is condemned by Æsir and elves alike. Eddic mythology is full of the struggle between Æsir and the giants, the latter ever showing a keen desire to get Freyja in their power. It is noteworthy that the giants have no share in the death of Baldr. Nor do they play an important rôle in the final catastrophe , except in so far as the monsters, the Midhgardh-serpent and the Fenris-wolf, are to be accounted of their number.

At first blush it would seem that these two conceptions of the relationship between Æsir and the giants are contradictory, and that we must choose between two alternatives: either that the giants are an older race of gods, or that they are the expression of a dualistic conception of the world. It is to be noticed, however, that in Greek mythology also we find the same two notions: the Titans are the older race from which the Olympians have sprung, and with whom they have to battle, the new order of things being established only after the supreme Olympian, Zeus, has entered into union with the Titanides, Themis and Mnemosyne. While Norse mythology has not been moulded by a power of art and thought such as that which created the figure of Prometheus for the Greeks, yet these two aspects found in the Greek Titans are also present in the Norse giants: they represent the hostile forces as well as the ancient and the immutable ones: the Norns are the mighty maids from Thursenheim. Such conceptions as these lie at hand, and there is no need of supposing them to have been introduced from foreign sources by scalds and mythographers. The scalds have merely drawn the giants, who are properly figures of the "lower" mythology, within the sphere of the poetic and systematized mythology. They are the same ancient and wise beings that play a part in popular belief, from whom, accordingly, even the gods have something to learn. They also represent the wild and untamed forces of nature, with which the gods come into conflict. An absolute or philosophic dualism, as chaos and order, matter and spirit, or good and evil, the Norse mythographers certainly did not have in mind, or at least only in so far as Christian ideas had influenced their own conceptions.

The medieval heroic saga has made use of giants in a variety of ways. King Rother has several savage giants among his following: Asprian who slays a lion, Vidolt who is led about on an iron chain, and others. There is also a Lombard saga in which the giants bear a close resemblance to Berserkers. Giants are furthermore made to do duty as watchmen at the gates of castles or as guardians of treasures, at times in the shape of dragons. In several accounts of combats the motif of a struggle between giants is unmistakably present, as in the stories connected with the Alpine region of Tyrol, which have been transferred to the cycle of Dietrich of Bern (Ecke, Vasolt, etc.),and in the narratives dealing with the faithless warriors, Witege and Heime. Here, as elsewhere, a mythical element has blended with the historical saga. Another original and very old motif is that of the wise giant who brings up young heroes. In German poetry this motif has been crowded into the background, but such is not the case with Norse literature. In the songs of the Edda and in the Volsunga Saga Sigurd is reared by Regin and Fafnir, and Harald Fairhair similarly spent his youth with the giant Dofri. According to Saxo, Hadding also is brought up by a giant, but this belongs to a somewhat different type of story, viz. those picturing relations of love between heroes and daughters of giants.

Monday, July 4th, 2005, 09:34 PM
Great article. Giants must have played a rather important part in local folklore where I live. There are large rocks left behind by the last ice age, and those are called "jättekast" ("giants throws"), and were believed to be thrown by the giants (usually they threw them against churches, but to no use). Also, where large rocks have dug holes in the ground, those were called "jättegrytor" ("giants cauldrons"), and believed to have been the cauldrons of giants. We have one the size of a smaller house in these parts.

Monday, July 4th, 2005, 09:51 PM
From my old remembraces of my childhood i remember the fhits between Aesir and Vanir..................