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HANDBOOKS 


HISTORY   OF    RELIGIONS 


MORRIS   JASTROW,  JR.,  PH.D. 

Professor  of  Semitic  Languages  in  the 
University  of  Pennsylvania 


VOLUME  III 


A     SERIES     OF 
Handbooks  on  the  History  of  Religions 

EDITED  BY  MORRIS  JASTROW,  JR. 

Professor  of  Semitic  Languages  in  the  University  of 
Pennsylvania 

The  following  volumes  are  now  ready : 

/.  THE  RELIGIONS  OF  INDIA 

By  EDWARD  WASHBURN  HOPKINS,  Professor  of 
Sanskrit  and  Comparative  Philology  in  Yale  Univer- 
sity. 8vo.  Cloth  xviii  +  612  pages.  For  introduc- 
tion, $2.00. 

II.    THE   RELIGION    OF    BABYLONIA    AND 

ASSYRIA 

By  MORRIS  JASTROW,  JR.,  Professor  of  Semitic 
Languages  in  the  University  of  Pennsylvania.  8vo. 
Cloth,  xiv  +  780  pages.  For  introduction,  $3.00. 

///.    THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  TEUTONS 

By  P.  D.  CHANTEPIE  DE  LA  SAUSSAYE,  Professor 
in  the  University  of  Leiden.  Translated  by  BERT  J. 
Vos,  Associate  Professor  of  German  in  the  Johns 
Hopkins  University.  8vo.  Cloth.  v+5O4  pages. 

GINN    &    COMPANY    PUBLISHERS 


on  tbe  Ibistorg  of 


THE    RELIGION    OF   THE 
TEUTONS     . 


BY 
P.  D.  CHANTEPIE  DE  LA  SAUSSAYE,  D.D. 

(UTRECHT) 

PROFESSOR  IN  THE  UNIVERSITY  OF  LEIDEN 


TRANSLATED  FROM  THE  DUTCH 
BY 

BERT  J.  VOS,  PH.D.  (JOHNS   HOPKINS) 

ASSOCIATE  PROFESSOR  OF  GERMAN  IN  THE  JOHNS  HOPKINS  UNIVERSITY 


BOSTON,  U.S.A.,  AND  LONDON 
GINN   &    COMPANY,    PUBLISHERS 
3tbrn«rum 


ENTERED  AT  STATIONERS'  HALL 


COPYRIGHT,  1902 
Bv  GINN  &  COMPANY  / 

ALL   RIGHTS    RESERVED 


PREFACE 


THE  present  volume  may  be  allowed  to  plead  its  own  cause ; 
its  plan  and  scope  are  explained  in  the  Introduction.  It  is  for 
critics  to  decide  how  far  the  author  has  succeeded  in  his  task, 
and  wherein  he  has  failed.  It  is  the  hope  of  the  author  that 
his  book  may  at  all  events  prove  useful  in  conveying  some 
definite  information  on  controverted  points,  the  more  so  as  the 
excellent  work  of  F.  B.  Gummere  on  Germanic  Origins,  which 
is  the  only  English  work  of  a  general  character,  covers  for  the 
greater  part  a  different  field. 

I  wish  to  express  my  gratitude  to  several  scholars  who  have 
had  considerable  share  in  the  production  of  this  book.  With- 
out the  repeated  and  earnest  solicitation  and  the  encourage- 
ment received  from  Professor  Morris  Jastrow,  Jr.,  of  the 
University  of  Pennsylvania,  this  book  would  not  have  been 
written.  Its  appearance  in  English  is  due  to  Professor  B.  J. 
Vos  of  the  Johns  Hopkins  University,  who,  in  view  of  his  own 
deep  interest  in  the  subject,  was  especially  qualified  to  under- 
take the  translation.  The  first  eleven  chapters  —  also  pub- 
lished in  Dutch  —  have  been  carefully  revised  by  Professor  B. 
Symons  of  the  University  of  Groningen,  who  has  read  the 
proof  sheets  with  the  keen  eye  of  the  specialist,  and  whose 
numerous  suggestions  have  frequently  proved  of  value  in  con- 
trolling and  correcting  my  own  views. 

In  the  chapters  devoted  to  mythology  my  obligations  are  less 
direct.  I  have,  however,  gratefully  made  use  of  the  material 
collected  in  the  latest  and  best  works,  and  more  especially  of 

V 


vi  PREFACE 

the  excellent  sketch  of  Mogk  in  Paul's  Grundriss  der  germa- 
nischen  Philologie.  The  general  reader  may,  however,  be 
assured  that  I  have  never  accepted  data  without  verification, 
and  the  scholar  will  observe  that  my  conclusions  frequently 
differ  from  those  embodied  in  recent  publications.  It  is  my 
hope,  also,  that  the  historical  method  adopted  in  the  work,  and 
the  endeavor  to  maintain  a  sharp  distinction  between  what  we 
actually  know  and  what  we  do  not  know,  may  be  esteemed 
advantages  which  will  in  a  measure  redeem  other  possible 
imperfections. 


P.  D.  CHANTEPIE  DE  LA   SAUSSAYE. 


LEIDEN, 
January, 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER  PAGE 

I.  INTRODUCTION i 

II.  HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY 7 

III.  THE  PREHISTORIC  PERIOD 49         i+  ~i 

IV.  TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES 65         >  2. 

V.  TEUTONS  AND  ROMANS 97          /  & 

VI.  PAGANISM  AND  CHRISTIANITY 113         2.  o 

VII.  THE  GERMAN  HEROIC  SAGA 133          /  6 

VIII.  THE  ANGLO-SAXONS 149         /  v 

IX.  THE  NORTH  BEFORE  THE  AGE  OF  THE  VIKINGS  ....  163         /  "f 

X.  NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  :  HISTORY  AND  LITERATURE     .    .  180         3  £> 

XI.  FOLKLORE 210 

XII.  THE  PANTHEON 221 

XIII.  GODS  AND  DIVINE  NATURE      .     .     .    . 282 

XIV.  ANIMISM,  SOULS,  WORSHIP  OF  THE  DEAD 289 

XV.  WALKYRIES,  SWAN-MAIDENS,  NORNS 304 

XVI.  ELVES  AND  DWARFS 318 

XVII.  GIANTS 328 

XVIII.  THE  WORLD  :  COSMOGONY,  COSMOLOGY,  AND  ESCHATOLOGY  338 

XIX.  WORSHIP  AND  RITES 355 

XX.  CALENDAR  AND  FESTIVALS 379 

XXI.  MAGIC  AND  DIVINATION 385 

XXII.  CONCLUSION ,     .  398 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 417 

INDEX 465 


THE    RELIGION    OF    THE   ANCIENT 
TEUTONS 

CHAPTER    I.  — INTRODUCTION 

• 

SCOPE   AND   GENERAL   PLAN 

THE  country  we  live  in  and  the  blood  in  our  veins  constitute 
close  and  permanent  ties  of  Kinship  between  ourselves  and  the 
primitive  Teutons.  This  applies  without  reservation  to  the 
German,  Dutch,  English,  and  Scandinavian  peoples,  in  part 
also  to  the  French,  and,  so  far  as  descent  is  concerned,  to  the 
Americans  of  the  United  States  as  well.  Though  our  religion 
is  derived,  from  the  Jews^and  our  culture  from  the  classical 
nations  of  antiquity,  our  natural  origins  are  to  be  found  among 
the  ancient  Teutons.  If  we  are  not  their  offspring  in  a  spiritual 
sense,  they  are  yet  our  ancestors  after  the  flesh,  from  whom  we 
have  inherited,  in  large  measure,  our  way  of  looking  at  things, 
as  well  as  numerous  ideas  and  customs. 

It  is  therefore  of  vital  interest  to  us  to  determine  as  accu- 
rately as  possible  what  this  inheritance  consists  of,  in  contra- 
distinction to  the  foreign  influences  to  which  we  have  been 
subjected.  Moreover,  the  present  century  has  witnessed  a 
revival  of  interest  in  the  heroes  and  legends  of  the  primitive 
Teutonic  period.  In  modern  literature  the  Norse  gods  and 
heroes,  the  German  Nibelungs,  have  taken  on  a  new  lease  of 
life.  This  world  of  myth  and  saga  has  a  peculiar  charm  for 


2  THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

us,  even  though  it  has  not  been  immortalized  in  masterpieces 
of  art,  as  that  of  ancient  Greece. 

It  is  the  aim  of  this  volume  to  present  a  survey  of  our  knowl- 
edge concerning  Teutonic  heathenism.  The  term  employed  for 
this  purpose,  "mythology,"  includes  the  myths  and  stories,  as  well 
as  their  scientific  treatment.  This  double  sense  of  the  term,  how- 
ever, involves  no  real  difficulty,  any  more  than  in  the  case  of  the 
term  "  history,"  to  which  the  same  objection  might  be  made. 

On  the  other  hand,  what  would  appear  to  be  a  more  serious 
objection  is  the  application  of  the  term  "  mythology  "  to  the 
whole  of  the  heathen  religion,  inasmuch  as  neither  cult  nor 
religious  institutions  and  observances,  though  connected  with 
mythology,  properly  form  a  part  of  the  concept  myth.  "  History 
of  religion "  and  "  mythology "  are  by  no  means  convertible 
terms  ;  in  the  treatment  of  the  more  highly  civilized  peoples, 
whose  religious  life  is  known  through  their  literature,  it  is 
essential  to  distinguish  carefully  between  these  two  phases. 
But  in  the  case  of  tribes  and  peoples  that  stand  on  a  lower 
level  of  civilization,  and  concerning  whom  our  knowledge  is  of 
a  fragmentary  character,  there  seems  to  be  no  valid  objection 
against  applying  the  term  "  mythology "  to  the  entire  field. 
While  perhaps  not  strictly  correct  from  a  logical  point  of  view, 
this  usage  has  been  so  universally  followed  in  the  case  of  the 
Teutons,  that  we  feel  justified  in  adhering  to  it. 

Teutonic  mythology,  therefore,  comprises  all  that  is  known 
of  the  religion  of  the  ancient  Teutons,  that  is,  the  Germans, 
the  Anglo-Saxons,  the  Scandinavians,  the  Gothic,  and  other 
East  Teutonic  peoples.  The  terminus  ad  quern  of  our  treatment 
is  the  conversion  of  these  peoples  to  Christianity,  which  did  not 
take  place  in  the  North  until  about  A.D.  1000.  At  the  same 
time  survivals  of  paganism  among  the  Christianized  Teutons 
in  the  Middle  Ages  and  down  to  our  own  times,  while  not 
forming,  in  the  strict  sense  of  the  word,  a  part  of  our  subject, 
must  necessarily  be  taken  into  consideration. 


INTRODUCTION  3 

That  mythology  is  an  historical  science  may  now  be  regarded 
as  an  established  fact;  and  this  implies  that  in  its  deductions 
it  is  absolutely  confined  to  such  data  as  have  been  definitely 
ascertained  from  records,  and  which,  in  addition  to  being 
weighed  according  to  the  canons  of  historical  criticism,  have 
been  judged  in  connection  with  their  origin  and  character. 
Difficult  as  such  a  task  is,  still  greater  obstacles  are  encountered 
when  we  attempt  to  combine  these  isolated  facts  and  to  con- 
struct a  system  of  mythology  from  the  material  thus  collected  ; 
for  at  this  point  we  touch  the  apparently  simple  but  in  reality 
extremely  complicated  field  of  myth-interpretation.  Nothing, 
indeed,  is  easier  than  to  interpret  mythical  characters  and 
stories  in  accordance  with  some  clever  aperfu  or  in  keeping 
with  certain  stock  ideas.  In  following  such  a  system  the 
elements  that  fit  in  with  the  interpretation  are  made  use  of, 
while  the  others  are  completely  ignored  and  the  gaps  in  the 
historical  data  entirely  neglected.  On  the  other  hand,  to  com- 
prehend in  their  unity  and  interrelations  all  the  features  of  one 
myth,  and  all  the  myths  concerning  a  particular  god  or  hero,  is 
always  extremely  difficult,  and  in  many  cases  absolutely  impos- 
sible. "  To  hit  upon  an  idea  is  mere  play  ;  to  follow  it  out  to 
its  logical  conclusion  is  work  ;  to  fathom  a  mythological  fact,  — 
what  shall  we  call  that  ?  You  know  the  crowfoot  weed  that 
shoots  out  its  tendrils  in  every  direction  ?  Wherever  the  spur 
of  a  runner  touches  the  ground  a  new  root  rises  up  and  a  new 
plant,  and  in  this  way  a  large  space  is  rapidly  covered.  The 
task  of  laying  bare  the  complete  ramifications  of  this  weed  on 
a  large  plot  of  ground,  without  injuring  the  least  little  fibre, 
furnishes  a  faint  idea  of  the  trial  of  patience  involved  in  myth- 
ological investigations."  x 

The  question  also  suggests  itself  whether  the  unity  which  we 
believe  to  have  found  really  exists.  We  are  liable  to  all  sorts 
of  misconceptions,  we  are  apt  to  make  hasty  generalizations  on 

1  H.  Usenet,  Religionsgeschichtliche  Untersuckungen,  i  (1889),  p.  xi. 


4  THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

the  basis  of  what  has  been  brought  to  the  surface  in  some 
remote  corner,  to  assume  as  popular  belief  what  is  merely  the 
creation  of  a  poet's  fancy,  and  to  consider  primitive  what  is  of 
recent  date.  Doubtless  the  very  recognition  of  these  dangers 
constitutes  in  a  measure  a  safeguard,  and  the  mass  of  material 
itself  furnishes  many  indications  of  the  way  in  which  it  is  to 
be  used  ;  but  still  it  is  well  never  to  lose  sight  of  the  limits  of 
the  attainable.  We  must  perforce  attempt  to  arrange  and  to 
comprehend  the  mythological  material  collected,  but  we  should 
at  the  same  time  account  to  ourselves  for  every  step  taken, 
and  justify  in  each  particular  instance  our  right  to  reconstruct 
and  to  join  what  lies  scattered. 

The  same  holds  good  in  regard  to  the  tracing  of  religious 
development.  As  with  numerous  other  sciences,  so  with  Teu- 
tonic mythology,  the  highest  aim  is  to  unfold  its  historical 
development.  Now  it  is  doubtless  incumbent  upon  us  to 
render  an  account  of  the  changes  which  concepts,  legends,  and 
customs  have  undergone.  On  the  other  hand,  whether  these 
changes  follow  a  single  direction,  whether  we  know  them  with 
sufficient  completeness  to  enable  us  to  describe  them  in  their 
interdependence,  whether,  in  a  word,  we  can  speak  of  develop- 
ment, these  are  questions,  the  answer  to  which  requires  in 
each  case  a  separate  investigation. 

The  above  remarks  would  be  out  of  place,  if  they  did  not 
tend  to  deny  to  Teutonic  mythology  this  systematic  unity  and. 
this  uniform  development.  We  shall,  indeed,  discover  a  cer- 
tain kind  of  unity,  such  as  is  found  among  products  of  similar 
or  identical  soil,  and  shall  be  able  to  describe  groups  of  phe- 
nomena and  parallel  phenomena.  We  shall  likewise  be  able 
to  point  to  changes  that  occur  in  the  course  of  time.  But 
development  and  the  construction  of  a  system  will  be  neither 
our  point  of  departure  nor  our  final  aim.  On  the  contrary,  we 
shall  have  to  distinguish  carefully  between  the  several  peoples 
and  periods. 


INTRODUCTION  5 

The  plan  of  the  work  is  in  keeping  with  these  considerations. 
So  far  as  practicable  the  various  subjects  that  form  a  part  of 
Teutonic  mythology  will  be  brought  to  the  attention  of  the 
reader  in  a  connected  narrative.  The  detailed  investigation 
itself  is  not  presented,  nor  has  any  new  material  been  brought 
to  light.  At  the  present  moment  there  is  at  least  as  much 
need  of  arranging  the  material  already  at  hand  and  of  present- 
ing the  picture  it  discloses  of  Teutonic  paganism  as  of  search- 
ing for  new  material.  The  former  will,  at  any  rate,  be  our 
task.  For  this  very  reason  a  general  survey  of  sources  will  be 
omitted.  Such  a  survey  could  be  rendered  valuable  only  by  a 
detailed  treatment,  and  this  treatment  would  in  itself  involve 
a  discussion  of  the  material  presented.  Accordingly,  to  avoid 
needless  repetition,  the  sources  will  be  grouped  according  to 
the  subdivisions  of  the  book. 

On  the  other  hand,  it  will  be  necessary  to  devote  some  space 
to  the  history  of  the  subject.  It  might,  indeed,  be  supposed 
that  such  a  history  is  essential  only  to  the  professional  student, 
and  therefore  out  of  place  in  a  book  intended  for  a  wider 
circle.  Such,  however,  is  not  the  case.  Teutonic  mythology 
owes  its  importance  in  part  to  the  fact  that  in  some  of  its 
aspects  its  material  is  incomparably  richer  than  that  of  other 
mythologies.  It  is  to  the  student  of  Teutonic  mythology  that 
the  investigator  turns  when  approaching  questions  regarding 
heroic  saga  or  folklore,  whether  it  be  among  the  Hindus, 
Greeks,  or  any  other  people.  For  this  reason  a  history  of 
Teutonic  mythology  is  of  general  importance,  and  cannot  be 
omitted  in  a  treatise  of  this  character. 

The  nature  of  our  subject  suggests  a  treatment  in  two  main 
divisions.  In  the  first  of  these  the  data  are  arranged  in  histor- 
ical order,  periods  and  peoples  are  delineated  in  accordance 
with  their  distinctive  characteristics  ;  in  short,  a  fragmentary 
historical  sketch  is  attempted,  so  far  as  the  sources  will  permit 
us  to  do  so.  In  the  second  section  the  individual  deities  will 


6  THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

be  dealt  with  as  well  as  the  myths,  the  various  conceptions  and 
observances,  and  the  cult;  and  while  the  various  origins  of  this 
material  will  be  kept  in  mind,  the  attempt  will  be  made  at  the 
same  time  to  arrange  the  scattered  data,  so  far  as  feasible,  in 
groups.  Only  then  will  it  be  possible  to  draw  general  conclu- 
sions regarding  the  religion  thus  described,  to  form  an  estimate 
about  it,  and  to  determine  its  character  and  position  in  the 
family  of  religions. 


CHAPTER   II 
HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY 

A  HISTORY  of  Teutonic  mythology  which  attempts  to  do  more 
than  furnish  a  more  or  less  complete  bibliography  ought  to 
have  three  ends  in  view.  Its  first  aim  should  be  to  show  in 
what  manner  the  sources  have  been  discovered  and  made 
accessible,  and  in  what  way  the  material  gained  from  these 
sources  has  been  utilized.  Secondly,  it  should  indicate  the 
results  reached,  distinguishing  between  such  as  maybe  regarded 
as  definitely  established  facts  and  such  as  may  be  subject  to 
subsequent  modification.  Thirdly,  it  should  point  out  to  what 
extent  the  study  has  been  influenced  by  the  general  currents  of 
civilization,  as  revealed  by  the  questions  to  which  our  attention 
will  have  been  directed,  and  the  points  of  view  from  which  the 
material  will  have  been  treated. 

In  our  narrative  we  shall  have  to  pass  constantly  from  one 
country  to  another.  German  and  Scandinavian  investigators 
of  Teutonic  antiquity  have,  as  a  rule,  followed  and  are  to  some 
extent  still  following  different  paths.  Teutonic  mythology  bears 
less  of  an  international  character  than  most  other  sciences, 
although  scholars  of  different  nationalities  have  mutually  in- 
fluenced one  another. 

The  study  of  Teutonic  mythology  may  be  traced  back  to  the 
seventeenth  century,  when  publications  already  appeared  in 
which  either  the  popular  beliefs  or  the  antiquities  of  a  particu- 
lar region  are  treated.  In  1691  a  Scottish  clergyman,  R.  Kirk, 
wrote  a  treatise  on  "  elves,  fauns,  and  fairies,"  which  has 
recently  been  reprinted  as  a  document 1  of  historical  interest, 

1  R.  Kirk,  Secret  Common-wealth  (1691),  with  comment  by  A.  Lang  (1893,  Biblio- 
th'eque  de  Car  abas). 

7 


8  THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

while  in  the  Netherlands  J.  Picardt,  in  1660,  issued  a  work  on 
Teutonic  antiquities.1 

As  early  as  1648,  however,  Elias  Schedius2had  essayed  a 
complete  Teutonic  Mythology,  a  rather  bulky  work,  in  which 
the  passages  of  the  ancient  writers  descriptive  of  various  peo- 
ples are  treated  with  little  historical  discrimination.  To  these 
two  sources,  popular  beliefs  and  the  classical  writers,  there 
were  soon  added  the  records  discovered  in  the  North  and  the 
antiquities  brought  to  light  in  various  parts  of  Germany.  The 
books  and  treatises  dealing  with  this  material  as  a  whole  or  in 
part  had,  by  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  century,  reached 
the  number  of  one  thousand.  Special  mention  among  these 
should  be  made  of  Trogillus  Arnkiel,3  who  first  made  use  of 
the  works  of  Scandinavian  scholars,  and  of  J.  G.  Keysler,4  who 
drew  upon  Latin  inscriptions  and  popular  beliefs.  Nearly  all 
the  writers  of  this  period  regarded  the  heathen  gods  from  a 
euhemeristic  point  of  view,  as  departed  heroes.  No  one  of 
them  was  able  to  establish  his  work  on  a  sound  historical  basis 
by  distinguishing  between  Teutons  and  Kelts. 

The  Scandinavian  countries  were  destined  to  give  the  first 
impetus  to  the  fruitful  study  of  Teutonic  antiquity.  It  would 
be  erroneous,  however,  to  suppose  that  in  these  regions  the 
classic  period  of  medieval  literature  passed  imperceptibly  into 
the  period  of  historic  study.  Even  in  Iceland,  the  centre  of 
Old  Norse  literary  development,  the  historic  past  and  the  in- 
digenous literature  were,  in  the  fifteenth  and  during  the  larger 
part  of  the  sixteenth  century,  well-nigh  forgotten.  The  renais- 

1  Johan  Picardt,  Antiquiteiten  der  provintien  en  landen  gelegen  tusschen  Noord- 
zee,  IJssel,  Emse  en  Lippe  (1660). 

2  Elias  Schedii,  De  Diis  Germanis,  sive  veteri  Germanorutn,  Gallorum,  Britan- 
nonttn,  Vandalorum  religione  (1648). 

3  Trogillus  Arnkiel,  Cimbrische  Heydenreligion  ;    ausfiihrliche  Eroffnung  -was 
es  mit  der  cimbrischen  und  mittern'dchtlichen  Volker  als  Sachsen,  etc.,  ihrem  Got- 
zendienst  vor  eine  Bewandtniss  gehabt  (as  early  as  1690 ;  4  vos.,  1703). 

*  J.  G.  Keysler,  Antiquitates  selectae  septentrionales  et  celticae  (1720). 


sance  does  not  begin  until  the  end  of  the  sixteenth  century, 
with  the  historical  and  literary  labors  of  Arngrfmr  Jonsson  and 
Bjorn  Jonsson  a  Skardhsa.  Much,  indeed,  had  even  then  been 
accomplished  elsewhere ;  the  Paris  edition  of  Saxo  dates  from 
the  year  1514,  and  in  the  middle  of  the  same  century  the  last 
archbishop  of  Upsala,  Olaus  Magnus,  had  made  the  first 
attempt  at  writing  a  Norse  Mythology,  based  on  Saxo,  on  the 
Latin  writers,  and  on  the  conditions  of  his  own  time.1  Olaus 
had  also  investigated  the  monuments  and  drawn  up  a  runic 
alphabet.  Not  until  the  seventeenth  century,  however,  did  the 
range  of  these  studies  begin  to  widen.  In  Denmark  Ole 
Worm,  Stephanius,  and  P.  Resenius  occupied  themselves  with 
monuments  and  runes,  with  the  editing  of  Saxo,  and  the  collect- 
ing of  manuscripts.  This  was  made  possible  after  Brynjolf 
Sveinsson,  Bishop  of  Skalholt  in  Iceland,  had,  in  1640,  dis- 
covered the  most  important  manuscript  'of  the  prose  Edda  — 
already  known  at  that  time  —  and  had  in  1643  first  brought  to 
light  the  poetic  Edda.  Despite  the  fact  that  the  great  fire  at 
Kopenhagen  in  1728  destroyed  many  manuscripts,  and  that  dur- 
ing the  second  half  of  the  seventeenth  century  many  more  were 
lost,  there  yet  remained  an  extensive  literature,  including  sagas, 
preserved  in  four  great  collections,  which  were  destined  to 
form  the  basis  of  subsequent  study.  These  four  collections 
are  :  i.  The  manuscripts  collected  by  Brynjolf  himself  and  sent 
in  1662  to  the  king  of  Denmark  (codices  Regii).  2.  The  col- 
lection of  Ami  Magnusson  made  between  1690  and  1728 
(codices  A.  M.).  Both  of  these  collections  are  to  be  found  in 
Kopenhagen.  3.  The  manuscripts  collected  by  Stephanius, 
now  at  Upsala  (codices  U.).  4.  The  codices  Holmenses 
(codices  H.),  discovered  in  Iceland  during  the  latter  half  of 
the  seventeenth  century,  and  at  present  in  Stockholm. 

1  This  work,  which  appeared  in  1555,  was  entitled  Historia  de  gentium  septen- 
trionalium  variis  conditionibits  statibusque.  On  the  map  of  Olaus  Magnus,  see  O. 
Brenner, "  Die  achte  Karte  des  Olaus  Magnus  vom  Jahre  1539"  (Christiania  Vid, 
Selsk.  For/i.,  1886). 


10 

When  this  literature  was  first  brought  to  light,  and,  indeed, 
for  a  long  time  afterward,  the  most  phantastic  ideas  prevailed 
concerning  its  origin  and  antiquity.  What  had  been  found  was 
thought  to  be  only  a  small  fragment  of  an  Eddie  archetype 
attributed  to  the  ^Esir  themselves  or  to  the  princess  Edda, 
shortly  after  the  time  of  Odhin.  This  archetype,  it  was 
thought,  contained  the  patriarchal  beliefs  of  the  ancient 
Atlantis-dwellers,  some  three  hundred  years  before  the  Trojan 
war.  The  oldest  runes  were  believed  to  date  from  2000  B.C. 

Following  in  the  wake  of  Danish  scholars  and  under  the 
influence  of  conceptions  peculiar  to  the  eighteenth  century, 
Mallet,  a  Swiss,  wrote  a  book,  the  purpose  of  which  was  to 
delineate  the  history  of  civilization.  The  North  was  extolled 
as  the  cradle  of  liberty,  and  Mallet  included  in  his  treatise  a 
translation  of  several  selections  from  the  Edda.  The  book  was 
translated  into  English  in  1770  by  Bishop  Percy,  who  added 
an  important  preface,  in  which  a  sharp  distinction  was,  for  the 
first  time,  drawn  between  Teutonic  and  Keltic  legends  and 
antiquities.1 

Literature  also  turned  these  finds  to  good  account.  In 
Germany,  Herder,  with  his  breadth  of  view,  did  not  fail  to  rec- 
ognize the  value  of  Old  Norse  literature.  Standing  under  the 
influence  of  the  currents  of  thought  prevailing  in  the  eighteenth 
century,  he  paved  the  way  for  the  Romanticism  of  the  nineteenth. 
His  broad  and  profound  intellect  combined  cosmopolitan  inter- 
ests with  an  appreciation  of  the  characteristically  national,  a 
love  for  the  natural  with  a  feeling  for  historical  development. 
He  took  hold  of  the  new  material  and  opened  up  new  points 
of  view.  From  near  and  far  he  gathered  folk-songs,  though 
among  these  naive  Stimmen  der  Volker,  as  he  called  them, 
there  is  many  a  song  which  we  no  longer  regard  in  this  light. 
Thus  he  believed  Voluspa  to  be  a  product  of  primitive  times, 

1  P.  H.  Mallet,  Northern  Antiquities,  translated  by  Bishop  Percy,  was  reprinted 
as  recently  as  1882. 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  11 

although  he  recognized  that  criticism  had  not  as  yet  passed  a 
final  judgment  on  the  poem.  The  less  known  F.  D.  Grater 
also  helped  to  spread  a  knowledge  of  Norse  mythology  and  of 
folk-song.1  In  Denmark  the  spirit  of  patriotism  served  to 
heighten  the  interest  in  the  newly  discovered  poetry.  Ohlen- 
schlager,  proceeding  on  the  supposition  that  the  Eddie  poems 
were  parts  of  a  single  production,  sought  through  his  cycle  of 
poems,  Nordens  Guder  (1819),  to  infuse  new  life  into  the  old 
myths. 

What  the  elder  Grundtvig  achieved  along  this  line  also 
belongs  to  the  domain  of  literature  rather  than  that  of  science. 
N.  F.  S.  Grundtvig,2  the  enemy  of  rationalism,  the  champion  of 
personal  faith  and  the  living  word  as  against  petrified  formalism 
in  church  and  dogma,  also  showed  great  zeal  in  advocating  the 
development  of  national  character,  and  put  the  stamp  of  his 
individuality  on  the  intellectual  life  of  his  people.  His  enthu- 
siasm for  the  Norse  heroic  age,  his  acumen  in  the  treatment  of 
myths,  whose  profound  figurative  language  he  sought  to  inter- 
pret, his  graceful  renderings  of  these  ancient  legends  in  beau- 
tiful poems,  all  this  may  have  borne  little  or  no  fruit  to  the 
cause  of  science,  but  it  unquestionably  imbued  the  heroic  age 
with  new  life  in  the  popular  mind. 

Meanwhile  the  opinion  that  the  Edda  contained  a  most 
ancient,  original,  and  splendid  mythology  was  not  held  without 
opposition.  Finn  Jonsson,  who  a  century  after  Brynjolf  held 
the  episcopal  see  of  Skalholt,  recognized  in  the  Edda  a  mixture 
of  Christian  ideas  and  scandalous  fabrications.  In  a  brief 
survey  of  the  production  he  discussed  the  main  features  of  the 
religion  in  a  somewhat  dry  and  prosaic  fashion.3  A  deeper 
impression  was  made  by  the  direction  which  studies  in  Teutonic 

1  In  his  periodical  Bragur  (8  vos.,  1791-1812). 

2  N.  F.  S.  Grundtvig,  Nordens  mythologi  eller  Sindbilled-Sprog  historisk-  poetisk 
•udviklet  og  oplyst.     It  appeared  in  1832  as  a  revised  form  of  an  outline  published  in 
1807. 

8  Finnus  Johannaeus,  Historia  Ecclesiastica  Islandiae  (4  vos.,  1772). 


12          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

mythology  took  in  Germany.  As  early  as  1720  Keysler  sus- 
pected the  existence  of  Christian  influences  in  Norse  mythology. 
Towards  the  end  of  the  eighteenth  and  the  beginning  of  the 
nineteenth  century  this  opinion  steadily  gained  ground  through 
the  writings  of  von  Schlozer,1  Fr.  Adelung,2  and  Fr.  Riihs.3 
The  work  of  these  three  authors  is  frequently  placed  in  one 
category,  but  in  reality  only  that  of  Riihs  possesses  scientific 
value.  He  distinguished  in  Norse  mythology  three  factors  : 
popular  conceptions  of  Teutonic  origin,  Christian  ideas,  and 
fragments  of  Greek  and  Roman  mythology.  The  Edda,  he 
contended,  could  not  be  regarded  as  the  common  heritage  of 
the  Teutons,  nor  even  of  all  Scandinavians.  It  was  a  poetic 
production  that  had  originated  in  Iceland  under  Anglo-Saxon 
influences.  The  culture  of  the  North  was  of  Christian  origin. 
The  kinship  of  these  ideas  with  recent  theories  and  results  is 
self-evident. 

The  chief  centre  of  these  studies  remained,  for  the  time 
being,  Kopenhagen,  where  -collections  of  manuscripts  and 
monuments  were  deposited,  and  where,  also,  these  studies 
received  strong  encouragement  because  they  were  regarded  as 
subserving  national  interests.  From  1777  to  1783  a  beautiful 
edition  of  Snorri's  ffeimskringla,  in  three  volumes,  was  pub- 
lished at  the  expense  of  the  Danish  crown-prince.  In  1806 
the  erection  of  a  museum  of  Norse  antiquities  was  begun.  In 
1809  the  publication  of  the  Danish  Kcempeviser  was  com- 
menced, while  a  few  years  later,  in  1815,  the  Icelander  Thor- 
kelin  furnished  the  editio  princeps  of  Beowulf.  Rasmus  Nyerup 
(1759-1829)  carried  on  extensive  investigations  in  Old  Danish 
popular  literature,  archaeology,  and  mythology.  R.  K.  Rask 
(1787-1832),  who  was  one  of  the  founders  of  modern  linguistic 

1  Von  Schlozer,  Isl'dndische  Liter atur  und  Geschichte  (I,  1773). 

2  Fr.  Adelung  in  Becker's  Erholungen  (1797) 

3  Fr.  Riihs,  Die  Edda  (1812)  ;  Ueber  den  Ursfrung  der  isl'dndischen  Poesie  aus 
der  angels'dchsischen  (1813). 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  13 

science,  sought  the  origin  of  Old  Norse  in  Old  Thracian,  from 
which  he  also  derived  Greek  and  Latin.  While  Rask  did  not 
extend  his  comparisons  to  the  Asiatic  languages,  the  Icelander, 
Finn  Magnusen  (1781—1847),  did  not  hesitate  to  find  parallels 
in  Oriental  and  Egyptian  mythology,  which  he  regarded  as 
evidences  of  a  common  primitive  origin.  Both  in  editions  of 
texts  and  in  works  on  mythology l  he  made  use  of  an  enormous 
mass  of  material,  much  of  which  is  still  of  value  despite  the  fact 
that  no  reliance  can  be  placed  on  his  astronomical  interpreta- 
tions, on  the  accuracy  of  his  Oriental  parallels,  or  on  his  theory 
of  the  Trojan  origin  of  the  Northern  peoples.  Thus  the  hori- 
zon gradually  widened,  notwithstanding  the  phantastic  and 
arbitrary  combinations  that  were  still  being  made.  Skule 
Thorlacius,  in  a  study  on  Thor  and  his  hammer,2  went  so  far 
as  to  make  an  isolated  attempt  to  distinguish  between  the 
earlier  and  later  elements  of  mythology. 

No  one  of  these  men,  however,  produced  work  of  more  last- 
ing value  than  P.  E.  Miiller  (1776-1834),  who  took  up  the 
gauntlet  in  defense  of  the  genuineness  of  the  ^sir-religion  in 
a  manner  that  carried  conviction  to  the  brothers  Grimm  and 
to  many  of  their  successors.  He  was  the  first  to  render  a  rich 
and  well-arranged  collection  of  heroic  and  historical  sagas  from 
medieval  Norwegian-Icelandic  literature  accessible,  and  his 
edition  of  Saxo,  with  Prolegomena  and  Notae  uberiores,  com- 
pleted after  his  death  by  J.  M.  Velschow,  possesses  lasting  value.3 

Before  the  advent  of  the  Grimms  Germany  was  far  behind 
the  Danes  and  Icelanders  in  the  study  of  mythology.  With 
• 

1  Priscae  veterum  Borealium  mythologiae  lexicon  (1828)  ;   Eddalaeren  og  dens 
oprindelse  (4  vos.,  1824-1826).     An  estimate  of  Finn  Magnusen  may  be  found  in 
N.  M.  Petersen,  Samlede  Afhandlinger,  III ;  a  survey  of  Norse  studies  during  this 
period  in  an  important  essay  (1820)  of  W.  Grimm,  Kl.  Sc&r.,  III. 

2  In  Skandinavisk  Museum,  1802. 

3  P.  E.  Miiller,  Ueber  die  Echtheit  der  Asalehre  und  den  Werth  der  Snorro- 
ischen  Edda  (in  Danish  1812,  in  German  1811)  ;  Sagabibliothek  (I,  1817;  II,  1818; 
III,  1820) ;  Saxonis  Grammatici  Historia  Danica  (I,  1839 ;  II,  1858). 


14          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

the  national  revival,  however,  that  followed  the  French  domina- 
tion, the  famous  minister  of  education,  von  Stein,  gave  the 
first  impulse  towards  the  publication  of  that  gigantic  collection 
of  historical  sources  known  as  the  "  Monumenta  Germaniae 
historica,"  which,  under  the  editorship  of  G.  H.  Pertz,  began 
to  appear  in  1826.  But  indispensable  -as  these  sources  sub- 
sequently proved  to  be  for  the  study  of  Teutonic  heathenism, 
their  publication  at  first  exerted  little  or  no  influence. 

It  is  difficult  to  form  a  just  estimate  of  the  value  of  the 
mythological  work  done  in  Germany  during  the  first  decades 
of  our  century  under  the  influence  of  the  Romantic  move- 
ment. There  can  be  no  question  of  the  good  service  which 
the  movement  rendered  to  the  cause  of  science  and  of  culture. 
Through  the  two  Schlegels,  August  Wilhelm  and  Friedrich, 
and  through  Tieck,  the  language  and  gnomic  wisdom  of  the 
ancient  Hindus,  as  well  as  the  works  of  Calderon  and  Shakes- 
peare, and  such  subjects  as  the  Middle  Ages  and  popular 
poetry,  were  first  brought  within  the  general  horizon.  The 
Romanticists  were  also  strongly  attracted  towards  the  study  of 
the  national  past  and  of  Teutonic  paganism,  though  this  interest 
did  not  proceed  from  the  above-mentioned  leaders  of  the  move- 
ment. Heidelberg  became  the  centre  for  the  study  of  mythol- 
ogy, with  Gorres,  von  Arnim,  Brentano,  and  Creuzer  as  the 
chief  representatives.  Among  these  the  most  gifted,  perhaps, 
was  Joseph  Gorres1  (1776-1848),  who  devoted  himself  to  edit- 
ing German  chap-books.  It  was  he  who  perceived  the  relation- 
ship between  the  Norse  and  German  legends  of  the  heroic  saga 
and  recognized  the  age  of  migrations  as  the  period  which  gave 
rise  to  the  legends  among  Goths,  Franks,  and  Burgundians. 
He  was  in  error,  however,  in  assuming  that  the  heroic  legends 

1  J.  Gorres,  Die  teutschen  Volksbiicher.  N'dhere  Wurdigung  der  schonen  Histo- 
rien-,  Wetter-  und  Arzncybiichlein,  ivelche  theils  innerer  Werth,  theils  Zufall, 
Jakrkunderte  hindurch  bis  auf  unsere  Zeit  erhalten  hat  (1807) ;  Der  gehbrnte 
Siegfried  und  die  Nibelungen  (Zeitung  fiir  Einsiedler,  1808). 


HISTORY  OF   TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  15 

were  fragments  of  a  single  colossal  poem.  Gorres  subsequently 
turned  aside  from  the  study  of  Teutonic  antiquity  to  seek, 
after  the  manner  of  his  spiritual  kinsman,  Creuzer,  in  the 
myths  of  Asia  the  profound  symbolical  utterances  of  supreme 
wisdom.  Creuzer  himself  did  not  make  a  study  of  Teutonic 
antiquity,  but  in  his  spirit  F.  J.  Mone1  (1796-1871)  added  to 
Creuzer's  great  work  two  volumes  on  Slavs,  Kelts,  and  Teutons. 
In  addition  to  this  Mone  brought  together  what  was  for  that  time 
a  good  collection  of  material  for  the  study  of  the  heroic  saga. 
Nor  are  his  investigations  in  this  field  without  value,  although 
this  value  is  somewhat  lessened  by  his  tendency  to  seek  in 
myths  the  ideas  of  speculative  philosophy.  There  is  less  to  be 
said  in  favor  of  the  work  of  L.  Achim  von  Arnim  (1781-1831) 
and  Clemens  Brentano  (1778-1842),  who  from  1806  to  1808 
published  a  collection  of  folk-songs  under  the  title  Des  Knaben 
Wunderhorn.  Though  the  book  won  great  favor,  the  slovenly 
manner  in  which  it  was  edited  and  the  large  amount  of  worth- 
less material  it  comprised,  did  not  escape  the  keen  eye  of  that 
ruthless  critic  in  matters  mythological,  J.  H.  Voss. 

The  scientific  productions  of  Germany  during  this  period 
are  conspicuous  both  for  their  virtues  and  their  shortcomings. 
Though  a  lively  interest  was  taken  in  the  study  of  mythol- 
ogy and  there  was  no  lack  of  grand  conceptions,  the  methods 
of  work  were  uncritical,  and  marked  by  wildly  phantastic 
combinations.  The  opinion  prevailed  widely  that  in  the  prov- 
ince of  mythology  ideas  came  to  the  gifted  student  through  a 
sort  of  poetic  inspiration.  As  a  consequence  it  is  not  surpris- 
ing that  the  works  written  during  this  period  do  not  possess 
permanent  value.  Thus  many  of  the  Teutonic  divinities 
which  G.  Klemm  2  enumerates  never  existed,  and  it  frequently 

1  F.  J.  Mone,  Geschichte  des  Heidenthums  itn  nordlichcn  Enrofa  (2  vols.,  1822- 
1823,  constituting  Vols.  V  and  VJ  of  Creuzer's  Symbolik  und  Mythologie) ;  Untersu- 
chungen  zur  Geschichte  der  teutschen  Heldensage  (1836). 

2  G.  Klemm,  Handbuch  der  germanischen  Altertumskunde  (1836). 


16          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

involved  considerable  effort  to  remove  such  names  as  Krodo, 
Jecha,  Hammon,  Jodute,  etc.,  from  the  list  of  Teutonic  deities. 
C.  K.  Earth,1  in  a  volume  which  reached  a  second  edition, 
identified  Hertha  with  Demeter,  Isis,  lo,  Thetis,  and  a  number 
of  other  goddesses.  Here  and  there,  however,  fruitful  work 
was  accomplished,  and  occasionally  ideas  were  brought  for- 
ward that  gave  promise  for  the  future.  Thus,  H.  Leo 2  called 
attention  to  the  limits  to  which  the  worship  of  "  Othin  "  was 
confined  geographically,  and  in  Berlin  F.  H.  von  der  Hagen  3 
(1780-1856)  published  studies  and  editions  of  the  Nibelungen 
Lay  and  the  Norse  sagas  which,  though  marked  by  less  gran- 
deur of  conception,  showed  sounder  scholarship  than  the  more 
brilliant  effusions  of  the  Heidelberg  circle. 

We  have  now  reached  the  brothers  Grimm,  Jacob  (1785- 
1863)  and  Wilhelm  (1786-1859),  in  whom  we  may  likewise 
recognize  the  products  of  the  Romantic  period.  They  were 
connected  more  or  less  closely  with  the  Heidelberg  circle. 
The  jurist  Savigny,  who  was  Jacob's  beloved  teacher,  was  the 
brother-in-law  of  Brentano,  and  it  was  von  Arnim  who  gave 
the  final  impulse  to  the  publication  of  the  Mdrchen.  Nor 
did  Jacob  keep  himself  entirely  free  from  the  aberrations 
of  Romanticism.  One  of  his  earliest  essays,  entitled  Irmen- 
strasse  und  Irmensaule,  is  full  of  wild  etymologies  and  phan- 
tastic  combinations.  And  yet  there  is  from  the  very  outset  a 
great  difference  between  the  brothers  Grimm  and  the  Roman- 
ticists, both  as  regards  personality  and  character  of  work.  The 
former  were  thorough,  scholarly,  modest  students,  who  with 
untiring  zeal  cultivated  an  extended  but  withal  definitely  cir- 
cumscribed field,  namely,  German  antiquity  ;  while  the  Roman- 

1  C.  K.  Earth.  Hertha  und  iiber  die  Religion  der  Weltmutter  im  alten  Teutschland 
(second  edition,  1835). 

2  H.  Leo,  Ueber  Othins  Verehrung  in  Deutschland  (1822). 

3  Of  F.  H.  von  der  Hagen's  Altdeutsche  und  Altnordische  Heldensagen,  in  three 
volumes,  Vols.  I  and  II  appeared  in  a  third  edition  in  1872  ;  of  Vol.  Ill  a  second 
edition  revised  by  £±,  gdzardj  wag  published  in  1880. 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  17 

ticists,  in  practice  as  well  as  in  theory,  made  an  unbridled 
geniality  their  rule  of  life  and  scorned  to  impose  limits  upon 
the  range  of  their  activity.  They  were  engaged  in  an  endeavor 
to  resurrect  the  past,  whereas  the  Grimms,  though  recognizing 
a  connection  between  the  national  past  and  the  life  of  the 
present,  endeavored  primarily  to  acquire  an  historical  knowl- 
edge of  this  past.  In  consequence  they  occupied  themselves 
more  with  detailed  investigations.  Instead  of  regarding  the 
traditions  of  Teutonic  heathenism,  after  the  manner  of  Creuzer, 
as  the  profound  symbolical  utterances  of  a  primitive  sacerdotal 
wisdom,  Jacob  sees  in  them  poetic  creations  of  the  popular_ 
imagination.  This  sharp  distinction  between  the  popular  and 
natural  on  the  one  hand  and  the  products  of  art  on  the  other, 
which  latter  he  considers  far  inferior,  is  one  of  the  corner-stones 
of  Jacob  Grimm's  system. 

That  the  work  of  the  two  brothers  did  not  meet  the  wishes 
of  the  leaders  of  the  Romantic  school  was  shown  among  other 
things  in  a  trenchant  criticism  by  A.  W.  Schlegel,  in  the 
Heidelberger  Jahrbiicher  of  1815,  of  the  Altdeutsche  Walder, 
published  in  1813.  This  criticism,  which  made  a  profound 
impression,  dwelt  more  especially  upon  what  Schlegel  considered 
the  erroneous  views  entertained  by  Jacob  Grimm  concerning 
poetry  and  sagas.  His  critic  heaped  ridicule  on  the  "  lumber  " 
and  "rubbish  "  of  old  sagas,  which  the  Grimms  regarded  with 
such  reverence,  and  on  what  was  termed  by  some  one  *  "  their 
worship  of  the  insignificant."  This  expression  has  survived  as 
characterizing  the  activity  of  the  Grimms,  and  from  a  term  of 
reproach  has  come  to  be  regarded  as  a  term  of  praise.  Schlegel's 
criticism,  unjust  as  it  was  in  many  respects,  did  not  embitter 
Jacob  Grimm  but  induced  him  to  strike  out  in  a  new  direction, 
that  of  stricter  and  deeper  grammatical  study,  which  resulted, 
in  the  course  of  years,  in  such  productions  as  his  German  Gram- 
mar, History  of  the  German  Language,  and  the  German  Dic- 

1  Sulpice  Boisseree. 


18          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

tionary,  the  latter  produced  in  collaboration  with  his  brother. 
He  thus  became  the  founder  of  the  historical  study  of  language. 
While  his  etymologies  are  at  times  fanciful  and  inaccurate,  he 
is  yet  one  of  the  greatest  of  linguists.  For  our  purpose  it  is  of 
especial  importance  to  note  that  Jacob  Grimm  recognized  the 
intima'te  connection  that  exists  between  myth  and  language./  / 
Even  the  language  of  to-day  is  rich  in  genuinely  mythica^/ 
expressions,  by  a  true  understanding  of  which  we  obtain  an 
insight  into  a  part  of  the  intellectual  life  of  our  forefathers. 
Mythology  does  not,  however,  in  the  case  of  Grimm,  resolve 
itself  into  an  interpretation  of  words,  and  therefore  the  unten- 
ableness  of  many  of  his  etymologies  has  not  impaired  the 
value  of  his  mythological  work. 

But  there  were  other  fields  besides  linguistic  science  in  which 
Jacob  Grimm,  either  alone  or  in  conjunction  with  his  brother, 
became  a  pioneer.  In  the  production  of  the  Kinder-  und 
Hausmdrchen 1  and  the  Deutsche  Sagen 2  the  lion's  share  belongs 
to  Wilhelm.  In  the  Mdrchen  all  the  popular  tales  that  were 
still  current  among  the  people  of  those  districts  of  Middle 
Germany,  where  they  themselves  lived,  were  collected  with 
scientific  accuracy  and  made  a  permanent,  living  possession  of 
the  whole  nation.  The  Deutsche  Sagen  did  not  become  equally 
popular.  In  this  work  were  collected  the  legends  that  had 
become  localized  in  oral  tradition  and  that  in  this  way  had 
been  handed  down  in  history. 

The  Deutsche  Rechtsalterthiimer 3  are  solely  the  work  of  Jacob. 
While  legal  subtlety  and  formalism  were  repugnant  to  his  nature, 
he  had  learned  from  Savigny  to  regard  law  not  as  an  abstract 
system,  but  in  the  light  of  an  historical  development  on  the  soil 

1  The  two  volumes  of  the  Mdrchen  first  appeared  in  1812  and  1815.     They  have 
been  many  times  reprinted,  and  a  third  volume  with  Notes  was  added  in  1822. 

2  Published  in  two  volumes,  1816  and  1818. 

8  Published  in  1828  ;  a  fourth  enlarged  edition,  in  two  volumes,  published  under 
the  supervision  of  A.  Heusler  and  R.  Hiibner,  appeared  in  1899.  On  J.  Grimm's 
study  of  law,  see  R.  Hiibner,  Jacob  Grimm  ttnd  das  deutsche  Recht  (1895). 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  19 

of  national  life.  He  accordingly  sought  to  trace  in  his  study 
of  law  "  the  subtle  workings  of  the  popular  imagination  " *  in 
symbolic  actions,  poetic  formulas,  proverbs,  and  customs.  He 
drew  the  material  for  this  purpose  less  from  official  law-books 
than  from  the  popular  Weisthumer,  in  which  we  find  the  cus- 
toms of  particular  localities  or  regions  reflected.  He  edited 
several  volumes  of  these  sources,  and  his  work  was  subse- 
quently continued  by  Richard  Schroder. 

Even  in  a  history  of  mythology  this  many-sided  activity  of 
Jacob  Grimm  needs  to  be  touched  upon,  inasmuch  as  he  him- 
self never  drew  a  sharp  line  of  demarcation  between  one  field 
and  another.  His  aim  was  to  grasp  the  significance  of  national 
life  as  an  entity,  and  he  considered  language,  law,  and  myth  as 
merely  so  many  different  expressions  of  this  life.  W.  Scherer 
called  Grimm  a  "  combining  genius,"  just  cis  Lachmann  was 
designated  as  a  "  critical  genius."  His  extraordinary  powers 
of  combination  are  indeed  remarkable,  and  while  they  at  times 
led  him  astray  and  caused  him  to  see  connections,  where  we 
no  longer  assume  such,  they  also  enabled  him  to  view  the  enor- 
mous mass  of  details  at  his  command  as  parts  of  one  whole. 
Not  that  he  forced  individual  phenomena  into  an  abstract  sys- 
tem or  an  artificial  framework,  but  he  regarded  them  as  repre- 
senting the  living  unity  of  an  historical  national  existence. 
From  Grimm's  point  of  view  everything  was  imbued  with  life. 
Language,  he  tells  us,  had  originally  no  dead  words.  He  rec- 
ognizes the  "  sensuous  elements  "  in  law,  and  mythology  he 
derives  in  large  patf  from  the  "  ever-flowing  stream  of  living 
custom  and  saga."  Such  was  the  spirit  and  such  the  attitude  in 
which  Grimm  approached  the  study  of  "  German  mythology,"  2 

1  "  Das  stille  Walten  der  Volksphantasie." 

2  The   first   edition  of  the  Deutsche  Mythologie  was  published  in  1835,  in  two 
volumes ;  the  second,  with  an  important  Preface  added,  in  1844.     The  third  edition 
was  unchanged.     The  fourth,  in  three  volumes,  with  additions  from  Grimm's  posthu- 
mous papers,  was  brought  out  from  1875  to  1878  under  the  supervision  of  El.  H. 
Meyer. 


20          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

and  herein  lies  the  explanation  at  once  of  the  lasting  value  of  his 
work  and  of  its  defects.  Grimm  himself  has  given  an  account, 
in  his  now  classic  preface  to  the  second  edition,  of  the  manner 
in  which  he  used  his  sources.  The  word  "  deutsch  "  in  the 
title  is  not  used  in  the  sense  of  general  Teutonic,  as  it  is 
in  some  works  of  Jacob  Grimm,  but  excludes  Scandinavian. 
While  it  is  true  that  the  Edda  has  been  handed  down  from 
"  remotest  antiquity,"  Grimm  is  primarily  concerned  with  set- 
ting forth  the  independent  value  of  the  specifically  German 
material.  In  this  way  he  attempts  to  show  that  the  Norse  and 
the  German  mythology  mutually  support  and  confirm  each 
other  :  "  that  the  Norse  mythology  is  genuine,  consequently 
also  the  German,  and  that  the  German  is  old,  consequently 
also  the  Norse."  This  unity  seemed  to  Grimm  and  to  many  of 
his  successors  a  plain  and  scientifically  established  conclusion. 
They  held  that  all  the  objections  advanced  against  the  "  genu- 
ineness "  of  the  Edda  had  been  triumphantly  refuted  by  P.  E. 
Muller,  and  that  the  German  and  Norse  material  together 
formed  a  harmonious  whole.  This  view  is  now  regarded  as  a 
weak  point  in  the  foundation  on  which  the  superstructure  of 
Grimm's  mythology  rests.  The  fact  is  that  the  matter  had 
not  been  as  definitely  determined  as  he  supposed,  and  to  many 
scholars  it  still  appears  to  be  an  open  question. 

Without  neglecting  in  his  use  of  sources  the  written  records 
that  have  come  down  to  us,  Grimm  attached  greater  value  to 
the  living  tradition  connecting  us  directly  with  paganism,  and 
to  the  popular  saga.  Despite  the  advantages  which  this  method 
undoubtedly  possessed,  there  lurked  in  it  an  element  of  real 
danger.  According  to  Grimm,  whatever  is  current  in  the 
mouth  of  the  people,  in  legend  and  custom,  every  creation  of 
the  popular  poetic  imagination,  constituting  a  permanent  pos- 
session of  the  people,  bears  the  stamp  of  originality  and  antiq- 
uity. He  has,  accordingly,  frequently  ascribed  to  the  genuine 
prehistoric  period  of  the  German  people  what  we  now  recognize 


HISTORY  OF   TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  21 

as  a  product  of  the  Christian  -Middle  Ages,  and  on  the  same 
principle  he  has  found  mythical  ideas  in  the  figurative  language 
of  medieval  poets. 

Accordingly,  a  large  part  of  the  material  collected  in  Grimm's 
German  Mythology  can  no  longer  be  made  use  of,  at  least 
not  in  the  form  in  which  he  put  it.  There  are  other  defects 
that  might  be  pointed  out.  So,  for  instance,  attention  might 
be  called  to  the  numerous  untenable  etymologies,  to  the  arbi- 
trary use  so  frequently  made  of  foreign  parallels,  to  the  absence 
of  mythological  data  from  the  heroic  saga.  It  is  a  more  thank- 
ful task,  however,  to  emphasize  the  inestimable  wealth  of 
the  material  and  the  many  fruitful  points  of  view  that  the 
German  Mythology  presents.  Even  at  the  present  day,  more 
than  sixty  years  after  its  first  publication,  no  one  engaged  in 
any  single  problem  of  German  mythology  can  afford  to  neg- 
lect the  section  of  the  work  of  Grimm  bearing  on  the  subject. 
The  thirty-eight  chapters,  rather  loosely  strung  together,  do  not 
form  a  complete  system  any  more  than  they  embody  an  histor- 
ical development,  but  yet,  taken  as  a  whole,  they  possess  unity 
and  present  a  vivid  picture  of  the  religious  ideas  and  customs 
of  ancient  times.  That  many  details  of  this  picture  have  in  the 
course  of  time  been  found  to  be  incorrect,  does  not  materially 
affect  the  value  and  significance  of  Grimm's  work.  His  book  is 
still  the  chief  guide  of  modern  study  ;  it  may  be  said  to  form 
the  foundation  of  all  subsequent  investigation  and  constructive 
work.  Grimm  fully  succeeded  in  accomplishing  what  he  had 
set  out  to  do  :  not  to  retard  but  to  stimulate  scientific  investi- 
gation. That  the  bad  as  well  as  the  good  qualities  of  such  a 
work  have  found  zealous  imitators  is  not  surprising.  But  it  is 
again  due,  in  large  measure  at  least,  to  Jacob  Grimm  himself 
that  those  who  followed  in  his  tracks  could  supply  and  improve 
what  was  incorrect  or  deficient  in  the  work  both  of  the  master 
and  of  his  imitators. 

As  already  indicated,  Jacob  and  Wilhelm  Grimm  labored 


22          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

side  by  side.  Among  their  joint  publications  that  call  for  men- 
tion here  are  the  Irische  Elfenmdrchen  *  and  the  Edda?  The 
former  contained  a  very  comprehensive  introduction,  in  which 
the  figures  and  the  manner  of  life  of  the  elves  are  described  in 
great  detail.  The  heroic  lays  of  the  Edda  were  regarded  by 
the  Grimms  as  the  fragments  of  a  great  national  epic,  once  the 
common  possession  of  all  Teutonic  peoples.  But  aside  from  the 
share  that  Wilhelm  had  in  the  work  of  his  brother,  whose  fame 
somewhat  obscured  his  own,  we  must  not  fail  to  recognize  his  own 
independent  merits.  His  studies  were  largely  concerned  with 
the  North  :  he  devoted  himself  to  the  investigation  of  the  runes 
and  translated  Old  Danish  ballads  and  songs,3  to  some  of  which 
he  assigned  dates  as  early  as  the  fifth  and  sixth  centuries.  His 
principal  work  is  that  on  the  Heroic  Saga,4  and  he  has  the 
merit  of  having  been  the  first  to  collect  a  rich  store  of  historical 
material,  which  he  then  turned  to  account  in  tracing  the  origin 
and  growth  of  these  legends.  He  detached  the  heroic  saga  from 
history  and  mythology,  assigning  it  to  a  more  or  less  hazy 
"  intermediate  position "  as  poetry,  a  view  less  correct  than 
that  held  by  Jacob,5  who  recognized  the  fact  that  the  material 
embodied  in  epic  poetry  has  its  roots  in  myth  as  well  as  in 
history. 

Thus,  notwithstanding  the  work  they  undertook  jointly,  each 
of  the  two  brothers  had  his  own  field  and  followed  his  own 
bent  of  mind.  Wilhelm  occupied  an  intermediate  position 
between  his  brother  Jacob  and  another  scholar,  who,  although 


1  Irische  Elfenmdrchen,  iibersetzt  von  den  Briidern  Grimm  (1826). 

2  Lieder  der  alien  Edda,  aus  der  Handschrift  herausgegeben  und  erklart  durch 
die  Briider  Grimm  (I,  1815). 

8  Altddnische  Heldenlieder  (1811).     His  Kleinere  Schriften  are  far  richer   in 
essays  and  reviews  on  Norse  subjects  than  those  of  Jacob. 

4  Die  deutsche  Heldensage  (1829 ;  second  edition,  edited  by  Mullenhoff,  1867; 
third,  by  R.  Steig,  1889). 

5  J.  Grimm,  Gedanken  iiber  Mythos,  Epos  und  Geschichte  (1813),  contained  in 
Kl.  SfAr.,  IV. 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  23 

less  universal  in  his  mental  equipment  and  less  exclusively 
devoted  to  Teutonic  studies,  yet  left  an  impress  on  these  stud- 
ies as  deep  and  lasting  as  that  of  Jacob  Grimm.  Karl  Lach- 
mann  (1793-1851)  introduced  into  the  realm  of  Teutonic 
studies  the  stricter  critical  methods  of  classical  philology,  in 
which  he  was  a  master.  He  took  no  active  part  in  mytholog- 
ical work  as  such,  but  through  his  essays  on  the  Nibelungen  1 
he  directed  the  investigation  of  heroic  poetry  into  new  chan- 
nels. What  F.  A.  Wolf  had  done  in  the  case  of  Homer,  Lach- 
mann  attempted  to  do  with  the  Nibelungen  Epic,  namely,  to 
dissect  and  to  reconstruct  it  by  means  of  the  so-called  "  lieder- 
theorie."  While  not  indeed  failing  to  express  his  views  on  the 
contents  of  the  legend,  its  historical  and  mythical  elements,  his 
chief  aim  was  to  determine  the  original  text  by  means  of  the 
manuscripts,  and  to  ascertain  the  separate  lays  through  literary 
analysis.  In  this  way  the  brothers  Grimm  and  Lachmann,  each 
acknowledging  with  due  appreciation  the  others'  merits,  sup- 
plemented one  another.  Lachmann,  however,  to  a  far  greater 
extent  than  the  Grimms,  created  a  school,2  which,  as  over 
against  the  extravagant  interpretations  of  mythologists  who 
appealed  to  Jacob  Grimm  as  their  authority,  maintained  the 
wholesome  discipline  of  philological  method. 

The  Grimms  and  Lachmann  were  without  compeers  among 
their  contemporaries.  A  unique  and  honorable  position  must, 
however,  be  assigned  to  the  Tubingen  professor  and  poet,  L. 
Uhland  (i787-i862).3  %His  comprehensive  studies  of  popular 
poetry,  his  history  of  the  saga  and  Norse  mythology  are  con- 

1  Ueber  die   urspriingliche    Gestalt   des    Gedichts   von    der   Nibelungen  Noth 
(1816)  ;  Kritik  der  Sage  von  den  Nibelungen  (written  in  1829,  published  in  1832)  ; 
Z.u  den  Nibelungen  und  zur  Klage.     Anmerkungen  (1836). 

2  This  school  had,  since  1841,  as  its  organ  M.  Haupt's  Zeitschrift  fur  deutsches 
Alterthum.     In  1873  MiillenhorF  became  its  editor,  and  subsequently  Steinmeyer. 
Since  1890  it  has  been  edited  by  Schroeder  and  Roethe. 

8  Uhland,  Schriften  ziir  Geschichte  der  Dichtung  und  Sage  (8  vols.,  1865-1873), 
collected,  and  for  a  large  part  first  published,  after  his  death. 


24  THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

spicuous  both  for  their  great  learning  and  for  their  finished 
treatment.  His  essays  on  Thor  and  Odhin  are  not  entirely  free 
from  an  allegorizing  tendency  that  would  interpret  everything 
on  the  basis  of  natural  phenomena,  and  they  also  fail  to  dis- 
tinguish sharply  enough  between  the  various  elements  that 
enter  into  the  formation  of  a  myth,  but  the  material  is  always 
presented  in  an  interesting  and  attractive  way  and  is  handled 
with  great  care.  The  best  work,  however,  that  Uhland  has  pro- 
duced in  this  field  is  his  characterization  of  epic  poetry,  in 
which  the  various  personages  and  incidents  are  sketched  in 
an  inimitable  manner. 

Some  mention  must  be  made  in  this  connection  of  W.  Miiller.1 
He  paid  dearly  for  his  temerity  in  attempting,  by  a  combination 
of  the  German  data  with  the  Norse  framework,  to  formulate  a 
system  out  of  the  material  in  Grimm's  Mythology.  For  all  that 
he  does  not  deserve  to  be  altogether  forgotten.  In  the  heroic 
saga  he  recognized  historic  events,  and  in  its  heroes  represent- 
atives of  various  lands,  and  while  his  work  did  not  yield  any 
lasting  results  the  attempt  to  explain  the  heroic  saga  along  his- 
torical lines  was  in  itself  meritorious. 

The  impulse  given  by  Grimm  induced  many  scholars  to 
study  and  collect  popular  tales  under  the  belief  that  in  these 
tales  the  old  myths  and  gods  were  to  be  recognized,  forming  a 
kind  of  "  German  Edda."  This  was  the  point  of  view  of  J.  W. 
Wolf 2  and  many  others.  Among  the  mythologists  of  this  gener- 
ation no  one  achieved  greater  success  than  K.  Simrock.  He  was 
thoroughly  conversant  with  medieval  poetry,  and  through  his 
clever  translations  —  including  the  Nibelungen  and  Kudrun  — 

1  W.  Miiller,   Geschichte  und  System  der  altdeutschen  Religion  (1844)  ;  review 
by  J.  Grimm  in  Kl.  Schr.,  V.     Subsequently  he  wrote  among  other  things  Mytho- 
logie   der  deutschen    Heldensage  (1886)  ;   Zur  Mythologie  der  griechischen  und 
deutschen  Heldensage  (1889). 

2  J.  W.  Wolf,  Beitr'dge  zur  deutschen  Mythologie  (I,  1852  ;  II,  1857)  ;  Die  deut- 
sche  Gotterlehre  (1852  ;   second  edition,    1874).     Of  his   Zeitschrift  fiir  deutsche 
Mythologie,  subsequently  continued  by  W.  Mannhardt,  four  volumes  appeared. 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  25 

this  literature  was  rendered  more  generally  accessible.  His 
translation  of  the  Edda,  though  now  superseded  by  the  infi- 
nitely better  one  of  Hugo  Gering,1  was  also  for  the  time  a 
useful  work.  The  fame,  however,  which  Simrock  gained 
through  his  Mythology'1'  was  undeserved.  His  work  contains 
a  large  mass  of  frequently  unreliable  material,  treated  without 
historical  method  and  characterized  by  forced  interpretations. 
It  typifies  all  the  shortcomings  of  the  period  in  which  it  was 
produced  and  retarded  rather  than  stimulated  subsequent 
investigation. 

While  German  mythologists  were  thus  working,  unconscious 
even  of  the  existence  of  numerous  problems  and  without 
observing  any  strict  method,  there  gradually  arose  a  school 
which  was  destined  to  wield  a  paramount  influence  for  several 
decades,  namely  that  of  the  comparative  *  mythologists.  As 
pioneers  of  this  school  we  need  only  mention  F.  Max  Miiller  and 
A.  Kuhn.  It  is  not  necessary  here  to  treat  at  length  the  well- 
known  and  widely  discussed  principles  of  this  school.  We  are 
at  present  in  greater  danger  of  underestimating  than  of  over- 
estimating the  significance  of  this  tendency,  which  after  all  is 
considerable.  As  a  working  hypothesis  it  has  rendered  impor- 
tant services,  but  it  has  seen  its  day.  Linguistic  science,  which 
was  expected  to  be  the  key  to  unlock  the  secrets  of  mythology, 
at  first  bade  fair  to  fulfil  its  promise  most  brilliantly,  but  as 
research  widened  and  deepened,  it  was  seen  that  the  etymolo- 
gies advanced  were  unreliable,  and  that  the  fair  structure  of 
comparative  Indo-European  mythology  rested  on  insecure  foun- 
dations. In  their  use  of  the  phenomena  of  nature  for  the  inter- 
pretation of  myths,  the  comparative  mythologists  by  no  means 
took  account  of  all  the  existing  features,  and  were  moreover 
far  from  unanimous  in  their  opinions.  Where  one  recognized 

1  H.  Gering,  Die  Edda  (1892). 

2  K.  Simrock,  Handbuch  der  deutschen  Mythologie  mit  Einschluss  der  nordischen 
(1853  ;  sixth  edition,  1887). 


26          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

everywhere  the  drama  of  the  thunderstorm,  another  reduced 
nearly  all  myths  to  symbols  of  the  dawn  and  sun. 

German  mythology  was  also  affected  by  this  tendency. 
Sagas  and  customs  were  regarded  as  the  popular  form  assumed 
by  the  old  belief  in  the  great  gods,  the  degenerate  offspring,  as 
it  were,  of  mythology  proper.  In  the  Mythen-Mdrchen  the  old 
deities  were  accordingly  regarded  as  continuing  an  existence  in 
a  more  or  less  obscure  form.1 

This  led  A.  Kuhn  industriously  to  collect  sagas  in  Northern 
Germany.  His  work 2  is  of  importance,  not  so  much  on 
account  of  the  explanations  he  offers  in  the  notes  attached  to 
his  collections,  but  because  he  was  one  of  the  first,  after  the 
brothers  Grimm,  to  give  an  impulse  to  the  gathering  of  local 
material  —  the  necessity  for  which  was  afterwards  universally 
recognized.  His  brother-in-law,  F.  L.  W.  Schwartz,3  who  had 
aided  him  in  collecting  sagas,  cut  loose  in  part  from  the  com- 
parative school  and  followed  out  a  method  of  his  own.  While 
adhering  to  the  theory  of  nature-interpretation  he  no  longer 
regarded  popular  tales  as  distorted  myths.  According  to 
Schwartz  this  body  of  popular  traditions,  the  "  lower  mythol- 
ogy "  as  it  was  called,  has  a  life  of  its  own,  quite  independent 
of  the  "  higher  mythology."  It  is  fully  as  original,  represent- 
ing a  more  embryonic  form  than  the  "  higher  mythology  "  which 
is  handed  down  in  literature.  Schwartz  also  recognized  the 
correspondence  existing  between  the  "  lower  mythology  "  and 
the  conceptions  of  savages,  and  in  this  way  the  comparative 

1  This  is  still  the  point  of  view  in  such  a  book  as  Fr.  Linnig,  Deutsche  Mythen- 
Mdrchen,  a  mythological  interpretation  of  the  M'drchen  of  the  Grimms. 

2  A.  Kuhn  und  W.  Schwartz,  Norddeutsche  Sagen,  M'drchen  und  Gebrduche 
(1848)  ;  A.  Kuhn,  Sagen,  Gebrduche  und  Mdrchen  aus   Westfalen  (2  vos.,  1859)  ; 
A.  Kuhn,  Mdrkische  Sagen  und  Mdrchen  (1843). 

3  The  following  works  of  Schwartz  come  in  for  consideration  here :  Der  Ur sprung 
der  Mythologie  dargelegt  an  griechischer  und  deutscher  Sage  (1860)  ;  Die  foetischen 
Naturanschauungen  der  Griechen,  Romer  und  Deutschen  in  ihrer  Beziehung  zur 
Mythologie  der  Urzeit  (I,  1864  ;  II,  1879). 


HISTORY  OF   TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  27 

study  of  myths  began  to  extend  beyond  the  circle  of  peoples 
linguistically  akin. 

No  less  important,  though  not  attracting  as  much  atten- 
tion, was  the  work  of  the  Austrian  consul,  Johann  Georg 
von  Hahn,1  who  devoted  himself  to  collecting  Greek  and 
Albanian  popular  tales,  and  in  a  bulky  volume  endeavored  to 
sketch  the  science  of  folklore  (Sagwissenschaft}.  Although 
differing  from  the  comparative  school  in  important  particulars 
he  did  not  cut  loose  from  it  altogether.  Instead  of  seeking 
the  solution  of  mythological  problems  exclusively  in  etymologies 
he  analyzed  the  narratives  and  compared  and  combined  the 
various  elements,  and  fully  recognized  the  close  relationship 
existing  between  god-myths,  heroic  sagas,  and  popular  tales. 
He  illustrated  these  various  characteristics  by  means  of  sta- 
tistical tables,  showing  the  types  and  the  .variants.  He  thus 
pursued  the  path  which  the  modern  science  of  folklore  is 
accustomed  to  tread.  In  this  way  new  ideas  arose  and  were 
combined  more  or  less  fully  with  those  of  the  comparative 
school.  The  comparative  school  has,  even  at  the  present 
time,  some  firm  adherents.  Among  these  may  be  reckoned 
the  Swede,  V.  Rydberg,2  who  shows  great  learning  in  the 
combination  of  various  species  of  mythical  narratives  and 
according  to  whom  even  the  cosmogonic  myths  are  to  be 
classed  among  the  original  possessions  of  the  primitive  Indo- 
European  period.  Such  attempts,  however,  —  of  which  this 
single  example  will  suffice,  —  lie  outside  of  the  current  of 
modern  development. 

W.  Mannhardt  (1831-1880)  joined  issue  with  the  compara- 
tive school.  This  scholar,  although  struggling  during  his  whole 
life  with  sickness  and  adversity,  and  possessed  of  no  adequate 

1  J.  G.  von  Hahn,  Griechische  und  albanesische  M'drchen  (2  vos.,  1864)  ;  Sagwis- 
senschaftliche  Studien  (1876). 

2  V.  Rydberg,  Under  sokningar  i  germanisk  mythologi  (I,  1886;  II,  1889).     Of 
the  first  volume  there  has  also  appeared  an  English  translation  under  the  title  of 
Teutonic  Mythology  (London,  1889). 


28          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

philological  training,  directed  the  study  of  Teutonic  mythology 
into  wholly  new  paths.  He  was  at  first  a  faithful  follower  of 
the  comparative  school,  as  may  be  seen  from  an  extensive 
work1  in  which  he  compared  Thor,  Holda,  and  the  Norns  with 
Indian  myths,  and  gave  to  them  a  meteorological  interpretation. 
In  addition  to  this  he  wrote  a  survey,2  in  which  the  results  of 
comparative  investigations  were  summed  up.  Shortly  after- 
wards, however,  the  works  of  the  anthropologists  Waitz,  Bastian, 
and  especially  Tylor,  caused  him  to  forsake  the  methods  not 
only  of  the  comparative  school  but  of  Jacob  Grimm  as  well. 
His  reasons  for  doing  so  are  stated  in  a  famous  preface  to  a 
volume  published  in  i877.3  He  now  looked  upon  animism, 
the  belief  in  souls  and  spirits,  as  the  most  original  form  of 
belief.  The  proof  for  this  he  found  in  popular  customs,  to 
which,  rather  than  to  popular  tales,  he  henceforth  attached 
prime  importance.  In  Teutonic  mythology  he  was  the  first  to 
draw  a  sharp  line  of  demarcation  between  manners  and  cus- 
toms on  the  one  hand  and  popular  tales  on  the  other.  The 
latter,  he  held,  were  not  original,  since  Benfey  had  clearly  shown 
that  the  larger  part  had  been  derived  through  historical  chan- 
nels from  Indian  tales.  Mannhardt,  accordingly,  concentrated 
all  his  energies  upon  the  investigation  of  popular  customs 
and  of  the  beliefs  that  lie  at  the  basis  of  these,  particularly 
upon  what  was  connected  with  the  life  and  growth  of  plants : 
belief  in  tree-souls  and  forest-sprites,  worship  of  trees,  observ- 
ances upon  the  reappearance  of  vegetation,  at  the  change  of 
seasons,  and  at  harvest  time.  He  collected  this  material  by 

1  Germanische  Mythen.     Forschungen  (1858). 

2  Die  Gotterwelt  der  deutschen  und  nordischen  Vblker  (1860). 

3  The  brief  essays  Roggenivolf  und  Roggenhund  (1865)  and  Die  Kornddmonen 
(1868)  are  to  be  regarded  as  the  forerunners  of  the  second  period  of  Mannhardt's 
activity.     Then  follow  Wald-  und  Feldkulte:  /,  Der  Bawnkultus  der  Germanen 
(1875)  ;  //,  Antike  Wald-  und  Feldkulte  (1877,  containing  the  Preface  mentioned 
above)  and  Mythologische  Forschungen,  aus  dent  Nachlasse,  mit    Vorreden   von 
K.  Miillenhoff  und  W.  Scherer  (1884),  QuF.  LI. 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  29 

distributing  detailed  series  of  questions  throughout  Germany 
as  well  as  among  the  French  prisoners  of  war  in  1870,  the 
answers  to  which  are  now  deposited  in  the  Royal  Library  at 
Berlin.  Mannhardt  himself  made  partial  use  of  this  rich 
material  and  supplemented  it  by  collecting  the  parallels  to  be 
found  in  classical  antiquity.  In  this  way  the  correspondence 
in  many  particulars  between  the  official  organized  cult  of 
Greece  and  Rome  and  the  popular  customs  current  in  the  rural 
districts  of  Germany  became  evident.  The  results  obtained 
by  this  method  opened  a  new  perspective  and  threw  unex- 
pected light  on  the  study  of  mythology.  No  one  who  has  read 
Mannhardt's  works  can  fail  to  be  impressed  with  the  fact  that 
so  large  a  part  of  popular  superstition  and  popular  custom 
finds  its  explanation  in  the  analogies  of  vegetable  and  animal 
life.  Moreover,  Mannhardt,  influenced  in-  this  respect  by 
Miillenhoff,  possessed  a  truer  historical  sense  than  usually  falls 
to  the  lot  of  the  followers  of  the  anthropological  school.  Avoid- 
ing preposterous  combinations,  he  endeavors  to  explain  popular 
traditions  from  their  own  immediate  environment.  He  dis- 
tinguishes between  original  and  secondary  elements,  between 
what  is  national  and  what  is  foreign,  and  as  a  consequence  his 
structure  possesses  greater  solidity  than  others  which  have 
been  reared  upon  the  basis  of  folklore  alone.  We  should  not, 
however,  lose  sight  of  the  fact  that  Mannhardt  has  investigated 
only  a  limited  group  of  phenomena  and  has  not  produced  a 
complete  mythology.  Important  as  it  was  to  take  up  the 
hitherto  neglected  "  forest  and  field  cults,"  still  this  study  does 
not  comprise  the  whole  of  mythology  any  more  than  it  furnishes 
an  explanation  for  the  belief  in  the  various  gods.  While  Mann- 
hardt is  not  so  one-sided  as  J.  Lippert,1  who  with  Herbert 
Spencer  unhesitatingly  resolves  all  deities  into  ancestors  or 
fetiches,  he  yet  builds  too  largely  on  preconceived  opinions 

1  J.  Lippert,  Die  Religionen  der  europ'dischen  Culfhrvolker,  der  Litauer,  Slaven, 
Germanen,  Griechen  und  Romer  (1881). 


30          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

and  assumes  a  priori  that  the  lower  conceptions,  such  as  ani- 
mism, are  also  the  more  primitive.  Even  over  against  Mann- 
hardt,  therefore,  a  stricter  method  in  the  treatment  of  folklore 
may  justly  be  insisted  upon.  In  a  closely  related  domain 
U.  Jahn1  has  furnished  a  good  example  of  such  a  method. 

Thus  both  the  comparative  and  the  anthropological  schools 
—  the  latter  even  more  than  the  former  —  have  made  their 
influence  felt  in  the  sphere  of  Teutonic  mythology.  The  his- 
torical school  of  Lachmann  took  little  part  in  mythological 
work.  W.  Wackernagel  and  M.  Haupt  confined  themselves  to 
their  more  rigorous  philological  studies.  They  looked  upon 
dilettanti  collectors  and  capricious  followers  of  the  compara- 
tive school  with  scorn  and  derision.  They  showed  the  folly  of 
seeking  higher  mythology  in  every  popular  tradition,  ridiculing 
the  method  which  identified  an  ass  that  excretes  ducats  with 
Wodan  who  bestows  riches,  and  which  saw  in  every  reddish 
beard  a  bit  of  Thor.  By  this  method  they  claimed  every  red 
cock  and  every  foul-smelling  he-goat  would  eventually  be  pro- 
claimed ancient  Teutonic  deities. 

An  exponent  of  the  historical  school,  looked  up  to  by  many 
younger  scholars  as  their  master  and  chief,  was  Karl  Miillen- 
hoff2  (1818-1884).  Equipped  with  the  strict  philological 
method  of  Lachmann,  he  has  more  especially  made  the  data 
pertaining  to  geography,  ethnography,  and  literary  history  the 
subject  of  his  investigations.  While  occasionally  branching 
out  into  the  domain  of  folklore,  as,  for  example,  in  his  excellent 

1  U.  Jahn,  Die  deutschen    Opferbr'duche  bei   Ackerbau  und  Viehzucht  (1884), 
GA.  III. 

2  It  is  impossible  to  mention  all  the  essays  of  Miillenhoff  published  in  periodicals 
such  as  the  Nordalbingische  Studien  (6  vos.,  1844-1854)  and  the  ZfdA.     The  most 
important   are :   Zur    Geschichte  der  Nibelungensage,  ZfdA.  X ;    Zeugnisse   und 
Excurse  zur  deutschen  Heldensage,  ZfdA.  XII  and  XV  ;   Ueber  Frija  und  den 
Halsbandmythus,  ZfdA.  XXX.     The  elaborate  Introduction  to  the  Sagen,  Mdrchen 
undLieder  der  Herzogi hunter  Schlerwig,  Holstein  und  Lauenburg  and  his  Beowulf 
(1889)  are  also  very  important.     The  Deutsche  Altertumskunde  has    appeared  as 
follows:  I  (1870),  II  (1887),  III  (1892),  IV  (1900),  V,  i  (1883),  and  V,  2  (1891). 


HISTORY  OF   TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  31 

collection  of  Sleswick-Holstein  legends,  he  regards  this  material 
also  from  the  point  of  view  of  the  history  of  popular  poetry, 
and  emphasizes  the  necessity  of  defining  it,  locally  and  chrono- 
logically, as  accurately  as  possible.  Folklore  proper,  as  well  as 
palaeontology,  linguistics,  and  legal  antiquities,  lies  outside  of  his 
sphere.  His  Deutsche  Altertumskunde  is  not  to  be  regarded  as 
the  torso  of  an  unfinished  masterpiece,  but  constituted  from 
the  very  outset  a  series  of  special  investigations  not  form- 
ing a  connected  whole.  What  he  sees  and  describes  is  not 
endowed  with  life  to  him  as  it  was  to  Jacob  Grimm,  although 
Miillenhoff  is  not  lacking  in  power  of  combination,  in  imagina- 
tion, or  in  devotion  to  his  subject.  .He  subjects  his  working 
material  to  a  far  more  rigid  and  searching  criticism  than  did 
Jacob  Grimm,  but  in  his  anxiety  to  be  exact  and  exhaustive  he 
is  frequently  discursive.  Lengthy  geographical  and  ethno- 
graphical investigations,  at  times  only  slightly  connected  with 
the  subject  proper,  fill  the  first  three  volumes  of  his  Altertums- 
kunde. The  fourth  volume,  published  from  the  papers  left 
by  him,  contains  his  valuable  lectures  on  the  "  Germania  of 
Tacitus."  The  fifth  treats  chiefly  of  the  Edda  and  furnishes, 
among  other  things,  a  detailed  commentary  on  Voluspa,  in 
which  he  repels  with  much  feeling  the  more  recent  attacks  on 
the  genuineness  of  this  poem. 

The  labors  of  Miillenhoff  have  yielded  abundant  fruit.  First 
of  all  he  laid  especial  stress*  on  the  necessity  of  a  rigorous  his- 
torical method — of  which  mythologists  need  to  be  reminded 
again  and  again.  In  his  collection  of  documentary  evidences 
pertaining  to  the  heroic  sagas  he  followed  in  the  footsteps  of 
Wilhelm  Grimm,  and  his  work  in  this  field  would  seem  to  rep- 
resent finality.  The  aftermath  left  for  his  successors  can  at 
any  rate  not  be  large.  He  was  also  the  first  to  show  how  in 
the  heroic  sagas  historical  elements  of  the  migration  period 
have  mingled  with  myths.  While  Zeuss  1  had  preceded  him  in 

1  Kaspar  Zeuss,  Die  Deutschen  und  die  Nachbarstdmnte  (1837). 


32          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

the  discovery  of  the  ethnographic  material,  yet  Miillenhoff  was 
the  first  to  exploit  it  on  a  large  scale  and  to  turn  it  to  account 
for  the  study  of  mythology.  While  not  all  his  observations  on 
the  connection  between  the  tribal  life  and  the  gods  and  cults 
of  the  ancient  Teutons  are  established  beyond  controversy,  he 
at  least  opened  up  a  fruitful  point  of  view  and  made  it  incon- 
ceivable that  in  the  future  any  mythological  element  should, 
without  further  proof,  be  regarded  as  common  to  all  Teutonic 
peoples.  In  some  particulars  Miillenhoff  still  adhered  to 
the  meteorological  interpretations  of  the  comparative  school. 
Neither  his  conception  of  the  necklace-myth,  nor  even  his 
opinion  that  Tiu,  the  ancient  Indo-EurOpean  sky  god,  was 
originally  the  chief  divinity  of  all  Teutons,  can  be  uncondition- 
ally accepted.  His  criticism  of  the  Eddie  poems,  too,  is  in  no 
way  final.  For  all  that,  Miillenhoff  is  next  to  Grimm  the  most 
imposing  personality  in  the  field  of  mythological  research.  His 
work  has  been  preeminently  fruitful  in  reviving  investigation 
on  many  points,  and  while  much  still  remained  to  be  done,  and 
the  work  of  the  master  himself  stood  in  need  of  correction,  the 
historical  method  in  the  study  of  Teutonic  mythology  was  once 
for  all  established.  He  who  ignores  this  method  need  not  be 
taken  into  account. 

The  appearance  of  various  new  periodicals1  alongside  of 
the  older  Zeitschrift fur  deutsches  Altertum  gave  evidence  of  the 
many-sided  character  of  the  work  done  in  the  field  of  Teutonic 
antiquity.  Ground  that  Mannhardt  and  Miillenhoff  had  let  lie 
fallow  now  began  to  be  tilled.  Norse  literature,  in  which  Miil- 
lenhoff had  confined  himself  almost  exclusively  to  the  criticism 
of  the  Edda,  began  to  be  investigated  by  a  number  of  scholars. 

1  The  Germania  dates  from  the  year  1856  ;  it  was  at  first  edited  by  F.  Pfeiffer, 
subsequently  by  K.  Bartsch.  In  1868  E.  Hopfner  and  J.  Zacher  founded  the  Zeit- 
schrift filr  deutsche  Philologie,  at  present  edited  by  H.  Gering  and  F.  Kauffmann. 
H.  Paul  and  W.  Braune  started  in  1874  the  Beitr'dge  zur  Geschichte  der  deutschen 
Sprache  und  Litteratur,  now  edited  by  E.  Sievers.  Since  1879  there  also  appears  a 
Jahresbericht  iiber  die  Erscheinungen  auf  dem  Gebiete  der  germanischen  Philologie. 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  33 

Among  these  Th.  Mobius 1  devoted  himself  more  especially  to 
bibliography  and  to  the  editing  of  texts  ;  K.  Maurer,2  to  history 
and  law.  Political  and  social  conditions  were  investigated  by 
G.  L.  von  Maurer,  G.  Waitz,  and  numerous  other  scholars, 
whom  we  shall  have  occasion  to  mention  elsewhere.  The 
study  of  history  and  literature  also  furnished  contributions 
to  the  science  of  mythology.  The  activity  of  K.  Weinhold,3 
characterized  by  taste  and  thoroughness,  lies  largely  within  this 
domain.  He  has  written  a  number  of  important  articles  on 
mythological  subjects,  such  as  the  giants,  on  Loki,  and  on  the 
Vanir  war,  and,  besides  furnishing  a  sketch  of  Old  Norse  life, 
has  championed  in  his  study  of  folklore  the  cause  of  historical 
treatment  as  against  the  "  dilettanteism  so  greatly  in  vogue, 
that  would  pass  for  science." 

Before  passing  in  review  the  more  recent  work  of  German 
scholars,  we  must  cast  a  glance  at  the  activity  prevailing  in 
Northern  Europe  which  has  been  instrumental  in  bringing  for- 
ward both  new  material  and  hew  points  of  view.  Taking  up, 
then,  the  thread  of  our  narrative  where  we  left  it,  Kopenhagen 
was  until  the  beginning  of  the  nineteenth  century  the  centre 
where  Danish  and  Icelandic  scholars  assembled  to  pursue 
the  study  of  their  national  antiquity.  During  the  course  of 
the  nineteenth  century  the  other  two  Scandinavian  countries 
also  have  taken  part  in  this  work,  although  not  both  in  equal 
measure.  In  Sweden  ancient  historical  sources  were  edited, 

1  Catalogus   librorum   Islandicorum   et  Norvegicorum   aetatis  mediae   (1856) ; 
Verzeichniss  der  auf  dent  Gebiete  der  altnordischen  Sprache  und  Litteratur  von 
1855  bis  7,579  erschienenen  Schriften  (1880). 

2  Of  his  numerous  works  only  the  following  need  here  be  mentioned :   Ueber  die 
Ausdriicke :    altnordiscke,  altnorwegische  und  isldndische  Sprache  (AMA.'i867); 
Die  Bekehrung  des  norwegischen  Stammes  ztim  Christentitm  (2  vos.,  1855-1856)  ; 
Island  von  seiner  ersten  Entdeckung  bis  zum  Untergange  des  Freistaats  (1874). 

8  K.  Weinhold,  Die  deutschen  Frauen  in  dem  Mittelalter  (2  vos. ;  third  edition, 
1897)  ;  Altnordisches  Leben  (1856).  Since  1891  he  is  editor  of  the  Zeitschrift  des 
Vereins  fiir  Volkskunde.  The  words  quoted  above  are  taken  from  a  brief  but  impor- 
tant essay  entitled  Was  soil  die  Volkskunde  leisten  ?  (ZfVuS.  XX). 


34          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

•4* 

monuments  investigated,  and  folklore  collected,  but  little  was 
done  for  the  study  of  mythology  proper. 

Not  so  in  Norway,  which  since  1814  had  been  separated 
from  Denmark  and  united  with  Sweden,  and  where  the  people 
were  imbued  with  a  passionate  love  for  their  own  national  life. 
The  enthusiasm  with  which  the  Norwegian  "  historical  school  " 
took  up  the  study  of  the  past  suggests  a  comparison  with  the 
school  of  German  Romanticism.  Both  schools  were  full  of 
enthusiasm  over  their  glorious  national  antiquity  and  its  pure 
mythology;  in  Norway  this  sentiment  bore  a  strongly  marked 
particularistic  character.1  R.  Keyser  (1803-1864),  for  example, 
is  primarily  concerned,  not  merely  in  vindicating  for  the  Eddie 
poems  a  high  antiquity,2  but  especially  in  preempting  them  for 
Norway  as  opposed  to  Iceland.3  The  second  and  greater  rep- 
resentative of  this  school,  P.  A.  Munch  (1810-1863),  published 
an  elaborate  history  in  eight  volumes  of  the  Norwegian  people 
from  its  beginnings  to  the  year  1379.  Though  without  archi- 
tectonic or  historiographic  talent,  the  author's  thoroughness 
and  vastness  of  learning  make  his  book  a  veritable  storehouse 
for  all  who  wish  to  reach  the  sources  to  the  smallest  details. 
While  the  service  rendered  by  Keyser  and  Munch  to  history 
and  literature  is  greater  than  what  they  did  for  mythology, 
still  Munch's  outline  of  Norse  mythology  is  of  some  value, 
inasmuch  as  it  presents  the  specifically  Norse  material  in  a 
systematic  form,  combined,  though  it  is,  with  some  untenable 
meteorological  interpretations.4  The  lasting  services,  however, 
rendered  by  the  Norwegian  historical  school  consist  primarily 

1  Compare  for  this  historical  school  K.  Maurer,  Ueber  die  norwegische  Auffassung 
der  nordischen  Literaturgeschichte,  ZfdPh.  I,  and  the  important  Introduction  in 
J.  E.  Sars,  Udsigt  over  den  norske  historie  (2  vos.,  1873-1877). 

2  Voluspa  he  would  even  assign  to  the  fifth  century. 
8  R.  Keyser,  Efterladte  Skrifter  (2  vos.,  1866-1867). 

4  P.  A.  Munch,  Det  norske  Folks  Historie,  appeared  from  1852  to  1863  ;  of  his  Nord- 
mcendenes  celdste  Gude-  og  Heltesagn  (1854)  a  new  edition  was  prepared  by  Kjaer 
in  1880. 


HISTORY  OF   TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  35 

in  the  gathering  of  a  vast  mass  of  material  from  the  historical 
sagas  and  from  Old  Norse  literature  in  general,  to  the  study  of 
which  a  hitherto  unknown  scope  was  given.  Besides  this,  it 
brought  into  sharp  relief  the  national  differences  existing  in  the 
Scandinavian  North  even  in  the  earliest  times. 

Nor  did  Denmark  remain  idle.  The  runes  were  invest!^ 
gated  by  L.  Wimmer  (b.  1839),  w^°>  m  agreement  with  the 
Norwegian,  Sophus  Bugge,  supposed  them  to  have  been  derived 
from  the  Latin  alphabet.  The  longer  runic  alphabet  of  twenty- 
four  signs  (futhark)  was  accordingly  held  to  be  the  older,  and 
to  have  been  subsequently  shortened  to  that  of  sixteen  signs. 
G.  Stephens,  professor  at  the  University  of  Kopenhagen,  a 
scholar  of  vast  but  dilettantish  learning,  published  a  magnifi-j 
cent  volume,  with  plates,  on  the  Runic  Monuments.  His  inclu- 
sion of  the  English  monuments  in  his  treatment  was  a  distinct 
gain.  The  traditional  division  of  archaeological  investigation 
into  three  periods,  the  stone,  bronze,  and  iron  ages,  was  retained 
by  a  number  of  meritorious  scholars  :  C.  Thomsen  (1788-1865), 
J.  Worsaae  (1821-1885),  and  S.  Miiller.  Excellent  collections 
of  folklore  have  been  made  in  Denmark  by  J.  M.  Thiele,  in 
Norway  by  P.  C.  Asbjornsen  and  J.  Moe.  Sv.  Grundtvig 
(1824-1883)  *  published  an  unusually  copious  edition  of  Danish 
popular  poetry,  including  also  heroic  songs,  to  some  of  which 
he  assigned  a  date  as  early  as  the  twelfth  century  —  a  view 
which  met  with  opposition  from  some  Norwegian  quarters.  He 
also  published  a  delightful  little  volume  on  the  heroic  poetry, 
considered  solely  from  its  poetic  side. 

From  this  outline,  which  might  be  extended  to  include  many 
more  names,  it  will  be  seen  how  many-sided  was  the  work  done 
by  Danes  and  Norwegians  on  the  various  periods  of  their  antiq- 
uity. Among  the  works  we  have  enumerated  there  are,  of 
course,  not  a  few  containing  mythological  material  or  which 

1  Danmarks  gamle  Folkeviser  (5  vos.,  1853-1890)  :  Udsigt  over  den  nordiske 
oldtids  heroiske  digtning.  Tre  forelasninger  (1867). 


36          THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

have  a  bearing  on  the  study  of  mythology.  Mythology  proper 
flourished  in  Denmark  more  especially  through  the  efforts  of 
N.  M.  Petersen  (1791— 1862). l  His  Norse  mythology  views 
the  myths  of  the  Edda  as  parts  of  a  system,  as  a  drama  of 
conflict,  and  brings  the  ethical  and  religious  ideas  into  strong 
relief.  While  this  standpoint  is  now  antiquated,  at  the  time 
when  the  book  appeared  it  marked  an  important  step  in  the 
right  direction,  as  compared,  for  example,  with  the  mystic 
dreamings  of  the  elder  Grundtvig.  Of  more  permanent  value 
than  his  Mythology  is  Petersen's  History  of  Denmark  in  Pagan 
Times,  an  important  source  for  the  study  of  Danish  sagas  and 
pagan  culture.  The  study  of  these  sagas,  for  which  this  book 
first  laid  a  solid  foundation,  and  the  general  critical  examina- 
tion of  original  sources  for  the  study  of  the  history  have  since 
that  time  remained  indigenous  in  Denmark  (Joh.  Steenstrup,2 
Axel  Olrik)  and  Norway  (G.  Storm,  J.  E.  Sars),  although  a 
somewhat  narrow  patriotism  is  now  and  then  reflected  in  the 
various  observations  made  by  these  authors. 
f  iVteanwhile,  scholars  had  gradually  begun  to  realize  the 
importance  of  a  more  critical  study  of  mythology.  The  idea 
that  the  myths  constituted  parts  of  one  whole  and  were  accord- 
ingly all  old  and  indigenous  had  been  abandoned.  The  first 
step  in  the  direction  of  a  stricter  critical  method  was  taken  by 
a  young  Danish  scholar,  M.  Hammerich,  in  a  dissertation  on 
the  Twilight  of  the  Gods,  in  which  he  pointed  out  the  later 
origin  of  this  myth,  without,  however,  satisfactorily  explaining 
its  rise  from  historical  conditions.8  The  criticism  of  E.  Jessen 
was  more  incisive.  He  championed  most  earnestly  the  German 
character  of  the  heroic  sagas  in  the  Eddie  poems  and  main- 
tained that  these  poems  were  themselves  the  later  products  of 

1  N..M.  Petersen,  Nordisk  Mythologi  (1849;  second  edition,  1863);  Danmarks 
Historic  i  Hedenold  (1834;  second  edition  in  3  vos.,  1854-1855). 

2  J.  C.  H.  R.  Steenstrup,  Normannerne  (4  vos.,  1876-1882),  is  a  classical  work 
and  indispensable  for  a  knowledge  of  the  Viking  period. 

3  M.  Hammerich,  Om  Ragnaroksmythen  (1836). 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  37 

Norse  poetic  art,  composed  chiefly  in  Iceland  and  certainly  not 
antedating  the  period  of  the  Vikings.1  Henry  Petersen  2  sub- 
jected the  mythological  material  to  a  critical  examination. 
Cult,  names,  and  monuments,  he  argues,  all  go  to  show  that 
Thor  and  Freyr  were  the  true  popular  gods  of  the  North. 
Odhin-Wodan  was  imported  from  Germany  through  the  poetry 
of  the  scalds.  Petersen's  essay  contains  fruitful  observations 
and  valuable  material,  but  his  investigation  remains  too  much 
on  the  surface  to  support  adequately  theses  so  new  and  far- 
reaching  as  those  of  the  foreign  character  of  the  Odhin  cult  and 
the  division  of  the  gods  into  those  of  the  scalds  and  nobility  on 
the  one  side  and  those  of  the  people  on  the  other.  The  same 
objection  is  to  be  urged  with  even  greater  force  against  an  essay 
of  A.  Chr.  Bang,  which  attracted  considerable  attention.  Within 
the  limits  of  a  short  article  Bang  felt  that  he  had  proved  that 
Voluspa  was  dependent  in  a  literary  way  upon  the  Jewish- 
Christian  poems  commonly  known  as  Sibylline  oracles.3 

It  was  reserved,  however,  for  the  Norwegian,  Sophus  Bugge 
(b.  1833),  to  strike  the  strongest  blow  at  the  old  belief  in  the 
genuineness  and  antiquity  of  Eddie  mythology.  Even  before 
becoming  prominent  as  a  mythologist,  this  scholar  already  en- 
joyed an  undisputed  authority  in  the  domain  of  philology,  as  a 
student  of  runes  and  as  editor  of  the  Edda  and  of  sagas.  In 
his  studies  on  Norse  gods  and  myths  he  ventured,  however,  on 
far  more  uncertain  ground,  though  led  to  do  so  by  the  belief 
that  he  had  gained  a  firm  footing  through  the  combination  of 
numerous  historical  data.4  Following  in  the  footsteps  of  his 

1  E.  Jessen,  Nordisk  Gudelare  (1867) ;   Ueber  die  Eddalieder.     Jfeimat,  Alter, 
Charakter  (1871),  ZfdPh.  III. 

2  H.  Petersen,  Om  Nordboernes  Gudedyrkelse  og  Gudetro  i  Hedenold  (1876).    The 
German  translation  by  Minna  Riess  is  faulty,  but  contains  an  Appendix  by  E.  Jessen. 

3  A.  C.  Bang,  Voluspaa  og  de  Sibyllinske  Orakler  (1879).     A  German  translation 
by  J.  C.  Poestion  appeared  in  1880. 

4  Studier  over  de  nordiske  Gude-  og  Heltesagns  oprindelse  (1880  and  following 
years ;  a  German  translation  by  O.  Brenner,  1889) ;  Helgedigtene  (1896) ;  Bidrag 
til  den  celdste  skaldedigtnings  historic  (1894). 


38          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

predecessors  —  Riihs  among  others  —  he  sought  the  origin  of 
numerous  Norse  myths  in  Christian  conceptions  and  in  classical 
mythology,  with  which  the  Vikings  were  supposed  to  have 
come  in  contact  in  the  British  Isles.  While  similar  observa- 
tions made  by  others  before  him  bore  the  character  more  or 
less  of  unsupported  hypotheses,  owing  to  the  lack  of  accurate 
historical  knowledge,  Bugge  provided  these  speculations  with  a 
solid  foundation,  in  part  through  his  intimate  acquaintance  with 
the  historical  conditions  of  the  Viking  period,  in  part  through 
his  detailed  analyses  of  groups  of  myths,  as,  for  example,  those 
of  Baldr  and  of  the  tree  Yggdrasil,  which  seemed  to  show  the 
strongest  evidence  of  Christian  and  classical  influences. 

Bugge's  theory  let  loose  a  storm  of  both  approval  and  dis- 
approval, which  has  not  yet  subsided.  A  number  of  shorter  and 
longer  treatises  were  written  in  refutation  of  it.  Among  these 
must  be  classed  a  considerable  part  of  the  fifth  volume  of 
Miillenhoff's  Deutsche  Altertumskunde,  in  which  protest  is 
entered  against  what  he  regarded  as  the  desecration  of  the 
Eddie  myths.  Calmer  and  more  convincing  are  the  arguments 
of  Finnur  Jdnsson,1  who  brought  forward  evidence  to  maintain 
the  development  of  the  myths  of  the  Edda  out  of  the  older 
scaldic  poetry.  While  not  assigning  the  oldest  parts  of  the 
Edda  to  a  date  earlier  than  the  end  of  the  ninth  century,  and 
hence  not  excluding  Christian  influences,  he  yet  contends  that 
the  Eddie  poems  are  not  to  be  explained  as  a  mere  conglomer- 
ate of  Christian  and  classical  elements.  In  that  case  their 
origin  would  have  to  be  sought  in  the  Western  islands  (e.g. 
Shetland  and  the  Orkneys),  an  assumption  which  G.  Vigfiisson 
indeed  makes,  but  over  against  which  Jdnsson  defends  the  Nor- 
wegian origin  of  most  of  the  Eddie  poems.  From  other  sides, 
however,  Bugge  received  considerable  support,  K.  Maurer, 

1  Finnur  J6nsson  first  entered  the  lists  against  Bugge  in  AfNF.  VI  and  XI.  His 
views  are,  however,  stated  more  in  detail  in  Den  oldnorske  og  oldislandske  littera- 
turs  historic  (I,  1894  ;  II,  1900). 


HISTORY  OF   TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  39 

O.  Brenner,  E.  H.  Meyer,  W.  Golther,  and  others  rallying  to 
his  side.  Some  of  these  scholars  did  not  hesitate  to  go  to  the 
extreme  length  1  of  assuming  that  the  Norse  Vikings  in  those 
countries  where  they  obtained  a  foothold  —  more  especially  in 
Ireland  and  England  —  manifested  a  lively  interest  in  monastic 
learning.  They  recast  Jewish  Sibylline  books,  Christian  apoc- 
rypha, and  Latin  or  Greek  mythographers  into  the  form  of 
Norse  myths,  which  as  a  consequence  correspond  in  general 
plan  as  well  as  in  details  with  the  sources  mentioned,  and  even 
betray  the  influence  of  medieval  dogmatic  writings.  While 
such  a  supposition  is  in  itself  improbable  and  at  variance  with 
established  facts,  yet  the  problem  as  set  by  Bugge  cannot  be 
ignored  in  mythological  investigation.  It  must  be  admitted 
that  in  many  respects  Norse  mythology  bears  a  somewhat 
secondary  character,  and  an  effort  must  therefore  be  made  to 
determine  what  elements  owe  their  origin  to  the  poetic  art  of 
the  scalds,  and  what  have  been  introduced  from  foreign  sources. 
If  it  be  certain  that  the  poetry  of  the  Edda  is  not  older  than 
the  Viking  period,  then  we  should  expect  it  to  show  numer- 
ous points  of  contact  with  the  culture  of  more  highly  civilized 
Christian  peoples,  more  especially  with  that  of  the  inhabitants 
of  the  British  Isles.  The  reciprocal  influence  which  the  Kelts 
of  Ireland  and  the  Icelanders  exerted  on  each  other  can  no 
longer  be  questioned.  On  the  other  hand,  the  science  of  Teu- 
tonic mythology,  even  though  accepting  the  existence  of  these 
later  historical  elements,  and  subjecting  them  to  a  critical  exam- 
ination, has  no  reason  to  despair  and  to  abandon  entirely  the 
path  trodden  by  Jacob  Grimm  and  Miillenhoff.  After  the 
investigations  of  Bugge  and  Jessen,  Norse  mythology  cannot 
be  viewed  in  any  other  light  than  that  of  a  special,  later 
development  of  Teutonic  mythology,  that  arose  under  foreign 
influences  on  Norse  soil,  but  there  is  certainly  no  sufficient 
warrant  to  disown  it  entirely,  as  an  illegitimate  offspring. 

1  Especially  E.  H.  Meyer,  Voluspa  (1889)  ;  Die  eddische  Kosmogonie  (1891). 


40          THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

At  present  our  science  is  in  a  stage  in  which  the  views  of 
Bugge  have  not  as  yet  been  sufficiently  digested.  This  is  the 
more  evident  when  we  again  turn  our  eyes  to  Germany.  We 
there  find  the  various  theories  of  the  schools  that  we  have 
passed  in  review,  either  existing  in  a  pure  form  or  in  part 
combined  into  the  most  curious  mixtures.  To  the  influences 
already  mentioned  must  be  added  that  of  O.  Gruppe,1  who, 
though  himself  not  a  special  student  of  Teutonic  mythology, 
has  yet  subjected  the  methods  hitherto  employed  to  a  most 
searching  criticism.  Gruppe  advanced  a  theory  concerning  the 
origin  and  spread  of  religion  to  which  he  gave  the  name  of 
"  adaptionism."  According  to  him  religion  is  not  a  common 
characteristic  of  all  human  beings,  springing  from  the  very 
depths  of  the  human  soul,  but  owes  its  origin  to  the  existence  of 
certain  social  conditions  and  the  satisfaction  of  certain  individ- 
ual wants,  and  has  spread  over  the  earth,  along  different  routes, 
from  a  few  historical  centres,  more  especially  from  Egypt  and 
Western  Asia.  He  accordingly  rejects  both  the  common 
primitive  Indo-European  religion  of  the  comparative  school 
and  the  animism  of  Mannhardt.  The  latter,  he  urges,  pre- 
supposes a  transition  from  the  worship  of  nature-spirits  to  god 
cults  that  cannot  be  shown  to  have  ever  existed.  Further- 
more, it  fails  to  explain  why  correspondences  should  more 
especially  be  found  in  the  higher,  semi-philosophic  myths,  such 
as  that  of  the  creation.  Gruppe  seeks  the  origin  of  myths,  not 
like  Jacob  Grimm  among  the  people,  but  among  the  priests. 
In  keeping  with  this  he  maintains  that  the  myths  are  depend- 
ent upon  the  cult  and  not  conversely.  The  most  reliable  sources 
of  mythology  are  accordingly  hymns  used  in  the  cult,  prayers, 
and  ritualistic  precepts.  We  pass  by  the  various  routes  by 
which  Gruppe  supposes  religion  to  have  spread  from  the  land 
of  its  birth  in  Western  Asia  over  Northern  Europe.  One  of 

1  O.  Gruppe,  Die  griechischen  Culte  ztnd  Mythen  in  ihren  Beziehungen  zu  den 
orlentalischen  Religionen  (I,  Einleitung,  1887). 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  41 

the  main  roads  he  believes  to  have  led  through  Carthage,  whose 
sway  is  held  to  have  extended  even  over  the  British  Isles.  Of 
greater  importance,  indeed  of  especial  significance,  is  the  fact 
that  Gruppe,  subsequent  to  the  efforts  of  Bugge  and  in  a  man- 
ner different  from  Bugge,  again  makes  use  of  the  historical 
contact  of  peoples  in  the  interpretation  of  myths.  According 
to  Bugge  it  was  the  contact  between  the  Scandinavian  peoples 
and  those  of  Western  Europe  during  the  Viking  period  ;  accord- 
ing to  Gruppe,  the  far  more  problematical  but  by  no  means  impos- 
\  sible  contact  in  prehistoric  times.  Historical  investigation  must 
take  account  of  the  one  as  well  as  the  other  theory  and  must  fol- 
low up  every  trace  of  such  influence.  Modern  research  must  in 
fact  bestow  an  increasing  amount  of  attention  on  historical  in- 
tercourse as  a  factor  in  the  dissemination  of  myths  and  cults. 

If  we  take  a  survey  of  the  present  status  of  mythological 
problems,  we  will  still  encounter  in  even  the  most  recent  myth- 
ological literature  some  of  the  same  wild  combinations  and 
extravagant  theories  that  we  have  met  with  before,  and  which 
seem  so  difficult  to  banish  from  our  science.  At  the  same  time 
much  good  work  has  been  and  is  being  done.  The  sources, 
both  texts  and  inscriptions,  have  been  exploited  ;  critical  edi- 
tions have  been  furnished  ;  monographs  on  individual  myths 
and  heroic  sagas  have  been  written;  historical  facts  and  con- 
ditions have  been  investigated  with  great  accuracy,  and  various 
periods  carefully  differentiated.  The  more  important  of  these 
works  will  be  mentioned  in  the  bibliography  to  the  different 
sections.  Here  we  can  characterize  only  the  three  best-known 
compendia  of  recent  years,  those  of  E.  Mogk,  E.  H.  Meyer,  and 
W.  Golther.  One  might  feel  inclined  to  add  to  these  the  short 
meritorious  sketch  of  Norse  mythology  that  F.  Kauffmann x 
has  given,  but  it  is  too  brief  and  too  one-sided  to  be  regarded 
as  representing  an  independent  scientific  standpoint. 

1  F.  Kauffmann,  Deutscite  Mythologie  (1890  ;  second  edition,  1893),  in  the  Samtn- 
lung  Goschen  (No.  15). 


42          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Confining  ourselves  then  to  the  three  works  mentioned,  it 
will  be  seen  that,  notwithstanding  great  differences,  they  agree 
in  three  important  particulars.  In  the  first  place,  all  three 
scholars  are  distrustful  of  the  material  derived  from  Norse 
sources.  Although  they  include  this  material  in  their  Teutonic 
Mythologies,  they  have  not  only  abandoned  the  idea  of  a 
systematic  unity  and  thus  drawn  a  distinction  between  earlier 
and  later  elements,  but  they  also  reject  a  considerable  part  of 
this  material  itself  as  spurious.  In  this  respect  E.  H.  Meyer 
is  the  most  radical.  Secondly,  they  all  take  popular  beliefs, 
the  "lower"  mythology,  as  their  point  of  departure,  although 
they  differ  from  one  another  in  their  estimate  of  it.  Finally, 
they  entirely  set  aside,  or  at  least  make  very  light  of,  the  heroic 
saga.  This  latter  is  at  all  events  a  defect,  for  that  the  heroic 
saga  contains  a  considerable  amount  of  material  for  the  study 
of  mythology  may  be  seen  from  the  historical  treatment  ac- 
corded to  it  by  B.  Symons  l  and  O.  L.  Jiriczek.2 

E.  Mogk's  outline 3  is  conspicuous  for  the  wealth  of  its 
material  and  for  its  clear  arrangement.  To  escape  the  danger 
of  combining  heterogeneous  material,  he  carefully  scrutinizes  the 
sources,  following  in  this  respect  the  injunction  of  Miillenhoff 
"  that  no  evidence  of  Old  Teutonic  belief  should  be  dislodged 
from  the  spot  where  it  was  found."  At  the  same  time  Mogk 
does  not  deny  the  existence  of  certain  primitive  elements  in 
the  material  once  the  common  possession  of  the  Teutonic 
peoples.  Among  this  pro-ethnic  material  are  to  be  classed  the 
popular  beliefs,  sagas,  and  superstitions,  in  short,  the  "  lower  " 
mythology.  Besides,  some  of  the  chief  deities,  Tiwaz,  Thonaraz, 
Wodanaz,  and  Frija,  were  common  to  all  Teutons.  Similarly,  the 
national  basis  of  the  Eddie  mythology  cannot  be  gainsaid, 

1  B.  Symons,  Germanische  Heldensage^  in  PG.2  ;  also  published  separately  (1898). 

2  O.    L.   Jiriczek,  Deutsche   Heldensage   (second   edition,   1897),  in  Sammlung 
Goschen;   a  brief   sketch.     Of  a  comprehensive  work,  Deutsche  Heldensngen,  the 
first  volume  appeared  in  1897. 

8  E.  Mogk,  Germanische  Mythologie,  in  PG.2. 


HISTORY  OF   TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  43 

notwithstanding  evidence  of  later  development  and  foreign  ad- 
mixtures. Mogk  does  not  indeed  attempt  to  trace  an  historical 
development  ;  he  does  not  suppose  that  the  demons  were  origi- 
nally souls,  nor  that  the  great  gods  are  just  as  old  as  the 
"  lower  "  mythology.  Against  the  separate  treatment  of  the 
religion  of  each  individual  tribe,  Mogk  advances  objections  of 
a  practical  nature.  It  is  only  exceptionally  that  he  urges  new 
points  of  view,  as,  for  example,  that  Wodanaz  and  Thonaraz 
were  originally  attributes  of  Tiwaz,  subsequently  personified 
into  new  deities.  So  far  as  a  survey  of  the  present  state  of  the 
science  is  concerned,  Mogk's  essay  is  undoubtedly  the  best  and 
safest  guide. 

Much  more  comprehensive  is  the  large  work  of  E.  H.  Meyer.1 
In  view  of  his  many-sided  preparation  for  the  study  of  Teu- 
tonic mythology,  it  is  perhaps  not  surprising  to  find  in  his  sys- 
tem the  most  contradictory  views  derived  from  very  diverse 
sources.  Previous  to  the  publication  of  his  mythology  he  had 
prepared  the  fourth  edition  of  J.  Grimm's  Deutsche  Mytholo- 
gie  and  had  written  two  volumes  of  essays  on  Indo-Euro- 
pean myths,  following  largely  in  the  footsteps  of  A.  Kuhn. 
He  retains  also  the  latter's  division  into  periods  and  draws  the 
lines  even  more  sharply.  He  is  furthermore  a  loyal  champion 
of  the  meteorological  system  of  interpretation,  which  sees  in 
the  myths  clouds,  wind,  and  thunder.  In  his  previously  men- 
tioned works  on  Voluspa  and  the  Eddie  cosmogony,  he  accepts 
the  conclusions  of  Bugge  and,  explaining  the  Norse  myths 
from  the  medieval  Christian  literature,  completely  sets  aside 
Voluspa  as  a  source  of  Teutonic  mythology.  In  spite  of  these 
great  differences  he  does  not  consider  himself  unfaithful  to  the 
historical  method  of  Mullenhoff.  This  historical  conception  leads 
him  to  accept  in  part  the  migration-hypothesis  of  Gruppe,  from 
whom  he  also  adopts  the  division  into  popular  and  hierarchic 
myths  —  the  latter  subdivided  into  myths  of  the  priesthood 

1  E.  H,  Meyer,  Germanische  Mythologie  (1891). 


44          THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

and  of  the  nobility  —  without,  however,  accepting  the  priority 
of  what  belongs  to  ritual  and  cult  over  the  mythical.  Meyer 
is  more  closely  akin  to  the  school  of  Mannhardt,  whose  ani- 
mistic and  biological  conception  of  nature-myths  he  shares. 
He  has  besides  turned  to  good  account  a  discovery  of  Laistner,1 
who  regards  the  dream  and  nightmare  (AlpdrucK)  as  a  fruit- 
ful source  of  mythical  ideas.  It  might  appear  to  have  been  an 
impossible  task  to  rear  a  compact  structure  from  such  hetero- 
geneous materials,  yet,  strangely  enough,  Meyer  has  actually  suc- 
ceeded in  constructing  a  system  of  Teutonic  mythology  more 
comprehensive  than  any  hitherto  existing.  Critical  examina- 
tion of  sources,  interpretation  of  myths,  and  study  of  historical 
development — this  threefold  task  of  mythology — Meyer  car- 
ried out  in  all  its  ramifications.  His  system  enables  us  to  see 
how  souls  and  mares  become  nature-demons  and  higher  demons, 
and  how  these  latter  become  in  turn  the  gods  of  the  priests 
and  the  heroes  of  the  nobles. 

One  must  not  inquire,  however,  at  what  cost  such  a  system 
has  been  constructed.  The  most  obvious  results,  such  as  the 
originality  of  some  of  the  chief  gods,  who  have  certainly  not 
developed  from  wind,  thunder,  and  cloud  demons,  and  the 
genuine  Teutonic  nucleus  of  the  Norse  myths  are  abandoned. 
In  place  of  these  the  most  unnatural  and  preposterous  hypoth- 
eses are  set  forth  as  established  results.  Notwithstanding  all 
these  defects,  Meyer's  book  is  a  notable  production  and  pos- 
sesses permanent  value.  In  the  first  place,  the  material  has 
here  been  collected  more  completely  than  anywhere  else  from 
out-of-the-way  corners.  But  especially  the  chapter  on  Sources 
is  indispensable.  With  unequalled  completeness,  it  enumerates 
the  sources  from  which  we  derive  our  knowledge  of  Teutonic 
mythology.  In  many  respects  E.  H.  Meyer  is  an  unsafe  guide, 
and  his  mythological  system  a  warning  example,  but  whoever 

1  L.  Laistner,  Nebelsagen  (1879)  an<^  especially  Das  R'dtsel  der  Sfhinx  (2  vos., 
1889). 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  45 

wishes  to  pursue  these  studies  independently  can  but  be  grate- 
ful for -the  large  amount  of  labor  that  he  has  saved  others. 
Of  late  he  seems  to  have  forsaken  mythology  in  favor  of 
folklore.1 

Far  more  attractive  in  outward  form,  and  written  in  an 
interesting  style,  is  the  latest  work  of  W.  Golther.2  Among 
his  great  predecessors  he  renders  most  homage  to  L.  Uhland. 
Grimm  he  praises  almost  solely  for  the  collecting  of  material. 
Towards  Miillenhoff  he  is  equally  unjust.  He  admits  the 
primitive  character  of  the  chief  gods  and  the  genuineness  of 
the  nucleus  of  the  Norse  myths,  although  he  reduces  both  to  a 
minimum.  Sound  common  sense  has  with  him  reasserted  its 
claims,  not  merely  as  over  against  some  excrescences  of  Meyer's 
system,  but  as  against  the  artificial  character  of  the  system 
itself.  Without  making  as  strong  an  effort  to  evolve  a  system, 
Golther  seeks  to  trace  the  historical  development  of  Teutonic 
mythology  during  the  first  thousand  years  of  our  era.  He  too 
begins  with  the  "  lower "  mythology  and  then  proceeds  to 
treat  the  more  philosophic  myths  of  creation  and  the  end  of 
the  world,  concluding  with  a  consideration  of  the  cult. 

A  new  path  is  struck  out  by  the  Dane,  H.  S.  Vodskov,3  in  a 
work  of  which  the  long-deferred  continuation  is  eagerly  awaited. 
In  a  comprehensive  introduction  he  treats  of  mythological 
method.  The  principles  thus  evolved  he  applies  in  the  first 
volume,  the  only  one  that  has  as  yet  appeared,  to  the  Vedic 
religion.  In  a  subsequent  volume  he  proposes  to  apply  these 
principles  to  the  Edda  as  well.  Having  previously  combated 
Bugge's  theories,  he  here  rejects  every  form  of  the  migration 
theory,  which  assumes  that  civilization  moved  across  the  globe 
during  prehistoric  times.  Vodskov,  on  the  contrary,  holds  that 

1  E.  H.  Meyer,  Deutsche  Volkskunde  (1898). 

2  W.  Golther,  Handbuch  der  germanischen  Mythologie  (1895). 

8  H.  S.  Vodskov,  Sj celedyrkelse  og  naturdyrkelse  (I,  1897;  the  Introduction  had 
appeared  as  early  as  1890).  The  essay  combating  the  views  of  Bugge  appeared  in 
1 88 1,  under  the  title  Guder  og gloser. 


46          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

the  tribes,  during  the  period  in  which  they  spread  over  the 
earth,  were  without  culture,  and  that  all  culture  is  bound  to  the 
country  where  it  is  found  and  must  have  originated  there. 
This  does  not  preclude  the  possibility  of  one  people  borrowing 
from  an  other  whatever  subserved  its  purpose.  A  broad  cur- 
rent of  civilization  does  indeed  sweep  across  the  earth,  and  if 
we  follow  up  this  stream,  we  shall  begin  to  understand  why 
some  peoples  remained  behind  while  kindred  tribes  moved 
forward.  In  maintaining  this  view  Vodskov  is  in  accord  with 
recent  linguistic  investigation,  which  has  gradually  allowed  the 
wave  theory  to  supplant  the  theory  of  ramification.  As  to  the 
Indo-Europeans,  they  are  the  only  race  who  passed  beyond 
the  worship  of  souls  —  so  characteristic  of  the  savage  state  and 
beyond  which  the  two  other  races,  the  Mongols  and  Semites, 
never  advanced  —  to  a  higher  form  of  religion,  namely,  nature 
worship.  This  conclusion  compels  us  to  assign  to  the  Indo- 
Europeans  the  highest  position  in  the  scale  of  development, 
even  though  they  have  derived  not  a  little  of  their  culture  from 
the  two  other  races. 

Our  survey  would  be  incomplete  without  some  account  of 
the  work  done  in  other  countries,  though  this  is  of  less  im- 
portance than  what  Germany  and  the  Scandinavian  nations 
have  produced.  England  has  investigated  its  own  Anglo- 
Saxon  antiquity,  although  here  too  Germany  has  lent  a  helping 
hand.  In  this  field  of  investigation  the  student  of*  Teutonic 
mythology  is  in  a  position  to  reap  a  far  greater  harvest  than 
has  as  yet  been  gathered,  and  it  is  rather  strange  that  in  recent 
large  works  the  Anglo-Saxon  material  should  again  have  been 
notoriously  neglected.  The  folklore  of  various  districts  has 
also  been  collected  in  England.  On  the  whole,  however,  the 
study  of  Teutonic  antiquity  in  England  is  mostly  associated 
with  the  work  of  Norse  scholars.  So  in  the  middle  of  the 
present  century,  B.  Thorpe  1  largely  followed  in  the  footsteps 

l  B.  Thorpe,  Northfrn  Mythology  (3  vos.,  1851-1852). 


HISTORY  OF  TEUTONIC  MYTHOLOGY  _      47 

of  N.  M.  Petersen  and  Keyser.  Besides,  Norse  sagas  have 
been  and  still  are  being  translated  and  edited.1  It  was  in 
England  likewise  that  the  Icelander,  G.  Vigfusson,2  pursued 
the  study  of  Norse  literature  along  its  entire  range,  manifesting 
in  his  writings  wonderful  learning  and  great  acumen,  but  giving  ]/' 
utterance  frequently  to  wildly  fantastic  views.  Together  with 
York  Powell  he  edited  and  translated  the  poetic  thesaurus  of 
the  North,  both  the  Edda  and  the  poetry  of  the  scalds,  sup- 
plying at  the  same  time  valuable  introductions  and  excursus. 
Unfortunately  this  Corpus  Poeticum  Boreale  is,  from  a  philo- 
logical point  of  view,  far  from  trustworthy. 

Up  to  the  present,  America  has  made  few  contributions  to 
the  study  of  Teutonic  mythology.  The  American  minister  at 
Kopenhagen,  R.  B.  Anderson,  showed  his  active  interest  in 
the  work  by  making  some  of  the  Scandinavian  investigations 
accessible  in  English.  P.  Du  Chaillu3  deserves  praise  forgath- 
ering and  arranging  the  archaeological  material.  The  best  that 
America  has  thus  far  produced  is  F.  B.  Gummere's  concise  but  y 
important  study  on  the  origins  of  the  English-speaking  peoples.4 

Nor  can  Holland  lay  claim  to  special  mention  in  the  history 
of  the  science.  The  work  of  the  Germanists  there  can  in  no 
way  be  differentiated  from  that  of  their  German  colleagues. 
B.  Symons  is  an  adherent  of  the  historical  method  of  Miillen- 
hoff  and  has  given  us  a  critical  edition  of  the  Edda.  His 
pupil,  R.  C.  Boer,  is  known  as  an  editor  of  Norse  texts,  for  the 
most  part  published  in  Germany. 

1  S.  Laing,  The  Sea-Kings  of  Norway  (Snorrfs  Heimskringla,  3  vos.,  1844),  not         ~i    7 
directly  from  the  original.     G.  W.  Dasent,  The  Story  of  Burnt  Njal  (2  vos.,  1861),    j  - 

a  beautiful  translation  with  a  comprehensive  and  valuable  Introduction.  G.  Vigfusson 
has  edited  several  Icelandic  sagas  and  in  the  Prolegomena  to  the  Sturlunga  Saga 
has  given  us  a  history  of  Norse  literature.  The  Saga  Library  and  The  Northern 
Library  give  translations  of  the  most  important  sagas. 

2  G.  Vigfusson  and  F.  York  Powell,   Corpus  Poeticum  Boreale  (2  vos.,  1883). 
Compare  the  reviews  of  Heinzel,  AfdA.  XI  and  Symons,  ZfdPh.  XVIII. 

8  P.  Du  Chaillu,  The  Viking  Age  (2  vos.,  1889),  with  numerous  illustrations. 
4  F.  B,  Gummere,  Germanic  Origins  (1892). 


48          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

We  have  reached  the  end  of  our  historical  survey.  In  con- 
clusion, attention  must  be  drawn  to  the  wealth  of  available 
material  for  the  study  of  Teutonic  mythology.  The  subject 
has  engrossed  the  attention  of  the  various  schools  of  mytho- 
logical investigation,  and  in  no  other  field  can  one  arrive  at 
a  juster  and  clearer  estimate  of  the  value  of  the  numerous 
diverging  "  working  hypotheses "  than  in  that  of  Teutonic 
mythology.  A  consensus  of  opinion  has  as  yet  by  no  means 
been  attained.  Not  only  with  regard  to  mythological  method 
in  general,  but  also  with  regard  to  leading  questions,  such  as 
the  value  of  the  various  sources  and  the  genuineness  of  the 
Norse  myths,  representatives  of  different  schools  stand  vio- 
lently opposed.  The  claims  of  the  historical  method  can, 
however,  no  longer  be  gainsaid,  albeit  this  method  is  variously 
understood  and  applied. 


CHAPTER   III 
THE  PREHISTORIC  PERIOD 

"  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."  2 

While  acknowledging  the  value  and  significance  of  archaeo- 
logical studies,  such  statements  should  warn  us  against  over- 
estimating them.  We  possess  numerous  material  remains  from 
ages  on  which  history  proper  sheds  no  light.  We  find  stone  monu- 
ments, stone  chambers,  stone  circles,  graves,  lake  dwellings, 
skulls,  bones,  utensils,  implements,  weapons,  and  ornaments. 
Through  these  abundant  and  varied  remains,  prehistoric  archae- 
ology seeks  for  a  solution  of  such  problems  as  the  distribution 
of  races,  the  conditions  of  primitive  times,  and  the  origin  of 
civilization.  Archaeological  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  exam- 
ple, 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  an  idyllic  picture.  It  is  hardly  possible  to  form  too 

1  J.  Grimm,  Geschichte  der  deutschen  Sprache,  p.  797. 

2  J.  E.  Sars,  Udsigt  o.  d.  norske  hist.,  I,  p.  67.     "  Det  er  dog  kun  ganske  enkelte 
og  underordnede  Sider  af  Culturen,  hvorom  man  of  slige  Sager  kan  faa  nogen  rigtig 
Besked." 

49 


50          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

low  an  estimate  of  the  civilization  of  these  prehistoric  people, 
who  knew  no  domestic  animal  other  than  the  dog,  were  igno- 
rant 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  archaeological  study. 

Due  caution  must  be  exercised  in  any  endeavor  to  gather 
the  fruits  of  these  researches.  The  material  found  in  Scandi- 
navian 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  pre- 
historic 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  of  a  race  entirely  distinct  from 
our  own. 


THE   PREHISTORIC  PERIOD  51 

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  extended  far  into  Central 
Europe.  The  bronze  age  was  identified  with  the  Kelts  and  the 
iron  age  with  the  Teutons.  It  was  thought  that  a  dolicho- 
cephalous  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 
led  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  archaeological  periods  always  coincided 
with  the  conquest  and  domination  of  a  new  people  that  dis- 
placed 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  lake  villages  were  inhabited  by  people  of 
Indo-European  blood. 

The  mode  of  life  of  these  ancient  Europeans  has  commonly 


52          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

been  held  to  have  been  nomadic.1  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.2  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  requi- 
site pasture,  and  of  what  these  flocks  consisted,  is  not  clear. 
Caesar's  statement,  that  the  Teutons  did  not  engage  in  agri- 
culture, 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  appear- 
ance 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  habi- 
tations. 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  hunenbedden  (giants'  hills),  giants'  chambers,  and  stone 
walls.  Also  the  so-called  Kjokkenmoddings  (refuse  heaps),  along 
the  Danish  coasts,  forming  accumulations  of  remains  of  crus- 
taceous  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 

1  A  contrary  view  is  held,  and  justly  so,  by  R.  Much,  Waren  die  Germanen 
Wanderhirten  ?  ZfdA.  XXXVI. 

2  Strabo,  p.  291 ;  Caesar,  B.  G.,  VI,  22. 


THE  PREHISTORIC  PERIOD  53 

them  with  food  ready  at  hand.  The  oldest  inhabitants  found 
perhaps  a  scanty  subsistence  in  hunting  and  fishing,  and  in 
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. 

Archaeological  study  clearly  points  to  the  definite  establish- 
ment 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  espe- 
cially have  expounded  this  system  at  great  length,  each  of 
the  three  periods  being  again  separated  into  two  large  sub- 
divisions. From  the  older  stone  age  we  possess  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  historical  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  cen- 
turies 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  oppo- 
sition. Lindenschmit l  among  others  combats  it  violently. 
While  it  may  be  admitted  that  originally  it  was  merely  a 

1  C.  Lindenschmit,  Handbuch  der  deulschen  Alterthumskunde  (I,  1880-1889). 


54          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

11  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  Muller,1  for  example,  in 
determining  dates  also  attach  great  importance  —  too  great 
according  to  some  —  to  the  form,  ornamentation,  and  decora- 
tive motifs.  Moreover,  the  fact  that  these  periods  have  been 
named  from  stone,  bronze,  and  iron  does  not  imply  that  the 
character  of  the  culture  depended  wholly  on  this  difference 
in  material,  but  merely  that  the  periods  into  which  their  cul- 
ture 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  prop- 
osition, indeed,  that  all  work  in  bronze  was  of  foreign  importa- 
tion, coming  from  either  Phoenicia  or  Southern  Europe,  can  no 
longer  be  maintained  ;  for  alongside  of  what  was  unquestionably 
obtained  through  import,  the  Northern  people  themselves  must 
f  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  connec- 
tion with  Mycenaean  art.  This  view  is  favored  by  the  fact  that 
a  continuous  strip  of  land,  from  Greece  through  Hungary  and 

1  Sophus  Muller,  Nordische  Altertumskunde  (translated  into  German  by  Jiriczek, 
2  vos.,  1896-1898). 


THE  PREHISTORIC  PERIOD  55 

Germany  down  to  Denmark,  exhibits  these  spiral  ornamenta- 
tions 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.1  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 
Phoenicians,  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  routes  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,2  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  were  derived  from  foreign  sources  and  that 

1  G.  Maspero, Histoire  ancienne  des  peuples  de  V Orient  dassique,  I  (1895),  p.  393. 

2  H.  Genthe,    Ueber  den  etruskischen  Tauschhandel  nach  dent  Norden  (Neue 
Ausgabe,  1874). 


56          THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

whatever  the  intermediary  road  may  have  been,  the  use  of 
bronze  was  derived  from  the  ancients.  It  is  no  longer  possi- 
ble to  determine  what  other  features  are  due  to  borrowing  out- 
side 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  Stone- 
henge,  —  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  cen- 
tury. Nor  are  they  to  be  looked  upon  as  the  remains  of  a 
Roman  temple,  as  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. 


THE  PREHISTORIC  PERIOD  57 

Even  at  present  all  manner  of  popular  tales  of  giants  and 
spirits  are  associated  with  the  Jaettestuer  and  Troldstuer,  but 
scholars  are  generally  agreed  that  hiinenbedden  and  giants'  cham- 
bers 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  charac- 
teristic 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  (Elfvekvdrnar)  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 


58          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  already  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  distinc- 
tion is  drawn  between  the  usage  in  Denmark  and  in  the  other 
two  countries.  Archaeological  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  transi- 
tions 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.1 

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,  ac- 
cording to  Grimm,2  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  the  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.3 

1  E.  Vedel,  Bornholms  Oldtidsminder  og  Oldsager  (1886). 

2  J.  Grimm,  Ueber  das  Verbrennen  der  Leichen  (Kl.  Schr.,  II). 

3  Translation  of  Aytoun  and  Martin. 


THE  PREHISTORIC  PERIOD  59 

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  con- 
ceptions 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  fre- 
quently met  with  on  stones,  rocks,  grave  urns,  weapons,  and 
implements.  Among  these  are  the  Helleristninger  (rock  trac- 
ings) found  cut  in  the  granite  rocks  of  Sweden  (especially  in 
Bohuslan),  in  Norway,  and,  to  a  lesser  extent,  in  Denmark.  In 
addition  we  find  such  symbols  as  hammer,  T,  wheel,  ©,  rec- 
tangular 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 


60          TXE   RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  gammee,  Hakenkreuz)  and  the  ansate  cross  (croix 
ansee)  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  in- 
terpreted as  symbolical  of  the  sun.1  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  orna- 
mental 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  prehis- 
toric from  the  historic,  and  might,  therefore,  consider  the 

1  Goblet  d'Alviella,  La  migration  des  symboles  (1891). 


THE   PREHISTORIC  PERIOD  61 

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,  Byzan- 
tine, 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  routes  from  Southern  to  Northern  Europe, 
from  the  first  centuries  of  our  era ;  trade  routes  not  by  way  of 
the  western  islands,  but  through  Germany  and  Russia,  b,y  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 


62          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

to  note ;  these  written  signs  reached  the  North  from  the  South, 
—  in  the  present  instance  Italy,  —  not  through  direct  communi- 
cation, 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  authori- 
ties are  disposed  to  attach  great  importance  to  them.  In  the 
years  1639  and  1734,  respectively,  there  were  found  in  Southern 
Jutland  two  large  golden  horns.  At  the  beginning  of  the 
present  century  they  were  unfortunately  converted  into  bul- 
lion, but  we  are  still  able  to  judge  of  them  from  drawings  and 
descriptions.1  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,  Freyja  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  recog- 
nized. 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  addi- 

1  Compare  Ole  Worm,  Man.  Danica ;  Stephens,  Old  Northern  Runic  Monu- 
ments;  Worsaae,  Nordens  Forhistorie,  pp.  161  ff. ;  Sophus  Miiller,  Nordische 
Altertumskunde,  II,  IX. 


THE   PREHISTORIC  PERIOD  63 

tions,  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  interpreta- 
tion 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  Miiller  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  vindi- 
cate the  ancient  character  of  Norse  myths,  but  rather  point  to 
that  same  connection  with  the  culture  of  Central  and  Sou'thern 
Europe  to  which  reference  has  repeatedly  been  made. 

Nor  can  much  more  be  gained  from  other  pictorial  represen- 
tations, 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  Cross1  and  the 
Gosforth  Cross,2  show  a  curious  admixture  of  pagan  and 
Christian  motifs.  Still  other  monuments  might  be  mentioned, 
but  they  would  not  alter  the  final  result. 

If  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."  Archeology 

1  Stephens  (Runic  Monuments,  I,  405)  assigns  it  to  the  seventh,  Sweet  (Oldest 
English  Texts,  p.  125)  to  the  eighth  century. 

2  On  the  Gosforth  Cross,  see  Stephens,  Bugge1  s  Studies  on  Northern  Mythology, 
shortly  examined  (London,  1884),  and  Bugge,  The  Home  of  the  Eddie  Poems  (trans- 
lated by  W.  H.  Schofield,  London,  1899),  Introduction,  p.  bdv.     Bugge  assigns  it  to 
the  ninth  century. 


64          THE   RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

teaches  us  that  as  far  north  as  Sweden  there  dwelt  a  Teutonic 
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  at  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  pre- 
historic 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. 


CHAPTER   IV 
TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES 

i.  "The  language  of  a  people  constitutes  a  far  more  potent 
witness  concerning  them  than  is  afforded  by  bones,  weapons, 
or  graves."  l  "  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 
impress  on  the  language  as  to  betray  the  traces  of  every  past 
event,  in  short  of  its  entire  history."  2  / 

These  are  the  words  of  Grimm  and  Mullenhoff,  the  two  great 
masters  of  Teutonic  philology.  One  might  accordingly  infer, 
as  has  in  fact  been  done,  that  linguistic  science  furnishes,  in  the 
hands  of  trained  and  painstaking  scholars,  positive  results  con- 
cerning 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 
Getas  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  possi- 
ble. No  student  of  linguistics  entertains  such  views  now ;  and 
though  the  edifice  reared  by  Mullenhoff  may  perhaps  rest  on 
a  more  secure  foundation,  still  more  than  one  of  its  sup- 
porting stones  has  also  been  loosened.  He  enunciated  the  cor- 
rect principle  that  the  origins  of  national  existence  in  the  case 
of  the  Indo-European  peoples  are  to  be  sought  in  their  historic 
abodes.3  He  held  the  region  between  the  Oder  and  the  Vistula 

1  J  Grimm,  GddS.  I,  5.  2  K.  Mullenhoff,  DA.  Ill,  194. 

3  DA.  Ill,  168. 

65 


66          THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

to  be  the  mother  country  of  the  Teutons,  and  the  land  in 
which  the  Teutonic  language  first  acquired  an  individual  char- 
acter. The  former  of  these  assertions  is  undoubtedly  correct, 
the  latter  highly  probable.  On  the  other  hand,  results  that 
Mullenhoff  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. 

f~  Not  only  in  respect  to  details,  but  also  as  regards  matters  of 
/  prime  importance,  has  the  confidence  that  was  so  readily  be- 
stowed 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  cer- 
tainty of  linguistic  results  seemed  to  dispose  of  all  objections. 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES 


67 


The  more  than  fifty  years  that  have  elapsed  since  the  begin- 
nings 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  conse- 
quence a  number  of  etymologies  that  at  one  time  seemed  estab- 
lished have  now  been  abandoned.  Moreover,  together  with 
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  rec- 
ognize the  fact  that  sameness  is  not  always  to  be  explained 
on  the  score  of  unity  of  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  primi- 
tive race  was  acquainted  with  Christianity.1 

In  this  way  the  ancestral  inheritance,  which  was  held  to  have 
been  the  common  possession  of  the  whole  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  its 
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  suf- 
fered 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 

l  The  illustration  is  taken  from  Vodskov,  Sjteled.  og  naturd.,  CXXVIII. 


68          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

[a  certain  prehistoric  period  an  Indo-European  primitive  people 
dwelt  in  a  definite  locality  and  from  there  spread  over  the 

Jearth  in  groups. 

|     'It  is  evident  that  with  such  conceptions  there  does  not  re- 

I  main  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  from  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,  whom  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  this  mythical  motif  of  Dios- 
curi or  Ac.vins,  which  is  also  encountered  outside  of  Indo-Euro- 
pean territory,  a  fragment  of  original  Indo-European  mythology 
has  not  been  preserved.  The  Teutonic  ^Esir,  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  misunder- 
standings. 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 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  69 

not  exclude  the  view  that  the  worship  of  the  sky  god  was  primi- 
tive 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  guast-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  placed  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  knowl- 
edge, 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  exist- 
ing 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 


70          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

chasm  lies  between  these  two  fields  of  investigation  in  the 
present  state  of  our  knowledge,  although  the  two  sciences  con- 
tinue 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  lan- 
guage study  should  furnish  us  with  an  outline  picture  of  a 
vague,  nebulous  primitive  people.  On  the  other  hand,  it  fre- 
quently enables  us  to  trace  historical  connections  between 
different  peoples. 

j  2.  We  have  no  definite  knowledge  concerning  the  first  mi- 
I  gration  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.  Miillen- 
hoff  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,  princi- 
pally 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  became  acquainted  with  the  elements  of  agri- 
culture. 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. 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  71 

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,  enables  us  to  distin- 
guish its  periods  of  development;  and  we  are  accordingly  led  to 
divide  the  Teutons  into  two,  or  rather  three,  main  groups.  To 
the  East-Teutonic  group  belong  the  languages  of  the  Goths 
(East  and  West),  as  well  as  those  of  the  Vandals  and  Burgun- 
dians,  though  of  the  two  latter  scarcely  any  remains  have  been 
preserved.  To  the  North-Teutonic  languages,  which  must  be 
regarded  as  a  separate  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,  Aleman- 
nic,  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  —  Ingaevones,  Herminones,  and  Istaevones  — 
to  embrace  the  entire  people,  as  a  matter  of  fact  his  classifi- 
cation includes  only  the  West  Teutons.  But  Tacitus  does  not 


72          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

adhere  strictly  to  this  division.  With  the  words  "  quidam  affir- 
mant"1  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  known  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  Bastarnae,  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  subse- 
quently disappear  from  view :  the  Bructeri,  Cherusci,  Sem- 
nones,  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  cov- 
ered by  the  Roman  accounts  extensive  changes  were  taking 
place  in  the  interior  of  Germany.  Tribes  were  alternately  van- 
ishing and  again  appearing  upon  the  scene  or  seeking  new 
habitations,  and  with  the  help  of  the  geographies,  maps,  and 
historians  we  now  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 

1  "  Some  declare." 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  73 

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  indi- 
cated 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  tradi- 
tion. 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  con- 
cerning 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  inves- 
tigation has  neither  yielded  positive  results  nor  proved  very 
fruitful  in  advancing  our  knowledge  of  Teutonic  religion,  it  is 
a  phase  of  the  subject  which  must  not  be  passed  by  in  silence. 
J.  Grimm1  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  alterna- 
tive, the  name  of  the  tribe  remains  unexplained.  A  second 
class,  the  most  numerous  of  all,  indicates  qualities :  Frisians, 

1  GddS.,  Chapter  XXIX. 


74          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Franks  (free  men),  Lombards  (Longobardi).  Under  this  head 
Grimm  ventures  a  number  of  bold  conjectures,  —  e.g.  when  he 
explains  the  Suabians  (Suebi)  as  men  who  are  sui  juris.  The 
third  class  comprises  tribes  named  from  the  district  which  they 
inhabited  :  Ubii,  Ripuarii,  Batavi  (men  from  the  Aueri),  Mat- 
tiaci  (men  from  the  Matteri),  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  connec- 
tion 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, 
of  course,  no  connection  with  cats. 

We  may  define  more  sharply,  if  not  the  origin,  at  least  the 
use,  of  the  words  "  germanisch  "  and  "deutsch."  As  to  the  deri- 
vation 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  thiudd]  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.  Miillenhoff 
seeks  their  origin  along  the  Middle  Elbe,  whereas  more  recent 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  75 

scholars  are  convinced  from  an  inscription  found  on  a  bound- 
ary stone  at  Miltenberg  on  the  Main,  on  which  their  name 
occurs,  that  the  Teutones  were  originally  a  Keltic  tribe.1  How- 
ever that  may  be,  the  name  "  deutsch  "  came  before  A.D.  800 
to  be  used  of  the  language  2  and  has  since  the  ninth  century 
steadily  gained  in  currency,  both  as  a  designation  for  the  lan- 
guage 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  peoples  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  com- 
prehensive sense  in  which,  for  example,  Paul  uses  it  in  his 
Grundriss  der  germanischen  Philologie.  This  usage  is,  how- 
ever, 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  nar- 
rower, and  again  in  the  more  comprehensive,  sense.  In  Eng- 
lish the  terms  "  German  "  (deutscK)  and  "  Dutch  "  (niederldndisch) 
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. 

1  Miillenhoff,  DA.  II,  282 ;    compare  also  Kossinna  in    Westdeutsche  Zs.,  IX, 
213  ;  R.  Much,  PBB.  XVII,  and  elsewhere. 

2  A.  Dove,  Das  alteste  Zeugniss  fur  den  Namen  Deutsch  (SMA.i895). 


76          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

The  names  that  we  have  just  mentioned  constitute  only  a 
very  small  part  of  the  large  stock  of  proper  names,  of  per- 
sons as  well  as  of  places,  that  have  come  down  to  us.  While 
these  are  important  witnesses  in  ascertaining  ancient  condi- 
tions 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  de- 
serve attention.1  They  frequently  enable  us  to  determine 
approximately  how  far  certain  legends  and  cults  had  spread.2 
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  impor- 
tance in  arriving  at  an  estimate  of  myths  connected  with  him. 
A  number  of  proper  names  testify  to  the  currency  of  the  Ger- 
man 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. 

1  Compare  Weinhold,  Altnordisches  Leben,  pp.  270  ff. 

2  Examples  of  monographs  in  which  the  evidence  from  names  has  been  exploited 
are,  among  others :  Henry  Petersen,  Om  Nordboernes  Gudedyrkelse  og  Gudetro  i 
Hedenold  (1876)  ;  G.  Binz,  Zeugnisse  zur  Germanischen  Sage  in  England,  PBB. 
XX ;  Miillenhoff,  Zeugnisse  und  Excurse. 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  77 

Since  the  publication  of  an  investigation  by  Miillenhoff  l  it  has 
usually  been  assumed  that  the  three  great  groups  mentioned  by 
Tacitus  had  separate  cults.  The  Irminsleute  (Herminones)  pre- 
served the  worship  of  the  old  heaven  god  Zio ;  the  Ingvaeones 
worshipped  the  Vanir  god  Freyr;  the  Istvaeones,  Wodan  and 
Tamfana.  The  identification  of  the  eponymous  tribal  hero  with 
the  great  gods  is  in  two  or  three  instances  more  or  less  prob- 
able :  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  Miillenhoff  had  resulted  in  establishing  a  new  basis  for  the 
study  of  Teutonic  mythology,  and  to  a  certain  extent  this  is 
actually  the  case.  Miillenhoff  himself  never  denied  the  exist- 
ence 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  Miillenhoff  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  remem- 
bered, were  styled  Ziuwari,  correspond  only  in  part  to  the 
Herminones.  Furthermore,  the  lines  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 
l  Irmin  und  seine  Bruder  (ZfdA.  XXIII,  1878). 


78          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  histor- 
ical 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  meagreness  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  environ- 
ment. The  historical  method  itself  cautions  us  against  ignor- 
ing any  part  of  the  data  at  our  command,  such  as  that  which 
concerns  the  mutual  intercourse  of  the  tribes.  We  may  at- 
tempt to  determine  here  and  there  the  origin  of  a  legend  and 
the  chief  seat  of  a  cult,  but  we  have  no  right  to  deny  to  a  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  :  i.  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  tables 
which  derive  the  royal  families  from  ancient  heroes  or  gods. 
3.  Legends  concerning  ancient  adventures  —  largely  expeditions 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  79 

or  migrations  of  the  tribes.  4.  Various  foreign  traditions  de- 
rived 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."  l  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 
may  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,2  according  to  which  man 
had  sprung  from  trees.  Voluspa  17,  to  be  sure,  and  Gylfagin- 
ning  9,  as  well,  make  man  originate  from  Ask  and  Embla  (ash 
and  elm  ?),  but  this,  as  well  as  the  descent  of  the  three  classes  — 
thrael,  karl,  and  jarl  —  from  the  god  Rig  (Heimdallr,  in  Rigs- 
thula),  is  found  only  in  comparatively  late  Eddie  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.3  There  is  no  way 
of  determining  from  this  list  whether  Gaut  is  simply  an 
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 

1  "  A  god  that  had  issued  from  the  earth." 

2  It  is  to  be  acknowledged  that  in  the  phrase  "  originem  gentis  conditoresque  "  the 
last  word  strikes  one  as  strange,  but  to  read,  with  J.  Holub  ("  Der  erste  Germane 
wurde  auch  nach  dem   Zeugnisse  des  Tacitus  aus   der   Esche  gebildet ")    (1891), 
"  caudicem  orni  hosque  fuisse  "  is  entirely  fantastic. 

3  Jordanes,  De  origine  actibusque  Getarwn^  Chapters  4,  14,  17. 


80          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  one  the  Gepidae.  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  Van- 
dals, 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.1 
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  an  original  element  in  this  account 
has  been  doubted  by  some  scholars. 

The  genealogical  tables  tracing  the  origin  of  rulers  and  peo- 
ples to  eponymous  heroes  or  gods  —  the  Goths  to  Gaut,  the 
\/ 

1  Paulus  Diaconus,  Chapters  1-8.  According  to  Ranke  (Paulus  Diaconus,  in  his 
complete  works,  Vol.  LI,  pp.  81-84),  we  possess  the  narrative  of  this  Namengebung 
in  four  versions,  of  which  the  Christian-theistic  one  (Procopius,  B.  Got/t.,  II,  Chapter 
14),  in  which  Wodan  and  Frea  are  not  mentioned  as  yet,  appears  to  be  the  most 
original 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  81 

Scyldings  to  Scyld,  the  Scefings  to  Sceaf,  and  possibly  the 
Batavi  to  a  Baetva  (?)  — are  known  to  us  in  detail  in  the  case 
of  the  Anglo-Saxons  in  England  only.  Bede  l  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  variations  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  have  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  after- 
wards 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  times  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.2  Names 
compounded  with  Frea  are  numerous.  That  Baeldaeg,  who  is 
mentioned  repeatedly,  is  Balder  is  confirmed  by  the  name 
Balder  itself  as  found  in  one  of  the  genealogies.  In  passing 

1  Bede,  Hist,  eccl.gent.  Angl.,  I,  15. 

2  So  Mullenhoff,  Beovulf  (1889),  pp.  7,  64,  etc.,  where  valuable  comments  on  the 
genealogies  may  be  found.     The  names,  with  Miillenhoff's  interpretations,  are  the 
following:  Gesecg  and  Andsecg  (Symmachos  and  Antimachos),  Sveppa  (one  who 
causes  a  turmoil),  Sigefugel  (favorable  omen),  Hethca  and  Bedeca  (men  of  bloodshed 
and  destruction). 


82          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  legend- 
ary lore.  So  the  Saxons,  concerning  whose  origin  various 
traditions  are  current.1  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  rime  also  makes  mention  of  girls  growing 
on  trees  in  Saxony.  Widukind  of  the  tenth  century,  who  enter- 
tained a  warm  affection  for  his  Saxon  people,  was,  however,  of 
the  opinion  that  they  had  come  across  the  sea  and  mentions 
various  accounts  as  to  their  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  pos- 
session 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  Thurin- 
gian hero  Iring,  who  played  the  chief  role  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  their  exodus,  as  in  the  case  of  the  Vinili 
and  perhaps  also  of  the  Goths,  is  said  to  have  been  famine. 

1  Compare  Grimm,  Deutsche  Sagen,  Nrs.  413-416;  Widukind,  Res gestae  Saxonicae,  I. 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  83 

That  the  legends  also  show  a  connection  between  Scandinavia 
and  the  Suebi,  Uhland  has  attempted  to  show  by  citing  a  num- 
ber 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  an  unmistakable,  though 
not  historically  definable,  background  of  reality.  Impercep- 
tibly saga  passes  over  into  history,  and  the  ancient  saga  too, 
nebulous  and  mingled  with  myths  as  it  at  times  was,  no  doubt 
preserved  recollections  of  an  old  mother  country  and  of  earlier 
fortunes.  At  times  a  tradition  no  doubt  owes  its  origin  solely 
to  the  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  approxi- 
mately state  what  the  basis  of  reality  is.  An  instance  of  {his 
is  the  curious  statement  of  Tacitus  that  Ulixes  had  landed 
somewhere  along  the  Rhine  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  inven- 
tion, 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  (^£#«'</,  I, 
11.  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  begin- 
ning 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 


84          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  char- 
acter 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  in  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  Francio  (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  ^Eneas  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  him  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  a  Frank- 
ish  major  domo,  Anschis,  the  Trojan  name  Anchises. 

It  is  clear  that  these  Prankish  accounts  do  not  represent 
native  traditions,  but  merely  form  the  continuation  of  threads 
that  passed  from  Latin  authors  into  the  later  literature.  Nor 
is  more  value  to  be  attached  to  what  is  related  elsewhere  dur- 
ing 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. 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  85 

This  whole  cycle  of  legends  is  still  unknown  to  Saxo  Gram- 
maticus,  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  (Heims- 
kringld)  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  Hcenir,  are  interwoven  with  the  story  of  that  jour- 
ney. In  the  afore-mentioned  Preface  (formdli}  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  mythogra- 
phers,  who,  by  combining  various  unrelated  elements  and  over- 
riding all  chronology,  constructed  a  pseudo-historical  narrative 
devoid  of  all  value  from  either  the  historical  or  the  mytho- 
logical 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  bound- 
aries dividing  Kelts  from  Teutons  in  the  prehistoric  times, 
or  in  determining  the  lands  which  each  of  these  peoples  origi- 
nally occupied,  or  in  fixing  the  tribes  of  which  they  were 


86          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

composed.1  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  doubt- 
less situated  in  the  country  between  the  Oder  and  Elbe.  Miillen- 
hoff  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  con- 
tiguous 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  divi- 
sion or  such  a  mutual  aversion  between  them  as  we  must 
assume  to  have  existed  between  Teutons  and  Slavs.  In  Cen- 
tral 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  fre- 
quently lived  in  peaceful  intercourse.  This  mutual  influence 

1  Maps  may  be  found  in  MUllenhoff's  Deutsche  Altertumskunde  and  in  the 
article  of  R.  Much,  PBB.  XVII.  The  former  treats  the  Kelts  and  their  expeditions 
very  fully  (DA.  II). 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  87 

was  so  strongly  marked  that  it  is  not  always  possible  to  deter- 
mine from  the  sources  at  our  command  whether  in  a  particu- 
lar 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  )(Vt^ 
among  both  nations,  originally  to  the  one  rather  than  to  the  ^t^ 
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  does  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  inscrip- 
tions 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.1 

1  Compare  El.  H.  Meyer,  PBB.  XVIII.  H.  Cannegieter,  followed  by  numerous 
other  scholars  had  already  suggested  this  explanation  of  the  Hercules  Saxanus  in  1758. 


88          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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,  reach- 
ing from  Britain  to  Switzerland.  The  great  extent  of  this  ter- 
ritory 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  —  espe- 
cially those  ending  in  ims  —  does  not  alter  the  fact  that  the 
matronae  themselves  are  of  Keltic  origin. 

We  must  assume,  therefore,  vthat  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  bound- 
ary between  Teutons  and  Slavs.  The  group  that  is  at  times 
simply  called  Slavs  really  comprises  two  distinct  groups :  ^the 
Baits  or  Letts  (the  ^Estii  of  Tacitus)  and  the  Slavs  (the  Venedi). 

1  The  literature  and  list  of  names  may  be  found  in  the  article  by  M.  Ihm,  in 
Roscher's  Lexicon,  pp.  264-279.  J.  de  Wai's  De  Moedergodinnen  (1846),  the  first 
important  treatise  on  this  subject,  is  now  antiquated.  The  classical  work  is  that  of 
M.  Ihm,  in  the  Jahrb.  d.  Vereins  von  Alterthumsfrennden  im  Rhelnlande  (1887). 
Compare  further  F.  Kauffmann,  in  Weinhold's  Zs.  des  Vereins  fiir  Volksk.,  II 
(1892),  and  H.  Kern,  in  Versl.  en  Med.  K.  Akad.  Amst.  (1872),  who  explains  a 
number  of  epitheta  from  Teutonic  words. 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  89 

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  ^Estii  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,  Gepidae,  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  ^Egean  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  Teu- 
tons 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 


90          THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Kelts  and  Romans,  and  not  with  Balto-Slavs,  that  moulded 
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  con- 
tinued uninterruptedly  and  to  which  the  medieval  chronicles 
when  speaking  of  the  Slavs  constantly  recur.1  The  wars,  as 
a  consequence  of  which  the  Saxon  emperors  of  the  tenth  cen- 
tury again  drove  the  Slavs  out  of  the  old  Teutonic  country  to 
the  east  of  the  Elbe,  were  characterized  by  the  greatest  fierce- 
ness 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  alle- 
giance not  to  Rome  but  to  Byzantium,  and  while  the  schism  be- 
tween 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  char- 
acter. 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  every- 
where. An  inspection  of  the  names  of  Lithuanian  gods 2  will 
show  that  the  resemblance  to  Teutonic  mythology  is  but  slight. 

1  Adam  of  Bremen  and  Thietmar  of  Merseburg  in  the  eleventh,  and  Helmold 
in  the  twelfth,  centuries.     Illustrations  of  the  hatred  and  contempt  felt  by  the  Ger- 
mans for  the  Wends  may  be  found  in  Hauck,  Kirchengeschichte  Deutschlands,  III, 
i,  pp.  86-92. 

2  I  have  in  mind  here  the  list  given  by  H.  Usener,  Gotternamen  (1896),  pp.  85-108. 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  91 

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  an  important  role  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  (vojva),  the  divine  race  of  the  Vanir,  Kvasir, 
who  had  sprung  from  the  spittle  of  ^5sir  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  conjec- 
tural, 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,  con- 
sisting 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 


92          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

assume  a  connection.  And  yet  such  a  connection  is  stren- 
uously denied  from  both  sides,  by  Slavic  as  well  as  by  Teutonic 
mythologists.1  The  agreement  is  after  all  of  a  general  char- 
acter, 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  through 
ancient  Teutonic  life. 

Of  far  greater  significance  are  the  relations  of  the  Northern 
Teutons  with  the  Finns.  Here  again  the  origins  lie  hidden 
from  our  view.  It  was  formerly  held  that  all  of  Central  and 
Western  Europe  was  at  one  time  occupied  by  a  Finnish  popu- 
lation, a  wild,  primitive  race  which  had  been  subjugated  by  the 
Indo-European s.  This  theory  has  gone  the  way  of  the  other 
fond  dreams  of  Indo-European  splendor.  Finns  and  Lapps 
no  doubt  set  foot  in  Europe  at  about  the  same  time  as  the 
Indo-Europeans,  possibly  a  little  earlier.  From  very  early 
times  they  mutually  influenced  each  other.  The  Finnish  lan- 
guage more  particularly  bears  traces  of  very  old  borrowings 
from  Teutonic  languages,  from  a  period  of  language  develop- 
ment preceding  the  time  of  Ulfilas.  Evidence  of  this  latter 
kind  is  more  reliable  than  that  based  on  manners  and  customs, 
although  an  attempt  has  also  been  made  to  show  from  cere- 
monies observed  at  marriage  that  there  existed  prehistoric 
relations  between  the  Finno-Ugric  and  Indo-European  families.2 

In  Sweden  and  Norway  the  Finns  preceded  the  Teutons  ; 
it  has  even  been  suggested  that  the  name  Scandinavia  (i.e. 

l  G.  Krek,  Einleitungin  die  slaviscke  Litteraturgeschichte  (second  edition,  1887) ; 
J.  Grimm,  Ueber  das  Verbrennen  der  Leichen  (Kl.  Schr.,  II). 
a  L.  v.  Schroeder,  Die  Hochzeitsbrduche  der  Esten  (1888). 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  93 

Scadinavia)  takes  its  origin  from  them.1  Among  the  Mon- 
golian tribes  settled  in  these  regions  we  distinguish  the  Lapps 
(Sabme)  and  Finns  (Suomi).  The  former,  heathen  in  part 
even  to  the  present  day,  led  a  more  savage  life  and  kept  aloof 
from  civilized  peoples.  On  the  other  hand,  the  very  language 
of  the  Finns  shows  how  many  elements  of  culture  they  bor- 
rowed from  Teutons  as  well  as  from  Balto-Slavs.  They  lived 
on  both  sides  of  the  Bothnic  Gulf,  as  well  as  along  the  eastern 
shore  of  the  Baltic,  along  whose  southern  border  they  occu- 
pied the  present  provinces  of  Courland,  Livonia,  and  Esthonia, 
a  semi-depopulated  region,  which  had  been  abandoned  by  the 
Teutons  and  only  sparsely  settled  by  the  Baits.  Here  they 
assumed,  before  A.D.  800,  the  name  of  Esthonians,  a  designa- 
tion that  properly  belongs  to  a  Baltic  tribe. 

The  testimony  of  the  ancients  concerning  the  Finns  is 
extremely  vague  ;  even  Procopius 2  does  not  venture  beyond 
a  few  astounding  statements  concerning  the  savagery  of  these 
Thulitas  and  Scrithifini.  With  these  latter  tribes,  Tacitus  accord- 
ingly brings  his  treatment  of  the  Teutons  to  a  close,  not  sus- 
pecting apparently  that  these  Fenni  are  the  same  people  as 
the  Sitones,  whom  he  had  mentioned  some  chapters  previous 
as  adjoining  the  Suiones  (Swedes)  on  the  north.  His  state- 
ment that  they  were  ruled  by  a  woman  has  been  explained  as 
due  to  the  misunderstanding  of  a  name.  The  Finns  as  inhab- 
itants of  the  lowlands  were  called  Kainulaiset,8  and  this  word 
changed  to  Kvenir  (O.  N.  kona,  woman  ;  gen.  pi.  kvenna)  gave 
rise  to  the  fable  of  female  sovereignty.4 

While  the  relations  between  Finns  and  Northern  Teutons 
doubtless  go  back  to  very  early  times,  there  are  good  reasons 

1  This  is,  however,  extremely  doubtful.     Compare  Miillenhoff,  DA.  II,  359  ff., 
and  Bugge,  PBB.  XXI,  424. 

2  Bellum  Gothicum,  II,  15.  3  Mullenhoff,  DA.  II,  10. 

*  Another  interpretation,  according  to  which  the  Kvenir  were  originally  Scandi- 
navians and  mingled  with  the  Finns  only  at  a  later  time,  is  given  by  K.  B.  Wiklund, 
Ont  Kvdnerna  och  deras  nationalitet,  AfnF.  XII. 


94          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

for  supposing  that  the  period  of  greatest  reciprocal  influence 
is  approximately  coextensive  with  the  age  of  the  Vikings  (800- 
1000).  A  discussion  of  these  influences  may  appropriately  be 
introduced  at  this  point. 

The  songs  which  Lonnrot,  during  the  second  quarter  of  our 
century,  caught  up  from  the  mouths  of  the  people  he  united 
with  admirable  skill  into  an  epic  poem,  which,  while  by  no 
means  merely  a  product  of  the  poet's  art,  has  yet  in  its  present 
form  not  arisen  spontaneously.  These  features  make  the 
Kalewala  *  unique  in  the  whole  range  of  the  world's  literature. 
Now  this  epic  contains  in  its  diction  characteristic  features  and 
episodes  that  are  reminiscences  of  Norse  mythology,  without, 
however,  resembling  the  latter.  It  is  of  some  importance  that 
we  should  form  a  correct  conception  of  the  nature  of  this  rela- 
tionship. After  many  futile  attempts  made  by  various  scholars 
Comparetti  seems  finally  to  have  found  the  correct  solution. 

A  number  of  these  correspondences  lie  on  the  surface. 
Such  are  :  the  great  value  attached  to  magicjiormulas,  songs, 
and  signs,  which  are  by  both  peoples  called  "  runes  "  ;  Waina- 
moinen,  the  hero  of  Kalewa,  is  like  Odhin  a  great  magician  ; 
Sampo,  around  which  a  large  part  of  the  action  of  the  Kalewala 
turns,  is  like  the  millstone  Grotti,  —  an  object  that  produces 
all  that  one  wishes.  Are  we  to  suppose  that  the  Finns  bor- 
rowed all  these  features  from  the  Scandinavians  ?  The  answer 
must  be  that  we  cannot  by  any  possibility  assume  literary 
dependence,  but  that  we  may  to  a  certain  extent  posit  influ- 
ence through  oral  tradition.  The  Finns  were  not  acquainted 
with  either  scaldic  poetry  or  Eddie  song,  and  they  certainly 
did  not  copy  their  Wainamoinen  from  Odhin.  They  borrowed 
a  few  individual  words,  so  doubtless  "  rune "  and  probably 

l  J.  Grimm,  Ueber  das  finnische  Epos  (Kl.  Sc/ir.,  II)  ;  L.  Uhland,  Odin  (Sc/tr., 
VI);  A.  Castren,  Vorlesungen  iiber  die  finnische  Mythologie  (German  translation 
by  A.  Schiefner,  1853),  pp.  298-303 ;  J.  Krohn,  Kalevala-Studien  (in  Veckenstedt's 
ZfV.  1889)  ;  D.  Comparetti,  Der  Kalewala  (German,  1892). 


TRIBES  AND  PEOPLES  95 

#* 

also  "  Sampo "  (=  commonwealth,  according  to  Comparetti). 
Their  epic  tales  bear,  however,  as  a  rule  a  truly  national 
character  ;  what  they  borrowed  from  the  Scandinavians  they 
have  thoroughly  assimilated.  The  Finnish  epic  rests  wholly  on 
the  basis  of  Shamanism ;  there  is  not  a  single  myth  or  char- 
acter which  has  been  borrowed  woof  and  warp  from  Scan- 
dinavia. Its  magicians  are  not  gods,  as  are  those  of  the 
Teutons  ;  manners,  customs,  conceptions,  —  all  are  different. 
And  yet  it  cannot  be  denied  that  intercourse  with  the  Teutons 
has  exerted  an  influence  on  the  Finns.  Through  this  influence 
their  magic  practices  have  been  more  or  less  modified;  the 
magic  drum  pushed  into  the  background,  and  the  runic 
lore  into  the  foreground.  Similarly,  magic  incantation,  indige- 
nous among  the  Teutons,  has  also  become  of  chief  importance 
among  the  Finns ;  we  even  find  in  use  among  them,  as  in 
the  Merseburg  formulas,  the  magic  word  that  serves  to  cure 
the  halting  horse.  Numerous  other  parallels  might  be  cited, 
which  all  go  to  show  that,  while  each  of  the  two  peoples  bor- 
rowed to  a  considerable  extent  from  the  other,  each  preserved 
its  national  character  intact. 

Not  that  the  Teutons  were  obliged  to  learn  magic  from  the 
Finns ;  but  throughout  Old  Norse  literature,  as  well  as  in  Saxo, 
Olaus  Magnus,  and  other  authors,  the  Finns  are  held  in  high 
repute  as  magicians,  and  a  distinction  was  at  times  drawn 
between  the  arts  of  Lapps  and  of  Finns.  Mention  is  also 
made  in  the  same  sources  of  the  state  of  ecstasy  in  which 
Finnish  magicians  -exercised  their  power  or  brought  to  light 
hidden  things,  as  well  as  of  magic  knots  that  brought  about 
favorable  winds  or  storm.  The  sagas  furnish  numerous 
examples  of  Finnish  magicians.  Harald  Fairhair  married  the 
daughter  of  a  Finnish  magician,  Snaefrid,  and  preserved  her 
body  for  three  years  after  her  death,  without  decomposition 
setting  in ;  and  when  finally  the  linen  robe  was  removed 
snakes  and  insects  issued  forth  from  it.  Gunnhild  also,  the 


96          THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

wife  of  Eric  Bloody-axe,  son  of  Harald  Fairhair,  made  frequent 
use  of  Finnish  magic  arts,  mostly  for  purposes  of  evil.  In 
Norse  law,  going  to  Finmark  for  the  sake  of  learning  magic  is 
forbidden  under  pain  of  severe  penalties.  As  early  as  the 
time  of  Olaf  Tryggvason  we  hear  of  the  consequences  of  such 
a  prohibition,  and  not  only  in  the  historic  but  in  the  romantic 
' sagas  as  well  Finnish  magic  is  continually  referred  to.1 

Among  the  divinities  of  the  Norse  pantheon  there  are  two 
or  three  that  bear  an  unmistakably  Finnish  character.  First 
among  these  is  Skadhi,  the  daughter  of  the  giant  Thjazi,  who 
became  the  wife  of  Nj^rdhr.  She  is  entirely  Finnish  ;  she  walks 
on  snowshoes  (ski}  and  hunts  game  with  bow  and  arrow.  Like- 
wise Finnish  is  Thorgerdh  Hqlgabrudh,  with  her  sister  Irpa, 
who  was  worshipped  especially  by  jarl  Hakon  and  who  had  a 
number  of  temples  in  which  her  images  had  been  installed,  of 
life  size  and  with  golden  rings  on  the  fingers.  In  the  battle 
with  the  Jomsvikings  this  Thorgerdh  aided  jarl  Hakon,  but 
not  until  he  had  sacrificed  to  her  his  seven-year-old  son.  She 
then  brought  about  terrific  thunder-  and  hail-storms,  in  which 
the  Jomsvikings  perished  with  their  entire  fleet.2 

Norsemen  therefore,  while  at  times  standing  in  awe  of 
Finnish  witchcraft,  as  a  rule  reposed  great  confidence  in  it, 
and  it  is  in  this  field  more  particularly  that  the  two  peoples 
kept  up  constant  relations  with  each  other. 

1  Of  the  rich  literature  on  this  subject  it  will  suffice  to  mention  the  following : 
Fritzner,  Lafpernes  Hedenskab  og  Trolldomskunst  (Norsk  Hist.  Tidskr.,  IV) ;  E. 
Beauvois,  La  magie  chez  les  Finnois  (Rev.  Hist.  d.  Rel.,  1881)  ;  K.  Maurer,  Bekeh- 
rung  des  norwegischen  Stammes,  II,  417  ff . ;  L.  Uhland,  Thor  (Sc/tr.,  VI,  398  ff.). 

2  Fareyingasaga,  Chapter  23  ;  Njalasaga,  Chapter  87  ;  Jdntsvikingasaga,  Chap- 
ter 44  ;  'Biz.rm's.JomsvikingadrAjta,  CPB.  II,  301.     Interpretations  of  this  saga  as  of 
others  vary  widely.    Compare  G.  Storm,  AfnF.  II ;  A.  Olrik,  Kilderne  til  Sakscs 
Oldh.;  Better,  ZfdA.  XXXII;  S.  Bugge,  Helgedigtene,  pp.  321  ff.     Bugge  holds 
that  the  conception  of  Thorgerdh  as  a  Finnish  woman    is  secondary.     From  Norse 
legends  he  contends  this  saga-heroine  developed  in  Ireland  into  a  goddess  of  battle, 
her  power  of  magic  making  her  subsequently  pass  as  a  Finn. 


From  O.  Bremer,  "  Ethnographic  der  germanischen  Stamme,"in  Paul's  Grundriss  dev  germanischen 
Philologie,  by  courtesy  of  Karl  J.  Triibner 


CHAPTER   V 
TEUTONS   AND  ROMANS 

"  NOT  for  a  long  time  to  come  will  the  interpretation  of  these 
passages  be  definitely  established."  Thus  wrote  J.  Grimm 
in  1844  of  the  "priceless  records"1  of  the  Romans,  and 
after  more  than  fifty  years  the  observation  still  holds  good. 
These  Roman  accounts  are  numerous,  but  they  are  fragmen- 
tary and  frequently  obscure.  Tacitus,  our  main  source,  is 
lauded  by  one  scholar  as  endowed  with  "  a  quick  apprehension 
of  ideas  otherwise  foreign  to  classical  authors," 2  while  another 
authority  speaks  of  "  an  iridescent  method  of  delineation,  an 
horizon  limited  to  the  conventional  range  of  thought  of  declin- 
ing antiquity  and  a  too  frequent  neglect  of  the  really  essential 
factors." 3  We  must  here  consider  the  more  important  passages 
that  have  a  bearing  on  the  religion. 

Caesar  came  into  contact  with  the  Teutons  only  casually,  and 
no  great  weight  is  therefore  to  be  attached  to  his  observations 
concerning  them.  In  part,  these  agree  with  what  we  know 
from  other  sources,  so,  for  example,  that  the  Teutons  had  no 
priestly  caste  corresponding  to  the  Gallic  Druids,  and  that 
before  battle  the  women  practised  soothsaying.  But  his  other 
statements,  that  they  made  no  sacrifices  and  knew  no  other 
gods  than  visible  natural  phenomena,  such  as  Sol,  Vulcan,  and 
Luna,  are  sufficiently  refuted  by  the  testimony  of  Tacitus. 
We  do  not  even  know  from  what  source  Cassar  arrived  at  just 
these  three  divinities  ;  perhaps  he  overheard  a  Teuton  invoking 

1  J.  Grimm,  DM.,  Vorrede,  p.  x. 

2  L.  von  Ranke,  Weltgeschichte,  III,  38. 

8  Th.  Mommsen,  Romische  Geschichte,  V,  154. 

97 


98          THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

the  sun  and  other  celestial  bodies,  just  as  Bojocalus,  the  leader 
of  the  Ansivari,  did  in  solemn  fashion  when  the  Romans  would 
not  grant  to  his  people  the  waste  tracts  which  they  demanded.1 
More  accurate  than  the  notes  of  Caesar  seems  the  account  of 
Strabo  concerning  the  priestesses  of  the  Cimbri,  who  cut  the 
\  throats  of  the  prisoners  of  war  above  a  sacrificial  vessel  and 
then  prophesied  from  the  blood  that  flowed  into  it. 

Tacitus  is  beyond  all  comparison  our  richest  source,  and  it 
is  through  him  that  the  full  light  of  history  is  first  shed  on 
the  Teutons.  His  knowledge  of  Germany  is  extensive,  and 
of  his  love  of  truth  there  is  no  reasonable  doubt.  It  remains 
necessary,  however,  to  weigh  his  testimony  and  to  inquire  first 
of  all  from  what  sources  he  drew  his  information.  These  latter 
were  doubtless  numerous  and  reliable ;  for  more  than  a  century 
the  Teutons  had  been  within  the  Roman  horizon,  and  Pliny's 
extensive  work  on  wars  with  the  Teutons  was  at  the  disposal 
of  Tacitus.  At  Rome  he  had  the  opportunity  of  seeing  and 
questioning  many  Teutonic  soldiers  and  prisoners  of  war.  He 
had  himself  probably  served  as  an  officer  in  Germany,  just  as 
his  father-in-law,  Agricola,  had  been  governor  in  Britain.  In 
the  circles  in  which  Tacitus  moved,  there  were  doubtless  many 
persons  who  had  in  a  similar  manner  become  well  acquainted 
with  the  provinces,  and  yet  even  this  knowledge  had  its  limits. 
It  was  reliable  for  those  regions  that  the  Roman  legions  had 
actually  traversed,  less  complete  for  those  lands  that  were 
merely  to  a  greater  or  less  degree  within  the  sphere  of  Roman 
influence.  Accordingly,  Tacitus  is  well  informed  concerning 
the  West  Teutons  along  the  Rhine,  but  less  so  concerning  the 
interior  of  Germany.  Whatever  incidental  information  he  gives 
us  concerning  the  distant  Baltic  coasts  he  has  only  at  second 
hand.  He  is  himself  careful  to  pay  due  regard  to  this  differ- 
ence in  the  character  of  his  material  ;  he  explicitly  warns  us 

1  Tacitus,  Annals,  XIII,  55.  The  story  may  also  be  found  in  Grimm,  Deutsche 
Sagen,  Nr.  367. 


TEUTONS  AND  ROMANS  99 

when  what  he  relates  is  founded  on  mere  rumor,  and  he  not 
infrequently  leaves  a  question  undecided.  At  times  we  see 
even  more  clearly  than  could  Tacitus  that  the  material  at  his 
disposal  was  inadequate  to  determine  the  question  at  issue, 
so,  for  example,  as  to  the  autochthonous  character  of  the 
Teutonic  people. 

The  style  of  his  historical  writings  is  rhetorical  and,  on 
account  of  unnatural  twists  and  turns  of  phrase,  frequently 
obscure.  Thus  in  the  very  first  sentence  of  the  Germania  cor- 
rectness of  statement  is  sacrificed  to  style.  The  author  is  on 
the  hunt  for  telling  antitheses  and  style-effects.  Moreover,  his 
outlook  and  judgment  are  those  of  a  Roman  of  his  time,  as  may 
be  seen  from  the  comparison  he  makes  between  the  Romans 
enervated  through  luxury,  and  the  unspoiled  people  of  nature,  — 
a  comparison  that  had  long  since  become  one  of  the  stock-ideas 
of  literature.1  While  these  factors  have  doubtless  colored  the. 
picture  Tacitus  draws  of  the  Teutons,  we  may  yet  easily  over- 
estimate their  importance.  The  Germania  of  Tacitus  is  not 
an  idyl,  nor  a  romance,  nor  a  political  pamphlet ;  it  contains 
a  wealth  of  material,  gives  evidence  of  not  a  small  degree 
of  objectivity,  and  is,  in  truth,  a  scientific  document  of  high 
historical  value.  It  is  manifestly  unjust  to  the  historian  of 
A.D.  100  to  reproach  him  with  the  fact  that  in  the  year  1900 
questions  are  asked  to  which  he  furnishes  no  answer. 

The  Teutonic  tribes  which  Tacitus  knew  were  not  savages. 
While  lacking  the  institutions  found  among  peoples  of  more 
advanced  culture,  they  yet  did  not  live  in  anarchy.  They  found 
a  livelihood  in  the  chase  and  from  their  flocks  ;  agriculture, 
too,  was  not  unknown  to  them.  The  several  tribes  possessed 
territory  of  their  own  and  had  fixed  abodes,  but  various  causes 
frequently  induced  or  compelled  them  to  change  these.  Again, 
individual  tribes  might  fuse  with  others  or  disappear  from  the 
scene  altogether.  Fixed  institutions  that  furnished  a  guarantee 

1  Compare  Horace,  Odes,  III,  xxiv,  9 ;  Seneca,  De  Ira,  I,  9. 


100        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

of  stability  were  lacking.  Scholars  have,  therefore,  undoubtedly 
gone  too  far  in  recognizing  in  the  picture  as  drawn  by  Tacitus 
various  political  and  judicial  institutions  that  afterwards  existed 
among  the  Teutons  ;  but  it  is  equally  unjust  to  represent  them 
as  a  band  of  savages  among  whom  club-law  reigned  supreme, 
and  who  had  to  learn  the  very  elements  of  law  from  the 
Romans.1  Established  custom,  a  feeling  of  honor,  and  divina- 
tion, all  served  to  maintain  certain  fixed  forms  that  checked 
the  free  course  of  personal  caprice  and  passion. 

Besides,  we  must  not  lose  sight  of  the  fact  that  to  the 
Teuton  the  past  was  ever  living  and  present  in  songs  cele- 
brating the  divine  origin  of  the  tribes  and  the  achievements 
of  their  heroes,  such  as  Arminius.  From  the  earliest  times 
the  tribes  loved  their  songs.  In  them  they  handed  down  their 
legends,  and  even  at  a  later  period  a  harp  was  one  of  the  three 
things  which  a  king  of  the  Vandals,  at  the  fall  of  his  kingdom 
in  Africa,  desired  in  his  direst  need.  At  their  very  entrance 
on  the  stage  of  history  the  Teutons  possessed  songs.  In  them 
are  celebrated  the  traditions  of  the  tribe  and  the  fame  of  the 
hero  and  leader.  We  meet  with  families  of  leaders  at  the  very 
outset,  and  there  are  even  beginnings  of  kingship,  such  as  that 
of  Arminius  among  the  Cherusci  and  Maroboduus  among  the 
Marcomanni.  Too  much  has  been  made  of  the  search  for 
fixed  characteristics  that  distinguished  families  of  royal  or 
noble  blood  from  the  general  class  of  freemen.  It  is  certain, 
however,  that  the  Teutons  of  old  held  in  honor  nobilitas 
alongside  of  virtus  and,  at  a  later  period  as  well,  attached  great 
importance  to  descent  from  noble  ancestors.2 

The  Teutonic  tribes  at  the  beginning  of  the  Christian  era 
did  not  constitute  a  national  unit.  They  constantly  waged 


1  So  Seeck,  Geschichte  des  Untergangs  der  antiken  Welt,  I,  pp.  200,  206,  213. 

2  For  examples  among  the  Heruli,  at  a  later  time,  see  Procopius,  Bellum  Gothicum, 
II,  15  ;  compare  also  K.  Maurer,  Ueber  das  Wesen  des  dltesten  Adds  der  deutschen 
St'dmme  (1846). 


TEUTONS  AND  ROMANS  101 

war  upon  one  another  ;  so  in  Caesar's  time  the  Ubii  upon  the 
Suebi,  and  subsequently  the  Cherusci  under  Arminius  upon 
the  Marcomanni  under  Maroboduus.  Similarly,  Tacitus  tells 
us  of  a  war  between  the  Chatti  and  Hermunduri.  Nor  did 
they  present  a  united  front  as  over  against  foreigners,  and 
in  consequence  we  experience  considerable  difficulty  in  the 
attempt  to  distinguish  between  Teutonic  and  Keltic  tribes  on 
the  left  bank  of  the  Rhine.  Against  Rome,  too,  the  Teutons 
did  not  make  common  cause  ;  some  eagerly  sought  alliance, 
and  even  entered  into  the  military  service  of  Rome.  We 
frequently  find  love  of  freedom  and  thirst  for  vengeance  against 
injustice  and  oppression  inciting  Teutons  to  war  against  Rome, 
but  neither  the  war  under  Arminius,  nor  that  under  Maro- 
boduus, nor  that  under  Civilis  bore  a  general  and  national 
character.  Religious  consecration  by  means  of  divination 
doubtless  played  a  part  in  these  wars,  but  they  cannot  be 
traced  to  religious  motives. 

What  Tacitus  relates  of  the  religion  of  the  Teutons  must  be 
interpreted  in  the  light  of  the  meaning  that  Roman  readers 
attached  to  his  words,  and  is  to  be  taken  with  such  limitations 
as  are  indicated  by  his  own  testimony.  The  necessity  of  this 
latter  restriction  is  shown  by  some  contradictions  occurring 
in  his  works.  Whereas  the  Germania,  for  example,  expressly 
denies  the  existence  of  temples  as  opposed  to  sacred  groves, 
notwithstanding  the  fact  that  a  temple  of  Nerthus  is  referred 
to  in  Chapter  40,  the  Annals  *  and  Histories  mention,  in  addition 
to  the  sacred  groves,  a  temple  of  Tamfana,  which  was  razed  to 
the  ground  by  Germanicus. 

The  sacred  groves  constituted  the  centre  of  the  religious  and 
political  life.  There  the  tribes  assembled  to  plan  common 
undertakings,  and  there  the  trophies  captured  from  the  enemy 
were  hung  up,  and  prisoners  of  war  slaughtered.  We  know 
of  several  of  these  sacred  groves  :  the  grove  of  Baduhenna, 

1  Annals,  I,  51. 


102        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

where  nine  hundred  Romans  fell  ;  the  grove  of  the  Nahanar- 
vali,  where  a  priest  in  woman's  clothing  worshipped,  without 
images,  two  brothers  by  the  name  of  Alcis ;  the  dread  grove 
where  the  Semnones  sacrificed  human  victims  to  the  regnator 
omnium  deus^  and  which  no  one  was  allowed  to  enter  unfet- 
tered ;  the  sacred  grove  (castum  nemus),  on  that  island  in  the 
ocean  where  seven  tribes  in  holy  peace  awaited  the  coming 
of  Nerthus  ;  and,  lastly,  the  grove  that  is  expressly  mentioned 
in  connection  with  the  sacred  saline  streams  for  which  the 
Chatti  and  Hermunduri  waged  war. 

Two  characteristic  features  receive  especial  emphasis  in  the 
account  that  Tacitus  gives  of  Teutonic  religion  :  the  air  of 
mystery  and  the  intimate  connection  with  the  life  of  the  tribe. 
Reverence  for  the  mysterious  silence  of  the  forest,  for  the 
divine  in  woman  and  for  her  powers  of  divination,  —  reverence 
that  finds  its  expression  in  the  bloody  rites  of  the  Semnones 
as  well  as  in  the  requirement  that  the  slaves  who  had  assisted 
in  the  cleansing  of  the  wagon  of  Nerthus  should  forthwith 
be  drowned,  —  this  fundamental  trait  of  Teutonic  religion 
impressed  Tacitus  all  the  more  since  this  arcanus  terror  was 
foreign  to  the  Romans.  This  reverence  is  in  the  present 
instance  a  characteristic  of  popular  religion ;  there  existed 
no  priestly  ritual  or  kingly  authority  that  could  have  instilled 
it ;  for  while  priests  are  repeatedly  mentioned  by  Tacitus  as 
executing  sacred  rites,  as  consulting  the  signs  in  augury,  and 
as  presiding  at  assemblies  of  the  people,  they  are  nowhere 
regarded  as  a  caste  or  separate  class  with  exclusive  powers 
and  prerogatives.  The  individual  state,  the  rivitas,  has  its 
priest  (sacerdos),  just  as  the  whole  religious  life  is  intimately 
connected  with  that  of  the  tribe.  Tacitus  indeed  speaks  only 
of  tribal  religions,  be  it  of  the  single  tribe  or  of  a  league  of 
tribes,  such  as  among  the  Greeks  was  called  an  amphiktuonia. 
The  latter  was  the  case  with  the  seven  Nerthus  tribes  and  with 

1  "  God,  the  ruler  of  all." 


TEUTONS  AND  ROMANS  103 

the  Semnones,  in  whose  midst  representatives  of  a  number  of 
tribes,  related  by  blood  kinship,  assembled  for  the  service  of 
the  supreme  god.  After  the  strife  between  the  Chatti  and 
Hermunduri  mentioned  above,  it  would  seem,  though  the  pas- 
sage is  not  altogether  clear,  that  the  victorious  Hermunduri 
brought  to  Mars  and  Mercury  the  bloody  sacrifice  of  all  the 
prisoners  of  war.  On  all  public  occasions,  and  notably  when 
about  to  engage  in  war,  divination  was  resorted  to,  from 
staves  inscribed  with  runes,  from  birds,  or  from  the  neighing  of 
horses.  In  the  popular  assemblies  at  full  and  new  moon,  the 
functions  performed  by  the  priests  were,  next  to  the  influence  ' 
and  authority  of  the  leaders,  almost  the  only  element  that 
brought  some  degree  of  regularity  to  the  frequently  unorderly 
deliberations.  We  should  be  guilty  of  gross  exaggeration  if  we 
were  to  represent  the  life  of  the  ancient  Teutons  as  wholly 
permeated  with  religious  ideas  and  observances,  but  at  the 
same  time  various  facts  cannot  be  overlooked :  that  the  tribes 
traced  their  origin  to  their  gods;  that  on  all  occasions  they 
sought  in  various  ways  to  ascertain  the  will  of  these  gods  ;  that 
they  went  to  war  —  their  chief  occupation  —  accompanied  by 
the  sacred  images  and  symbols  ;  and  that  after  victory  had 
been  won,  they  offered  up  their  booty  to  these  same  gods. 

What  Tacitus  has  to  say  about  the  Teutonic  gods  is  the 
least  satisfactory  part  of  his  treatment.  The  reason  for  this 
lies  partly  in  that  he  defines  their  character  to  so  limited  an 
extent  and  partly  in  that  he  calls  them,  with  few  exceptions, 
by  Roman  names.  Through  the  veil  of  this  Roman  interpre- 
tation we  must  perforce  seek  to  catch  a  glimpse  of  Teutonic 
deities.  The  supreme  divinity  with  Tacitus  is  Mercury- Wodan. 
That  the  Roman  Tacitus  should  call  the  Teutonic  supreme 
deity  Mercury  is  no  doubt  to  be  accounted  for  in  part  by  the 
Gallic  Mercury.  Next  to  Mercury  stood  Hercules,  whom  the 
warriors  in  their  songs  praised  as  the  first  of  the  brave,  and 
Mars,  who  has  been  identified  with  the  regnator  omnium  of  the 


104        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Semnones.  Isis,  who  occurs  among  a  division  of  the  Suebi, 
Tacitus  considered  a  foreign  deity  on  account  of  the  ship  sym- 
bol which  was  connected  with  her  worship.  Ship  processions 
are,  however,  indigenous  among  the  Teutons,  and  we  must 
therefore  regard  this  Isis  as  a  Teutonic  divinity,  who  is  per- 
haps to  be  identified  with  Frija,  as  Miillenhoff  has  done.  The 
interpretation  of  the  name  Alcis,  borne  by  the  two  brothers  in  the 
sanctuary  of  the  Nahanarvali,  offers  great  difficulties,  although 
both  the  Asdingi,1  the  long-haired  kings  of  the  Vandals,  and 
the  Dioscuri  (the  Hartungen)  of  the  heroic  saga  present  points 
of  resemblance.  Genuinely  Teutonic  names  are  unfortunately 
few  in  number.  They  include  only  Nerthus  among  the  Teu- 
tonic tribes  along  the  sea  and  Tamfana  among  the  Marsi. 
The  former,  Tacitus  explains  as  signifying  terra  mater  (mother 
earth),  an  interpretation  which  has  without  sufficient  reason 
been  called  into  question.2 

Besides  the  Roman  historical  accounts  we  learn  a  few 
particulars  regarding  Teutonic  divinities  and  their  cult  through 
monuments  and  inscriptions  on  coins.  But,  as  has  already 
been  pointed  out,  these  inscriptions  originate  with  the  Roman 
legions,  and  the  Teutonic  element  hence  plays  a  role  altogether 
subordinate  to  the  Roman  and  Keltic.  By  far  the  larger  part 
of  the  Jupiters,  Mercurys,  Apollos,  and  Minervas  that  are 
found  on  inscriptions  from  the  west  of  the  Rhine  —  many  of 
them  with  surnames  that  are  in  part  local  —  were  doubtless 
Keltic  and  Roman  divinities.  Nor  is  there  any  occasion  for 
surprise  that  Roman  soldiers  in  a  country  where  the  Keltic 
population  was  the  original  and  dominant  element  did  not 
worship  many  Teutonic  gods.  There  are,  however,  traces  of 
Teutonic  cults  in  a  few  names,  Latin  as  well  as  native.  Among 
these  is  the  Hercules  Deusoniensis,  whom  we  find  depicted  on 

1  Jordanes,  De  origine  actibusque  Getarum,  Chapter  22. 

2  By  Mannhardt,  Baumkultus  der  Germanen,  pp.  567-602,  who  sees  in  Nerthus  a 
male  vegetation  demon. 


TEUTONS  AND  ROMANS  105 

coins,  with  attributes,  to  be  sure,  that  are  certainly  not  Teu- 
tonic, but  whose  cognomen  seems  to  have  been  preserved  in 
names  of  places,  such  as  Duisburg.  A  richer  material  is  at 
our  disposal  in  the  case  of  Hercules  Magusanus,  found  on  a 
number  of  inscriptions  from  the  Netherlands,  who  is  at  times 
joined  with  other  deities  of  the  Lower  Rhine  region,  more 
especially  with  Nehalennia.  He  has  been  regarded  as  the 
chief  god  of  the  Batavi  and  is  most  likely  to  be  identified  with 
Donar. 

A  limited  number  of  native  names  have  also  been  gathered 
from  inscriptions.  A  stone  was  unearthed  at  Breda,  conse- 
crated to  a  goddess  Sandraudiga  by  the  cultores  templi 1 ;  several 
inscriptions  mention  a  goddess  Hludana,  worshipped  by  fisher- 
men (eonductores  piscatus).  This  name  has  certainly  no  con- 
nection with  Holda,  and  probably  also  none  with  the  Norse 
Hlodhyn.  Various  conjectures  have  been  made  concerning 
the  god  Requalivahanus,  whose  name  occurs  on  an  inscription 
from  the  vicinity  of  Cologne.  The  name  indicates  darkness, 
and  by  some  this  darkness  has  been  referred  to  that  of  the 
lower  world,  by  others  to  that  of  the  forest.  The  best  known 
figure  of  all  is  that  of  Nehalennia,  of  whom  a  large  number  of 
monuments  were  brought  to  light  near  Domburg  (on  the  island 
of  Walcheren,  the  Netherlands)  in  1647,  anc^  near  Deutz  (in 
Rhenish  Prussia)  in  1776.  She  is  depicted  with  the  attributes 
of  a  horn  of  plenty,  a  basket  of  fruit,  and  a  dog.  The  goddess 
herself  is  represented  in  a  standing  or  sitting  posture,  rarely 
with  bared  head,  and  frequently  in  the  company  of  other 
gods,  such  as  Hercules  and  Neptune.  Many  possible  and 
impossible  conjectures  have  been  made  concerning  her  origin, 
her  name,  her  connection  or  identification  with  other  goddesses. 
That  she  was  at  any  rate  a  Teutonic  goddess  may  now  be  con- 
sidered established,  and  her  attributes  show  conclusively  that 
prosperity  and  fertility  were  expected  from  her. 
l  "  Priests  of  the  temple." 


106        THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

Teutonic  soldiers  serving  under  the  Romans  in  other  prov- 
inces of  the  Empire  may  also  have  worshipped  their  ancestral 
gods  beyond  the  borders  of  their  own  native  land.  That  such 
was  actually  the  case  is  shown  by  two  inscriptions  of  the  third 
century,  found  in  1883  at  Housesteads  in  the  north  of  Eng- 
land, near  the  Wall  of  Hadrian.  The  altar  on  which  they  are 
found  was  erected  by  Frisian  soldiers  from  Twenthe,  —  which 
is  rather  strange  inasmuch  as  Twenthe  belonged  to  the  territory 
of  the  Salic  Franks,  —  and  is  dedicated  "Deo  Marti  Thingso 
et  duabus  Alaesiagis  Bede  et  Fimmilene."  l  The  relief  above 
the  altar  shows  an  armed  warrior  with  helmet,  spear,  and 
shield,  at  whose  right  a  swan  or  goose  is  seen.  Both  of  the 
receding  sides  (the  relief  is  semicircular  in  form)  show  the  same 
figure  of  a  hovering  female,  with  a  sword  (or  staff)  in  the  one 
hand  and  a  wreath  in  the  other.  The  value  of  these  monu- 
ments is  doubtless  great,  and  yet  it  has  by  some  been  over- 
estimated. What  we  do  know  is  that  the  Frisian  citneus, 
encamped  in  Britain  under  Alexander  Severus,  worshipped 
Mars,  i.e.  Tiu,  doubtless  as  god  of  war,  as  the  armed  figure  in 
itself  indicates.  A  fragment  of  nature-mythology,  according  to 
some  scholars,  lies  concealed  in  the  swan,  to  be  interpreted  as 
the  symbol  of  either  light  or  cloud,  and  to  be  brought  into 
connection  with  the  Swan-knights  of  legendary  lore.  Similar 
theories  have  been  advanced  regarding  the  female  figures, 
but  all  of  this  is  mere  conjecture,  possessing  a  greater  or 
less  degree  of  probability.  It  appears  likely  that  the  Frisian 
cavalrymen,  who  call  themselves  citizens,  saw  in  Tiu  the  god 
not  only  of  their  squadron  but  also  of  their  popular  assembly, 
the  thing,  and  that  the  two  side  figures  are  to  be  regarded  in 
the  same  light,  their  names  having  been  explained  from  certain 
forms  of  Frisian  legal  procedure.  However  that  may  be,  the 
fact  that  these  Frisian  soldiers  worshipped  Tiu  does  not  seem 
to  show  conclusively  that  this  god  of  the  sky  was  originally  the 

1  "  To  the  god  Mars  Thingsus,  and  the  two  Alaesiagae,  Bede  and  Fimmilene." 


TEUTONS  AND  ROMANS  107 

chief  god  of  all  Teutons.  There  is  no  warrant,  therefore,  for 
regarding  this  hillock  at  Housesteads  as  a  "  high  watch-tower  " 
(hohe  Warte),  from  which  "  we  get  a  broad  and  far-reaching  out- 
look over  the  entire  Teutonic  world."  *  We  have  no  right  to 
make  these  "  citizens  of  Twenthe  "  of  the  Frisian  cuneus  the 
spokesmen  of  the  whole  Teutonic  race. 

The  struggle  between  Teutons  and  Romans  continued,  in 
one  form  or  another,  for  more  than  five  centuries.  Ever  since 
the  time  that  Tiberius  had  abandoned  his  plan  of  conquering 
the  country  up  to  the  Elbe,  the  Roman  legions  stood  guard 
at  the  frontiers  of  the  Empire,  chiefly  along  the  line  of  the 
Rhine  and  Danube.  The  outposts  and  the  expeditions  on 
the  other  sides  of  these  rivers  served  merely  to  strengthen  the 
frontier  of  the  Empire.  Among  the  many  Augusti  and  Caesares 
who  fought  against  the  various  Teutonic  tribes  are :  Trajanus, 
Marcus  Aurelius,  Probus,  Julianus,  Valentinianus,  Gratianus. 
The  West  Teutons  in  both  of  the  Roman  provinces  that  went 
by  the  name  of  Germania  lived  as  subjects  of  the  Empire. 
The  tribes  that  issued  forth  from  the  interior  were  regularly, 
with  only  few  exceptions,  vanquished  by  the  Roman  armies. 
The  migrations,  which  it  is  customary  to  regard  as  having 
begun  with  the  crossing  of  the  Danube  in  378,  are  merely  the 
continuation,  on  the  one  hand,  of  the  war  waged  for  centuries 
past  at  the  limes  of  the  Empire  and,  on  the  other,  of  those  numer- 
ous trecks  that,  from  causes  unknown  to  us,  repeatedly  drove 
first  Kelts  and  then  Teutons  from  the  interior  to  the  frontiers 
of  the  Empire.  What  the  Goths  did  in  378  was  exactly  what 
Brennus,  what  the  Cimbri  and  Teutones  had  before  done,  what 
the  Goths  themselves  had  done  as  early  as  A.D.  250. 

We  are  not  here  concerned  with  furnishing  an  historic  sur- 
vey, but  with  setting  forth  clearly  the  nature  of  the  influence 
exerted  by  Romans  on  Teutons.  This  influence  was  confined 
to  those  who  appeared  at  the  frontiers  of  the  Empire  or  who 

1  Hoff ory,  Eddastudien,  p.  1 73. 


108        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

settled  within  its  borders.  Romans  did  not  to  any  extent  visit 
the  Teutons  of  the  interior.  The  protracted  contest  at  the 
limes  did  not  cause  a  chasm  between  the  two  peoples,  nor  did 
it  create  among  the  Teutons  a  feeling  of  national  unity. 
Many  Teutons  served  as  faithful  allies  in  Roman  armies,  and 
the  posts  of  honor  of  the  Empire,  conferring  distinction  and 
authority,  were  open  to  Teutons  no  less  than  to  Spaniards 
and  Syrians.  In  the  great  battle  of  nations  between  Romans 
and  Huns  at  Chalons-sur-Marne  (451)  there  served  under 
Ae'tius,  West  Goths  and  Burgundians,  under  Attila,  East  Goths, 
Gepidae,  and  Heruli ;  that  is  to  say,  there  were  Teutons  on  both 
sides.  In  the  fifth  century  the  all-powerful  ministers  of  the 
'  Roman  Empire  were  largely  Teutons  ;  so  the  Vandal  Stilicho, 
the  Suabian  Ricimer.  We  must  therefore  not  fall  into  the 
error  of  representing  the  battle  waged  for  centuries  between 
Rome  and  the  Teutons  as  one  that  took  place  between  two 
peoples.  The  Roman  Empire,  which  was  assimilating  Teutonic 
elements  in  an  ever-increasing  ratio,  warded  off  at  the  limes  the 
attacks  of  the  more  or  less  unorganized  bands  that  issued  from 
the  interior  :  Marcomanni,  Alemanni,  etc.  These  were  almost 
invariably  defeated.  The  saying  of  Tacitus,  "  tarn  diu  Ger- 
mania  vincitur," *  may  in  fact  serve  as  a  motto  for  the  entire 
period.  But  although  defeated  a  countless  number  of  times, 
these  bands  were  ever  able  to  fill  their  depleted  ranks,  belong- 
ing as  they  did  to  a  nation  that  did  not  restrict  the  number  of 
its  children,  and  which  was,  therefore,  ever  rich  in  men  capable 
of  bearing  arms  and  with  no  occupation  except  to  join  in  expedi- 
tions of  plunder  and  pillage.  As  to  the  immediate  causes  of 
these  expeditions  and  the  collisions  in  the  course  of  centuries 
between  individual  Teutonic  tribes  in  the  interior,  we  are  abso- 
lutely uninformed.  Nor  can  we  account  for  the  establishment 
of  that  kingdom  of  the  Goths  in  Southern  Russia,  which  is 
perpetuated  in  the  heroic  saga.  Their  migration  southward 

l  "  So  long  have  we  been  endeavoring  to  conquer  Germany." 


TEUTONS  AND  ROMANS  109 

brought  them  into  collision  with  the  Eastern  Roman  Empire  and 
formed  the  beginning  of  the  so-called  migration  of  nations,  which 
consisted,  however,  rather  of  plundering  expeditions  of  armies 
than  of  changes  of  habitation  of  the  several  tribes  from  one  local- 
ity to  another.  Various  tribes  might  join  in  such  an  expedition  ; 
the  result  was  in  some  cases  the  disappearance  of  the  entire 
band, — as,  for  example,  when  Stilicho  annihilated  the  formidable 
army  of  Radagais,  —  in  others,  the  establishment  of  a  kingdom. 

The  Roman  power  did  not  therefore  succumb  to  the  supe- 
rior force  of  a  morally  uncorrupted  and  materially  unweakened 
people.  The  Empire  crumbled  and  fell  to  pieces  of  itself,  and 
the  Teutonic  barbarians  entered  upon  the  inheritance.  Re- 
peating what  so  many  of  their  predecessors  had  done,  who 
had  previously  allowed  themselves  to  be  incorporated  into  the 
unity  of  the  Empire,  these  Teutons  appropriated  Roman  insti- 
tutions to  the  greatest  possible  extent,  and  became,  in  fact, 
Romanized.  Such  was  the  case  with  the  West-Teutonic  tribes, 
who  had  for  so  long  a  period  occupied  the  Roman  provinces 
of  Germania  Superior  and  Inferior,  and  subsequently  with  the 
East  Teutons,  who  played  the  chief  role  in  the  migration  of 
nations.  As  rapidly  as  they  pass  from  the  condition  of  preda- 
tory bands  to  a  more  settled  state,  they  assume  the  forms  of 
the  Roman  Empire,  some,  to  be  sure,  to  a  greater  degree  than 
others ;  the  West  Goths  in  Gaul  and  Spain,  and  the  East 
Goths  in  Italy,  more  so  than  the  Vandals  in  Africa. 

What  we  learn  of  the  religion  of  these  tribes  during  this 
period  consists  solely  of  isolated  facts,  incidentally  mentioned 
by  writers  who  took  no  real  interest  in  the  paganism  of  these 
barbarians.  These  facts  may  prove  to  be  of  some  value  for 
the  purpose  of  comparison  with  the  data  of  other  periods,  but 
they  do  not  suffice  to  furnish  us  with  an  accurate  historical 
outline.  We  are  told  of  sacrifices,  frequently  human,  and  of 
divination ;  we  read  of  Christianized  Franks 1  who  drowned 

1  Procopius,  Bellum  Got/iitunt,  II,  25. 


110        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

the  captive  women  and  children  of  Goths  as  a  sacrifice  offer- 
ing in  the  river.  The  historian  adds  the  comment  that  these 
barbarians,  although  Christianized,  had  retained  numerous 
heathen  customs,  such  as  human  offerings  and  other  abomi- 
nable sacrifices,  for  the  purpose  of  divination, — an  observation 
doubtless  of  wide,  if  not  general,  application  for  that  period. 

For  all  that,  the  period  of  migration  yields  a  valuable  har- 
vest for  the  study  of  Teutonic  religion,  inasmuch  as  in  it  lie 
the  origins  of  the  heroic  saga.  The  voice  of  song  was  evidently, 
in  these  rude  times,  not  wanting  among  the  Teutons.  Their 
chiefs  were  not  held  as  ordinary  men,  but  as  a  race  of  demi- 
gods, for  whom  we  also  meet  the  name  Anses,1  indicating  their 
descent  from  the  gods.  This  was  doubtless  true  for  other 
peoples  besides  the  Goths.  In  the  narrative  of  the  monk 
Paulus  Diaconus,  who  in  the  eighth  century  wrote  a  history  of 
his  own  people,  the  Lombards,  we  now  and  then  catch  a  glimpse 
of  songs  in  which  the  Lombards  kept  the  memory  of  their  past 
alive.  The  Teutonic  heroic  saga,  therefore,  although  devel- 
oped only  at  a  later  time,  and  combined  with  various  elements 
of  other  origin,  yet  has  its  roots  in  the  period  of  migrations. 
This  subject,  will,  however,  demand  a  separate  treatment 
later  on. 

About  the  year  500,  the  final  result  of  the  migrations  seemed 
to  have  been  reached,  and  the  condition  of  Western  Europe  to 
have  been  permanently  fixed.  In  England  the  Anglo-Saxons 
ruled ;  in  Gaul  Chlodowech  had  established  the  powerful  king- 
dom of  the  Franks ;  the  West  Goths  had  occupied  Spain, 
and  the  Vandals  the  old  Roman  province  of  Africa;  in  Italy 
the  great  kingdom  of  the  East  Goths  was  established,  which 
also  embraced  parts  of  Pannonia  and  Dacia.  Theodoric  pos- 
sessed a  certain  degree  of  leadership  and  ascendancy  over  the 
other  Teutonic  kings,  those  of  the  Vandals,  West  Goths,  and 
Thuringians  being  allied  to  him  through  marriage.  He  also 

1  Jordanes,  De  originf  actibusquc  Getarum,  Chapter  13. 


TEUTONS  AND  ROMANS  111 

endeavored,  with  varying  success,  to  incorporate  the  Franks 
into  that  "  system  of  states  "  (Staatensystem),  as  Ranke  calls  it, 
in  which  he  occupied  the  position  of  a  Teutonic  king  as  well 
as  of  ruler  of  the  Roman  Empire  of  the  West. 

This  first  attempt  to  found  permanent  kingdoms  was  frus- 
trated through  the  powerful  intervention  of  the  emperor  Jus- 
tinian, who  in  the  sixth  century  annihilated  the  Vandal  and 
East-Gothic  states.  While  Byzantium  could  not  maintain  its 
sway  in  the  conquered  lands,  and  long-suffering  Italy  fell  into 
the  hands  of  the  Lombards,  who  held  it  until  the  end  of  the 
eighth  century,  yet  the  map  of  the  world  had  been  totally 
changed,  and  the  Franks  had  become  the  paramount  power. 
Now  these  Franks  settled  in  lands  that  more  than  any  other 
province  had  been  the  seat  of  Roman  culture.  Gaul  had  been 
entirely  Romanized,  and  they  entered  upon  the  inheritance  of 
this  ancient  culture.  In  seeking  the  origin  of  the  French 
nation  three  elements  are  thus  to  be  taken  into  account :  the 
Keltic,  Roman,  and  Teutonic.  Of  these  the  Roman,  while  of 
least  consequence  as  regards  blood,  is  yet  in  other  respects  the 
most  important,  —  another  proof  of  the  fact  that  an  historic 
result  does  not  exclusively,  nor  even  mainly,  depend  upon 
physical  descent. 

From  what  has  been  said,  it  is  evident  that  there  is  a  link 
connecting  the  ancient  world  with  the  medieval.  The  Roman 
Empire  was  not  overthrown  by  the  Teutons,  who  put  in  its  place 
their  own  institutions  and  customs.  Doubtless  the  Teutons  also 
made  their  contributions,  but  less  in  the  way  of  legal  forms  and 
usages,  although  such  were  not  altogether  wanting,  than  by  the 
way  in  which  they  modified  Roman  institutions  according  to 
their  own  needs.  To  show  this  does  not,  however,  fall  within 
the  province  of  the  history  of  religion,  but  within  that  of  the 
history  of  law  and  politics.  What  has  been  said  will  suffice 
to  indicate  the  general  historical  setting  of  the  centuries  under 
consideration. 


112        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

It  is  in  this  period,  too,  that  most  of  the  Teutonic  peoples 
accepted  Christianity.  With  their  very  entrance  upon  the  stage 
of  history  they  become  Christians ;  their  paganism  belongs 
largely  to  their  prehistoric  period.  All  of  the  Teutonic  king- 
doms already  mentioned  were  Christian,  mostly  Arian,  the 
Franks  alone  being  orthodox.  The  Teutonic  nations  received 
their  civilization  through  Roman  law  and  culture,  and  through 
Christianity.  We  are  now  prepared  to  take  up  the  traces  of 
paganism  that  come  to  the  surface  upon  the  conversion  of  the 
Teutons  to  Christianity. 

The  Teutons  appear  upon  the  scene  of  history  in  three 
stages.  First  of  all,  the  West-Teutonic  tribes  come  into  con- 
tact with  the  Romans  since  the  time  of  Caesar ;  these  become 
disintegrated  and  disappear.  Next,  during  the  period  of 
migrations,  the  East  Teutons  found  their  powerful  kingdoms ; 
West  and  East  Goths,  Vandals,  Burgundians,  and  last  of  all 
the  Lombards,  who  do  not,  however,  form  a  part  of  the  East- 
Teutonic  group.  These  are  all  overthrown  in  turn  and  vanish 
from  the  scene.  Only  a  third  group,  of  which  the  Franks  were 
the  leaders  and  champions,  and  which  embraces  the  peoples  of 
Middle  Germany,  has  permanently  represented  the  Teutonic 
element  in  the  world's  history.  The  Scandinavian  peoples 
have  a  history  of  their  own,  to  which  we  shall  have  to  devote 
separate  chapters. 


CHAPTER  VI 
PAGANISM  AND  CHRISTIANITY 

"  THE  heathen  Teutons,  almost  without  exception,  allow  the 
Christian  propagandism  to  proceed  undisturbed."  "  We  hear 
little  of  heathen  fanaticism  or  of  true  Christian  heroism." l  In 
so  far  as  it  is  possible  to  generalize  concerning  the  intricate 
and  involved  conditions  of  the  centuries  of  conversion,  the 
words  above  quoted  are  true.  In  the  case  of  the  first  Teu- 
tonic peoples,  at  least,  that  went  over  to  Christianity,  heathen- 
ism did  not  offer  any  strenuous  resistance.  But  even  on  this 
point  our  information  is  again  very  meagre,  since  the  Latin  or 
Greek  historians  of  this  period  rarely,  and  then  only  inciden- 
tally, allow  a  ray  of  light  to  fall  on  the  history  of  the  Christian- 
ization.  Concerning  the  peoples  whose  conversion  took  place 
later  we  are  somewhat  better  informed,  but  in  no  case  do  the 
scanty  accounts  furnish  us  an  historic  picture  of  heathendom, 
as  it  held  its  ground  for  the  time  being  or  gave  up  the  struggle 
against  advancing  Christianity.  We  shall  have  to  content  our- 
selves with  gathering  scattered  items  of  information  concerning 
the  various  peoples. 

It  is  not  possible  to  trace  the  first  Christian  influences  on 
the  Teutons.  Poetic  fancy  has  at  times  pictured  the  soldiers 
on  Golgotha,  and  even  the  centurion  who  first  confessed  the 
Crucified  One,  as  Teutons.  At  any  rate,  during  the  centuries 
of  friction  and  intermingling  between  Romans  and  Teutons, 
the  latter  were  not  cut  off  from  anything  that  was  going  on 
in  the  Roman  world.  Consequently,  Christianity  too  must  of 

1 F.  Dahn,  Urgeschichte  der  germanischen  und  romanischen  Volker,  I, 
pp.  425,  428. 

"3 


114        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

itself  have  made  its  way  to  Teutonic  soldiers  and  colonists.  A 
recent  historian1  compares  this  spread  of  Christianity  with 
what  takes  place  when  by  accident  seed  is  scattered  unevenly 
over  a  piece  of  ground.  The  wind  carries  the  seeds  in 
all  directions,  and  many  are  lost,  but  if  this  state  of  affairs 
continues  for  some  length  of  time,  not  only  will  single  seeds 
germinate  here  and  there,  but  presently  large  stretches  of  the 
field  will  show  a  luxuriant  growth. 

This  view  furnishes  an  explanation  of  the  fact  that  there  are 
tribes  who  went  over  to  Christianity  without  special  preaching 
and  without  outward  coercion.  Of  the  great  influence  which 
a  Christian  was  able  to  exert  through  his  holy  life  upon  the 
rude  minds  of  barbarians,  the  biography  of  Severinus  offers 
a  striking  example.  This  more  or  less  mysterious  man,  of 
unknown  origin,  lived  about  450  in  Noricum,  on  the  great 
highway  followed  by  the  Teutons  in  their  expeditions  to  Italy. 
His  biography  furnishes  us  with  a  picture  of  the  confusion 
that  reigned  in  a  Roman  province  at  a  time  when  the  death 
of  Attila  subverted  all  existing  conditions.  With  the  collapse 
of  the  power  of  the  Huns,  the  remnant  of  Roman  population  in 
Noricum  was  no  longer  able  'to  maintain  itself  against  the 
inroads  of  the  plundering  barbarians.  During  that  period  of 
suffering  this  saintly  man  pursues  his  mission  of  peace  amidst 
the  surging  tide  of  humanity,  ministering  to  the  sick  and  "poor, 
and  pleading  for  mercy  with  princes.  His  person  inspires 
respect ;  with  superstitious  awe  people  relate  the  miracles  he 
has  done  and  come  to  consult  him  as  an  oracle.  Teutonic 
kings  even  accept  his  reproofs.  To  Odoacer  the  youth,  whose 
tall  figure  had  to  stoop  upon  entering  the  hermit's  hut,  he  fore- 
told future  greatness.  Severinus  did  not  convert  a  people  to 
Christianity.  After  his  death  his  cell  was  plundered  by  the 
savage  Rugii ;  but  in  the  wildest  surroundings  his  voice  often 
gave  comfort  and  at  times  quelled  the  storms  of  passion. 

1  Hauck,  Kirchengeschichte  Deittschlands. 


PAGANISM  AND    CHRISTIANITY  115 

One  of  the  channels  through  which  Christianity  gradually 
made  its  way  to  the  Teutons  may  have  been  prisoners  of  war, 
who  preached  the  gospel  among  their  heathen  conquerors. 
According  to  a  fairly  well  established  tradition,  Ulfilas,  though 
born  and  bred  among  the  Goths,  was  of  Cappadocian  origin. 
At  any  rate,  when  the  Goths  first  settled  within  the  confines 
of  the  Eastern  Roman  Empire  and  became  converted  to  Chris- 
tianity, the  way  for  this  change  of  belief  among  them  had 
already  been  paved.  The  conversion  did  not  altogether  take 
place  without  friction,  although  it  is  hardly  likely  that  it  was 
solely  attachment  to  paganism  that  impelled  the  Gothic  king 
Athanaric,  about  the  year  350,  to  persecute  the  Christians, 
whereas  king  Fritigern  readily  accepted  Christianity.  Perhaps 
Athanaric  and  a  few  other  Teutonic  kings  who  put  Christians 
to  death,  such  as  Radagais  on  his  expedition  to  Italy  in  the 
beginning  of  the  fifth  century,  combated  in  the  new  religion  the 
Roman  Empire  as  well.  On  the  other  hand,  there  have  been 
also  Gothic  martyrs,  and  Ulfilas  himself  was  forced  to  seek  the 
protection  of  the  emperor  within  the  boundaries  of  the  realm. 
With  this  Ulfilas,  German  literature,  properly  speaking,  begins  ; 
its  first  work  is  a  translation  of  the  Bible.  German  paganism 
has  hardly  left  us  any  writings  of  its  own. 

The  special  form  of  Christianity  to  which  the  Goths  and  most 
Teutonic  tribes  became  converted  was  Arianism.  The  first  of 
these  came  into  actual  contact  with  it,  and  the  others  followed 
the  example  once  set.  It  was  not  a  question,  therefore,  of 
choice  or  predilection,  nor  is  it  admissible  to  speak  of  a  closer 
affinity  between  heathenism  and  the  Arian  dogma,  which  made 
the  step  an  easier  one  for  the  heathen  to  take.  It  is  not  obvi- 
ous just  what  these  connecting  links  would  be  in  the  case  of 
the  Teutons,  nor  is  it  credible  that  the  warrior  bands  and  their 
chiefs  really  weighed  the  matter  seriously.  We  shall  see  later 
on  that  the  Franks,  and  at  first  the  Burgundians  as  well,  were 
converted  to  the  Catholic  church  with  no  less  ease  than  the 


116        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Goths  and  others  to  Arianism.  External  circumstances  drew 
the  Gothic  peoples  into  this  current  which  exerted  so  great  an 
influence  upon  their  subsequent  history.  The  attitude  of  the 
several  Arian  peoples  toward  the  Catholics  varied  widely. 
Whereas  the  East  and  West  Goths,  in  their  kingdoms  in  Italy, 
Gaul,  and  Spain,  and  especially  Theodoric  in  Italy,  lived  on  the 
whole  at  peace  with  the  Roman  clergy,  the  Vandals  in  Africa 
conducted  themselves  as  conquerors,  and  the  Catholics  under 
their  dominion  had  to  endure  severe  persecutions.  The  details 
of  this  movement  belong  to  the  history  of  the  Christian  church.  .^ 
For  our  present  purpose  it  will  suffice  to  emphasize  the  easy 
and  rapid  passing  over  from  the  old  belief  to  the  new. 

An  especially  good  example  of  this  is  furnished  by  the  Bur-  , 
gundians,  to  whom  the  emperor  Honorius  in  413  ceded  territory 
within  the  confines  of  the  Empire,  and  who  were  baptized  by  a  - 
Gallic  bishop  after  having  been  instructed  for  a  period  of  only 
one  week.  They  were  followed  in  430  by  their  kinsmen  on  the 
right  bank  of  the  Rhine.  These  Burgundians  were  the  first 
Teutons  to  be  admitted  to  the  Roman  federation,  which, 
however,  did  not  prevent  their  downfall.  They  were  almost 
wholly  annihilated  by  Ae'tius  and  the  Huns ;  a  remnant 
fled  to  the  Rhone,  where  we  meet  them  again  in  the  time 
of  Chlodowech,  but,  under  the  influence  of  the  West  Goths, 
as  Arians. 

The  reasons  why  the  paganism  of  these  Teutonic  peoples 
showed  so  little  power  of  resistance  are  not  to  be  sought  in  a 
decay  of  their  religion,  which  though  frequently  assumed  has 
never  been  proved,  but  in  their  outward  circumstances  and 
relations.  We  have  already  seen  that  they  bore  the  character 
of  bands  of  warriors  —  catervae,  as  the  Roman  historians  occa- 
sionally style  them  —  rather  than  of  peoples.  They  were  quite 
willing  to  purchase  the  privilege  of  settling  within  the  Empire, 
and  obtaining  desirable  lands,  with  a  conversion  to  which  they 
attached  to  a  large  extent  outward  significance  only,  and  which 


PAGANISM  AND    CHRISTIANITY  117 

did  not  demand  any  great  sacrifices  on  their  part.  Further- 
more, Roman  civilization,  of  which  Christianity  constituted  a 
part,  exerted  a  powerful  attraction  upon  them.  They  accord- 
ingly became  foederati  of  the  Empire  and  Christians.  There 
were  many  reasons  why  they  should  not  have  felt  strongly 
attached  to  the  ancestral  belief.  They  had  abandoned  their 
hereditary  lands  and  with  that  forsaken  a  large  part  of  their 
traditions.  Undoubtedly,  the  heathen  armies  had  soothsayers 
and  priests  in  their  midst,  for  we  read  of  sacrifices  to  rivers  and 
to  divine  beings,  but  there  existed  neither  a  strong  organization 
nor  a  living  faith  to  prevent  the  intrusion  of  a  new  religion.  In 
the  hereditary  lands  lay  the  sacred  places,  groves,  and  springs, 
consecrated  of  old  to  the  gods,  and  revered  as  the  seats  of  their 
worship.  When  these  had  once  been  left  behind,  the  tribes 
had  also  to  a  large  extent  broken  with  their  religion  and  their 
past.  That  this  is  not  a  mere  assumption  is  shown  by  the  fact 
that  where  the  tribes  remained  in  their  old  habitations  there 
too  the  heathen  beliefs  made  a  far  more  determined  resistance. 
This  may  be  more  especially  observed  in  the  case  of  the 
Frisians  and  Saxons. 

Different  causes  must  be  sought  to  account  for  the  fact  that 
the  tribes  which,  under  the  name  of  Franks,  emerged  from  the 
interior  about  the  middle  of  the  third  century,  and  penetrated 
victoriously  into  Gaul,  remained  heathen  in  spite  of  constant 
contact  with  a  Roman  population  and  the  existence  near  at 
hand  of  Christian  churches  on  the  Rhine.  That  they  did  not 
at  once  forsake  their  heathen  gods,  was  no  doubt  due  to  the 
fact  that  both  outward  pressure  and  inner  need  were  lacking, 
perhaps  also  in  large  part  to  a  feeling  of  pride.  We  find, 
however,  absolutely  no  traces  among  them  of  a  deep-rooted 
heathen  belief  or  cult.  The  Salic  law,  which  in  its  main  fea- 
tures dates  from  heathen  times,  contains  scarcely  any  traces 
of  religion.  There  is  no  warrant  for  interpreting  as  myths  the 
legends  found  in  Gregory  of  Tours,  such,  for  example,  as  he 


118        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

tells  in  II,  12,  and  which  are  probably  based  upon  old  songs 
concerning  Childeric. 

After  Chlodowech,  in  consequence  of  his  victories  over 
the  last  Roman  governor,  Syagrius,  over  the  Alemanni  and 
the  West  Goths,  had  subjugated  nearly  the  whole  of  Gaul,  the 
political  situation  necessarily  superinduced  the  conversion 
to  Christianity.  Not  that  the  personal  motives  which  also 
prompted  the  king,  as  well  as  the  influence  of  his  Burgundian 
wife,  and  the  impression  made  on  him  by  the  miraculous 
power  of  the  Christian  God  are  not  to  be  considered  signifi- 
cant. The  conversion  of  Chlodowech  is  in  no  wise  to  be 
regarded  as  hypocritical,  any  more  than  that  of  Constantine. 
His  baptism  in  the  church  at  Rheims  on  Christmas  day  of  the 
year  496  is  a  date  of  the  utmost  importance,  the  more  so  since 
he  embraced  not  the  Arian  but  the  Catholic  creed.  One 
might  justly  call  it  the  starting  point  of  the  history  of  the 
German  church.  The  Bishop  Avitus  of  Vienne,  who  sent 
the  king  a  congratulatory  letter,  foresaw  as  a  consequence  of 
this  action  that  the  Frankish  king  would  become  the  successor 
of  the  ruler  of  the  Western  Roman  Empire,  and  that  the 
Christianization  of  Germany  would  proceed  from  the  Franks. 

Chlodowech's  conversion  proved  to  be  a  powerful  example, 
which  was  followed  by  many.  He  himself  founded  churches 
and  cloisters,  made  rich  grants  with  the  generosity  that  was 
part  of  the  ideal  Teutonic  king,  and  protected  bishops  and 
hermits.  There  were,  nevertheless,  many,  even  in  the  king's 
immediate  environment,  who  remained  heathen.  No  coercion 
was  used  against  these,  at  least  not  by  Chlodowech  himself, 
although  Childebert  I,  fifty  years  after  his  father's  death,  pro- 
mulgated an  edict  that  put  an  end  to  religious  toleration 
and  forbade  heathen  images,  banquets,  songs,  and  dances. 
Gradually,  and  without  a  sign  of  a  struggle,  paganism  disap- 
peared among  the  Franks.  While  alongside  of  Christian 
belief  and  usage  there  still  continued  to  exist  for  a  long  time 


PAGANISM  AND    CHRISTIANITY  119 

numerous  heathen  customs,  and  the  synods,  especially  those 
held  at  Orleans,  had  to  inveigh  against  sacrificatory  feasts, 
conjurations,  worship  of  trees,  springs,  -rocks,  and  various 
kinds  of  commingling  of  paganism  with  Christianity,  yet  the 
organization  of  the  church  became  gradually  more  firmly 
established  and  its  influence  upon  the  people  more  marked. 
At  first  this  influence  was  an  outward  one  and  did  not 
penetrate  very  rapidly  into  the  moral  nature  of  the  people. 
Chlodowech,  after  his  conversion,  was  still  the  same  faithless 
man,  who  did  not  shrink  from  inciting  a  son  to  patricide 
or  from  slaying  kinsmen  with  his  own  hand.  His  succes- 
sors were  even  worse.  The  horrors  of  the  Merovingian 
royal  house  have  rarely  been  surpassed  in  history,  and  while 
the  morals  of  the  royal  family  in  the  present  instance  prob- 
ably do  not  indicate  the  general  standard  of  morality,  that 
standard  was  doubtless  none  too  high.  But  the  church 
could  abide  its  time.  Its  influence  gradually  percolated 
the  nation  at  large,  and  it  was  from  the  kingdom  of  the 
Franks  that  Christianity  was  disseminated  among  the  German 
tribes. 

The  German  peoples  were  Christianized  first  by  Goths  and 
Romans  and  subsequently  by  Franks  and  missionaries  from 
Ireland  and  England.  In  the  case  of  some  tribes  we  know 
little  or  nothing  as  to  the  particular  circumstances  of  their  con- 
version. So  the  Lombards  were  converted,  to  Arianism  as 
early  as  the  end  of  the  fifth  century.  When  Alboin  came  to 
Italy  he  was  a  Christian,  but  it  was  not  until  the  days  of  Pope 
Gregory  I  that  the  union  with  Rome  followed,  brought  about 
more  especially  through  the  influence  of  the  queen  Theude- 
linde,  who  was  a  Bavarian  princess  of  Frankish  descent.  We 
notice  very  little,  however,  of  paganism  among  this  people, 
although  we  have  already  seen  that  it  was  by  no  means  poor 
in  historical  legends  —  embodying  as  usual  mythical  elements 
—  that  had  received  poetical  treatment. 


120        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

The  Alemanni  in  Southern  Germany  were  still  heathen  at 
the  end  of  the  sixth  century,  worshipping,  as  Agathias  tells  us, 
trees,  rivers,  and  mountains,  and  offering  horses  in  sacrifice. 
And  yet  their  country,  where  Romans  had  so  long  held  sway, 
showed  decided  traces  of  the  presence  of  Christianity.  The 
first  Irish  missionary  found  Christian  priests  there  who  dwelt 
peacefully  in  the  midst  of  the  heathen.  The  earliest  mission- 
aries among  them  were  Columbanus  and  his  pupil  Gallus,  who 
labored  in  the  seventh  century  near  the  lakes  of  Zurich  and 
Constance.  The  former  once  found  heathen  and  Christians 
jointly  taking  part  in  a  beer  sacrifice  to  Wuotan.  Apart  from 
this,  their  vitae  furnish  few  characteristic  details  concerning 
the  paganism  of  this  tribe.  The  matres,  whose  three  images 
were  worshipped  at  Bregenz,  we  have  already  surmised  to  be 
divinities  of  Keltic  origin.1  The  Irish  missionaries  found 
patrons  in  the  Frankish  kings,  while  the  Cactus  Alamannorum? 
drawn  up  by  Chlotachar  II,  served  the  double  purpose  of 
drawing  closer  the  bond  of  union  with  the  Frankish  realm  and 
of  promoting  the  spread  of  Christianity.  However,  not  only 
did  heathen  customs  continue  to  survive,  but  a  part  of  the 
population  even  remained  hostile  to  Christianity.  Pirmin, 
who  labored  among  them  in  the  eighth  century,  in  the  time  of 
Charles  Mattel,  was  still  forced  to  wage  a  hard  battle  against 
survivals  of  heathen  customs.  The  people  worshipped  and 
made  vows  to  stones,  trees,  and  springs ;  the  women  invoked 
Minerva  when  spinning ;  for  marriages  Friday  was  the  favor- 
ite day,  and  in  other  ways,  too,  attention  was  paid  to  lucky 
and  unlucky  days;  herbs  and  amber  served  as  amulets;  cre- 
dence was  given  to  weather  sorcerers  and  soothsaying  women ; 
heathen  songs  and  dances  were  popular,  and  magic  potions 
in  use  against  sickness  and  evil  spirits.  In  this  resume  of 

1  See  p.  88. 

2  A   code   of  Alemannic  law.      See    Pertz,   MG.,  Leges,   III,   34,  and   Hauck, 
Kirchengeschichte  Deutschlands,  I,  310. 


PAGANISM  AND   CHRISTIANITY  121 

features  common  to  the  popular  belief  of  many  tribes,  the 
name  of  a  goddess  Minerva  is  especially  striking. 

A  connected  history  of  the  Bavarians  before  their  conversion 
is  not  furnished  by  any  source  at  our  command.  Even  their 
descent  is  uncertain.  Their  ancestors  have  variously  been 
held  to  be  those  Marcomanni,  whose  queen,  Fritigil,  had  come 
into  contact  with  Ambrose  of  Milan,  or  those  Rugii,  Heruli, 
and  Skiri  in  whose  midst  Severinus  lived,  or  else  the  Quadi,1 
of  whom  the  historian  Ammianus  Marcellinus  tells  us  that  they 
swore  solemn  oaths  by  their  swords.  Of  their  paganism  we 
know  practically  nothing.  Their  contact  with  Christianity  was 
at  first  only  sporadical,  through  Goths  and  Romans  ;  subse- 
quently Irish  missionaries  worked  among  them  and  they  also 
came  under  the  influence  of  the  Franks.  The  ducal  family  of 
the  Agilulfingi  was  itself  of  Prankish  origin. 

Among  the  Thuringians  the  history  of  the  successive  streams 
of  influence  is  repeated  in  a  thoroughly  typical  form.  We 
meet  among  them,  successively,  the  Arian-Gothic,  the  Catholic- 
Prankish,  the  Irish  missions,  and  the  organization  of  the 
church  by  the  English  Boniface,  who  became  their  bishop. 
The  details  belong  to  church  history.  Christianity  does  not, 
however,  seem  to  have  made  its  way  so  very  readily  among 
them.  As  late  as  the  eighth  century  we  find  Willebrord  com- 
plaining of  Christian  priests  who  offer  sacrifices  to  heathen 
divinities  (Jovi  mactantes),  while,  on  the  other  hand,  heathen 
are  fond  of  administering  baptism,  which  they  regard  as  a 
magic  charm. 

Characteristically  heathen  traits  are  better  represented  among 
the  Frisians  and  Saxons  than  among  the  peoples  that  we  have 
hitherto  considered.  The  Frisians  occupied  a  strip  of  land, 
not  extending  far  into  the  interior,  along  the  coast  of  the 
North  Sea,  from  Flanders  (Sinkfal,  near  Bruges)  up  to  Sleswick. 

1  According  to  H.  Kirchmayr,  Der  altdeutsc/ie  Volksstamm  der  Quaden  (2  vols., 
1888-1893). 


122        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

The  history  of  their  conversion  (677-785)  we  know  from 
contemporaneous  Frankish,  but  not  from  native  sources.  It 
embraces  several  periods,  intimately  connected  with  their  strug- 
gles against  the  Franks,  which  broke  forth  ever  anew.  The 
missionaries  who  preached  among  them  were  mostly  Anglo- 
Saxons  :  Wilfrid,  Willehad,  Willebrord,  Winfrid  (Boniface). 
Liudger  alone  was  of  Frisian  origin.  The  Frankish  kings 
did  everything  within  their  power  to  further  the  spread  of 
Christianity  among  them.  As  early  as  622  Dagobert,  of 
Austrasia,  had  founded  a  chapel  in  Utrecht  and  had  given 
orders  to  baptize  and  evangelize  the  Frisians,  but  with  little 
success.  Wilfrid,  who  had  accidentally  stranded  on  the  Frisian 
coast,  was  received  kindly  by  king  Aldgild.  Redbad  I,  on  the 
contrary,  showed  an  inveterate  hatred  towards  Christianity. 
As  often  as  the  Frankish  yoke  was  shaken  off,  persecution  of 
the  Christians  followed. 

This  marked  hostility  against  Christianity  is  by  no  means 
to  be  attributed  solely  to  national  pride  or  political  fears.  The 
Frisians  were  attached  to  their  heathen  religion,  which  was  at 
the  time  still  in  a  flourishing  state.  We  read  of  sacred  groves, 
of  springs,  of  temples  in  which  treasures  were  stored.  On 
Helgoland  there  were  several  temples.  The  great  god  Fosite 
was  worshipped  there  ;  water  from  the  holy  spring  might  be 
drawn  only  in  silence,  and  the  cattle  grazing  round  about  it 
were  not  allowed  to  be  touched.  As  late  as  the  eleventh  cen- 
tury we  hear  that  the  island  was  regarded  as  sacred  by  Norse 
seafarers.  Even  after  their  conversion  some  observances  de- 
rived from  paganism  were  still  retained  in  Frisian  law.  In 
the  century  that  marks  the  period  of  struggle  between  the  old 
and  new  religion,  known  to  us  chiefly  from  the  lives  of  the  mis- 
sionaries, the  Frisians  long  remained  faithful  to  their  ancient 
religious  usages.  When  Willebrord,  on  his  return  from  his 
fruitless  mission  among  the  Danes,  landed  on  Helgoland  he 
defied  the  wrath  of  Fosite  by  baptizing  several  Frisians  with 


PAGANISM  AND    CHRISTIANITY  123 

water  from  the  sacred  spring.  He  is  brought  into  the  pres- 
ence of  the  king  as  one  under  sentence  of  death,  but  Redbad 
does  not  deviate  from  the  custom  according  to  which  the  lot 
was  to  decide  concerning  the  life  or  death  of  the  prisoner, 
and  when  this  is  found  favorable  to  the  Christian  the  king  sets 
him  free.  Subsequently  Liudger  succeeds  in  accomplishing 
on  the  island  sacred  to  Fosite  what  his  predecessor  had  failed 
in  ;  he  replaces  the  heathen  temples  with  Christian  churches. 
Liudger's  mother  was  Liafborg,  and  of  her  we  are  told  that, 
in  accordance  with  the  wishes  of  a  wicked  grandmother,  she 
was  to  have  been  put  to  death  immediately  after  birth,  but 
the  compassionate  wife  of  a  neighbor  saved  the  child's  life  by 
placing  a  little  honey  upon  its  lips,  it  being  considered  obliga- 
tory that  a  child  which  had  already  partaken  of  some  food 
should  be  brought  up.  The  material  at  our  command  is 
extremely  meagre,  but  from  such  accounts  it  appears  that 
life  was  to  a  large  extent  bound  up  in  religious  observances 
and  duties.  Everywhere  the  gods  play  an  essential  part  in 
the  lives  of  these  Frisian  heathen.  Chief  among  them  are 
Wodan,  his  sons  Thuner  and  Tiu,  and  his  spouse  Fria,  all  of  j 
whom  we  know  only  from  their  use  as  names  of  days  of  the* 
week.  Concerning  Fosite  alone  are  we  more  fully  informed, 
but  perhaps  this  too  is  only  another  name  under  which  the 
chief  of  all  gods,  Wodan,  was  worshipped.  That  the  service 
of  these  gods  was  by  no  means  dead  is  proved  by  the  fanaticism 
which  could  be  evoked  among  its  followers, " —  a  fanaticism  to 
which  Boniface  fell  a  victim  on  the  5th  of  June,  755,  near 
Dokkum. 

The  Saxons  showed  themselves  no  less  hostile  toward  the 
new  religion.  The  first  who,  towards  the  end  of  the  seventh 
century,  preached  the  gospel  among  them,  the  "white"  and 
the  "  black  "  Ewald,1  fell  as  martyrs.  Not  long  after  Suidbert, 

l  So  called  on  account  of  the  difference  in  the  color  of  their  hair.  Bede,  Hist, 
eccl.  gent.  Angl.,  V,  10. 


124        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

the  friend  and  companion  of  Willebrord,  had  converted  the 
Bructeri ;  this  tribe  fell  a  prey  to  the  onslaughts  of  the  heathen 
Saxons.1  Only  with  the  greatest  difficulty  and  after  repeated 
expeditions  did  Charles  the  Great  succeed  in  subjugating  the 
Saxons  and  in  compelling  them  to  accept  Christianity.  They 
renounced  their  new  faith  again  and  again,  and  on  such  occa- 
sions persecution  of  Christian  kinsmen  was  not  lacking.  Even 
after  the  chiefs  had  been  baptized  in  785,  and  remained  true  to 
their  vows,  there  broke  forth  a  new  popular  uprising,  though 
not  under  their  leadership.  The  destruction  of  the  Eresburg 
(772),  where  the  army  of  Charles  was  for  three  entire  days 
engaged  in  the  razing  of  sanctuaries,  and  where  large  treasures 
were  seized,  the  slaughter  of  4500  captive  Saxons  at  Verden 
(782),  the  suppression  of  the  great  popular  uprising  (792),— 
all  these  measures  proved  unavailing.  Charles  was  forced 
to  transplant  large  colonies  of  Saxons  to  other  districts  of 
Germany ;  by  this  means  alone  was  he  able  to  tranquillize 
the  country. 

These  examples  will  serve  to  show  how  deep  rooted  the 
ancestral  religion  was  in  the  hearts  of  the  people.  They  wor- 
-shipped  their  dread  gods  with  human  sacrifices.  From  the 
capitularies  issued  by  Charles  the  Great  for  the  observance  of 
the  Saxons,  we  know  something  about  the  heathen  customs 
that  were  forbidden  on  pain  of  death.  Irminsul,  the  national 
shrine  near  Eresburg,  razed  to  the  ground  by  Charles,  is  vari- 
ously spoken  of  in  the  sources  as  fanum,  lucus,  or  idolum. 
Evidently  neither  temple,  nor  grove,  nor  image  were  lacking. 
Of  the  Irminsul  itself,  Rudolph  of  Fulda 2  says :  "  truncum 
ligni  non  parvae  magnitudinis  in  altum  erectum  sub  divo  cole- 
bant,  patria  eum  lingua  Irminsul  appellantes,  quod  latine 
dicitur  universalis  columna,  quasi  sustinens  omnia,"  'i.e.  "a 
wooden  pillar  of  unusual  size  in  the  open  air,  worshipped  in 

1  See  Bede,  Hist.  eccl.  gent.  Angl.,  V,  10-12. 

2  MG.  II,  676. 


PAGANISM  AND   CHRISTIANITY  125 

common,  and  whose  destruction  was  a  national  calamity."  We 
cannot  here  discuss  the  various  views  held  concerning  this 
Irminsul.  *  The  pillar  destroyed  in  772  was  not,  however, 
unique  of  its  kind;  we  read  of  other  instances  of  the  exist- 
ence of  an  Irminsul  among  the  Saxons.  No  weight  is  to  be 
attached  to  the  view  of  Widukind,  who  would  identify  Irmin 
with  Hermes,  combining  the  latter  with  Mars.1  It  is  not  at 
all  clear  whether  this  Irmin  is  to  be  taken  as  the  god  of  the 
sky  or  of  war.  More  likely  the  word  does  not  at  all  indicate 
that  this  pillar  was  dedicated  to  the  service  of  any  one  god. 
Irmin  here  signifies  "large,"  "mighty,"  and  on  this  people's 
pillar,  this  universalis  columna,  the  welfare  and  the  existence  of 
a  tribal  community,  .in  the  present  instance  of  a  division  of  the 
Saxons  (the  Engern),  depended.  Other  statements  that  have 
been  made  concerning  it  at  one  time  or  another  amount  to 
little  more  than  mere  speculation.2  The  Saxons  who  became 
converts  were  required,  on  the  occasion  of  their  baptism,  to 
abjure  their  old  gods.  The  formula  of  renunciation  men- 
tions Thuner,  Wodan,  Saxnot,  and  the  unholdun,  i.e.  the  other 
remaining  gods.  A  large  number  of  ecclesiastical  documents 
of  a  similar  character,  decrees  of  councils,  lists  of  idolatrous 
practices,  sermons  against  idolatry,  penitentiaries,  and  the  writ- 
ings of  such  authors  as  Regino,  abbot  of  Priim  in  Lorraine 
(about  900),  and  Burchard  of  Worms  (the  beginning  of  the 
eleventh  century),  tell  us  of  the  paganism  which  still  continued 
to  flourish  not  only  among  the  Saxons  but  among  other  German 
tribes  as  well.  A  long  list  might  be  made  of  the  idolatrous 
practices  recorded  in  such  documents  as  the  indiculus  supersti- 
tionum  and  the  homilia  de  sacrilegiis.  We  learn  from  these  sources 
that  in  many  localities  sacrifices  to  Jupiter  or  Mercury,  the  bring- 
ing of  offerings  to  the  dead,  and  the  worshipping  of  trees  and 

1  Or  confounding  him  with  Ares  ? 

2  Compare  more  especially  Mannhardt,  Baumkultus  der  Germanen,  pp.  303  ff .,  and 
Vilmar,  Deutsche  Altertiimer  im  Heliand,  p.  62. 


126        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

springs  still  continued.  On  fixed  days,  especially  on  New 
Year's  day,  and  at  eclipses  of  the  sun  and  moon,  people  went 
about  apparelled  in  the  most  fantastic  manner.  Much  attention 
was  paid  also  to  lucky  and  unlucky  days.  Witchcraft  of  various 
kinds  was  resorted  to,  to  ward  off  evil,  to  heal  sickness,  and  to 
cause  storms.  Divination  practices,  in  many  forms,  were  in 
vogue,  the  names  of  the  gods  on  such  occasions  being  fre- 
quently invoked.  Our  sources  show  very  conclusively  that  it 
cost  infinite  pains  to  eradicate  the  belief  in  magic  charms  and 
formulas.  Much  of  it  remained  alive  in  popular  belief;  even 
to-day  there  exist  phrases  that  keep  the  names  of  the  old  gods 
from  being  forgotten.  Such  survivals  of 'paganism  fall,  however, 
within  the  domain  of  folklore,  which  will  be  treated  in  a  subse- 
quent chapter.  The  clergy  who  combated  this  paganism  had 
evidently  no  eye  for  either  its  character  or  its  origin.  When  we 
read  that  women  at  night  ride  with  Diana  or  Herodias  "  cum 
daemonum  turba,"1  there  may  lie  concealed  at  the  bottom  of 
this  tradition  an  indigenous  belief  in  witches,  but  it  does  not 
appear  that  this  is  either  original  or  very  ancient.  Diana  and 
Herodias  are  after  all  not  Teutonic.  At  the  same  time  it 
cannot  be  denied  that  this  whole  literature  bears  testimony  to 
the  persistent  character  of  Teutonic  paganism. 

Even  richer  is  the  harvest  to  be  gathered  from  the  Old 
German  literature  in  the  various  vernacular  dialects.  We  pos- 
sess first  of  all  a  fairly  large  number  of  magic  formulas,  in 
which,  it  may  be  surmised,  Christ  and  the  saints  have  usurped 
the  places  of  old  Teutonic  deities.  But  among  these  magic 
formulas  there  are  two  that  are  purely  heathen,  discovered 
by  G.  Waitz  in  1841,  in  a  manuscript  of  the  tenth  century 
in  the  cathedral  chapter  at  Merseburg.  These  are  presum- 
ably somewhat  older  than  the  manuscript  itself ;  according  to 
some  authorities,  they  go  back  to  the  eighth  century.  They 
make  mention  of  a  number  of  gods  of  a  German,  possibly 

1  "  With  a  horde  of  demons." 


PAGANISM  AND    CHRISTIANITY  127 

Thuringian,  tribe.  The  two  formulas  are  in  alliterative  verse, 
and  are  incantations  to  be  sung  apparently  in  a  fixed,  invariable 
measure,  and  to  serve  the  purpose,  the  first  of  loosjng  bonds, 
the  second  of  healing  a  lame  horse.  In  the  latter  case  the 
incantation  was  doubtless  to  be  accompanied  by  the  use  of  a 
magic  charm.  The  conjuration  proper  is  in  each  case  preceded 
by  the  relation  of  an  occurrence  in  the  divine  world,  and  these 
few  lines  have  at  times  been  dignified  with  the  name  of  epic 
narrative.  The  first  of  these  conjurations,  in  a  literal  rendering 
which  destroys  the  alliteration,  is  as  follows  : 

Once  the  Idisi  sat  down,  sat  down  here  and  there. 
Some  fastened  bonds,  some  held  back  the  host, 
Some  tugged  at  the  fetters  : 
Leap  forth  from  the  bonds,  escape  from  the  enemy. 

The  second,  somewhat  longer,  is  as  follows : 

Phol  and  Wodan  rode  to  the  wood, 
Then  the  foot  of  Balder's  colt  was  wrenched. 
Then  Sinthgunt  charmed  it,  Sun(na)  her  sister, 
Then  Frija  charmed  it,  Vol(la)  her  sister: 
Then  Wodan  charmed  it,  as  he  well  knew  how. 

This  is  followed  by  the  four  lines  of  the  incantation  proper. 

We  are  not  here  concerned  with  pointing  out  the  unques- 
tionably close  correspondence  between  these  conjurations  and 
similar  ones  in  the  Norse  Edda,  nor  with  indicating  the  more 
remote,  though  by  no  means  forced,  parallels  in_Finnish  and 
even  Hindu  magic,  but  with  drawing  from  THese  few  lines  all 
the  information  that  they  contain  concerning  Teutonic  heathen- 
ism. First  of  all,  then,  it  appears  that  the  magic  power,  else- 
where frequently  attributed  to  the  calling  out  of  the  name  of  a 
divinity,  is  here  associated  with  the  imitation  or  repetition  of 
a  formula  first  used  by  a  god  ;  so,  at  any  rate,  in  the  second 
conjuration.  In  the  first  the  connection  between  the  opening 
scene  of  the  Idisi  at  their  work  and  the  conjuration  proper  is 


128        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

not  perfectly  clear.  Of  still  greater  importance  is  the  fact 
that  we  are  here  introduced  to  divinities  known  to  tribes  in 
Germany.  First  among  these  are  the  Idisi,  women  at  work 
during  the  battle,  reminding  us,  therefore,  of  the  Norse  Wal- 
kyries.  They  are  divided  into  three  groups  :  one  group  places 
chains  on  the  prisoners  of  war,  another  holds  back  the  hostile 
army,  the  third  looses  the  bonds  of  the  prisoners  in  the  hostile 
camp.  The  second  conjuration  mentions  a  number  of  divini- 
ties by  name.  Phol  and  Wodan  rode  out  together,  and  the 
horse  of  Balder  stumbled  or  sprained  its  foot.  The  question 
to  just  what  divinities  reference  is  made  here  has  been  vari- 
ously answered.  If  Balder,  in  the  second  line,  could  be  taken 
as  an  appellative,  in  the  sense  of  lord,  —  a  supposition  which 
is,  however,  wholly  unwarranted,  —  then  it  might  refer  to 
Wodan  as  well  as  Phol.  But  who  is  this  Phol  ?  We  can 
scarcely  agree  with  Bugge,  who  recognizes  in  him  the  apostle 
Paul,  thus  assuming  that  the  conjuration  has  already  borrowed 
one  of  its  figures  from  Christianity.  Even  if  we  regard  Phol, 
which  actually  occurs  in  German  names-  of  places,  as  another 
German  name  of  Balder,  this  would  still  leave  the  question  un- 
answered why  the  proper  name  Balder  receives,  in  the  second 
verse,  a  different  designation  from  what  it  has  in  the  first.  To 
read  Phol  as  Vol  and  to  identify  the  latter  with  the  goddess  of 
the  same  name  mentioned  in  the  fourth  verse  is  wholly  inadmis- 
sible. It  has  been  suggested  that  Phol  is  merely  a  corruption  of 
Apollo.  If  so,  the  Apollo-Balder  of  this  conjuration  would  be 
paralleled  by  the  Mars  Thingsus  and  the  Hercules  Magusanus. 
The  combination  is,  however,  far  from  convincing  and  can  in 
no  way  be  supported  from  other  sources.  The  question  there- 
fore remains  an  open  one.  It  is  possible  that  Phol  and  Balder 
after  all  belong  together.  At  any  rate,  we  here  possess  from  a 
German  source,  as  in  the  case  of  the  Anglo-Saxon  genealogies 
from  an  English  quarter,  a  confirmation  of  the  originally  Teu- 
tonic character  of  Balder.  Four  goddesses  are  mentioned,  but 


PAGANISM  AND   CHRISTIANITY  129 

commentators  are  not  agreed  as  to  whether  all  four  or  only  two 
were  present.  The  translation  given  above  left  this  undecided, 
but  probably  we  shall  have  to  read  :  Sinthgunt,  Sun's  sister, 
and  Frija,  VoVs  sister.  Of  these  Frija  alone  (wife  of  Wodan), 
chief  of  the  goddesses,  is  known  to  us  from  other  sources.  In 
the  present  instance  she  does  not  seem  to  occupy  an  espe- 
cially prominent  place  alongside  of  the  others,  unless  indeed 
we  assume  a  climax  in  the  conjurations  :  first  Sinthgunt  made 
the  attempt,  but  in  vain;  thereupon  (the  more  powerful)  Frija, 
but  likewise  in  vain  ;  Wodan  alone  succeeded.  Here  too,  then, 
we  find  witchcraft  practised  first  by  the  goddesses  (women)  ; 
but  as  the  case  proved  too  serious,  Wodan  himself  had  to  lend 
a  helping  hand. 

The  only  pure  remnants  of  German  paganism  that  we  pos- 
sess demanded  this  somewhat  detailed  treatment.  The  other 
monuments  that  we  are  called  upon  to  discuss  are  of  Christian 
origin,  but  paganism  has  left  more  or  less  distinct  traces  of 
its  impress  on  them.  The  first  is  a  short  prayer  in  prose, 
prefaced  by  nine  lines  of  alliterative  verse.  The  manuscript 
was  found  in  the  Bavarian  cloister  of  Wessobrunn,  and  the 
monument  has  hence  been  christened  the  Wessobrunn  Prayer ; 
but  the  verses  themselves  are  of  Saxon  origin  (eighth  cen- 
tury), as  is  apparent  from  the  language  as  well  as  from  the 
contents,  which  make  mention  of  the  sea.  The  subject-matter 
is  wholly  Christian.  The  burden  is  the  almighty  God,  who, 
ere  earth  and  sky,  tree  and  mountain  were,  ere  sun  and  moon 
shone,  ere  the  sea  was,  when  all  about  was  void,  was  already 
then  surrounded  by  many  good  spirits,  he  the  most  bounteous 
of  men,  the  holy  God.  It  is  extremely  tempjing  to  recognize 
in  this  a  fragment  of  heathen  Teutonic  cosmogony.  In  that 
case  a  comparison  may  be  made  with  a  few  lines  from  the 
beginning  of  Voluspa,  while  the  correspondences  between  the 
Old  German  and  Norse  poems  pass  as  proof  that  the  ancient 
Teutons  had  a  conception  of  a  large,  void,  yawning  abyss, 


130        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

which  was  at  the  beginning  of  things.  Many  have  yielded  to 
this  temptation,  and,  following  in  the  footsteps  of  J.  Grimm 
and  K.  Miillenhoff,  believe  that  they  have  rescued  a  fragment 
of  genuine  Teutonic  heathenism.  While  such  an  interpreta- 
tion is  not  wholly  inconceivable,  we  shall  after  all  have  to 
admit  with  Wackernagel  that  there  is  absolutely  nothing  in 
these  lines  that  compels,  or  even  justifies,  such  a  conclusion. 
All  the  features  are  Christian,  so,  for  example,  the  almighty 
God  surrounded  by  angels,  who  lived  before  the  world  was, 
while  the  description  of  this  God  as  manno  miltisto x  is  strongly 
reminiscent  of  a  Teutonic  popular  king ;  this  interpretation 
seems  to  me  preferable  to  that  of  Kern,  who  would  find  in  it 
a  mythological  formula  expressive  of  the  bounteous  sun  god. 

The  Bavarian  poem  Muspilli  dates  from  the  ninth  century. 
It  contains  altogether  somewhat  over  one  hundred  lines,  in 
which  the  fate  of  the  soul  after  death,  the  end  of  the  world, 
i.e.  the  universal  conflagration,  preceded  by  the  struggle  between 
Eliah  and  the  Antichrist,  and  the  last  judgment,  are  depicted. 
As  will  be  obvious  from  this  summary,  we  here  too  have  Chris- 
tian and  not  heathen  mythology.  It  seems  forced,  therefore, 
to  assume  that  Eliah  and  the  Antichrist  represent  the  Christian 
rendering  of  two  originally  heathen  combatants,  such  as  Thor 
and  the  Midhgardh-serpent  of  Norse  mythology.  The  universal 
conflagration,  also,  is  a  conception  that  is  of  Christian  rather 
than  Teutonic  origin.  Not  but  that  the  Christian  idea  has 
been  adapted  and  developed  by  the  Teutons.  The  combat 
has  been  put  into  the  foreground  ;  the  last  judgment  resembles 
a  Teutonic  thing,  and  the  sins  to  be  expiated  are  those  of  the 
poet's  own  time.  While  the  contents  are  therefore  in  no  way 
directly  heathen,  the  title  itself,  Muspilli,  is  part  of  the  Teu- 
tonic word  stock.  It  tells  us  that  the  earth  was  expected  to 
come  to  an  end,  but  does  not  indicate  whether  this  idea  itself 
was  old  or  new  in  the  time  of  the  poet.  It  is  quite  conceivable 

l  "  The  most  generous  of  men." 


PAGANISM  AND    CHRISTIANITY  131 

that  it  arose  among  the  Teutons   only  through  their  contact 
with  Christianity. 

The  same  considerations  as  in  the  case  of  Muspilli  demand 
that  some  attention  should  be  paid  to  the  Heliand,  a  poem  that 
is  intrinsically  of  far  greater  importance.  It  might  seem  as  if 
this  Old  Saxon  treatment  of  the  gospel  history,  dating  from 
the  first  half  of  the  ninth  century,  and  based  on  the  gospel  con- 
cordance of  Tatian,  could  in  no  way  lay  claim  to  be  included  in 
a  handbook  of  Teutonic  mythology,  and  yet  on  every  side  the 
poem  exhibits  features  that  excite  interest  from  a  mythological 
point  of  view.  The  first  of  these  is  that  the  language  uncon- 
sciously conserves  the  old  word  stock,  so  that  not  a  few  expres- 
sions in  the  Heliand  bear  witness  to  the  heathen  mode  of 
thinking,  which  had  only  quite  recently  been  abandoned.  In 
the  things  that  happen  the  poet  recognizes  metodo  giscapu, 
which  Vilmar  translates  as  "  decrees  of  the  disposing  ones  " 
(mensorum  decreta),  but  which  perhaps  merely  signifies  "  what  has 
been  determined  "  by  fate.  For  the  divine  power  that  measures 
and  disposes,  the  word  "metod"  is  used  a  few  times,  which  is 
also  known  to  us  from  Anglo-Saxon  and  Old  Norse.  The 
power  of  fate  is  called  "  wurd,"  and  still  other  traces  of  pagan- 
ism and  polytheism  surviving  in  the  language  might  be  enu- 
meiated.  But  of  still  greater  importance  is  the  fact  that  the 
Saxon  poet  reproduces  the  gospel  narrative  most  naively  in 
the  setting  of  his  own  time.  Landscape,  mode  of  life,  charac- 
ter, all  has  been  colored  to  be  in  keeping  with  the  Saxon  sur- 
roundings. Such  scenes  as  the  storm  on  the  sea  and  the 
catching  of  the  fish  are  depicted  most  vividly,  and  the  feast  at 
Cana  is  a  merry  drinking  bout.  Combat  stands  in  the  fore- 
ground ;  the  devil  is  the  arch-enemy,  the  disciples  are  brave 
warriors  who  achieve  heroic  deeds  in  defense  of  their  chief. 
Their  fealty  is  of  a  simple  and  resolute  character,  not  marred 
by  doubt  or  hesitancy ;  their  hatred  of  the  enemy  violent. 
The  struggle  has  therefore  been  transferred  from  the  inner  to 


132        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

the  outer  man,  and  the  conception  of  Jesus  himself  is  in  keep- 
ing with  this.  He  is  not  the  Man  of  Sorrows,  nor  yet  the 
heavenly  Son  of  God  of  the  Catholic  church,  but  now  the 
brave  Teutonic  chief,  who  valiantly  leads  his  men  to  victory, 
and  then  again  the  wealthy,  generous  Teutonic  popular  king, 
who  gloriously  traverses  his  land  to  teach,  judge,  heal,  and  to 
battle,  and  who  in  the  end  in  defeat  itself  outwits  the  enemy 
and  gains  the  victory,  —  a  Christ  different  certainly  from  that 
of  the  gospels,  but  one  that  was  living  and  real  to  the  Saxons. 
From  such  works  as  the  Heliand  and  from  the  subsequently 
discovered  fragments  of  an  Old  Saxon  paraphrase  of  Genesis, 
much  can  doubtless  be  gathered  that  is  of  importance  for  the 
study  of  the  language  and  antiquities  of  the  ancient  Teutons. 
There  is  evidence  on  all  sides  that  paganism  had  only  recently 
been  abandoned.  We  should,  however,  seek  in  vain  in  these 
poems  for  direct  testimony  concerning  the  ancient  Teutonic 
religion.  In  fact,  one  of  their  salient  characteristics  is  the 
naive  combination  of  Christian  subject-matter  with  heathen 
thought  and  feeling.  The  Saxons  took  a  lively  interest  in 
the  gospel  narrative.  They  felt  like  Chlodowech,  who  remarked 
that  matters  would  have  taken  a  different  turn  on  Golgotha  if 
he  and  his  Franks  had  been  present.  These  Teutons  put  new 
wine  into  old  bottles. 


CHAPTER   VII 
THE  GERMAN  HEROIC   SAGA 

"THE  production  of  an  epic  poem  demands  an  historic  achieve- 
ment which  shall  have  laid  hold  of  a  people's  imagination,  to 
such  an  extent  as  to  cause  the  divine  legend  to  engraft  itself 
on  it,  the  one  element  in  this  way  being  postulated  by  the 
other."1  "The  time  of  birth  of  the  Teutonic  heroic  saga  is 
the  so-called  migration  of  nations."  2  "  The  truly  typical,  ideal 
heroes  have  this  characteristic  in  common,  that  for  all  future 
time,  each  in  relationship  to  his  own  people,  they  are  considered 
ideal  personages,  to  whom  the  people  proudly  call  themselves 
akin."3  These  quotations  indicate  the  points  of  view  that  are 
of  paramount  importance  in  a  consideration  of  the  heroic  sagas  : 
they  belong  to  the  domains  of  mythology,  history,  and  litera- 
ture. Hence,  also,  the  many-sided  treatment  of  which  they 
are  susceptible. 

The  historical  course  which  we  are  following  involves  a 
separate  treatment  of  related  material.  We  shall  here  discuss 
only  the  German  heroic  sagas  that  have  their  historic  back- 
ground in  the  period  of  migrations.  Subsequently,  we  shall 
also  consider  those  that  deal  with  the  life  of  the  Vikings  and 
the  fortunes  of  the  Scandinavian  peoples. 

The  heroic  sagas,  accordingly,  claim  our  attention  from  a 
special  point  of  view.  The  treatment  from  the  literary-histori- 
cal side,  which  is  intrinsically  the  most  important  treatment, 
does  not  come  within  our  scope.  Of  the  modification  and  the 

1  J.  Grimm,  Gedanken  iiber  Mythos,  Epos  und  Geschichte. 

2  B.  Symons,  Germanische  Heldensage,  p.  2. 
8  Sv.  Grundtvig,  Udsigt,  p.  8. 

133 


134        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

additions  made  in  the  course  of  time  to  the  original  constitu- 
ents, we  need  take  cognizance  only  in  so  far  as  they  serve  to 
bring  these  earlier  elements  into  clearer  light.  We  are  here 
•  concerned  solely  with  the  aspect  of  the  heroic  sagas  as  witnesses 
to  the  history  of  religion,  and  we  must  accordingly,  as  far  as 
feasible,  leave  out  of  account  the  transformation  which  they 
have  undergone  at  the  hand  of  medieval  poetry.  In  their 
origins  at  least  they  go  back  to  the  period  of  migrations,  when 
the  Teutonic  peoples,  while  to  a  large  extent  already  converted, 
still  adhered  to  heathen  ideas  and  customs. 

This  connection  with  the  great  migration,  and  with  the 
Viking  life  of  the  North,  is  an  essential  part  of  the  Teutonic 
heroic  saga.  In  olden  days,  as  we  learn  from  Tacitus,  the 
memory  of  the  past  and  of  heroes  like  Arminius  was  kept  alive 
by  songs.  At  a  later  period,  Charles  the  Great  and  even  medie- 
val personages  such  as  duke  Ernst  of  Suabia  were  celebrated 
in  the  legends,  to  which  a  poetical  form  was  given.  The  various 
collections  that  have  been  made  of  the  folklore  of  certain  dis- 
tricts reveal  to  us  a  number  of  legends  associated  with  definite 
localities,  castles,  forests,  and  lakes.  Not  all  of  this  material, 
however,  is  to  be  included  in  the  heroic  saga  proper,  but  only 
those  traditions  in  which  the  memory  of  the  migrations,  that 
great  epic  period  of  the  Teutonic  peoples,  still  lingers,  and 
which  are  celebrated  in  the  German  national  epics.  The 
earliest  testimony  concerning  these  heroic  sagas  goes  back  to 
the  time  of  the  migration  period  itself,  and  is  to  be  found  in 
such  historians  as  Cassiodorus  and  Jordanes.  The  rapid  and 
wide  spread  of  this  epic  material  is  apparent  in  the  oldest 
product  of  Anglo-Saxon  literature,  Widsith,  the  nucleus  of 
which  goes  back  to  the  sixth  century.  We  there  find  summed 
up,  almost  in  the  form  of  a  catalogue,  a  number  of  traditions 
concerning  peoples  belonging  in  part  to  lands  far  distant. 
Wandering  minstrels  treated  in  epic  form  the  fortunes  of  indi- 
viduals and  of  nations.  Even  at  a  very  early  period  mythical 


THE    GERMAN  HEROIC  SAGA  135 

elements  were  woven  into  the  fabric  of  these  narratives,  although 
it  is  no  longer  possible  in  each  particular  instance  to  determine 
the  historical  or  mythical  origin  of  the  individual  threads.  The 
coloring  of  the  whole,  as  well  as  the  character  sketches  of  the 
individual  figures,  is  the  handiwork  of  poetry ;  and,  in  so  far  as 
the  ethical  element  is  concerned,  it  is  extremely  difficult  to  dis- 
tinguish between  what  is  original  and  what  is  of  later  origin. 

We  shall  first  give  a  brief  survey  of  the  historical  cycles  to 
which  the  most  important  heroic  sagas  belong,  and  shall  then 
consider  the  mythical  conceptions.  The  oldest  saga-cycle  is 
that  of  the  East  Goths.  Over  them  reigned,  about  A.D.  375,  in 
Southern  Russia,  the  mighty  Ermanaric,  nobilissimus  Amalorum,1 
who,  as  the  historian  Ammianus  Marcellinus  tells  us,  slew 
himself  at  the  approach  of  the  wild  Huns,  in  dismay,  even 
before  trying  the  fortunes  of  battle.  Some  one  hundred  and 
fifty  years  later  Jordanes  furnishes  us  with  a  semi-legendary 
story  of  his  life.  He  caused  Sunilda,  the  wife  of  a  faithless 
prince  of  the  Rosomoni,  to  be  trampled  under  the  hoofs  of 
horses.  Her  brothers,  Sarus  and  Ammius,  longed  to  avenge 
their  sister  and  inflicted  a  dangerous  wound  upon  the  king, 
who,  weakened  in  this  way,  could  not  overcome  his  fear  of  the 
Huns  and  hence  succumbed.  The  legend  received  further 
development  in  German  chronicles  and  in  some  songs  of  the 
poetic  Edda. 

The  second  great  figure  of  the  East-Gothic  saga  is  Theodoric, 
who  slew  Odoacer  and  founded  the  East-Gothic  kingdom  in 
Italy.  Legend,  however,  has  made  this  great  and  powerful 
king  preeminently  an  exile,  and  such  is  the  disparity  between 
legend  and  history  at  this  point  that  all  real  connection  has 
been  denied.  W.  Grimm  was  of  the  opinion  that  the  identifi- 
cation of  the  hero  of  the  legend  with  the  historical  king  was 
made  at  a  later  period.  This  view,  however,  is  incorrect.  The 
memory  of  the  short-lived  glory  of  the  East  Goths  under  the 

l  "  The  noblest  of  the  Amali." 


136        THE   RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

great  Theodoric  having  become  faint,  it  appears  that  the  legend, 
besides  commingling  the  fortunes  of  the  individual  with  those 
of  the  people,  has  confused  different  periods.  Ermanaric  and 
Theodoric,  separated  in  history  by  more  than  a  century,  have  in 
the  saga  become  contemporaries,  while  Ermanaric  has  sup- 
planted Odoacer.  Reminiscences  of  Theodoric's  youth,  of  the 
days  of  his  people's  servitude  among  the  Huns,  of  many  a  strug- 
gle of  the  East  Goths,  live  on  in  this  cluster  of  legends.  Thus 
preserved,  the  legends,  without  ever  being  treated  in  one  con- 
tinuous epic  poem,  were  further  developed  by  the  Alemanni, 
the  friends  and  allies  of  the  East  Goths.  Medieval  German 
epics  deal  with  a  number  of  episodes  from  the  legends  centering 
around  Dietrich  of  Bern,  as  Theodoric  is  there  called.  His 
heroic  personality  has  furthermore  been  introduced  into  other 
saga-cycles,  more  especially  into  that  of  the  Nibelungen,  and 
he  also  plays  a  role  in  various  local  German  legends.  From 
Lower  Saxony  he  was,  in  the  thirteenth  century,  imported  into 
the  North  through  the  medium  of  the  Thidhreks  Saga. 

An  especially  striking  feature  of  the  epic  narratives  that  deal 
with  Dietrich  of  Bern  is  the  attitude  they  assume  towards  the 
Huns  and  their  king.  The  relation  between  the  Huns  and 
the  East  Goths,  and  various  other  Teutonic  tribes,  was  for  a 
considerable  length  of  time  friendly  in  character.  Accordingly, 
the  form  of  the  legend  that  has  been  handed  down  by  them 
pictures  Etzel  (Attila)  as  a  rich  and  generous  Teutonic  king, 
without  the  least  trace  of  the  wild  Attila  of  history  or  of  Frank- 
ish  tradition.  The  Teutonic  heroic  saga  reflects  the  varied 
character  of  the  relations  existing  between  Teutons  and  Huns. 
Thus  the  legend  of  Waltharius,  of  somewhat  uncertain  origin, 
and  known  to  us  only  through  secondary  sources,  pictures  the 
conditions  existing  at  the  court  of  the  king  of  the  Huns  in  the 
fifth  century.  The  sons  and  daughters  of  kings  of  allied  or  trib- 
utary peoples  are  living  at  the  court  as  hostages,  well  treated  but 
under  guard.  The  Franks  are  represented  by  the  young  hero 


THE    GERMAN  HEROIC  SAGA  137 

Hagen,  the  Aquitani  (West  Goths)  by  Walther,  the  Burgun- 
dians  by  the  young  princess  Hildigund.  Hagen  having  previ- 
ously fled,  Walther  and  Hildigund,  who  are  betrothed  to  each 
other,  also  succeed  in  escaping  from  the  place  of  their  exile, 
carrying  away  with  them  a  great  store  of  treasure,  which  is 
subsequently  the  occasion  of  a  combat  in  the  Wasgen  (Vosges) 
Forest  between  Walther  and  the  Frankish  heroes,  Hagen  and 
the  young  king  Gunther.  All  the  combatants  are  wounded  and 
maimed,  but  in  the  end  they  part  as  friends,  each  returning  to 
his  own  land.  Whether  we  can  identify  the  incidents  of  this 
narrative  with  actual  historical  events  is  extremely  uncertain, 
but  the  historical  background  is  at  all  events  unmistakable.1 

The  legends  of  Hugdietrich  and  Wolfdietrich  originated 
among  the  Franks.  Hugo  Theodoricus  (the  Franks  were  called 
"Hugones")  was  an  illegitimate  son  of  Chlodowech,  who  at 
first  experienced  some  difficulty  in  maintaining  his  authority, 
but  in  the  end  greatly  increased  the  power  of  his  kingdom, 
Austrasia,  and  overthrew  (511-534)  the  Thuringian  power.  The 
point  of  departure  of  the  various  forms  of  the  narratives  that 
we  possess  concerning  him  is  to  be  sought  in  the  popular  epic 
songs,  in  which  the  Franks  celebrated  his  deeds.  His  son 
Theodobert  likewise  had  to  rely  upon  the  fealty  of  his  men 
to  maintain  himself  against  his  kindred.  The  main  features 
of  these  historical  accounts  may  readily  be  recognized  in  the 
legends  of  Hugdietrich  and  Wolfdietrich.  Poetic  fiction  of  a 
later  period  combined  these  legends  with  other  narratives,  more 
particularly  with  the  myth  of  Ortnit,  and  transferred  the  scene 
of  action  to  the  East,  to  Constantinople.  This  would  seem  to 
point  to  the  period  of  the  Crusades. 

The  latter  observation  applies  also  to  the  German  min- 
strel poem  of  King  Rother.  The  king's  faithful  messengers, 
imprisoned  at  Constantinople,  are  freed  by  him,  after  they  had 
recognized  him  through  his  singing.  Without  revealing  his 
1  R.  Heinzel,  Ueber  die  Walthcrsage  (SWA,  1888). 


138        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

identity,  he  wins  the  king's  daughter,  who  gladly  follows  a 
prince  who  had  such  brave  servants,  and  who  had  wooed  her 
in  so  chivalrous  a  fashion.  The  story  is  told  in  the  style  of 
a  fairy  tale.  A  point  of  contact  in  the  subject-matter  may 
be  discerned  in  the  history  of  the  Lombards.  King  Rother 
wins  the  Eastern  princess  in  the  same  way  in  which,  accord- 
ing to  Paulus  Diaconus,  Authari  had  wooed  the  Bavarian 
Theudelinde. 

Through  numerous  sources  the  Siegfried  Saga  is  the  one 
most  completely  known  to  us.  For  its  study  we  have  at  our 
command,  first  of  all,  the  songs  of  the  Norse  Edda,  which,  while 
not  in  perfect  accord  with  one  another,  yet  represent  an  older 
tradition  than  the  High  German  sources,  and  whose  gaps  are 
filled  in  by  the  prose  Vcjlsunga  Saga.  In  addition  to  this,  the 
Thidhreks  Saga  gives  the  narrative  in  the  form  it  had  assumed 
in  Lower  Saxony.  The  High  German  tradition  finally  is  rep- 
resented by  the  Nibelungenlied  and  the  Klage.  Setting  aside 
the  divergences  to  be  found  within  each  branch,  and  more  espe- 
cially in  the  Norse  sources,  these  are  the  three  great  branches 
of  the  legend  as  it  has  come  down  to  us.  There  is  also  a 
later  epic  treatment  in  a  poem  called  the  Horned  Siegfried, 
which  has  been  preserved  in  chap-books  and  elsewhere,  in  very 
imperfect  form.  We  are  here,  however,  not  concerned  with 
either  a  survey  of  this  literature  or  an  exhaustive  treatment  of 
the  saga.  We  wish  merely  to  point  out  that  while,  unlike  the 
legends  of  the  Amelungen,  it  is  not  entirely  based  on  history, 
it  yet  has  strong  points  of  connection  with  historical  facts. 
Such  are  not,  however,  to  be  looked  for  in  the  case  of  the  chief 
hero,  Siegfried.  I  am  unable  to  recognize  in  him  either  Armi- 
nius,  the  Cheruscan,  or  the  murdered  Austrasian  king  Sigebert, 
the  husband  of  Brunehilde,  but  believe  him  to  be  entirely  mythi- 
cal in  origin.  On  the  other  hand,  the  alliterating  names  of  the 
kings  Gunther,  Godomar  (for  whom  Gernot  was  substituted), 
and  Giselher  are  assuredly  those  of  Burgundian  princes  ;  and 


THE    GERMAN  HEROIC  SAGA  139 

the  catastrophe  of  the  Nibelungen  represents  a  reminiscence  of 
the  downfall  of  the  Burgundian  kingdom  in  the  Rhenish  Palati- 
nate, where  king  Gundicarius  and  his  race  had  fallen  before 
the  onslaught  of  the  Huns.  The  connection  of  the  narrative 
with  the  Huns  is  therefore  founded  on  historical  fact,  and  it  is 
possible  to  go  even  further  in  the  identification  of  features  of 
the  saga  with  real  events.  Attila  died  in  453,  in  the  night  of 
his  nuptials  with  a  Teutonic  princess,  Ildico,  and  rumor  would 
have  it  that  the  latter  had  taken  bloody  vengeance  on  him  for 
the  downfall  of  her  race.  She  may  have  been  a  Burgundian. 
In  the  older  Norse  version  of  the  Nibelungen  Saga,  Gudrun 
avenges  her  brothers  on  Atli ;  not  as  in  the  Nibelungenlied, 
where  Kriemhild  avenges  her  first  husband,  Siegfried,  on  her 
treacherous  kinsmen.  However  this  may  be,  whether  or  not 
one  recognizes  in  Gudrun-Kriemhild  the  Ildico  of  history,  it 
remains  an  established  fact  that  the  Nibelungen  Saga  too 
bears  in  its  origin  the  mighty  impress  of  historic  facts,  of  the 
downfall  of  the  Burgundians.  It  is  equally  certain  that  history 
constitutes  only  one  of  the  two  sources  from  which  this  saga 
has  drawn.  We  must  now  turn  to  a  consideration  of  the 
mythical  elements  of  the  heroic  sagas. 

By  way  of  preface,  it  may  be  stated  that  we  are  not  to  look 
for  god-myths  in  the  heroic  saga.  This  has  indeed  been  fre- 
quently done,  involving  the  further  problem  as  to  which  gods 
lie  hidden  behind  the  characters  of  Siegfried,  Dietrich,  and 
Beowulf.  According  to  this  view,  the  heroic  saga  is  a  trans- 
formed and  somewhat  degenerated  god-myth,  and  the  ques- 
tion then  presents  itself  whether  this  and  that  character  is  a 
Wodan-hero,  a  Donar-hero,  a  Freyr,  or  a  Baldr.  At  present  it 
is  recognized  that  such  questions  rest  on  no  real  basis.  The 
heroic  saga  has  been  formed  quite  independent  of,  and  parallel 
with,  the  god-myth.  Even  though  we  find  here  and  there  the 
same  myths,  this  does  not  prove  that  the  one  is  derived  from 
the  other.  The  opinion  that  the  figures  of  gods  may  be 


140        THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

recognized  in  the  persons  of  heroes  is  still  widespread  in  Greek 
mythology,  but  so  far  as  Teutonic  mythology  is  concerned,  it 
has  been  entirely  abandoned  by  the  best  scholars.  Further- 
more, among  the  Teutons  there  are  scarcely  any  traces  of  hero 
cult.  The  heroes  whom  we  encounter  in  the  heroic  saga  are, 
to  a  large  extent,  historical  personages  and  have  not  been 
deified.  Even  those  who  are  entirely  mythical  in  character  are 
not  objects  of  worship.  The  gleanings  from  the  study  of  the 
heroic  saga  for  the  history  of  religion  consist  solely  of  a 
knowledge  of  the  mythical  formulas,  the  value  of  which  is, 
however,  not  to  be  underrated. 

We  find  the  myth  of  the  Harlungen  combined  with  the 
legend  of  Ermanaric,  a  union  effected  by  the  Alemanni,  by 
whom,  as  we  have  before  had  occasion  to  observe,  the  complex 
of  East-Gothic  legends  was  preserved  and  handed  down  to  pos- 
terity. Several  German  local  names  contain  a  reminiscence  of 
this  myth ;  so,  for  example,  the  Harlungen  Mountain  in  Bran- 
denburg and  at  Breisach  in  Baden.  In  this  latter  place  the 
story  was  localized  on  account  of  its  agreement  in  name  with 
the  treasure  Brisingamen.  The  main  form  of  this  myth,  which 
has  come  down  to  us  with  all  manner  of  -variations,  is  as  fol- 
lows :  Two  brothers,  in  German  sources  called  Ambrica  and 
Fridila,  possess  a  great  treasure,  among  which  is  the  jewel 
Brisingamen.  At  the  instigation  of  the  faithless  Sibicho,  they 
are  enticed  away  from  their  trusty  monitor  Eckehart  and  treach- 
erously slain  by  Ermanaric.  Inasmuch  as  Jordanes,  who  did 
not  know  the  German  Harlungen  myth,  tells  the  story  of  two 
brothers,  Ammius  and  Sarus,  who  avenged  their  sister  Sunilda 
on  king  Ermanaric,  an  historical  element  may  have  been  intro- 
duced into  the  mythical  narrative.  The  Eddie  poems,  making 
use  of  later  myth-combinations,  have  linked  the  story  of  Scrli 
and  Hamdir  to  that  of  Gudrun,  the  wife  of  Sigurd.  The  youths 
who  suffer  death,  because  they  carried  off  the  betrothed  of  the 
god  of  day  instead  of  talcing  her  to  his  home,  or  because  their 


THE    GERMAN  HEROIC  SAGA  141 

adversary  covets  the  treasure  of  gold  which  they  possess, 
appear  to  be  two  Dioscuri.  They  bring  the  light  of  dawn, 
but  are  themselves  slain  by  the  day.  A  dawn-myth  is,  there- 
fore, probably  the  nucleus  of  these  narratives,  although  the 
later  development  of  the  saga  has  added  to  it  various  elements 
that  cannot  be  explained  on  the  basis  of  such  an  origin.  In 
fact,  both  in  the  case  of  the  Harlungen  and  Hartungen,  there 
remain  objections  to  an  identification  with  either  the  Indian 
Ac.vins  or  the  Laconian  Dioscuri.  Both  of  these  are  horsemen, 
the  Agvins  even  taking  their  name  from  this  fact,  while  in  the 
case  of  the  "  Teutonic  Dioscuri  "  no  mention  is  made  of  horse 
or  chariot.  Nor  is  there  in  the  case  of  the  Harlungen  and  Har- 
tungen any  trace  of  a  connection  with  stars,  while  both  the 
Ac.vins  and  the  brothers  of  Helen  present  several  details 
pointing  to  such  a  connection.  Little  more  remains,  therefore, 
than  general  points  of  resemblance :  two  brothers  that  have  an 
unmistakable  connection  with  the  morning  dawn. 

Another  form  of  the  Dioscuri-myth  among  the  Teutons  is  the 
so-called  "  Hartungen  Saga  "  of  Ortnit  and  Wolfdietrich.  It  has 
undergone  even  greater  transformation,  and  has  assimilated 
more  foreign  elements,  than  the  Harlungen  Saga.  The  nucleus, 
as  reconstructed  by  Miillenhoff,  is  as  follows  :  A  hero  (Ortnit, 
Hertnit,  the  elder  Hartung),  in  combat  with  a  demonic  race, 
the  Isungen,  gains  possession  of  a  beautiful  woman  (a  Wal- 
kyrie),  who  aids  him  in  this  very  struggle  against  her  own  kin. 
After  his  discomfiture  in  a  fight  with  a  dragon,  his  younger 
brother  (Hartheri,  for  whom  Wolfdietrich  has  been  substituted 
in  the  German  legend)  slays  the  dragon  and  takes  his  brother's 
arms  and  widow.  It  will  be  seen  that  the  myth  differs  somewhat 
from  that  of  the  Harlungen,  and  that  it  cannot  be  reduced  to  a 
simple  dawn-myth,  although  it  also  has  its  origin  evidently  in  the 
alternate  struggle  between  light  and  darkness.  In  these  narra- 
tives concerning  Wolfdietrich,  the  faithful  (the  Berchtungen) 
and  the  faithless  (Sabene)  are  again  contrasted.  A  comparison 


142         THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

of  the  Hartungen-myth  with  the  two  divine  brothers  of  the 
Nahanarvali  mentioned  by  Tacitus  at  once  suggests  itself. 
The  kings  of  the  Vandals,  the  Asdingi,  —  with  which  the 
Middle  High  German  Hartunge  has  been  connected,  —  men 
with  feminine  hairdress,1  were  descended  from  these  Dioscuri, 
who  were  worshipped  by  a  priest,  muliebri  ornatu. 

Numerous  mythical  formulas  as  well  as  commonplace  epic 
motifs  are  found  in  the  heroic  saga.  The  hero  who  intended 
to  be  slain  is  put  out  as  foundling  and  grows  up  among 
strangers ;  the  outcast  and  wanderer ;  the  hero  who  fights 
dragons,  —  these  are  a  few  of  the  general  mythical  features 
recurring  in  numerous  legends  and  which  may  or  may  not  be 
traced  back  to  phenomena  of  nature.  We  meet  them  again 
and  again  in  the  epic  narratives  dealing  with  Dietrich,  Wolf- 
dietrich,  and  other  Teutonic  heroes.  The  most  famous  of 
these  epic  types  is  represented  by  the  oldest  epic  poem  exist- 
ing in  the  German  language,  the  Hildebrand  Lay.  The  combat 
between  father  and  son  in  its  different  stages,  the  introductory 
dialogue,  the  token  of  recognition,  and  the  tragic  issue  recur 
in  the  mythology  of  numerous  nations,  most  strikingly  in  the 
Persian  epic  and  in  the  Irish  heroic  sagas.  An  historical  con- 
nection, more  particularly  with  the  Persian  tale  of  Rustem  and 
Sohrab,  has  frequently  been  assumed ;  Uhland  especially  car- 
ries this  hypothesis  very  far  and  also  finds  correspondences  in 
names  and  episodes  between  Persian  and  Teutonic  sagas.  The 
Irish  narrative  of  Cuchulin  and  Conlach,  too,  presents  striking 
points  of  resemblance  ;  while  the  Greek  story  of  Odysseus  and 
Telegonos,  the  Russian  of  Ilja,  and  still  other  tales,  show,  at 
any  rate,  important  parallels.  Unless  we  seek  for  the  expla- 
nation of  these  parallels  in  a  nature-myth,  or,  as  others  would 
have  it,  in  a  custom  of  law,  then  the  problem  becomes  a  very 
difficult  one.  It  is  scarcely  possible  either  to  regard  the  coin- 
cidence as  accidental,  or,  considering  the  wide  dissemination 

1  Jordanes,  De  origins  actibusque  Getarum,  Chapter  22. 


THE    GERMAN  HEROIC  SAGA  143 

of  the  story,  to  assume  a  literary  dependence,  or,  finally,  to 
regard  the  tale  with  all  its  accessory  episodes  as  forming  a 
part  of  the  common  possessions  of  the  primitive  race.  It 
would  seem  most  likely,  therefore,  that  the  nucleus  of  the 
story  is  after  all  a  nature-myth,  a  supposition  which  does  not, 
of  course,  preclude  the  possibility  that  certain  correspondences 
of  detail  are  due  to  literary  dependence.1 

Dietrich  is  the  most  popular  heroic  figure  in  a  large  section 
of  Germany.  Of  him,  as  the  Quedlingburg  Chronicle  tells  us, 
"  rustici  cantabant  olim,"  2  and  numerous  feats  are  related,  in 
which  he  slays  storm  giants,  engages  in  combat  with  dwarfs, 
and  in  general  occupies  the  position  of  the  thunder  god. 
These  myths  are  as  a  rule  of  a  strictly  local  character.  That 
the  hero  is  represented  as  a  Donar  furnishes  no  ground  for 
regarding  this  as  his  real  character.  Dietrich  himself  has 
nothing  in  common  with  the  thunder  god,  notwithstanding  all 
that  has  been  said  to  the  contrary.  What  so  often  takes  place 
in  mythology  has  happened  to  him.  As  a  popular  hero  he  has 
in  a  number  of  myths  filled  the  vacant  place  of  the  god,  —  an 
interchange  which  proves  nothing  as  to  his  real  nature. 

We  have  now  reached  the  most  mythical  of  the  heroic  sagas, 
that  of  Siegfried  and  the  Nibelungen.  The  main  features 
of  this  narrative,  which  shows  considerable  variation  in  the 
numerous  forms  in  which  it  has  come  down  to  us,  are  as 
follows :  A  hero  grows  up  in  the  forest,  under  the  care  of 
a  cunning  smith  and  without  knowledge  of  his  parents.  In 
combat  with  a  dragon  he  acquires  boundless  treasure.  Riding 
through  flames  of  fire  (the  Vafrlogi),  he  liberates  the  maid  on 
the  mountain,  and  awakes  her  from  her  magic  sleep.  Under 
the  influence  of  a  draught  of  oblivion  he  forsakes  her  and  comes 
into  the  power  of  a  demonic  race  of  beings,  the  Nibelungen, 
whose  sister  he  weds,  and  through  whom  he  loses  his  first 

1  Compare  O.  L.  Jiriczek,  Deutsche  Heldensagen,  I,  pp.  275-289. 

2  "  The  peasants  of  old  sung." 


144         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

bride,  the  treasure,  and,  finally,  also  his  life.  Such  is  the 
nucleus  of  the  narrative  that  may  with  some  degree  of  proba- 
bility be  reconstructed  from  the  various  types  that  we  possess. 
The  Norse  version  narrates  in  detail  the  history  of  the  race  of 
the  Vqlsungen  antecedent  to  that  of  Siegfried.  The  treasure, 
and  the  curse  resting  on  it,  is  a  motif  which  obtains  great 
prominence  in  the  Norse  version,  while  in  the  Nibelungenlied 
it  has  been  entirely  abandoned.  The  different  sources  vary  in 
respect  to  the  identification  of  the  Walkyrie  whom  the  hero 
had  first  won  with  Brunhild,  the  bride  whom  he  secures  for 
the  prince  of  the  Nibelungen,  though  it  is  evident  that  what 
was  originally  a  purely  mythical  narrative  has  been  greatly 
modified  through  a  union  with  historical  legends.  The  demonic 
Nibelungen  have  been  combined  with  the  Burgundian  kings. 
The  narrative  has,  moreover,  lost  much  of  its  perspicuity,  owing 
to  the  fact  that  most  of  the  poets  who  have  handed  down  the 
poem  did  not  grasp  its  original  character.  In  the  Nibelungen- 
lied the  characters  —  or  at  any  rate  Kriemhild  —  no  longer 
bear  any  resemblance  to  a  sombre  demonic  race.  It  is  self- 
evident  that  the  story,  as  thus  summarized,  does  not  form  a 
unit.  It  embodies  various  mythical  formulas,  common  to 
many  narratives,  and  which,  when  reduced  to  their  simplest 
form,  do  not  admit  of  further  explanation.  Among  these  are 
the  rearing  of  the  hero  in  the  forest,  his  invulnerability  with 
the  exception  of  a  single  spot,  his  combat  with  dragons,  the 
draught  of  oblivion,  the  acquisition  of  the  gold.1  Setting 
these  aside,  there  remain  the  -accounts  of  the  winning  of  the 
bride,  the  ride  through  the  flames,  and  the  destruction  of  the 
hero,  who  falls  a  prey  to  the  demons  (the  Nibelungen).  The 
first  of  these  features,  the  liberation  of  the  maid  on  the  moun- 
v-  tain,  is  paralleled  by  such  myths  as  those  of  Freyr  and  Gerdhr, 
Svipdag  and  Menglqdh.  But  here,  as  always  in  attempting 

1  Compare  for  "  hoard-legends  "  J.  G.  von   Hahn,  Sagwissenschaftliche  Biblio- 
thek,  Chapter  10, 


THE    GERMAN  HEROIC  SAGA  145 

to  interpret  myths  and  to  point  out  mythological  parallels, 
the  stories,  however  simple  they  may  seem,  do  not  permit  of 
an  absolutely  certain  explanation.  We  recognize  in  the  myth 
the  youthful  day  hero  (Siegfried),  who  in  the  morning,  after  a 
ride  through  the  light  of  dawn  (Vafrlogi),  awakes  the  sun 
(Brunhild).  But  the  myth  of  Freyr  and  Gerdhr  points  rather 
to  the  earth  awakened  in  the  spring  by  the  god  of  summer. 
Similarly,  in  the  second  part  of  the  story,  while  the  hero  is  at 
first  victorious,  yet  the  light  dies  again,  day  passes  into  night, 
the  summer  into  the  winter  season,  Siegfried  falls  into  the 
power  of  the  Nibelungen  and  perishes.  The  general  meaning 
is  clear,  but  we  are  left  in  doubt  whether  the  day  or  the  year  is 
in  the  first  instance  to  be  thought  of.  In  any  case,  it  remains 
certain  that  Siegfried  is  a  light  hero,  be  it  of  day  or  of  summer, 
who  rises  in  splendor,  but  succumbs  finally  to  the  demonic 
powers  of  darkness. 

The  Wieland  Saga  does  not  date  from  the  period  of  migra- 
tions, and  was,  in  fact,  developed  in  a  region,  Saxony,  not 
affected  by  this  movement.  It  spread  very  extensively,  and 
has  come  down  to  us  in  an  Anglo-Saxon  version,  in  one  of  the 
oldest  Eddie  poems,  in  the  Thidhreks  Saga,  and,  pictorially,  on 
an  ancient  Anglo-Saxon  runic  casket.  The  cultural  background 
of  this  saga,  the  working  of  metals  and  rendering  fire  sub- 
servient to  the  purposes  of  mankind,  is  very  ancient.  The 
cunning  smith,  no  doubt  here  as  elsewhere,  represents  an  old 
fire-god  or  fire-demon.  Not  that  we  mean  to  identify  Wieland 
(Volund)  with  one  of  the  gods  of  the  Teutonic  pantheon.  He 
was  doubtless  never  worshipped  as  a  god,  but  various  features  of 
the  legend,  more  especially  Wieland's  servitude  and  vengeance, 
point  to  an  old  fire-myth.  There  are  no  grounds  for  supposing 
that  antique  motifs  have  received  poetic  setting  in  this  myth.1 

1  This  view  is  maintained  by  W.  Golther,  Die  Wielandsage  und  die  Wande- 
rung  der  frdnkischen  Heldensage  (Germania,  XXXIII),  and  by  H.  Schiick, 
Vglundsagan,  AfnF.  IX. 


146        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

It  is  extremely  tempting  to  see  in  the  heroic  saga  the  con- 
ditions and,  especially,  the  moods  of  the  period  to  which  the 
tales  themselves  transport  us,  but  there  is  no  warrant  for  this 
view.  The  poems  are  too  far  removed  in  time  from  the  period 
of  migration  to  reproduce  in  any  way  the  tone  and  coloring  of 
the  life  of  that  time.  The  characters,  the  ideals,  the  conditions, 
are  for  the  most  part  those  of  the  later  Middle  Ages,  the  period 
in  which  the  poems  were  composed.  This  does  not,  of  course, 
preclude  the  possibility  of  its  embodying  features  which  reflect 
older  conditions;  for  instance,  in  the  picture  drawn  of  Teutonic 
kings,  with  their  long  blond  hair ;  in  the  fealty  that  constitutes 
such  a  close  bond  of  union  between  them  and  their  men  ;  in 
the  faithfulness  of  the  wife,  who  wishes  to  die  with  her  husband 
or  avenge  him ;  in  the  violence  and  savagery  of  the  encounters  ; 
in  the  uncertainty  of  the  conditions  surrounding  life,  producing 
a  fatalistic  feeling,  through  the  realization  that  sorrow  follows 
joy.  But  this  is  all  of  too  general  a  character  and  too  vague 
in  its  outline  to  be  regarded  as  depicting  the  life  of  the  migra- 
tion period.  The  fatalistic  character  of  the  mood  may  in  its 
coloring  be  Christian  as  well  as  pagan. 

What  then  justifies  our  appealing  to  the  heroic  sagas  as  wit- 
nesses concerning  this  period  ?  The  fact  that  the  historical 
groundwork  dates  from  the  age  of  migrations,  and  was  then 
amalgamated  with  the  mythical  material  already  existing.  Only 
in  the  case  of  a  few  particulars  has  the  claim  been  made  that 
they  are  derived  from  classical  literature,  and  even  this  claim 
has  met  with  limited  acceptance.  We  may  therefore  regard 
it  as  firmly  established  that  both  the  historical  and  mythical 
elements  of  the  heroic  saga  are  Teutonic. 

This  result  acquires  considerable  importance,  when  we  con- 
sider the  meagreness  of  the  early  data  available  for  the  study 
of  Teutonic  mythology.  We  now  know  that  the  mythic  con- 
ception of  the  struggle  between  light  and  darkness,  as  sym- 
bolized in  the  day  and  year  myths,  was  current  among  the 


THE    GERMAN  HEROIC  SAGA  147 

Teutons.  The  characteristic  features  of  nature-mythology  are 
unmistakable  in  the  story  of  the  Harlungen  and  in  that  of 
Siegfried  and  the  Nibelungen.  Besides,  giants  and  dwarfs  con- 
stitute an  important  element  of  popular  belief,  though  chiefly 
in  the  later  epical  narratives  dealing  with  Dietrich.  A  number 
of  widespread  motifs  for  stories,  such  as  combats  with  dragons, 
with  or  without  a  mythical  background,  are  made  use  of  in  the 
Teutonic  heroic  saga,  while  the  evidence  does  not  suggest  even 
the  probability  that  they  have  been  borrowed  from  other  quar- 
ters. The  clearer  we  recognize  that  much  among  the  possessions 
of  the  Teutons  is  of  foreign  origin,  the  greater  the  need  to  empha- 
size what  is  of  native  origin,  and  in  these  heroic  sagas,  the 
subject-matter  of  which  in  its  main  outlines  goes  back  to  the 
migration  period,  it  is  the  poetic  imagination,  the  blending  of 
reminiscences  of  the  past  with  nature-myths,  of  the  mythical 
with  the  historical,  as  already  indicated  in  the  Germania  of 
Tacitus,  that  survive  as  peculiarly  characteristic  of  the  Teutons 
until  the  very  end,  and  even  beyond  the  limits,  of  the  pagan 
period. 

The  mythical  formulas  that  we  can  deduce  from  the  heroic 
saga  are,  however,  few  in  number.  The  question  whether  we 
must  seek  impersonations  of  the  gods  in  them  has  already  been 
answered  in  the  negative.  Even  though  Miillenhoffs  con- 
tention, supported  by  such  subtle  reasoning  that  in  the  myths 
of  heroes  several  god-myths  may  be  recognized,  were  proved 
beyond  the  shadow  of  a  doubt,  —  even  then  these  hero  narratives 
would  furnish  no  direct  proof  that  the  gods  to  be  detected  in 
them  were  actually  worshipped. 

The  medieval  epics  of  the  Nibelungenlied,  the  Klage,  and 
Kudrun  also,  are  entirely  permeated  with  Christianity.  While 
mention  is  made  of  the  fact  that  Etzel  was  a  heathen,  and 
while  the  Klage  even  represents  him  as  a  Christian  who 
became  an  apostate,  we  cannot,  as  in  the  case  of  the  Heliand, 
point  to  pagan  survivals  in  respect  to  language,  customs, 


148        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

or  ideas.  All  formulas  and  observances  are  Christian. 
Brunhild  and  Kriemhild  attend  mass,  children  are  baptized, 
and  the  rites  at  the  obsequies  of  Siegfried  are  all  Christian.1 

1  A  detailed  and  thorough  treatment   of  this  subject   may  be  found  in  A.  E. 
Schonbach,  Das  Christentum  in  der  altdeutschen  Heldendichtung  (1897). 


CHAPTER  VIII 
THE  ANGLO-SAXONS 

"  THERE  were  no  reasons  of  state  to  lead  the  German  con- 
querors in  Britain  to  follow  Roman  traditions,  as  in  the  other 
provinces  of  the  Empire.  There  was  no  native  population 
permeated  with  Roman  culture  and  ready  to  communicate  this 
culture  to  the  immigrants."  1  The  Teutons  that  had  crossed 
the  North  Sea  and  settled  in  England  were  of  far  purer  stock 
than  the  tribes  of  the  West  and  South  and  the  East  Teutons 
of  the  period  of  migrations.  The  Romans,  after  an  occupa- 
tion of  three  hundred  and  fifty  years,  had  evacuated  England, 
leaving  behind  buildings,  walls,  inscriptions,  and  other  material 
evidences  of  their  occupation,  but  no  permanent  institutions 
that  outlived  their  departure.  Roman  rule  in  Britain  had 
always  borne  the  character  of  a  military  occupation,  maintained 
by  the  aid  of  a  few  legions.  England  had  not,  like  Gaul, 
become  permeated  with  Roman  culture  that  outlasted  the  fall 
of  the  Empire.  Accordingly,  when  the  Romans  left  Britain, 
the  British  (Keltic)  population  was  thrown  practically  into  a 
state  of  anarchy  and  was  left  defenseless  against  the  Teutonic 
incursions.  Even  as  late  as  the  time  of  the  emperor  Honorius 
they  in  vain  besought  protection  from  Rome  against  these 
invaders. 

Invasions  of  seafaring  Teutons  began  as  early  as  the  fourth 
century.  The  Viking  expeditions  run  parallel  with  the  migra- 
tions, though  they  cover  a  by  far  longer  period.  No  perma- 
nent settlement,  however,  was  effected  in  England  until  the 
British  king,  Vortigern,  in  one  of  his  feuds  with  his  neighbors, 

1  B.  ten  Brink,  Geschichte  der  englischen  Litter atnr,  I,  p.  12, 
149 


ISO        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

was  ill-advised  enough  to  call  in  the  aid  of  the  Saxon  chief, 
Hengist.  Hengist  and  Horsa  remained  in  the  land  where 
their  arms  had  proved  victorious  (449).  They  were  followed 
for  about  a  century  by  constantly  fresh  streams  of  Teutonic 
immigrants  from  the  peninsula  of  Jutland  and  from  the  mouth 
of  the  Elbe.  From  Jutland  the  Jutes  came,  who  settled  in 
Kent,  from  Sleswick  the  Angles,  from  Holstein  the  Saxons. 
These  tribes  established  small  kingdoms  along  the  entire 
eastern  coast  of  England,  pushed  back  the  Keltic  population 
ever  further  to  the  west  and  north,  and  constantly  extended 
their  dominion. 

With  good  reason  Freeman  has  pointed  out  the  great  differ- 
ence existing  between  the  Anglo-Saxon  settlement  in  England 
and  the  Frankish  in  Gaul.  While  the  Franks  became  wholly 
Romanized,  taking  on  the  language  and  civilization  of  the 
antique  world,  no  such  heritage  fell  to  the  lot  of  the  Anglo- 
Saxons.  Nor  did  the  conquerors  intermingle  with  the  native 
Keltic  population.  They  pushed  them  back,  and  the  downfall 
of  the  British  has  been  depicted  in  vivid  colors  by  Gildas 
(560).  The  struggle  with  the  Britons  and  Scots  covered  a  long 
period  and  broke  out  ever  anew.  As  late  as  the  year  603  the 
Northumbrian  Saxons  were  compelled  to  drive  back  the  Scots 
at  Degsastan.  The  Keltic  element  has,  of  course,  not  been 
exterminated  everywhere  in  England.  In  the  western  districts, 
such  as  Devonshire  and  Somerset,  it  is  more  widely  represented 
than  in  the  eastern.  In  the  main,  however,  the  Anglo-Saxon 
conquest  involved  the  supplanting  of  one  people  by  the  other. 

Christianity  too,  which  the  Britons  had  adopted  about 
A.D.  200,  was  rejected  by  the  Anglo-Saxons.  For  more  than  one 
hundred  and  fifty  years  they  remained  true  to  their  heathen 
traditions.  Then  the  new  religion  penetrated  from  two  sides. 
First  of  all  the  Keltic  (Irish)  missionaries,  Columba  in  lona  as 
early  as  563,  worked  among  them.  In  addition  to  this,  since 
the  year  600,  missionaries  were  sent  direct  from  Rome,  of  whom 


THE   ANGLO-SAXONS  151 

Augustine,  who  settled  in  Canterbury,  was  the  first.  Some  fifty 
years  later  Christianity  was  general  among  the  Anglo-Saxons, 
in  the  form  which  accepted  the  primacy  of  Rome.  These  are 
the  same  two  currents,  the  more  independent  one  of  the  Irish 
mission,  and  the  papal  one,  triumphing  under  the  leadership 
of  Boniface,  which  we  have  already  met  in  the  history  of 
missions  among  the  Germans. 

If  we  possessed  a  native  literature  from  this  period  of  Anglo- 
Saxon  paganism,  it  would  be  of  inestimable  value  as  a  source 
for  Teutonic  mythology.  But  here  again  we  must  be  content 
with  what  we  learn  from  writings  of  the  period  subsequent  to 
the  conversion,  and  with  what  has  continued  to  live  in  the  tra- 
ditions of  the  people.  The  value  of  these  latter  sources  has, 
however,  at  times  been  underestimated  or,  at  any  rate,  they 
have  not  been  exploited  for  the  study  of  Teutonic  mythology 
to  the  extent  that  would  seem  desirable,  for  the  fairly  rich 
Anglo-Saxon  literature  is  after  all  the  oldest  literature  that  a 
Teutonic  tribe  has  produced  in  a  Teutonic  language. 

Unfortunately,  the  writer  who  was  most  extensively  read,  and 
who,  relatively  speaking,  still  stood  so  near  to  the  pagan  period 
of  his  people,  forms  an  exception  to  this  use  of  the  native  lan- 
guage. Bede  (672-735)  not  only  wrote  in  Latin,  but  was  so 
much  preoccupied  with  the  affairs  of  the  church  that  he  viewed 
the  past  of  his  people,  whose  ecclesiastical  history  he  wrote, 
entirely  through  the  eyes  of  a  monk.  Yet  there  are  a  few 
chapters  in  Bede  that  furnish  us  with  some  insight  into  the 
history  of  the  conversion  to  Christianity.  In  Northumbria  it 
was  effected  in  a  very  peaceful  manner,  through  the  preaching  of 
Paulinus  during  the  reign  of  king  Edwin.  Bede  (I I,  13)  unrolls 
for  us  the  picture  of  a  conference,  in  which  the  king  consults 
his  nobles  and  also  his  chief  priest  Co'ifi,  in  regard  to  the 
proposition.  The  latter  at  once  shows  his  readiness  to  give! 
up  the  old  gods.  He  has  never  found  their  service  very  advan- 
tageous, is  not  convinced  of  the  truth  of  the  old  religion,  and, 


152        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

being  entirely  free  from  superstitious  fear,  stands  ready  to  be 
the  first  to  desecrate  and  raze  the  sanctuary  with  sword  and 
spear.  Another  of  the  nobles  impresses  us  more  favorably. 
In  a  finely  conceived  simile  he  tells  of  the  bird  that  flies  into 
the  warm  festive  hall  from  the  rain  and  snow  without,  only  to 
pass  out  again  on  the  other  side  :  "  de  hieme  in  hiemem." 1 
Such  is  man's  brief  span  of  life  between  the  unknown  past  and 
an  unknown  future.  Why  then  should  we  not  take  heed  of 
the  new  teaching  that  gives  assurance  concerning  these  things? 

It  is  not,  however,  to  be  supposed  that  the  introduction  of 
Christianity  among  the  Anglo-Saxons  met  with  no  outward 
opposition.  The  Mercian  king  Penda  (626-655)  fought  against 
it  with  might  and  main,  till  the  bitter  end.  The  Northumbrian 
king  Oswald,  who  fell  in  battle  against  him,  is  regarded  as  a 
martyr  in  the  Christian  cause,  and  Bede  recounts  a  number  of 
miracles  wrought  at  his  grave  or  through  his  relics.  The 
heathen  king  had  hung  Oswald's  head  and  dismembered  limbs 
on  trees,  perhaps  as  a  sacrifice  to  his  gods.  But  Bede's  narra- 
tive, diffuse  as  it  is  in  its  account  of  the  miracles,  gives  us  no 
true  insight  into  the  real  motives  and  the  significance  of  king 
Penda,  who,  as  we  learn  from  Bede  himself,  did  not  exter- 
minate the  Christians  in  his  realm,  although  he  held  them  in 
great  contempt.  At  any  rate,  when  Penda  fell  in  battle  against 
Oswin,  the  last  powerful  opponent  of  Christianity  perished. 
Before  the  end  of  the  seventh  century  the  organization  of  the 
Anglo-Saxon  church  under  the  primacy  of  the  pope  was  com- 
pleted, and  while  politically  the  kingdoms  were  still  separate 
and  distinct,  ecclesiastical  unity  had  been  effected. 

As  in  Germany,  so  in  England  the  old  paganism  lived  on 
after  the  conversion  in  numerous  magic  formulas  and  observ- 
ances. While  Anglo-Saxon  literature  has  not  transmitted  any 
such,  like  the  Merseburg  Charms,  from  the  heathen  period 
itself,  there  are  still  several  in  which  pagan  ideas  are  clearly 

1  "  From  winter  into  winter." 


THE   ANGLO-SAXONS  153 

discernible ;  so  in  the  incantation  against  rheumatic  pains, 
conceived  of  as  brought  into  the  blood  or  limbs  by  the  arrows 
or  shafts  of  gods,  elves,  or  hags  (hcegtessatt).  In  the  main  the 
charms  were  joined  to  a  belief  in,  and  invocation  of,  powerful 
elemental  spirits.  Thus  running  water  possessed  magic  power 
for  the  healing  of  sickness,  a  conception  which  there  is  no 
need  of  deriving  from  the  Christian  baptism.  Mother  Earth, 
too,  called  Erce  in  a  field  charm,  was  tilled  with  all  manner  of 
symbolic  rites  and  formulas,  which  served  to  promote  fertility. 
The  introduction  of  large  numbers  of  ecclesiastical  formulas 
into  these  incantations  does  not  conceal  their  originally  pagan 
character.  Though  secular  and  ecclesiastical  laws  united  in 
inveighing  against  various  forms  of  divination  and  witchcraft, 
such  as  casting  spells  on  man  or  beast,  magic  draughts,  the 
evil  eye,  and  the  like,  they  were  not  eradicated. 

The  Anglo-Saxon  genealogical  tables  have  already  been 
mentioned  in  connection  with  the  other  tribal  sagas.1  These 
dreary  lists  represent  in  reality  the  skeleton  of  numerous 
legends,  and  while  we  are  not  told  that  the  latter  received 
poetic  treatment  and  development,  they  must  at  all  events 
have  survived  in  the  imaginations  of  the  people.  The  gene- 
alogies of  the  royal  families  have  combined  names  of  varied 
origin.  Sceldwa  (Scyld),  who  was  identified  with  the  pro- 
genitor of  the  Danish  kings,  Beaw,  and  king  Offa  have  all 
three  been  imported  from  the  original  home  of  the  Anglo- 
Saxons  between  the  North  Sea  and  the  Baltic.  Opinions  still 
differ  as  to  what  part  of  these  characters  and  tales  is  origi- 
nally the  property  of  the  tribes  themselves,  and  what  is  of 
Danish  origin.  While  the  genealogies,  therefore,  in  their 
nucleus  point  to  the  pre-English  period  of  the  Anglo-Saxons, 
they  have  been  localized  in  England,  and  have  been  trans- 
ferred to  the  royal  families  of  the  individual  kingdoms. 

Our  knowledge  of  the  deities  of  Anglo-Saxon  paganism  is 
l  See  Chapter  IV,  p.  81. 


154         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

based  solely  on  these  genealogies  and  on  proper  names.  It  is, 
accordingly,  impossible  to  get  beyond  mere  names.  Attempts  to 
define  the  character  of  these  gods  must  depend  upon  material 
drawn  from  other  Teutonic  tribes.  From  the  sources  at  our 
command,  we  thus  obtain  Wodan,  Thunor,  Tiw,  Seaxneat, 
Baeldaeg  (Baldr),  the  nicors  or  water  sprites,  and  possibly 
some  others.  In  the  first  component  part  of  such  names  as 
Oswald  and  Oswin  we  recognize  the  word  signifying  god,  in 
Alfred  and  similar  names,  the  elves.  While  these  gleanings 
seem  meagre,  they  suffice  to  prove  that  the  Anglo-Saxons  car- 
ried the  old  Teutonic  gods  with  them  from  their  original  home. 
In  the  heroic  sagas  of  other  tribes  they  also  took  a  lively 
interest.  These  Anglo-Saxons  celebrated  in  song  the  foreign 
sagas  of  Ermanaric,  Walther,  and  Wieland,  —  a  fact  which 
indicates  a  lively  intercourse  with  the  various  Teutonic  tribes 
of  the  continent,  through  whom  they  became  acquainted  with 
these  legends. 

The  greater  part  of  Anglo-Saxon  literature  bears  a  Biblical 
and  ecclesiastical  character,  and  yet  it  was  written  not  in 
Latin,  but  in  the  vernacular.  In  the  vernacular  the  herdsman 
Kaedmon  (680),  who  in  a  nightly  vision  had  received  the  gift 
of  poetry,  sang  of  the  fall  of  the  angels  and  other  Biblical 
subjects,  in  poems  that  maybe  compared  with  the  recently  dis- 
covered Genesis  fragments  of  the  Saxon  Heliand  poet.  Kyne- 
wulf  also,  the  great  Anglo-Saxon  poet  of  the  runic  verses,  of 
riddles  and  the  like,  sang  of  legends  of  saints  in  Andreas  and 
Elene.  King  Alfred  was  a  generous  patron  of  native  letters, 
and  himself  translated  into  Anglo-Saxon  the  writings  of 
Orosius,  Bede,  Boethius,  and  Gregory  the  Great.  It  is  neces- 
sary to  emphasize  the  fact  that  all  these  works  were  written  in 
the  vernacular,  inasmuch  as  this  tended  to  favor  unconsciously, 
and  even  contrary  to  the  intention  of  the  author,  the  retention 
of  many  a  pagan  conception.  As  we  have  seen,  the  same 
observation  applied  to  the  Old  Saxon  Heliand :  the  language 


THE  ANGLO-SAXONS  155 

was  involuntarily  the  vehicle  of  old  ideas.  Thus  in  Kyne- 
wulf's  Elene  we  frequently  find  Wyrd  used  of  fate,  Wig  of  the 
god  of  war.  The  god  of  the  universe  is  represented  as  helms- 
man, the  cross  is  regarded  as  a  hidden  treasure,  and  the  nails 
of  the  cross  as  instruments  of  magic,  while  hell  is  depicted 
with  the  characteristics  of  Nastrand,  and  very  vivid  scenes  are 
drawn  from  the  seafarers'  life.1 

The  chief  monument  of  Anglo-Saxon  literature,  the  epic 
Beowulf,  completed,  in  its  present  form,  presumably  not  later 
than  the  eighth  century,  has  preserved  for  us  a  great  wealth  of 
sagas.  Its  contents,  however,  carry  us  back  to  a  time  ante- 
cedent to,  or  contemporaneous  with,  the  immigration  of  the 
Anglo-Saxons  in  England.  The  poem  relates  how  the  Danish 
king  Hrothgar,  of  the  race  of  the  Scyldings,  built  a  splendid 
hall,  Heorot.  A  monster,  Grendel,  carries  off  from  this  hall 
every  night  thirty  of  the  king's  thanes,  and  no  one  is  able  to 
hinder  it,  until  the  great  Geat,  Beowulf,  slays  first  Grendel  and 
then,  in  the  depths  of  the  sea,  -Grendel's  mother.  Laden  with 
gifts  Beowulf  returns  to  his  native  land,  where  he  succeeds 
Hygelac  as  king  of  the  Geatas.  After  a  long  and  glorious 
reign  he  undertakes,  as  an  old  man,  to  fight  a  dragon  that 
guards  immense  treasures.  In  his  combat  with  the  monster 
he  is  joined  by  the  young  Wiglaf,  the  Scylfing,  who  is  not, 
however,  able  to  save  his  lord.  In  the  fight  Beowulf  falls  a 
victim  to  the  venom  of  the  dragon,  but  he  has  slain  the  mon- 
ster, and  has  the  satisfaction  of  having  with  his  death  pur- 
chased the  treasure  of  gold  for  his  people.  The  poem  ends 
with  his  solemn  obsequies. 

It  will  be  apparent  from  even  this  brief  outline  that  the  epic 
Beowulf  consists  of  two  main  parts.  The  first  relates  the 
struggle  with  Grendel  and  his  mother,  the  second  and  shorter 
part  the  combat  with  the  dragon  and  the  hero's  death.  The 

1  C.  W.  Kent,  Teutonic  Antiquities  in  Andreas  and  Elene  (Dissertation), 
Leipzig,  1887. 


156        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

connection  between  these  two  parts  is  rather  loose.  Numer- 
ous other  legends  have,  moreover,  been  introduced  by  way  of 
episodes  :  Beowulf's  swimming  contest  with  Breca  ;  the  combat 
with  a  dragon  of  Sigemund  and  his  nephew  Fitela ; l  tales  of 
the  Frisian  king  Finn ;  of  Offa  and  Thrydo,  in  which  an  Anglo- 
Saxon  hero  from  the  original  home  has  been  more  or  less 
fused  with  an  historical  Mercian  king  ;  the  story  of  the  Swedish 
king  Ongentheow,  and  various  other  personages. 

The  first  question  that  presents  itself  is,  To  what  region  do 
these  sagas  originally  belong  ?  It  is  noticeable  at  the  very 
outset  that  the  Anglo-Saxons  are  not  even  mentioned  in  the 
poem,  the  scene  being  laid  throughout  in  Scandinavian  coun- 
tries, among  Danes  and  Geatas,  the  latter  of  whom  we  regard 
not  as  the  Jutes,  but  as  the  Gotas  of  Southern  Sweden. 
Accordingly,  some  scholars  are  of  the  opinion  that  the  Anglo- 
Saxon  poem  is  essentially  a  translation  of  a  Danish  original, 
or,  if  not  in  its  present  form  a  translation,  that  at  any  rate 
the  legends  it  contains  had  been  fully  developed  among  the 
Scandinavians  and  had  already  been  the  subject  of  song.2 

Not  only  do  these  assertions  not  admit  of  proof,  but  they 
are  in  a  high  degree  improbable.  The  evidence  points  decid- 
edly in  the  opposite  direction.  With  Miillenhoff,  ten  Brink,  and 
Symons,  we  must  regard  the  Beowulf  epic  as  the  development 
given  by  the  Anglo-Saxons  themselves  to  various  sagas  that 
they  had  either  brought  with  them  from  their  original  home, 
or  had  subsequently  appropriated  in  their  unbroken  intercourse 

1  For  the  relation  of  this  legend  to  other  connected  legends,  compare  Uhland, 
Schriften,  VIII,  pp.  479  ff. 

2  So,  in  one  form  or  another,  Thorkelin,  Grundtvig,  Jessen,  Bugge,  Mone,  Ett- 
rmiller,  Sarrazin.     Recently  E.  Sievers  has  shown  that  the  Danish  saga,  as  trans- 
mitted to  us  in  Saxo,  has  a  number  of  proper  names  in  common  with  Beowulf.     See 
his  article,  Beovulf  und  Saxo  (Ber,  iiber  die   Verh.  d.  konigl.  s'dchs.  Gesellsch.  der 
Wiss.,  Phil.-Histor.  Klasse,  Sitzung  6.  Juli,  1895).     Vigfusson  has  pointed  out  a 
correspondence  between  Beowulf  and  the  Norse  Grettir  Sagas,  but  here  Beowulf  is 
the  original  from  which  the  Norse  author  borrowed.     Compare  H.  Gering,  Der 
Beowulf  und  die  isl'dndische  Grettissage  (Anglia,  III). 


THE  ANGLO-SAXONS  157 

with  their  native  land.  There  is  no  occasion  for  surprise  at 
the  striking  resemblances  with  Danish  sagas  in  regard  to 
subject-matter,  if  we  reflect  that  these  peoples  came  constantly 
in  contact  with  one  another  and  that  this  contact  before  the 
Viking  age  was  apparently  never  hostile  for  any  length  of  time. 
That  these  legends  should  reach  their  full  development  on 
other  than  their  native  soil  is  also  not  an  isolated  phenomenon. 
In  a  similar  manner  the  East-Gothic  sagas  lived  on  principally 
among  the  Alemanni ;  the  saga  of  Hugdietrich  and  Wolf dietrich 
was  transmitted  to  posterity  through  the  Franks,  and  the  memory 
of  the  downfall  of  the  Burgundians  was  perpetuated  through 
other  peoples.  It  is  in  no  way  strange,  therefore,  that  the 
Anglo-Saxons,  who  themselves  treated  in  song  the  sagas  of 
other  people-s  (Ermanaric,  Walther),  brought  with  them  from 
their  native  home  those  of  their  neighbors.  It  is  indeed  note- 
worthy that  the  period  of  the  national  conflict  in  England  itself 
lives  only  in  the  Keltic  saga  of  king  Arthur,  and  not  among 
the  Anglo-Saxons  themselves,  or  at  least  only  in  what  may  be 
gathered  concerning  it  from  disjointed  names  in  the  geneal- 
ogies. But  this  may  in  part  be  attributed  to  the  fact  that  other 
characters  and  other  narratives  had  already  seized  hold  of 
their  imagination. 

Mullenhoff's  masterly  monograph  has  shown  how,  by  means 
of  keen  historical  criticism,  the  epic  of  Beowulf  may  be  made 
to  do  service  as  an  important  source  for  the  history  of  the 
seafaring  Teutons.  There  are  reflected  in  Beowulf  historical 
events  as  well  as  historical  conditions  and  relations.  While 
the  two  main  episodes  that  constitute  the  poem  are  undoubtedly 
mythological  in  origin,  and  Beowulf  is  therefore  to  be  classed 
as  a  mythical  hero,  he  has  been  fused  with  an  historical  person- 
age, with  a  warrior  from  among  the  following  of  king  Hygelac, 
or  Chochilaicus,  as  he  is  called  in  our  Latin  sources.  This 
Chochilaicus  harried,  about  the  year  515,  the  Frisian  coast  up 
to  the  mouths  of  the  Rhine,  and  inland  along  the  banks  of  this 


158        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

river,  but  was  defeated  and  slain  by  Theodobert,  the  son  of 
the  Franconian  king  Theodoric.1  This  event  is  subsequent, 
therefore,  to  the  first  settlement  of  the  Anglo-Saxons  on  Eng- 
lish soil  and  is  contemporaneous  with  the  period  of  occupation 
by  the  swarms  of  colonists  from  Sleswick  and  Holstein  that 
followed  the  vanguard  of  their  kinsmen.  It  is  evident,  accord- 
ingly, that  the  period  of  saga  formation  had  not  come  to  a 
close  when  the  Anglo-Saxons  arrived  in  England,  and  hence 
in  the  historic  events  reflected  in  Beowulf  we  find  both  such 
as  are  anterior  to,  and  such  as  are  contemporaneous  with,  the 
century  of  the  immigration.  While  the  lists  of  Danish  kings 
contain  a  number  of  older  names  that  invite  a  comparison  with 
the  tradition  chronicled  by  Saxo,  Hygelac  and  the  historical 
Beowulf  lived  in  the  sixth  century.  The  latter  has,  however, 
become  fused  with  an  older  myth  hero. 

It  does  not  lie  within  our  province  to  point  out  all  the  details 
which  a  critical  examination  of  the  narratives  and  a  comparison 
with  other  accounts  warrant  us  in  regarding,  or  at  least  in  surmis- 
ing, as  historical  in  origin.  The  old  Danish  sagas  are  especially 
rich  in  this  regard,  even  though  the  Danes  do  not  play  the 
chief  role  in  the  poem.  But  Beowulf  preserves  also  the  memory 
of  more  than  one  important  struggle:  of  the  one  between  the  / 
Geatas  and  Swedes,  resulting  in  the  downfall  of  the  kingdom 
of  the  Geatas;  of  the  conflict  between  the  Scandinavian  Vikings 
—  not  improperly  so  styled,  although  antedating  by  several 
centuries  the  so-called  Viking  period  —  and  the  Frisians  ;  of 
the  one  between  the  Danes  and  the  Heathobeards.  The  last- 
named  tribe,  by  some  identified  with  the  Longobards,  by  others 
with  the  Heruli,  inhabited  one  or  more  of  the  islands  which 
are  at  present  Danish,  and  was  annihilated  in  a  feud  with  the 
Danes.  The  memory  of  this  historical  event  faded  to  such  an 
extent  that  in  the  later  forms  of  the  sagas,  found  in  Saxo,  the 
heroes  of  the  Heathobeards,  Froda  and  Ingeld,  have  been 

1  Gregorius  Turonensis,  III,  3  ;  Gesta  Francorum,  Chapter  19. 


THE  ANGLO-SAXONS  159 

classed  among  the  Danish  kings.  Thanks  to  Beowulf  and 
Widsith,  the  memory  of  these  valiant  bards  (such  seems  to  be 
the  signification  of  the  name)  has  not  been  lost.  They  have 
there  been  associated  with  the  reign  of  the  Danish  Hrothgar, 
whom  our  poem  pictures  as  the  ideal  king,  bold  and  brave  in 
his  youth,  in  later  years  wise  and  good,  generous  and  peace- 
loving.  It  was  he  who  built  the  hall  Heorot  (Hleidr,  near 
Roeskilde),  which  is  a  centre  of  the  heroic  life  of  the  North 
in  Beowulf,  and  the  scen«  of  the  devastation  wrought  by 
Grendel,  as  well  as  of  Beowulf's  subsequent  struggle  with  the 
monster. 

While  all  these  sagas  of  kindred  peoples  have  been  devel- 
oped in  the  Anglo-Saxon  epic,  it  is  perhaps  impossible  to  define 
accurately  what  belongs  to  the  past  of  their  own  tribes,  in  the 
narrower  sense  of  the  word.  Such  is  doubtless  the  case,  how- 
ever, with  the  characters  Garmund,  Offa,  and  Eomaer,  and  most 
likely  also  with  the  main  features  of  the  myths.  The  links  that 
serve  to  connect  it  with  the  English  period  may  be  detected  as 
readily  as  the  superinduction  of  Christian  conditions.  It  is  evi- 
dent that  these  do  not  form  a  part  of  the  myths  proper.  They 
are  probably  to  be  ascribed  to  the  Christian  author  of  the 
poem. 

That  nature-myths  lie  concealed  behind  the  main  episodes  of 
Beowulf  may  be  regarded  as  certain,  and  a  plausible  interpre- 
tation has  been  found  for  at  least  one,  and  that  the  most  impor- 
tant, of  his  heroic  deeds.  We  do  not  refer  to  the  swimming 
contest  with  Breca,  the  forced  and  divergent  explanations  of 
which  may  be  passed  by.  While  it  is  not  improbable  that  here 
too  a  nature-myth  lies  at  the  foundation  of  the  story,  it  is  at 
least  possible  that  it  is  merely  a  greatly  embellished  account  of 
an  actual  occurrence,  or,  what  is  even  more  likely,  the  creation 
of  a  poet's  imagination.  Grendel  and  his  mother,  on  the  other 
hand,  are  unmistakable  water  demons.  Grendel's  regular 
appearance  in  the  hall  Heorot  may  be  compared  with  the 


160        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

» 

numerous  stories  concerning  water-sprites  that  visit  mills.    The 

high  floods  and  depths  of  the  sea  have  accordingly  been  per- 
sonified in  the  savage  water  monsters  of  Grendel  and  his 
mother.  The  original  home  of  the  myth  is  along  the  coast  of 
the  North  Sea,  known  of  old  as  fraught  with  danger  to  the 
inhabitants  of  its  shores.1  That  the  localization  at  Heorot- 
Hleidr  on  Seeland  is  not  original  is  evident  from  the  fact  that 
this  place  is  situated  inland.  The  interpretation  of  the  myth 
as  suggested  above  seems  the  most  obvious  one.  It  may, 
however,  be  noted  in  passing  that  Laistner  has,  in  a  very 
ingenious  way,  offered  another  explanation,  which  would  seem 
to  be  supported  by  some  descriptive  passages  of  the  poem 
(e.g.  Beowulf,  XXI').  According  to  this  view,  Grendel  and  his 
mother  are  the  mists  that  cause  so  many  deadly  diseases  along 
the  coastS'Of  Jever  and  Dithmarschen,  and  Beowulf  "  Fegewolf  " 
is  the  wind  hero  who  chases  the  mists  a,way.  ,  Still  other  inter- 
pretations have  been  proposed,  but  it  does  not  appear  that  the 
character  of  Grendel  and  his  mother  as  water  giants  can  be 
gainsaid. 

As  to  the  last  great  adventure  ef  Beowulf,  his  fight  with  the  / 
dragon,  an  interpretation  on  the  basis  of  a  nature-myth  is  neither 
more  nor  less  in  place  than  in  the  case  of  the  dragon  fights  of - 
Siegfried,  Dietrich,  Ortnit,  and  many  other  heroes.  The  alle- 
gory of  the  Viking  life,  which  bestows  the  golden  booty  on  him 
who  braves  the  sea  monster,  ingenious  as  the  explanation  may 
seem,  is  certainly  not  part  of  the  original  conception.  These 
combats  with  dragons  are  mythical  beyond  doubt,  but  what 
phenomenon  of  nature  they  represent  is  wholly  a  matter  of 
conjecture. 

An  important  aspect  of  the  subject  that  has  been  neglected,  i 
by  many  has  with  good  reason  been  dwelt  upon  by  Mullen-  J 
hoff.     In  the  Beowulf  we  are  dealing  not  only  with   nature- 
myths,  but  also  with  a  "culture-myth."    The  ancient  heroes  are 

1 "  Die  Nordsee  ist  eine  Mordsee." 


THE   ANGLO-SAXONS  161 

genealogically  the  ancestors  of  peoples  or  kings,  and  at  the 
same  time  the  beginnings  of  civilization  are  ascribed  to  them.  / 
In  the  series  Sceaf,  Scyld  (the  ancestor  of  the  Danish  kings), 
Beaw,  we  find  distributed  over  three  heroes  what  really  belongs 
to  only  one.  Of  Sceaf  only  the  arrival  is  told,  of  Scyld  the 
funeral,  while  of  Beaw  we  have  the  entire  eventful  life  of  the 
hero.  Originally,  all  this  was  probably  narrated  of  that  one  of 
the  three  ancestral  heroes  who  belongs  to  the  Anglo-Saxon 
race.  The  connection  of  his  ancestry  with  the  Danes  has  come 
about  through  a  transference  or  a  commingling  of  sagas.  This 
progenitor,  Scyld-Scefing,  who  as  a  child  landed  on  the  coast  in 
a  rudderless  ship,  with  weapons  and  treasures,  and  sleeping  on 
a  sheaf  of  grain,  symbolizes  the  possessions  that  are  to  secure 
for  his  people  their  rank  and  position :  navigation,  war,  kingly 
rule,  agriculture.  Beaw  is  the  personification  of  the  "  culture- 
hero,"  who  slays  the  sea  monsters  in  order  that  his  people  may 
dwell  in  safety.  It  will  be  seen  that  a  "  culture-myth  "  of  this 
character  can  be  analyzed  into  its  constituent  parts  more  readily 
than  nature-myths.1 

In  this  instance  the  gleanings  from  the  heroic  saga  for  the 
study  of  god-myths  are  extremely  meagre.  While  the  identifi- 
cation of  Scyld-Sceaf-Beowulf  with  Ingv-Freyr,  as  urged  by 
Mullenhoff,  is  perhaps  more  plausible  than  that  with  any  other 
deity,  we  must  here  also  resist  the  temptation  of  seeking  some 
god  or  other  behind  the  figure  of  a  hero. 

All  the  more  vivid  is  the  picture  that  the  epic  Beowulf  gives 
us  of  the  life  of  the  ancient  seafaring  Teutons.  While  the 
Heliand  and  the  poems  of  Kynewulf  involuntarily  preserve 
various  characteristic  details  of  old""  Teutonic  life,  Beowulf 
gives  us  these  in  a  direct  way.  This  life  of  brute  strength  in 

1  Compare  Miillenhoff,  Beovulf  and  Sceaf  und  seine  Nacfikommen,  ZfdA.  VII. 
The  identification  proposed  in  the  former  work  of  Sceaf  with  the  Longobardian 
Lamissio  (Paulus  Diac.,  I,  15)  is  ingenious,  but  in  no  way  convincing.  A  story 
of  Skeaf  und  Skild,  as  still  told  among  the  people,  is  the  introductory  tale  of  Miillen- 
hoff's  Sagen,  Mdrchen  und  Lieder  aus  Schleswig,  Holstein  mid  Lauenburg. 


162        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

constant  struggle  with  the  forces  of  the  sea,  this  love  of  gold 
so  all-powerful  that  even  the  dying  Beowulf  still  revels  at  the 
sight  of  the  treasure  he  has  won,  the  construction  and  arrange- 
ment of  the  hall  Heorot,  and  the  feasts  celebrated  there,  the 
obsequies  of  the  hero  so  circumstantially  told,  —  these  and 
similar  features  make  this,  the  oldest  Teutonic  epic  poem 
we  possess,  of  especial  importance  for  the  study  of  Teutonic 
antiquity,  and  compensate  us  for  the  commonplace  character 
of  the  episodes  and  personages  themselves.  Beowulf  pictures 
only  the  most  ordinary  heroic  deeds,  fights  with  monsters  and 
dragons.  There  is  no  trace  of  any  delicate  delineation  of 
character.  The  personages  introduced  are  little  more  than!/ 
abstract  types  :  the  brave  hero,  the  wise  king,  the  envious 
courtier,  the  faithful  vassal.  Women  do  not  play  any  consid- 
erable role,  —  the  queen's  character  is  in  no  way  individu- 
alized, —  while  the  majority  of  the  men  are  extremely  voluble, 
given  to  boasting,  and  childishly  curious.  The  wisdom  shown 
by  Hrothgar  is  also  of  a  rather  commonplace  nature.  And  yet 
we  read  Beowulf  with  unfailing  interest.  It  is  the  epic  of  the  < 
ancient  heroes  of  the  sea,  and  it  furnishes  a  vivid  picture  of 
the  crude  manners  and  conditions  of  life  of  the  Teutons  of  the 
sixth  century. 


L13KARY 
UNIVEKC1TY  Or  ILLINOIS 


SCANDINAVIA 

I Ith  to  13th  Century 


From  O.  Bremer,  "  Ethnographie  der  germanischen  Stamme,"  in  Paul's  Grundriss  der  germanischen 
Philologie,  by  courtesy  of  Karl  J.  Triibner 


CHAPTER    IX 
THE  NORTH  BEFORE  THE  AGE  OF  THE  VIKINGS 

"  IF  what  Fontenelle  has  said  be  true,  that  history  is  merely 
a  fable  agreed  upon  by  common  consent,  it  is  no  less  true  that 
fable  is  frequently  history  misunderstood."1  In  various  ways 
older  and  recent  writers  have  sinned  against  the  truth  expressed 
in  these  words.  Medieval  authors,  such  as  Snorri  in  the 
Ynglinga  Saga  (Heimskringla)  and  Saxo  in  his  Historia  Danica, 
simply  incorporated  the  saga  with  history,  and  even  myths, 
euhemeristically  cooceived,  were  made  to  do  service  as  histor- ' 
ical  material.  Thus  Othinus  is  represented  as  an  ancient  king, 
and  Hotherus  and  Balderus  as  having  actually  existed.  At 
present,  on  the  other  hand,  scholars  often  lose  sight  of  the 
historical  elements  of  the  sagas  :  heroes  and  gods,  identified 
with  each  other  wildly  and  arbitrarily,  are  alike  relegated  to 
the  domain  of  mythology.  In  our  treatment  of  German  and 
Anglo-Saxon  sagas,  we  have  already  emphasized  the  historical 
elements  that  they  contain.  The  same  holds  good  to  an  even 
greater  extent  of  the  sagas  that  have  been  transmitted  from  the 
prehistoric  age  of  the  Scandinavian  peoples,  more  particularly 
of  the  Danes,  who  are  the  first  to  appear  upon  the  stage  of 
history.  Frequently  interwoven  with  the  Anglo-Saxon  legends 
treated  above,  as  well  as  combined  with  those  of  the  other 
Scandinavian  peoples,2  these  sagas  contain  the  very  pith  of 
the  oldest  history  of  the  North.  This  is  gradually  becoming 
more  generally  recognized,  especially  since  literary  criticism 

3  From  Michel  Servan ;  Steenstrup  uses  the  passage  as  a  motto  for  one  of  the 
chapters  of  his  Normannerne. 

2  Thus  among  the  leading  characters  of  Saxo's  Historia  Danica  we  meet  with 
the  Norwegian  Eirikr  Malspaki  and  the  Swede  Starkad. 


164        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

has  shed  light  on  the  sources  from  which  these  accounts  were 
drawn,  and  since  the  unfruitful  arbitrary  combination  of  narra- 
tives and  characters  has  made  way  for  a  critical  examination 
in  accordance  with  stricter  methods. 

While  none  of  our  sources  goes  back  to  a  time  antedating 
the  Viking  period,  there  yet  exists  a  large  group  of  sagas  that 
were  indigenous  to  the  North  before  Danes,  Norwegians,  and 
Swedes  through  their  incursions  came  into  contact  with  the 
peoples  of  Western  Europe,  and  these  can  be  clearly  differ- 
entiated from  the  no  less  numerous  legends  that  originated 
at  a  later  date,  or  which  the  Norsemen  borrowed  from  other 
nations.  To  this  older  group  we  must  first  of  all  direct  our 
attention.  We  cannot  attempt  to  give  an  even  approximately 
complete  survey  of  these  sagas.  We  are  concerned  merely 
with  their  general  character,  and  with  the  light  that  they  throw 
on  religion. 

Like  the  Anglo-Saxon  and  other  Teutonic  royal  families,  so 
the  Norse  kings  claim  a  god  as  their  ancestor,  usually  Odhin 
or  Rig-Heimdallr.  Alongside  of  the  Anglo-Saxon  genealogies 
the  long  lists  of  Danish  kings  deserve  mention.1  How  much 
importance  was  attached  to  genealogies  may  be  seen,  by  way 
of  illustration,  from  an  Eddie  poem,  the  Hyndluljbdh,  in  which 
Ottar,  the  prote'ge'  of  Freyja,  is  instructed  by  the  giantess 
Hyndla  regarding  the  descent  of  various  noble  families,  among 
others,  of  the  Skjoldungs,  the  Danish  royal  house.  Similar 
enumerations  of  names  continue  to  a  later  period  to  be  char- 
acteristic of  Norse  literature.  Even  the  Icelandic  sagas  usu- 
ally begin  by  tracing  the  lineage  of  their  chief  characters  as 
far  back  as  possible,  and  by  inquiring  into  even  the  remotest 
relationships.  Similarly  the  narratives  of  battles  on  land  or 
sea  frequently  consist  of  little  more  than  the  names  of  the 
chief  combatants. 

One  of  the  earliest  of  the  Danish  kings  that  live  in  the  saga 

1  They  may  be  found  in  Petersen,  Danmarks  Historic  i  Hedenold,  I,  137  ;  II,  5. 


NORTH  BEFORE    THE  AGE   OF  THE    VIKINGS       165 

is  Frodhi  of  Leire  on  Seel  and.  It  is  not  surprising  that  this 
saga  should  represent  the  Danish  kingdom  as  constituting,  from 
the  very  outset,  a  unit  under  the  chief  king  at  Leire,  whereas 
several  particulars  point  to  a  division  under  numerous  petty 
sovereigns.  This  Frodhi  was  the  Prince  of  Peace,  whom  the 
wisdom  of  a  later  age,  accordingly,  made  a  contemporary  of 
emperor  Augustus.  Wherever  the  Norse  language  is  spoken 
Frodhi-peace  is  known.  In  his  day  no  man  did  another  harm, 
even  though  he  should  fall  in  with  the  murderer  of  father  or 
brother.  There  were  no  thieves  or  robbers  to  be  found  in  the 
land.  One  could  safely  without  fear  of  its  being  touched  let 
a  golden  ring  lie  on  the  Jellinge-heath  (Jutland).  This  con- 
tinued until  Frodhi  purchased  from  the  Swedish  king  two 
giantesses,  Fenja  and  Menja  by  name,  who,  with  large  mill- 
stones, with  the  quern  Grotti,  were  to  grind  for  him  gold,  peace, 
and  happiness.  He  allowed  them  no  longer  respite  than  the 
short  interval  between  the  cuckoo's  cries.  A  Norse  song,  inter- 
calated into  Skdldskaparmdl  (prose  Edda),  tells  how  instead  of 
Frodhi's  meal  (gold)  they  ground  out  for  the  king  calamity 
and  vengeance.  When  the  two  giantesses  were  thereupon 
taken  away  by  the  enemy,  they  ground  salt  until  the  ships 
sank  under  the  weight,  in  consequence  of  which  the  sea  became 
salty.  The  mythical  conception  of  a  golden  age  of  the  past 
underlies  the  tale.  Its  termination  is  ascribed  to  the  king's 
greed  of  gold.  It  seems  somewhat  risky,  however,  to  find  a 
parallel  to  this  in  the  lines  of  Voluspa,  where  we  read  that 
Gullveig,  also  symbolizing  the  power  of  gold,  brought  about 
the  first  war  among  the  gods.  This  latter  conflict  between 
y£sir  and  Vanir  will  demand  our  attention  under  the  head  of 
myths.  It  is  possible  that  behind  it  the  gods  of  various  Teu- 
tonic tribes  lie  concealed,  but  it  is  manifestly  impossible  to 
make  use  of  this  narrative  in  an  historical  survey  for  the  pur- 
pose of  deducing  from  it  facts  that  throw  light  on  the  history 
of  the  ancient  Teutonic  religion. 


166        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

None  of  the  old  kings  is  more  famous  than  Hrolf  Kraki,1 
the  gentle,  brave,  generous  king  at  Leire,  who  is  said  to  have 
ruled  about  600,  although  other  legendary  accounts  place  him 
not  far  from  Frodhi,  during  whose  reign  Christ  is  said  to  have 
been  born.  Of  this  Hrolf  numerous  anecdotes  are  narrated. 
One  of  these  undertakes  to  explain  the  origin  of  his  surname, 
which  was  given  him,  when  still  young,  by  a  peasant  lad  named 
V^ggr,  who  was  surprised  to  see  before  him  a  thin  little  man 
(Kraki)  instead  of  the  stalwart  figure  of  a  hero.  Hrolf  was 
the  son  whom  king  Helgi,  without  being  aware  of  the  relation- 
ship, had  begotten  by  his  own  daughter  Yrsa,  who  subsequently 
wedded  the  Swedish  king  Adils.  Hrolf  won  fame  in  combat 
with  the  Saxons,  but  more  particularly  in  his  struggle  with  the 
afore-mentioned  Swedish  king.  Adils  having  failed  to  give  a 
fitting  reward  to  the  twelve  Danish  Berserkers  who  had  aided 
him  in  a  fight  on  the  ice  of  the  Vaener  Lake,  Hrolf  accordingly 
went  to  meet  him.  Hrolf  showed  his  courage  by  jumping 
through  the  fire,  and  his  sagacity  in  dividing  his  enemies  and 
humiliating  Adils  by  the  device  of  strewing  gold  behind  him, 
which  his  pursuers  stooped  to  pick  up.  In  Hrolf's  last  fight, 
also,  in  which  he  was  vanquished  by  the  magic  arts  of  his 
sister  Skuld,  the  Berserkers,  chief  among  them  B^dhvar  Bjarki, 
fought  at  his  side.  The  king  fell,  but  was  avenged  by  V^ggr. 
This  last  fight  and  the  fall  of  Hrolf  form  the  theme  of  the  old 
Bjarkawidl,  which  we  are  able  to  reconstruct  from  scattered 
verses  and  the  Latin  imitation  of  Saxo.2  This  song  was 
famous  in  the  North  and  lived  in  the  memories  of  men.  The 
scald  Thormodr  still  sang  it  to  the  army  before  the  battle  at 
Stikklestad  (1030),  in  which  St.  Olaf  fell. 

The  hero  Starkad  occupies  a  unique  position  in  Norse 
poetry.  The  original  songs  have  not  come  down  to  us,  but 

1  Compare    Hrdlfssaga    Kraka ;    Snorra   Edda    (Skaldskafarmdl) ;    Heims- 
kringla  (Ynglingasaga,  Chapters  33,  34)  ;  Saxo,  HD.  II. 

2  A.  Olrik,  Danske  Oldkvad i  Sakses  Historic  (1898). 


NORTH  BEFORE    THE  AGE   OF  THE    VIKINGS        167 

several  Norse  sagas  1  mention  him  with  more  or  less  detail, 
and  Saxo  gives  a  circumstantial  account  of  his  heroic  deeds, 
and  furnishes  even  a  Jgoetic  imitation  in  Latin  of  epic  poems 
on  his  life.  Mtillenhoff's 2  keen  analysis  has  distinguished 
eight  Starkad  songs  and  determined  their  sequence.  These 
poems  differ  greatly  from  one  another  in  tone  and  spirit. 
Some  narrate  in  an  interesting  but  dignified  manner  some  ad- 
venture or  achievement  of  the  hero.  Others,  such  as  the  lam- 
poon on  the  king  and  queen,  are  vulgar  and  obscene,  though 
not  without  an  element  of  humor.  While  Starkad's  home  is 
Upsala,  he  plays  his  most  important  role  at  the  Danish  court. 
He  is  the  friend  of  king  Frotho  and  the  foster  father  of  the 
latter's  children,  Ingellus  and  Helga.  He  guards  their  honor, 
in  part  by  arousing  king  Ingellus  from  his  slothfulness  and 
inciting  him  to  wreak  vengeance  for  the  death  of  his  father, 
in  part  by  warding  off  disgrace  from  the  person  of  the  princess. 
It  would  be  idle  to  seek  either  history  or  nature-myths  here. 
The  narratives  in  their  present  form  do  not  furnish  us  with  a 
clew  to  their  origin  :  they  represent  a  fusion  of  sagas  of  Swedes, 
Danes,  and  Heathobeards.  According  to  Beowulf,  Ingellus 
belonged  to  the  latter.  Starkad  is,  however,  a  representative 
figure  of  the  North,  in  the  closing  centuries  of  heathenism,  the 
ideal  hero,  notwithstanding  the  shadow  cast  on  his  character. 
While  Odhin  has  richly  endowed  him  with  noble  gifts,  Thor 
has  added  to  these  others  that  neutralize  the  former,  decreeing 
more  particularly  that  he  was  to  commit  three  shameful  deeds 
(tiidhingsverK).  On  the  whole,  however,  he  remains  the  typical 
embodiment  of  heroic  courage,  fleet-footed,  strong,  resolute, 
persevering,  continuing  the  combat  even  when  sorely  wounded, 
full  of  self-conscious  strength,  and  in  no  way  resembling  the  rag- 
ing, barking,  howling,  foaming  Berserkers.  Starkad's  contempt 
of  all  luxury  and  effeminacy,  of  excesses  in  eating  or  drinking, 

1  Hervararsaga,  Gautrekssaga,  Ynglingasaga. 

2  DA.  V,  301  ff. 


168        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

of  every  refinement  in  mode  of  life,  of  jugglers  and  gamblers, 
is  brought  out  into  strong  relief.  All  these  he  regards  as  signs 
of  decay :  they  undermine  the  hero's  manhood. 

One  of  the  most  important  events  of  this  prehistoric  period 
is  the  helium  Bravicum,  in  which  Starkad  also  plays  a  role,  and 
which  has  been  called  the  Trojan  war  of  the  North.  We  find 
it  referred  to  everywhere  in  Norse  literature  ;  Saxo  and  the 
Icelandic  Sqgubrot  furnish  a  detailed  account.  Many  scholars 
regard  this  battle  at  Bravallir  between  Harald  Hildetand  of 
Denmark  and  the  Swedish  king  Ring  as  an  historical  struggle 
that  took  place  about  730,  shortly  before  the  beginning  of  the 
Viking  period.  Older  historians,  such  as  Munch,  even  furnish 
numerous  particulars  as  to  the  historical  causes  and  results  of 
this  war.  At  a  later  time  other  scholars  recognized  only  mytho- 
logical material,  and  the  battle  at  Bravallir  was  regarded  as 
another  variation  of  the  first  mythical  war  that  broke  out 
on  earth.  Neither  the  former  nor  the  latter  view  rests  on  a 
sound  basis.  Better  results  have  been  gained  through  literary 
criticism.  From  the  accounts  that  have  come  down  to  us,  Olrik 
has  attempted  to  reconstruct  the  original  Norse  poem  with  its 
staves,  and  we  now  possess  a  list,  some  one  hundred  and  fifty 
names,  of  the  heroes  who  faced  one  another  on  this  field  of 
battle.  At  Bravallir  representatives  of  the  entire  North  met 
in  combat,  among  them  Tylenses,  although  Iceland  was  not 
discovered  until  more  than  a  century  after  the  time  when  the 
battle  is  said  to  have  taken  place.  The  Bravalla  song  must 
have  been  composed  in  the  second  half  of  the  eleventh  century. 
Various  details  suggest  reminiscences  of  the  sea  battles  at 
SvQldr  (1000)  and  at  Helgea  (1027).  The  elaborate  naval 
preparations,  so  out  of  place  in  the  case  of  a  land  battle  (only 
the  Danes  required  transport  ships),  have  simply  been  trans- 
ferred from  these  naval  encounters.  The  Norse  song  points 
to  Telemarken  as  its  place  of  origin,  since  archers  from  this 
district  are  introduced  to  decide  the  struggle. 


NORTH  BEFORE    THE   AGE    OF   THE    VIKINGS       169 

Miillenhoff  has  extolled  the^  Bravalla  song  as  being  next  to 
Voluspa  the  grandest  poem  of  the  North.  According  to  him, 
it  sounds  the  funeral  knell  over  the  heathen,  heroic  world. 
But  its  significance  can  scarcely  be  as  broad  as  all  that,  as  is 
clearly  shown  by  the  speeches  that  Saxo  puts  into  the  mouths 
of  the  two  kings  before  the  battle  begins.  Norwegians  and 
Icelanders  are  found  fighting  on  both  sides,  although  in  general 
it  may  be  said  that  the  united  forces  of  Swedes  and  Norwe- 
gians stand  opposed  to  Danes  and  a  majority  of  foreign  peo- 
ples, Saxons  and  Wends.  King  Ring  emphasizes  this  fact 
and  refers  to  the  arrogance  of  the  Danes,  which  must  be 
checked.  Harald,  on  the  other  hand,  entreats  his  men  to 
remember  that  the  Danes  are  more  accustomed  to  subjugate 
than  to  serve  their  neighbors.  This  constitutes  the  central 
thought  of  the  poem,  and  it  contains,  therefore,  an  element  of 
historical  truth,  to  this  extent  at  least,  that  it  testifies  to  the 
ancient  struggle  between  Danes  and  Swedes  even  in  the  period 
of  the  sagas. 

While  we  are,  therefore,  not  able  to  attach  to  the  Bravalla 
song  the  significance  of  a  farewell  to  the  old  world,  it  is  yet 
not  wanting  in  religious  conceptions.  Aside  from  the  three 
Skjaldmeyjar  (shield -maidens)  who  fight  on  the  side  of  the 
Danes,  and  of  whom  one  is  to  succeed  Harald  after  his  fall, 
the  role  played  by  Odhin  is  of  especial  importance.  Through- 
out his  long,  glorious  reign  Harald  has  been  the  favorite  of 
Odhin,  who  had  taught  him  the  wedge-shaped  battle  array 
(svinfylking) .  But  now  Odhin  has  fanned  the  flames  of  war 
and,  in  the  guise  of  the  charioteer  Brunn,  leads  Harald  on  to 
destruction,  in  fact  hurls  the  old,  blind  king  to  the  ground  and, 
since  he  was  invulnerable  to  steel,  slays  him  with  the  mace. 
We  must  not  look  upon  this  act  as  treacherous  ;  on  the  con- 
trary, it  is  the  last  and  highest  favor  that  the  god  bestows  upon 
the  brave  Harald,  who  as  Odhin's  favorite  is  not  destined  to 
suffer  a  disgraceful  straw  death,  but  falls  gloriously  on  the 


170        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

field  of  battle,  surrounded  by  thousands  of  brave  heroes,  and 
honored  with  a  splendid  funeral,  which  his  enemy  Ring  himself 
orders. 

The  old  sagas  then  not  merely  supply  material  for  the  mental 
gymnastics  of  myth-comparison,  but  also  yield  some  results 
that  are  of  value  for  the  study  of  the  ancient  religion.  Literary 
criticism  must  of  course  decide  what  is  to  be  considered  old 
and  indigenous,  and  it  has  by  no  means  as  yet  said  its  last 
word  concerning  these  intricate  problems.  Thus  we  are  still 
at  a  loss  to  decide  what  features  of  the  three  Helgi  lays 
are  originally  Danish  and  which  are  Norse.  These  lays  are 
among  the  most  difficult  of  the  Edda.  They  tell  us  of  two 
Helgis,  but  the  prose  pieces,  which  establish  an  artificial  con- 
nection between  the  various  fragments  of  the  saga,  mention 
three,  whom  they  represent  as  one  and  the  same  person,  twice 
reborn.  Part  of  this  material  is  no  doubt  indigenous,  but  it  is 
equally  certain  that  it  has  been  fused  with  elements  of  later 
origin.  Attempts,  some  of  them  of  recent  date,  have  been 
made  to  separate  these  two  elements,  but  they  have  not  as  yet 
led  to  certain  results. 

The  mythical  material  in  Saxo,  though  euhemeristically  con- 
ceived, and  that  found  in  the  Norse  sagas  can  be  more  readily 
distinguished.  Saxo  himself,  to  be  sure,  frequently  fails  to  rec- 
ognize it  as  such.  While  he  understands  that  it  is  Odhin  who 
interferes  with  the  natural  course  of  events  at  Bravallir,  he 
does  not  elsewhere  suspect  that  the  same  god  appears  in  vari- 
ous guises  and  under  various  names.  Odhin  is,  for  example, 
the  one-eyed  old  man,  who  taught  king  Hadding  how  to  array 
his  men  in  battle  ;  he  is  now  called  Yggr  (Uggerus),  then 
again  Hroptr  (Rostarus).  Olrik,  in  distinguishing  between  the 
Danish  and  Norse  sources  of  Saxo,  has  pointed  out  that  the 
latter  are  rich,  the  former  poor,  in  "supernatural"  motifs,  such 
as  prophecies,  magic,  interference  of  gods  with  the  course  of 
events,  Walkyries  and  Skjaldmeyjar  (the  latter,  not  necessarily 


NORTH  BEFORE    THE  AGE   OF  THE    VIKINGS       J71 

to  be  identified  with  Walkyries,  also  occur  in  the  Danish 
sagas),  Berserkers,1  metamorphosis,  and  rebirth.  While  the 
ideas  of  later  writers  may  to  some  extent  have  colored  their 
accounts  of  sagas,  it  is  certain  that  these  are  not  literary  prod- 
ucts in  the  usual  sense  of  the  term,  but  contain  a  nucleus  of 
history  from  the  prehistoric  period  and  reflect  ancient  manners 
and  customs.  That  the  queen  followed  her  consort  in  death 
is  shown,  for  example,  by  the  story  of  Asmund  and  Gunnhild 
at  Upsala.  These  sagas  were  furthermore  current  among  the 
people,  as  is  proved  by  the  numerous  proper  names,  and  by 
the  fact  that  formerly,  and  to  some  extent  even  now,  the  graves 
of  the  ancient  heroes  were  pointed  out  in  certain  localities. 

The  Viking  expeditions  of  the  second  half  of  the  eighth 
century  mark  for  the  Scandinavian  North  the  beginning  of  the 
historical  period,  in  which  the  Norsemen2  came  into  contact 
with  the  peoples  of  Western  Europe.  Ragnar  Lodbrok 3  and 
his  sons,  who  fought  in  England  at  the  beginning  of  the  ninth 
century,  stand  indeed  only  in  the  twilight  of  history.  His 
death  song  is  the  Krdkumdl,  which  he  is  reported  to  have  sung 
in  the  pit  filled  with  snakes,  into  which  the  Northumbrian  king 
Ella  had  ordered  him  thrown.  The  poem  is,  however,  of  far 
later  date,  —  about  A.D.  1200. 

The  significance  of  the  Viking  expeditions,  from  the  point 
of  view  of  religion,  must  not  be  underrated.  Although  this 
encounter  between  heathen  and  Christians  bears  in  no  way 
the  character  of  a  religious  struggle,  and  while  it  was  certainly 
not  from  motives  of  a  religious  nature  that  these  seafarers  for- 
sook their  native  land,  there  can  yet  be  no  question  that  both 
sides  called  for  aid  upon  the  gods  in  whom  they  put  their 

1  "  A  pilce  de  resistance  of   the  Norse  saga  writers."    Compare   the  sons  of 
Arngrim,  of  whom  such  wonderful  tales  are  told  (Hervarar  Saga). 

2  This  was  the  generic  name  under  which  they  passed,  no  matter  whether  they 
were  actually  Danes,  Norwegians,  or,  whajt  was  less  usual,  Swedes. 

3  See  concerning  him  Ragnarssaga,  various  other  Norse  accounts,  and  Saxo, 
HD.  IX.    The  opinions  held  concerning  him  by  such  scholars  as  Jessen,  Storm,  and 
Steenstrup  differ  widely  on  numerous  matters  of  detail. 


172        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

trust.  In  passing  we  may  remark  that  these  times  of  great  trib- 
ulation were  not  without  influence  on  Christendom.  On  the 
one  hand,  they  served  to  increase  the  repute  of  many  a  saint, 
whose  protection  was  expected  or  had  been  enjoyed  ;  on  the 
other  hand,  they  brought  priests  and  monks  into  greater  promi- 
nence, leading  them  at  times  even  to  wield  the  weapons  of  war. 
We  are  at  present,  however,  concerned  with  what  we  learn  of 
the  religion  of  the  Vikings  themselves,  and  with  such  new  cori- 
ceptions  as  they  gathered  from  the  countries  with  which  they 
came  in  contact.  Regarding  the  former,  we  must  remember 
that  the  Norsemen  were  primarily  in  search  of  booty  and  glory. 
When  they  took  captives  they  at  time's  demanded  a  renuncia- 
tion of  Christianity,  but  as  a  rule  they  merely  levied  contribu- 
tions, or  demanded  to  be  directed  to  hidden  treasure.  At  the 
same  time,  they  felt  themselves  to  be  the  warriors  of  their  gods. 
Thor  is  frequently  mentioned,  but  the  prominence  given  to  any 
particular  divinity  was  dependent  largely  on  the  district  from 
which  the  group  hailed.  It  also  happened,  when  they  were 
defeated  or  closely  pressed,  that  a  superstitious  fear  of  the 
powerful  god  of  the  Christians  seized  them,  and  that  they 
called  upon  his  aid  or  made  a  vow  to  him.  But  from  the 
nature  of  the  case,  little  can  be  ascertained  concerning  the 
religion  of  these  pirates  and  savage  warriors.  Various  accounts 
indicate  that  generally  a  fatalistic  frame  of  mind  prevailed 
among  them.  They  felt  that  against  the  inevitable,  against 
what  is  imposed  upon  a  person,  even  the  strongest  struggles 
were  in  vain.  On  the  other  hand,  belief  in  individual  strength 
was  well-nigh  unbounded,  and  many  placed  greater  reliance  on 
their  valor  than  on  the  gods. 

More  important  is  the  question  as  to  the  influence  which 
the  permanent  settlements,  more  especially  in  Ireland  and 
England,  —  not  the  transitory  raids  and  incursions,  -*•  exerted 
upon  the  Norsemen.  In  various  ways,  through  marriage,  trade, 
and  captives,  these  Norsemen  came  in  contact  with  Frankish, 


NORTH  BEFORE    THE   AGE   OF  THE    VIKINGS       173 

English,  and  Keltic  Christians.  This  intercourse  and  the 
resultant  influences  extend  over  many  centuries.  As  early  as 
A.D.  650  we  meet  on  the  Shetland  Islands  with  Norsemen  from 
Hqrdhaland,  and,  until  the  last  centuries  of  classical  Norse 
literature,  i.e.  the  twelfth  and  thirteenth,  there  was  an  uninter- 
rupted intercourse  between  Iceland  and  Ireland,  Norway  and 
the  British  Isles.  The  extent,  hature,  and  significance  of  these 
influences  constitute  the  bone  of  contention  among  mytholo- 
gists  of  the  last  decades.  Let  us  first  of  all  pay  some  attention 
to  the  intercourse  between  Kelts  and  North  Teutons,  more 
especially  in  Ireland.1 

In  the  early  Middle  Ages  Ireland  was  the  seat  of  the  highest 
civilization  in  Europe.  Mention  has  already  been  made  of  the 
Irish  missionaries,  but  Irish  scholars  as  well  were  for  several 
centuries,  down  into  the  Carlovingian  period,  the  teachers  of 
sciences  that  had  elsewhere  fallen  into  neglect  and  been  lost. 
The  Keltic  mind  has  nowhere  achieved  great  things  in  the  line 
of  material  civilization,  but  from  the  fourth  century,  when  they 
became  converts  to  Christianity,  until  the  tenth,  the  Kelts  of 
Ireland  were  noted  for  their  zeal,  their  enthusiasm,  and  their 
imagination,  and  were  leaders  in  both  science  and  poetry. 
Several  rich  saga  clusters  were  developed  in  Ireland.  Other 
stories  (Mabinogion)  arose  in  the  western  part  of  England, 
partly,  to  be  sure,  based  on  French  models.  In  Wales,  it  is 
said,  not  a  house  was  to  be  found  in  which  there  was  no  harp. 
With  these  people  the  Norsemen  continually  came  in  contact. 
Similarly,  in  the  islands  to  the  north  of  Scotland  they  fell 
in  with  Irish  hermits,  as  also  subsequently,  in  Iceland,  where 
these  anchorites  had  preceded  the  Norsemen.  Iceland  always 
maintained  close  connections  with  Ireland.  At  the  close  of  the 
eighth  century,  finally,  the  more  permanent  settlement  of  Norse- 
men in  Ireland  begins,  where  they  establish  petty  kingdoms. 

1  For  a  detailed  comparison  of  the  Keltic  and  Teutonic  character  and  disposi- 
tion, see  Sars,  Udsigt,  I,  pp.  161-168. 


174         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

What  influence  the  two  peoples  exerted  on  each  other  can 
no  longer  be  stated  with  any  degree  of  accuracy.  We  know 
that  in  some  instances  they  were  united  by  close  family  ties, 
and  we  meet  with  a  large  number  of  Irish  names  among  the 
Icelandic  families.  In  the  practical  affairs  of  life  the  Irish 
were  the  inferior  race,  both  with  regard  to  politics  and  the 
art  of  war.  Hence  the  Norsemen  experienced  no  difficulty  in 
keeping  the  people,  who  were  so  often  the  prey  of  internal  dis- 
sensions, in  subjection.  But  in  the  arts  and  sciences  they  bor- 
rowed largely  from  the  Irish.  The  metrics  of  the  scalds  and 
f  of  the  Irish  are  related,  and  the  former  is  most  likely  dependent 
,  AJ  upon  the  latter.1  The  art  of  prose  narration,  not'  developed 
so  strongly  elsewhere  in  the  Teutonic  world,  the  Icelanders 
probably  learned  from  the  Irish,  who  themselves  excelled  in  it. 
On  the  other  hand,  the  Irish  epics  contain  elements  that  have 
been  borrowed  from  the  Teutonic  sagas. 

The  fact  that  scaldic  and  Eddie  poetry  do  not  antedate  the 
Viking  period  can  no  longer  be  disputed.  The  oldest  scaldic 
poems  of  the  ninth  century  are  already  acquainted  with  the 
most  important  myths.2  From  this  it  follows  with  certainty 
|  that  these  myths  are  not  the  artificial  product  of  a  later  age, 
but  not  necessarily  that  they  originated  in  Norway  during  the 
first  seven  centuries  of  our  era,  nor  that  the  system  and  the 
connection  in  which  we  find  them  are  equally  original.  The 
centuries  during  which  the  Norsemen  intermingled  with  Anglo- 
Saxons  and  Irish  must  have  exerted  a  powerful  influence  on 
the  form  as  well  as  on  the  content  of  myths  and  sagas.  Much 
of  the  tales  told  by  Scandinavians  is  not  of  indigenous  growth, 
but  has  been  borrowed  from  Franks,  Frisians,  Saxons,  or  from 
the  British  Isles.  We  are  absolutely  certain  of  this  in  the  case 
of  heroic  sagas  of  the  VcJsungen-Nibelungen  cycle.  Similarly, 

1  So  according  to  Edzardi,  Hildebrand,  Mogk,  etc.,  against  Zimmer. 

2  As  has  been  shown  by  Finnur  Jonsson,  Mytiske  forestillinger  i  de  xldste  skjalde- 
kvad  (AfnF.  JX,  1-22), 

\ 


NORTH  BEFORE    THE   AGE   OF   THE    VIKINGS       175 

Christian  ideas  may  have  crept  in.  But  that  Norse  mythology 
as  a  whole  should  have  first  originated  during  the  Viking 
period  is  precluded  by  the  existence  of  the  Old  Danish  and 
Norse  sagas  and  by  what  we  know  of  the  oldest  scaldic  poetry. 
That  the  Norsemen  should  have  patched  their  mythology 
together  as  a  learned  product  from  Vergil,  the  Latin  mythogra- 
phers,  Christian  and  Jewish  Sibylline  books  and  apocrypha,  is 
a  theory  that  possesses  still  less  inherent  probability.  In  a 
subsequent  chapter  we  shall  examine  the  character  of  scaldic 
and  Eddie  poetry  more  closely.  At  present  it  will  suffice  to 
point  out  that  the  Viking  period  must  have  given  a  powerful 
impetus  to  the  development  of  myths.  This  development, 
accordingly,  took  place  under  foreign  influences,  but  on  the 
native  soil  of  Norse  myth  and  saga. 

A  saga  passed  by  in  a  previous  chapter  may  appropriately* 
claim  our  attention  here,  inasmuch  as  it  has  for  its  background 
the  life  of  the  seafaring  Teutons.  We  refer  to  the  Hilde-Kudrun 
Saga.  Whether  we  may  trace  definite  historical  occurrences 
in  it  is  extremely  doubtful.  It  is  evident,  however,  that  these 
stories  reflect  the  Viking  life  in  many  of  its  phases  :  expedi- 
tions to  strange  and  distant  lands  (Ireland  and  Normandy), 
the  rape  of  maidens,  and  savage  combats,  in  which  even 
children  in  the  cradle  were  not  spared. 

We  do  not  possess  this  saga  in  as  many  variant  forms  as 
those  of  the  Vqlsungen  and  Nibelungen.  A  short  narrative 
in  Skdldskaparmdl,  a  single  Norse  saga  (Sqrla  Thdttr),  Saxo's 
Historia  Danica,  an  allusion  in  Lamprecht's  Alexanderlied  (a 
German  poem  of  the  twelfth  century),  and  .the  epic  of  Kudrun 
form  the  extent  of  our  sources.  In  the  German  epic  of  Kudrun 
three  sagas  have  been  united,  extending  over  three  successive 
generations.  The  story  of  Hagen  forms  the  prelude  ;  the 
Hilde  story  constitutes  the  main  saga,  of  which  that  of  Kudrun 
is  an  offshoot,  modified  in  a  number  of  particulars  and  intro- 
ducing more  especially  the  new  motif  of  the  rival  lover.  This 


176         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

latter,  the  so-called -Herwig  Saga,  has  received  a  separate  treat- 
ment in  a  parallel  Shetland  ballad.  The  milder  spirit  of  medi- 
eval German  poetry  has  on  every  side  tempered  or  suppressed 
the  wild  and  tragic  character  of  the  original  saga.  In  its  pres- 
ent form  Kudrun  is  a  song  of  fidelity  joined  with  tales  of 
adventure,  and  interspersed  here  and  there  with  genre  pictures 
that  are  among  the  most  attractive  in  literature.1  The  leading 
motif  of  the  Hilde  Saga,  however,  we  know  only  from  the 
Snorra  Edda. 

King  HQgni  pursues  Hedhinn,  who  has  captured  his  daughter 
Hildr.  Overtaking  Hedhinn  at  Haey,  one  of  'the  Orkneys, 
H^gni  will  not  listen  to  offers  of  reconciliation  or  atonement ; 
he  has  drawn  his  sword  Dainsleif,  forged  for  him  by  dwarfs, 
and  demands  revenge.  They  fight  the  whole  day  and  return 
at  nightfall  to  their  ships.  During  the  night,  however,  Hildr 
has,  by  her  magic  arts,  brought  to  life  again  all  the  heroes  that 
had  fallen,  and  so  the  fight  begins  afresh  the  next  day.  This 
combat,  the  Hjadhningavig,  is  to  continue  until  the  twilight  of 
the  gods.  While  the  younger  Edda  thus  localizes  the  struggle 
on  one  of  the  Orkneys,  Saxo  places  it  on  the  island  Hiddensee, 
near  Riigen,  and  Lamprecht  at  the  mouth  of  the  Scheldt 
(  Wulpenwerder}.  It  is  self-evident  that  the  entire  story  is  a 
nature-myth.  The  combat  ever  begun  anew  points  to  the 
alternation  of  day  and  night.  This  does  not,  of  course,  imply 
that  the  characters  of  the  saga  are  themselves  personifications 
of  nature.  The  Norse  saga  makes  Freyja  (i.e.  Frigg,  in  this 
instance)  the  cause  of  the  conflict.  It  was  she  who  had  to 
conciliate  Odhin  after  her  infidelity  in  the  quest  of  the  precious 
Brisingamen.  Miillenhoff,  therefore,  regards  the  Hjadhninga- 
•vig  as  merely  an  historico-epical  form  of  the  necklace-myth. 
But  here  again  the  particular  details  do  not  lend  themselves  to 
an  exact  mythical  interpretation,  even  though  it  be  admitted 

1  The  merchandise  offered  for  sale  near  the  ships  of  the  Hegelingen  ;  the  singing 
of  Horant ;  the  princesses  washing  clothes  on  the  seashore. 


NORTH  BEFORE    THE  AGE   OF  THE    VIKINGS       177 

that  the  struggle  bears  a  mythical  character.  The  character 
of  Wate,  the  impetuous  and  raging  giant,1  is  likewise  mythical. 

Thus  the  heroic  saga  of  the  seafaring  Teutons,  both  in  Beo- 
wulf and  Hilde-Kudrun,  is  parallel  with  that  of  the  nations  of 
the  migration  period.  In  both  we  encounter  the  mythical  strug- 
gle between  light  and  darkness,  or  against  the  wild  powers  of 
nature.  Owing  to  their  historical  character  the  German  heroic 
legends  depict  to  a  greater  extent  actual  personages  and 
events,  whereas  the  Hilde-Kudrun  Saga  sketches  the  more 
general  historical  conditions  of  the  Viking  period. 

It  still  remains  to  'cast  a  glance  at  the  first  missionary  work 
among  the  Scandinavian  peoples,  and  at  what  we  learn  of 
paganism  in  connection  with  it.  Fortunately  the  historians, 
more  especially  Adam  of  Bremen,  and  also  Rimbert  in  his 
life  of  Anskar,  are  less  chary  in  their  statements  concerning 
heathen  conditions  than  is  Bede  in  the  case  of  the  Anglo- 
Saxons.  Adam  wrote  a  history  of  the  diocese  Hamburg- 
Bremen,  which  from  the  very  beginning  formed  the  centre  of 
the  mission  work  in  the  North.  In  the  course  of  this  work  he 
furnishes  considerable  information  concerning  Saxons,  Slavs, 
and  Scandinavians,  as  e.g.  his  circumstantial  account  of  the 
temple  at  Upsala,  the  images  of  the  three  chief  gods  (Thor, 
Odhin,  and  Freyr),  the  human  sacrifices,  and  the  festival  recur- 
ring at  intervals  of  nine  years  (IV,  26,  27).  And  yet  it  cannot 
be  claimed  that  either  of  these  writers  gives  us  a  clear  idea  of 
the  course  of  events.  In  the  life  of  Anskar  the  author  is  chiefly 
concerned  in  drawing  a  picture  of  the  missionary,  admittedly 
one  of  the  grandest  and  most  attractive  pictures  in  the  history 
of  missions.  As  a  rule,  we  fail  to  grasp  the  connection  and 
the  significance  of  the  events  narrated,  no  light  being  shed  on 


1  He  has  been  variously  regarded  as  an  "  Odhinsheros,"  a  water  giant,  and  a 
storm  demon.  Miillenhoff  (ZfdA.  VI),  Weinhold  (ZfdA.  VII),  and  Symons 
(G.  ffds.,  §  60)  regard  him  as  a  sea  giant,  W.  Saner  (Mahabharata  und  Wate) 
and  E.  H.  Meyer  (G.M.,  §  385),  as  wind  giant. 


178        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

their  relation  to  general  political  conditions.  The  narrative 
lays  great  stress  on  the  conversions  brought  about  by  miracles, 
and  yet  repeatedly  leaves  us  face  to  face  with  the  inexplicable 
fact  that  paganism  remained  dominant  notwithstanding. 

Since  the  year  823  the  attention  of  Lewis  the  Pious  had 
been  drawn  to  Denmark.  Archbishop  Ebbo,  of  Rheims,  even 
proceeded  thither  and  baptized  several  converts,  but  a  stay 
extending  over  only  a  few  months  could  produce  no  lasting 
results.  The  prospect  for  missions  appeared  to  be  brighter 
when  a  Danish  prince,  driven  away  by  his  kinsmen,  turned  to 
Lewis  for  aid.  With  great  pomp  this  Harald,  with  his  family 
and  retinue,  was  baptized  at  Mainz  in  826.  A  young  monk, 
Anskar,  was  designated  by  Lewis  to  accompany  Harald  back 
to  his  own  land,  and  he  proved  to  be  the  right  man  for  pioneer 
work.  While  Harald  protected  the  religion  of  his  adoption, 
he  was  at  first  only  a  half-hearted  convert,  and  the  labors  of 
Anskar  had  as  yet  borne  little  fruit,  when  Harald  after  a  few 
years  was  again  driven  away  and  was  indemnified  by  Lewis 
with  a  grant  of  land  along  the  Frisian  coast.  Meanwhile  a 
new  field  had  been  opened  in  Sweden.  Anskar  was  well 
received  there,  the  king  being  favorably  disposed  towards  him, 
and  after  God  had  shown  his  might  by  signs  and  miracles  at 
Birka,  many  asked  to  be  baptized. 

Apart  from  the  fact  that  the  German  mission  of  Hamburg- 
Bremen  was  not  developed  systematically  and  vigorously, 
remaining  at  a  standstill  for  years  at  a  time,  the  outward  cir- 
cumstances were  not  favorable  to  it.  First  of  all,  the  points 
of  contact  between  Danes  and  Germans  were  very  few.  The 
entire  Baltic  coast  was  Slavic  and  heathen  territory ;  the  Fris- 
ian coast,  forming  the  boundary  of  German  rule,  was  poor ; 
Hamburg  alone  was  a  welcome  prey  to  the  Vikings,  who 
accordingly  plundered  it  as  early  as  845.  Besides,  the  Danes, 
who  during  these  centuries  were  the  paramount  power  of 
Northern  Europe,  harrying  England  and  France,  and  occupying 


NORTH  BEFORE    THE  AGE    OF   THE    VIKINGS       179 

large  districts  and  establishing  kingdoms,  were  naturally  not 
inclined  to  renounce  their  customs  and  religion  on  account 
of  the  preaching  of  a  few  German  missionaries,  even  though 
now  and  then  a  brilliant  miracle,  such  as  the  carrying  of  red- 
hot  iron,  appealed  to  their  imaginations.  We  need  not,  accord- 
ingly, assume  a  powerful  organization  or  a  strong  conviction 
and  zeal  for  the  heathen  faith,  to  account  for  the  fact  that  the 
Danes,  like  the  Frisians  and  Saxons  a  century  previous,  turned 
a  deaf  ear  to  the  strange  religion. 

It  is  clear,  therefore,  why  Christianity  in  Denmark  made  no 
material  progress  during  a  century  and  a  half  and  did  not,  in 
fact,  produce  any  spiritual  stir.  During  the  second  half  of  the 
tenth  century  it  began  to  penetrate,  but  not  from  Germany. 
Several  Viking  princes  and  a  number  of  their  men  had  been 
baptized  in  France  or  England.  Among  these  were  Guthorm 
in  878,  in  East  Anglia,  and  Rollo  in  912,  in  Normandy.  In 
Denmark  proper,  Gorm  the  elder  had  maintained  paganism 
with  a  strong  hand  and  had  tolerated  the  Christians  only  under 
compulsion.  His  son,  Harald  Blatand  (941-986),  was  the 
first  Christian  king.  When  his  successors,  Sven  and  after- 
wards Knut,  joined  the  crown  of  England  to  that  of  Denmark, 
this  did  not,  of  course,  take  place  without  a  definite  change 
from  the  heathen  to  the  Christian  religion.  The  same  change 
occurred  nearly  simultaneously  in  other  Scandinavian  coun- 
tries. In  Sweden  Olaf  Skautkonungr  (1008)  was  the  first 
Christian  king.  Concerning  the  other  two  Scandinavian  coun- 
tries, Norway  and  Iceland,  we  possess  more  detailed  accounts, 
which  will  demand  a  separate  treatment. 


CHAPTER   X 
NORWAY  AND  ICELAND:   HISTORY  AND  LITERATURE 

"!N  Denmark  and  Sweden  the  religious  struggles  did  not 
involve  also  a  struggle  between  conflicting  political  interests, 
or,  at  any  rate,  they  could  not  develop  into  such  to  the  same 
degree  as  in  Norway." 1  With  these  words  Sars  describes  the 
character  of  the  history  of  Norway  in  the  tenth  century.  It  may 
be  maintained  that  here  too  the  heathen  belief  had  not  struck 
root  firmly  and  deeply  enough  to  offer  serious  resistance,  but 
it  is  true,  on  the  other  hand,  that  "  the  warlike  character  of  the 
Norwegians,  their  attachment  to  what  had  been  handed  down 
from  their  forefathers,  kept  them  faithful  to  their  old  gods, 
under  whose  protection  they  had  until  now  prospered." 2 
While  we  may  attach  some  weight  to  the  fact  that  for  the 
Norwegians,  likewise,  Christianity  was  the  religion  of  strangers, 
which  they  were  therefore  loth  to  accept,  yet  the  character- 
istic difference  between  the  period  of  conversion  of  the  Nor- 
wegians, as  compared  with  that  of  Danes,  Swedes,  Frisians, 
and  Saxons,  is  undoubtedly  the  close  connection  to  be  observed 
between  the  political  and  the  religious  movement.  The  aris- 
tocracy of  the  noble  families  remained  attached  to  paganism, 
whereas  the  royal  power,  whose  authority  over  the  whole  land 
was  of  only  recent  date,  soon  sought  to  strengthen  its  position 
by  an  alliance  with  the  cause  of  Christianity. 

The  sources  dealing  with  this  period,  while  not  wholly  con- 
temporaneous with  the  events  they  narrate,  are  yet  very  full. 
The  oldest,  —  and  these  are  in  part  contemporaneous  with  their 

1  Sars,  Udsigt,  I,  216. 

2  J.  Grimm,  A7.  Schr.,  V,  92. 

180 


NORWAY  AND   ICELAND  181 

subject-matter,  —  are  the  scaldic  songs  that  have  come  down 
to  us  intercalated  in  the  Snorra  Edda  and  in  numerous  historical 
sagas.  The  songs  of  the  Edda  also  come  in  for  consideration, 
and  the  historical  sketch  to  which  we  now  proceed  is  based  on 
the  results  of  the  critical  study  devoted  to  the  chronology  and 
sequence  of  these  documents.  We  shall  be  able  to  sketch 
only  the  main  outlines,  without  entering  upon  the  discussion  of 
various  matters  of  detail.  Not  only  are  we  acquainted  with  a 
large  number  of  proper  names  belonging  to  this  century,  but 
the  individuals  that  bear  them  play  a  role  in  numerous  anec- 
dotes. The  historical  sagas  are  preeminently  stories ;  history 
is  tantamount  to  the  adventures  and  encounters  of  king,  jarl, 
hersir  (ruler  of  a  district),  bdndi  (free  peasant),  of  viking  and 
scald.  Our  task,  then,  will  be  to  describe  the  heathenism 
of  the  century  in  which  Christianity  gradually  penetrated 
Norway  in  the  light  that  these  accounts  cast  on  it.  Iceland, 
too,  falls  within  our  domain. 

We  know  the  religious  conditions  in  Norway  before  the  end 
of  the  ninth  century  through  proper  names  only,  which  point 
chiefly  to  the  worship  of  Thor.  We  must  not,  however,  con- 
clude from  this  that  no  other  gods  were  worshipped.  When 
we  find,  for  example,  the  historical  sagas  making  mention  of 
a  libation  to  Odhin  or  to  Freyr  as  a  usual  occurrence,  we 
must  certainly  regard  this  as  an  ancient  religious  observance. 
The  religious  element  is  not,  however,  made  very  prominent, 
even  in  the  case  of  the  first  king  on  whom  the  light  of  history 
falls,  Harald  Fairhair  (Hdrfagri*),  who,  about  the  year  872, 
brought  the  whole  of  Norway  under  his  rule,  breaking  the 
power  of  the  independent  jarls  and  hersirs,  and  with  a  strong 
hand  subjugating  the  Western  Vikings.  The  great  historical 
significance  of  his  reign  lies,  on  the  one  side,  in  the  unification 
of  Norway  under  one  supreme  king ;  on  the  other,  in  the 
greatly  increased  emigration,  brought  about  in  part  by  these 
internal  conditions.  In  this  manner,  the  islands  to  the  west 


182        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

were  settled:  the  Orkneys,  the  Shetland  Islands,  where  from 
now  on  we  find  Norse  jarls  in  constant  communication  with 
the  mother  country,  and  Iceland,  which  was  also  occupied  by 
Norse  emigrants  during  the  reign  of  Harald.  These  early 
accounts  yield,  however,  but  little  that  has  a  bearing  on  reli- 
gion. It  does  not  appear  that  the  Norsemen  had  brought 
back  with  them  from  their  Viking  raids,  which  had  now  lasted 
more  than  a  century,  impressions  concerning  Christianity. 
In  Snorri's  saga  of  Harald  Fairhair  (in  Heitnskringld)  we  read, 
in  this  connection,  only,  of  the  king's  opposition  to  Finnish 
witchcraft,  and,  on  the  other  hand,  of  his  passionate  love  for 
a  fair  Finnish  maiden,  named  Snsfrid,  who  was  one  of  his 
many  wives.  The  Hrafnsmdl  (raven-song) *  of  Thorbj<jrn 
Hornklofi,  one  of  the  oldest  scaldic  poems,  which  makes  a 
comparatively  scant  use  of  the  technical  terms  of  a  later  age, 
sings  the  fame  of  this  king,  his  roaring  Berserkers,  his  fool,  and 
his  pet  dog.  Freyr  and  the  Yule  festival  are  also  mentioned. 

It  was  Harald's  desire  that  of  his  numerous  sons,  Eirikr 
should  succeed  him  as  chief  ruler.  Eirikr  was  not,  however, 
able  to  maintain  himself  permanently,  and  his  brother  Hakon 
gained  control  of  the  kingdom,  although  he  subsequently  lost 
it  to  the  sons  of  Eirikr.  During  these  troublous  times,  covering 
a  large  part  of  the  tenth  century,  Christianity  gradually  crept 
in  from  foreign  lands,  more  especially  from  the  British  Isles, 
where  many  Norse  Vikings  and  princes  had  been  baptized. 
This  had  also  been  the  case  with  the  above-mentioned  Hakon, 
one  of  the  younger  sons  of  Harald  Fairhair.  He  had  come  to 
England  when  a  child,  and,  according  to  a  custom  of  the  time, 
had  been  "  laid  on  the  knee  "  of  the  Anglo-Saxon  king  ^Ethel- 
Stan,  who  thus  became  his  foster  father  and  brought  him  up 
in  the  Christian  faith.  When  Hakon  returned  to  Norway  he 
gained  the  support  of  Sigurd,  the  powerful  jarl  of  Throndhjem, 

1  This  poem  is  in  the  form  of  a  dialogue  between  a  raven  and  a  girl  who  resembles 
a  wise  Walkyrie  or  a  Finn,  versed  in  the  language  of  birds. 


NORWAY  AND   ICELAND  183 

of  whom  he  had  of  old  been  a  favorite,  Sigurd  himself  having 
sprinkled  him  with  water  at  the  name-giving.  Eirikr,  who  was 
brave,  but  ungracious  and  unbeloved,  had  to  flee,  and  Hakon, 
surnamed  the  Good,  or  else  Adhalsteinsfostri,  ruled  the  land, 
but  in  dependence  on  the  nobles,  to  whom  he  owed  his  eleva- 
tion to  the  throne.  This  became  apparent  when  in  the  pop- 
ular assemblies  (thing)  he  wished  to  compel  the  bondis  and 
hersirs  to  accept  the  Christian  religion.  This  caused  great 
dissatisfaction  and  might  well  have  cost  him  his  throne,  if  jarl 
Sigurd  had  not  intervened  as  peacemaker.  The  jarls  and 
hersirs  would  not  abandon  their  old  customs.  They  were 
doubtless  partly  influenced  by  a  superstitious  fear  of  the 
wrath  of  the  gods  they  were  asked  to  renounce,  but  a  stronger 
factor  was  the  inborn  pride,  which  would  not  suffer  to  have 
anything  thrust  upon  it  by  force,  least  of  all  when  it  came 
from  a  king  whom  they  themselves  had  raised  to  the  throne, 
and  when  it  concerned  the  service  of  the  gods  who  had  local 
centres  of  worship  (fylkt)  in  every  part  of  the  realm.  The 
sources  introduce  us  to  the  solemn  ceremonies,  on  the  occasion 
of  a  festive  meal,  at  which  Hakon  refuses  to  partake  of  the 
sacrificial  flesh,  and  makes  the  sign  of  the  cross  over  his  cup, 
though  subsequently  yielding  to  popular  customs  by  eating  a 
bit  of  horseflesh  and  pledging  a  cup  to  Thor.  While  Hakon's 
personality  still  remained  far  more  popular  than  that  of  the 
ungracious  Eirikr,  the  discontent  on  both  sides  would  doubt- 
less have  led  to  a  conflict,  if  Hakon  had  not  been  compelled 
to  face  the  sons  of  Eirikr.  He  falls  in  battle.  (961),  so  that, 
despite  his  good  intentions,  Christianity  made  little  progress 
during  this  reign. 

Meanwhile  king  Eirikr  roamed  in  the  West  as  Viking,  and 
finally  acquired  a  kingdom  in  Northumbria.  There  he  and 
his  family,  including  his  wife  Gunnhild,  were  baptized.  This 
Gunnhild  is  painted  in  the  darkest  colors,  as  a  vengeful, 
faithless  princess,  an  adept  in  Finnish  sorceries. .  It  is  worthy 


184        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

of  note  that  a  funeral  poem  (Sitiksmdf)  was  composed  on  this 
Christian  king  Eirikr,  in  which  the  scene  of  his  reception  in 
Walhalla  by  Odhin  and  the  Einherjar  is  described.  While 
this  has  been  taken  to  prove  that  the  Christianity  of  Eirikr 
and  Gunnhild  was  not  of  the  best  sort,  it  is  still  more  sig- 
nificant that  in  Hdkonarmdl,  an  imitation  of  the  beautiful 
Eiriksmdl,  Eyvindr  Skaldaspillir,  the  faithful  friend  and  scald 
of  king  Hakon,  praises  this  king,  at  variance  with  all  historic 
truth,  as  a  devoted  follower  of  the  heathen  gods. 

The  sons  of  Eirikr,  among  whom  Harald  Grafeldr  was  the 
most  prominent,  accordingly  came  to  Norway  as  Christians. 
They  gave  evidence  of  their  faith  by  destroying  many  a 
heathen  sanctuary,  but  they  did  not  otherwise  resort  to  force 
in  winning  over  the  heathen  population  to  Christianity.  Their 
short  reign  was  characterized  by  all  manner  of  calamities, 
failure  of  crops  and  ill  luck  in  fishing,  all  of  which  the  people 
attributed  to  the  wrath  of  the  gods.  They  had,  moreover, 
made  many  enemies,  especially  by  their  murder  of  jarl 
Sigurd.  When,  therefore,  the  latter's  son,  with  Danish  aid, 
and  as  vassal  of  the  Danish  king,  took  possession  of  the  land, 
the  period  of  reaction  set  in,  both  against  the  kingship  in  the 
house  of  Harald  Fairhair  and  against  Christianity. 

For  nearly  twenty  years  (976-995)  Hakon  the  son  of  Sigurd 
ruled  the  land.  He  did  not  bear  the  title  of  king,  but  is 
known  in  history  as  -Hakon  Jarl,  or  as  blbtjarl  (sacrifice- jarl). 
His  various  achievements,  how  he  avenged  his  father,  won 
fame  in  battle,  established  peace,  and  restored  the  worship  of 
the  gods,  may  be  read  in  the  poem  Vellekla  of  his  scald  Einar. 
It  must  be  acknowledged  that  at  first  the  land  flourished  under 
his  rule  and  that  he  was  a  sincere  and  devoted  worshipper  of 
the  gods.  The  time  of  jarl  rule  and  of  the  ancient  religion 
was,  however,  a  thing  of  the  past. 

In  the  person  of  Olaf,  son  of  Tryggvi,  a  king  in  Southern 
Nor\vay,  who  .had  played  an  important  role  in  the  disturbances 


NORWAY  AND   ICELAND  185 

of  the  tenth  century,  there  arose  a  man  who  was  destined  to 
complete  the  work  of  his  forbear,  Harald  Fairhair,  to  establish 
the  rule  of  a  supreme  king  in  Norway,  and  to  bring  about  the 
triumph  of  Christianity,  which  he  had  adopted  as  Viking  in  the 
West.  That  he  succeeded  in  this  during  his  short  five  years' 
•reign,  considering  that  he  found  but  few  traces  of  Christianity 
upon  his  arrival  in  the  heathen  land,  is  one  of  those  his- 
torical enigmas  which  are  inexplicable,  unless  one  takes  into 
account  the  power  and  magic  charm,  the  authority  and  venera- 
tion that  are  the  attributes  of  a  wholly  unique  personality. 
It  is  evident,  from  all  accounts,  that  Olaf  Tryggvason  was  a 
man  of  this  stamp.  The  later  legend,  in  which  monastic  his- 
torians give  an  account  of  his  life,  recounts  a  number  of  cruel 
deeds,  which  he  is  said  to  have  perpetrated  in  putting  refrac- 
tory heathen  to  death,  or  in  forcing  them  to  accept  Christianity. 
But  while  the  older  and  better  sources  make  mention  of  the 
severity  of  the  king  in  connection  with  a  number  of  incidents 
that  occurred  on  his  proselyting  tours,  they  speak  at  least  as 
frequently  of  his  bountiful  gifts  and  the  magnanimity  through 
which  he  had  won  over  to  his  side  his  scald  Hallfred  and  the 
Icelander  Kjartan.  In  reading,  in  the  Helms kringla,  the  saga 
that  bears  his  name,  we  gain  the  impression  that  the  personal 
appearance  of  the  king  at  the  various  things  created  a  stronger 
impression  and  exerted  a  greater  influence  than  mere  physical 
force,  although  the  latter  was  also  not  wanting.  That  the 
paganism,  thus  formally  forsworn,  now  and  then  still  haunted 
the  memory  of  the  king  himself  may  be  gathered  from  a  story 
told  in  this  very  saga,  which  later  on  became  the  basis  of 
Nornagests  Thdttr.  Odhin,  in  the  guise  of  an  old  man  with 
one  eye,  is  said  to  have  sat  down  one  evening  to  the  festive 
meal,  and  until  late  at  night  to  have  greatly  preoccupied  the 
thoughts  of  the  king.  Not  until  the  next  morning  did  they 
discover  that  they  had  been  tricked  by  Odhin,  who  had  spoiled 
the  meats  and  confused  their  thoughts. 


186        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Everything  points  to  the  fact  that  the  king,  who  had  in  so 
short  a  time  Christianized  his  realm,  cherished  great  plans. 
The  establishment  of  the  Christian  religion  in  the  Orkneys, 
the  Faroe  Islands,  Iceland,  and  even  Greenland  proceeded 
from  him.  The  Swedish  queen  dowager  refused  to  wed  Olaf, 
because  she  would  not  adopt  the  new  religion.  She  thereupon 
became  the  wife  of  the  Danish  king  Sven.  Just  as  Hakon 
Jarl  had  only  with  difficulty  shaken  off  the  supremacy  of  the 
Danes,  and  defeated  their  allies,  the.  Jomsburg  Vikings,  in 
Wendland,  so  king  Olaf  came  into  conflict  with  the  same 
power,  in  those  days  the  strongest  in  Northern  Europe. 
Perhaps  he  dreamt  of  a  great  Christian  empire,  which  should 
bring  the  Baltic  under  the  Norse  sceptre.  However  this  may 
be,  in  the  year  1000  (or  999,  according  to  others),  he  saw 
himself  arrayed  on  his  gigantic  ship,  "the  long  serpent," 
against  the  united  power  of  the  entire  North :  Swedes,  Danes, 
and  Joms  Vikings.  In  this  naval  battle  of  Svqldr,  one  of  the 
most  famous  in  Norse  annals,  king  Olaf  fell.  The  people 
would  not,  however,  believe  him  dead,  any  more  than  in  the 
case  of  so  many  representative  men  in  history.  The  saga 
therefore  makes  the  great  king  escape  from  his  ship  and 
wander  to  Rome  and  Jerusalem.  Norse  travellers  are  said  to 
have  met  him  in  the  South  many  years  afterwards. 

Norway  was  divided  between  the  victors,  and  under  Danish 
supremacy  ruled  by  the  jarls  of  the  Jomsburg.  They,  also, 
were  Christians,  so  that  the  work  of  Olaf  was  not  again  undone, 
although  there  naturally  still  remained  numerous  survivals  of 
paganism  in  a  country  that  had  only  just  been  converted,  and 
that  too  very  superficially.  This  state  of  affairs  continued 
some  fifteen  years,  when  another  descendant  of  Harald  Fair- 
hair,  a  namesake  of  the  great  Olaf,  and  like  the  latter  a  daring 
Viking,  arose  to  free  his  fatherland.  Under  this  Olaf  Haralds- 
son,  the  holy  Olaf,  as  he  is  called,  the  Christian  religion  and 
dynastic  central  rule  were  permanently  established. 


NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  187 

We  must  now  cast  a  glance  at  Iceland,  the  other  great  centre 
of  Norse  culture.  The  first  settlers  on  the  island  were  Irish 
hermits,  called  papar  by  the  Norsemen,  who  left  behind  them 
books,  bells,  and  crosiers.  They  vanished  when,  after  the  year 
870,  the  so-called  landndm  (land-taking)  began,  the  occupation 
of  the  country  by  those  whom  the  political  conditions  under 
Harald  Fairhair  had  driven  from  Norway.  They  numbered 
some  four  hundred  nobles,  coming  on  their  own  ships,  and 
accompanied  by  their  families  and  retinue.  The  population 
that  settled  in  Iceland  during  the  half  century  over  which  the 
occupation  extended  may  be  estimated  at  about  twenty-five 

thousand. 

„,...•.,;,,         ,.._  .  ,.     ,     ,          ,     , 

To  this  island  these  Norwegians  accordingly  brought  from 

their  fatherland  their  ancient  institutions  and  customs.  It 
was  in  order  to  preserve  these  that  they  left  Norway,  which 
had  become  a  new  realm  under  the  rule  of  the  great  Harald. 
On  their  ships  they  carried  the  pillars  of  the  high-seat  in  their 
hall,  with  the  image  of  Thor  carved  on  it.  As  they  neared 
land,  they  entrusted  these  to  the  sea,  and  where  the  wind  and 
waves  cast  them  ashore  there  they  built  their  new  home.  In 
this  way  they  continued  to  serve  the  old  gods  in  the  new  land, 
at  times  even  on  Norwegian  soil,  of  which  they  had  taken  a 
small  load  with  them  on  board  of  ship.  Many  particulars, 
however,  of  the  religion  of  these  heathen  Icelanders  escape 
us.  They  served  their  ancestral  gods,  Thor,  Freyr,  and  Odhin. 
Their  belief  in  various  omens,  apparitions,  and  dreams  seems 
to  have  been  strongly  developed.  Catching  sight  of  the  tute- 
lar genius  (Jylgja)  or  the  family  spirit  portended  misfortune 
and  death,  and  might  also  become  of  significance  for  affairs 
of  state. 

Notwithstanding  the  peaceful  conditions  which  this  isola- 
tion from  the  world  at  large  seemed  to  bring  to  these  Nor- 
wegians in  Iceland,  their  warlike  spirit  did  not  fail  to  assert 
itself.  The  history  of  the  island  is  that  of  the  feuds  between 


188         THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

families  and  individuals,  —  bloody  feuds,  that  were  at  times, 

(to  be  sure,  adjusted  in  a  judicial  way.  Nowhere  does  the  his- 
tory of  a  state  coincide  with  that  of  individual  persons  more 
nearly  than  in  Iceland.  We  are  not  here  concerned  with 
characterizing  the  political  institutions  or  the  administration 
of  justice,  as  established  by  the  constitution  of  Ulfljot  (928). 
It  should,  however,  be  noted  how  closely  these  two  were  con- 
nected with  religion.  The  godhi,  the  successor  of  the  Nor- 
wegian hersir,  united  in  his  person,  the  offices  of  magistrate, 
judge,  and  priest.  He  was  the  proprietor  of  the  plainly  fur- 
nished temple  and  offered  up  the  sacrifices.  The  executive, 
judicial,  and  legislative  powers,  so  far  as  his  limited  juris- 
diction extended,  all  rested  in  him.  The  great  assembly,  the 
Althing,  presided  over  by  the  law-speaker,  decided  matters  of 
general  interest  as  well  as  feuds  involving  individuals  from 
different  districts. 

Such  was  the  state  of  affairs  at  the  time  when  the  Republic 
attained  its  greatest  prosperity,  the  classical  age,  in  which  the 
scenes  of  the  chief  and  best  sagas  are  laid.  These  are  often 
written  in  a  fascinating  style,  are  characterized  by  great  accu- 
racy, and  introduce  us  to  a  number  of  individuals  representative 
of  this  period.  The  Eyrbyggja,  Laxdaela,  Gunnlaugs,  Egils, 
Fostbroedhra,  and  Njals  Sagas,  to  enumerate  only  the  most 
important  ones,  all  transport  us  to  the  century  extending  from 
930  to  1030,  and  more  especially  to  its  last  half.  Among 
these  the  Njala,  both  in  respect  to  form  and  content,  can  cer- 
tainly lay  claim  to  the  first  rank.  They  are  all  histories  of  Ice- 
landic families,  for  a  long  time  transmitted  orally,  and  reduced 
to  writing  in  the  literary  period,  i.e.  in  the  thirteenth  century. 
They  tell  us  of  the  genealogies,  the  adventures,  the  feuds,  and 
lawsuits  of  the  Icelanders  of  those  days. 

On  their  journeys  undertaken  for  purposes  of  trade  or  in 
order  to  come  into  touch  with  the  outside  world,  —  Viking 
expeditions  proper  were  not  sent  forth  from  Iceland,  —  many 


NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  189 

Icelanders  during  the  tenth  century  became  acquainted  with 
Christianity  in  England  and  Ireland,  and  a  few  were  bap- 
tized. One  of  these  latter,  Thorwald  Kodransson,  the  travelled 
(vidhforli),  even  brought  back  with  him  a  foreign  bishop,  and, 
since  981,  this  Thorwald  and  Friedrich,  the  bishop,  preached 
in  Iceland,  encountering  some  opposition,  and  without  achiev- 
ing signal  success.  The  Thorwald  Saga  relates  how  several 
miracles  were  wrought ;  how  the  family  spirit  (or1  diviner, 
spdmadhr)  of  Kodran  dwelt  in  a  stone  and  was  exorcised  by 
the  bishop,  who  poured  water  over  the  stone  ;  how  some  Ber- 
serkers were  consumed  by  the  fire  over  which  they  attempted 
to  leap,  and  similar  things.  At  any  rate,  the  question  of  reli- 
gion did  not  become  a  burning  one  until  the  proselyting  zeal 
of  Olaf  Tryggvason  began  to  extend  also  to  Iceland.  The 
German  preacher  whom  he  sent  thither,  Thangbrand,  a  disso- 
lute and  brutal  fellow,  guilty  more  than  once  of  manslaughter, 
doubtless  did  the  cause  of  Christianity  more  harm  than  good. 
But  here  as  elsewhere  the  attachment  to  the  ancestral  religion 
did  not  prove  to  be  very  firmly  rooted,  even  though  there  was 
no  inclination  instantly  to  relinquish  the  old  in  favor  of  the 
pew.  In  the  great  sagas  that  carry  us  back  to  those  days,  the 
introduction  of  Christianity  does  not  occupy  the  most  promi- 
nent place  among  the  events  of  the  period.  The  change  from 
paganism  to  Christianity  was  effected  at  the  Althing  of  the  year 
1000,  but  only  after  a  violent  conflict  and  a  permanent  rupture 
had  been  narrowly  averted.  Both  sides,  the  old  and  the  new, 
had  vehement  advocates,  who  were  anxious  to  have  recourse 
to  arms.  A  volcanic  eruption  was  interpreted  as  a  sign  of  the 
displeasure  of  the  old  gods.  The  advice  of  the  more  thought- 
ful people,  among  whom  were  the  law-speaker  Thorgeir  and 
the  godhi  Snorri,  the  most  learned  Icelander  of  the  time, 
finally  decided  the  issue.  They  saw  the  danger  involved  in 
the  complete  severance  of  family  ties  and  abrogation  of  legal 
forms  through  internal  dissension.  They  recognized  that 


190         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Christianity,  in  Norway  under  Olaf  as  well  as  elsewhere,  was 
the  coming  world  power,  against  which  eventually  no  effectual 
resistance  could  be  made.  Accordingly,  in  the  assembly  the 
announcement  was  made  from  the  logberg  (law-hill)  that  all 
should  be  baptized  and  that  the  Christian  religion  should  be 
the  dominant  one  in  the  island.  Certain  concessions  were 
made  to  such  heathens  as  were  not  willing  to  relinquish  forth- 
with all  their  customs.  They  were  permitted  to  offer  sacrifices 
in  secret,  provided  no  witnesses  were  present  whose  testimony 
could  render  them  amenable  to  law.  They  were  besides 
allowed  to  put  out  their  children  as  foundlings,  and  to  eat 
horseflesh.  It  was  only  as  Christian  morals  and  ecclesias- 
tical discipline  gained  wider  influence  that  these  remnants  of 
heathenism  gradually  disappeared. 

We  have  thus  attempted  to  sketch  in  a  rough  way  the  histor- 
ical setting  of  Norse  literature.  In  calling  the  latter  a  heathen 
literature,  more  than  one  reservation  must  be  made.  Every- 
thing that  has  come  down  from  the  tenth  century,  as  well  as 
the  little  that  bears  a  still  earlier  date,  while  heathen  in  origin, 
yet  belongs  to  a  period  in  which  contact  with  Christian  coun- 
tries was  manifold  and  increasing  in  influence.  After  the  year 
1000  Christianity  is  established,  but  the  old  paganism  lives  on 
in  various  ways  in  literature.  We  must  therefore  examine 
these  literary  products  somewhat  more  closely  to  determine 
their  position  in  the  history  of  religion. 

In  the  ancient  prehistoric  period  we  see  the  vague  outlines 
of  the  thulir,  versed  in  runes,  songs,  and  proverbs,  who,  from 
their  seat  (thularstbll}  in  the  hall  of  princes  or  elsewhere, 
recited  oracles  or  songs  for  the  gratification  of  the  company. 
Such  a  thulr  was  Loddfafnir,  whose  sayings  constitute  one  of 
the  parts  of  Hdvamdl.  The  thulir  are  mentioned  only  three 
times  in  the  songs  of  the  Edda.  As  early  as  the  time  of  Harald 
Fairhair  they  had  been  superseded  by  the  scalds,  who  followed 
poetry  as  a  profession,  and  made  it  subject  to  fixed  rules. 


NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  191 

On  the  scalds  history  sheds  abundant  light.  They  lived  at 
the  courts  of  the  kings,  whose  deeds  of  prowess  they  sung,  and 
from  whom  they  received  in  return  rich  gifts  and  marks  of 
honor.  The  craving  for  gold  and  fame,  which  had  seized  hold 
of  the  men  of  those  days,  is  reflected  also  in  their  lives.  The 
kings  took  care  that  the  scalds  should  witness  the  battle,  and 
demanded  that  a  brilliant  song  of  praise  should  proclaim  their 
glory,  showing  dissatisfaction  in  case  they  received '  only  a 
short  flokkr,  where  they  had  expected  an  elaborate  drdpa,  with 
the  accompaniment  of  the  harp.  Nor  were  kings  the  only  ones 
who  rewarded  the  scald  that  had  sung  their  praises.  We  read 
how  the  famous  Eyvindr  Skaldaspillir  composed  a  drdpa  on  all 
the  inhabitants  of  Iceland,  and  how  he  was  rewarded  by  a 
magnificent  gift  in  silver,  to  which  all  had  contributed.  Dis- 
connected occasional  poems,  half  improvised,  and  single  verses 
or  couplets  (lausavisur)  are  also  found.  From  the  numerous 
lampoons  on  opponents  (iiidhvisur),  as  well  as  from  the  love 
poems,  it  is  evident  that  the  scald  did  not  lose  sight  in  his 
compositions  of  his  personal  circumstances.  The  well-known 
scald,  Thormodhr,  who  took  part  in  the  battle  of  Stikklestad, 
even  bears  the  surname  Kolbrunarskald,  after  the  maiden 
whom  he  loved  and  celebrated  in  song.  Many  of  these  poems 
have  been  preserved  to  us  in  the  later  historical  sagas,  although 
a  considerable  part  of  the  poetry  introduced  in  these  is  of  a 
more  recent  date. 

A  large  number  of  scalds,  in  all  four  hundred,  are  known  to 
us  by  name,  and  of  many  of  these  we  possess  a  good  bit  of 
biography,  thus  giving  us  a  vivid  picture  both  of  their  own  per- 
sons and  fortunes,  and  of  the  conditions  prevailing  in  Norway, 
Iceland,  the  Orkneys,  and  the  other  groups  of  islands,  during 
the  three  centuries  extending  from  900  to  1200.  The  list  of 
scalds  (Skdldataf)  begins  with  names  with  which  we  are  already 
familiar  from  the  old  saga  period :  Starkad,  Ragnar  Lodbrok, 
and  his  wife,  Aslaug.  Then  follows  Bragi  the  Old,  concerning 


192         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

whose  existence  or  non-existence  there  has  been  much  contro- 
versy. He  is  not  to  be  confused  with  Bragi,  the  god  of  poetry, 
who  is  entirely  a  creation  of  mythology.  Notwithstanding  the 
agreement  in  name,  we  regard  Bragi,  in  common  with  most 
scholars,  as  an  historical  personage,  who  lived  in  the  early 
part  of  the  ninth  century,  and  of  whose  Ragnarsdrdpa  we  still 
possess  fragments.  It  belongs  to  a  class  of  songs  for  which 
ancient  Greek  poetry  furnishes  a  remarkable  parallel.  We 
are  referring  to  descriptions  of  scenes  represented  on  shields, 
with  which  the  description  of  the  shield  in  the  eighteenth  book 
of  the  Iliad  and  the  poem,  The  Shield  of  Herakles,  attributed  to 
Hesiod,  are  to  be  compared.  There  are  still  other  examples 
of  this  in  Norse  literature,  and  we  also  include  in  this  category 
the  description  of  scenes  depicted  on  the  walls  and  ceilings  of 
an  Icelandic  hall.1  These  descriptions  are  important  sources 
for  the  study  of  myths  as  well  as  of  pictorial  art. 

It  is  impossible  to  enumerate  here  even  the  more  important 
scalds,  let  alone  give  a  sketch  of  their  careers.  The  oldest  of 
them  are  from  Norway,  such  as  Thorbjqrn  Hornklofi,  whose 
Hrafnsmdl  on  Harald  Fairhair  was  mentioned  above,  and 
Thjodholf  of  Hvin,  whose  Ynglingatal  traces  the  lineage  of 
a  Norwegian  king  back  through  thirty  generations  to  Freyr. 
Presently  Iceland  produced  the  most  famous  scalds.  Even  at 
the  court  of  the  Norwegian  kings  we  soon  find  that  the  majority 
of  the  court  scalds  are  Icelanders.  Among  them  there  is  one 
family,  that  of  the  Myramen,  subsequently  known  as  the  Stur- 
lungs,  which  is  especially  prominent  from  the  beginning  of  the 
settlement  until  the  last  years  of  the  Republic.  Its  first  rep- 
resentative was  Skallagrim,  who  was  one  of  the  immigrants. 
The  great  mythographer  and  historian,  Snorri,  belonged  to  the 
same  family,  so  that  the  traditions  of  the  first  scald  were 
preserved  until  the  last  days  of  Iceland's  independence. 
Skallagrim's  son,  Egil  (904-990),  whose  life  was  full  of  stirring 

1  The  Husdr&pa  of  Ulfr  Uggason,  from  the  end  of  the  tenth  century. 


NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  193 

adventure,  is  a  type  of  the  Icelandic  scald.  He  also  fought  in 
England,  and  there  fell  into  the  hands  of  his  bitter  enemy, 
Eric  Bloody- Axe.  Among  the  verses  that  have  been  preserved 
of  him  is  also  the  song  that  he  composed  in  one  night  as 
"  a  ransom  for  his  head."  l  Of  the  other  bards  in  the  tenth 
century  who  played  a  role  in  Norway,  Glum  Geirason,  the 
favorite  of  Harald  Graf eldr,  and  Einar  Skalaglam,  under;  Hakon 
Jarl,  were  Icelanders.  Eyvindr,  whom  we  have  already  met, 
belonged  to  a  distinguished  Norwegian  family. 

When  the  change  to  Christianity  was  made,  there  were  some 
scalds  who  adhered  to  the  old  religion.  So,  for  example, 
Vetrlidhi  of  Iceland,  who  even  composed  satirical  songs  on 
the  new  belief  and  was  slain  by  the  violent  preacher,  Thang- 
brand.  At  the  Norwegian  court  the  scalds  soon  conformed  to 
the  wishes  of  the  Christian  king,  although  tradition  tells  us  that 
Olaf  Tryggvason  only  prevailed  with  difficulty  upon  the  poet 
Hallfred  to  accept  the  new  belief.  The  latter,  for  this  very 
reason,  was  called  Vandraedhaskald,  the  "  troublesome"  poet, 
but  he  remained  faithful  to  his  king  and  is  one  of  the  great 
figures  among  the  scalds,  in  every  sense  a  noble  and  brave 
man.  Equally  great  was  the  fame  of  the  scalds  of  the  holy 
Olaf,  Sigvat  Thordharson  and  Thormodhr.  The  former  was 
at  the  same  time  the  confidant,  ambassador,  and  as  it  were 
prime  minister  of  the  king.  Under  king  Magnus,  too,  —  a 
name  he  himself  had  bestowed  upon  the  king,  after  Carolus 
Magnus,  —  he  still  remained  the  king's  counsellor,  and  even 
ventured  in  some  plain-spoken  verses  (Bersogtisvisur)  to  cau- 
tion him  against  dealing  too  harshly  with  his  people,  lest  it 
might  endanger  his  throne.  As  poet,  too,  this  Sigvat  occupies 
a  place  of  honor  among  the  scalds. 


1  There  is  an  extensive  literature  on  the  F.gilssaga,  of  which  we  may  here 
mention  the  following:  the  edition  of  Finnur  J6nsson  in  Altn.  Sagab.,  Ill  (1894)  ; 
E.  Jessen,  v.  Sybel's  Histor.  Zs.,  XXVIII  (1872  ;  a  fierce  attack  on  the  trustworthiness 
of  the  saga) ;  K.  Maurer,  SMA.  (1895)  >  G-  A-  Gjessing,  AfnF.  II  (1885). 


194        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Still  others  might  be  mentioned,  but  it  is  not  necessary  to 
continue  this  enumeration.  While  it  is  doubtless  important 
that  we  should  learn  to  know  more  about  the  scalds,  their 
travels  and  adventures,  their  love  affairs  and  feuds,  all  this  is 
of  little  moment  so  far  as  our  knowledge  of  Teutonic  religion 
is  concerned.  We  must,  however,  examine  somewhat  more 
closely  the  character  and  the  mythological  content  of  their  work. 

Their  poetry  is  preeminently  artificial,  both  as  regards  metrics 
and  diction.  The  writing  of  poetry,  according  to  the  terms 
that  Norsemen  themselves  apply  to  it,  is  building  with  staves 
and  beams,  a  mechanical  accomplishment,  that  requires  for  its 
mastery  prolonged  study,  and  is  handed  down  to  others.  In 
no  sense  is  it  the  free  development  of  individual  gifts.  Scaldic 
poetry  is  therefore  not  a  product  of  a  healthy  imagination,  its 
pictures  are  not  clearly  outlined,  it  is  not  based  on  a  poetic 
conception  of  life.  It  is,  on  the  contrary,  rather  the  product  of 
the  clever  and  ingenious  mind,  and  as  such  propounds  riddles 
to  the  sober  understanding.  This  is  shown  most  clearly  in  its 
paraphrases,  the  so-called  kenningar.  These  kenningar  by  no 
means  resemble  the  standing  epithets  in  Homer.  They  are 
metaphorical  paraphrases  that  indicate  an  object  more  or  less 
vaguely,  and  allow  us,  in  fact,  to  guess  at  it.  Several  hundred 
such  kenningar  are  known  to  us  from  Norse  poetry,  explained 
in  part  in  Skdldskaparmdl,  in  part  in  glossaries,  the  so-called 
Thulur,  of  rather  late  origin.1 

There  are  various  sorts  of  kenningar.  The  house  in  which 
a  fire  is  burning  on  the  hearth  is  called  a  fire-ship,  the  sky  the 
path  of  the  eagles,  the  wind  the  wolf  of  the  forest,  the  gallows 
Odhin's  steed,  the  head  the  sword  of  Heimdallr.  The  relation 

1  A  list  of  the  kenningar  is  given  in  CPB.  II,  447-486.  For  a  detailed  treatment 
of  scaldic  poetry,  see  Finnur  J6nsson's  Lit.  Hist,  and  Weinhold,  Altnord.  Leben, 
pp.  327-350.  On  the  Thulur,  see  CPB.  II,  422  ff. ;  S.  Bugge,  Aarb.  f.  nord.  Oldk. 
(1875),  pp.  209-246  ;  Miillenhoff,  DA.  V,  129,  201,  223  ff. ;  Finnur  J6nsson,  II,  171- 
181.  Views  as  to  the  origin  of  the  Thulur  differ:  Finnur  Jdnsson  seeks  it  in 
Iceland,  most  of  the  others  in  the  Orkneys. 


NORWAY  AND   ICELAND  195 

between  these  circumlocutions  and  the  things  they  signify  is  at 
times  transparent :  sometimes  it  is  explained  by  a  myth  that  is 
known  to  us,  but  frequently  such  is  not  the  case.  As  to  the 
origin  of  this  wholly  artificial  phraseology,  no  certainty  can 
be  attained,  and  we  are  entirely  dependent  upon  conjecture. 
Bugge  attributes  it  to  the  influence  that  Ireland  exerted  upon 
the  Norsemen,  and  this  possibility  can  certainly  not  be  totally 
ignored.  In  any  case,  this  artificial  poetry  did  not  arise  until 
the  Norsemen  and  Kelts  came  into  close  contact  during  the 
Viking  period.  It  is  significant  that  these  kenningar  are  prac- 
tically lacking  in  the  Old  Danish  ballad,  whereas  they  are 
also  found  in  Anglo-Saxon  poetry,  although  to  a  far  less 
extent.  The  Norsemen  borrowed  the  art  without  any  real 
poetic  feeling,  and  developed  it  in  a  sober,  matter-of-fact  way,  t 
giving  full  play  to  their  love  for  riddles  and  enigmas.  This 
predilection  for  riddles  is  shown  by  several  poems  and  stories, 
among  others  by  the  well-known  riddles  of  king  Heidhrek  in 
the  Hervarar  Saga. 

Another  factor  should  perhaps  be  taken  into  account  in  a 
discussion  of  this  intentional  paraphrasing  of  the  expression  of 
one's  thought.  Attention  has  recently  been  called  to  the  spe- 
cial nautical  language,  which,  like  that  found  in  various  parts 
of  the  Malay  Archipelago,  was  at  one  time,  and  to  some  extent 
is  still,  used  in  the  Shetland  and  Faroe  Islands  and  even  along 
the  Norwegian  coast.  Through  fear  of  the  spirits  (the  huldre) 
certain  words  are  preferably  avoided  or  paraphrased  on  the 
high  sea.  This  religious  usage  is  doubtless  .older,  and  has 
struck  deeper  roots  in  the  minds  of  the  people,  than  the  arti- 
ficial poetical  language  of  the  scalds.  In  how  far  the  latter  is 
connected  with  this  nautical  language,  or  has  borrowed  from 
it,  is  difficult  to  determine.1 

If  this  oldest  scaldic  poetry  is  the  fruit  of  intercourse  with 
more  highly  cultured  and  already  Christianized  peoples,  then,  as 

1  J.  Jakobsen,  Det  norrone  sfrog  pa  Shetland  (Kopenhagen,  1897). 


196        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

its  form  so  its  content  cannot  without  further  proof  be  regarded 
as  original  and  purely  Norse.  Neither  pictorial  representa- 
tions, such  as  described  in  the  shield-songs  or  in  the  H&sdr&pa, 
which  sings  the  praises  of  a  hall  belonging  to  an  Icelander 
whose  mother  was  an  Irish  woman,  nor  the  oldest  kenningar 
furnish  mythological  material  that  is  above  suspicion.  While 
Finnur  Jdnsson  finds  in  these  oldest  kenningar  the  proof  of 
the  genuineness  of  Norse  mythology  in  its  main  outlines,  he 
has  yet  distinguished  them  very  carefully  from  those  found  in 
later  poets,  to  which  he  denies  all  cogency  whatsoever.  When 
we  proceed  to  examine  the  content  of  these  oldest  conceptions 
or  poetic  metaphors,  we  encounter  many  features  whose  origin  we 
may  readily  trace  to  Norway,  such  as  the  adventures  of  Thor, 
for  example,  but  there  is  also  a  considerable  amount  of  mate- 
rial which  has  certainly  not  originated  in  Norway.  As  exam- 
ples of  the  latter,  the  story  of  Hildr  and  Hqgni,  and  an  episode 
from  the  history  of  Jqrmunrek  in  Bragi's  shield-song,  may  be 
cited,  both  of  which  have  probably  made  their  way  to  the 
North  from  Germany. 

As  we  have  repeatedly  pointed  out,  this  does  not  imply  that 
with  Bugge  and  his  school  we  regard  the  mythology  of  the 
Edda  and  the  scalds  as  the  result  of  the  artificial  imitation  of 
classical,  Jewish,  or  Christian  models.  Such  an  origin  is  too 
inherently  improbable  to  be  assumed  without  strong  evidence 
being  adduced  in  its  favor,  evidence  which  in  this  instance 
is  entirely  wanting.  The  Danish  sagas  show  that  the  Norse- 
men possessed  a  large  body  of  myths  and  legends  of  their  own. 
Everything,  accordingly,  argues  in  favor  of  the  assumption  that 
they  developed  this  native  material,  although  it  was  frequently 
amalgamated  with,  or  augmented  by,  other  matter  gathered  in 
the  West  or  in  Germany.  In  the  case  of  this  latter,  the  Teu- 
tonic motifs  and  stories  were  unquestionably  greater  in  both 
extent  and  importance  than  those  of  classical  and  Christian  ori- 
gin. Norse  literature  borrowed  Sigurd,  Atli,  and  Jormunrek 


NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  197 

from  kindred  nations,  but  there  is  nothing  to  show  that  it 
appropriated  an  Achilles  or  a  Sibyl.  We  need,  therefore,  not 
hesitate  to  call  Norse  mythology  a  Teutonic  mythology,  even 
though  we  do  not  possess  a  test  by  means  of  which  to  deter- 
mine in  the  case  of  each  individual  episode  or  narrative  what 
is  originally  Norse  and  what  was  borrowed  by  the  scalds  dur- 
ing the  age  of  the  Vikings.  We  must,  furthermore,  not  lose 
sight  of  the  fact  that  the  points  of  agreement  between  this 
Norse  pantheon  and  the  meagre  material  transmitted  from  Ger- 
man sources  possess  great  weight.  That  the  importance  of 
these  parallels  was  at  one  time  overrated  is  no  reason  why  we 
should  undervalue  them  now. 

One  fact  deserves  especial  mention  on  account  of  its  bearing 
on  mythology.  The  scalds  developed  the  myths  and  sagas  as 
poetic  motifs,  without  regard  to  their  religious  significance. 
Gods  are  higher  beings,  in  whom  people  believe  and  whom 
they  worship,  but  the  poetry  of  the  scalds  barely  shows  a  trace 
of  belief  and  cult.  The  gods  came  to  be  regarded  more  and 
more  in  the  light  of  characters  of  whom  numerous  stories  were 
narrated,  after  a  time  as  mere  poetical  metaphors.  While 
through  this  veil  we  are  still  able  to  recognize  many  a  genuine 
myth  of  Odhin  and  Walhalla,  of  Hildr  and  Hqgni,  to  mention 
two  of  a  totally  different  character,  the  accounts  of  the  doings 
of  Thor  have  to  a  large  extent  become  Mdrchen, 

The  songs  of  the  Edda  trace  their  origin  to  the  same  period 
as  the  poetry  of  the  scalds.  And  yet  there  is  a  great  differ- 
ence between  the  two,  both  with  regard  to  metre  and  the  use 
of  kenningar,  the  latter  being  employed  with  great  moderation 
in  the  older  poems  of  the  Edda.  Furthermore,  the  Eddie 
songs  are  anonymous,  and  not  a  single  one  can  with  any  show 
of  reason  be  ascribed  to  a  known  poet.  The  character  of  the 
poetry  is  also  essentially  different.  The  scaldic  poems  were 
written  with  reference  to  actual  events  of  life ;  they  are  inti- 
mately connected  with  the  life  history  of  their  authors  or  of  the 


198        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

kings.  This  in  no  way  applies  to  the  Edda,  in  which  the 
sole  aim  is  to  tell  a  story  or  to  communicate  a  definite  content. 
No  checkered  life  of  viking  and  scald  serves  as  background  ; 
they  are  myths  and  stories,  poetically  treated,  either  with  a 
definite  end  in  view,  or  as  mere  poetical  exercises,  in  Norway, 
Iceland,  and  Greenland. 

The  name  "  Edda  "  is  applied  to  two  collections  :  the  so- 
called  Poetic  Edda,  a  collection  of  songs  with  shorter  or 
longer  superscriptions  and  notes 'in  prose,  and  the  Snorra 
Edda,  written  in  prose,  but  with  numerous  citations  in  verse, 
taken  largely  from  the  Poetic  Edda.  The  word  "  Edda " 
occurs  in  the  sense  of  great-grandmother,  which  is  evidently 
meaningless  as  applied  to  this  literature.  At  present  it  is 
usually  interpreted  as  meaning  "poetics,"  a  designation  that 
could  properly  be  applied  to  the  Snorra  Edda  alone.  Other 
scholars  bring  the  term  into  connection  with  the  school  of 
Oddi,  established  in  Iceland  by  Sasmund.1 

The  critical  problems  connected  with  the  origin  of  the  sepa- 
rate songs,  and  with  their  compilation,  are  extremely  intricate. 
The  criteria  employed  in  determining  the  origin  of  the  indi- 
vidual songs  consist,  in  the  first  place,  of  their  language  and 
metrics ;  secondly,  of  what  they  tell  us  concerning  phenomena 
of  nature,  flora,  and  fauna ;  thirdly,  of  historical  allusions ;  and, 
finally,  of  the  results  —  cautiously  applied  —  of  the  comparison 
of  myths  and  sagas.  On  the  basis  of  the  evidence  furnished 
by  these  criteria,  we  conclude  that  the  Eddie  poems  were 
written  during  the  Viking  period,  in  Norway  or  Iceland.2  The 
work  of  compilation,  however,  which  furnished  the  occasion  for 

1  So  Eirikr  Magnusson  in  The  Saga-Book  of  the  Viking  Club  (see  Academy  of 
Nov.  30,  1895),  and  especially  B.  Symons,  Over  afleiding  en  beteekenis  van  het 
•woord  Edda  (Versl.  en  Med.  k.  Ak.,  1898). 

2  See  the  table  in  Finnur  J6nsson's  Lit.  Hist.,  I,  65.     He  assigns  most  of  the 
songs  to  Norway  and  to  the  tenth  century,  and  regards  only  a  part  of  Havamal  as 
old  as  the  end  of  the  ninth  century.     The  Greenland  and  Icelandic  heroic  songs  he 
assigns  to  the  eleventh  century,  the  Icelandic  Gripisspd  to  even  the  twelfth  century. 


NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  199 

various  interpolations,  belongs  to  a  later  period  and  was,  in 
fact,  never  brought  to  a  close.  While  the  most  important  poems 
are  found  in  all  of  the  manuscripts,  yet,  in  the  case  of  several 
songs  that  occur  in  some  manuscripts  and  not  in  others,  it  is 
doubtful  whether  or  not  they  are  to  be  included  in  the  Edda. 
The  collection  bears  in  no  respect  a  religious  character,  and 
the  Edda  is  therefore  not  to  be  classed  among  the  "  bibles," 
but  is  merely  a  collection  of  mythical  and  heroic  songs,  only 
slightly  concerned  with  religious  belief  and  wholly  unconnected 
with  the  cult. 

Of  the  thirty-five  songs  constituting  the  Poetic  Edda,  we 
may  at  once  eliminate  from  our  discussion  the  twenty  that 
treat  of  the  heroic  sagas,  namely  those  of  the  Volsungen- 
Nibelungen,  the  Helgi  Lays,  and  the  lay  of  Volund.  These 
pieces  have  already  been  treated  in  a  previous  chapter.  Nor 
is  it  feasible  to  discuss  in  detail  the  thirteen  or  fourteen  songs 
that  deal  with  the  gods.  They  bear  the  names  of  kvidha  (ballad), 
mdl  (aphoristic  or  didactic  poem),  Ijbdh  (lay  or  song),  spa 
(prophecy),  senna  (strife),  thula  (series).  The  contents  as  well 
as  the  general  tone  of  these  poems  differ  greatly.  Attempts 
have  at  times  been  made  to  classify  them  according  to  the 
gods  that  play  the  chief  role,  the  Odhin  songs  and  the  Thor 
songs  more  especially  forming  two  distinct  groups.  There  is, 
however,  no  good  reason  for  forcing  the  detached  pieces  into  a 
definite  order.  In  some  of  these  poems  the  genealogies  receive 
especial  attention.  So  in  the  Hyndluljbdh,  and  in  a  different 
way  in  Rigsthula,  where  the  story  is  related  how  Rig  (Heim- 
dallr)  begets  the  progenitors  of  the  three  classes  :  thrael,  karl, 
and  jarl.  Others  consist  in  great  part  of  lists  of  kenningar  or 
mythical  names  that  are  given  in  more  or  less  of  a  mythical 
setting  ;  so  Grimnismdl,  Alvissmdl,  VafthrudhnismdL  In  some 

H.  Gering,  on  the  other  hand,  attributes  a  larger  share  to  Iceland,  Voluspa  among 
others,  the  Norwegian  origin  of  which  is,  however,  according  to  Hoffory  and  Symons, 
proved  by  the  mention  of  a  certain  phenomenon  of  nature. 


200         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

the  myth  has  been  made  to  do  duty  as  a  poetic  Mdrchen. 
These  tell,  e.g.  how  Thor,  disguised  as  Freyja,  fetches  back  his 
hammer  from  the  giant  Thrym  (Thrymskvidha),  and  how  Freyr 
wins  Gerdhr  (Skirnismdl}.  These  two  are  perhaps  the  best  and 
most  widely  known.  It  cannot  be  denied  that  numerous  gen- 
uine nature-myths,  intermingled  more  or  less  with  foreign 
matter,  lie  concealed  in  these  songs.  For  illustration  we 
may  mention  the  account  (Svipdagsmdl}  of  how  Svipdag  wins 
Menglqdh,  and  the  struggle  of  Thor  with  the  Midhgardh-serpent 
(Hymiskvidhd).  Of  a  different  character  are  the  narratives  of 
journeys  undertaken  by  Odhin,  in  various  disguises,  to  take 
counsel  of  wise  women  or  to  engage  in  a  contest  with  a  giant 
(Vegtamskvidha  or  Baldrs Draumar,  and  Vafthrudhnismdl}. 
Entirely  artificial  is  the  spurious  myth  of  Odhin,  who,  wounded 
by  the  spear,  hung  for  nine  nights  on  a  tree  that  swayed  to 
and  fro  in  the  wind.  These  enigmatical  verses  in  Hdvamdl 
have  been  the  occasion  of  much  brain  cudgelling.  The  poem 
(HdrbardhsljbdK)  in  which  Harbardh  (Odhin)  as  ferryman  re- 
fuses to  take  Thor  across  may  possess  some  significance  for 
the  history  of  culture  and  religion.  Each  god  recites  his  deeds, 
and  great  stress  is  laid  on  the  superiority  of  Odhin  over  the 
uncouth,  rustic  Thor.  This  has  been  interpreted  as  expressing 
the  antithesis  between  the  old  and  the  new  era.  That  in 
the  time  of  the  warlike  vikings  and  the  poetic  scalds  Odhin, 
the  god  who  welcomes  warriors  to  Walhalla  and  who  won  the 
poets'  mead,  gradually  supplanted  Thor,  is  a  theory  that  was 
advanced  long  ago  and  which  has  found  ready  acceptance  with 
many  scholars.  In  Norway,  Thor  was  doubtless  of  old  the 
chief  god,  as  he  was  in  Sweden  alongside  of  Freyr,  but  Eddie 
song  as  well  still  assigns  him  a  high  rank,1  and  in  Iceland  he 
was  zealously  worshipped. 

The  greater  part  of  these  poems  were  probably  written  in 
Norway  during  the  tenth  century.     If  so,  they  take  us  back  to 

1  Lokasenna  especially. 


NORWAY  AND   ICELAND  201 

the  closing  days  of  paganism.  They  show  that  the  ancient 
gods  engaged  the  attention  and  held  the  interest  of  men,  but 
they  do  not  give  the  least  evidence  of  a  living  faith.  The  old 
gods  occupy  men's  thoughts,  people  tell  stories  about  them  and 
derive  a  certain  degree  of  pleasure  from  the  recital  of  their 
adventures  and  accounts  of  their  cunning.  They  resemble 
men,  but  are  their  superiors  physically  and  have  magic  power 
at  their  disposal.  It  is  this  latter  more  especially,  Odhin's 
ability  to  assume  various  disguises,  and  his  control  over  all 
manner  of  occult  wisdom  and  magic  charms,  that  is  held 
in  very  high  esteem.  There  is  no  suggestion  of  moral  obli- 
gation on  the  part  of  the  gods,  while  of  a  spiritual  struggle 
against  the  advance  of  Christianity  there  is  no  trace  in  these  / 
poems  any  more  than  of  that  far-famed  melancholy,  which,  „ 
according  to  some,  forms  the  keynote  of  the  entire  Norse 
mythology. 

It  remains  to  consider  three  Eddie  poems  whose  importance 
demands  a  separate  treatment.  The  first  of  these  is  Voluspa. 
The  conception  of  this  poem  is  grand  beyond  doubt.  The 
prophetess  (v^lva)  is  represented  as  telling  of  the  origin  of  the 
world,  of  the  first  joyous  meetings  of  the  gods,  the  first  war 
between  ^Esir  and  Vanir,  the  many  evils  that  fate  has  in  store 
for  the  gods,  the  final  catastrophe,  the  struggle  in  which  the 
gods  fall,  and  finally  of  the  restoration,  the  return  of  the 
gods  reborn  to  a  new  existence.  Into  this  general  scheme,  of 
which  the  above  is  only  the  bare  outline,  a  number  of  myths 
have  been  woven,  all  told  in  more  or  less  detail.  The  text 
of  Voluspa  is  here  and  there  corrupt,1  and  it  also  contains 
obvious  interpolations,  such  as  the  catalogue  of  dwarfs,  for 
example.  So  much  time  and  energy  have  already  been 


1  Vigfusson,  in  CPB.,  has  made  an  attempt  to  reconstruct  the  text,  more  espe- 
cially with  the  aid  of  the  Snorra  Edda.  The  result  is  a  "  prophecy  of  the  three 
sibyls,"  but  much  of  his  work  is  very  arbitrary.  Miillenhoff ,  on  the  other  hand,  has  . 

given  us  a  methodical  reconstruction  of  the  poem  in  DA.  V,  i.  /' 


202         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

expended  upon  the  study  of  this  poem  that  it  certainly  cannot 
be  considered  premature  to  sum  up  the  conclusions  that  are 
of  interest  for  the  history  of  religion. 

The  numerous  views  held  concerning  Voluspa  may  be  reduced 
to  three.  According  to  the  first  of  these,  the  poem  is  a  learned 
product  pieced  together  from  Christian  and  classical  models. 
This  is  the  hypothesis  of  Bugge-Bang  and  E.  H.  Meyer,  which 
has  already  been  discussed  in  another  connection.  Miillen- 
hoff,  on  the  other  hand,  regards  Voluspa  as  the  noblest  product 
of  Teutonic  antiquity.  Triumphantly  he  reflates  the  greater  part 
of  the  arguments  advanced  by  his  opponents,  and  very  properly 
points  out  the  parallels  with  regard  to  cosmogony  and  escha- 
tology  to  be  found  elsewhere  in  the  Teutonic  world.  He  proves 
too  much,  however,  and  does  not  satisfactorily  explain  how  a 
Norse  poet  came  to  develop  these  lofty  conceptions  so  system- 
atically ;  the  historical  background  for  the  lofty  flight  is  wanting. 
What  induced  the  poet  to  sum  up  the  tenets  of  the  ancient 
religion  ?  What  enabled  him  to  do  it  in  the  way  in  which  he 
did  ?  These  questions  Miillenhoff  left  unanswered.  A  third 
theory,  that  of  Finnur  Jonsson,  is  more  satisfactory.  According 
to  him,  Voluspa  transports  us  to  Norway  during  the  period  of 
internal  ferment  under  king  Hakon,  the  Christian  foster  son  of 
./Ethelstan.  The  efforts  of  the  king  to  introduce  Christianity 
set  the  minds  of  the  people  into  commotion.  Thereupon  a 
sincere  follower  of  the  heathen  faith  successfully  carried  out 
the  plan  of  uniting  in  one  grand  poem  the  heathen  conceptions 
of  the  origin  and  the  end  of  the  world.  The  heathen  myths 
furnished  the  material  for  the  poem.  The  poet  is,  however, 
unconsciously  under  the  influence  of  Christianity.  He  com- 
bats the  latter  without  mentioning  it  by  name.  He  has  heard 
about  the  creation,  about  guilt  and  judgment,  as  well  as  about 
resurrection  and  restoration.  The  plan  of  drawing  up  an 
outline,  from  a  religious  point  of  view,  of  the  origin  and 
destruction  of  the  world  would  scarcely  have  occurred  to  him 


NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  203 

without  an  acquaintance  with  Christianity,  and  such  an  impulse 
is  not  noticeable  elsewhere  in  Teutonic  heathendom.  He  is 
therefore  working  with  heathen  material  on  a  Christian  frame- 
work. It  is  impossible  to  attempt  to  analyze  here  what  is  old 
and  what  more  recent,  what  original  and  what  borrowed,  in 
this  material.  In  its  main  features  it  is  undoubtedly  heathen, 
but  the  way  in  which  these  have  been  joined  is  new.  The 
myths  which  in  other  songs  show  so  few  traces  of  a  connection 
with  belief,  the  poet  of  Voluspa  attempts  to  make  the  basis  of 
a  religious  conception  of  the  world.  What  else  than  a  fear  of 
the  encroachments  of  the  Christian  religion  can  have  induced 
him  to  make  this  attempt? 

It  is  not  improbable  that  the  obscure  Lokasenna  owes  its 
origin  to  a  similar  environment.  The  gods  are  assembled  for 
a  banquet  in  the  hall  of  ^Egir,  all  except  Loki  and  Thor. 
Loki  thereupon  enters  the  hall,  and  in  a  vivid  dramatic  style 
he  and  the  other  gods  begin  to  bandy  words,  Loki  vilifying  all 
the  gods  and  goddesses.  Alluding  to  various  myths,  in  part 
unknown  to  us,  he  rehearses  all  the  scandals  connected  with 
their  lives.  Finally  Thor  appears.  He  alone  of  all  the  gods 
proves  to  be  a  match  for  Loki  and  succeeds  in  silencing  him. 
A  melancholy,  a  tragic,  and  a  frivolous  tone,  —  all  have  been  dis- 
covered in  this  song.  Lucian,  Voltaire,  Aristophanes  have  been 
called  in  for  comparison.  It  has  even  been  supposed  that  the 
poet  was  a  Christian,  who  was  fighting  the  ^Esir  with  ridicule,  — 
a  theory  which  loses  sight  of  the  fact  that  Thor  appears  at  the 
close  in  the  principal  role  and  vanquishes  the  slanderer.  The 
poet  was  most  likely  a  heathen  in  belief,  who  indignantly 
repudiates  the  impiety  and  blasphemy  personified  in  Loki. 
Thor  is  mightier  than  falsehood  and  abuse. 

Of  the  Eddie  poems,  Hdvamdl  still  remains  to  be  considered. 
This  poem  does  not  form  a  unit,  six  heterogeneous  pieces, 
fragments  of  myths  and  magic  charms  (Ljodhatal),  having 
been  combined  under  one  title.  The  most  important  parts  are 


204         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

the  first  and  the  fourth,  in  which  moral  precepts,  the  fruit  of 
experience,  inculcating  wisdom  and  admonishing  caution,  are 
laid  down.  These  rather  detailed  poems  furnish  important 
data  for  a  knowledge  of  the  conditions  of  the  times.  As 
regards  religion,  they  yield  only  a  negative  result,  inasmuch  as 
they  show  to  how  small  an  extent  morality  and  life  in  general 
were  permeated  with  religious  ideas  and  motives.  In  one  of 
these  fragments 1  we  even  read  that  it  is  better  not  to  pray  at 
all  than  to  make  sacrifices  to  excess. 

The  sagas  present  a  vivid  picture  of  the  life  in  Iceland 
during  the  tenth  and  the  beginning  of  the  eleventh  centu- 
ries. Although  some  two  centuries  intervene  between  the 
actual  events  and  the  time  when  they  were  recorded,  yet  in  the 
narrow  circles  of  the  family,  oral  tradition  not  only  preserved 
the  names  that  made  up  the  genealogical  tree,  but  caused  the 
deeds  and  adventures  as  well  to  live  on  in  the  memory.  It 
is  necessary  to  enter  deeply  into  the  study  of  the  sagas  if  we 
would  attain  a  full  knowledge  of  this  period  ;  the  mere  recital 
of  individual  episodes,  torn  from  their  setting,  can  never  repro- 
duce the  impression  of  the  life  of  the  time.  Not  that  such 
a  great  amount  of  care  has  been  bestowed,  in  literary  execu- 
tion, upon  the  delineation  of  the  characters ;  they  live  because 
they  have  been  taken  from  life.  For  this  reason  they  stand 
out  clearly  before  our  mind's  eye:  Kjartag  and  Gudrun  in 
the  Laxdcela;  the  godhi  Snorri  in  the  Eyrbyggja;  the  chief 
characters  in  the  Njdla,  Njal  and  Gunnar,  who  remain  faith- 
ful friends,  notwithstanding  the  evil  promptings  and  open 
hostility  of  Hallgerd,  Gunnar's  wife ;  the  noble  Bergthora,  who 
will  not  leave  the  husband  to  whom  she  has  plighted  her  troth, 
but  perishes  with  him  at  the  Njdlsbrenna  (ion)  ;  Flosi,  who 
has  to  expiate  his  guilt  in  connection  with  the  latter  through 
long  years  of  exile  and  wanderings.  These  characters  are 
perspicuous  but  also  somewhat  massive,  without  subtleness  of 

1  Strophe  145  in  the  edition  of  Symons. 


NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  205 

any  kind.  The  feeling  of  honor  is  strongly  developed;  in 
feuds  or  vengeance  exacted  for  homicide,  it  constitutes  an 
even  stronger  motive  than  hatred  or  thirst  for  blood.  The 
women,  too,  are  strong  characters.  They  are  the  equals  of 
men,  inciting  them  to  vengeance  or  faithfully  sharing  their 
fate.  Alongside  of  the  feeling  of  personal  honor,  the  feeling 
of  respect  for  law  exerts  great  influence;  the  decrees  of  the 
Althing  are  observed.  This  regard  for  law  prevents  the  sub- 
version of  the  state  through  the  numberless  private  feuds.  It 
is  worthy  of  note  that  the  law  bears  so  slight  a  religious 
character.  The  change  of  faith  brought  about  no  important 
alterations  in  the  political  and  juridical  institutions. 

A  number  of  characteristic  traits  present  themselves  that  are 
always  met  with  wherever  religious  life  possesses  little  vigor. 
The  first  of  these  is  the  luxuriant  growth  of  various  forms  of 
superstition.  The  sagas  are  replete  with  accounts  of  ghosts 
of  the  dead  haunting  the  earth,  of  blood-rain,  of  omens  and 
of  dreams,  although  the  greater  number  of  these  dreams  are  to 
be  regarded  as  spurious,  i.e.  as  merely  a  form  of  literary  fiction.1 
A  fatalistic  mood  also  frequently  makes  itself  vaguely  felt. 
The  men,  at  other  times  nobly  holding  their  own  in  strength 
and  cunning,  bow  their  heads  when  fate  draws  nigh.  At  such 
a  moment  they  felt  themselves  feigr  (Scottish  fey},  consecrated 
to  death,  and  they  manfully  submitted  to  the  inevitable. 

The  Icelanders  began  at  an  early  period  to  pay  attention 
to  the  history  of  the  settlement  of  their  own  country  and  to 
the  history  of  Norway.  The  first  of  these  historians  was  Ari 
(1067-1148),  to  whose  work  Snorri  Sturluson  (1178-1241) 
refers  as  forming,  alongside  of  the  scaldic  poems,  the  chief 
source  of  his  own  history.  Snorri  himself  is  one  of  the  great 
figures  of  Icelandic  history.  He  fell  heir  to  the  social  position, 
the  political  talents,  and  literary  traditions  of  one  of  the  most 

l  See  W.  Henzen,  Ueber  die  Tr'dume  in  der  altnordischen  Sagalitteratur 
(1890). 


206        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

distinguished  Icelandic  families.  He  was  a  statesman,  and  sev- 
eral times  ''law-speaker,"  was  involved  in  the  internal  dissen- 
sions of  Norway,  and  was  assassinated  at  the  secret  command 
of  the  Norwegian  king,  whom  he  had  antagonized.  We  are 
here,  however,  more  directly  interested  in  his  literary  activity, 
which  was  many-sided  and  extensive.  He  is  the  author  of 
Heimskringla,  a  collection  of  sixteen  sagas,  giving  a  connected 
account  of  the  history  of  Norway,  and  of  the  Snorra  Edda,  a 
compendium  of  the  mythological  and  poetical  treasures  of 
Norse  antiquity.  In  the  case  of  both  these  works,  Snorri's 
authorship  has  been  denied,  but  on  insufficient  grounds.  Nor 
is  it  necessary  to  regard  these  two  collections  as  essentially 
heterogeneous.  Poetry  and  history  were  of  old  closely  bound 
together,  the  scalds  participating  in  historical  events,  and  their 
songs  being  intended  to  keep  fresh  the  memory  of  great  deeds. 

The  Heimskringla  sketches  history  through  the  medium  of 
biographies.  The  characters  are  clearly  outlined,  especially 
the  persons  of  Harald  Fairhair  and  of  the  two  Olafs.  Ancient 
scaldic  verses  are  interspersed.  For  the  study  of  history  it 
constitutes  a  source  of  the  very  first  rank,  the  author  showing 
a  clear  insight  into  the  connection  of  events.  The  first  saga, 
the  Ynglinga  Saga,  in  part  based  on  Thjodholf's  Yngti/igata/, 
is  especially  noteworthy.  Like  Saxo,  Snorri  treats  the  ancient 
myths  in  euhemeristic  fashion.  He  tells  of  the  arrival  of 
Odhin  from  Asia,  of  his  war  with  the  Vanir,  his  settlement  in 
Sweden,  his  prowess  in  battle,  his  skill  in  magic  art,  and  finally 
of  his  death  in  Sweden  "  through  sickness."  Similarly, 
NJQrdhr,  Freyr,  and  Freyja  led  human  lives  before  being  wor- 
shipped as  gods.  In  Sweden  people  still  look  to  Freyr  for 
fertility  of  the  soil  and  peace. 

Snorri  as  a  mythographer  excites  our  interest  even  more  than 
as  an  historian.  With  the  zeal  of  the  scholar  and  collector,  who 
is  at  the  same  time  a  descendant  of  the  ancient  scalds,  he  has 
worked  over  the  poetic  store  of  Norse  literature.  The  most 


NORWAY  AND  ICELAND  207 

important  part  of  this  Prose  Edda  is  the  treatise  Gylfaginning 
(delusion  or  beguilement  of  king  Gylfi),  to  which  are  joined 
the  narratives  of  Bragi  (Bragarcedhur).  Then  follows  Skdld- 
skaparmdl  (art  of  poetry),  an  interpretation  of  poetic  metaphors 
(kenningar),  and  expressions  (heiti),  by  means  of  myths  and 
heroic  sagas,  and  finally  we  have  a  poem  of  about  a  hundred 
strophes  singing  the  praise  of  king  Hakon  and  jarl  ( Skuli, 
in  which  all  the  strophic  forms  of  Norse  metrics  are  employed 
(Hdttatal*).  In  the  treatment  of  individual  myths  the  question 
continually  presents  itself  whether  they  are  found  in  the  Snorra 
Edda,  and  if  so,  in  what  form.  We  are  at  present  concerned 
only  with  the  point  of  view  of  the  author,  and  with  the  tendency 
of  his  work. 

In  Gylfaginning  king  Gylfi  receives  instruction  in  mythol- 
ogy from  the  high  one,  the  equally  high  one,  and  from  the 
third  (Har,  Jafnhar,  and  Thridhi).  The  treatise  also  bears 
the  name  Frd  Asum  ok  Ymi.  The  subject-matter  is  derived 
in  large  part  from  the  best  known  Eddie  poems,  from  six  or 
seven  of  which  verses  are  cited,  approximately  in  the  form  in 
which  they  have  come  down  to  us  in  the  Edda.  Material  has 
been  drawn  from  other  sources  as  well.  No  strict  sequence  is 
observed  in  the  order  of  treatment.  The  cosmogony  is  given 
with  much  detail,  Ginnungagap  (the  yawning  chasm)  and  Ymir, 
the  first  giant,  playing  prominent  parts.  It  is,  however,  not 
possible  to  summarize  in  a  coherent  manner  the  events  that 
are  related,  inasmuch  as  various  conceptions  cross  one  another. 
Then  follows  some  nomenclature,  the  dwellings  of  the  gods, 
the  gods  themselves,  and  a  description  of  the  tree  Yggdrasil 
(Askr  Yggdrasils).  The  two  myths  that  are  told  at  length 
are  those  of  Loki  and  Thor.  These  are  treated  essentially 
as  Mdrchen,  especially  the  amusing  account  of  the  journey 
of  Thor  to  Utgardhaloki.  Here,  too,  the  close  is  a  descrip- 
tion of  the  last  battle  of  the  gods  and  of  the  end  of  the 
world. 


208         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

What  is  the  purpose  and  meaning  of  Gylfaginning  ?  The 
treatise  itself,  as  well  as  its  connection  with  other  parts  of  the 
Snorra  Edda,  furnishes  a  satisfactory  answer.  It  is  a  treatise  on 
poetics,  representing  as  it  were  an  inventory  of  the  ancient 
poetry,  both  as  to  form  and  content,  and  intended  to  serve  as 
a  manual  for  the  still  remaining  scalds  who  were  to  continue 
the  old  traditions.  Bugge  has  called  Iceland  the  Ionia  of  the 
North  and  has  compared  Snorri  with  Herodotus.  While  I 
would  not  in  any  way  detract  from  the  merits  of  the  author  of 
JFfeimskringla,  the  compiler  of  the  Snorra  Edda  reminds  one 
rather  of  the  learned  men  of  the  Alexandrian  school.  We 
cannot,  therefore,  properly  speaking,  inquire  into  the  tendency 
of  this  work.  A  mythographer  may,  of  course,  regard  myths 
from  a  definite  point  of  view ;  but  Snorri  is  intent  only  on  col- 
lecting the  poetic  figures  and  expressions.  Nothing  beyond 
this  is  to  be  found  in  either  Gylfaginning  or  Bragarcedhur, 
which  latter  contains  some  additional  myths,  those  of  Idhunn 
and  Thjazi,  and  of  the  acquisition  of  the  poets'  mead. 

It  is  a  matter  of  considerable  importance  to  determine  in  how 
far  we  must  assume  Christian  elements  in  Snorri.  It  is  cer- 
tainly natural  to  suppose  that  an  author  of  the  thirteenth  cen- 
tury, more  than  two  hundred  years  after  the  conversion,  does 
not  write  about  creation  and  eschatology  without  Christian 
ideas  coming  to  the  surface.  Behind  the  thinly  veiled  names 
of  the  three  who  make  answer  to  king  Gylfi,  we  may  readily 
detect  the  trinity.  Snorri  also  tells  us  of  a  supreme  god,  the 
All-Father,  who  existed  before  all  else  and  whose  life  is  eter- 
nal. Aside  from  this,  I  do  not  believe  that  Christian  teachings 
constitute  an  important  part  of  the  conceptions  of  Gylfaginning. 
If  they  do,  the  dogmas  have  been  concealed  with  remarkable 
skill,  and  it  is  difficult  to  understand  with  what  end  in  view 
this  should  have  been  done.1 

1  Of  the  critical  essays  that  have  appeared  on  Gylfaginning,  those  of  Mogk,  in 
PBB.  VI  and  VJI,  deserve  special  mention. 


NORWAY  AND   ICELAND  209 

There  is  another  problem,  fully  as  important,  connected  with 
Gylfaginning :  How  are  we  to  distinguish,  in  the  material  as 
handed  down,  between  the  genuine  and  the  artificial  poetic 
myths  ?  While  the  myths  as  a  whole  are  told  after  the  fashion 
of  stories,  the  forms  and  figures  of  the  eschatology,  and  par- 
ticularly of  the  cosmogony,  doubtless  represent  in  part  genuine 
material,  i.e.  such  as  formed  a  part  of  popular  belief,  It  is 
equally  certain,  however,  that  as  a  system  it  did  not  constitute 
part  of  the  heathen  religion.  The  same  observation  applies  to  / 
the  world-tree,  the  origin  of  which  is  to  be  traced  to  the  imagi- 
nations of  the  scalds,  and  which  does  not,  therefore,  belong  to 
popular  belief.  On  the  other  hand,  it  would  be  rash,  in  the 
case  of  such  conceptions  as  the  ice-world,  fire-world,  primeval 
chasm,  and  numerous  others,  to  draw  the  sweeping  conclusion 
that  they  too  are  learned  artificial  products,  for  parallels  to  ii 
these  conceptions  abound  in  folklore. 

Questions  such  as  these  did  not,  however,  exist  for  Snorri 
and  his  contemporaries.     He   was  concerned  with  collecting 
the  mythological-poetical  material.     That  in  a  Christian   age 
he  could  do  this  without  inward  struggle  or  outside  interfer- 
ence shows  how  little  importance  people  attached  to  such  a 
work  from  the  point  of  view  of  religion.     It  does  not  represent 
something  that  at  a  certain  period  was  actually  an  object  of 
belief.     It  can  therefore  serve  only  as  a  source  for  disconnected 
episodes  of  both  genuine  and  artificial  poetic  myths.     The  pre- 
vailing laws  prove  that  in  the  North,  as  in  Germany,  heathen  | 
customs  continued  in  vogue.     Superstition  was  rife  in  various  ' 
forms.      According  to    Norwegian  as  well   as  Icelandic  law,   ' 
severe  punishment  was  meted  out  to  those  guilty  of  magic 
practices  in  the  healing  or  safeguarding  of  cattle,  for  main-    i 
taining  the  Berserkrgangr  (Berserker-rage),  sacrificing  to  the    ' 
heathen  gods  on  the  ancient  sacred  places,  faring  to  the  Finns,    > 
and  the  use  of  various  magic  charms  in  home  and  field. 


CHAPTER   XI 
FOLKLORE 

"  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  accu- 
rately 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."  1 

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  Mdrchen,  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  Mdrchen  undue  promi- 
nence. Myths  were  traced  in  them  ;  the  Mdrchen  was  "the  poor 
relation  "  of  myth  and  heroic  saga,  the  "  patois  "  of  mythology. 

l  K.  Weinhold,  Was  soil  die  Volkskunde  leisten,  ZfVuS.  (1890),  pp.  1-5. 

210 


FOLKLORE  211 

The  Sleeping  Beauty  in  the  forest  was  Brunhild;  the  tale  of 
the  faithful  John,  the  myth  of  Freyr  and  Gerdhr;  an  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,  hav- 
ing reached  Europe  through  literary  channels,  and  were  pre- 
served 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  meta- 
morphosis, 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,"  1  —  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  paral- 
lels "  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 

1  See  his  Primitive  Culture,  Chapters  11-17. 


212         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  manners,  and 
the  customs  of  a  people  in  the  different  periods  of  its  histor- 
ical existence.  Folklore  is  an  important  study  only  in  connec- 
tion 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  cus- 
toms, the  church  strenuously  sought  to  eradicate  as  surviv- 
als 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 


FOLKLORE  213 

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  ele- 
ments 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  con- 
tinue 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  cul- 
ture. 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  accord- 
ing to  districts,  show  how  all  manner  of  stories  are  associated 
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  refer- 
ences to  elemental  spirits  or  souls  haunting  the  earth  are  not 
of  a  general  character,  but  that  definite  occurrences  are  related. 
Hence  these  tales  constitute  an  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  in- 
veigh continually  against  the  worship  of  springs.  We  have 


214 

repeatedly  pointed  out  how  much  value  was  attached  to  keep- 
ing 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 
Miillenhoff  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.1  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,  respec- 
tively. The  bdndi  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. 

l  There  exists  an  extensive  literature  on  this  subject,  extending  from  the  calendar 
in  Finn  Magnusen's  Lexicon,  an  ill-digested  compilation  with  highly  arbitrary  inter- 
pretations, to  the  admirable  little  volume  of  K.  Weinhold,  Die  deutschen  Monatsna- 
men  (1869). 


FOLKLORE  215 

The  festival  of  Nerthus  and  the  ship  of  Isis  show  that,  as 
early  as  the  days  of  Tacitus,  the  change  of  seasons  was  cele- 
brated among  the  German  tribes  with  processions.  We  are 
therefore  justified  in  regarding  the  numerous  springtime  pro- 
cessions in  which  a  ship  was  drawn  about  on  a  wagon, 
encountered  especially  in  the  region  of  the  Lower  Rhine,1  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  Pfingstlummel, 
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  mis- 
fortune, the  so-called  Notfeuer  (need-fire),2  and  the  many 
observances  connected  with  the  harvest  and  the  breeding  of 
cattle.3  Doubtless  these  are  survivals  of  heathen  customs. 
In  the  case  of  the  Scandinavian  North,  it  is  expressly  stated 
that  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 

1  See  the  description  in  Grimm,  DM.4,  pp.  214  ff. 

2  Nodfyr  is  already  mentioned  in  the  Indiculus  super stitiomim. 

3  Important  books  on  this  subject  are :  U.  Jahn,  Die  deutschen  Opfergebrauche 
bei  Ackerbau  und  Viehzucht  (1884),  and  H.  Pfannenschmid,  Germanische  Ernte- 
feste  im  heidnischen  und  christlichen  Cultus  (1878). 


216         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

have  become  an  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 
the  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  particu- 
lar individuals  are  designated  as  forming  a  part  of  it. 

Here,  again,  the  student  of  folklore  should  not  seek  exclu- 
sively 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 
times  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  aerial  phenomena,  and  with  many 
other  things.  We  do  not,  of  course,  claim  that  the  enormous 


FOLKLORE  217 

mass  of  material  gathered  on  this  subject  in  the  way  of  popu- 
lar tales  and  stories,  of  observances  and  superstitions,  admits 
of  strictly  historical  arrangement.  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  mem- 
bers 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  role.  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.1 

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 

1  Irische  Elfenm'drchen  von  den  Briidern  Grimm  (1826;  with  a  comprehensive 
Introduction). 


218         THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  indi- 
cations of  a  conception  of  the  giants  as  an  older  race  of  gods, 
a  power  inimical  to  the  ^Esir.  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  demarca- 
tion 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  role  in  many  a  Mdrchen,  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 


FOLKLORE  219 

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  charac- 
teristically 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  eth- 
nographic data,  to  be  grouped  under  the  head  of  demoniac 
possession  or  metamorphosis,1  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  considera- 
tion 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  inter- 
rupted 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. 
And  yet  we  may,  in  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  time  of  the  migrations,  or  among  the  Scandi- 
navian nations,  of  a  system  of  doctrines  evolved  or  handed 
down  by  priests  and  which  became  a  power  among  the  people. 
In  the  attempts  made  by  the  Scandinavians  to  systematize 

1  Berserkers  are  men  who  have  assumed  the  form  of  bears. 


220         THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

their  myths,  motives  of  a  religious  character  may  be  detected 
perhaps  only  in  the  case  of  Voluspa  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  organized  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. 


CHAPTER  XII 
THE  PANTHEON 

WODAN-ODHIN 

THE  name  Wodan  (High  German  Wuotan,  Anglo-Saxon 
Woden,  Norse  Odhinri)  is  derived  from  the  Indo-European  root 
wd  (to  blow)  and  therefore  designates  the  wind  god.  While 
there  is  an  intimate  connection  in  the  language  and  thought  of 
various  peoples  between  the  notions  wind  and  spirit,  we  must 
yet  not  think  of  Wodan  as  a  spiritual  deity;  such  a  conception 
was  entirely  foreign  to  Teutonic  paganism.  Other  etymologies 
that  have  been  proposed,  such  as  connect  the  name  with  the 
Old  English  wood  and  German  wiiten?  or  with  the  Old  Norse 
bdhr  (spirit)  or  with  the  Latin  vates?  are  untenable. 

The  rendering  of  dies  Mercurii  by  Wddenesdceg,  which  we 
encounter  from  the  third  century  onward,  makes  it  certain 
that  the  Mercurius  found  in  Tacitus  and  other  Latin  authors 
is  to  be  identified  with  Wodan.  The  points  of  resemblance 
between  the  Teutonic  and  the  Roman  god  are  less  obvious. 
They  must  be  sought  in  either  the  attributes  of  the  god  or  in 
special  characteristics  of  his  cult.  It  is  furthermore  to  be 
remembered  that  the  Romans  had  already  assigned  to  the 
chief  god  of  the  Gauls  the  name  Mercurius.  It  is  hardly 
likely  that  the  Romans  of  the  period  of  the  Empire  were  influ- 
enced by  the  consideration  that  both  Wodan  and  Hermes- 
Mercurius  were  originally  wind  deities.  A  closer  connection 
is  established  by  the  similarity  in  the  nature  of  the  two  as 

1  "  Wodan,  id  est  furor"  (Adam  of  Bremen). 

2  Vigfusson,  CPB.  I,  CIV.     So  also  Kauffmann. 

221 


222         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

j\  gods  of  the  dead,  and  by  the  symbols  of  the  hat  and  staff, 
which  are  common  to  both.  'Yet  Tacitus  shows  scarcely  a 
trace  of  these  connections.  He  associates  the  Teutonic  Mer- 
curius  more  especially  with  war.  The  identification  of  Wodan 
with  Mercurius  accordingly  remains  somewhat  singular,  and 
we  can  readily  understand  why,  at  a  later  age,  Saxo  should 
have  taken  exception  to  it,  and  in  one  instance  even  have 
used  Mars  to  designate  Odhin. 

The  express  testimony  of  Tacitus,  Paulus  Diaconus,  and 
others,  as  well  as  Odhin's  place  at  the  head  of  the  Norse 
pantheon,  were  formerly  regarded  as  sufficient  to  establish 
the  position  of  Wodan  as  the  chief  god  of  all  Teutons.  This 
opinion  has  now  gradually  been  abandoned  by  the  majority 
of  scholars.  Mullenhoff,  Weinhold,  Mogk,  and  many  others 
/  hold  that  Wodan  was  originally  a  god  of  the  Istvaeones,  and 
that  his  worship  was  disseminated  by  the  Rhine- Franconians, 
supplanting  that  of  the  old  sky  god  Tiu. 

We  must  ever  bear  in  mind  that  among  the  ancient  Teutons, 
—  the  German  tribes  of  Tacitus  and  the  peoples  of  the  period 
of  migrations,  —  there  existed  no  pantheon  in  the  sense  of 
the  later  Norse  mythology.  Tacitus  merely  remarks  :  "  Of  the 
gods  they  pay  highest  honors  to  Mercury."  Paulus  Diaconus 
observes  that  Mercury  was  worshipped  by  all  Teutons,  though 
this  statement  is  open  to  inquiry. 

The  existence  of  the  cult  of  Wodan  in  Upper  Germany, 
among  the  Alemanni,  Bavarians,  and  Suabians  seems  doubt- 
ful. His  name  is  but  rarely  met  with  there,  and  even  the  day 
of  the  week,  which  elsewhere  bears  the  name  of  Wodan,  is 
there  called  Mittwoch.  This  does  not,  to  be  sure,  prove  abso- 
lutely that  the  god  was  not  worshipped.  Opposed  to  this  latter 
assumption  is  the  circumstance  that  the  name  Wodan  is  found 
in  the  runic  inscription  of  the  so-called  Nordendorf  Brooch, 
and  in  the  Vita  Columbani  of  the  seventh  century.  The 
attempts  that  have  been  made  to  set  aside  these  facts  are 


THE  PANTHEON  223 

unwarranted.  Besides,  here  as  elsewhere,  an  argumentum  e 
silentio  is  not  conclusive.  We  know  so  little  concerning  the 
cult  and  gods  of  the  Alemanni  and  Bavarians,1  that  the  entire 
absence  or  rare  occurrence  of  the  name  of  a  god  in  the  sources 
at  our  command  by  no  means  proves  that  the  god  in  question 
was  unknown  to  these  tribes. 

In  Middle  Germany,  among  the  Chatti  and  the  (Suabian) 
Hermunduri,  Mercury  (Wodan)  was  found  alongside  of  Mars 
(Tiu),  according  to  Tacitus,  Annals,  XIII,  $j.2  We  have 
already  commented  upon  the  occurrence  of  Wodan  in  the 
second  Merseburg  magic  formula.3  In  the  Annals  of  Fulda, 
of  the  ninth  century,  Uotan  as  proper  name  is  frequently 
found.4  Through  the  entire  extent  of  Northern  Germany 
Wodan  survives  in  the  name  of  the  fourth  week-day,  and 
that  his  cult  was  not  spread  solely  through  Frankish  influ- 
ence would  seem  to  follow  from  the  occurrence  of  his  name 
among  the  Frisians  and  Saxons.  In  the  formula  of  abjura- 
tion 5  he  is  one  of  the  three  chief  gods.  It  is,  however,  at 
times  difficult  to  determine  where  Wodan  is  original  and 
where  he  has  been  introduced  at  a  later  period,  as  we  have 
already  seen  in  the  case  of  the  tribal  saga  of  the  Lombards.6 
Among  the  Anglo-Saxon  tribes  who  crossed  to  England,  the" 
cult  of  Wodan  must  have  been  very  widespread,  as  is  evi- 
denced by  the  genealogical  tables  and  by  the  numerous  proper, 
names.7  Concerning  the  gods  of  the  ancient  Danes,  we  are 
not  in  a  position  to  form  a  definite  opinion,  as  the  data  at 
hand  are  insufficient.  What  Sa'xo  relates  of  Othinus  repre- 
sents, in  the  main,  myths  of  later  date,  euhemeristically  con- 
ceived, which  are,  moreover,  not  wholly  Danish  in  origin. 

1  See  above,  pp.  120-121.  2  See  above,  p.  103. 

8  Page  128,  above.  5  See  above,  p.  125. 

4  K.  Miillenhoff,  Zur -detttschen  Afythologie,  ZfdA.  XII,  401.  Seventeen  instances 
are  cited.  6  See  above,  p.  80. 

7  See  J.  M.  Kemble,  The  Saxons  in  England,  I,  pp.  335-346,  whose  data  are, 
however,  not  altogether  reliable. 


224         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

That  Wodan-Odhin  was  not  unknown  among  the  Scandina- 
vian group  of  peoples  may  be  inferred  from  the  designation 
"  Geatas  "  as  the  name  of  a  people,  derived,  like  "  Gaut  "  and 
probably  also  "Gapt,"  the  progenitor  of  the  East-Gothic  Amali, 
from  a  cognomen  of  Odhin.  And  yet  the  Odhin  of  Norse  liter- 
ature was  to  a  large  extent  introduced  from  outside  and  devel- 
oped artificially  at  the  hands  of  the  scaldic  poets.  Henry 
Petersen  l  was  the  first  to  show  conclusively  that  in  Norway 
the  worship  of  Thor  was  the  national  and  general  one.  Thus, 
in  Harbardhsljbdh,  Thor  is  represented  as  the  god  of  the  peas- 
ants, Odhin  as  the  god  of  the  nobles  and  poets.  Odhin  has 
accordingly  been  regarded  as  the  Saxagodh  (the  Saxon-god), 
imported  from  Germany,  the  Franks,  as  in  the  case  of  the 
heroic  saga,  being  instrumental  in  spreading  his  cult.  Grant- 
ing that  this  view  is  correct,  it  does  not  follow  that  the  Norse 
conceptions  and  legends  connected  with  Odhin  are  the  result 
of  arbitrary  invention.  They  require  critical  scrutiny,  but 
genuinely  mythical  features  are  not  absent,  although,  as  has 
already  been  pointed  out,2  it  is  always  extremely  difficult  to 
distinguish  in  the  study  of  mythology  the  essential  and  funda- 
mental from  the  external  and  artificial  elements. 

When  we  inquire  into  the  nature  of  Wodan-Odhin,  we  find 
that  it  is  not  feasible  to  trace  to  a  single  origin  his  numerous 
and  greatly  diversified  functions  and  attributes.  He  is  the 
god  of  the  wind,  of  agriculture,  of  war,  of  poetry,  the  pro- 
genitor of  many  families,  etc.  Between  some  of  these  attri- 
butes it  is  indeed  possible  to  point  out  a  connection.  Thus 
the  wind  god  is  also  elsewhere  the  leader  of  souls  (psychopom- 
pos)  ;  tillage  of  the  soil  is  in  part  dependent  upon  the  wind ; 
war  may  be  compared  with  the  tempest;  some  scholars  have 
even  suggested  the  characteristic  variableness  and  changeable- 
ness  of  the  wind  as  a  factor.  For  all  that,  the  exact  transitions 
and  combinations  in  thought  and  conception  remain  more  or 

l  See  above,  p.  37.  2  Page  3. 


THE  PANTHEON  225 

less  obscure,   and  we  shall  therefore   confine  ourselves  to   a 
survey  of  the  chief  functions  and  the  myths  of  the  god. 

Wodan,  the  wind  god,  is  encountered  in  the  popular  belief 
of  all  parts  of  Germany  as  the  leader  of  the  Furious  Host  and 
the  Wild  Hunt.1  Historically  we  are  unable  to  trace  this  con- 
ception to  a  date  earlier  than  the  twelfth  century,  unles,s  we 
identify  the  feralis  exercitus  of  the  savage  Harii 2  with  the  host 
of  Wodan.8  While  the  evidence  is  of  a  comparatively  recent 
date,  the  conception  itself  is  doubtless  old  and  original,  for,  as 
Usener 4  remarks,  "  the  conception  of  a  heavenly  host  which 
rushes  through  the  sky  at  night  is  probably  not  foreign  to  any 
European  nation."  We  recognize  this  same  host  in  the  Ama- 
zons, the  Thyades,  etc.,  at  times  represented  as  sweeping  along 
through  the  air  above,  and  then  again  associated  with  one  or 
another  deity,  such  as  Artemis  and  Dionysos.  Among  Teu- 
tonic nations  Wodan  as  hell-hunter  (helljdger)  commands  Wuo- 
tes  her  (Wuote's  host).  The  journey  frequently  begins  and 
ends  in  a  mountain,  the  so-called  Wodan's  mountains,  or  "  hat- 
mountains"  (Hutberge),  that  foretell  the  weather,  and  are  the 
abode  of  the  god  himself,  or  of  elves  and  souls.  The  Wild 
Hunt  is  at  times  in  pursuit  of  an  animal,  a  boar,  cow,  deer, 
or  again  of  a  woman,  the  Windsbraut.  When  a'  storm  is 
raging,  the  host  draws  near.  The  beginning  of  the  winter, 
the  ill-famed  Twelve  Nights,  is  more  especially  its  chosen  time. 
When  the  train  approaches,  people  hide ;  in  Suabia  an  admon- 
isher  (Ermahner)  leads  the  way,  who  warns  men  to  stand  aside 
that  no  harm  may  befall  them.  While  at  times  it  presages 
fertility,  it  is  usually  a  sign  of  calamity  or  war.  The  names 
used  to  designate  the  Furious  Host,  and  particularly  its  com- 
mander, are  many.  While  it  is  customary  to  recognize  Wodan 


1  See  above,  pp.  216-217. 

2  Tacitus,  Germania,  Chapter  43. 

8  So  Grimm,  DM.*,  p.  793;  E.  H.  Meyer,  GM.,  §  319. 
4  Gotternamen,  p.  42. 


226         THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

in  this  great  hellj tiger,  it  is  yet  not  correct  to  regard  all  these 
names  simply  as  epithets  or  personifications  of  this  divinity. 
Hackelberend,  Herodes,  Dietrich  of  Bern,  Herzog  Abel, 
Riibezahl,  Ruprecht,  the  storm  demon  Wode,  and  others  have 
all  a  separate,  independent  existence,  although  they  are  at 
times  merged  more  or  less  completely  with  Wodan. 

Popular  tradition  pictures  Wodan  as  riding  on  a  dapple-gray 
horse,  with  a  broad-brimmed  hat  and  a  wide  cloak.  The 
Scandinavian  Odhin,  similarly,  rides  on  his  steed  Sleipnir  or 
Yggdrasil,  wears  a  soft  hat,  a  long  gray  beard,  and  is  one-eyed. 
He  is  also  frequently  represented  as  a  wanderer.  Numerous 
surnames  bear  reference  to  this  :  viator" indefessus  (indefatigable 
wayfarer)  in  Saxo,  vidhfyrull  (the  far-traveller)  in  Snorri,  gang- 
rddhr  and  gangleri  (wanderer),  vegtamr  (wanderer),  svipall  (the 
changeable  one),  vdfudhr  (the  hovering  one),  bmi  (the  noisy 
one),  hrbptr  (crier),  and  many  others.  Even  later  Norse 
literature  testifies  to  the  fact  that  Odhin  rules  wind  and 
weather  and  shows  his  wrath  in  the  tempest.  The  scalds  have 
furnished  him  with  a  complete  poetic  outfit,  of  which  it  seems 
doubtful  whether  it  demands  or  even  admits  a  mythical  inter- 
pretation. If  so,  his  wolves  Geri  and  Freki  would  be  the 
hounds  of  the  Wild  Huntsman,  his  ravens  Huginnand  Muninn 
(thought  and  memory)  the  air  in  motion,  his  spear  Gungnir 
lightning.  But,  as  already  stated,  this  interpretation  is  very 
uncertain. 

If  we  may  place  reliance  on  German  proverbs  that  make  the 
fruitfulness  of  field  and  orchard  dependent  not  only  on  sun 
and  rain,  but  also  on  the  wind,  then  Wodan's  character  as  god 
of  agriculture  and  of  the  harvest  is  intimately  connected  with 
his  nature  as  a  wind  god.1  In  Mecklenburg,  as  in  Sweden,  the 
last  ears  of  grain  are  left  standing  for  Wodan's  horse.  In 
Bavaria  too  the  horse  and  hounds  of  the  god  were  fed,  and  as 
late  as  the  previous  century  the  harvest  was  called  Waudlsmahe 

A.  Kuhn,  ZfdA.  V,  472-494. 


THE  PANTHEON  227 

(Waudl's  mowing).  Opinions  differ  in  how  far  observances  in 
connection  with  the  last  sheaf,  the  Wodel-beer,  and  other  cus- 
toms at  harvest  time  were  originally  connected  with  the  worship 
of  Wodan.  It  should  be  noted,  however,  that  Wednesday,  an  , 
unlucky  day,  as  a  rule,  for  other  purposes,  is  regarded  as  lucky 
for  sowing  and  planting. 

Some  scholars  hold  that  Wodan's  character  as  god  of  the 
dead  is  even  more  original  than  that  as  god  of  the  wind.  The 
souls  of  the  dead  are  represented  as  sweeping  along  with  him 
through  the  air,  or  as  dwelling  in  the  mountain.  It  seems  bold 
to  regard  both  Wodan  and  the  ^Esir  as  chthonic  deities, 
opposed  to  the  Vanir  as  gods  of  light,  —  an  opinion  to  which 
we  shall  recur  in  our  discussion  of  the  Vanir,  —  and  still  bolder 
to  deduce  from  a  single  inscription,  "  Mercuri  Channini,"  found 
in  the  valley  of  the  Ahr,  a  god  Henno,  who  is  identified  with 
the  Mercurius-Wodan  of  Tacitus,  and  who  is  also  to  be  recog- 
nized in  the  forest  of  Baduhenna,  in  the  medieval  exclamation 
id,  henne  (by  Henno,  i.e.  Wodan),  in  the  Henneberg  (mountain 
of  the  dead),  in  the  Hiinen  (i.e.  the  dead),  and  in  Freund  Hein 
(i.e.  death).1  It  is  in  any  case  certain  that  both  German  pop- 
ular tradition  and  Norse  literature  make  Wodan-Odhin  the 
god  of  the  dead  in  general,  and  of  fallen  heroes  in  particu- 
lar (Valfadhir,  Valgautr)  ;  once  he  is  also  represented  as  the 
ferryman  of  the  dead. 

A  curious  combination,  perhaps  solely  the  handiwork  of  the 
scaldic  poets,  found  at  all  events  in  a  number  of  kenningar, 
makes  Odhin  the  god  of  those  hung  (hangatyr),  lord  of  the 
gallows  (galga  valdr),  which  latter  is  also  called  his  steed. 

His  character  as  god  of  war  is  no  doubt  closely  connected 
with  that  of  god  of  the  dead.  The  human  sacrifices  offered, 


1  So  Th.  Siebs,  Beitrdge  zur  deutschen  Mythologie,  I  (ZfdPh.  XXIV,  145-157)  ; 
Scherer,  on  the  contrary  (SBA.  1884,  I,  577),  regards  Channini  as  a  mutilated  form, 
and  proposes  to  read  Channini[fatiztm\.  It  seems  strange,  however,  that  the  Chan- 
nine  fates  should  be  met  with  in  the  valley  of  the  Ahr. 


228         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

according  to  the  testimony  of  Tacitus,  to  Wodan  by  tribes  of 
Western  and  Central  Germany  unquestionably  were  an  homage 
to  him  as  god  of  war.  Among  Anglo-Saxons  and  Lombards  it 
is  he  who  dispenses  victory,  and  in  the  Scandinavian  North 
princes  bring  sacrifices  to  him  ///  sigrs  (for  victory)  and  warriors 
whet  their  swords  against  the  Odhin-stone.  The  god  himself 
is  called  siggautr,  sigfadhir  (father  of  victory),  and,  in  a  kenning, 
battle  is  designated  as  the  storm  or  weather  of  Odhin.  In 
many  a  combat  he  takes  an  active  part ;  he  teaches  the  Norse 
king  the  wedge-shaped  battle  array  (svinfylking)  and  in  the 
fight  at  Bravallir  it  is  he  who  in  disguise  leads  Harald  to  a 
glorious  death  on  the  field  of  battle.1  It  has  been  maintained 
that  those  about  to  die  a  straw  death  intentionally  wound  them- 
selves with  a  spear,  that  they  may  as  warriors  go  to  Odhin, 
and  in  the  Ynglinga  Saga  (Helms kringla),  Chapter  10,  this  is 
told  of  the  god  himself.  All  this,  however,  amounts  to  little 
more  than  literary  fiction. 

The  Viking  period  saw  the  development  in  the  North  of  the 
conception  of  Walhalla,3  the  paradise  of  the  heroes  who  had 
fallen  in  battle,  the  Einherjar,  who  there  lead  a  life  of  con- 
tinuous combat  as  well  as  of  joyous  feasting.  This  conception 
too  does  not  owe  its  origin  to  the  free  fancy  of  the  scalds,  but 
has  its  roots  in  a  popular  belief  common  to  all  Teutonic  nations. 
Walhalla  is  merely  the  Norse  form  of  the  abode  of  the  spirits 
that  go  to  Wodan-Odhin,  corresponding  to  the  mountains  in 
which  kings  and  emperors  dwell  in  company  with  the  god. 
There  is  clearly  a  connection  between  the  Einherjar  and  the 
combatants  of  the  Hjadhningavig?  who  begin  the  struggle 
anew  every  night.  The  accounts  of  this  unending  combat  and 
the  abode  of  the  dead  have,  however,  been  greatly  elaborated 
and  embellished  in  Norse  poetry.  Walhalla  in  Gladhsheimr, 

1  See  above,  pp.  169-170. 

2  Cf.  A.  Schullerus,  Z.ur  Kritik  des  altnordischen   Valhollglazibens,  PBB.  XII, 
221-282.  8  See  above,  p.  176. 


THE   PANTHEON  229 

the  home  of  joy,  is  the  meeting  place  of  heroes,  who  daily 
issue  forth  through  the  five  hundred  and  forty  gates  to  divert 
themselves  in  combat,  and  who  return  at  night  to  drain  the 
cup  that  is  offered  them  by  the  Walkyries.  An  Eddie  song l 
gives  the  following  description  of  this  splendid  abode : 

Easily  to  be  known  is, 
By  those  who  to  Odhin  come, 
The  mansion  by  its  aspect. 
Its  roof  with  spears  is  laid, 
Its  hall  with  shields  is  decked, 
With  corselets  are  its  benches  strewed. 

Easily  to  be  known  is, 
By  those  who  to  Odhin  come, 
The  mansion  by  its  aspect. 
A  wolf  hangs 
Before  the  western  door, 
Over  it  an  eagle  hovers. 

A*  Beautiful  song  of  the  tenth  century,  the  Eiriksmdl?  tells 
how  Odhin  awakens  joyfully  in  Walhalla,  because  a  powerful 
prince  is  about  to  enter,  to  whom,  since  he  stands  in  need  of 
heroes  in  Walhalla,  he  has  denied  victory.  With  a  thundering 
tumult,  as  though  a  company  of  a  thousand  were  approaching, 
Eirikr  and  five  other  kings  thereupon  make  their  entry  : 

Bragi  calls  out:  What  is  that  thundering,  as  if  a  thousand  men  or  some 
great  host  were  tramping  on — the  walls  and  the  benches  are  creaking 
withal  —  as  if  Baldr  were  coming  back  to  the  hall  of  Odhin  ? 

Odhin  answers:  Surely  thou  speakest  foolishly,  good  Bragi,  although 
thou  art  very  wise.  It  thunders  for  Eric  the  king,  that  is  coming  to  the 
hall  of  Odhin.  Sigmund  and  Sinfj^tli,  rise  up  in  haste,  and  go  forth  to 
meet  the  prince  !  Bid  him  in  if  it  be  Eric,  for  it  is  he  whom  I  look  for. 

Sigmund  answers :  Why  lookest  thou  more  for  Eric  the  king  to  Odhin "s 
hall  than  for  other  kings  ? 

Odhin  answers :  Because  he  has  reddened  his  brand  and  borne  his 
bloody  sword  in  many  a  land.3 

1  Grimnism&l,  9,  10.     The  translation  is  that  of  Thorpe. 

2  See  above,  p.  184.  «  CPB.  I,  pp.  260,  267 


230        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Such  is  Wodan-Odhin  as  god  of  the  dead.  The  souls  of 
men  ride  with  him  through  the  air,  or  live  in  the  mountain ; 
y  I  the  heroes  that  the  Walkyries  have  brought  him  from  the  field 
of  battle  dwell  in  Walhalla.  That  he  is  also  the  progenitor 
of  numerous  royal  families  is  probably  closely  connected  with 
this  same  function  :  elsewhere  the  god  of  the  dead  is  also  the 
first  ancestor.  At  any  rate,  the  attributes  that  we  have  con- 
sidered up  to  this  point  form  a  part  of  the  common  popular 
belief,  of  which  traces  are  found  among  Teutonic  tribes  on  every 
side.  They  must,  therefore,  have  constituted  an  integral  part 
of  the  life  of  the  people,  although  we  do  not  know  with  what 
rites  or  ceremonies  they  were  associated. 

While  the  Norse  myths  are  in  the  main  the  creation  of 
scaldic  and  Eddie  poetry,  they  nevertheless  contain  a  genuinely 
mythical  kernel.  In  them  Odhin  has  become  the  chief  god, 
who  is  the  dispenser  of  all  good  gifts: 

He  gives  victory  to  some,  and  wealth  to  others,  readiness  of  speech  to 
v/       many,  and  wisdom  to  the  children  of  men.     He  gives  fair  wind  to  sailors, 
song  to  poets,  and  manly  valor  to  many  a  hero.1 

The  gifts  of  wisdom  and  poetry  here  mentioned  we  have  not 
touched  upon  as  yet.  They  are  strongly  emphasized  in  Norse 
mythology,  and  in  Germany  too  we  have  already  met  Wodan 
as  the  god  that  pronounced  the  efficacious  magic  charm.  In 
Scandinavia  he  is  the  god  of  runes  and  of  all  magic  arts,  of 
which  the  Ynglinga  Saga  (Chapters  6  and  7)  gives  a  circum- 
stantial account.  In  knowledge  and  secret  wisdom  he  excels 
the  wisest  giants  ( Vafthrudhnismdl},  and  he  imparts  these 
traits  to  young  Agnar  as  a  reward  for  having  refreshed  the 
stranger  —  no  other  than  the  god  himself  in  disguise  —  whom 
the  king  had  maltreated  (Grlmnismdf).  At  times  he  enters 
the  hall  of  kings  as  a  guest  (gestr  blindi,  i.e.  blind  guest),  to 
whom  he  then  propounds  riddles,  such  as  the  well-known 

l  Hyndluljodh,  3. 


THE   PANTHEON  231 

riddles  set  to  king  Heidhrek,1  or  whose  senses  he  confuses,  as 
in  the  case  of  the  remarkable  visits  to  the  two  Christian  kings 
Olaf,  that  have  been  preserved  in  five  different  versions.2 

On  the  finding  of  runes  we  possess  a  most  curious  fragment 
in  Hdvamdl,  138  and  139  : 

I  wot  that  I  hung 
The  windy  beam  upon 

Nights  all  nine  ' 

With  spear  wounded 
And  given  to  Odhin 
Self  unto  myself. 

With  loaf  they  cheered  me  not 
Nor  with  no  horn, 
I  spied  adown, 
I  caught  up  runes, 
Crying  I  caught, 
Fell  I  thence  again.8 

Concerning  the  meaning  of  these  lines  opinions  greatly  differ. 
Miillenhoff  recognizes  a  profound  myth  in  them  :  the  finding  of 
the  runes  was  brought  about  through  the  self-sacrifice  of  Odhin. 
Bugge  regards  them  as  patterned  after  Christ  orTthe  cross,  but 
this  does  not  commend  itself.  The  lines  are,  however,  to  be 
viewed  in  the  light  of  a  poetic  fabrication  rather  than  of  a 

1 "  The  framework  of  this  poem,  which  binds  together  a  collection  of  riddles  of 
the  same  type  as  those  of  the  early  English  and  medieval  riddle  poets,  is  the  visit 
of  Wodan  disguised  as  a  blind  wayfarer  to  king  Heidhrek,  the  famous  riddle-reader, 
at  Yule-tide.  The  king,  after  solving  all  Wodan's  questions,  at  length  fails  to  answer 
the  one  ('  What  did  Wodan  whisper  into  Baldr's  ear  ere  he  was  borne  to  the  pyre  ? ') 
which  was  fatal  to  Vafthrudhni,  and  falls  like  him  a  victim  to  the  '  pride  of  learn- 
ing'" (CPB.  I,  87). 

2  The  Heidhrek  riddles:  CPB.  I,  86-92,  and  N.  M.  Petersen,  Danmarks  historic 
i  hedenold2,  III,  235-246.     See  also  Hervararsaga,  Chapter  12;   Olaf  Tryggvason 
Saga  (Heimskringla),  Chapter  71;   Fornmanna  Sogur,  II,  138,  and  V,  171,  299; 
Nornagests  Thattr.     Compare  also  Uhland,  Schr.,  VI,  305-314. 

3  The  translation  is  that  of  Eirikr  Magniisson,  in  Odin's  Horse  Yggdrasil  (1895) , 
p.  18.     He  considers  the  second  half  of  strophe  138  interpolated  and  puts  in  its 
stead  the  lines  that  I  regard  with  Miillenhoff  and  Gering  as  a  later  addition,  and 
which  are,  accordingly,  omitted  above. 


232         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

genuine  myth.  Their  real  meaning  is  in  any  case  no  longer 
ascertainable. 

Greater  significance  is  to  be  attached  to  Odhin's  intercourse 
with  Mimir,  through  which  the  god  obtains  wisdom  which  he 
values  so  highly  that  he  -gives  his  eye  for  it  as  a  pledge. 
Mimir  lives  in  the  well  at  one  of  the  roots  of  the  world-tree, 
which  he  keeps  fresh  and  strong  by  watering  it.  Odhin  con- 
sults him  continually.  In  the  extreme  need  of  the  gods  and 
of  the  world  he  speaks  with  Mimir's  head,  the  head  that  had 
been  cut  off  by  the  Vanir  but  which  Odhjn  had  kept  alive 
with  magic  charms,  so  that  it  might  tell  of  hidden  things.1 
While  Norse  poetry  has  also  embellished  this  narrative,  it  yet 
contains,  beyond  a  doubt,  genuine  mythical  material.  German 
folklore  preserves  the  memory  of  Mime  in  names  of  places ; 
the  heroic  saga  knows  him  as  the  wise  teacher  of  Wieland  and 
Siegfried.  The  worship  of  water,  and  its  oracular  power,  is 
met  with  on  all  sides,  so  that  it  is  not  surprising  to  find  that 
the  spirit  of  the  well  is  the  wise  spirit.  That  this  is  also  found 
elsewhere  may  be  seen  from  Jastrow's  Religion  of  Babylonia 
and  Assyria,  pp.  62  and  125,  where  it  appears  that  among  the 
Babylonians  Ea,  and  possibly  also  Nabu,  are  divinities  of 
the  water  as  well  as  of  wisdom.  The  pawning  of  Odhin's 
eye  has  been  variously  interpreted  as  symbolical  of  the  dis- 
appearance of  the  sun  in  the  water,  or  as  representing  the 
cosmic  conception  that  water  and  sunshine  together  maintain 
the  life  of  the  world  (Miillenhoff ). 

Entirely  artificial  is  the  scaldic  myth  of  the  poets'  mead 
(pdhrcerir),  Odhin  as  Bqlverkr  (evil-worker)  gains  the  favor 
of  the  giant's  daughter  Gunnlqdh  and  thus  obtains  possession 
of  the  mead.2  At  the  conclusion  of  peace  between  the 


1  Voluspa,  27-29,  46 ;  SigrdrifumAl,  14 ;  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  4.     See  on  this 
myth  more  especially  Uhland,  Sc/ir.,  VI,  188-209;  Miillenhoff,  DA.  V,  101-107. 

2  Hdvamdl,   102-109.      The  story   is  still  further  elaborated   in  Bragarcedhur, 
Chapters  3,  4. 


THE   PANTHEON  233 

and  Vanir  all  spit  into  a  jar.  From  this  spittle  Kvasir  was 
made,  who  was  so  wise  that  he  could  answer  every  question 
asked  him.  The  dwarfs  Fjalar  and  Galar  enticed  Kvasir,  killed 
him,  and  mixing  his  blood  with  honey  made  from  it  a  drink  that 
should  make  poets  of  all  who  partook  of  it.  From  the  dwarfs 
this  mead  came  into  the  hands  of  the  giants,  and  thereupon 
Odhin  got  possession  of  it,  under  circumstances  that  are  imma- 
terial in  this  connection.  The  whole  myth  seems  invented  for 
the  purpose  of  tracing  the  scaldic  art  to  Odhin.  There  is  not 
a  single  point  of  connection  that  invites  comparison  with  the 
Indo-Persian  sacrificial  drink  soma-haoma.  Numerous  kenningar 
allude  to  this  story. 

A  number  of  other  myths  are  told  or  referred  to  in  Norse  lit- 
erature, many  of  them  solely  the  work  of  scalds  and  mythogra- 
phers.  In  these  Odhin. plays  various  roles.  He  is  the  wise  god, 
who  joyfully  each  day,  in  company  with  Saga  (Frigg  ?),  quaffs  in 
Sokkvabekr1  cool  draughts  from  a  golden  vessel  (Grimnismdl,  7). 
The  Eddie  poems  frequently  allude  to  Odhin's  amours,  his 
metamorphoses,  and  his  adventurous  journeys.  Of  his  role  in 
the  world-drama,  we  shall  have  occasion  to  speak  later  on. 

Twice  Odhin  is  one  of  a  triad  with  Hrenir  and  Lodhurr 
(Loki)  :  at  the  creation  of  man  2  and  at  the  killing  of  the  otter, 
which  they  are  then  compelled  to  fill  up  with  the  fatal  gold.3 

It  is  noteworthy  that  Norse  poetry  has  also  made  Odhin  into 
a  god  of  the  heaven  and  of  the  sun.  His  throne  Hlidhskjalf 
certainly  points  to  this,  perhaps  also  the  eye  that  is  pawned 
with  Mimir  and  the  ring  Draupnir  that  the  dwarfs  have  made 
for  him.  Of  this  character  as  god  of  heaven  there  are  also 
traces  in  German  mythology,  so,  for  example,  in  the  tribal  saga 
of  the  Lombards.  According  to  Miillenhoff  it  was  in  this  char- 
acter that  Wodan  was  given  Frija  as  wife,  of  old  the  consort 
of  Tiu. 

1  That  is  Fallbrook,  the  place  where  a  brook  plunges  down. 

2  Vdlusfa,  1 8.  8  Prose  introduction  to  Reginsmal. 


i/ 


234         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

Odhin  bears  many  names  in  Norse  poetry,1  some  of  which 
doubtless  owe  their  origin  to  Christian  influence.  This  latter 
is  certainly  the  case  with  Alfadhir  (Allfather),  and  the  concep- 
tions we  meet  of  him  as  creator  of  the  world  and  chief  god.2 
His  brothers  Vili  and  Ve  appear  to  be  mythical  fabrications, 
but  Vili  is  already  known  to  the  scald  Thjodholf  (ninth  cen- 
tury), and  both  occur  in  Lokasenna,  26,  where  they  possess 
themselves  of  the  person  of  Frigg.  The  story,  interpreted  in  a 
euhemeristic  spirit,  is  also  found  in  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  3. 

The  many  sides  of  Odhin's  character  that  we  have  encoun- 
tered have  not  been  reduced  among  the  ancient  Teutons  to  a 
fixed  form,  or  been  placed  in  an  ideal  light  by  either  poetry  or 
the  plastic  arts.  The  literary  remains  that  have  come  down  to 
us,  though  numerous,  are  only  fragmentary,  and  while  they  may 
suggest  to  us  correct  combinations,  they  may  also  tempt  us  to 
make  others  that  are  wholly  arbitrary.  A  talented  and  learned 
writer  has  made  Wodan-Odhin  a  spiritual  type,  the  embodiment 
of  Teutonic  philosophy,  poetry,  and  political  wisdom.3  Ingen- 
ious though  such  a  hypothesis  may  be,  and  however  ably 
worked  out,  it  is  not  of  such  a  character  as  to  throw  light  on 
the  data  at  hand. 

DONAR-THOR 

Donar  was  worshipped  by  all  the  Teutonic  tribes,  as  is 
shown  by  the  universal  use  of  his  name  to  designate  the  fifth 
day  of  the  week.  On  Alemannic  territory  his  name  occurs  on 
the  Nordendorf  Brooch.  While  it  is  not  found  among  the 
Bavarians,  our  information  concerning  their  gods  is  too  meagre 
to  allow  us  to  draw  a  conclusion  from  mere  want  of  evidence. 
Of  old,  Thursday  bore  a  peculiarly  sacred  character,  which  has 
left  numerous  traces  in  popular  belief  and  observance,  more 
particularly  in  usages  on  Maundy-Thursday,  Ascension  day,  and 

1  Grimnismdl,  46-48.  2  Gylfaginning,  Chapters  3,  20. 

3  F.  Dahn,  Batisteine,  I,  148, 159. 


THE  PANTHEON  235      . 

Sacramental  Thursday.  On  Thursday  people  were  reluctant 
to  perform  ordinary  work  such  as  spinning  and  threshing, 
while  for  important  matters,  holding  court,  sowing,  celebrating 
a  wedding,  Thursday  was  especially  well  suited,  since  Donar 
was  the  patron  god  of  agriculture  and  bestowed  consecration 
upon  marriage. 

Thursday  is  the  dies  Jovis  (day  of  Jupiter),  and  yet  this  iden- 
tification of  Donar  with  Jupiter  is  not  the  most  ancient  one. 
In  Tacitus  he  is  Hercules,  and  "  when  about  to  enter  battle 
they  sing  of  him  as  the  bravest  of  all  men."1  As  a  god  to 
whom  sacrifices  are  brought  he  occupies  a  place  alongside  of 
Mars.2  The  tribes  led  by  Arminius  assembled  in  a  grove  sacred 
to  Hercules.8  The  thunder  god  is  the  mighty  hero,  whose 
barditus  (beard-call)  they  imitate  before  battle.*  Many,  but 
not  all,8  of  the  Hercules  of  Latino-Teutonic  inscriptions  are  to 
be  identified  with  Donar  ;  so  doubtless  the  Hercules  Magusa- 
nus  of  the  Batavi.6  Oak  trees  sacred  to  Donar,  such  as  that  ^ 
which  Boniface  hewed  down  about  the  year  730  near  Geismar, 
and  numerous  Donar-mountains  testify  to  the  extent  of  the 
worship  of  the  thunder  god  in  Germany. 

Among  the  Frisians  we  also  find  Thuner  in  the  name  of  the 
day  of  the  week  ;  among  the  Anglo-Saxons,  Thunor  in  names  *"' 
of  places  as  well.  In  Sweden,  and  to  a  still  greater  extent 
in  Norway,  his  worship  is  of  special  importance.  Adam  of 
Bremen  (IV,  26,  27  ;  II,  60)  states  that  in  Sweden  he  is  "the 
most  powerful  of  the  gods;  Thor  is  ruler  of  the  air  and 
exercises  control  over  thunder  and  lightning,  winds  and  rain- 
storms, clear  weather  and  crops."  His  image  is  found  in  the 
popular  assembly  and  to  him  sacrifices  are  offered  in  times  of 
pestilence  and  famine.  That  we  hear  little  about  him  among 
the  Danes  may  be  due  to  the  fact  that  the  worship  of  the 

1  Germania,  Chapter  3.  4  Miillenhoff,  DA.  IV,  134-136. 

2  Ibid.,  Chapter  9.  5  See  above,  pp.  87,  88. 
8  Annals,  II,  12.  6  See  above,  p.  105. 


236        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

thunder  god  is  more  especially  characteristic  of  a  mountainous 
country,  although,  as  we  have  already  seen,  it  was  by  no  means 
restricted  'to  such  regions. 

In  Norway  Thor  is  indigenous,  as  is  shown  by  proper  names, 
history,  and  numerous  myths.  In  the  medieval  literature  that 
treats  of  the  incursions  of  the  Norsemen,  the  recollection  that 
they  frequently  invoked  "  the  false  god  "  Thor  still  survives. 
History  records  a  number  of  temples  and  images  of  Thor  in 
Norway.  Among  these  are  the  temple  with  not  less  than  a  hun- 
dred images,  which,  according  to  a  curious  tradition,  Hakon  Jarl 
destroyed  ;  the  hollow  image  in  Gudhbrandsdalir  which  the 
holy  Olaf  overthrew  ;  temples  at  Mceri,  Throndhjem  (Uront- 
heim),  and  elsewhere.  The  Thor  cult  was  especially  popular 
among  the  Norwegians  who  settled  in  Iceland.  Thor  enters 
into  the  composition  of  numerous  proper  names  :  Thorbjorn, 
Thorarinn,  Thorgrimmr,  Thorkell,  Thorgerdhr,  Bergthora,  and 
some  fifty  others,  borne  altogether  by  not  less  than  a  thousand 
men  and  women,  whereas  other  divinities  occur  only  a  few 
times  in  proper  names.  Of  one  of  these  emigrants  it  is  related 
that  he  possessed  a  temple  of  Thor  in  Norway  and  zealously 
worshipped  this  god.  His  name  was  Rolf,  but  on  account  of 
his  devotion  to  Thor  he  was  called  Thorolf.  This  Thorolf 
Most-beard  (Mostrarskegg)  got  into  a  quarrel  with  king  Harald 
Fairhair.  "  He  thereupon  made  a  great  sacrifice,  and  asked 
Thor,  his  well-beloved  friend,  whether  he  should  make  peace 
with  the  king,  or  get  him  gone  from  out  the  land  and  seek 
other  fortunes.  But  the  Word  showed  Thorolf  Iceland,  and 
thereafter  he  got  for  himself  a  great  ship  meet  for  the  main, 
and  trimmed  it  for  the  Iceland  faring,  and  had  with  him  his 
kindred  and  his  household  goods  ;  and  many  friends  of  his 
betook  themselves  to  faring  with  him.  He  pulled  down  the 
temple,  and  had  with  him  most  of  the  timbers  which  had  been 
therein,  and  mould  moreover  from  under  the  stall  whereon  Thor 
had  sat.  And  when  he  had  sailed  and  had  come  near  to  the 


THE  PANTHEON  237 

land,  Thorolf  cast  overboard  the  pillars  of  his  high-seat,  which 
had  been  in  the  temple,  and  on  one  of  them  was  Thor 
carven ;  withal  he  spake  over  them,  that  there  he  would  abide 
in  Iceland,  whereas  Thor  should  let  those  pillars  come  a-land. 
And  when  he  came  a-land,  he  called  the  place  Thorsness  and 
the  river  Thorsa  and  built  a  great  temple  for  his  god."  He 
settled  there  and  became  the  godhi  of  the  temple.  The  place 
was  so  holy  that  no  shedding  of  blood  was  allowed  there,  and 
when  this  actually  happened  soon  afterwards  in  a  feud,  the 
place  where  the  thing  was  held  was  transferred  to  another 
spot.1 

In  this  story,  as  is  usual  in  Norway  and  Iceland,  Thor 
appears  as  the  great  god,  on  whom  all  depends,  and  who  con- 
stitutes the  centre  of  the  thing.  In  Norway  he  is  called  the 
landds  (god  of  the  country),  the  most  honored  (mest  tignadhr) 
of  the  gods.  The  fact  that  the  Hdrbardhsljbdh,  as  we  have 
seen,  makes  him  the  god  of  the  peasants  does  not  run  counter 
to  this  statement,  but  merely  goes  to  show  that  among  the  people 
the  worship  of  Thor  retained  its  vitality,  even  at  a  time  when 
among  the  higher  classes,  the  jarls  and  scalds,  the  service  of 
Odhin  had  attained  greater  prominence.  The  sphere  of  his 
activity  is  no  less  comprehensive  than  that  ascribed  to  Odhin. 
In  time  of  danger  he  is  the  protector;  he  relieves  distress, 
grants  favorable  winds,  bestows  victory,  consecrates  marriage, 
and  is  the  friend  of  man  (yinr  verlidha,  Hymiskvidha  u).  He 
is,  furthermore,  the  patron  god  of  agriculture  and  at  Yule-tide 
receives  sacrifices  for  the  fruitfulness  of  the  ensuing  year. 
He  also  presides  in  the  thing.  Many  of  these  functions  he 
shares  with  Odhin,  in  so  far  as  he  has  not  been  compelled  to 
renounce  them  in  Odhin's  favor.  A  singular  contrast  between 
the  two  gods  is  found  in  the  myth  of  Starkad.  Odhin  grants 
this  hero  splendid  gifts,  but  Thor  invariably  adds  something 

1  Eyrbyggjasaga,  Chapters  3,  4,  10.  The  part  quoted  has  been  taken,  somewhat 
abridged,  from  the  translation  in  the  Saga  Library,  II, 


238        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

that  sets  them  at  naught.  Odhin  promises  him  a  life  that  is 
to  equal  the  length  of  three  mortal  lives  ;  Thor  ordains  that  in 
each  of  these  he  is  to  perform  a  nidhingsverk  (a  dastard's  work). 
Odhin  gives  him  the  choicest  weapons  and  armor ;  Thor  denies 
him  the  possession  of  landed  property.  Odhin  accords  him  an 
abundance  of  chattels ;  Thor  imposes  that  he  should  ever 
thirst  for  more.  Odhin  confers  valor  and  victory  upon  him  ; 
Thor  appoints  that  he  is  to  be  sorely  wounded  in  every  battle. 
Similarly  the  gift  of  poetry,  which  he  receives  from  Odhin,  is 
vitiated  by  Thor's  decree  that  he  should  always  forget  what  he 
had  sung.  Odhin  determines  that  Starkad  shall  always  be 
held  in  high  esteem  among  the  noblest  and  best,  whereupon 
Thor  adds  that  he  is  to  be  hated  by  the  people.  The  contrast 
is  characteristic  :  Thor  is  here  the  enemy  of  those  warriors 
and  fighters  by  profession  of  whom  Odhin  is  the  patron. 

That  Thor  is  the  gt>4  of  thunder  does  not  admit  of  doubt 
His  character  as  such  is  at  times  revealed  in  an  interesting  way 
in  connection  with  various  other  functions,  as  for  example  in 
the  popular  superstition  current  in  Germany,  that  a  thunder- 
storm during  a  wedding  augurs  a  fruitful  marriage.  In  the 
thunderstorm  three  elements  are  distinguishable:  the  flash 
(fulgur),  the  clap  (tonitrus),  and  the  stroke  (fulmeti),  and  all 
three  may  be  recognized  in  attributes  of  Thor.  To  the  flash 
he  no  doubt  owes  his  red  hair  and  red  beard,  with  which 
he  is  pictured  even  in  later  times,  in  his  visit  to  Olaf  Trygg- 
vason  among  others.  To  the  sound  made  by  thunder  he  owes 
his  surname  Hlorridhi  (the  roarer),  and  the  same  applies  to 
his  riding  in  a  chariot  drawn  by  two  he-goats,  from  which  his 
surnames  Reidhartyr  (god  of  the  chariot)  and  Okuthorr  (riding 
Thor)  are  derived.  A  German  conception,  which  explains 
thunder  as  the  playing  at  ninepins  of  the  gods,  has  been 
interpreted  in  the  same  light.  The  origin  of  the  hammer 
MJQllnir,  with  which  Thor  crushes  his  enemies,  and  which  of 
itself  returns  to  the  hand  of  the  god,  is  doubtless  to  be  explained 


THE   PANTHEON  239 

from  the  thunderbolt.  As  a  symbol  we  find  this  hammer  repre- 
sented on  all  sides  for  the  purposes  of  insuring  good  for- 
tune, of  warding  off  demoniac  influences,  of  healing  sickness, 
consecrating  marriage,  giving  legal  force  to  compacts,  and,  on  .JL. 
tombstones,  as  consecrating  the  dead  to  Thor.  For  a  similar 
purpose  the  sign  of  the  hammer  was  made  with  the  hand  above 
the  cup,  as  at  a  later  period  the  sign  of  the  cross.  Aside  from 
his  hammer,  Thor  possesses  two  other  precious  objects:  the 
iron  gauntlets  (jdrngreipr)  and  the  girdle  of  strength  (megin- 
gjardhar)  around  his  loins. 

Norse  mythology  stands  alone  in  enumerating  an  extensive 
kindred  of  Thor  and  in  relating  a  number  of  myths  concerning 
him.  The  scalds  make  him  the  son  of  Odhin.  Various  per- 
sonages are  mentioned  as  his  mother,  —  jQrdh,  the  earth,  Hlo- 
dhyn,  a  rather  obscure  name,  identified  by  some,  on  dubious 
grounds,  with  the  Frisian  Hludana,1  and  finally  the  equally 
enigmatical  FJQrgyn.  This  latter  name  has  to  be  considered 
in  connection  with  the  male  Fjqrgynn,  who  in  Lokasenna  26 
appears  as  the  husband  of  Frigg  (i.e.  Odhin  ?).  The  clew  to 
the  interpretation  of  these  two  gods  is  usually  sought  in  an 
etymological  connection  with  the  Lithuanian  Perkunas  and 
the  Sanskrit  Parjanya,  a  connection  which  is  not,  however, 
definitely  established.2  These  mothers  of  Thor  are  not  god- 
desses that  have  a  cult,  any  more  than  his  wife  Sif,  whose  hair 
Loki  had  cut  off,  whereupon  Thor  compelled  him  to  have  the 
dwarfs  make  new  golden  hair  for  her  —  a  Mdrchen  that  has 
been  explained  as  referring  to  the  golden  yellow  of  a  field  of 
grain.  As  is  apparent  from  their  names,  the  children  of  Thor 
are  mere  personifications  of  his  attributes;  so  his  daughter 
Thrudhr  (power),  and  his  sons  Magni3  (power)  and  Modhi 

1  See  above,  p.  105. 

2  The  most  recent  discussion  is  that  by  R.  Much,  Der  germanische  Himmelsgott 
(1898),  pp.  16-26. 

8  The  same  word  has  been  recognized  in  Hercules  Magusanus.  See  above, 
p.  105. 


240        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

(vehemence).  Whether  in  the  case  of  Sif  and  Thrudhr  we 
are  to  have  in  mind  the  vigorous  fertility  of  the  earth,  fruc- 
tified by  the  thunder  god,  we  do  not  venture  to  decide.  As 
servants  of  Thor  we  find  in  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  44,  the 
peasant  children  Thjalfi  and  Rcjskva.  Uhland  sees  in  these 
personifications  of  man's  labor,  which  in  the  service  of  the 
god  must  make  the  earth  fruitful,  an  interpretation  that  is 
ingenuous  but  of  doubtful  value. 

We  cannot  here  relate  in  detail,  or  analyze,  the  myths  which 
the  Eddie  songs  and  the  Snorra  Edda  narrate  of  Thor.  Refer- 
ences to  them  abound  also  in  other  Norse  literature,  and  in 
Saxo  as  well.  They  tell  of  his  fight  with  the  giants  and  his 
journeys  to  Jcjtunheim,  the  home  of  the  giants,  in  the  distant 
northeast.  Well  known  is  the  entertaining  account  in  Thryms- 
kvidha  of  his  journey  to  the  home  of  the  giant  Thrym,  who 
had  stolen  and  hidden  Thor's  hammer,  and  refused  to  give  it 
up  unless  Freyja  were  given  him  as  his  wife.  Thereupon 
Thor,  disguised  as  Freyja,  proceeds  in  the  company  of  Loki  to 
visit  the  giant,  and  to  the  great  astonishment  of  the  latter 
makes  away  with  incredible  quantities  of  food  and  drink. 
When  the  hammer  is  finally  brought  in  to  hallow  the  marriage, 
Thor  seizes  it  and  kills  the  giant.  This  tale  doubtless  con- 
ceals a  genuine  nature-myth,  that  of  the  thunder  god,  who  in 
the  spring  after  the  long  winter  regains  his  strength.  It  is  of 
course  not  possible  to  extend  this  interpretation  to  all  the 
details.  The  narrative  is  told  in  a  humoristic  vein,  and  Thor 
assumes  the  character  of  the  gluttonous  giant  in  nursery  rimes 
and  fairy  tales. 

Skdldskaparmdl,  Chapter  i,  gives  a  circumstantial  account 
of  Thor's  combat  with  the  giant  Hrungnir,  which  had  already 
furnished  the  subject  of  a  song  by  the  scald  Thjodholf  of 
Hvin.  Hrungnir  in  his  arrogance  had  boasted  that  he  would 
carry  off  Walhalla  to  J^tunheim.  Thor  challenges  him  and 
they  meet  in  combat.  Thor  hurls  his  hammer  Mjqllnir,  the 


THE   PANTHEON  241 

giant  his  flint-stone.  Hrungnir  is  slain,  but  a  piece  of  the 
flint-stone  penetrated  the  head  of  Thor.  The  magic  song  of 
Groa  would  have  freed  Thor  of  this  flint-stone,  but  for  joy  at  • 

the  return  of  her  husband  Aurvandill,  which  Thor  announces  ^ 
to  her,  Groa  forgets  her  song.  It  is  clear  that  this  myth  of 
Hrungnir  represents  Thor  in  his  character  of  the  terrible 
thunder  god,  but  there  is  little  ground  for  the  theory  which 
has  been  advanced  that  it  stands  for  the  struggle  with  the 
stony  ground  which  is  everywhere  the  enemy  of  agriculture. 
Aurvandill,  whom  the  Snorra  Edda  introduces  into  the  story, 
does  not  belong  there  originally.  He  is  a  constellation,  and 
certainly  in  no  way  connected  with  Thor.  We  cannot  here 
discuss  the  possibility  of  a  connection  with  Saxo's  Horvendillus 
and  the  Orendel  of  the  German  minstrel  poetry  (Spielmanns- 
dichtung).  The  latter  is  at  any  rate  very  problematical. 

This  narrative  is  followed  in  Skdldskaparmdl,  Chapter  2, 
by  that  of  Thor's  journey  to  the  giant  Geirrodhr,  which  like 
the  former  is  greatly  embellished.  Loki  had  been  taken  pris- 
oner by  the  giant  and  had  been  released  only  on  condition 
of  enticing  Thor,  without  hammer,  gauntlets,  or  gkdle,  to 
Geirrodhsgardhr.  Thor  is  warned  on  his  way  thither  by 
Gridh,  who  lends  him  her  girdle,  gloves,  and  staff.  Aided  by 
these,  Thor  with  difficulty  succeeds  in  crossing  the  stream 
which  Gjalp,  one  of  the  two  daughters  of  Geirrodhr,  was  caus- 
ing to  swell.  Arrived  at  the  dwelling  of  the  giant,  Gjalp  and 
Greip  attempt  to  crush  him,  with  the  chair  in  which  he  was 
seated,  against  the  ceiling  of  the  room,  but  Thor  presses  the 
seat  down  and  breaks  the  backs  of  both  Gjalp  and  Greip. 
Thor  and  Geirrodhr  now  take  up  the  struggle,  the  latter  fling- 
ing a  red-hot  iron  wedge  at  Thor,  who  catches  it  with  Gridh's 
iron  gloves,  and  now  throwing  the  wedge  in  his  turn  kills  the 
giant.  The  story  is  an  old  one  ;  it  was  known  to  scalds  of 
the  tenth  century  and  attained  wide  circulation.  Saxo  also 
tells  many  particulars  about  the  "  sedes  Geruthi."  There  is 


242         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

no  reason  for  recognizing  in  the  story  a  journey  to  subterranean 
regions.  Possibly,  as  in  the  case  of  the  struggle  with  Hrungnir, 
the  mythical  kernel  consists  simply  of  two  thunderstorms  that 
meet  in  the  mountains.1 

Thor's  journey  to  Hymir  in  quest  of  the  kettle  for  brewing 
ale,  which  the  ^Esir  needed  for  their  feasts,  and  his  fishing  for 
the  Midhgardh-serpent  are  related  in  Hymiskvidha  and  6^7- 
faginning,  Chapter  48.  In  fishing  for  the  monster,  Thor  uses 
an  ox-head  as  bait.  He  succeeds  in  bringing  the  serpent  to 
the  surface,  when  Hymir  cuts  the  line  and  the  monster  falls 
back  into  the  sea.  Though  not  connected  originally,  these  two 
myths  have  been  combined  and  elaborated  in  various  ways. 
I  do  not  venture  to  interpret  the  story  as  symbolical  of  a 
phenomenon  of  nature.  The  eschatological  element,  that  Thor 
fights  the  Midhgardh-serpent  in  the  last  of  all  battles,  is  still 
foreign  to  this  myth,  but  perhaps  partly  owes  its  origin  to  it. 

The  story  of  Thor's  journey  to  Utgardhaloki  is  told  at  great 
length  and  in  a  charming  manner.2  He  is  then  outside  the 
real  world,  and  against  the  illusions  of  demonic  beings  such  as 
Skrymir  and  Utgardhaloki  even  his  strength  does  not  avail, 
any  more  than  that  his  companions,  Loki  and  Thjalfi,  can 
cope,  the  former  with  Logi  (fire),  and  the  latter  with  Hugi 
(thought),  which  is  ever  fleeter  than  the  fleetest.  In  vain  Thor 
attempts  to  drain  a  drinking-horn  ;  its  end  rests  in  the  sea.  It 
is  in  itself  no  small  matter  that  his  three  draughts  have  caused 
the  waters  of  the  ocean  to  ebb.  In  vain  he  strives  to  lift  the 
cat ;  it  is  the  Midhgardh-serpent,  and  he  succeeds  in  raising  only 
one  paw  from  the  ground.  In  vain  he  wrestles  with  the  old 
woman  Elli :  old  age  cannot  be  vanquished.  I  am  unable  to 
discover  genuine  myths  in  this  narrative.  The  poet  has  given 
free  rein  to  his  imagination  in  his  treatment  of  the  gods,  of 
whom  the  people  are  ever  eager  to  tell  and  hear  told  various 

1  Weinhold,  Die  Riesen  des  germanischen  Mythus,  p.  271. 

2  Gylfaginning,  Chapters  45-47. 


THE  PANTHEON  243 

adventures.  It  does  not  argue  in  favor  of  sagacity  on  the 
part  of  many  mythologists  that  they  are  constantly  endeavoring 
to  explain  what  from  the  nature  of  the  case  does  not  require 
or  even  admit  an  explanation. 

There  are  a  few  remaining  narratives  in  which  Thor  plays 
an  important  role.  Among  these  is  an  Eddie  song,  Alvissmdl, 
in  which  Alviss,  a  wise  dwarf,  comes  up  from  the  depths  of 
the  earth  and  demands  Thor's  daughter  for  a  bride.  ,  Thor 
detains  him  with  his  questions  until  the  dawn  of  day  kills  him. 
That  the  latter  is  fatal  to  dwarfs  was  a  widespread  popular 
belief.  Uhland  has  interpreted  the  story  as  an  allegory  of  the 
corn  that  has  been  sown  and  entrusted  to  the  earth,  but  this 
conception  is  at  any  rate  not  brought  out  sharply. 

Thor's  chief  role  in  numerous  myths  is  that  of  the  defender 
of  Asgardh  and  Midhgardh  against  various  attacks,  more  espe- 
cially of  the  giants.  On  more  than  one  occasion  he  thus 
saves  the  ^sir.  He  slays  the  giant  who  had  built  the  burgh 
for  the  gods,  and  with  whom  the  latter  broke  faith  so  that  they 
would  not  surrender  Freyja.  In  Lokasenna  he  is  the  only  one 
who  is  able  to  silence  Loki  when  all  the  other  ^Esir  are  at  their 
wit's  end  at  Loki's  abuse. 

But  the  majority  of  these  myths  possess  little,  if  any,  religious 
significance.  That  the  scalds  and  mythographers  assigned  so 
important  a  part  to  Thor  in  the  world  of  the  gods  is  in  keeping 
with  the  high  rank  which  he  occupied  as  a  god  of  the  people. 

*TIWAZ  (Tiu-Ziu-TvR) 

The  etymology  of  the  name  "  Zio "  (Tiu)  that  identifies 
the  god  with  Dyaus  (Zeus,  Jupiter)  as  the  old  Indo-European 
god  of  the  sky  seemed  at  one  time  absolutely  certain,  but  is 
to-day  questioned  by  several  linguistic  scholars.  Whether  or 
not  we  accept  this  identification,  there  can  be  no  doubt  that 
Tiu  was  originally  a  sky  god.  That  he  frequently  appears  as 


244         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 


a  god  of  war  among  the  Teutonic  peoples  is  not  surprising, 
inasmuch  as  gods  of  war  are  frequently  sky  gods  originally, 
as  e.g.  Ares  and  Mars,  which  names  are  rjot  infrequently  used 
as  translations  for  Tiu. 

The  wide  dissemination  of  the  worship  of  Tiu  is  attested  by 
a  large  body  of  evidence,  among  other  things  by  the  fact  that 
the  name  of  the  third  day  of  the  week,  Tuesday,  is  common  to 
all  Teutonic  peoples.  On  this  day  various  functions,  such  as 
the  holding  of  assemblies,  judicial  procedures,  weddings,  etc., 
enjoyed  the  special  protection  of  the  god.  But  that  Tiu  in  the 
first  century  of  our  era  stood  practically  among  all  Teutons 
"in  the  centre  of  the  cult,"  as  Mogk  would  have  us  believe, 
seems  a  highly  extravagant  statement.  We  do,  however,  know 
a  number  of  peoples  and  tribes  that  worshipped  him :  the 
Tencteri, l  the  Hermunduri, 2  the  Frisians,  who  erected  in 
England  the  altar  Marti  Thingso?  the  Goths,4  the  distant 
Thulitae,5  and  especially  the  Suebi  or  Ziuwari,  in  whose  terri- 
tory lay  the  Ziesburc,  and  whose  chief  tribe,  the  Semnones, 
worshipped  in  a  sacred  grove  the  regnator  omnium  deus 6  with 
human  sacrifices  and  barbaric  rites  (Germania,  Chapter  39). 
This  god  is  generally  taken  to  be  Tiu.  Norse  mythology  assigns 
Tyr  to  a  subordinate  place,  and  it  has  accordingly  been  sup- 
posed that  Freyr  is  another  name  for  Tiu,  and  represents  an 
hypostasis  of  the  same  ancient  sky  god.  The  assumption  has, 
however,  little  in  its  favor.  The  word  "  tyr  "  is  actually  found 
in  Old  Norse  as  an  appellative  in  the  sense  of  god,  in  such 
compounds  as  "  sigtyr,"  etc.  The  attempt 7  to  conclude  from  the 
Irish  word  "diberc"  (=tyverk,  work  for  the  god  of  war,  consist- 
ing in  the  razing  of  cloisters  and  the  murder  of  the  clergy)  that 

1  Tacitus,  Hist.,  IV,  64.  *  Jordanes,  DOAG.,  Chapter  5. 

2  Tacitus,  Annals,  XIII,  57.  5  Procopius,  B.  Goth.,  II,  15. 

3  See  above,  p.  106.  6  "  God,  the  ruler  of  all." 

7  Zimmer,  Uber  die  friihesten  Beriihrnngen  der  Iren  mit  den  Nordgermanen, 
SBA.  1891,  pp.  279  ff.  Compare  also  GGA.  1891,  pp.  193  ff.  Mogk,  Kelten  tind 
Nordgermanen  (Programm,  Leipzig,  1896),  p.  13,  justly  attacks  Zimmer's  position. 


THE  PANTHEON  245 


Vikings  of  the  region  of  the  Hardanger  Fjord  worshipped  Tyr 
in  the  ninth  century  is  certainly  a  mistaken  one. 

The  opinion  that  Tiu  was  worshipped  everywhere  as  the  chief 
god  of  the  Teutons  is,  in  view  of  his  position  in  the  Norse 
pantheon,  scarcely  admissible.  This  view  is,  of  course,  closely 
connected  with  the  conception  of  three  large  groups  of  peoples, 
whose  eponymous  heroes,  Ingvaz,  Ermnaz,  Istvaz,  have  been 
taken  to  represent  different  forms  of  the  sky  god.1 

Other  names  for  Tiu  are  perhaps  Dings  (in  Marti  Thingso  r^- 
and  Dinsdag,  Tuesday)  and,  with  more  certainty,  Er  (Erchtag) 
among  the  Bavarians,  and  Sahsnot  (Anglo-Saxon  Seaxneat,  i.e.  I 
sword  companion)  among  the  Saxons.     The  Anglo-Saxon  rune 
Y  (Ear)  is  also  referred  to  him.     Finally  Iring,  the  Thuringian 
hero,  who  with  his  sword  slays  two  kings,2  is,  according  to  some, 
likewise  a  form  of  Tiu.3 

The  numerous  narratives  and  usages  that  are  current  in 
Teutonic  countries  in  connection  with  the  sword  are  doubtless 
in  large  part  related  to  the  god.  Thus  in  the  North  Tyr  was 
invoked,  while  his  rune  ^  was  engraved  on  the  sword  as  an 
emblem  of  victory.4  Ammianus  Marcellinus  tells  us  (XVII,  12) 
of  the  Quadi  that  "with  drawn  swords,  which  they  worship 
as  divinities,  they  swore  that  they  would  remain  faithful." 
Among  other  German  peoples  as  well  we  encounter  oaths  sworn 
by  the  sword.  Attila  conquered  the  world  with  the  sacred 
sword  of  Mars,  which  a  herdsman  had  accidentally  found,  —  a 
tale  that  has  come  down  to  us  from  a  Gothic  source.5  Taci- 
tus 6  mentions  sword-dances,  which,  while  held  where  all  were 
assembled,  were  no  doubt  in  honor  of  Tiu  more  especially. 
As  to  the  mythological  significance  of  these  dramatic  dances, 
which  demanded  great  dexterity,  we  are  entirely  thrown  back 
upon  conjecture.  They  were  probably  accompanied  by  music. 

1  Compare  p.  77.  •*  Sigrdrifum&l,  6. 

2  Widukind,  I,  13.  6  Jordanes,  DOAG.,  Chapter  35. 
8  Compare  also  Heimdallr,  below.  6  Gertnatiia,  Chapter  24. 


246        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Numerous  traces  of  these  sword-dances  are  found  during  the 
Middle  Ages  and  in  later  times.1  The  sword  of  Julius  Caesar 
also,  which  was  carried  by  Vitellius  out  of  the  delubrum 
Martis  (sanctuary  of  Mars)  at  Cologne,2  we  may  regard  as  a 
sacred  sword  of  the  Ubii.  Noteworthy  are  the  observances  at 
Valenciennes  on  the  jour  de  St.  Michel,  at  which  the  sword- 
players  (joueurs  d'epee)  proceed  to  church,  the  sword-bearer, 
during  the  reading  of  the  gospel,  solemnly  holding  aloft  the 
unsheathed  sword  of  St.  Michel.  After  mass  the  members  of 
the  association  sit  down  to  a  banquet,  and  play  war-like  games.3 
Tiu  is  not  a  prominent  character  in  myths.  Connection 
with  the  sky  god  has  been  found  in  the  swan-knights,4  and, 
with  greater  show  of  reason,  in  the  myth  of  the  Harlungen.5 
Miillenhoff  recognizes  the  god  in  a  widely  ramified  cluster  of 
myths.6  Scandinavian  mythology  contains,  of  course,  a  greater 
number  of  direct  references  to  the  god,  but  yet  Tyr  is  not  the 
chief  figure  in  any  one  of  the  Eddie  songs.  He  accompanies 
Thor  on  his  journey  to  Hymir,  and  at  the  feast  in  ^Egir's  hall 
also  receives  his  share  of  the  abuse  which  Loki  hurls  at  the 
gods.  He  is  there  taunted  with  lacking  his  right  hand,  and 
Gylfaginning,  Chapters  25  and  34,  relates  in  detail  how  Tyr  lost 
this  hand  in  his  fight  with  the  wolf  Fenrir.  The  ^Esir  have  bound 
the  wolf  with  the  fetter  Gleipnir,  made  out  of  the  sound  caused 
by  the  footfall  of  cats,  the  beards  of  women,  the  roots  of  moun- 
tains, the  sinews  of  bears,  the  breath  of  fish,  and  the  spittle  of 
birds.  When  this  chain  breaks,  the  wolf  will  be  released  and 
this  is  the  sign  of  the  end  to  come.  Then  Tyr  will  contend  with 

1  See  K.  Miillenhoff,  Uber  den  Schiverttanz  (in  the  Festgaben  fiir  G.  Homeyer, 
1871). 

2  Suetonius,  Vitellius,  VIII. 

3  The  last  two  illustrations  are  taken  from  J.  W.  Wolf,  Beitrdge  zur  deutschen 
Mythologie,  I,  128. 

*  Knights  who,  like  Lohengrin,  reach  the  land  they  are  to  succor  in  a  boat  drawn 
by  a  swan. 

5  See  above,  p.  140. 

6  In  the  article  Frija  und  der  Halsbandmythus,  ZfdA.  XXX,  217-260. 


THE  PANTHEON  247 

the  dog  Garm  (a  doublet,  no  doubt,  of  the  wolf),  and  the  god 
and  the  monster  will  both  fall.1  A  number  of  interpretations 
of  Tyr's  struggle  with  Fenrir,  on  the  basis  of  nature-myths,  have 
been  proposed,  the  latest 2  of  which  regards  Fenrir  as  a  constel- 
lation. But  none  of  these  is  at  all  satisfactory. 

THE   VANIR 
NJORDHR-NERTHUS,  FREYR-FREYJA 

That  the  divinities  here  juxtaposed  form  a  real  group  is 
certain  beyond  the  shadow  of  a  doubt.  As  indicated,  the  first 
and  the  second  and  the  third  and  fourth  are  by  their  very 
names  closely  related.  The  pairs  too  are  connected:  Freyr 
and  Freyja  are  the  children  of  Njq>rdhr,  and  Freyr  and  Njqrdhr 
are  together  invoked  for  a  blessing  at  the  taking  of  oaths  and 
the  pledging  of  the  cup.  How  these  divinities  have  come  to 
form  such  a  group  is  less  clear.  Has  a  masculine  Njqrdhr 
been  deduced  from  Nerthus,  as  a  feminine  Freyja  from  Freyr? 
Whether  or  not  they  are  secondary  formations,  these  gods  are 
certainly  not  abstractions  ;  they  live  in  both  cult  and  myth.  A 
number  of  places  in  Norway  bear  the  name  of  NJQrdhr,  and  he 
also  was  worshipped,  although  it  is  perhaps  an  exaggeration 
when  an  interpolated  line  of  an  Eddie  song3  credits  him  with 
a  thousand  sanctuaries  and  altars.  Sacrifices  were  brought  to 
Freyja  also,4  but  perhaps  only  at  a  later  period. 

Freyr   is    an    appellative,   corresponding  to  Gothic  frauja,  \ 
O.   H.   G.  frd,    Anglo-Saxon  frea.      A   connection   with   thej 
German  froh,  which  would  make  the  name  signify  "gladden- 
ing, fair,  noble,  sacred  "  (Jacob  Grimm)  cannot  be  maintained. 
The  word  means  "  lord  "  and  was  therefore  originally  no  doubt 
used  as  epitheton  of  some  other  god.     Hence  nothing  stands 

1  Voluspa,  44;  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  51. 

2E.  Wilken,  Der  Fenrisvuolf,  ZfdPh.  XXVIII,  156-198;  297-348. 

8  Vafthrudhnismal,  38.  4  Hyndlulfddh,  10. 


248        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

in  the  way  of  a  complete  identification  of  Freyr  and  Njc^rdhr. 
So  far  as  the  name  is  concerned,  we  might  also  regard  him  as 
one  with  the  sky  god  Tiu,  but  although  a  few  individual  traits 
in  the  character  of  Freyr  point  to  the  sky  god,  he  is  too  essen- 
tially different  from  the  war-like  Tiu-Tyr  to  enable  us  to  regard 
the  two  as  representing  a  single  divinity.  Freyr  has  more 
points  of  resemblance  to  a  Liber  than  to  a  Mars  or  Jupiter. 

To  define  any  one  sphere  of  nature  as  the  special  field  of 
activity  of  the  Vanir  is  on  the  whole  impossible  without  a  show 
of  arbitrariness.  Nerthus  is  the  terra  mater1;  Njqrdhr  usu- 
ally god  of  the  sea;  he  dwells  in  Noatun  (the  place  of  ships).2 
In  the  case  of  Freyr,  some  features  point  to  heavenly  light, 
others  to  earthly  fruitfulness.  It  is  not  possible,  therefore, 
to  regard  the  whole  group  simply  as  gods  of  the  air. 

The  ethnic  basis  of  the  cult  of  these  gods  is  more  firmly 
established.  For  the  festival  of  Nerthus  the  seven  Ingaevonic 
peoples  assemble  ;  Freyr  is  identified  with  the  tribal  progenitor 
Ingv  (Ingvifreyr,  Ingunarfreyr)  ;  the  Ynglingen  are  his  descend- 
ants,8 and  he  is  also  mentioned  in  the  Anglo-Saxon  genealogical 
tables.  There  is,  accordingly,  no  possibility  of  regarding  the 
Vanir  as  Slavic  or  foreign  divinities.  They  are  truly  Teutonic, 
and  the  gods  of  the  Ingaevonic  amphictyony.  The  island 
where  the  festival  of  Nerthus  was  celebrated  was  probably 
Seeland.  We  may  assume  then  that  this  was  also  the  home 
of  the  Vanir,  and  that  from  there  they  came  to  Sweden,  either 
by  way  of  Scania  or  through  intercourse  over  the  sea.  While 
Freyr  is  preeminently  the  Sviagodh  (god  of  the  Swedes),  he 
was  not  originally  indigenous  in  Sweden,  as  is  shown  by  the 
saga  of  king  Hadding,  who  is  said  to  have  introduced  the 
froblbt  (sacrifice  to  Freyr)  at  Upsala.4  The  correspondence 
between  the  festival  of  Nerthus  described  by  Tacitus  and  the 
procession  of  Freyr  from  Upsala  at  the  close  of  winter  is  a 

l "  Mother  Earth."  3  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  12. 

2  Thrymskvidha,  22  ;  Grimnismdl,  16,  etc.       4  Saxo,  HD.,  p.  50. 


THE  PANTHEON  249 

very  striking  one.  His  wagon  was  accompanied  by  a  priestess 
who  figured  as  his  wife,  a  circumstance  which  a  Norwegian 
exile  knew  how  to  turn  to  good  account,  as  we  learn  from 
a  characteristic  story  in  the  longer  Olaf  Tryggvason  Saga, 
Chapter  173.  From  Sweden  the  worship  of  Freyr  came  to 
Norway,  more  especially  to  the  region  of  Throndhjem,  and 
from  there  to  Iceland.  In  various  sagas *  we  meet  with  Freys- 
godhar  (priests  of  Freyr),  with  sacrifices  of  bulls  brought  to 
Freyr,  with  his  image  on  an  amulet,  with  a  stallion  Freysfaxi, 
on  which  no  one  was  allowed  to  ride  against  its  will,  and 
the  like. 

While  Freyr  was  thus  introduced  into  Sweden  and  Norway 
from  the  South,  his  worship  does  not  appear  to  have  come  into 
collision  with  the  indigenous  cult  of  Thor.  The  case  seems  to 
have  been  different  with  the  more  recent  religion  of  Odhin, 
which  was  also  introduced  from  the  South.  With  considerable 
probability  we  conclude,  from  the  myth  of  the  war  between  the 
^sir  and  Vanir,  that  their  respective  adherents  stood  violently 
opposed  to  each  other.  In  illustration  we  cite  Voluspa,  21-24: 

That  I  remember  as  first  of  the  world-wars,  when  Gullveig  they  thrust 
with  spears  and  in  Har's  hall  burnt  her ;  thrice  burnt  her,  the  thrice  born, 
oft  and  not  seldom,  and  yet  she  still  lives. 

Heidhr  they  called  her,  wheresoever  she  came  to  a  house,  the  vqlva 
prophetic.  She  used  witchcraft  wherever  she  could,  distracted  men's  minds 
by  her  magic,  practised  sorcery ;  she  was  ever  the  delight  of  evil  women. 

Then  went  all  the  rulers  to  their  judgment-seats,  the  most  holy  gods, 
and  held  counsel,  whether  the  ^Esir  should  pay  tribute,  or  all  the  gods 
should  share  the  sacrifices. 

Odhin  hurled  spears  and  shot  into  the  host ;  that  also  happened  in  the 
first  of  the  world-wars.  Broken  was  the  wall  of  the  burgh  of  the  JEsir. 
The  valiant  Vanir  were  able  to  tramp  over  the  plains. 

Gullveig,  who  is  evidently  the  queen  of  the  Vanir,  was 
accordingly  shamefully  maltreated  with  spears  and  fire  in  the 

1  Glumsaga,  Chapters  9,  26 ;  Vatnsd&lasaga,  Chapter  10 ;  Hrafnkelssaga, 
Chapter  4 ;  etc. 


250         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

hall  of  Har  (Odhin)  ;  she  was  called  Heidhr,  the  sorceress, 
versed  in  all  manner  of  magic  practices.  The  Vanir  remained 
victors  in  the  struggle  that  ensued,  and  the  y£sir  took  counsel 
whether  they  should  pay  the  Vanir  tribute  or  should  allow 
them  to  share  the  sacrifices  in  common.  The  latter  seems  to 
have  been  the  result  of  their  deliberations,  and  from  that  time 
on,  the  two,  ^Esir  and  Vanir,  stand  side  by  side  in  the  cult. 
Elsewhere  we  read  that  on  both  sides  a  god  was  given  as  a 
hostage,  Njqrdhr  to  the  ^Esir,  and  Hcenir,  accompanied  by  the 
wise  Mimir,  to  the  Vanir.1  The  antithesis  between  the  two 
groups  was  evidently  felt,  and  from  this  we  may  conclude,  with 
a  considerable  degree  of  probability,  that  a  clash  took  place 
between  the  followers  of  the  two  parties.  Weinhold,  however,  is 
hardly  justified  in  assigning  a  date  to  this  "cult-war"  ("before 
A.D.  800  ")  as  a  definite  historical  fact. 

When  we  inquire  into  the  meaning  of  this  antithesis,  it  is  to 
be  noted  that  in  Voluspa,  Gullveig-Heidhr  and  in  the  Ynglinga 
Saga,  Freyja  are  accused  of  practising  evil  arts  of  magic.  This 
Gullveig-Heidhr-Freyja  is  the  Vanir-goddess  whose  tears  are 
gold  :  the  Vanir  are  the  wealthy  gods  of  trade  and  commerce. 
Attention  has  been  called  to  the  fact  that  in  the  heroic  saga  as 
well,  alluring  gold  brings  danger  and  death  to  its  possessors 
(Hreidmar,  Fafnir,  Regin,  Sigurd).  The  present  myth  has 
therefore  been  supposed  to  contain  the  ethical  thought  that 
the  religion  of  Odhin  is  hostile  to  the  cult  of  the  Vanir  on 
account  of  the  magic  power  of  gold.  While  it  is  possible  that 
such  a  conception  is  present  in  the  myth,  we  should  be  on  our 
guard  against  treating  it  as  an  established  fact.  In  Voluspa,  7, 
the  ^Esir  are  in  the  Golden  Age  themselves  occupied  with  gold, 
and  the  stricter  religion  of  Odhin  as  opposed  to  the  more  luxu- 
rious cult  of  the  Vanir  is,  after  all,  based  merely  on  conjecture. 

Nor  is  it  feasible  to  regard  the  Vanir  war  as  a  nature-myth. 
The  very  fact  that  we  were  unable  to  point  to  either  light  or 

1  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  23  ;  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  4. 


THE   PANTHEON  251 

air  or  any  one  sphere  of  nature  as  their  special  field  of  activity 
in  itself  precludes  such  an  interpretation.  We  must,  accord- 
ingly, be  content  with  recognizing  an  ethnic  difference  between 
^Esir  and  Vanir.  The  material  at  our  disposal  is  too  scanty  to 
enable  us  to  ascertain  their  ethical  or  physical  significance. 

Another  ethnic  difference,  but  one  that  has  struck  less  deep 
a  root  in  the  cult,  may  be  recognized  in  the  marriage  of 
Njqrdhr  with  the  Finnish  Skadhi.1  The  ^Esir  owed  her  an 
expiation  for  the  death  of  her  father  Thjazi,  and  she  was 
accordingly  to  marry  one  of  the  y£sir,  but  was  permitted  to  see 
only  their  feet  in  making  a  choice.  She  chose  Njqrdhr,  mis- 
taking him  for  Baldr.  The  marriage  was  not  a  happy  one. 
Skadhi  did  not  thrive  at  Noatun,  where  the  screeching  of  the 
birds  awakened  her  in  the  morning,  and  Njqrdhr  did  not  keep 
his  agreement  of  living  nine  nights  in  Thrymheim  in  the 
mountains,  in  the  midst  of  the  howling  wolves.  Some  strophes 
relating  an  altercation  between  them,  in  dialogue  form,  may  be 
found  in  Gylfaginning. 

There  are  in  the  cult  of  Freyr  a  few  rude  primitive  traits 
that  are  at  times  too  little  regarded  in  a  treatment  of  the  god. 
In  the  first  place  we  read  in  Adam  of  Bremen,  IV,  26:  "  Freyr 
(Fricco)  bestows  peace  and  joy  upon  mankind;  his  image  they 
fashion  with  a  large  membrum  virile"  He  is  the  god  of  fruit- 
fulness  in  every  sense.  For  the  vegetable  kingdom  this  is 
indicated  by  the  processions  in  spring,  for  the  animal  world  by 
the  symbol  of  the  phallus.  In  this  connection  the  little  statu- 
ettes of  Manneke-pis  and  the  processions  of  Derk  met  den  beer, 
are  frequently  drawn  upon  for  illustration,2  but  while  these 
may  possibly  represent  parallels,  it  is  not  at  all  likely  that  they 
have  been  derived  from  the  god  Freyr. 

A  second  trait  is  that  the  Vanir  are  accused  of  marriage 
with  sisters,  which  was  regarded  with  abhorrence  by  the 

1  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  23 ;  Bragaroedhur,  Chapter  2. 

2  Wolf,  Beitrage  zur  deutschen  Mythologie,  I,  107. 


252        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 


In  addition  we  may  mention  the  boar  that  was  conse- 
crated to  Freyr,  and  by  which  on  the  eve  of  Yule-tide,  in  the 
I/  hall,  the  god  was  invoked  for  the  fruitfulness  of  the  year,  and 
vows  made  to  him  over  the  cup.2  In  connection  with  this  the 
"  figures  of  wild  boars,"  which  according  to  Tacitus  3  are  the 
"  token  of  superstition  "  of  the  ./Estii,  are  sometimes  cited,  and 
it  is  at  least  not  impossible  that  here,  on  the  very  border  of  the 
territory  actually  known  to  him,  Tacitus  ascribes  to  the  Baits 
what  really  belonged  to  the  Ingasvonic  Teutons.  In  Norse 

I  mythology  the  wagon  of  Freyr  is  drawn  by  the  boar  Gullin- 
bursti  ("with  golden  bristles"). 
That  Freyr  is  the  god  of  fruitfulness,  love,  prosperity,  and 
peace  is  also  shown  by  the  well-known  Frodhi-peace,4  and 
several  details  of  Saxo's  accounts  of  kings  that  were  called 
Frotho  may  perhaps  be  explained  as  due  to  a  euhemeristic  con- 
ception of  the  god.  In  the  songs  of  the  Edda  and  in  the 
Snorra  Edda,  his  character  is  sketched  with  considerable  detail.6 
He  dwells  in  Alfheim  among  the  light-elves.  His  treasures 
consist  of  the  ship  Skidhbladhnir  and  the  boar  Gullinbursti. 
Myths  in  which  he  figures  are  not  numerous.  Incidentally  we 
learn  that  with  bare  fist  he  laid  low  the  giant  Beli  ("the  roarer"), 
perhaps  a  demon  representing  the  storms  of  winter.  The  most 
circumstantial  account  is  that  of  the  story  of  Freyr  and  Gerdhr, 
told  in  one  of  the  most  attractive  of  the  Eddie  songs.6  From 
Odhin's  high-seat  Hlidhskjalf  Freyr  was  gazing  over  the  world 
and  caught  sight  of  the  fair  young  giantess  Gerdhr.  He  sent 
his  servant  Skirnir  to  her,  who  with  mighty  threats  prevailed 
upon  the  unwilling  fair  one,  after  nine  nights,  to  surrender  her- 
self to  Freyr  in  the  flowery  grove  Barri.  The  chief  meaning 
of  this  myth  is  doubtless  the  awakening  of  the  earth  in  spring, 

1  Lokasenna,  32,  36.  3  Germania,  Chapter  45. 

2  Hervararsaga,  Chapter  14.    '  4  See  p.  165. 

6  Skirnism&l  ;  Grimnismdl,  5,43;  Lokasenna,  35-37,  42-44  ;  HyndluljSdh,  31  ; 
Sigurdharkvidha,  24;  Gylfaginning,  24,  34,  37-43,  49,  51  ;  Skdldskaparmal,  3. 
6  Skirnism&l. 


THE  PANTHEON  253 

although  not  all  details,  of  course,  are  transferable.  Similarly, 
the  spring  processions  of  Freyr  are  connected  with  the  opening 
of  the  new  season.  One  might  be  tempted  to  find  a  corre- 
spondence between  the  myth  of  Njo/dhr  and  Skadhi  and  that 
of  Freyr  and  Gerdhr :  in  both  we  have  the  unwilling,  resisting 
giant's  daughter  and  the  period  of  nine  days.  The  figure  of 
Gerdhr  does  not,  however,  have  the  same  ethnic  background 
as  that  of  the  Finnish  Skadhi.  In  this  myth  of  Skirnisfqr 
(Skirnir's  journey)  one  more  feature  remains  to  be  noted  : 
Freyr  has  entrusted  his  sword  to  his  servant,  and  for  that  very 
reason  he  is  in  the  last  combat  without  a  weapon  of  defense 
against  the  fire-demon  Surtr,  and  falls  before  the  latter. 

In  various  Christian  saints,  traits  of  Freyr  are  recognizable, 
e.g.  in  St.  Andrew,  the  patron  saint  of  marriage,  and  in  Sweden 
in  St.  Stephanus,  the  patron  saint  of  the  fruitfulness  of  woman 
and  of  the  soil. 

In  the  Scandinavian  North,  Freyr  was  certainly  one  of  the 
chief  gods  in  respect  to  cult.  In  his  case  no  exuberant  growth 
of  poetic  myths  or  popular  stories  make  us  lose  sight,  as  with 
Odhin  and  Thor,  of  the  high  place  which  he  occupied  in  the 
cult. 

BALDR 

The  myths  connected  with  Baldr  are  many  and  varied,  but 
he  has  left  few  traces  in  the  cult.  The  later  Fridhthjofssaga 
alone,  which  dates  from  the  fourteenth  century,  mentions,  with- 
out historical  basis,  a  large  temple  at  Baldrshag.  The  name 
Baldr  characterizes  him  as  a  god  of  light.  With  it  are  to  be ' 
compared  Baeldaeg,  in  Anglo-Saxon  genealogies  the  son  of 
Woden,  the  appellative  bealdor  (prince),  and  the  Old  High 
German  name  Paltar.  The  occurrence  of  the  name  in  the 
second  Merseburg  Charm  we  have  already  discussed,1  and 
this  evidence  in  favor  of  a  German  Balder  is  further  strengthened 

l  See  p.  128. 


254        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

by  names  of  places,  such  as  Pfolsau,  Pholesbrunno,  etc., 
and  possibly  also  by-  the  Pulletag  (the  second  of  May).  Far 
more  numerous  are  similar  evidences  in  Denmark :  Balders- 
brond  near  Roeskilde,  in  Seeland,  where  Baldr  caused  water  to 
gush  forth  out  of  the  ground  for  exhausted  warriors  ;  Baldrs- 
hoje  where  he  lies  buried  ;  and  throughout  the  entire  North 
the  baldrsbrd  (superdlium  Balderi)?-  the  plant  that  is  named 
after  the  white  god.2  In  the  Danish  folklore  collected  by  J.  M. 
Thiele 8  we  repeatedly  meet  with  Baldr,  and  it  seems  likely 
that  Denmark  is  his  original  home.  It  is  there  that  he  most 
frequently  occurs  in  saga  and  folklore,  although  it  is  not 
impossible  that  these  sagas  contain  Norwegian  elements. 

Saxo  Grammaticus,  in  the  third  book  of  his  Historia  Danica, 
has  given  a  very  circumstantial  account  of  this  saga  and  has 
embellished  it  by  the  addition  of  a  number  of  adventures.  In 
Saxo  the  leading  character  is  Hotherus,  the  son  of  a  Swedish 
king,  who  was  enamoured  of  the  beautiful  Nanna,  daughter  of 
the  Norwegian  king  Gevarus.  Inasmuch  as  the  god  or  demi- 
god Balderus  was  also  desirous  of  winning  the  favor  of  the 
maiden,  a  struggle  ensues  between  them,  in  which  after  fortune 
had  favored  now  this  side,  now  that,  Hotherus,  aided  by  the 
counsel  of  the  forest  maidens,  the  possession  of  Miming's 
sword  with  which  alone  Baldr  can  be  wounded,  and  of  the 
ring  that  bestows  riches,  finally  remains  victor.  Baldr's  death 
does  not  remain  unavenged.  With  Rinda,  Odhin  begets 
another  son,  Bous,  who  slays  Hotherus,  but  is  himself  also 
slain.  A  number  of  other  more  or  less  extraneous  features 
have  been  incorporated  into  this  account:  the  magic  food 
which  increases  the  strength  of  Baldr,  but  is  also  bestowed  by 
the  Walkyries  upon  Hotherus ;  the  dream  in  which  Hel  appears 
to  the  wounded  Baldr  and  foretells  that  he  will  soon  rest  in  her 
arms  ;  and  the  scene  of  the  battle  in  which  Odhin  and  Thor 

1 "  Baldr's  eyebrow."  2  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  22. 

8  Danske  Polkesagn,  II,  341. 


THE   PANTHEON  255 

also  take  part.  While  it  is  extremely  difficult  to  separate  the 
adventitious  from  the  genuine  kernel,  it  does  not  seem  to  me 
to  admit  of  the  least  doubt  that  such  a  genuine  mythical  kernel 
exists,  and  that  we  are  here  not  dealing  merely,  as  the  euhem- 
eristic  interpretation  would  have  it,  with  an  heroic  adventure 
of  love  quarrel  and  combat. 

In  the  Eddie  songs  and  in  the  Snorra  Edda  the  myth  of 
Baldr  is  very  prominent.  As  early  as  the  tenth  century  it  was 
known  to  the  scalds  Kormakr  and  Vetrlidhi,  and  in  the  Hus- 
drdpa  which  Ulfr  Uggason  composed  on  the  scenes  depicted  in 
an  Icelandic  hall,  the  story  of  Baldr  plays  a  prominent  part ; 
he  is  represented  as  lying  on  the  funeral  pyre,  while  the  giantess 
Hyrrokin  is  pushing  off  the  ship  that  is  to  carry  the  body  to 
sea,  a  scene  that  is  also  described  in  detail  in  GyZfaginniug, 
Chapter  49. 

From  the  above  remarks  it  follows  that  the  myth  of  Baldr  is 
at  any  rate  not  the  product  of  the  Eddie  poets  and  late  mythog- 
raphers.  It  is  certain,  moreover,  that  the  detailed  account  of 
Snorri  contains  a  number  of  features  not  implied  in  the  Eddie 
poem,  Vegtamskvidha  (Baldrs  Draumar}.  Baldr  is  the  son  of 
Odhin  and  Frigg,  the  white,  the  wise  god,  the  most  beloved 
among  the  ^Esir.  His  hall  is  situated  in  Breidhablik: 

In  that  land, 

In  which  I  know  exist 

The  fewest  crimes.1 

A  gloomy  fate  overhangs  him,  and  he  is  tormented  by  evil 
dreams.  Odhin,  disguised  as  Vegtam  (way-wise  man),  there- 
upon betakes  himself  to  a  vqlva  to  obtain  information  con- 
cerning this  ill-boding  future.  Here  he  learns  that  Baldr's 
place  in  Hel  is  already  prepared  for  him  ;  HQdhr  is  to  kill  him 
with  the  mistletoe,  but  Vali  is  to  avenge  him.  In  an  epito- 
mized form  we  also  possess  this  story  in  Voluspa,  32-34: 

1  Grimnismdl,  12  (Thorpe). 


256         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

I  saw  for  Baldr,  Baldr's  brother 

the  blood-stained,  god,  was  born  full  soon ; 

The  son  of  Odhin,  One  night  old, 

fate's  decision.  battled  Odhin's  son. 
Full  grown  there  towered, 

high  on  the  turf,  Hands  he  ne'er  washed, 

Matchless  and  slender,  head  he  ne'er  kempt, 

the  mistletoe.  Until  Baldr's  foe 

he  'd  borne  to  the  pyre. 

From  this  selfsame  shrub,  But  Frigg  bewept, 

that  seemed  so  slender,  in  Fensalir, 

Came  the  fatal  shaft :  The  woe  of  Walhalla. 

H^dhr  shot  it.  Wot  ye  yet,  or  what  ? 

The  punishment  of  Loki,  which  is  described  in  the  strophes 
that  immediately  follow,  may,  but  need  not  necessarily,  be 
brought  into  connection  with  what  precedes.  Lokasenna,  28, 
and  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  49,  show  that  Loki  is  the  one  who 
is  really  guilty  of  Baldr's  death.  We  are  there  told  that  Frigg, 
subsequent  to  Baldr's  evil  dreams,  had  put  all  objects  under 
oath  not  to  harm  Baldr.  On  the  thing  the  gods,  certain  not  to 
hurt  him,  began  in  jest  to  throw  and  shoot  all  kinds  of  missiles 
at  Baldr ;  nothing  could  hit  him.  Now  Loki  had  learned  from 
Frigg  that  the  insignificant  mistletoe  (niistilteinri)  had  not  been 
put  under  oath,  and  he  now  put  this  mistletoe  as  an  arrow  in  the 
hand  of  the  blind  Hqdhr,  who  shot  Baldr  dead  with  it.  All  the 
gods  wept,  but  to  no  avail.  The  burial  on  the  ship,  which  serves 
at  the  same  time  as  a  funeral  pyre,  is  described  in  detail.  The 
^Esir  thereupon  send  Hermodhr,  the  son  of  Odhin,  to  Hel,  and 
he  returns  with  the  promise  that  Baldr  shall  return  in  case  all 
objects,  animate  as  well  as  inanimate,  weep  for  him.  The 
^Esir  prevail  upon  all  objects  to  do  so ;  the  tears  are  universal.1 
Th^kt  alone,  the  giantess  of  the  cave  in  the  rocks,  —  Loki  in 

l "  As  you  yourself  must  have  seen  that  all  these  things  weep  when  they  are 
brought  from  a  cold  place  into  a  hot  one."  Thus  Snorri  interprets  Gylfaginning^ 
Chapter  49. 


THE  PANTHEON  257 

disguise,  —  will  not  weep  and  thus  prevents  the  return  of  the 
god.  She  says  :  "  Neither  living  nor  dead  was  he  of  any  use 
to  me.  Let  Hel  hold  what  it  has." 

It  is  evident  that  we  are  here  dealing  with  a  myth,  not  in  the 
process  of  growth,  but  in  that  of  disintegration.  Baldr  is  origi- 
nally one  of  those  invulnerable  gods  or  heroes  of  whom  Achilles 
and  Siegfried  are  types.  For  the  invulnerability  the  Norse 
account  has  substituted  the  oath  not  to  harm  him.  The  mis- 
tilteinn  has  taken  the  place  of  Miming's  sword  and  has  thus 
become  a  kenning  for  sword.  The  conceptions  and  usages 
attaching  to  the  mistletoe  are  of  secondary  importance.  In 
respect  to  both  the  invulnerability  and  the  sword,  Saxo's 
account  has  preserved  the  original  form. 

As  in  the  case  of  other  myths,  any  attempt  to  explain  the 
individual  features  of  the  myth  of  Baldr  would  prove  abortive. 
Its  chief  content  is  doubtless  the  vanishing  of  the  light  of 
summer.  But  the  myth  has  undergone  a  twofold  development. 
In  the  first  place,  the  god  of  physical  light  has  become  the 
embodiment  of  the  morally  pure  and  innocent.  On  the  other 
hand,  the  myth  of  the  year  has,  even  in  the  Eddie  poems, 
become  the  myth  of  the  world.  The  death  of  Baldr  inflicts 
great  loss  and  injury  on  the  company  of  the  gods,  and  thus 
forms  the  ominous  prelude  to  the  impending  destruction  of  the 
world.  It  was  this  latter  aspect  in  which  the  myth  was  viewed 
on  that  boundary  line  of  the  pagan  and  Christian  ages  in 
which  Voluspa  was  composed.1 

FORSETE  (FOSITE) 

Forsete  is  usually  connected  with  Baldr,  who,  according  to 
Gylfaginning,  Chapter  32, is  his  father.  He  inhabits  the  resplend- 
ent heavenly  hall  Glitnir,  "  where  he  allays  every  strife." 2 
Aside  from  this,  and  a  few  names  of  places  in  Norway,  little 

1  See  p.  202.  2  GrimnismAl,  15. 


258        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

mention  is  made  of  him  in  the  Scandinavian  North.  He  is  a 
Frisian  god,  who  has  his  seat  on  Helgoland.  He  probably 
came  to  the  North  during  the  Viking  period  and  was  there 
connected  with  Baldr,  to  whom  he  otherwise  bears  little  resem- 
blance. The  name  Fosite  may  be  an  epitheton,  possibly  of 
Wodan  or  of  Tiu  (the  Mars  Thingsus  of  the  Frisian  cuneus  in 
England  has  been  compared  with  him),  less  likely  of  Donar. 

The  accounts  furnished  by  the  Vita  of  the  missionaries  con- 
cerning the  land  of  Fosite  have  already  been  touched  upon.1 
On  this  inhospitable  island,  where  the  tempest  so  frequently 
cast  the  shipwrecked  mariner,  were  the  sacred  well,  the  cattle, 
and  the  temples  of  the  god.  Whosoever  profaned  these  was 
offered  up  by  the  king  as  a  sacrifice  to  the  god.  Helgoland, 
just  as  Seeland,  was  probably  the  centre  of  an  amphictyony. 
From  this  latter,  and  from  the  line  cited  above  from  Grimnismdl, 
we  may  infer  that  Fosite  was  among  the  Frisians  regarded  as 
the  god  of  justice. 

HEIMDALLR 

Heimdallr  we  know  only  from  Norse  literature ;  in  the  cult 
he  is  not  met  with  at  all,  in  proper  names  only  a  few  times,  in 
Norway.  Of  a  magic  song  (Heimdallargaldr)  dealing  with  this 
god,  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  27,  quotes  a  few  lines.  It  might 
seem,  therefore,  that  he  is  to  be  regarded  as  a  creation  of  the 
poetry  of  the  scalds,  and  yet  such  a  conclusion  would  be  false. 
Heimdallr,  who  dwells  in  Himinbj^rg  (the  mountain  of  heaven),2 
was  a  genuine  and  powerful  deity. 

He  is  the  guardian  of  the  gods  and  sits  at  the  edge  of 
heaven  to  guard  the  bridge  against  the  mountain  giants.  He 
requires  less  sleep  than  a  bird,  and  both  by  day  and  night  can 
see  a  distance  of  one  hundred  miles.  He  is,  moreover,  the  pos- 
sessor of  the  Gjallarhorn  (loud-resounding  horn),  whose  sound 
is  heard  throughout  the  universe,  and  which  lies  hidden  under 

1  See  p.  122.  2  Grimnismdl,  13. 


THE  PANTHEON  259 

the  world-tree  until  the  final  catastrophe.1  He  has  nine 
mothers,  daughters  of  ^Egir,2  whose  names  are  suggestive  of 
the  waves  of  the  sea. 

The  chief  myth  connected  with  Heimdallr  is  that  of  his 
struggle  with  Loki  for  the  possession  of  the  precious  necklace 
Brisingamen,  for  which  they  fight  on  the  Singa-stone,  in  the 
form  of  seals.  The  Husdrapa  of  Ulfr  Uggason  shows  that  this 
incident  also  received  pictorial  treatment.  With  great  learning 
and  ingenuity,  Miillenhoff  has  shown  the  mythological  connec- 
tion of  this  struggle  with  the  Hjadhningavig  of  the  Hilde- 
Kudrun  Saga,3  has  interpreted  the  myth  as  symbolizing  the 
appearance  of  the  morning  dawn  on  the  eastern  horizon,  and 
has  traced  its  wide  ramifications  in  Teutonic  saga.4  In  the 
kenningar  of  the  scalds  the  sword  is  frequently  called  Heimdalar 
hqfudh  (the  head  of  Heimdallr).  In  Rigsthula,  under  the  name 
of  Rig  (=  king  in  Keltic),  he  begets  by  three  women,  at  whose 
houses  he  puts  up,  Thraell  (thrall),  Karl  (churl),  and  Jarl  (earl), 
the  progenitors  of  the  serfs,  the  freemen,  and  the  nobles. 

The  antithesis  between  Heimdallr  and  Loki  has  been  most 
poetically  expressed  by  Uhland  :  "  Heimdallr,  who  is  the  dawn 
and  the  beginning  of  all  things ;  whose  sword  is  H^fudh  (the 
beginning)  ;  who  hears  grass  and  wool  grow  ;  from  whose  keen 
senses  the  most  inaudible  processes  of  growth  do  not  escape." 5 

LOKI 

No  matter  how  one  groups  or  interprets  the  data  at  hand, 
Loki  is  and  remains  the  great  riddle  of  Teutonic  mythology. 
In  the  first  place,  the  question  presents  itself,  whether  he  is  a 

1  Gylfaginning,  Chapters  27,  51 ;   Voluspa,  27,  46. 

2  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  27  ;  Hyndhdjodh,  36-40. 
8  See  p.  176. 

4  Belling,  the  father  of  day  (  Vafthrtidhnismal,  25  ;  Hdvamal,  159  ;  Gylfaginning, 
Chapter  10),  and  even    Iring,    the    Thuringian   armiger   regalis   (VVidukind,  Res 
Gestae,  I,  13),  have  by  Miillenhoff  been  identified  with  Heimdallr. 

5  Sckriften,  VI,  14. 


260        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

genuine  god  or  one  fabricated  by  scalds  and  mythographers. 
He  occurs  nowhere  in  the  cult.  He  is  exclusively  Scandina- 
vian,  and  the  parallels  that  have  been  drawn  between  him  and 
figures  from  the  German  heroic  saga  are  extremely  dubious. 
An  attempt  has  been  made  to  identify  him  with  Requaliva- 
hanus  (i.e.  darkness),  a  god  whose  name  occurs  on  an  inscrip- 
tion of  the  second  century,  discovered  near  Cologne,  but  again 
on  in  sufficient  grounds.  In  the  North  his  memory  is  kept  alive 
in  a  number  of  proverbial  expressions.  When  the  fire  crackles, 
people  say,  "  Loki  is  beating  his  children  "  ;  when  in  the  sum- 
mer the  hot  air  is  vibrating,  "  Loki  is  driving  his  goats  out  to 
pasture " l ;  listening  to  lies  is  called  "  listening  to  Loki's 
adventures  "  ;  when  the  sun  draws  water  "  Loki  is  drinking  " ; 
"  Loki's  oats "  is  a  noxious  weed  ;  the  star  Sirius  is  called 
Lokabrenna,  etc.  But  such  sayings  do  not  by  any  means 
prove  the  ancient  heathen  origin  of  the  god :  the  later  Norse 
mythology  may  as  well  have  given  them  currency  among  the 
people. 

Loki's  name  also  seems  too  abstract  to  be  regarded  as  that 
of  an  original  nature-deity ;  it  signifies  "the  closer."  Weinhold 
has  accordingly  attempted  to  find  another  name  for  him  in 
Gothic  Auhns,  Old  Norse  On  (pvan,  oven),  thus  identifying  him 
with  Agni  as  god  of  the  fire-hearth,  but  no  evidence  has  been 
adduced  in  support  of  this  view.  The  names  of  Loki's  kindred 
are  likewise  abstract.  His  father  is  Farbauti,  the  dangerously 
striking  one,  i.e.  the  storm,  or  the  ferryman,  the  oarsman  (?)  ; 2 
his  mother  is  Nal,  the  fir  tree,  or  Laufey,  the  leafy  isle. 
The  latter  appellation  has  been  interpreted  as  referring  to 
Iceland,  formerly  thickly  wooded,  which  with  its  boiling  and 
foaming  waters,  its  subterranean  fire,  its  vapors,  and  its  lava 
streams  would  accordingly  be  the  home  of  Loki,  who  would 
through  this  very  fact  be  shown  to  be  of  later  origin.  On  the 
other  hand,  Loki  is  already  found  in  the  oldest  kenningar? 

l  In  Jutland.  2  uhland.  3  See  CPB.  II,  471. 


THE   PANTHEON  261 

and  the  role  he  plays  in  the  oldest  nature-myths  is  too 
important  to  regard  this  companion  and  opponent  of  Odhin 
and  Thor  as  an  entirely  fictitious  god. 

If  we  ask  what  element  of  nature  he  originally  represents, 
the  answer  is  equally  uncertain.  He  is  one  of  the  ^Esir, 
although  his  residence  is  not  mentioned  among  the  heavenly 
mansions  in  Grimnismdl.  He  likewise  belongs  to  the  race  of 
the  giants,  and  is  connected  with  the  elves.  His  other,  prob- 
ably older,  names,  Loptr  and  Lodhurr,  signify  'the  air'  or  'the 
hot  air,'  and  the  fire-demon  Logi  is  a  doublet  of  Loki.  Accord- 
ing to  Lokasenna,  23,  he  dwelt  for  eight  winters  underground, 
doing  service  as  milkmaid,  and  had  there  even  given  birth  to 
children,  a  reference  which  is  usually  brought  into  connection 
with  subterranean  fire.  We  find  him  associated  with  the  water 
as  well :  the  sea-monster,  the  Midhgardh-serpent,  is,  like  Hel 
and  the  Fenris-wolf,  his  progeny,  and  a  popular  song  current 
in  the  Faroe  Islands  also  mentions  the  water  as  his  element, 
although  not  much  nature-mythology  can  be  deduced  from  a 
fairy  tale  in  which  the  three  gods,  Odhin,  Hoenir,  and  Loki  hide 
a  peasant's  son  from  a  giant,  by  transforming  him,  in  turn,  into 
a  grain  of  barley,  a  swan  feather,  and  a  grain  in  the  mouth  of 
a  fish.1  If,  finally,  he  also  lies  concealed  behind  Utgardhaloki, 
he  would  occur  in  that  story — summarized  above  under  the 
head  of  Thor — in  three  forms,  including  those  of  Loki  and 
Logi. 

Especially  frequent  are  Loki's  changes  of  shape.  As  a  mare 
he  entices  the  stallion  Svadhilfari,  which  was  helping  to  build 
the  gigantic  burgh  for  the  gods,  and  subsequently  gives  birth  to 
the  steed  Sleipnir.2  He  frequently  flies  through  the  air,  and 
arrayed  in  Freyja's  falcon  plumage  brings  back  Idhunn  from 
Thjazi's  dwelling.3  Similarly,  he  came  flying  to  the  giant  Geir- 
rodhr  in  the  shape  of  a  falcon.4  He  readily  changes  himself 

1  Uhland,  Schriften,  VI,  193.  8  Bragarcedhur,  Chapter  I. 

2  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  42.  4  SkAldskafarmdl,  Chapter  2. 


262        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

into  a  fish,1  or  into  a  fly,  and  thus  gains  entrance  to  Freyja's 
chamber,  and  steals  her  necklace.2  These  various  metamor- 
phoses, it  will  be  noticed,  bring  him  into  connection  with  all 
the  elements. 

Equally  difficult  is  the  third  phase  of  the  problem,  namely  : 
why  Loki  should  at  one  time  be  classed  among  the  good  gods, 
as  companion  of   the  ^Esir,  and  then  again  as  their  enemy, 
0  among  the  dangerous,  hostile  beings.     It  is  not  clear  when, 

'  where,  and  why  Loki  has  been  diabolified.     His  relationship 

to  the  giants  is  probably  a  fabrication  of  Scandinavian  mythol- 
ogy, due  to  this  antithesis  to  the  ^Esir.  His  two-sidedness  is 
doubtless  best  explained  from  his  nature,  but  here  again  it  is 
impossible  to  advance  beyond  more  or  less  probable  conjec- 
tures. The  fire  god  can  as  well  give  rise  to  beneficent  warmth 
as  to  consuming  flames.  The  "  closer "  can  make  an  end  to 
the  good  as  well  as  to  the  bad  ;  both  deliver  up  Idhunn  to 
the  giant  Thjazi,  and  bring  her  back  again ;  alike  struggle 
with  Heimdallr  and  aid  Thor  in  recovering  his  hammer  from 
the  giant  Thrym.  But  in  the  main  this  "  end  "  inspires  fear. 
Loki  accordingly  signifies  "the  approaching  end  of  things," 
"  the  goal  and  limits  of  divine  power  in  time  and  space." 8 
Hence  also  he  plays  the  chief  role  in  the  final  downfall  of  the 
world.  Christian  influence  in  the  so-called  diabolification  of 
Loki  is  in  any  case  not  to  be  rated  very  high.  There  is  no 
apparent  reason  why  he,  more  than  any  .other  of  the  "false 
gods,"  should  have  been  transformed  into  an  evil  spirit.  The 
conception  of  a  conflict  in  nature  is  an  old  and  thoroughly 
mythical  motif.  The  sky  god,  the  thunder  god,  and  the  fire 
god  are  all  capable  of  generating  life  as  well  as  of  bringing 
death.  The  powers  and  elements  of  nature  are  engaged  in 
a  continuous  struggle :  Heimdallr  and  Loki  stand  opposed. 
The  character  that  the  Norse  poets  and  story-tellers  have 

1  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  50.  2  Sorlathdttr,  Chapter  i. 

3  Uhland,  Schriften,  VI,  14 


THE   PANTHEON  263 

assigned  to  Loki,  as  that  of  the  shrewd  companion,  who  is 
never  at  a  loss,  devises  all  manner  of  tricks,  and  brings  dis- 
grace and  mockery  upon  the  gods,  does  not,  after  all,  lie  out- 
side the  line  of  purely  pagan  development  such  as  we  have 
been  able  to  trace  elsewhere. 

The  myths  of  Loki  that  are  actually  related,  or  to  which 
allusion  is  made,  are  very  numerous.  Those  concerning  which 
we  are  not  informed  in  detail  are  :  his  sojourn  under  ground; 1 
his  intimacy  with  several  goddesses ; 2  and  his  eating  a  woman's 
heart,  through  which  he  gives  birth  to  the  monsters  that  are 
accounted  his  progeny.3  Of  several  of  his  myths  we  have  cir- 
cumstantial accounts,  narrated  more  or  less  after  the  manner 
of  the  fairy  tale.  Thus  he  delivered  Idhunn  into  the  hands  of 
Thjazi,  and  brought  her  back  again  changed  into  the  form 
of  a  nut ;  by  an  obscene  exhibition  he  made  Skadhi  laugh  ; 
he  had  the  dwarfs  make  Sif's  golden  hair  and  two  precious 
jewels ;  he  accompanied  and  aided  Thor  on  his  journey  to 
Thrym  and  to  Utgardhaloki,  and  is  mentioned  as  aiding  the 
^sir  on  various  other  occasions.  The  greater  part  of  these 
narratives  have  already  been  treated  in  another  connection. 

A  separate  class  is  formed  by  those  myths  in  which  Loki 
together  with  Odhin  and  Hoenir  constitute  a  triad,  which  has 
been  characterized  as  symbolizing  "  the  rushing  wind,  the 
speeding  clouds,  and  invigorating  warmth."  4  The  first  men 
were  formed  from  trees,  and  upon  these  Odhin  bestowed 
breath,  Hcenir  the  soul,  Lodhurr  warmth  and  color.5  The 
same  three,  when  making  a  joint  tour,  arrive  at  the  abode  of 
Hreidmar,  and  kill  Ottr,  whereupon  Loki  succeeds  in  obtaining 
from  the  dwarf  Andvari  the  gold  that  is  to  serve  as  expiation.6 
Odhin  and  Loki  are  closely  connected ;  they  had  mixed  blood, 
and  sworn  eternal  brotherhood.7  As  a  hostile  power  Loki 

1  Lokasenna,  23.  6  Voluspa,  18. 

2  Ibid.  6  Reginsmal;  Skdldskafarmdl,  Chapter  4. 

3  Hyndhtljodh,  43.  "  Lokasenna,  9. 

4  Hoffory,  Eddastudien,  p.  117. 


264         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

appears  in  the  myth  of  the  necklace,  which  he  purloins  from 
Freyja,  and  in  the  struggle  with  Heimdallr.  Mitothinus  (contra- 
Odhiri)  mentioned  by  Saxo  (I,  43)  as  having  in  Odhin's  absence 
led  the  people  astray,  and  as  being  celeber  praestigiis*  has 
also  been  identified  with  Loki.  In  Lokasenna  Loki  reviles  all 
the  gods  and  goddesses  at  the  feast  of  ^Egir,  and  yields  to 
Thor  alone.  He  is  captured  and  chained,  and  Skadhi  fastens 
a  snake  above  him,  whose  venom  drips  down  upon  his  face. 
Loki's  wife,  Sigyn,  contrives  to  catch  the  venom  in  a  vessel, 
and  only  when  this  vessel  becomes  full  and  has  to  be  emptied 
does  a  drop  fall  upon  Loki,  whose  frightful  convulsions  then 
cause  the  earth  to  quake. 

In  Norse  eschatology  Loki  is  throughout  conceived  of  as  an 
inimical  force.  It  was  he  who  had  caused  Baldr  to  perish, 
although  he  is  not  mentioned  by  Saxo  in  connection  with  the 
struggle  between  Hotherus  and  Balderus.  At  the  final  cata- 
strophe he  is  the  leader  of  the  creatures  from  Hel,  who  advance 
against  the  ^Esir  on  the  ship  Naglfar.  The  monsters,  Hel,  the 
Fenris-wolf,  who  will  then  be  released  and  course  about,  and 
the  Midhgardh-serpent,  are  his  progeny,  begotten  by  Angr- 
bodha.2  While  these  eschatological  myths  belong  to  the  last 
period  of  myth-development,  they  are  yet  not  to  be  regarded 
as  mere  story  and  fiction.  It  is  certain,  at  any  rate,  that  they 
are  interwoven  with  genuine  mythical  material. 

The  character  of  Loki  is  one  of  the  most  completely  devel- 
oped among  the  gods  of  Scandinavian  mythology.  He  is  the 
personification  of  shrewdness  and  cunning,  of  adroitness  and 
nimbleness,  "the  true  impersonation,"  as  Mogk  puts  it,  "of  a 
thulr  who  takes  delight  in  snapping  his  fingers  at  the  company 
round  about  him,  but  who  always  knows  how  to  escape  the  net 
that  is  spread  for  him."  The  tragic  mood  that  is  character- 
istic of  the  eschatology  does  not  find  a  sufficient  basis  in  the 

1  "  Celebrated  for  his  juggling  tricks." 

2  Voluspa,  51 ;  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  51. 


THE  PANTHEON  265 

character  of  the  gods,  who  —  Loki  as  well  as  the  others  —  are, 
after  all,  too  little  cognizant  of  moral  distinctions. 

HOENIR 

The  lesser  gods,  whom  we  know  from  Scandinavian  mythol- 
ogy alone,  and  who  do  not  occupy  a  place  in  the  cult,  now 
demand  our  attention.  The  question  presents  itself  whether 
they  owe  their  existence  solely  to  the  scalds  and  mythogra- 
phers,  or  whether  they  contain  a  genuine  kernel  representative 
of  myths  of  nature.  In  the  majority  of  instances  this  latter 
possibility  must  doubtless  be  reckoned  with.  Hoenir  we  have 
already  met  in  the  company  of  Odhin  and  Lodhurr.1  As 
hostage  among  the  Vanir  2  he  cuts  a  sorry  figure.  Though  stal- 
wart in  form  and  fair  of  face,  he  is  dull  in  mind.  When  his 
opinion  is  asked,  he  invariably  replies,  "  Let  others  give  coun- 
sel," so  that  it  is  absolutely  necessary  that  the  wise  Mimir 
should  accompany  him.3  When  the  world  is  restored  Hcenir 
will  be  one  of  the  gods  that  return.4 

This  is  about  the  extent  of  the  information  that  we  possess 
concerning  this  god,  the  fleet,  long-footed  As,  as  he  is  called. 
He  has  been  regarded  as  a  sun  god  (Weinhold,  Mogk),  the 
swan  god,  i.e.  sky  god  (Hoffory),  a  water  god  (Miillenhoff), 
forest  god  (Kauffmann),  cloud  god  (Roediger,  and  in  part 
Golther),  the  Singer  (Uhland,  Better,  Heinzel),  and  as  the 
Biblical  Henoch  (E.  H.  Meyer).  His  name  and  nature  are 
obscure. 

ULLR 

Ullr  is  undoubtedly  a  genuine  god,  who  was  worshipped 
in  Sweden,  where  his  memory  is  perpetuated  in  a  number  of 
names  of  places.  Oaths,  furthermore,  were  sworn  by  Ullr's 

1  Voluspa,  18 ;  Reginsmal.  8  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  4. 

2  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  23.  *  Vdlusfa,  63. 


IliU 

266        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

ring.1  He  is  the  son  of  Sif,  and  stepson  of  Thor,  and  dwells 
in  Ydalir  (yew-tree  valley),2  where  the  wood  grows  out  of  which 
bows  are  made.  He  occupies  a  place  of  honor  among  the 
yEsir,  and  is  invoked  in  single  combats.3  In  the  kenningar  he 
is  the  god  of  the  bow,  shield,  hunt,  and  skates.  He  has  also 
been  identified  with  Holler,  the  inferni  dominusf  whom  the 
Frisians 5  worshipped,  but  this  is  uncertain ;  it  would  consti- 
tute the  only  trace  of  the  god  outside  of  Scandinavia.  He 
is  identical  with  Ollerus  in  Saxo  (III,  130),  who  takes  advan- 
tage of  Odhin's  absence,  and  at  the  return  of  the  god  flees 
to  Sweden  on  a  bone  (osse,  erroneously  for  skate?}.  Ullr  is 
without  doubt  an  ancient  Swedish  deity. 

VIDHARR 

Vidharr,  who  rides  about  on  his  steed  in  Vidhi,6  the  wide 
grassy  plain,  is  the  son  of  Odhin  and  the  giantess  Gridh.  He 
is  surnamed  rather  the  "  silent  god,"  and  almost  equals  Thor  in 
strength,  so  that  the  ^Esir  when  in  peril  largely  rely  upon  him.7 
At  yEgir's  feast  he  gives  way  to  Loki  and  is  the  only  one  of 
the  gods  who  escapes  Loki's  abuse.8  At  the  final  catastrophe 
he  avenges  his  father  Odhin  and  slays  the  Fenris-wolf,  whose 
jaw  he  rends  open  with  a  thick  shoe,  or  an  iron  shoe,  or  a  shoe 
made  out  of  pieces  of  leather  that  have  been  cast  aside.  This 
last  feature,  which  indicates  the  way  in  which  men  can  assist 
the  gods  in  this  final  struggle,  viz.  by  casting  aside  such  scraps 
of  leather,  is  doubtless  of  more  recent  date.  Together  with 
Vali,  Vidharr  returns  to  the  regenerated  world.9  On  the  whole, 

1  Atlakridha,  31.  6  Grtmnismdl,  17. 

2  Grtmnismdl,  5.  7  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  29. 

8  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  31.  8  Lokasenna. 
4  "  Lord  of  the  lower  world." 

6  Hamconius,  Frisia,  p.  77,  in  Wolf,  Beitrdge  zur  dentschen  Myihologie,  I,  204. 

9  On  Vidharr,  see  Vdluspa,  54,  —  an  interpolated  strophe,  according  to  Miillenhoff ; 
Vafthrudhnismdl,  51;  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  51. 


THE   PANTHEON  267 

he  is  a  god  that  is  of  importance  only  from  the  side  of  escha- 
tology,  and  whose  mythical  character  is  very  problematical. 

VALI 

Like  Vidharr,  Vali  is  not  met  with  in  the  cult.  His  role  in 
the  myth  of  Baldr  is,  however,  of  some  importance.  Vali  is 
the  son  of  Odhin  and  Rindr,  and  not  to  be  confounded  with  a 
son  of  Loki  of  identical  name,  but  perhaps  to  be  identified  with 
Ran,  whose  mother,  Rindr,  chanted  magic  songs  to  him.1 
Immediately  after  his  birth,  with  uncombed  hair  and  unwashed 
hands,  Vali  avenges  his  brother's  death,  and  returns  to  the 
regenerated  world.2  He  is  also  called  Ali 3  and  Bous.4 

BRAGI 

Bragi  Boddason  was  undoubtedly  a  scald  of  the  ninth  cen- 
tury, the  oldest  scald  of  whom  some  fragments  have  been 
preserved.  Aside  from  these,  in  Ragnarsdrdpa,  Gylfaginning, 
Chapter  i,  quotes  a  few  lines  of  his  poetry.  In  the  Eiriksmdl 
and  the  Hdkonarmdl,  which  is  dependent  upon  the  Eiriksmdl, 
he  is  already  mentioned  as  Odhin's  favorite  scald  and  counsellor 
in  Walhalla. 

From  this  historical  Bragi  we  distinguish  Bragi,  the  god  of 
poetry.  It  is  not  likely  that  this  latter  is  merely  the  apotheosis 
of  the  scald  Bragi.  Bragi,  the  god  of  poetry,  is  the  husband 
of  Idhunn.  In  Lokasenna  he  wishes  to  expel  Loki,  but  creates 
in  the  end  the  impression  of  being  afraid  rather  than  angry. 
Both  in  Bragaroedhur  and  in  Skdldskaparmdl  he  is  the  nar- 
rator, and  in  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  26,  he  is  characterized  as  a 
god  who  excels  in  wisdom  and  eloquence.  Not  everywhere 
where  Bragi  is  mentioned  is  it  clear  whether  the  god  or  the 

1  Grdgaldr,  6.  3  Gylfaginning. 

2  Voluspa,  33;  Baldr s  Drauma,  n  ;   Vafthriidhnismal,  51  ;  Hyndlulj6dk,  30; 
Gylfaginning,  Chapters  30,  53.  4  Saxo,  HD.  Ill,  131. 


J 


268         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

scald  is  meant,  as,  e.g.  in  Grimnismdl,  44,  and  Sigrdrifumdl,  16. 
As  god  of  poetry,  Bragi  discharges  a  function  which  had  in 
reality  been  already  assigned  to  Odhin.  The  vows  made 
by  Bragi's  cup  show,  however,  that  he  was  also  conceived  of 
as  a  separate  personality.  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  40,  tells  us 
that  a  new  king  did  not  ascend  the  high-seat  of  his  father  in 
the  hall  until  Bragi's  cup  had  been  handed  him,  he  had  made 
a  pledge  by  it,  and  had  drained  it. 

In  bringing  our  survey  of  the  gods  to  a  close,  a  few  other 
names  may  be  mentioned  in  passing.  Hqdhr  is  the  blind  god 
who  slays  Baldr.  Hermodhr,  the  son  of  Odhin,  is  sent  to  Hel 
to  fetch  Baldr  back  again.  Modhi  and  Magni,  sons  of  Thor, 
survive  the  world  conflagration  and  obtain  their  father's  ham- 
mer. Vili  and  Ve  are  brothers  of  Odhin,  who,  in  his  absence, 
take  Frigg  unto  themselves.1  Har,  Jafnhar,  and  Thridhi,  of 
Gylfaginning,  possibly  owe  their  origin  to  the  Christian  trinity. 
None  of  these  gods  are  found  in  the  cult ;  most,  if  not  all  of 
them,  are  the  creation  of  scalds  and  mythographers. 

GODDESSES 

Of  the  goddesses,  Jacob  Grimm  says  :  "  They  are  thought 
of  chiefly  as  divine  mothers  who  travel  round  and  visit  houses, 
from  whom  the  human  race  learns  the  occupations  and  arts 
of  housekeeping  and  husbandry  :  spinning,  weaving,  tending  the 
hearth,  sowing  and  reaping."  2  The  attempt  to  thus  unite  the 
German  goddesses  in  one  general  definition  is  by  no  means 
preposterous.  They  are  individualized  to  a  far  less  degree 
than  the  gods,  and  we  frequently  are  at  a  loss  to  determine 
whether  we  are  dealing  with  a  surname  or  attribute  of  another 
goddess,  or  with  an  independent  personage.  Both  the  identi- 
fication and  the  differentiation  of  the  various  characters  present 

1  Lokasenna,  26 ;  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  6 ;  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  33. 

2  Grimm,  DM.*  I,  207. 


THE  PANTHEON  269 

great  difficulties.  In  the  case  of  some  goddesses,  the  telluric 
and  chthonic  character  is  unmistakable,  as  indeed  Mother  Earth 
is  by  many,  though  by  no  means  all,  peoples  conceived  of  as 
feminine.  There  are  in  Teutonic  mythology  only  few  traces, 
however,  of  the  cosmogonic  marriage  between  heaven  and 
earth,  and  they  are  confined  to  such  Norse  myths  as  that  of 
Freyr  and  Gerdhr,  if  these  may  be  cited  in  this  connection. 
We  shall  probably  never  succeed  in  tracing  the  origin  of  all 
the  Teutonic  goddesses  to  one  common  natural  element. 

Refraining,  therefore,  from  speculations  of  a  general  charac- 
ter, we  proceed  to  a  consideration  of  the  individual  goddesses, 
and  treat  first  of  all  those  mentioned  by  Tacitus  :  Nerthus, 
Isis,  Tamfana,  and  Baduhenna. 

Nerthus  was  worshipped  by  seven  Ingaevonic  tribes,  prob- 
ably on  the  island  of  Seeland.  Of  these  tribes  Tacitus 1  relates 
the  following  : 

They  unite  in  the  worship  of  Nerthus,  i.e.  Mother  Earth,  and  suppose 
her  to  mingle  in  the  affairs  of  men,  and  to  visit  the  nations.  In  an  island 
in  the  ocean  there  is  a  sacred  grove,  in  which  stands  a  consecrated  chariot 
covered  with  a  cloth,  which  the  priest  alone  is  permitted  to  touch.  The 
latter  becomes  aware  of  the  presence  of  the  goddess  in  the  innermost 
recess,  and  with  the  greatest  reverence  attends  upon  her  as  she  is  drawn 
about  by  cows.  These  are  days  of  joy,  and  every  place  is  a  scene  of  fes- 
tivity, wheresoever  the  goddess  deigns  to  visit  and  become  a  guest.  They 
do  not  engage  in  wars ;  they  do  not  take  up  arms  ;  all  weapons  are  shut. 
Peace  and  tranquillity  are  only  then  known,  only  then  loved,  until  finally 
the  same  priest  escorts  the  goddess,  sated  with  the  intercourse  of  mortals, 
back  to  her  temple.  The  chariot,  with  its  cover,  and,  if  it  appear  credible, 
the  deity  herself,  thereupon  undergo  ablution  in  a  secluded  lake.  This 
service  is  performed  by  slaves,  whom  this  very  lake  instantly  swallows  up. 

However  detailed  this  account  may  seem,  it  yet  does  not  afford 
an  answer  to  all  the  questions  that  one  might  be  inclined  to 
ask.  Thus  we  are  not  told  through  what  sign  the  priest  per- 
ceived that  the  goddess  was  present  in  the  innermost  recess  ; 

1  Germania,  Chapter  40. 


270        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

what  the  nature  of  the  temple  was;  or  in  what  form  the  god- 
dess rode  about  on  the  chariot.  It  is  clear,  however,  that 
her  cult  was  of  great  political  importance  for  the  tribes  in  ques- 
tion, who  came  together  for  the  purposes  of  worship  in  saqred 
peace,  and  that  the  joy  of  her  service  was  accompanied  by 
terror,  human  sacrifices  being  offered  to  her,  viz.  the  slaves 
that  were  drowned  in  her  lake.  The  festival  must  have  been 
a  festival  of  spring  :  the  awakening  of  the  earth  with  the  new 
season  was  celebrated  with  a  solemn  procession.  To  be  com- 
pared with  this  is  the  fetching  in  of  spring  and  summer  under 
such  names  as  "  May  queen,"  "  Blumengraf,"  "  Laubmann- 
chen,"  "griiner  Mann,"  "  Pfingstklotzel,"  "  Latzmann,"  etc., 
all  customs  with  which  we  are  familiar  through  folklore.  In 
interpreting  Nerthus  as  Mother  Earth,  Tacitus  no  doubt  had 
in  mind  parallel  rites  that  were  observed  in  Rome  in  the  wor- 
ship of  the  Mater  Magna,  or  some  other  goddess. 

Another  procession  is  referred  to  in  Germania,  Chapter  9 : 

A  division  of  the  Suebi  also  sacrifice  to  Isis.  As  to  the  cause  and 
origin  of  this  foreign  worship,  I  have  been  able  to  gather  little  information, 
further  than  that  the  symbol  of  a  galley  by  which  she  is  represented  seems 
in  itself  to  indicate  that  the  cult  was  imported  by  way  of  sea. 

Here  Tacitus  is  evidently  thinking  of  the  navigium  Isidis l 
at  Rome,  and  is  entirely  mistaken  in  his  inference  that  the 
cult  was  of  foreign  origin.  That  we  are  here  dealing  with  a 
custom  that  continued  in  vogue  long  afterwards  may  be  seen 
from  a  detailed  account,  in  a  medieval  chronicle,  of  a  ship 
procession  led  by  weavers,  that  took  place  between  Aachen 
and  Maastricht.2  In  the  spring,  when  agriculture  and  naviga- 
tion opened  up  again,  the  people  went  around  in  festive  pro- 
cessions, with  a  plough  or  a  ship.  But  such  customs  do  not  in 
themselves  account  for  the  goddess  and  her  worship.  Some 
Teutonic  deity  must  lie  concealed  behind  Isis,  not  a  Frau 

1 "  Ship  of  Isis."  -  Grimm,  DM.4,  pp.  214-217. 


THE   PANTHEON  271 

Eisen  or  Zisa,  who  are  purely  scholastic  inventions,  but  possibly 
Frija,  whose  ship  would  then  be  symbolical  of  the  clouds.1 

Among  the  Marsi,  the  great  goddess  Tamfana  was  worshipped, 
whose  temple,  "the  most  celebrated  among  those  tribes," 
Germanicus  levelled  to  the  ground.2  The  derivation  and 
meaning  of  the  name  are  uncertain.  The  festival  came  in  the 
autumn,  and  the  goddess  is  therefore  probably  to  be  associated 
with  fertility  of  the  soil  and  with  the  harvest.  It  is  worthy  of 
note  that,  both  among  these  Istaevonic  Marsi  and  the  Ingae- 
vonic  tribes  previously  mentioned,  the  chief  deity  of  the  con- 
federated tribes  was  a  goddess.  The  same  may  possibly  be 
true  of  a  division  of  the  Frisians,  for  the  "  grove  of  Baduhenna," 
where  the  Romans  suffered  a  severe  defeat,3  A.D.  28,  lay  in 
Frisian  territory ;  but  we  have  before  had  occasion  to  note  that 
Fosite  was  presumably  the  god  of  the  confederated  Frisian 
tribes. 

We  now  proceed  to  a  discussion  of  goddesses  whose  names 
have  been  found  on  Roman  inscriptions.  Some  of  these  have 
already  been  mentioned.  Chief  among  them  is  Nehalennia,4 
known  to  us  from  some  thirty  altars,  with  inscriptions  and  the 
figure  of  the  goddess,  mostly  from  the  island  of  Walcheren 
(the  Netherlands).  Her  attributes  are  a  dog,  a  basket  with 
fruit,  and  the  prow  of  a  ship ;  at  times  she  is  represented 
as  accompanied  by  Hercules  and  Neptune.  Without  sufficient 
reason,  she  has  been  identified  by  some  scholars  with  Isis. 
Her  attributes  clearly  indicate  a  connection  with  fruitfulness 
and  with  navigation,  and  she  was  probably  more  especially 
the  goddess  of  the  seafarers  on  the  coast.  The  statements 
that  have  been  made  concerning  her  magnificent  temple  on  the 

1  See  Miillenhoff,  DA.  IV,  218-220.     The  various  conjectures  concerning  Isis  are 
summarized  by  W.  Drexler  in  Roscher's  Lexicon,  II,  548. 

2  Tacitus,  Annals,  I,  51. 

8  Tacitus,  Annals,  IV,  73. 

*  A  survey  of  the  monuments  and  a  bibliography  are  given  by  M.  Ihm  in. 
Roscher's  Lexicon,  III,  76-86. 


272         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

island  of  Walcheren  are  entirely  conjectural.  Alcuin  l  relates 
how  Willebrord  had  destroyed  an  antiqui  erroris  idolum?  and 
had  greatly  suffered  from  the  rage  of  the  custos  idoli?  but  there 
is  nothing  to  show  that  this  idolum  either  stood  in  a  temple  — 
although  such  was  probably  the  case  —  or  that  it  represented 
Nehalennia.  It  may  have  been  an  image  of  Wodan.  Under 
the  circumstances,  it  is  difficult  to  reach  any  certain  con- 
clusion. The  derivation  of  the  name  Nehalennia  is  also  in 
dispute,  and  the  very  dress  of  the  goddess  gives  evidence  of 
Roman  influence  on  the  manner  of  representation. 

Of  other  goddesses  we  know  little  more  than  the  names  as 
found  on  inscriptions.  Such  are:  Sandraudiga  (from  the  vicinity 
of  Breda,  the  Netherlands) ;  Hludana  (from  Friesland)  ;  the  two 
Alaesiagae  Bede  et  Fimmilene,  at  Housesteads  in  England,  on 
altars  erected  by  Frisian  soldiers ;  Haeva  or  Awai  (Millingen,  near 
Nymegen,  the  Netherlands),  for  whom  together  with  Hercules 
Magusanus  a  man  and  wife  erected  an  altar  to  implore  fruitful- 
ness  on  their  union  ;  dea  Garmangabis  ;  dea  Vagdavercustis  ; 
dea  Vercana;  dea  Harimella  ;  dea  Hariasa ;  Vihansa;  and 
others  whose  Teutonic  character  is  more  or  less  problematical. 

Of  the  four  goddesses  mentioned  in  the  second  Merseburg 
Charm,4  Frija,  the  consort  of  the  chief  deity  (Tiu  or  Wodan), 
from  whom  the  sixth  day  of  the  week  is  named,  is  the  most 
important.  We  shall  return  to  her  when  considering  the 
Norse  Frigg.  Alongside  of  her  stands  Volla,  and  in  the  North, 
too,  Fulla  is  Frigg's  handmaid.5  The  two  others,  Sunna  and 
Sinthgunt,  have  been  explained  as  the  sun  and  moon,  or  at 
least  as  the  sun  and  its  sister. 

The  two  goddesses  of  spring,  Hreda  of  the  month  of  March 
and  Eostre  of  April,  the  Easter  month,  are  at  present  usually 

1  Alcuin,  Vita  Willebrordi,  Chapter  14. 

2  "  An  image  representative  of  ancient  error." 
8  "  The  keeper  of  the  image." 

4  See  above,  p.  129. 

5  Prose  introduction  to  Grimnismal ;  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  35. 


THE   PANTHEON  273 

regarded  as  an  invention  of  Bede,1  although  some  scholars, 
Mogk  among  others,  still  maintain  the  existence  of  an  ancient 
Teutonic  goddess  of  spring,  Austro. 

In  the  oral  tradition  of  the  people,  we  meet,  in  all  parts  of 
Germany,  with  a  large  number  of  names  of  the  goddess  (or 
goddesses)  that  rides  through  the  air  in  the  Twelve  Nights, 
shows  favor  or  disfavor  toward  spinners,  blesses  marriage,  and 
performs  many  other  functions.  Their  names  are :  Fru  Freke, 
de  Fui,  de  oil  Frie,  Fru  Wod,  Gode,  Fru  Harke,  die  Werre, 
Frau  Stempe,  and  at  times  also  Herodias,  Diana,  Abundia. 
It  is  as  erroneous  to  derive  some  of  these  names  from  Frija,  as 
to  regard  these  figures  of  popular  belief  in  the  light  of  variant 
forms  of  the  great  goddess. 

This  error  has  gained  the  widest  acceptance  in  the  case  of 
Holda  and  Perchta.  These  two  names  are  derived  from  helan 
and  bergan,  respectively,  both  words  that  signify  "  to  conceal." 
They  accordingly  seem  to  indicate  a  chthonic  goddess  of  death. 
Holda  is  more  frequently  met  with  in  Northern  and  Middle 
Germany,  Perchta  or  Bertha  in  Southern  Germany.  Both  are 
usually  regarded  as  forms  of  Frija,  and  in  support  of  this  view 
Burchard  of  Worms  (tenth  century)  is  cited,  who  mentions  a 
Frigaholda.  The  theory  is,  however,  untenable.  Holda  and 
Perchta  belong  to  folklore  even  in  the  early  Middle  Ages, 
and  popular  belief  and  custom  have  ascribed  to  them  all 
manner  of  attributes,  which  mythologists  have  in  vain  sought 
to  reduce  to  a  unity.  We  know  that  in  names  of  places  in 
Alemannic  territory,  the  two  words  occur  as  early  as  the  fourth 
or  fifth  century.2  The  church  inveighed  —  especially  for  the 
days  of  the  nativity  —  against  such  customs  as  processions, 
preparare  mensant  domine  Perthe?  and  against  those  who 
"  on  the  eighth  day  of  the  nativity  of  our  Lord  go  about  with 

1  De  Temporum  R attorn,  Chapter  13. 

2  Hauck,  Kirchengeschichte  Deutschlands,  I,  90. 
8  "  Preparing  a  table  for  Lady  Pertha." 


274        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

incense,  cheese,  a  rope,  and  mallets."  l  In  modern  folklore  we 
meet  our  goddesses  on  every  hand.  Holda  leads  the  host  of 
the  dead  in  mountains,  and  during  the  ride  through  the  air  ; 
she  brings  babes  from  the  wells,  and  is  also  active  in  bad 
weather,  for  when  it  snows  people  say  :  "  Lady  Holle  is  shak- 
ing her  bed "  or  "  is  plucking  geese,"  and  when  it  rains 
she  "  is  washing  her  veil."  In  Upper  Germany,  Perchta  is 
surrounded  by  the  Heimchen,  the  children  that  have  died, 
and  in  her  train  is  at  times  the  little  girl  with  the  jug  of  tears, 
a  poetic  motif  that  is  full  of  pathos.  In  the  Twelve  Nights, 
food  is  left  standing  for  both  Holda  and  Perchta.  The  wild 
procession  called  the  Perchtenlanfen  in  Tyrol  and  Switzerland 
falls  in  the  time  of  the  carnival  ;  when  it  is  especially  uproari- 
ous, the  harvest  will  be  good.  For  this  reason  the  two  god- 
desses are  frequently  brought  into  connection  with  fruitfulness, 
be  it  of  women  or  of  the  soil.  A  similar  connection  exists 
with  woman's  work,  such  as  spinning  :  au  temps  que  la  reine 
Berthefilait'i-z.s  the  French  saying  has  it.  The  same  Bertha 
is  also  accounted  the  ancestress  of  families.  She  is  not  fair  of 
form,  but  has  a  long  nose  and  a  large  foot  (pedaued).  At 
times  she  is  represented  as  causing  calamity  and  disaster,  in 
the  person  of  the  black  Griet  or  the  wild  "  iron  Bertha."  It  is 
clear  that  these  various  forms  cannot  be  reduced  to  a  unity. 
With  its  exuberant  imagination  popular  belief  has  developed 
these  conceptions  on  all  sides,  and  we  are  not  warranted  in 
inferring  from  them  the  existence  of  an  ancient  and  primitive 
pagan  belief,  even  though  certain  individual  features  may 
remind  us  of  an  ancient  Teutonic  goddess,  and  may  have  been 
actually  borrowed  from  her,  —  an  observation  that  applies  with 
equal  force  to  Venus  and  the  Virgin  Mary.  These  creations 
of  the  popular  fancy  are,  therefore,  at  present  justly  eliminated 
when  the  elements  of  Teutonic  paganism  are  being  considered. 

1  Usenet,  Religionsgeschichtliche  Untersuchungen,  II,  86. 

2  "  In  the  time  when  queen  Bertha  span." 


THE   PANTHEON  275 

Turning  now  to  the  Scandinavian  North,  we  find  there  the 
Teutonic  Frija  (Frigg)  and  the  specifically  Norse  Freyja. 

By  a  critical  analysis  of  that  entire  cluster  of  myths  which 
he  calls  the  necklace-myth,  Mullenhoff  has  shown  that  Frija- 
Frigg  was  originally  the  wife  of  the  sky  god  Tiu.  This  much 
at  least  seems  certain,  that  Frija-Frigg,  wherever  encountered, 
is  the  consort  of  Wodan-Odhin,  notwithstanding  the  fact  that 
when  seeking  to  interpret  her  as  a  goddess  of  nature  we  find 
only  few  traces  that  point  to  a  chthonic  character,  over  against 
numerous  features  that  indicate  a  connection  with  the  light  of 
the  sky.  In  Germany,  the  constellation  Orion  is  called  her 
Rocken  (distaff)  or  Spindel  (spindle),  in  Sweden,  Friggeroken 
or  Friggetenen  (distaff  or  spindle  of  Frigg). 

In  Norse  literature  the  necklace-myth  has  undergone  certain 
changes,  which  do  not,  however,  prevent  its  complete  identifi- 
cation. In  Sqrla  Thdttr  (fourteenth  century)  it  has  been  trans-  \ 
ferred  to  Freyja,  who  to  obtain  possession  of  the  jewel  i 
surrendered  her  person  to  the  four  dwarfs  that  had  forged  it.  j 
Loki  afterwards  stole  the  necklace,  but  Odhin  restored  it  to 
Freyja,  who  in  return  was  to  incite  two  kings  to  unending  com- 
bat. The  motif  of  self-surrender  is  also  found  elsewhere,  viz. 
in  Lokasenna,  Ynglingasaga,  and  Saxo's  Historia  Danica,  but 
in  each  case  of  Frigg,  the  consort  of  Odhin.  A  peculiar  form 
of  the  myth  has  come  down  in  Svipdagsmdl,  in  which  an  account 
is  given  of  the  winning  of  the  maiden  Mengl^dh  ("  she  who 
delights  in  a  necklace  ")  by  the  young  Svipdag.  Similar  refer- 
ences are  found  in  Danish  and  Swedish  popular  songs. 

Both  in  the  songs  of  the  Edda  and  in  Gylfaginning,  Frigg 
is  the  chief  among  the  goddesses.  She  dwells  in  the  halls  of 
the  sea  (Fensalir),  but  from  Hlidhskjalf,  her  own  and  Odhin's 
high-seat,  she  also  surveys  the  whole  universe.  Odhin  takes 
counsel x  of  her.  At  times  she  even  outwits  him,  and  through 
her  artifices  involves  him  in  difficulties,  as  when  to  win  a  wager 

1  Vafthrudhnism&L 


276        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

that  his  foster-son  Geirrodhr  showed  himself  inhospitable 
towards  guests,  she  had  the  latter  warned  against  a  magician 
who  was  to  visit  him,  so  that  when  Odhin,  disguised  as  Grimnir, 
pays  him  a  visit,  Geirrodhr  has  him  placed  between  two  fires, 
and  thus  tortures  him  for  eight  nights.1  Frigg,  who  is  also 
called  Fjqrgyns  mcer  (wife  of  Fjqrgynn,  the  latter  probably  a 
surname  of  Odhin),  shares  Odhin's  knowledge  of  the  fate  of 
men.2  The  important  part  she  plays  in  the  myth  of  Baldr  we 
have  already  had  occasion  to  mention.8 

Freyja  is  a  goddess  invented  by  the  scalds,  a  female  deity 
corresponding  to  the  male  Freyr.  Hence  she  is  also  called 
Vanabrudhr,  Vanadis,  i.e.  goddess  of  the  Vanir.  At  the  same 
time  she  did  not  remain  a  mere  poetic  abstraction,  but  was 
zealously  worshipped,  by  the  side,  or  in  the  place,  of  Frigg,  as 
may  be  seen  from  Oddrunargrdtr,  8  : 

So  grant  thee  aid  the  gracious  powers, 
Freyja  and  Frigg  and  gods  full  many, 
As  thou  hast  freed  me  from  fear  and  distress. 

Hyndluljbdh,  10,  makes  mention  of  an  altar  on  which  Ottar 
made  such  frequent  sacrifices  that  the  stones  melted.  Her 
function  as  goddess  of  the  dead  she  has  in  common  with 
Odhin :  "  She  chooses  half  the  fallen  each  day,  but  Odhin  the 
other  half."4  Her  dwelling  is  called  Folk  vangr  (Folk-field), 
and  in  it  is  situated  the  hall  Sessrymir5  (rich  in  seats),  a  name 
that  probably  contains  a  reference  to  the  abode  of  the  dead.  In 
other  sources 6  it  is  not  the  fallen  heroes,  but  dead  women  who 
go  to  Freyja.  In  any  case  she  owes  this  character  as  goddess 
of  the  dead  to  her  union  with  Odhin.  That  towards  the  close 
of  the  pagan  period  Freyja  had  entirely  taken  the  place  of 
X  Frigg,  is  shown  by  a  verse  of  the  scald  Hjallti  Skeggjason, 

1  Grimnismal.  *  Grimnismdl,  14. 

2  Lokasenna,  26,  29.  5  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  24. 
8  See  above,  p.  256.  6  Egilssaga,  Chapter  78. 


THE  PANTHEON  277 

composed  in  the  year  999,  on  the  occasion  of  the  Icelandic 

thing  : 

Ever  will  I  gods  blaspheme. 
Freyja  methinks  a  dog  does  seem. 
Freyja  a  dog?     Aye!  let  them  be 
Both  dogs  together,  Odhin  and  she.1 

Freyja  is  the  fairest  of  the  goddesses,  beneficent  and  greatly 
honored,  and  invoked  more  especially  in  affairs  of  love.  Like 
Freyr  she  is  a  deity  of  sensuous  love.  In  Lokasenna  Loki 
twits  her  with  having  yielded  to  the  wishes  of  all  the  ^Esir  and 
elves.  The  reproach  affects  her  only  slightly  more  than  the  other 
goddesses,  all  of  whom  Loki  with  great  monotony  accuses  of  the 
same  immorality.  The  notion  that  Freyja  rides  about  in  a  wagon 
drawn  by  cats  may  be  derived  from  a  foreign  source :  elsewhere 
she  appears  equipped  with  falcon  plumage,  with  which  she 
flies  through  the  air.  According  to  the  Eddie  myths,  the  giants 
are  continually  striving  to  carry  her  off.  Thus  Thrym 
endeavored  to  get  possession  of  her;  so  also  the  giant  who 
built  the  burgh  for  the  ^Esir,  and  likewise  Hrungnir. 

Somewhat  curious  is  the  narrative  that  constitutes  the  frame- 
work of  Hyndluljbdh.  Freyja  there  wishes  to  ride  to  Wal- 
halla  with  the  giantess  Hyndla,  in  order  that  the  latter,  endowed 
with  prophetic  power  by  Odhin,  may  give  information  con- 
cerning the  noble  ancestry  of  Freyja's  favorite,  Ottar,  who  had 
staked  his  whole  property  in  a  wager  with  Angantyr.  It  is 
extremely  doubtful  whether  we  are  here  dealing  with  a  genuine 
mythical  idea. 

Equally  strange  is  the  myth  to  which  Voluspa,  25,  and  Hynd- 
luljbdh,  48,  allude,  and  of  which  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  35,  gives 
a  brief  account.  Freyja  is  there  called  Odhs  mczr  (the  wife  of 
Odhr),  and  by  this  Odhr  she  is  said  to  have  a  daughter  named 
Hnoss  (jewel).  Odhr  journeyed  to  distant  lands,  leaving 
Freyja  behind  in  tears,  tears  that  are  drops  of  pure  gold.  She 

1  Njalssaga,  Chapter  98,  translated  by  Dasent, 


278        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

followed  in  search  of  her  husband,  and  this  has  given  rise 
to  the  numerous  names  borne  by  the  goddess,  which  she 
assumed  among  the  various  peoples  when  searching  for  Odhr. 
Perhaps  Odhr  is  simply  to  be  identified  with  Odhin,  while  the 
roaming  about  of  the  goddess  mentioned  in  Gylfaginning  may 
possibly  be  a  foreign  element.  This  myth,  like  others,  has 
been  subjected  to  the  most  marvellous  fantastic  interpretations. 
By  way  of  illustration,  to  show  to  what  length  such  methods 
may  lead  investigators,  we  may  in  the  present  case  deviate 
from  our  usual  custom  of  silently  passing  by  all  such  excres- 
cences of  mythological  study.  Bugge  regards  Odhr  as  a  copy 
of  Adonis.  While  this  may  seem  fanciful  enough,  it  is  sober 
in  comparison  with  the  theories  of  E.  H.  Meyer.1  According 
to  him,  Odhs  mcer,  with  her  golden  tears  and  her  wanderings,  is 
the  bride  of  Christ,  —  for  it  is  Christ  who  bestows  the  spirit, 
odhr,  —  wandering  about  in  the  Babylonian  vale  of  tears  and 
seducing  many  nations.  In  union  with  Odhr  (=  Christ)  she 
brings  forth  the  golden  ornatus  (hnoss,  jewel)  of  obedience. 
Behind  all  this  scriptural  allegory  there  also  lies  concealed,  we 
are  told,  the  kernel  of  a  genuine  myth  dealing  with  the  god  of 
the  wind  and  the  goddess  of  the  clouds :  when  the  wind  ceases, 
rain  follows. 

Around  both  Frigg  and  Freyja  there  are  grouped  a  number 
of  goddesses,  who  are  accounted  their  retinue,  and  in  part  owe 
their  origin  to  the  surnames  and  attributes  of  these  two  deities. 
Fulla  we  have  already  met  in  the  Volla  of  the  Merseburg 
Charm.  The  others  are  of  very  rare  occurrence ;  they  are 
enumerated  in  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  35.  The  first  of  these 
is  Saga,  who  is  also  mentioned  in  Grimnismdl,  7,  as  drinking 
with  Odhin  out  of  golden  beakers,  amidst  the  murmuring  waters 
in  the  hall  Sokkvabekr.  Like  Frigg,  therefore,  she  lives  sur- 
rounded by  water  and  is  the  consort  of  Odhin.  Eir  is  the 
healer ;  Gna  the  messenger  of  Frigg,  who  rides  on  horseback 

1  Germanische  Mythologie,  §§  197,  357. 


THE  PANTHEON  279 

through  sky  and  sea,  greatly  to  the  astonishment  of  a  Vanr, 
who  caught  sight  of  her  at  one  time  ;  Sjqfn  kindles  love  in  the 
hearts  of  men.  Lofn  is  gracious  in  the  hearing  of  prayer 
and  is  potent  in  removing  obstacles  that  stand  in  the  way  of 
marriage.  V<jr,  who  is  also  mentioned  in  Thrymskvidha,  30, 
is  the  goddess  of  vows  and  oaths  (ydrar)  ;  Hlin  shields  against 
peril.  Syn  shuts  the  doors  of  the  hall,  and  at  the  thing  pro- 
tects those  who  have  to  deny  something  under  oath  ;  Snotra 
grants  wisdom.  Without  maintaining  that  all  these  names  are 
mere  abstractions  and  the  work  of  mythographers,  there  is  yet 
no  reason  for  believing  that  these  associates  of  Frigg  struck  a 
firm  root  in  popular  belief,  and  should  be  compared  with  the 
divinities  of  the  indigitamenta^  The  following  may  be 
regarded  as  surnames  of  Freyja  :  Mengl^dh,  Mardqll  (shining 
over  the  sea),  Gefn  (the  giver?),  Horn,  Syr,  and  possibly  a  few 
others  whose  meaning  is  not  clear.  As  already  indicated,  the 
Vanir  goddess,  Gullveig-Heidhr  of  Voluspa,  also  belongs  to  this 
category. 

Aside  from  these  two  great  goddesses,  Frigg  and  Freyja,  we 
have  already  encountered  a  number  of  mothers  and  consorts  of 
gods  that  do  not  call  for  any  further  comment.  Among  them 
are  :  Jo/dh,  the  earth ;  Rindr,  the  mother  of  Vali ;  Ran,  the 
goddess  of  the  sea,  who  draws  men  down  to  its  depths  ; 2  Sif, 
the  wife  of  Thor  ;  Nanna,  the  faithful  wife  of  Baldr  ;  Sigyn,  the 
devoted  wife  of  Loki  ;  Skadhi,  the  daughter  of  Thjazi,  to  whom 
temples  and  groves  are  consecrated  ; 8  Thorgerdh  Hqlgabrudh,4 
also  a  Finnish  woman,  and  some  others  that  need  not  be  here 
enumerated.  Three,  however,  deserve  special  attention  :  Gefjon, 
Idhunn,  and  Heh 

The  first  of  these,  Gefjon,  both  by  her  name  and  in  several, 
other  particulars,  reminds  one  of  Freyja  (or  Frigg).  Like  the 

1  Lists   of  divine  powers  kept  by  the   Roman   pontifices.     These  deities  were 
described  as  separate  functions,  not  as  persons. 

2  Helgakvidha  HJQrvardhssonar,  18  ;  Helgakvidha  Hundingsbana,  I,  31. 
8  Lokasenna,  51.  4  See  above,  p.  95. 


280        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

latter,  she  surrenders  herself  to  gain  possession  of  a  precious 
ornament,  and  also  shares  with  Odhin  the  knowledge  of  the 
fate  of  the  world.1  To  her  also  come  those  who  die  as  maids.2 
Gylfaginning,  Chapter  i,  and  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  5,  tell  of 
a  Gefjon,  who  with  four  oxen  ploughed  a  piece  of  land  from 
what  is  now  the  Maelar  Lake  and  formed  the  island  of  Seeland 
out  of  it,  an  event  of  which  the  scald  Bragi  had  already  sung. 
According  to  Mullenhoff,  this  is  a  Swedish  saga,  which  origi- 
nally had  no  connection  whatever  with  the  Danish  island  of 
Seeland,  Gefjon  being  identical  with  the  Swedish  Vanir  god- 
dess Freyja.3  Gering,  on  the  other  hand,  would  draw  a  sharp 
distinction  between  the  goddess  Gefjon  and  the  ploughing 
giantess,  and  is  of  the  opinion  that  the  classing  of  Gefjon 
among  the  ^Esir  in  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  i,  is  probably  due  to 
an  interpolation  by  a  scribe.4 

Idhunn  has  the  golden  apples  of  youth  in  her  keeping. 
She  falls  into  the  clutches  of  the  giant  Thjazi,  but  the  ^Esir 
compel  Loki  to  bring  her  back  again.5  The  same  myth  forms 
the  subject  of  Thjodholf's  Haustfyng;  it  is  a  poetical  treatment 
of  the  widely  current  motif  of  the  rejuvenating  apples,  a  motif 
which  the  Teutons  certainly  had  no  need  of  borrowing  from  the 
Greeks,  even  though  Golther  has  shown,  with  great  learning, 
that  Iceland  did  not  produce  apples.  In  the  Edda,  Idhunn  is 
the  wife  of  Bragi,  whose  part  she  takes  at  ^Egir's  feast,  where- 
upon Loki  reviles  her  with  an  allusion  to  a  myth  that  has  not 
come  down  to  us.6 

There  is  but  little  to  be  said  of  Hel.  Grimm  regarded  Halja 
as  "  one  of  the  oldest  and  commonest  conceptions  of  Teutonic 
paganism,"  who  appeared  "  the  less  hellish  and  the  more  god- 
like," the  further  we  go  back  in  point  of  time.7  This  position 

1  Lokasenna,  20,  21.  6  Lokasenna,  16-18. 

2  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  35. 

«  DA.  II,  361.  1  DM.*,  p.  262. 

*  Gering,  Edda,  p.  297,  note  2. 

6  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  26  ;  Bragarcedhur,  Chapter  2. 


THE   PANTHEON  281 

can  no  longer  be  maintained.     Hel  is  only  a  very  weak  per- 
sonification :  as  a  rule,  the  word  indicates  a  place.     Even  where 
Hel  does  appear  as  a  person,  she  takes  little  part  in  the  action.1   I 
She  is  the  daughter  of  Loki  and  the  giantess  Angrbodha.     To  / 
her  come  the  dead,  —  among  them  Baldr,  —  whom  she  does  not  / 
allow  to  return.     At  a  later  period,  only  those  who  die  a  straw-/  ,  / 
death  go  to  Hel,  whereas  the  heroes  who  have  fallen  in  battle) 
go  to  Odhin  in  Walhalla.     Hel  as  a  division  of  the  world  will! 
receive  consideration  later  on.  I 

1  Vdlusfa,  38,39;  Baldr s  Draumar,  3 ;  Grimnismdl,  31;  Gylfaginning,  Chap- 
ters 3,  34,  49. 


CHAPTER   XIII 
GODS  AND  DIVINE  NATURE 

IN  the  present  chapter  we  shall  attempt  to  sum  up  the 
results  that  have  been  arrived  at  in  our  study  of  the  individual 
deities  as  regards  divine  nature  and  character.  In  doing  so 
the  great  difference  between  the  German  and  the  Scandinavian 
material  must  constantly  be  borne  in  mind.  Nor  should  we 
forget  that  none  of  the  Teutonic  heathen  peoples  evolved 
theories  concerning  the  nature  of  their  gods  :  they  had  no  other 
theology  than  that  involved  in  their  rites  and  myths. 

When  inquiring  into  the  real  significance  of  a  conception,  it 
has  become  customary  first  of  all  to  consult  the  etymology  of 
the  word  in  question  ;  not  altogether  justly  so,  inasmuch  as 
the  derivation  of  a  word,  which  is  so  often  lost  to  the  conscious- 
ness of  a  people,  does  not  by  any  means  always  determine  the 
sense  in  which  it  was  actually  used.  For  the  history  of  Teu- 
tonic religion,  it  is  therefore  of  little  importance  to  know  that 
the  common  Teutonic  stem  god  is  originally  neuter,  and  is 
probably  cognate  with  the  Sanscrit  root  hu  (to  invoke),  and  has 
no  connection  whatever  with  the  word  "good."  The  name  JEsir 
has  been  identified  with  the  Sanscrit  Asuras.  This  word,  too,  is 
found  among  all  Teutons ;  Jordanes  l  uses  it  in  speaking  of  the 
demi-gods  from  which  the  Gothic  nobility  is  descended.  Proper 
names  with  As,  Arts,  and  Os  as  the  first  element  are  encoun- 
tered on  every  side.  Among  Anglo-Saxons  and  Frisians  we 
find  the  form  he.  Among  Norsemen  we  are  familiar  with  the 
^Esir  (feminine  Asynjur),  and  in  such  compositions  as  landds 
(god  of  the  land),  dsmegin  (divine  power),  the  word  is  practically 

1  DOAG.,  Chapter  13. 
282 


GODS  AND  DIVINE  NATURE  283 

synonymous  with  "god."  The  Vanir  have  already  been 
treated  in  detail.  Other  designations  for  "god"  are:  disir 
(women),  tivar  (the  beaming  ones),  regin,  rqgn  (counsellors), 
metod  (the  measurers),  bqnd,  hapt  (shackles). 

The  idea  that  monotheism  lies  at  the  basis  of  Teutonic 
polytheism  (Simrock)  has  no  longer  any  advocates,  although 
some  scholars l  still  maintain  the  view  that  Teutonic  mythology, 
when  interrupted  in  its  course  of  development,  was  tending  in 
a  monotheistic  direction.  Far  more  popular,  though  equally 
erroneous,  is  the  animistic  conception,  according  to  which  the 
gods  represent  an  evolution  of  the  higher  demons,  who  in  their 
turn  took  their  origin  from  a  belief  in  the  existence  of  souls 
and  spirits.2  This  latter  theory  is  totally  lacking  in  historical 
basis.  As  far  as  we  are  able  to  go  back  in  Teutonic  antiquity 
we  find  great  gods  existing.  Even  Tacitus  mentions  them, 
whereas  he  is  silent  on  the  subject  of  souls  and  spirits. 

Through  the  use  of  their  names  in  the  designations  for  the 
days  of  the  week,  Tiu,  Wodan,  Donar,  and  Frija  are  with  absolute 
certainty  ascertained  to  be  ancient  Teutonic  divinities.  While 
we  cannot  infer  from  this  that  they  were  the  only  ones,  this 
group  of  four  universally  worshipped  gods  forms,  at  any  rate, 
the  real  centre  of  Teutonic  mythology.  Notwithstanding  the 
divergent  opinions  of  E.  H.  Meyer  and,  in  part,  of  Mogk,  there 
is  very  little  doubt  as  to  their  real  nature  :  Tiu  was  the  god  of  the 
sky  ;  Wodan,  the  god  of  the  wind  or  the  dead ;  Donar,  the  god 
of  thunder  ;  Frija,  goddess  of  the  sky  rather  than  of  the  earth. 

It  is  likewise  evident  that  they  are  not  exclusively  deities  of 
nature,  but  that  their  character  as  gods  of  tribes  and  peoples, 
their  relation  to  armed  host  and  to  thing,  are  at  least  equally 
original.  These  latter  functions  can  neither  be  derived  from 
their  character  as  gods  of  nature,  nor  can  they  be  regarded  as 
of  minor  importance.  Mythologists  frequently  devote  their 
attention  too  exclusively  to  the  general  character  of  the  gods 

1  K.  Maurer ;  E.  Sars.  2  E.  H.  Meyer. 


284        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

as  beings  expressive  of  forces  of  nature,  whereas  it  is  just  the 
specific  features,  those  which  define  them  locally  and  ethnically, 
to  which  they  in  largest  measure  owe  their  religious  signifi- 
cance. This  observation  holds  good  also  for  the  Teutons. 
Even  in  the  case  of  the  tribes  described  by  Tacitus,  the  gods 
were  progenitors  of  the  tribe,  and  leaders  in  war,  who  upheld 
justice  and  maintained  peace,  rather  than  exponents  of  phe- 
nomena of  nature. 

In  a  previous  volume  of  the  present  series,1  Professor  Jas- 
trow  has  very  properly  drawn  a  distinction  between  the  "  active 
pantheon  "  and  the  deities  introduced  more  or  less  arbitrarily 
and  for  a  definite  purpose,  the  latter  class  having  gained  no 
foothold  in  popular  belief.  For  Teutonic  mythology  as  well, 
this  distinction  is  of  great  importance :  a  number  of  divinities 
are  merely  poetical  personifications  of  Norse  literature.  It  is 
not  always  easy  to  draw  the  border  line  between  the  active  and 
the  fictitious  pantheon  ;  in  numerous  instances  the  opinions  of 
scholars  on  this  point  are  divided.  The  criteria  are  :  the  cult 
of  a  god,  the  role  he  plays  in  genuine  nature-myths,  and  the 
extent  to  which  his  name  enters  as  an  element  in  proper 
names.  The  first  of  these  is  the  most  conclusive  :  the  god 
that  is  worshipped  by  a  tribe  or  people  is  a  genuine  god.  We 
are  treading  on  less  certain  ground  when  we  are  compelled  to 
seek  for  information  concerning  the  gods  in  the  myths,  for  a 
god  has  frequently  been  introduced  into  a  genuine  myth  who 
did  not  originally  stand  in  any  relation  to  it ;  or,  again,  one  god 
may  have  taken  the  place  of  another.  At  the  same  time,  we 
are  able  to  determine,  from  myths  in  which  they  play  a  role, 
that  Baldr  and  Heimdallr  were  genuine  gods,  even  though 
we  are  almost  absolutely  in  the  dark  concerning  their  cult. 
Of  the  third  criterion,  the  proper  names,  Teutonic  mythologists, 
owing  to  the  meagreness  of  available  data,  have  made  free  use. 
At  times  undue  importance  has  doubtless  been  attached  to  it. 

1  Religion  of  Babylonia  and  Assyria,  p.  188. 


GODS  AND  DIVINE  NA  TURE  285 

Tacitus  furnishes  us  practically  no  information  concerning 
the  outward  appearance  and  the  manner  of  life  of  the  gods. 
An  air  of  mystery  surrounds  them.  While  Nerthus  holds  inter- 
course with  men,  this  intercourse  is  restricted  to  very  narrow 
limits  and  excludes  all  familiarity.  The  word  "  fear  "  (terror) 
characterizes  the  cult.  What  German  popular  tales  of  a  later 
period  tell  of  the  intercourse  of  gods  with  men,  how  they 
punish  evil  and  reward  the  good,  must  not,  as  has  at  times 
been  done,1  be  transferred  to  the  heathen  mythology. 

In  Norse  mythology  the  case  is  entirely  different.  The  gods 
have  there  been  endowed  to  a  far  greater  degree  with  human 
qualities.  They  resemble  men,  but  are  stronger,  more  power- 
ful, and  are  invested  with  superhuman  faculties.  Of  several 
(Baldr,  Heimdallr,  Idhunn)  we  are  told  that  they  were  won- 
drously  fair.  The  most  individualized  are  :  Odhin  as  a  power- 
ful, wise,  shrewd  old  man ;  Baldr,  the  beaming  hero,  beloved 
of  all  ;  Thor,  the  miles  gloriosus?  who  performs  incredible 
exploits ;  Frigg,  Odhin's  busy  housewife,  and  the  anxious 
mother  of  Baldr.  These  gods  are  subject  also  to  human  needs 
and  infirmities:  they  eat  and  drink  —  Thor,  especially,  is  a 
good  deal  of  a  glutton  —  and  are  very  fond  of  assembling  for 
a  feast  in  the  hall  of  ^Egir.  Odhin  lacks  an  eye,  Tyr  a  hand  ; 
Hqdhr  is  blind;  Baldr  perishes.  Their  character  and  their 
emotions  are  entirely  human,  —  kindness,  anger,  shrewdness. 
Their  whole  life,  moreover,  is  governed  by  their  outward  inter- 
ests ;  even  with  the  best  of  them  there  is  not  a  suggestion  of 
higher  moral  motives.  In  general  they  are  human  beings  that 
have  been  physically  exalted  ;  they  are  less  circumscribed,  more 
powerful  than  ordinary  men,  and  above  all  are  endowed  with 
magic  power. 

As  regards  the  abodes  of  the  gods,  Tacitus  would  seem  to 
imply  that  they  dwell  in  the  forest,  but  it  is  frequently  difficult 
to  distinguish  sharply  between  the  abode  of  a  god  and  the 

l  As  by  J.  W.  Wolf,  Beitrage,  II,  21-64.  2  "  Boastful  soldier." 


286         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

' ''  place  where  he  was  worshipped,  and  it  is  therefore  possible 
that  in  the  present  instance  these  forests  are  to  be  regarded 
merely  as  "  temples  of  unhewn  wood."  Popular  belief  usually 
localizes  the  gods  in  mountains  or  springs.  Norse  literature 
enumerates  numerous  halls  and  dwellings  of  the  gods,1  but 
these  are  to  be  considered  literary  fiction.  Asgardh  is  looked 
upon  as  the  heavenly  citadel,  which  is  reached  by  the 
bridge  BifrQst  (rainbow). 

It  is  a  matter  of  some  significance  that  the  power  of  the  gods 
is  in  various  ways  made  dependent  upon  external  conditions, 
or  upon  the  possession  of  this  or  that  object.  Odhin  surveys 
the  whole  world  and  observes  all  the  doings  of  men,  but  only 
because  he  is  seated  on  his  throne,  Hlidhskjalf  ;  if  any  one 
else  —  as  Freyr  in  Skirnismdl — stations  himself  on  it,  he  sees 
exactly  the  same  things.  Similarly,  other  gods  may  avail  them- 
selves of  the  falcon  plumage  with  which  Freyja  flies  through 
the  air.  When  Hlorridhi  (Thor)  has  lost  his  hammer,  a  large 
part  of  his  strength  has  departed  with  it,  and  on  his  journey  to 
Geirrodhr  he  must  consider  himself  fortunate  that  the  giantess 
at  whose  house  he  stops  lends  him  her  belt  of  strength,  gaunt- 
lets, and  staff.  Part  of  the  divine  power  is  always  represented 
as  connected  with  the  precious  objects,  such  as  Odhin's  ring, 
Draupnir,  which  the  dwarfs  have  fashioned  for  the  gods. 
Their  youth  the  gods  owe  to  the  apples  of  Idhunn.  Similar 
conceptions  are  met  with  in  various  mythologies,  but  this 
dependent  nature  of  the  gods  receives  especial  emphasis  in 
Norse  mythology,  which  gives  evidence  of  it  on  every  hand. 
Not  to  their  own  nature  as  such,  but  to  external  conditions,  do 
the  gods  owe  their  power. 

Again  and  again  we  encounter  groups  of  gods  among  the 
Teutons.  Usually  such  groups  consist  of  three  :  Mercury,  Her- 
cules, Mars  (Tacitus);  Thor,  Odhin,  Freyr  (Upsala);  Odhin, 
Hoenir,  Loki  (Edda).  In  formulas  of  renunciation  and  in 

1  Grmmismal;   Gylfaginning. 


GODS  AND  DIVINE  NATURE  287 

minne-drinkings l  three  gods  are  likewise  frequently  mentioned 
together,  but  no  especial  significance  is  to  be  attached  to  this. 
It  is  probably  to  be  explained  on  the  score  of  an  enumeration 
of  the  chief  gods,  or  of  the  coupling  of  the  gods  of  various 
tribes  and  peoples.  Lists  of  greater  length  are  found  in  the 
Norse  sources.  Grimnismdl  mentions  nine  gods  (Thor,  Ullr, 
Freyr,  Odhin,  Baldr,  Heimdallr,  Forseti,  Njojdhr,  Vidharr), 
and  three  goddesses  (Saga,  Freyja,  Skadhi).  The  Snorra  Edda 
makes  repeated  attempts  to  construct  a  system  of  twelve  JEsir, 
be  it  in  imitation  of  the  Greek  pantheon,  or  as  the  twelve 
assistants  of  the  judge.  The  lists,2  however,  invariably  contain 
more  than  twelve  names.  This  is  doubtless  the  work  of  later 
mythographers,  and  utterly  without  significance  from  the  point 
of  view  of  religion.  Nor  is  there  any  reason  for  assuming  such 
a  group  of  twelve  for  Germany.3  The  lists  include,  without 
distinction,  ^Esir  and  Vanir,  the  circle  of  Baldr  (Baldr,  Hcjdhr, 
Vali)  occupying  a  prominent  place.  Alongside  of  the  ^Esir 
stand  the  goddesses,  the  Asynjur,  who,  inclusive  of  the  minor 
deities,  reach  the  number  of  eighteen.4  As  we  have  seen,  some 
of  these  are  to  be  regarded  merely  as  surnames  or  attributes  of 
the  greater  deities,  others  as  their  servants  and  retinue. 

The  number  of  Teutonic  divinities  is  strikingly  small.  There 
are,  to  be  sure,  also  departed  spirits  and  demons,  but  Teutonic 
antiquity  offers  no  parallel  to  the  countless  deities  that  we  meet 
with  among  other  peoples,  in  which  the  whole  sphere  of  nature 
and  all  the  activities  of  life  are  deified,  every  moment  of  life 
as  well  as  every  creature  being  assigned  its  tutelar  genius. 
Nor  is  it  allowable,  without  subjecting  the  material  to  a  rigid 


1  See  Grimm,  DM.*,  p.  48. 

2  Gylfaginning,  Chapters  20-33;  Bragarosdhur,  Chapter  i;  Sk&ldskaparm&l ; 
Nafnathulur.    Hyndluljodh,  30,  also  makes   mention  of  the  fact   that  there  are 
twelve  jEsir. 

8  The  lists  may  be  found  in  E.  Wilken,  Untersuchungen  zur  Snorra-Edda, 
pp.  92-94.     See  also  K.  Weinhold,  Die  deutschen  Zivolfgotter,  ZfdPh.  I,  129-133. 
4  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  35. 


288        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

examination,  to  supplement  our  meagre  data  from  folklore, 
which  is  usually  of  a  later  date.  While  our  sources  only  give 
us  legends  and  tales  from  the  higher  strata  of  society  —  those 
of  the  chieftains  and  the  poets  —  yet  this  does  not  in  itself 
furnish  a  sufficient  explanation  for  the  relatively  small  number 
of  deities. 

We  have  thus  far  purposely  passed  by  the  character  of  the 
gods  as  revealed  in  connection  with  the  world-drama.  This 
product  of  a  later,  specifically  Norse,  development  will  demand 
our  attention  in  another  connection. 


CHAPTER   XIV 
ANIMISM,   SOULS,   WORSHIP  OF  THE  DEAD 

IT  would  lead  us  too  far  and  lies  beyond  the  scope  of  this 
volume  to  examine  anew  the  general  question  as  to  the  ani- 
mistic 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,  con- 
cerned 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  ordi- 
narily reckoned  as  falling  between  Christmas  and  Epiphany, 
although  the  term  does  not  everywhere  designate  exactly  the 
same  period.1  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  Hcjgni  and  Hedhinn  con- 
tains an  historical  reminiscence,  and  that  the  souls  that  are 
thus  said  to  continue  the  combat  after  death  are  those  of  his- 
torical personages.2  It  is,  at  any  rate,  certain  that  the  Norsemen 

l  See  above,  p.  216.  *  Mogk,  PG.2,  Ill,  256. 

289 


290        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  note- 
worthy passage  in  Procopius,1  Britain  is  called  the  land  of 
the  dead.  On  the  opposite  coast,  in  Prankish  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  oppo- 
site the  waters  of  the  ocean,  where  they  say  that  Ulixes  with  a 
libation  of  blood  stirred  up  the  silent  folk.  There  the  mourn- 
ful plaint  of  shades  flitting  about  with  a  gentle  whir  is  heard. 
The  natives  see  the  pallid  forms  and  the  figures  of  the  dead 
depart."2  According  to  other  sources,  the  land  of  souls  is 
situated  in  the  mountains,  and  it  is  there  that  the  historical 

1  B.  Goth.,  IV,  20.  2  Claudian,  In  Rttfinum,  I,  123. 


ANIMISM,  SOULS,    WORSHIP   OF  THE  DEAD          291 

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  Griitli  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,1  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 
assunied  a  thoroughly  systematic  form.2  The  souls  were  con- 
ceived 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,3  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 

1  E.  Rohde,  Psyche:  Seelencult  und  Unsterblichkeitsglaube  der  Griechen,  1894 
(second  edition,  1898). 

2  As  is  done,  e.g.  by  H.  Pfannenschmid,  Germanische  Erntefeste,  pp.  129-165. 

3  DM.*,  p.  668. 


292        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Brynhildar  likewise  depict  the  miseries  of  Hel ;  not,  however, 
as  a  place  of  punishment,  such  as  Nastrand,1  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  Rosengarten  have  been  localized  in  Tyrol  and  else- 
where, the  most  famous  being  that  of  Gibich,  Kriemhild's 
father,  near  Worms.  These  Rosengarten,  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.2 

From  the  finds  in  graves,  both  of  the  prehistoric  and  of 
later  times,  as  well  as  from  accounts  in  literary  monuments,8 
and  from  what  we  read  in  Jordanes4  concerning  the  funeral 
games  of  Attila,  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  chil- 
dren. 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  of  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  (doppelganger),  his  fylgja 

1  Voluspa,  38,  39. 

2  The  material  has  been  collected  by  E.  H.  Meyer,  GM.,  §  173. 

8  Among  these  are  the  brief  statement  of  Tacitus,  Germania,  Chapter  27,  and 
the  detailed  description  of  Beowulf,  11.  3158  ff. 
*  DOAG.,  Chapter  49. 


ANIMISM,  SOULS,    WORSHIP   OF   THE   DEAD  293 

(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.1  The  fylgja  stands  on  the  border  line 
dividing  souls  from  spirits.  Thefy/g/a  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  (cettarfylgid).  It  may  also  be  feminine  in  form  (fylg- 
jukona),  a  sort  of  goddess  (dis)  who  premonishes  man  in 
dreams,  appears  to  him  more  especially  shortly  before  his  death, 
at  times  vexes,  and  then  again  protects  him.  Such  fylgjur  are 
referred  to  in  Atlanta!,  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  vard  and 
the  Old  Norse  hamingja.  The  latter  word  is  explained  by 
Mogk  as  referring  to  the  form  (hanir)  which  the  soul  assumes 
when  becoming  visible,  which  is  frequently  that  of  animals. 
Thus  Atli's  hamr  appears  as  eagle.2  E.  H.  Meyer,  following 
out  a  suggestion  of  Grimm,3  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,4  nightmare  (French  cauchemar), 
or  incubus.  The  derivation  of  the  word  is  uncertain.  The 

1  Helgakvidha  Hjgrvardkssonar,  34  (prose). 

2  Atlamal,  18.  8  DM.*,  p.  728. 

4  "  A  mare  is  a  mannsfylgja"     Vatnsdoelasaga. 


294        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

mare  torments  men  at  night  in  their  sleep,  at  times  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.1 
The  jewel-caster,1 
He  whom  the  mare  quelled, 
On  Skuta's  bed,2 
There  was  he  burning.3 

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  per- 
son in  his  sleep.  Numerous  names  are  used  to  designate 
these  tormenting  spirits  :  mare,4  alp 5 ;  Trut  or  Trude  in  Bava- 
ria and  Tyrol ;  and  in  Upper  Germany  such  names  as  Schret- 
tele,  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 

1  King  Vanland.  2  Skuta  is  the  name  of  a  river. 

3  The  translation  is  from  the  Saga  Library,  Vol.  III. 

4  As  in  mich  reitet  die  Mahre,  "  the  mare  rides  me." 

5  As   in  mich  driickt  der  Alp,  "the  alp   presses  me."     Etymologically  alp   is 
connected  with  elf.     From  a  mythological  point  of  view,  the  two  notions  must,  of 
course,  be  kept  entirely  distinct. 


ANIMISM,  SOULS,    WORSHIP  OF   THE  DEAD          295 

them  in  their  dreams.  Thus  the  dead  that  cannot  gain  rest  in 
the  grave  appear  to  men  for  various  purposes  :  to  avenge  them- 
selves ;  to  make  amends  for  some  neglect ;  or  to  warn  men 
and  foretell  the  future.  Such  manifestations  are  closely 
related  to  apparitions  of  ghosts,  for  which  latter  the  Old 
Norse  draugr  (Old  High  German  gitroc)  was  in  use.  Notwith- 
standing 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  Burger'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.2 

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 

1  See  Wackernagel,  Zur  Erklarung  tind  Beurteilung  von  Burger's  Lenore  (Kl. 
Sckr.,  II,  399  ff.) ;  Erich  Schmidt,  Charakteristiken,  pp.  223  ff. 

2  Helgakvidha  Hundingsbana,  II,  44  (CPB.  I,  143). 


296        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

find  the  curse  pronounced  on  Brynhild  :  "  Never  be  she  born 
again."  l  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  than  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  times  reborn,  and  for  all  these  manifesta- 
tions 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  especially  those  of  ani- 
mals. Norse  literature  and  folklore  furnish  an  abundance  of 
examples.  A  number  of  times  the  soul  is  represented  as  hav- 
ing 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  burnt  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 

1  Sigurdharkvidha  en  skamnta,  45. 


ANIMISM,  SOULS,    WORSHIP   OF   THE   DEAD          297 

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  moun- 
tain 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  Prankish  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^/^g/a,  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  ; 2  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  demarca- 
tion 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 

1  in,  34- 

2  Compare  the  list  given  by  W.  Henzen,  Ueber  die  Tr'dume  in  der  altnordischen 
Sagalitteratur,  p.  38.     On  the  whole  subject  of  soul  migration,  see  G.  Storm,  Vore 
forfadres  tro  pa  sjielevandring  og  deres  opkaldelsessystem,  AfnF.  IX,  199-222. 


298         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

around  the  worship  of  trees  are  of  a  somewhat  complex  nature.1 
The  tree  may  itself  be  conceived  of  as  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  fre- 
quently held  to  be  the  residence  of  the  life  spirit  of  an  individ- 
ual (trees  of  life),  or  of  the  guardian  spirit  of  house  and  home 
(the  Swedish  vardtrad  or  botrd).  Tree  worship  represents, 
therefore,  both  a  bit  of  nature-worship  and  a  belief  in  human 
fate,  associated  symbolically  with  a  definite  species  of  the  vege- 
table 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.2  Characteristically  Scan- 
dinavian, 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  metamor- 
phosis 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). 

1  The  two  works  dealing  with  this  subject,  Mannhardt,  Der  Baumkultus  der 
Germanen  und  ihrer  Nackbarstamme,  and  A.  Koberstein,  Ueber  die   Vorstellung 
von  dem  Fortleben  menschlicher  Seelen  in  der  Pflanzenivelt  (1849;    reprinted  in 
Weimar  Ja/ir&.,  I,  72-100)  differ  in  their  views  of  the  matter. 

2  W.  Hertz,  Der  Werwolf  (Beitrag  zur  Sagengeschichte,  1862). 


ANIMISM,  SOULS,    WORSHIP  OF  THE  DEAD          299 

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 
times  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.1 

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,2  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  vqlur  (wise  women), 
or  with  the  "  dead  women  "  of  some  of  the  Eddie  songs.  We 
do  not,  therefore,  consider  the  witches  as  properly  forming 
a  part  of  our  subject,  and  shall  not  consider  them  in  this 
connection. 

1  See  Symons,  GH.2,  p.  116. 

2  Geschichte  der  Hexenprocesse,  neu  bearbeitet  von  H.  Heppe  (2  vos.,  1880). 


300        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

The  belief  in  souls  gave  rise  to  numerous  customs  in  con- 
nection 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  an  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  pro- 
vide for  its  wants,1  but  these  two  phases,  the  dark  and  light 
sides,  frequently  coalesce.  It  is  not  clear  to  which  of  these 
two  classes  the  dadsisas  belong,  against  which  the  Indiculus 
Superstitionum 2  inveighs  as  constituting  "  idolatry  over  the 

1  The  former  E.  H.  Meyer  designates  as  Seelenabwehr,  the  latter  as  Seelenpflege. 

2  "  List  of  superstitious  practices,"  of  the  eighth  century. 


ANIMISM,  SOULS,    WORSHIP   OF   THE   DEAD          301 

dead."  These  were  songs  sung  for  the  dead  at  night  ("  devil- 
ish songs ")  and  either  served  to  ward  off  the  soul,  or  were 
invocations  through  which  oracular  utterances  concerning  the 
future  were  obtained  from  the  dead.1  Or  else  they  were  mere 
lamentations  over  the  dead,  to  which  no  magical  significance 
was  attached,  similar  to  those  that  were  raised  over  Attila.2 
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  called  erfiql  (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  inherit- 
ance. 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.3 
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.4 

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 

1  Mogk.  8  Weinhold,  Altnordisches  Leben,  p.  500. 

2  Jordanes,  DOAG.,  Chapter  49.        *  Eyrbyggjasaga,  Chapter  54. 


302         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

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.1 

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  2  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,3  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  Rimbert's  Life  of  Anskar,  Chapter 
26.  We  there  find  a  detailed  account  how  king  Ericus  became 
one  of  the  gods.  Anskar  attended  a  large  gathering  at  Birka, 
where  he  found  king  and  people  no  longer  favorably  disposed, 
but  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, 

1  This  distinction  has  not  been  sufficiently  observed  in  the  remarks  concerning 
"ancestor  worship  "  in  CPB.  I,  413-422. 

2  See  above,  pp.  79-81.  s'Gesta,  IV,  26. 


ANIMISM,  SOULS,    WORSHIP   OF   THE   DEAD  303 

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  Half  dan's  mounds."  1  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. 

1  Saga  of  Halfdan  the  Black,  Heimskringla,  Chapter  9.  The  translation, 
slightly  changed,  is  taken  from  the  Saga  Library,  Vol.  III. 


CHAPTER    XV 
WALKYRIES,   SWAN-MAIDENS,   NORNS 

THESE  three  groups  of  divine  and  semi-divine  beings  do  not 
play  an  important  part  in  the  cult,  traces  of  religious  worship 
being  confined  almost  entirely  to  the  Norns.  They  owe  their 
characteristic  form  in  the  main  to  the  factitious  mythology  of 
the  later  Scandinavian  period.  At  the  same  time  Walkyries 
and  Norns  are  not  to  be  regarded  as  solely  a  creation  of 
scaldic  poetry.  While  their  development  is  a  later  growth,  it 
is  rooted  in  old  and  genuine  popular  belief. 

This  popular  basis  is  of  a  twofold  nature.  In  the  first  place, 
there  is  a  belief  that  in  woman  "  there  is  something  sacred  and 
prophetic,"  so  that  she  is  able  to  divine  the  future  and  is 
possessed  of  magic  powers.  Hence  also  the  counsel  of  such 
women  as  Veleda  and  Albruna  was  sought.  Not  that  these 
were  arbitrarily  deified,  like  the  Roman  divae  of  the  days  of 
the  Empire  : 1  they  were  regarded  as  actually  divine.2  The 
ancient  Teutons,  accordingly,  held  women  in  high  honor,  and 
at  times  followed  implicitly  the  leadership  of  an  unusually 
gifted  woman  in  battle.  The  fairy  tale  of  the  Teutonic  king- 
dom of  Amazons,  repeated  as  late  as  the  eighth  century  by 
Paulus  Diaconus,3  is  certainly  not  of  indigenous  origin,  but  was 
invented  by  the  Romans  under  the  influence  of  the  strong 
impression  made  upo'n  them,  from  the  days  of  the  Cimbri 
until  the  age  of  the  migrations,  by  the  wild  and  warlike 
Teutonic  women. 

1  "  Nor  as  if  they  were  deifying  mortal  women."    Tacitus,  Germania,  Chapter  8. 

2  "  They  regard  them  as  goddesses."     Tacitus,  Hist.,  IV,  61. 

3  Hist.  Long.,  I,  15. 

3°4 


WALKYRIES,  SWAN-MAIDENS,  NORNS  305 

But  the  fact  that  Teutonic  women  were  warlike  and  filled 
the  functions  of  priest  and  soothsayer  does  not  furnish  a 
sufficient  explanation  of  the  belief  in  Walkyries  and  Norns. 
These  latter  are  not  deified  women,  but  goddesses  of  war  and 
fate,  and  these  divine  functions  do  not  admit  of  an  euhemer- 
istic  explanation.  In  war,  as  in  the  other  affairs  of  life,  there 
are  divine  disposing  and  controlling  forces. 

A  third  explanation  might  be  sought  in  a  phenomenon 
of  nature.  But  we  shall  see  that  although  there  are  points 
of  contact  between  Walkyries  and  Norns  and  the  world  of 
nature,1  their  origin  can  by  no  means  be  derived  from  per- 
sonifications of  nature,  such  as  goddesses  of  storms,  water, 
and  clouds. 

The  name  "  Walkyrie  "  is  found  in  Norse  and  Anglo-Saxon 
only,  although  the  walriderske  ("  rider  of  the  dead,"  or  mare) 
of  Low-German  popular  belief  has  also  been  compared.  The 
Walkyries  are  at  work  while  the  battle  is  raging ;  they  choose 
the  warrior  that  is  to  fall  in  the  fight  (Old  Norse  valr),  and 
in  their  hand  lies  also  the  award  of  victory  (Anglo-Saxon 
sigewif).  When  in  Beowulf*  we  read  of  wigspeda  gewiofu 
(the  weavings  of  victory),  we  involuntarily  think  of  Walkyries 
(or  Norns)  as  weavers.  Walkyries,  furthermore,  place  fetters 
on  the  prisoners,  hold  back  the  enemy,  and  release  from  their 
bonds  the  warriors  of  their  own  side,  as  is  shown  in  the  three 
groups  of  the  first  Merseburg  Charm.3  In  this  last  instance 
we  identified  the  German  Idisi  with  Walkyries,  because  their 
functions  were  so  closely  allied.  In  like  manner,  the  Norse 
Walkyries  were  doubtless  accounted  goddesses  (disir),  even 
though  not  of  the  first  rank,  and  we .  accordingly  find  that 
sacrifices  (disablbt)  were  offered  to  them,  as  in  Ynglingasaga, 
Chapter  33.  In  any  case  there  are  two  names  of  Norse 
Walkyries  that  remind  us  of  the  tasks  assigned  to  the  Idisi 

1  Helgakvidha  Hjnrvardhssonar,  28.  2  Line  698. 

8  See  above,  p.  128. 


306        THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

in   the    Merseburg    Charm :     Hlqck    (bond  ?),    and    HerfjQtr 
("host-fetter,"  i.e.  terror  that  paralyzes). 

In  Voluspa,  31,  Grimnismdl,  36,  and  elsewhere,  we  find  a 
number  of  names  that  we  cannot  with  Golther  regard  altogether  v/ 
as  the  "  product  of  gray  theory."  They  represent  poetic 
personifications  of  the  goddesses  of  battle,  and  are  neither 
more  nor  less  living  and  real  than  such  artificial  elaborations 
of  motifs  from  popular  belief  are  wont  to  be.  In  German, 
too,  there  are  numerous  names  of  women  that  are  reminiscent 
of  the  goddesses  of  battle  and  victory.  A  few  may  be  men- 
tioned of  the  long  list  given  by  Miillenhoff  :  Hilta,  Hildeburc, 
Hiltigund,  Gundrud,  Sigithrud,  Grimhilt,  Brunihild,  Gerdrud, 
Gerlind.  If  we  are  justified  in  applying  these  and  other 
names  to  the  Walkyries,  they  would  be  equipped  with  helmet, 
shield,  cuirass,  and  spear,  but  not  with  sword.  We  meet  them 
in  groups  of  three,  six,  nine,  twelve,  and  at  times  in  three 
divisions.1  They  ride  through  the  air,  and  even  through  the 
water ;  now  and  then  their  appearance  upon  the  scene  is 
accompanied  by  tempest  and  hail. 

In  connecting  the  Walkyries  of  the  Viking  period,  on  the 
one  hand  with  the  warlike  Teutonic  women  of  the  ancient 
times,  and  on  the  other  hand  with  the  goddesses  of  battle  and 
victory,  it  is  to  be  admitted  that  the  exact  boundary  line  sepa- 
rating this  conception  from  related  ones  is  not  always  easily 
defined.  We  have  in  mind  more  particularly  the  shield- 
maidens,2  who  are  repeatedly  mentioned  by  Saxo.  Three,  or 
even  three  hundred,  according  to  another  account,  of  these 
skjdldmeyjar  took  part  in  the  battle  at  Bravallir.  Several  of 
the  martial  women  mentioned  by  Saxo  are  to  be  regarded  as 
such  skjdldmeyjar^  among  them  "  the  maidens  Sticla  and  Rusila," 
as  well  as  some  married  women,  like  Gynritha,  the  mother 
of  Harald  Hildetand.  Doubtless  these  characters  represent 

1  First  Merseburg  Charm ;  Helgakvidha  Hjqrvardhssonar,  28. 

2  See  above,  p.  169. 


WALKYRIES,  SWAN-MAIDENS,  NORNS  307 

in  part  historical  personages.  Rusila  has  by  some  been  iden- 
tified with  the  "  red-haired  maid  "  Inghen  Ruaidh,  who,  accord- 
ing to  an  Irish  chronicle,  landed  in  Ireland  at  the  head  of 
a  Viking  fleet,  in  the  tenth  century.1  While  it  is  doubtful 
whether  these  heroines  are  to  be  taken  as  Walkyries,  there 
are  better  grounds  for  such  a  supposition  in  the  case  of  the 
"forest-maidens"2  that  call  Hotherus  by  name  and  give  him 
counsel,  for  in  this  instance  we  are  told  that,  in  invisible  form, 
they  are  present  in  battle  and  award  the  victory.  But  they 
likewise  foretell  the  future,  and  hence  also  remind  one  of 
Norns. 

In  the  heroic  sagas  Walkyries  are  repeatedly  mentioned  both 
as  valiant  fighters,  shield-maidens,  of  whom,  for  example,  a 
large  number  perished  at  the  burning  of  Atli's  hall  by  Gudrun,8 
and  as  women  endowed  with  supernatural  powers,  who  foretell 
the  future,  ride  through  the  air,  and  by  their  divine  strength 
protect  heroes.  Such  is  the  nature  of  Svava  and  of  Sigrun, 
into  whom  Svava  is  reborn,  in  the  Helgi  Saga,  as  well  as  of 
Sigrdrifa-Brynhild,  the  godlike  maid,  won  by  Siegfried-Sigurdh 
in  the  Nibelungen  Saga.  The  heroic  saga  does  not,  however, 
attach  a  sharply  defined  meaning  to  the  term  "  Walkyrie "  : 
it  merely  designates  the  heroine  of  superhuman  power.  The 
hero  who  possesses  himself  of  the  person  of  such  a  Walkyrie 
becomes  through  that  very  fact  preeminent  among  his  fellows 
and  a  divine  destiny  awaits  him.  The  statement4  that  Bryn- 
hild  was  to  become  an  bskmey  (wish-maiden,  i.e.  Walkyrie)  is 
to  be  understood  in  this  sense. 

Norse  mythology  stands  alone  in  clearly  tracing  the  outlines 
of  this  conception  of  Walkyrie.5  This  has  been  effected  mainly 
through  a  combination  with  Odhin  and  Walhalla  :  they  are 

i  Steenstrup,  Normannerne,  I,  18  ff.  See  also  A.  Olrik,  Kilderne  til  Sakses 
Oldhistorie,  I,  §  12.  2  Saxo,  HD.  Ill,  112. 

3  Atlakvidha,  43.  *  Oddrtinargrdtr,  15. 

5  Voluspa,  31 ;  Grtmnismal,  36;  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  36. 


308        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Odhin's  "  battle-maidens,"  execute  his  commands,  protect  his 
favorites,  granting  them  victory,  or  conducting  them  to  Wal- 
halla.  Here  they  wait  upon  the  Einherjar,  pass  the  beakers 
around,  and  replenish  the  jugs  of  ale.  This  connection  with - 
Walhalla,  Odhin,  and  Freyja1  is  manifestly  of  secondary 
origin  ;  Norse  poetry  has  connected  Odhin  as  god  of  war  with 
the  goddesses  of  victory,  and  has  also  developed  the  idea  of 
Walhalla,  the  paradise  of  warriors.  It  would  be  idle,  there- 
fore, to  seek  in  these  later  combinations  traces  of  primitive 
nature-mythology,  as  is  done  by  those  scholars  who  connect 
the  Walkyries  as  storm  demons  with  Odhin  as  god  of  the  wind. 

We  have  already  had  occasion  to  discuss  Walhalla  and  the 
Walkyries  in  connection  with  the  Eiriksmdl  and  the  Hdkonar- 
mdl.z  In  this  latter  song,  king  Hakon  is  represented  as  lying 
on  the  field  of  battle  mortally  wounded.  He  overhears  the 
Walkyries,  who  with  helmet  and  shield  ride  about  on  their 
steeds,  saying  that  the  gods  have  bidden  him  with  a  great  host 
to  Walhalla.  The  king  asks  why  he  had  not  been  granted  a 
victory,  and  receives  as  an  answer  that  he  had  actually  kept 
the  field  and  routed  the  enemy,  but  that  as  a  mighty  hero  he 
was  now  also  to  enter  Walhalla,  —  a  twofold  favor  according  to 
the  conception  of  the  Norse  scald. 

A  vivid  picture  of  the  activities  of  Walkyries  is  drawn  by  a 
song  found  in  Njalssaga,  Chapter  156.  It  consists  of  a  descrip- 
tion of  Brian's  battle,  fought  on  Good  Friday  of  the  year  1014, 
in  which  many  of  those  who  had  helped  to  burn  Njal  in  his 
house  were  slain.  On  the  one  side  fight  Christian  Irishmen, 
on  the  other  half-heathen  Norsemen.  The  poem  contains 
numerous  traces  of  current  superstition,  great  importance 
being  attached  to  all  manner  of  apparitions.  A  man  who  on 
that  day  set  out  on  horseback  "  saw  folk  riding  twelve  together 
to  a  bower,  and  there  they  were  all  lost  to  his  sight.  He  went 

1  Freyja  is  even  called  Valfreyja  in  her  function  of  welcoming  slain  heroes. 

2  See  above,  pp.  184  and  229. 


WALKYRIES,  SWAN-MAIDENS,  NORNS  309 

to  that  bower  and  looked  in  through  a  window  slit  that  was  in 
it,  and  saw  that  there  were  women  inside,  and  they  had  set  up 
a  loom.  Men's  heads  were  the  weights,  but  men's  entrails 
were  the  warp  and  weft,  a  sword  was  the  shuttle,  and  the  reels 
were  arrows."  He  thereupon  heard  them  sing  the  following 
song l : 

THE   WOOF   OF   WAR 

See !   warp  is  stretched 

For  warriors'  fall ; 

Lo,  weft  in  loom 

'T  is  wet  with  blood  ; 

Now  fight  foreboding, 

'Neath  friends'  swift  fingers, 

Our  gray  woof  waxeth 

With  war's  alarms, 

Our  warp  bloodred, 

Our  weft  corseblue. 

This  woof  is  y-woven 
With  entrails  of  men, 
This  warp  is  hardweighted 
With  heads  of  the  slain, 
Spears  blood-besprinkled 
For  spindles  we  use, 
Our  loom  ironbound, 
And  arrows  our  reels; 
With  swords  for  our  shuttles 
This  war-woof  we  work ; 
So  weave  we,  weird  sisters, 
Our  warwinning  woof. 

Now  War-winner  walketh 
To  weave  in  her  turn, 
Now  Swordswinger  steppeth, 
Now  Swiftstroke,  now  Storm; 
When  they  speed  the  shuttle 

1  Dasent,  Burnt  Njal,  II,  pp.  338-341. 


310        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

How  spear-heads  shall  flash  ! 
Shields  crash,  and  helmgnawer l 
On  harness  bite  hard ! 

Wind  we,  wind  swiftly 
Our  warwinning  woof, 
Woof  erst  for  king  youthful 
Foredoomed  as  his  own, 
Forth  now  we  will  ride, 
Then  through  the  ranks  rushing 
Be  busy  where  friends 
Blows  blithe  give  and  take. 

Wind  we,  wind  swiftly 
Our  warwinning  woof, 
After  that  let  us  steadfastly 
Stand  by  the  brave  king; 
Then  men  shall  mark  mournful 
Their  shields  red  with  gore, 
How  Swordstroke  and  Spearthrust 
Stood  stout  by  the  prince. 

Wind  we,  wind  swiftly 
Our  warwinning  woof; 
When  sword-bearing  rovers 
To  banners  rush  on, 
Mind,  maidens,  we  spare  not 
One  life  in  the  fray ! 
We  corse-choosing  sisters 
Have  charge  of  the  slain. 

Now  new-coming  nations 
That  island  shall  rule, 
Who  on  outlying  headlands 
Abode  ere  the  fight ; 
I  say  that  King  mighty 
To  death  now  is  done, 
Now  low  before  spearpoint 
That  Earl  bows  his  head. 

1  "  Helmgnawer,"  the  sword  that  bites  helmets. 


WALKYRIES,  SWAN-MAIDENS,  NORNS  311 

Soon  over  all  Ersemen 
Sharp  sorrow  shall  fall, 
That  woe  to  those  warriors 
Shall  wane  nevermore  ; 
Our  woof  now  is  woven, 
Now  battle-field  waste, 
Oer  land  and  oer  water 
War  tidings  shall  leap. 

Now  surely  'tis  gruesome 
To  gaze  all  around, 
When  bloodred  through  heaven 
Drives  cloudrack  oer  head; 
Air  soon  shall  be  deep  hued 
With  dying  men's  blood 
When  this  our  spaedom 
Comes  speedy  to  pass. 

So  cheerily  chant  we 
Charms  for  the  young  king, 
Come  maidens  lift  loudly 
His  warwinning  lay; 
Let  him  who  now  listens 
Learn  well  with  his  ears, 
And  gladden  brave  swordsmen 
With  bursts  of  war's  song. 

Now  mount  we  our  horses, 
Now  bare  we  our  brands, 
Now  haste  we  hard,  maidens, 
Hence  far,  far,  away. 

We  may  regard  these  maidens  who  determine  the  issue  of 
battle  as  either  Walkyries  or  Norns. 

Walkyries  appear  frequently  as  swan-maidens.  Agnar  forced 
Brynhild  and  her  seven  sisters,  i.e.  companions,  into  his  service 
by  stealing  and  hiding  their  swan-shifts.1  In  Volundarkvidha 
we  read  of  three  Walkyries  who  had  put  their  swan-shifts  aside 

/  !  Hclreidh  Brynliildar,  7, 


312        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

and  were  won  by  three  brothers.  After  staying  with  them 
for  seven  years  they  flew  away  not  to  return.  Both  the  Norse 
and  the  medieval  German  literature,1  and  the  popular  saga  as 
well,  constantly  make  mention  of  swan-maidens,  who  fly  through 
the  air,  come  swimming  along  to  bring  tidings,  or  through  put- 
ting aside  their  swan-shift  have  come  into  the  power  of  him 
who  has  taken  it  away.  While  not  all  of  these  swan-maidens 
are  Walkyries,  the  latter  are  able  to  assume  the  form  of  swan- 
maidens,  and  when  they  do  so  the  conception  of  battle  and 
victory  is  usually  lost  sight  of,  while  that  of  magic  power  and 
soothsaying  gains  in  prominence. 

The  power  that  determines  fate  is  personified  in  the  Norns. 
It  is  not  surprising  that  their  functions  can  frequently  not  be 
distinguished  from  those  of  the  Walkyries :  the  powers  choos- 
ing those  who  are  to  be  slain  in  battle  are  in  the  last  instance 
identical  with  those  that  weave  or  spin  the  net  of  fate.  Both 
are  called  disir?  The  belief  in  a  power  of  fate,  among  the 
Teutons  as  among  other  peoples,  is  to  be  regarded  as  distinct 
from,  and  independent  of,  animism  and  nature-myth.  We 
meet  it  on  every  hand  in  the  Teutonic  world.  It  has  not, 
however,  been  developed  through  conscious  reflection,  and 
there  is  hence  no  need  of  drawing  a  distinction  between  such 
conceptions  as  chance,  luck,  fortune,  fate,  as  has  at  times  been 
attempted.  We  have  already  encountered  a  number  of  desig- 
nations for  this  power  of  fate,  the  words  at  times  indicating 
the  gods  themselves,  such  as  regin  and  metod.  The  Anglo- 
Saxon  wyrd,  which  possesses  a  cognate  in  the  Norse  urdhr, 
has  also  been  noticed.3  From  the  multiplicity  of  the  decrees 
of  fate  it  naturally  follows  that  the  disposing  ones  are  likewise 
plural  in  number ;  they  are  light  or  dark  beings,  according  to 
whether  they  dispose  of  the  propitious  or  the  unpropitious 
lots.  They  are  frequently  represented  as  three  sisters  bearing 

1  Herzeloide  and  Sigune  in  Parzival  and  Titurel. 

2  Reginstn&l,  24  ;  Sigrdrifumdl,  9.  3  See  above,  p.  155. 


WALKYRIES,  SWAN-MAIDENS,  NORNS  313 

various  names  :  Einbet,  Warbet,  Wilbet;  Chrischona,  Ottilia, 
Margarita,  etc.,  who  are  thereupon  transformed  into  Christian 
saints,  and  even  into  representatives  of  fides,  spes,  caritas,1 
whereas  popular  belief  identifies  them  with  water  and  moun- 
tain nymphs,  with  ancient  abbesses  and  ladies  of  the  castle, 
and  regards  them  as  guardian  fays.  There  is  no  ground  what- 
ever for  identifying  them  with  the  Keltic  matronce.  It  is 
evident  that  all  these  features  of  popular  belief  do  not  date 
from  pagan  times  any  more  than  the  belief  that  the  medieval 
lady  Saelde  is  a  pagan  goddess  of  fortune.2  Here,  as  else- 
where, it  is  extremely  difficult  to  ascertain  from  folklore  the 
original  and  genuine  heathen  elements.  The  frequent  recur- 
rence of  the  number  three  is  noteworthy.  Norse  literature  has 
made  these  into  Norns  of  the  past,  present,  and  future.  Three 
Norns,  or  groups  of  Norns,  are  met  with  in  numerous  popular 
tales  ;  so  also  in  the  witches  of  Macbeth,  for  there  can  scarcely 
/  be  any  doubt  that  these  weird  sisters  represent  Norns.  Similarly 
in  the  songs  of  the  Edda :  according  to  Voluspa,  8,  these  three 
maids  are  descended  from  the  giants,  while  both  Fdfnismdl,  13, 
and  Gylfaginjiing,  Chapter  15,  make  mention  of  three  races  of 
Norns,  descendants  respectively  of  ^Esir,  elves,  and  dwarfs 
(dvaliri).  This  latter  represents,  no  doubt,  a  later  artificial 
form  of  tradition,  which  owes  its  origin  to  an  effort  to  indicate 
the  many-sidedness  of  their  work  and  character,  inasmuch  as 
the  divine  disposition  of  fate,  the  various  gifts  of  fortune  such 
as  are  within  the  power  of  the  elves,  and  the  teasing,  danger- 
ous character  of  dwarfs  are  all  attributes  of  the  Norns.  Aside 
from  a  few  particulars  that  are  of  more  recent  origin, 
Snorri's  account  in  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  15,  reflects  in  a 
fairly  accurate  way  the  general  Teutonic  conception  of  the 
range  of  their  activity  :  "  These  maidens  appoint  the  fate 
of  men  and  we  call  them  Norns.  There  are,  however,  still 
other  Norns  (i.e.  aside  from  the  three  already  mentioned, 

1  "  Faith,  hope,  and  charity."  2  Jacob  Grimm. 


314        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Urdhr,  Verdhandi,  and  Skuld),  who  come  to  every  new-born 
child  and  dispense  its  fate.  .  .  .  When  the  Norns  determine 
the  destinies  of  men,  they  divide  the  fortunes  very  unequally : 
to  some  they  grant  a  life  full  of  joy  and  honor,  to  others  little 
happiness  and  glory ;  to  some  a  long  life,  to  others  a  short 
one.  .  .  .  The  good  Norns,  who  are  of  noble  descent,  dispense 
a  happy  fate.  But  if  men  fall  upon  misfortune,  it  is  owing  to 
evil  Norns."  They  accordingly  weave  each  man's  destiny,  in 
very  unequal  fashion.  The  figure  usually  employed  to  repre- 
sent this  is  that  of  the  loom  with  its  threads.  That  the  revolv- 
ing wheel  of  fortune  is  of  foreign  origin  is  acknowledged  also 
by  Jacob  Grimm. 

The  Norns  bestow  good  fortunes  and  other  noble  gifts, 
but  frequently  also  calamities.  Their  decrees  are  invariably 
irrevocable :  "  No  one  can  withstand  the  word  of  Urdhr, 
even  though  it  be  spoken  to  one's  destruction."1  They  fur- 
thermore accompany  man  through  all  the  vicissitudes  of 
life.  They  assist  women  at  childbirth,  keep  watch  over  the 
new-born  child,  and  weave  its  destiny : 

In  the  mansion  it  was  night : 

The  Norns  came, 

Who  should  the  prince's 

Life  determine. 

They  him  decreed 

A  prince  most  famed  to  be, 

And  of  leaders 

Accounted  best. 

With  all  their  might  they  span 

The  fatal  threads. 

They  stretched  out 

The  golden  cord, 

And  beneath  the  middle 

Of  the  moon's  mansion  fixed  it.2 

1  Fjolsvinnsm&l,  47. 

2  Helgakvidha  Hundingsbana,  I,  2,  3.     (The  translation,  somewhat  free,  is  that 
of  Thorpe.) 


WALKYRIES,  SWAN-MAIDENS,  NORNS  315 

Norns  are  frequently  found  at  a  child's  cradle,  bestowing 
gifts  and  foretelling  the  future.  These  Norns  (or  wise  women) 
are  usually  three  in  number,  two  bringing  or  announcing  a 
blessing,  while  the  third,  from  a  feeling  of  envy,  or  out  of 
vengeance,  because  she  has  not  been  invited,  adds  something 
that  vitiates  the  gifts  of  her  sisters.  How  inexorable  such 
oracular  utterances  are  may  be  seen  from  the  Mdrchen 
of  Sleeping  Beauty:  the  thirteenth  (uninvited)  wise  woman 
there  foretells  that  the  princess  will  in  her  fifteenth  year  be 
wounded  by  a  spindle  and  fall  down  dead.  The  twelfth  wise 
woman,  who  happily  has  not  as  yet  bestowed  her  gift,  has  no 
power  to  avert,  but  only  to  mitigate  the  curse :  it  was  not  to 
be  death,  but  a  sleep  of  a  hundred  years.  Similarly,  in  a  later 
Norse  saga,  Nornagestr,  i.e.  the  guest  of  the  Norns,  had  been 
promised  the  best  of  fortunes,  but  he  was  to  die  as  soon  as 
the  candle  should  be  burnt  out  that  had  just  been  lit.  This 
has,  of  course,  been  regarded  as  a  copy  of  the  saga  of  Meleager, 
but  unjustly  so  :  the  account  does  not  contain  a  single  feature 
that  cannot  be  paralleled  from  Teutonic  popular  belief. 

According  to  a  tradition  current  among  the  inhabitants  of 
the  Faroe  Islands,  the  white  spots  on  the  nails  are  tokens 
(Nornaspor)  of  the  gifts  that  the  Norns  bestow.  As  at  births, 
so  at  marriages,  the  Norns  put  in  an  appearance  and  grant  a 
blessing.  They  likewise  dispense  the  gloomy  lot  of  death, 
and  at  times  wyrd,  urdhr,  signifies  simply  the  doom  of  death. 
We  accordingly  read  of  an  urdharmdni  (moon  of  weird),  which 
appears  as  a  sign  that  "  the  deaths  of  men  will  follow  there- 
after." l  It  is  owing  to  the  decrees  of  the  Norns  when  a  man 
falls  in  battle,2  or  dies  in  bed.8  Popular  belief  at  times  regards 
this  Norn  of  death  as  Hel,  the  black  Griet,  or  the  evil  Mar- 
garetha,  but  these  combinations  of  folklore  are  of  too  vague  a 
character  to  demand  serious  consideration. 

l  Eyrbyggjasaga,  Chapter  52.  2  Hamdhism&l,  29. 

8  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  52. 


316        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

The  Norns  are  also  met  with  in  the  cult.  Saxo1  relates  how 
king  Fridlevus  at  the  birth  of  his  son  Olavus  desired  to  divine 
the  future.  He  speaks  of  this  "  consultation  of  the  oracles  of 
the  Parcae  "  as  of  a  rite  which  took  place  after  a  solemn  offer- 
ing of  vows  and  prayer  in  the  temple  of  the  gods,  where  these 
"  nymphae "  had  their  three  seats.  That  the  Norns  received 
a  meat-offering  at  the  birth  of  a  child  may  be  gathered  not 
only  from  the  twelve  plates  which  were  prepared  for  the  wise 
women  at  the  birth  of  Sleeping  Beauty,  but  also  from  the 
Norn-grits  (Nornagreytur)  of  which  on  the  Faroe  Islands 
women  partake  after  childbirth,  no  doubt  originally  a  part 
of  a  sacrifice  brought  to  the  Norns.  About  the  year  1000 
Burchard  of  Worms  still  speaks  of  women  who  at  certain 
times  of  the  year  set  the  table  for  the  three  sisters  that  are 
called  the  Parcae  and  placed  on  it  food  and  drink,  together 
with  three  knives. 

The  Norse  designation  "  Norns  "  has  not  as  yet  been  satis- 
factorily explained.  The  true  Norn  is  Urdhr,  as  is  still  clearly 
evident  from  the  songs  of  the  Edda,  where  she  frequently 
occurs  alone.  To  Urdhr  there  have  subsequently  been  added 2 
Verdhandi  and  Skuld,  and  the  three  were  then  brought  into 
connection  with  the  past,  present,  and  future,  —  a  connection 
which  Miillenhoff3  has  even  recognized  in  the  general  plan  of 
Voluspa.  It  is  a  noteworthy  fact  that  now  and  then  the  Norns 
are  regarded  as  of  the  race  of  giants,4  just  as  in  the  Greek 
theogonies  the  Moira  belong  to  an  older  race  of  gods.  It  is 
in  keeping  with  this,  when  the  power  of  fate  is  stated  to  be 
older  and  stronger  than  that  of  the  individual  gods  :  Voluspa,  8, 
tells  us  that  it  was  these  three  powerful  maids  that  put  an 
end  to  the  happy  life  of  the  gods  in  the  golden  age.  But  such 
considerations  should  not  be  unduly  emphasized,  inasmuch  as 

1  HD.  vi,  272. 

2  Voluspa,  20  (interpolated);  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  15. 

8  DA.  V,  5.  *  Voluspa,  8 ;   Vafthrudhnismal,  49. 


WALKYRIES,  _S  WAN-MA  ID  ENS,   NORNS  317 

the  occurrences  on  which  they  are  based  are  only  sporadic, 
and  are  besides  found  in  the  Norse  sources  alone,  which,  as 
we  saw  above,  also  give  other  accounts  of  the  descent  of  the 
Norns  alongside  of  that  from  the  giants. 

This  is  not  the  place  to  enter  upon  a  discussion  of  the  rela- 
tion of  the  Norns  to  the  world-tree.  This  whole  conception 
will  demand  our  attention  later  on,  and  we  shall  then  see  that 
it  cannot  be  regarded  either  as  an  element  of  popular  belief 
or  as  a  part  of  genuine  mythology. 


CHAPTER   XVI 
ELVES   AND  DWARFS 

HERE,  as  elsewhere,  we  must  beware  of  depending  upon 
uncertain  etymologies  for  an  elucidation  of  the  character  of 
the  beings  under  consideration.  The  word  "  alp  "  (restricted  at 
a  later  time  to  the  meaning  of  "incubus,"  "nightmare")  does 
not  occur  in  German  literature  before  the  thirteenth  century. 
It  is,  however,  much  older,  as  is  shown  by  proper  names  of 
which  it  forms  a  part,  Albruna  being  found  even  in  Tacitus. 
The  Anglo-Saxon  (elf  (plural  ylfe)  and  the  Norse  dlfr  (plural 
dlfar)  also  occur  in  proper  names.  The  general  use  of  the 
word  "elf"  in  Germany  dates  only  from  the  preceding  century. 
Very  widespread  is  the  use  of  the  word  wicht  (Norse  vattr), 
which  is  also  used  as  a  neuter  noun  in  the  sense  of  "  thing." 
Other  names  are :  Norse  huldre,  liuflingar,  English  fairies, 
and,  of  foreign  origin,  fees.  There  are  numerous  other  names, 
some  of  which  we  shall  meet  incidentally  in  the  course  of  our 
discussion. 

The  elves  play  a  most  conspicuous  part  in  the  various  phases 
of  popular  belief,  such  as  Mdrchen,  but  they  are  also  met  with 
in  the  cult.  Norse  mythology,  in  its  systematized  form,  which 
assigns  such  an  important  role  to  the  giants  in  their  struggle 
with  the  ^Esir,  while  repeatedly  mentioning  elves  and  dwarfs, 
does  not  make  them  at  all  prominent.  The  dvergatal  (cata- 
logue of  dwarfs),  Voluspa,  9-16,  is  a  later  interpolation.  Nor 
is  the  notion  that  the  dwarfs  owed  their  origin  to  maggots  in 
the  flesh  of  the  giant  Ymir *  at  all  original.  There  are  great 
differences  between  various  kinds  of  elves  in  character  and 

1  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  14. 


ELVES  AND  DWARFS  319 

outward  appearance,  although  some  features  constantly  recur. 
As  a  rule,  they  are  frail  and  delicate,  a  countless  host  of  little 
creatures,  who  have  at  times  been  observed  to  retreat  trip- 
pingly across  a  bridge.  Some  elves  are  of  dazzling  beauty, 
and  elf  maids  and  wives  are  represented  as  combing  their  long 
blond  hair.  They  lead  a  merry  life  over  games,  dance,  and 
song.  The  dwarfs,  on  the  other  hand,  are  misshapen  creatures  : 
ugly,  hunchbacked,  and  club-headed.  Sometimes,  but  only 
by  way  of  exception,  they  are  said  to  possess  a  form  other 
than  human,  such  as  that  of  a  bull.  At  sunrise  they  turn  to 
stone.1 

The  relation  of  elves  and  dwarfs  to  man  is  a  peculiar  one. 
At  times  they  are  kindly  disposed,  bestowing  gifts  that,  while 
apparently  insignificant,  prove  of  great  value,  healing  people 
of  sickness,  and  teaching  them  the  hidden  virtues  of  stones 
and  plants.  On  the  other  hand,  they  are  also  playful  and 
mischievous,  given  to  teasing  and  deceit,  and  they  may  even 
become  malicious  and  dangerous.  Thus  they  bewitch  man  and 
beast  and  bring  about  sickness.  Their  shot  (elveskud")  causes 
death.  They  entice  and  kidnap  girls  and  exchange  children 
(Wechselbalg,  changeling).  In  RuodKeb*  a  captured  dwarf 
who  is  taunted  with  deceitfulness  retorts  as  follows  : 

Far  from  it  that  such  deceit  ever  obtained  among  us ;  we  should  not 
else  be  either  so  long  lived  or  so  healthy.  Among  you  one  opes  his  lips 
only  when  deceit  is  in  his-  heart ;  hence  you  will  never  reach  a  mature 
old  age,  for  the  length  of  each  one's  life  is  in  proportion  to  his  sincerity. 
We  speak  naught  else  than  what  lies  in  our  hearts.  Nor  do  we  eat  vari- 
ous kinds  of  food  that  give  rise  to  maladies.  Hence  we  shall  continue  in 
unimpaired  health  longer  than  you.8 

While  it  is  somewhat  difficult  to  determine  just  what  ele- 
ments of  genuine  popular  belief  these  lines  contain,  the  contrast 

1  Alvissmdl. 

2  A    Latin  poem  of  the  tenth  century.     The  lines  are  cited  by  Grimm  in  his 
Mythology.  3  Ruodlieb,  XVII,  18. 


320        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

between  the  candor  of  dwarfs  and  the  deceitfulness  of  man 
certainly  does  not  bear  this  character.  On  the  other  hand,  the 
long  and  healthy  life  of  dwarfs  must  doubtless  be  included 
in  the  above  category,  although  it  is  here  not,  as  elsewhere, 
ascribed  to  a  knowledge  of  the  secret  powers  of  nature,  but  to 
truthfulness  and  a  simple  mode  of  life. 

Elves  frequently  call  upon  man  for  aid,  more  especially  to 
assist  elf-wives  in  labor.  Through  marriages  with  men,  elves, 
especially  water-sprites  (nixes),  seek  to  acquire  an  immortal 
soul.  There  is,  however,  always  danger  that  this  design  may 
miscarry,  chiefly  through  the  imprudence  of  the  man,  who  fails 
to  regard  the  injunction  that  he  may  not  call  his  elf-wife  by 
name,  or  see  her  naked.  In  such  a  case  the  elf  must  return  to 
her  element.  The  well-known  tales  of  Undine  and  Melusine, 
and  numerous  other  stories  of  the  same  type,  will  occur  to 
every  one  in  this  connection.  A  touching  story  is  told  of  a 
water-sprite.  Children  called  out  to  him :  "  Why  do  you  sit 
there,  nix  (neck),  and  play  ?  You  will  never  be  saved."  The 
nix  began  to  weep  bitterly,  cast  his  harp  aside,  and  disappeared 
in  the  water.  When  the  father  learned  what  had  happened,  he 
reproved  his  children  and  bade  them  return  forthwith  and  con- 
sole the  nix.  They  did  so  and  called  out  to  him,  "  Your 
redeemer  also  lives."  The  nix  then  again  played  sweetly  on 
the  harp.  Though  these  and  similar  conceptions  of  popular 
belief  may  have  a  Christian  coloring,  and  have  acquired  in 
modern  poetry  a  deeper  meaning,  which  no  longer  bears  a  pagan 
character,  there  is  at  least  a  nucleus,  which  cannot  be  accurately 
defined,  that  goes  back  to  pagan  belief.  We  cite,  therefore, 
although  with  considerable  reservation,  the  beautiful  words  with 
which  Grimm  concludes  his  chapter  on  elves  and  dwarfs : 
"  Through  the  entire  character  of  elves,  nixes,  and  goblins  there 
runs  an  undercurrent  of  dissatisfaction  and  disconsolateness  : 
they  do  not  quite  know  how  to  turn  their  noble  gifts  to  good 
account,  and  are  always  more  or  less  dependent  upon  man.  .  .  . 


ELVES  AND  DWARFS  321 

Hence  too  their  doubt  whether  they  can  become  partakers  of 
salvation,  and  their  unrestrained  grief  when  they  receive  a 
negative  answer." 

Snorri,  in  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  17,  draws  a  distinction 
between  Ijbsdlfar  and  dqkkdlfar :  "The  light-elves  are  out- 
wardly brighter  than  the  sun,  while  the  dark-elves  are  blacker 
than  pitch."  The  former  dwell  in  Alfheim,  which  in  Grimnis- 
mdl,  5,  is  stated  to  be  the  home  of  Freyr.  Elsewhere  as  well, 
as  in  Skirnismdl,  7,  light-elves  and  ^Esir  are  associated.  Dqk- 
kdlfar  are  at  times  identified  with  dwarfs,  so  in  Skdldskaparmdl, 
Chapter  3  ;  at  other  times,  as  in  Fdfnismdl,  13,  and  Gylfagin- 
ning, Chapters  14  and  15,  dwarfs  are  mentioned  separately  and 
are  expressly  distinguished  from  the  race  of  elves.  Many 
scholars  accordingly,  following  in  the  footsteps  of  Grimm,1 
assume  alongside  of  the  light-  and  dark-  elves  a  third  class,  the 
svartdlfar,  who  are  then  considered  identical  with  the  dwarfs. 
But  this  whole  attempt  at  systematization  is  doubtless  the 
artificial  work  of  Norse  mythographers.  We  shall  do  better, 
therefore,  to  distinguish  these  beings  with  reference  to  their 
habitation  and  the  sphere  of  their  activity.  They  are  con- 
nected with  light  and  sky,  with  field  and  forest,  with  water, 
with  subterranean  regions,  and  with  the  house. 

Generally  the  place  where  elves  live  and  work  is  situated  on 
the  earth.  There  they  appear  in  visible  form,  or  sweep  past, 
at  times  only  audible,  -in  a  wild  train,  carrying  in  their  midst 
some  woman  or  child  that  they  have  stolen.2  Unlike  the  Wild 
Hunt,  which  courses  through  the  air,  this  procession  passes 
over  field  and  heath.  There  are,  however,  also  features  that 
establish  an  unmistakable  connection  between  the  elves  and 
the  air  and  sunlight.  Thdy  effect  an  entrance  through  the  rays 
of  'the  sun,  are  clad  in  white  garments,  and  possess  a  radiant, 
dazzling  beauty.  Snorri 3  assigns  to  these  light-elves  a  dwelling 

IBM.*  p.  368.  2  fr_  Eif.  xxvi. 

3  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  17. 


322        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

in  a  hall  on  the  mountain  of  Gimle,  where,  according  to  Vohispa, 
64,  in  the  regenerated  world,  "  the  hosts  of  the  righteous  shall 
dwell,  and  forever  abide  in  bliss."  If  it  be  contended  that 
Snorri  has  put  these  light-elves  in  the  place  of  angels  and  the 
souls  of  the  blessed,  there  yet  must  have  been,  in  the  concep- 
tions entertained  concerning  elves,  a  connecting  link  that  made 
such  a  substitution  possible. 

Like  the  Greeks  and  many  other  peoples,  the  Teutons  also 
conceived  nature  as  peopled  with  hosts  of  animate  beings.  In 
forest  and  field  there  are  found  Wilde  Leute,  Fanggen,  Hoh-  and 
Moosfraulein,  the  Hollunderfrau,  the  Hyllemor  (Danish),  the 
Skogsfru  (Swedish).  Besides,  there  are  male  beings,  such  as 
Waldmannlein,  Norgen,  Schrat.  As  late  an  author  as  Burchard 
of  Worms  speaks  of  "  rustic  women,  who  are  called  wood-wives 
(silvaticx),  and  who  are  said  to  possess  a  bodily  form.  They 
say  that  they  make  themselves  visible  to  their  lovers  whenever 
they  wish  and  that  they  divert  themselves  with  them,  and  again 
that  they  steal  away  and  disappear  whenever  they  wish."  In 
this  same  connection  we  may  refer  to  the  well-known  and  widely 
current  story  of  the  Waldfrdulein,  the  so-called  Windsbraut, 
that  was  pursued  by  the  wild  man.  The  wild  and  savage 
elements  are  in  the  case  of  wood-sprites  made  far  more  promi- 
nent than  the  pleasing  features. 

There  is  also  a  class  of  spirits  that  promote  the  fruitfulness 
of  the  field  :  Kornmumme,  Roggenhund,  Haferbock,  Getreidemaun, 
and  numerous  others  including  also  the  Fenesleute  and  fairies 
that  on  the  newly  ploughed  field  bake  cake  for  the  men  at  work. 
Other  beings  do  damage  to  the  crops,  especially  the  Pilwiz  or 
Bilwis,  who  is  repeatedly  mentioned  in  medieval  literature,  and 
who  devastates  the  fields,  teases  men,  and  tangles  their  hair. 

Not  in  the  case  of  all  of  these  beings  are  there  sufficient 
grounds  for  classing  them  among  the  elves.  The  demons 
of  vegetation,  whom  we  know  through  folklore,  are  not  con- 
sidered as  such.  At  the  same  time  it  is  difficult  to  draw  a 


ELVES  AND  DWARFS  323 

hard  and  fast  line,  and  there  is  no  doubt  that  the  elves  are 
also  to  be  found  in  field  and  forest,  that  they  promote  the 
fruitfulness  of  the  soil,  and  dance  on  field  and  meadow  (elf- 
dance).  The  spot  where  the  grass  grows  luxuriantly  is  called 
a  "  fairy  circle."  He  who  tramples  this  grass  under  foot  becomes 
blind,  or  the  elves  breathe  sickness  and  death  upon  him.  Thus 
we  read  in  Shakespeare's  Tempest  (V,  i) : 

You  demi-puppets  that 

By  moonshine  do  the  green-sour  ringlets  make 
Whereof  the  ewe  not  bites. 

An  important  class  of  elves  are  the  water-elves,  or  nixes, 
to  whom  incidental  reference  has  already  been  made.  They 
are  usually  small  of  stature,  represented  at  times  as  enticingly 
beautiful  women,  whose  song  bewitches,  at  times  as  bearded 
men  with  green  hat  and  green  teeth.  Frequently  they  are 
invisible,  or  are  seen  emerging  from  lake  or  spring,  or  their 
voice  is  heard  from  the  depths  of  the  lake,  where  lie  also  the 
sunken  bells  (named  Anne  Susanne)  that  come  to  the  surface 
at  St.  John's. 

The  worship  of  water  occupied  a  prominent  place  in  the  Teu- 
tonic religion  ;  it  was  regarded  as  a  purifying,  rejuvenating,  as 
well  as  a  soothsaying  element,  and  was  accordingly  conceived  of 
as  inhabited  by  various  beings.  Sea  and  waterfall  were  usually 
thought  to  be  the  abode  of  giants,  although,  in  the  Introduc- 
tion to  Reginsmdl,  we  also  find  the  dwarf  Andvari  dwelling  in 
a  waterfall.  Lakes  and  springs  were  regarded  as  the  home  of 
elves,  especially  so  in  Thuringia,  the  Black  Forest  (Mumme/see), 
and  some  other  localities. 

The  water-elves  pass  under  numerous  names  :  nix,  neck, 
nicor1  (Anglo-Saxon),  marbendill  (Icelandic),  meermin,  meer- 
meit  (mermaid),  meerwip,  waterman  and  watervrouw,  muhme, 
miimmelchen,  etc.  The  Danish  havmcend 'and  havfruer  are  used 

1  Hence  the  appellation  "  Old  Nick  "  for  the  devil  in  England. 


324        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

to  designate  giants  as  well  as  elves.  In  popular  tales  the 
soothsaying  character  of  the  water-elves  is  made  especially 
prominent.1  Thus  the  mermaids,  with  the  upper  half  of  their 
body  above  the  water,  give  expression  to  oracular  utterances 
in  song.  Similarly,  the  merman,  on  being  caught,  regains  his 
liberty  by  foretelling  the  future  to  his  captor.  Nicks  are 
likewise  summoned  to  bring  about  the  accomplishment  of 
wishes.  The  best-known  example  of  this  is  contained  in  the 
fairy  tale  of  Grimm,  Von  dem  Fischer  un  syner  Fru?  all  of 
whose  wishes  were  realized  by  the 

Manntje,  Manntje,  Timpe  Te, 
Buttje,  Buttje  in  der  See, 

until  finally  the  woman  wished  to  become  like  unto  the  dear 
Lord  himself,  and  was  thereupon  suddenly  carried  back  to  her 
former  home  in  the  "  Pissputt."  Of  a  similar  character  is  the 
story  of  the  king  on  the  Danube,  who  inquired  of  people  what 
their  wishes  were,  and  thereupon  cast  them  in  the  water,  where 
all  these  wishes  would  be  realized. 

Water  nicks  are,  therefore,  by  no  means  harmless.  They 
draw  men,  in  part  by  seduction,  in  part  by  force,  down  to  the 
depths  :  "  Half  drew  she  him,  half  sank  he  down." 3  Traces  of 
blood  on  or  near  the  water  are  signs  of  vengeance  that  they 
have  exacted.  They  hold  numerous  men  as  prisoners,  who 
have  come  into  their  power  through  a  draught  of  water,  or  by 
playing  or  dancing  with  them.  These  warn  others  against 
a  similar  fate,  but  usually  in  vain.  As  a  rule,  it  is  impossible  to 
free  these  prisoners  :  at  times  people  suppose  this  end  to  be 
accomplished  by  making  a  small,  flat  stone  skip  and  jump 
back  over  the  water.  Nicks  that  roam  about  among  mankind 
are  recognizable  by  the  wet  skirt  of  their  dress. 

1  Examples  from  the  Netherlands  are  cited  by  J.  W.  Wolf,  Beitrage,  II,  286. 

2  "  The  Story  of  the  Fisherman  and  his  Wife,"  Kinder-  und  Hausmarchen,  No.  19. 
s  Goethe's  Fischer. 


ELVES  AND  DWARFS  325 

Dwarfs  closely  resemble  the  elves  in  character,  and  one  of 
their  kings  bears,  in  fact,  the  name  of  Alberich.  They  dwell 
in  the  mountains  and  under  the  earth.  The  mountains  they 
share  as  a  place  of  habitation  with  the  giants  and  souls,  but 
the  dwarfs  preferably  dwell  there  where  treasures  are  hidden 
and  where  mining  is  being  carried  on.  This  latter  occupation 
men  have  learned  from  the  dwarfs.  Their  voice  may  be  heard 
to  answer  in  the  mountains  :  the  echo  is  called  dwerga  mat 
(the  speech  of  dwarfs)  in  Old  Norse.  There  is  no  certainty 
as  to  the  etymology  of  the  word  "  dwarf"  ;  other  names  by  which 
they  are  known  are  :  bergmannetjes,  aardmannetjes,  underjor-. 
diske.  They  are  invariably  small  of  stature,  at  times  not  larger 
than  a  man's  thumb,  ugly,  old,  bearded,  gray,  filthy,  misshapen, 
at  times  club-headed,  and  with  feet  like  those  of  geese.  By 
means  of  a  cloak  or  cap  that  is  called  Tarnkappe,  or  dwarf-hat, 
they  are  able  to  make  themselves  invisible.  In  their  own 
realm,  under  the  ground  or  in  the  mountains,  they  lead  a  merry 
life  with  song  and  dance.  Medieval  poetry  and  popular  tales 
mention  a  number  of  names  of  dwarf  kings  :  Goldemar,  Laurin, 
Gibich  (Harz  region),  Hans  Heiling  (Bohemia).  They  are 
frequently  dangerous,  kidnapping  children,  or  carrying  off 
beautiful  maidens,  incidents  which  medieval  German  poetry 
has  at  times  combined  with  stories  dealing  with  Dietrich  of 
Bern  and  the  motif  of  the  Rosengarten.1  In  Mdrchen  the' girl 
is  compelled  to  marry  the  ugly  dwarf  who  has  aided  her  in  her 
task,  unless  she  should  know  his  name  on  the  following  day. 
Fortunately  the  dwarf  himself  betrays  this  name  through  singing 
out  aloud  that  he  is  so  glad  that  no  one  knows  that  he  is  called 
Rumpelstilzchen  (Purzinigele  in  Tyrol,  Tom-Tale-Tit  in  Eng- 
land), —  another  illustration,  therefore,  of  the  quest  after  ties 
of  human  relationship  that  is  so  characteristic  of  the  elves. 
Dwarfs  are  not,  however,  invariably  malicious :  witness  the 
kind-hearted  dwarfs  that  so  carefully  tend  little  Snow-White. 

1  Symons,  GH.2,  §  48. 


326        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Dwarfs  are  rich  and  are  skilful  artificers,  especially  as 
smiths,  the  most  famous  swords  of  the  Norse  sagas  being 
the  handiwork  of  dwarfs.  Wieland  (Volund),  the  smith,  is 
called  an  elf-king,1  and  the  incidents  of  the  ravishing  of  the 
maiden  and  of  the  ring  whose  possession  confers  superhuman 
power,  from  the  same  saga,  are  also  elfish  in  character.2  An 
old  fire-demon  has  been  fused  with  the  dwarf  of  this  saga.3 

Of  the  great  skill  of  the  dwarfs,  the  account  in  the  Snorra 
Edda  (Skdldskaparmdl,  Chapter  3)  affords  the  most  striking 
example.  The  sons  of  Ivaldi  there  fashion  for  Loki  the  golden 
hair  of  Sif,  the  ship  Skidhbladhnir  that  is  given  to  Freyr,  and 
the  spear  Gungnir,  which  Odhin  possesses.  In  a  wager  with 
Loki  two  other  dwarfs  succeed  in  forging  three  objects  that 
show  a  still  more  consummate  skill  :  the  ring  Draupnir  for 
Odhin,  from  which  every  ninth  night  eight  rings  of  equal 
weight  will  drop  ;  for  Freyr,  the  boar  with  the  golden  bristles, 
which  is  speedier  than  a  horse,  can  run  through  air  and  water, 
and  sheds  light  in  the  darkest  night;  for  Thor,  the  greatest 
of  all  treasures,  the  hammer  Mj^llnir.  This  account  conveys 
the  impression  that  the  author  had  different  groups  of  dwarfs 
in  mind,  and  similarly,  in  the  dwarf  catalogue,  Voluspa,  9-16, 
the  more  than  fifty  names  are  arranged  in  three  divisions, 
while  in  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  14,  some  dwarfs  are  said  to 
dwell  in  the  earth,  others  in  the  rocks,  still  others  go  "  through 
marshy  valleys  to  sandy  plains."  We  find  in  this  latter  list 
dwarfs  who  take  their  names  from  the  four  points  of  the 
compass.  Alongside  of  some  that  are  unknown  to  us,  we  also 
meet  others  that  occur  elsewhere,  such  as  Regin  and  Andvari. 

Closely  related  to  the  dwarfs  are  the  spirits  of  house  and 
home,  passing  under  such  names  as  Kobold  (Kabouter),  Heinzel- 
mannchen,  Wichtelmannchen,  Poltergeist,  Rumpelgeist,  Popanz, 
B  idler kater,  Butzemann,  Tatermann,  Claus.  In  England  and 

1  Volundarkvidha,  u.  2  See  O.  L.  Jiriczek,  DH.  I,  9. 

8  See  p.  145,  above. 


ELVES  AND  DWARFS  327 

along  the  coast  of  the  North  Sea  we  also  meet  with  the  names 
"puck,"  "brownie,"  "good  fellow,"  and  others.  The  Kobold, 
as  a  rule,  likes  to  lend  a  helping  hand  in  the  field  and  stable ;  he 
feeds  the  cattle  and  threshes  the  grain,  fetches  water,  and  per- 
forms all  manner  of  domestic  duties.  At  the  same  time  he  is 
also  capable  of  teasing,  but,  as  a  rule,  only  those  who  have 
deserved  punishment.  On  account  of  the  riches  possessed  by 
dwarfs,  such  domestic  spirits,  or  Alraunen,  as  they  are  some- 
times called,  may  bestow  a  blessing  of  money  upon  a  particular 
house.  What  the  Kobold  is  for  the  house  the  Klabautermann, 
or  Kalfatermann,  is  for  the  ship. 

Elf-cult  is  repeatedly  mentioned.  In  the  Norse  sagas  we 
read  of  sacrifices  to  the  elves  (alfablbt,  frequently  consisting  of 
a  bull),  from  which  good  fortune  or  restoration  to  health  were 
expected.  In  Sweden,  likewise,  bloody  sacrifices  of  animals 
were  made  to  the  elves,  on  altars  consecrated  to  their  worship. 
These  offerings  usually  took  place  on  Thursday  and  at  Yule- 
tide,  a  period  of  the  year  with  which  numerous  cult  observ- 
ances t  are  connected.  Gifts  to  the  elves  are  also  met  on 
every  hand  in  popular  customs  :  people  brought  them  offer- 
ings of  porridge,  bread,  cake,  and  beer,  placed  a  coin  on  a 
stone  or  threw  it  in  the  water.  We  likewise  meet  with  various 
usages  that  are  designed  to  ward  them  off  or  keep  them  at  a 
distance.  Elves  and  dwarfs  abhor  uncleanliness,  and  they  may 
hence  be  driven  away  by  human  excrements  (dlfrek},  by  spit- 
ting straight  ahead,  or  by  pungent  herbs.  Elves  and  children 
of  elves  (changelings)  may  also  be  driven  off  by  means  of 
water  that  has  been  boiled  in  eggshells.  If  one  wishes  to 
capture  them,  the  keyhole  must  be  stopped  up,  or  they  must 
be  held  fast  by  the  hair.  There  are,  in  addition,  numerous 
magic  formulas  and  incantations  that  may  be  used  for  forcing 
elves  to  withdraw,  or  for  safeguarding  oneself  against  any 
peril  that  their  presence  might  cause.1 

i  Grimm,  DM.*,  Ill,  504,  No.  42. 


CHAPTER  XVII 
GIANTS 

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  repre- 
sented in  the  Marchen,  take  a  more  active  part  in  the  heroic 
saga,  and  also  play  a  far  more  important  role  in  Norse  mythol- 
ogy. 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  localities.  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  :  i.  Old 
Norse  jqtunn  (plural  jqtnar),  Anglo-Saxon  eoten,  Swedish  jtitte; 
2.  Old  Norse  thurs  (Middle  High  German  turse)  ;  3.  Swedish 
troll ;  4.  German  Riese ;  5.  Anglo-Saxon  ent ;  6.  hiine  (in 
Westphalia  and  part  of  Drenthe).  Here  and  there  we  also 
meet  the  loan  word  gigant.  To  designate  giantesses  the  Old 
Norse  employs  gygr. 

328 


GIANTS  329 

Giants  differ  greatly  in  form  and  stature  ;  their  general 
characteristics  are  a  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  also  monsters  among 
their  number,  with  many  heads1  and  hands,  one-eyed,  ugly, 
misshapen,  and  repulsive.  The  dogs  and  wolves  that  bring 
about  the  eclipses  of  sun  and  moon  (Managarmr,  Hati,  Skqll) 
are  also  thought  of  as  giants,  and  such  names  as  Kqtt  (tom- 
cat), 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  also  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  char- 
acter from  the  shrewdness  and  nimbleness  of  the  elves  and 
dwarfs.  They  are  preeminently  faithful :  trolltryggr  (faithful 
as  a  giant)  became  proverbial.  They  reward  services  done 
them,  but  if  their  wrath  (jqtunmbdhr)  has  been  provoked, 
nothing  is  secure  against  their  violent  onslaughts. 

These  various  phases  in  the  character  of  giants,  their  faith- 
fulness and  kind-heartedness  as  well  as  their  frightful  wrath, 
play  a  part  also  in  Mdrchen.  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  sur- 
prising in  the  case  of  spirits  representing  the  forces  of  wild 
and  inhospitable  nature. 

By  the  elements  is  hated 

What  is  formed  by  mortal  hands.2 

1  Hymiskvidha,  35. 

2  Schiller,  Lied  von  der  Glocke  (translation  of  H.  D.  Wireman). 


330        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  cap- 
tures 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),  hiinenbedden, 
roads  built  from  blocks  of  stone,  and  bridges  across  rivers.1 
Under  this  same  category  falls  also  the  account2  of  the  giant 
builder  of  the  burgh  of  the  ^Esir  to  which  reference  has  repeat- 
edly been  made.8 

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  5  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,6  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.7  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  ^Egir  (called  also  Hler  and 

1  Examples  are  given  by  Grimm,  DM.4,  p.  453,  and  Golther,  GM.,  p.  165. 

2  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  42.  5  See  above,  p.  177. 
8  See  above,  p.  277.  6  See  above,  p.  166. 

*  See  above,  p.  159.  ^  Helgakvidha  Hjorvardhssonar,  20. 


GIANTS  331 

Gymir),  whose  name  the  scalds  in  a  few  instances  even 
employed  appellatively  to  designate  the  sea.  His  relations 
with  the  ^Esir  are  of  the  most  friendly  character :  he  prepares 
a  banquet  for  them  at  which  Fimafengr  and  Eldir  are  the 
attendants,1  and  is  in  turn  Odhin's  guest2  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  ^Egir  and  Ran  represent,  as  is  evident  from  their  names,3 
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  role  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,4  who  with  frosty 
beard  dwells  in  the  midst  of  icy  peaks,  as  is  graphically  told 
in  the  Eddie  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  is  in  the  cosmogony. 
Fenja  and  Menja,5  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  con- 


1  Lokasenna.  2  Bragaroedhur. 

8  See  Weinhold,  Die  Riesen  des  germanischen  Mythus,  SWA.,  26,  242. 

4  Hymiskvidha  and  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  48.  5  See  above,  p.  165. 


332        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

nect  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  brjbtr  (shatterer),  bant  (slayer), 
skadhi  (harm),  might  be  cited  under  this  head,  but  the  personi- 
fication contained  in  these  kenningar  is  after  all  of  too  incom- 
plete 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  Hraesvelg,  who 
sets  the  sea  in  motion  and  fans  the  flames  of  fire.1  Kari 
causes  ice  and  snow,  and  in  general  wind  giants  are  frequently 
giants  of  winter,  hrimthursar,  rime  or  frost  giants,  several  names 
being  compounds  that  have  hrim  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 
Geirrodhr  and  Suttungr,  which  we  discussed  in  connection  with 
Thor  and  with  Odhin.  In  these  and  other  accounts  the  elabo- 
ration of  the  story-motif  at  the  hands  of  the  mythographers 
and  poets  has  entirely  obscured  the  nucleus  of  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  re- 
stricted to  definite  localities,  are  very  numerous.  By  their 
fantastic  and  grotesque  forms  certain  rocks  involuntarily  sug- 
gest the  idea  of  petrified  giants,  and  stories  are  accordingly 
told  of  savage  giant  kings  who  on  account  of  their  cruelty  were 

1  Vafthrudhnismal,  37,  and  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  18. 


GIANTS  333 

changed  into  rocks.  On  the  other  hand,  we  also  hear  of 
benevolent  giants  and  giantesses  inhabiting  the  mountains, 
such  as  Dofri  and  his  daughter  Fridhr  in  Norway.1  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  J$rdh  and  Rindr  are  sometimes  classed 
among  the  giantesses  and  again  among  the  Asynjur.2  The 
giants  of  night  and  day  that  inhabit  jQtunheim  do  not  rest  on  a 
basis  of  popular  belief :  their  genealogy  is  artificial.3 

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  as  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  bjargvcettr  (guardian  spirit),  and  in  the 
Kormaks  Saga,  Chapter  27,  a  blbtrisi  (a  giant  to  whom  sacri- 
fices are  made)  is  mentioned,  whose  indigenous  character  is, 
however,  not  above  suspicion.  Finally,  in  the  North,  at  Yule- 
tide,  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  pro- 
vided them  with  a  systematic  genealogy :  they  are  descended 

1  Kjalnesingasaga,  Chapters  12  and  14.  2  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  36. 

8  See  Vaftkr&dhnism&l)  and  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  10. 


334        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

from  Fornjotr  (the  ancient  giant),  whose  three  sons,  Hler, 
Logi,  and  Kari,  represent  respectively  water,  fire,  and  wind,  a 
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  Cat- 
tegat.  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 :  J^kull  (glacier),  Frosti  (cold),  Snaer  (mountain  snow), 
Fqnn  (heap  of  snow),  Drifa  (snow-whirl),  MJQ!!  (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  Hyndluljbdh,  34,  and  again  with 
Thrivaldi  or  with  Allvaldi,  the  father  of  Thjazi.1 

The  home  of  the  giants  was  regarded  as  lying  in  the  north- 
east, or,  at  a  later  time,  in  the  southeast.  A  distinction  is 
sometimes  drawn  between  Jqtunheim  and  Risaland.  In  Alv'tss- 
tnd/,  the  giants,  like  the  ^Esir,  Vanir,  and  dwarfs,  have  sepa- 
rate 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  Eddie  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  relation- 
ship between  giants  and  ^Esir  is  dominant.  Odhin  and  his 

1  Hdrbardksljddh,  19  ;  Bragarcedhur,  Chapter  2. 


GIANTS  335 

brothers  constitute  a  younger  race  that  has  succeeded  the 
giants.1  Tyr  is  the  son  of  Hymir2;  Thor  and  Vali  have  as 
their  mothers  the  giantesses  Jqrdh  and  Rindr,  respectively. 
Thor,  notwithstanding  the  fact  that  he  is  the  sworn  enemy  of 
numerous  giants,  yet  greatly  resembles  them,  and  Loki  too  is 
of  their  race,  and  is,  in  fact,  even  designated  "the  giant."3 
The  ^Esir  have  intercourse  with  giantesses,  —  Odhin  with  sev- 
eral, Freyr  with  Gerdhr,  NJQrdhr  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  resume' 
the  giants  and  ^Esir  also  frequently  appear  as  each  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  ^Esir 
and  elves  alike.4  Eddie  mythology  is  full  of  the  struggle  be- 
tween ^Esir  and  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  role  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  yEsir  and  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, 

1  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  6.  8  Voluspa,  54. 

2  Hymiskvidha.  4  S£?r?W#?4/,  7- 


336        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

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.1  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  mythog- 
raphers.  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  philo- 
sophic 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  influ- 
enced 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,  Widolt  who  is 
led  about  on  an  iron  chain,  and  others.  There  is  also  a  Lom- 
bard saga  in  which  the  giants  bear  a  close  resemblance  to  Ber- 
serkers. 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  Bern2  (Ecke, 
Vasolt,  etc.),  and  in  the  narratives  dealing  with  the  faithless 
warriors,  Witege  and  Heime.  Here,  as  elsewhere,  a  mythical 

1  Voluspa,  8,  2  See  Jiriczek,  DH.  I,  185  ff. 


GIANTS  337 

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  litera- 
ture. In  the  songs  of  the  Edda  and  in  the  Vojsunga  Saga 
Sigurd  is  reared  by  Regin  and  Fafnir,  and  Harald  Fairhair 
similarly  spent  his  youth  with  the  giant  Dofri.1  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.2 

1  Flateyarbdk,  I,  564. 

2  Additional  examples  may  be  found  in  A.  Olrik,  Kilderne  til  Sakses  Oldhistorie, 
!>  40-43- 


CHAPTER   XVIII 
THE  WORLD 

COSMOGONY,  COSMOLOGY,  AND  ESCHATOLOGY 

IN  Norse  mythology  alone  do  we  find  cosmogonical  and 
eschatological  views  systematically  developed.  Beginning  with 
the  cosmogony,  to  which  this  observation  applies  with  especial 
force,  it  seems  proper  to  treat  the  Norse  conception  not  merely 
in  its  elaborated  form,  but  also  to  examine  separately  the  vari- 
ous elements  that  have  entered  into  it.  Before  considering, 
therefore,  the  artificial  structure  that  owes  its  existence  to  the 
efforts  of  the  Norse  mythographers,  it  is  necessary  to  inquire 
whether  for  some  of  its  features  parallels  can  be  found  else- 
where in  the  Teutonic  world.  It  would  be  very  singular 
indeed  if  such  parallels  did  not  exist,  for  notions  concerning 
the  origin  of  man  and  the  world  are  of  well-nigh  universal 
occurrence.  Although  such  data  are  rare  among  the  Teutons, 
they  are  yet  not  altogether  wanting.  From  the  lament  of  the 
Anglo-Saxon  nobles  concerning  their  ignorance  of  the  origin 
of  things,1  we  are  as  little  justified  in  inferring  that  all  con- 
ceptions of  this  kind  were  lacking  among  the  Teutons,  as  an 
opposite  conclusion  would  be  justified  on  the  basis  of  the 
answer  of  the  great  Chlodowech,  when  his  wife  attempted  to 
persuade  him  to  have  their  little  son  baptized:  "All  things 
are  created  by  the  decree  of  our  gods."  2  Such  anecdotes, 
even  supposing  that  they  are  genuine  and  have  not  been 
retouched  to  any  great  extent,  prove  very  little.  The 

1  See  above,  p.  152. 

2  Gregory  of  Tours,  Historia  Francorum,  II,  29. 

338 


THE   WORLD  339 

correspondence  between  certain  lines  of  the  so-called  Wesso- 
brunn  Prayer  and  the  third  strophe  of  Voluspa  would  at  first  view 
seem  to  possess  greater  significance,  but  in  our  previous  dis- 
cussion of  this  matter  we  have  already  seen  that  there  is  no 
warrant  for  recognizing  in  this  German  monument  a  fragment 
of  genuine  pagan  cosmogony.1 

The  points  of  agreement  of  which  we  are  in  search  are  in 
fact  very  few;  and  we  must  accordingly  make  the  most  of  what 
is  actually  found.  One  such  parallel  we  recognize  in  the 
account  given  by  Tacitus  2  of  the  sacred  saline  streams  near 
the  Saale.  At  that  river,  in  spots  where  the  tribes  in  question 
thought  themselves  in  especially  close  proximity  to  the  gods,  the 
salty  water  was  made  to  evaporate  on  burning  coals,  salt  being 
thus  obtained  "  from  two  opposing  elements,  fire  and  water." 
With  this  we  may  compare  the  account  in  Gylfaginning, 
Chapters  5  and  6,  where  the  elements  of  water  and  fire  also 
play  a  role  in  the  cosmogony,  and  where  the  cow  Audhumla 
licks  the  salty  stones.  While  the  correspondence  is  hardly 
close  enough  to  allow  us  to  see  in  this  passage  of  Tacitus 
additional  evidence  for  "  the  creation  of  the  world  out  of  the 
elements," 3  it  is  yet  worthy  of  note  that  creation  from  hetero- 
geneous elements  and  the  significance  of  salt  are  features  that 
Tacitus  and  the  Norse  cosmogony  have  in  common. 

There  is  one  other  important  document  to  which  Kauffmann, 
in  this  connection,  was  the  first  to  call  attention.  It  is  a  long 
and  detailed  letter  addressed  by  the  bishop  Daniel  of  Win- 
chester (about  A.D.  720)  to  Boniface,  and  containing  advice 
regarding  his  mission  work  in  Central  Germany.  The  bishop 
admonishes  Boniface  that  the  preaching  should  not  be  at 
haphazard,  but  that  the  missionary  should  give  evidence  that 
he  is  acquainted  with  the  cult  and  legends  of  the  heathen. 
Boniface  is  accordingly  counselled  to  attack  the  contradictions 

1  See  above,  p.  130.  2  Annals,  XIII,  57. 

3  Uhland,  Schriften,  VII,  479. 


340        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

and  absurdities  of  the  pagan  ideas  concerning  the  gods  and 
the  origin  of  the  world.  Either  the  world  was  created,  or  it 
existed  from  the  beginning.  If  created,  by  whom  ?  By  gods 
that  themselves  were  begotten,  and  that  before  the  creation 
had  no  possible  place  of  habitation  ?  If  without  beginning, 
who  then  ruled  the  world  before  the  birth  of  the  gods  ?  While 
little  can  be  gathered  from  this  letter  concerning  the  actual 
content  of  the  current  pagan  ideas,  it  yet  seems  clear  that 
these  heathen  Germans  busied  themselves  with  the  problem  of 
the  origin  of  things. 

However  meagre  these  German  parallels  may  appear  to  be, 
they  would  seem  to  afford  a  sufficient  basis  for  the  assumption 
that  Norse  mythology  had  no  need  of  deriving  its  ideas  regard- 
ing the  origin  of  things  from  classical  or  Christian  sources. 
Although  such  foreign  influences  are  by  no  means  to  be 
excluded,  it  is  probable  that  the  material  which  formed  the 
basis  was  in  the  main  Teutonic  in  origin. 

An  apparently  connected  account  of  the  cosmogony  is 
furnished  by  Gylfaginning,  Chapters  3-9.  The  connection 
between  the  various  conceptions  found  there  is,  however,  only 
an  artificial  one.  Thus  the  statement  that  Allfather  (Alfadhir) 
is  the  supreme  deity,  who  is  eternal,  rules  all,  and  has  created 
heaven,  earth,  and  sky,  is  at  variance  with  what  follows.  The 
material  is  in  part  derived  from  Voluspa  and  Vafthrudhnismdl, 
a  strophe  from  Hyndluljbdh  being  likewise  cited.  Voluspa,  3 
and  4,  have  the  following : 

In  times  of  old  it  was,  where  Ymir  dwelt.  There  were  nor  sand  nor 
sea  nor  cool  waves  ;  earth  there  was  nowhere,  nor  heaven  above ;  a  yawn- 
ing chasm  there  was,  but  grass  nowhere. 

Early  Bor's  sons  uplifted  the  lands,  and  created  the  fair  Midhgardh. 
From  the  south  the  sun  shone  on  the  stones.  .  .  .  then  was  the  ground 
overgrown  with  green  herbage. 

Strophe  3  contains  a  hysteron  proteron  :  the  void  was  first, 
and  from  it  Ymir  came  forth.  No  further  description  of  this 


THE    WORLD  341 

void,  as  a  confused  chaos  in  which  all  the  elements  were  min- 
gled, is  essayed,  nor  is  an  attempt  made  to  define  it  as  a 
philosophic  concept.  The  gods  (i.e.  Bor's  sons)  seem  rather 
to  reduce  things  to  order  than  to  create  from  nothing.  The 
role  played  by  Ymir  is  not  made  clear ;  instead  of  the  words, 
"where  Ymir  dwelt,"  Gylfaginning,  which  cites  this  passage, 
has  "  there  was  naught,"  a  change  which  is  probably  not  to  be 
set  down,  with  Mullenhoff,  as  due  to  a  desire  to  make  the 
connection  more  logical,  but  to  be  explained,  with  Gering,  as 
an  effort  to  rescue  the  Christian  idea  of  a  creation  from 
nothing.  Other  strophes  supplement  this  brief  account.  So 
we  read  in  Vafthrudhnismdl,  2 1  : 

From  Ymir's  flesh  was  the  earth  created,  and  from  his  bones  the  moun- 
tains ;  the  heaven  from  the  skull  of  the  rime-cold  giant,  and  from  his  blood 
the  sea. 

The  interpolated  strophes,  Grimnismdl,  40  and  41,  elaborate 
this  as  follows : 

From  Ymir's  flesh  was  the  earth  created,  and  from  his  blood  the  sea ; 
the  mountains  from  his  bones  ;  the  trees  from  his  hair,  and  from  his  skull 
the  heaven. 

And  from  his  eyelashes  the  gracious  gods  prepared  Midhgardh  for  the 
sons  of  men,  and  from  his  brain  all  the  hard-hearted  clouds  were  created. 

We  find  the  same  notion,  that  various  parts  of  the  world 
were  formed  from  members  of  the  body  of  the  primeval  giant,  in 
kenningar  of  the  scalds.  The  conception  may,  of  course,  have 
been  developed  or  modified  at  a  later  period,  but  there  is 
nothing  to  prevent  our  ascribing  to  the  Teutons  what  is  found 
among  so  many  different  peoples  :  the  idea  that  the  world  has 
arisen  from  the  body  of  the  primeval  giant. 

Ymir  signifies  "  the  sounding,  the  rustling  one."  His  own 
origin  is  thus  described  (Vafthriidhnismdl,  31)  : 

From  the  Elivagar  dripped  venom  drops,  which  grew  until  a  giant  sprang 
from  them. 


342        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Elivagar  means  "stormy  waves."  The  word  also  occurs 
Hymiskvidha,  5,  but  there  as  the  home  of  Hymir,  and  without 
having  reference  to  the  cosmogony.  Now  according  to  Gyl- 
faginning,  Chapters  4  and  5,  there  flowed  from  Niflheim,  from 
the  fountain  Hvergelmir,  the  twelve  rivers  Elivagar,  whose 
venomous  and  half-frozen  waters  reached  Ginnungagap  (the 
"  yawning  chasm "  of  Voluspa,  3).  These  icy  strata  there 
encountered  the  fiery  sparks  from  Muspellsheim,  and  from  this 
there  arose,  "through  the  might  of  the  ruler  of  the  universe," 
as  Gylfaginning  adds  with  a  characteristic  Christian  coloring, 
the  giant  Ymir,  who  is  also  called  Orgelmir  (the  mighty  roarer). 
Ymir,  as  we  have  seen,  was  the  ancestor  of  the  giants,  and 
from  him  the  dwarfs  are  also  descended.  We  here  have  the 
opposition  between  water  and  fire  to  which  attention  was 
directed  above.  The  origin  of  Ymir  is  accordingly  in  the 
main  a  Neptunian  one.  There  is  no  need  of  deriving  these 
conceptions,  at  least  not  in  so  far  as  the  general  thought  is 
concerned,  from  foreign  sources. 

What  follows  bears  a  decidedly  more  artificial  character. 
From  the  sweat  in  his  armpits  Ymir  brings  forth  the  frost 
giants,  and  by  touching  one  foot  with  another  he  begets  his 
own  progeny.  Still  another  race  was  born  when  the  cow 
Audhumla,  who  had  fed  Ymir  with  her  milk,  licked  the  salty 
stones.  Thus  arose  Buri  (the  born  one),  whose  son  Bor 
(Bur)  begat  Odhin,  Vili,  and  Ve  by  the  giant's  daughter 
Bestla.  These  latter  slew  Ymir  and  in  his  blood  drowned 
the  whole  race  of  frost  giants.  Bergelmir  alone  saved  himself 
in  a  boat  and  became  the  founder  of  a  new  race  of  giants.1 
From  Ymir's  body,  which  they  had  dragged  into  the  middle  of 
Ginnungagap,  the  gods  now  formed  the  world,  in  the  manner 
just  described,  each  of  the  various  parts  of  the  world  origi- 
nating from  a  member  of  the  giant's  body. 

It  is  doubtful  whether  all   these  various  features  can  ever 

l  Vafthrudhnismdl,  35. 


THE    WORLD  343 

be  satisfactorily  explained.  We  do  not  gain  anything,  for 
example,  by  interpreting  the  cow  Audhumla  as  symbolical  of 
the  clouds.  In  this  entire  account  the  cosmogony  is  evidently 
at  the  same  time  a  theogony,  a  cosmogonic  significance  having 
been  imparted  to  the  struggle  between  giants  and  gods.  The 
gods  are  designated  as  Bor's  sons  also  in  Voluspa,  4.  It  is 
quite  impossible  to  ascertain  what  elements  in  the  story  as 
told  in  Gylfaginning  are  really  derived  from  older  sources,  and 
what  is  the  product  of  Snorri's  own  fancy.  There  are  no 
grounds  for  regarding  the  drowning  of  the  giants  in  the  blood 
of  Ymir  as  a  deluge  legend. 

Still  another  fragment,  which  long  remained  unintelligible, 
has  reference,  if  not  to  the  origin,  at  any  rate  to  the  organiza- 
tion of  the  world.  We  refer  to  the  interpolated  strophes, 
ViJhtspa,  5  and  6  : 

The  sun  from  the  south,  with  the  moon  her  fellow,  cast  her  right  hand 
on  the  edge  of  the  heaven.  The  sun  knew  not  her  inn,  nor  the  moon  his 
dominion,  nor  the  stars  their  place. 

Then  all  the  powers,  the  most  high  gods,  assembled  to  their  judgment- 
seats  and  took  council  together,  giving  names  to  night  and  the  new  moons 
(phases  of  moons) :  they  called  morningtide  and  midday,  afternoon  and 
eventide  by  their  names,  for  the  counting  of  seasons.1 

The  phenomenon  which  is  pictured  here  with  perfect  accu- 
racy is  that  of  the  Northern  midnight  sun,  which  is  seen  in 
the  heavens  at  the  same  time  with  the  moon,  —  a  sight  that 
creates  in  the  poet  the  feeling  of  a  disordered  state  of  things, 
as  if  the  heavenly  bodies  were  bewildered  and  had  lost  their 
way.  But  the  gods  take  council  together,  and  appoint  again 
a  regular  succession  of  times  and  seasons.2  They  are  here, 
accordingly,  again  the  organizing  powers  of  the  universe.  In 
their  present  position,  which  is  not  the  original  one,  these 

1  CPB.  I,  194. 

2  The  correct  interpretation  of  these  strophes  we  owe  to  J.  Hoffory  (Eddastu- 
dien,  73-85). 


344        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

strophes  seem  to  be  connected  with  the  cosmogony,  but 
whether  this  connection  was  original  can  no  longer  be  deter- 
mined. In  any  case  this  fragment  is  the  most  noteworthy, 
and  the  most  truly  mythical,  of  all  the  passages  that  deal  with 
the  heavenly  bodies.  The  interpretation  which  Gylfaginning, 
Chapter  8,  gives,  is  untenable. 

Both  day  and  night  are  of  the  race  of  giants  ;  the  steed  of 
day  is  Skinfaxi,  of  night  Hrimfaxi.1  Sun  (sol,  feminine)  and 
moon  (mdni,  masculine),  through  whom  time  is  measured,  are 
the  children  of  Mundilfceri.2  In  the  interpolated  strophes, 
Grimnismdl,  37  and  38,  steeds  of  the  sun  and  a  shield  of  the 
sun  are  mentioned.  Gylfaginning,  Chapters  10-13,  elaborates 
these  artificial  genealogies  still  further.  These  chapters  dis- 
turb, however,  the  connection  of  thought  between  what  pre- 
cedes and  what  follows,  and  are  regarded  as  an  interpolation. 
In  the  case  of  the  greater  part  of  the  proper  names  occurring 
there,  the  appellative  signification  is  still  clearly  manifest. 
Among  the  stories  told  are  several  that  are  aetiological  in 
character,  such  as  were  no  doubt  invented  by  the  people. 
Thus  the  children  in  the  moon  were  stolen  by  Mani,  as  they 
were  returning  from  a  spring,  and  similar  tales  are  told  to 
explain  the  eclipses  of  the  sun  and  moon  (caused  by  the 
wolves  Skcjll  and  Hati),  and  concerning  the  rainbow  Bifr^st, 
which  forms  a  bridge  between  heaven  and  earth.  Of  the  same 
general  character  are  the  observations  on  summer  and  winter 
(Gylfaginning,  Chapter  19). 

The  accounts  of  the  origin  of  man  are  few  and  meagre.  We 
may  refer  in  this  connection  to  the  words  of  Tacitus3  (Ger- 
mania,  Chapter  2)  : 

They  honor  .  .  .  Tuisto,  a  god  who  has  sprung  from  the  earth,  and  his 
son  Mannus  as  the  originators  and  founders  of  the  race. 

1  Vafthrudhnism&l,  12,  14.  2  Vafthriidhnism&l,  23. 

3  See  above,  p.  79. 


THE    WORLD  345 

While  Tacitus  here  doubtless  has  in  mind  the  origin  of  the 
tribes,  and  not  of  the  human  race  in  general,  this  ethnogony 
nevertheless  includes  an  anthropogony,  Mannus  signifying 
simply  man.  It  is  not  likely  that  behind  the  words  "  sprung 
from  the  earth "  we  are  to  seek  a  myth  of  a  cosmogonic 
marriage  between  heaven  and  earth,  or  of  a  divine  phallus 
which  was  cut  off  and  whose  blood  fructified  the  earth.1 
Another  account  is  found  in  Voluspa,  17  and  18  : 

Until  three  y£sir,  mighty  and  gracious,  came  out  of  this  host  to  the 
house.  They  found  on  the  land,  devoid  of  power  and  destiny,  Ask  and 
Embla. 

Breath  they  possessed  not,  reason  they  had  not ;  neither  warmth  nor 
expression  nor  comely  color.  Odhin  gave  breath,  Hcenir  gave  reason, 
Lodhurr  gave  warmth  and  comely  color. 

Gylfaginning,  Chapter  9,  gives  the  same  account  with  only 
slight  variations.  Men  sprang  from  trees  (ash  and  elm?), 
endowed  with  life  and  spirit  by  the  gifts  of  that  triad  of  gods 
which  we  have  repeatedly  encountered. 

While  we  do  not  in  any  of  these  accounts  of  the  cosmogony 
find  the  idea  of  a  creation  out  of  nothing,  there  is  also  no 
trace  of  an  eternally  existing  matter  as  a  philosophic  concept. 
Creatures  and  objects  have  either  come  into  existence  of  their 
own  accord,  or  have  been  formed  by  the  disposing  hand  of 
the  gods  out  of  preexisting  matter. 

A  similar  condition  of  affairs  meets  us  in  the  case  of  the 

•    V" 

cosmology  :  the  world-idea  of  Norse  mythology  has  also  never 

been  united  into  a  consistent  and  harmonious  whole.  In  the 
cosmogony  we  already  had  occasion  to  mention  the  worlds 
Niflheim  in  the  North  and  Muspellsheim  in  the  South,  as  well 
as  the  abyss  Ginnungagap.  An  attempt  has  at  times  been 
made  to  define  geographically  this  "huge  chasm  of  an  abyss,"2 
by  locating  it  now  in  the  Polar  Sea,  then  again  in  Vinland 

iSo  Miillenhoff,  DA.  IV,  113-114. 
2  Adam  of  Bremen,  Gesta,  IV,  38. 


346         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

(America).  However  this  may  be,  the  ^Esir  created  in  the 
centre  of  the  universe  the  fair  Midhgardh l  as  an  habitation 
for  men.  This  name  Midhgardh  occurs  among  all  Teutonic 
peoples,  and  indicates  either  the  inhabited  earth  as  the  centre 
of  the  universe,  situated  between  heaven  and  the  lower  world, 
or  the  centre  of  the  earth  conceived  as  a  disk,  surrounded  by 
the  sea  (Midhgardh-serpent).  Likewise  in  the  centre  of  the 
universe — perhaps  as  the  smallest  of  a  number  of  concentric 
circles2  —  lies  Asgardh,  which  is,  however,  situated  on  high, 
the  gods  surveying  the  various  worlds  from  the  high-seat 
Hlidhskjalf.  The  greater  part  of  the  dwellings  of  the  gods, 
which  Grimnismdl,  4-17,  and  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  17,  enu- 
merate, are  also  situated  on  high,  as  is  evident  from  the 
derivation  of  the  names  in  question,  but  they  are  merely  the 
creation  of  scaldic  fiction.  According  to  Voluspa,  7  and  60, 
the  ^Esir  in  the  golden  age  dwell  in  Idhavqll  (the  field  of 
incessant  effort),  and  return  to  it  at  the  restoration.3 

In  our  sources  reference  is  more  than  once  made  to  the 
nine  worlds,4  but  scholars  have  had  little  success  in  attempts 
to  identify  these  with  some  degree  of  certainty,  and  still  less 
in  trying  to  locate  them.  A  classification  into  three  super- 
terrestrial,  three  terrestrial,  and  three  subterrestrial  has  been 
attempted  (Simrock).  It  has  also  been  conjectured  that 
according  to  the  Norse  conception  the  earth  sloped  down- 
wards towards  the  north  and  upwards  towards  the  south 
(Wilken).  Others  have  toiled  to  define  the  geographical  situ- 
ation of  each  region  more  or  less  accurately,  but  all  in  vain  : 
no  certainty  has  been  attained  in  any  of  these  particulars. 
Among  the  nine  worlds  Niflheim,  Muspellsheim,  Midhgardh, 
Asgardh,  and  Jqtunheim  are  to  be  regarded  as  certain,  and  to 


1  Voluspa,  4  ;  Grimnismdl,  41 ;  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  8. 

2  So  Weinhold,  Altnordisches  Lebcn,  p.  358. 

8  Compare  also  Gylfaginning,  Chapters  14,  53. 

•*  Voluspa,  2  ;  Vafthrudhnismal,  43  ;  Alv'tssmal,  9 ;  Gylfaginning,  Chapter  3. 


THE    WORLD  347 

these  we  may  add  Vanaheim,  Alf heim,  —  though  in  the  Grim- 
m'smd/,  5,  this  is  classed  among  the  heavenly  mansions  and 
assigned  to  Freyr,  —  and  Svartalfaheim  ;  but  even  then  we  have 
only  reached  the  number  of  eight.  The  ninth  world  must 
accordingly  be  obtained,  either  by  distinguishing  Hel  from 
Niflheim,  or  by  adding  a  water  world  which  is  not  anywhere 
expressly  mentioned.1  It  is  obvious  that  it  is  impossible  to 
derive  from  these  data  an  accurate  conception  of  the  arrange- 
ment of  the  world.  We  should  also  be  on  our  guard  against 
attaching  too  much  weight  to  a  few  detached  observations, 
such  as  that  the  gods  must  dwell  in  the  west,  since  Wodan 
looks  out  of  his  window  towards  the  east,  Thor  on  his  jour- 
neys against  the  giants  proceeds  in  an  easterly  direction,  and 
at  the  abjuration  of  his  pagan  faith  the  convert  turned  his  face 
towards  the  west.2 

Eddie  topography  is,  however,  not  exclusively,  nor  even 
primarily,  concerned  about  places,  but  rather  about  the  beings 
inhabiting  them :  the  v^lva,  the  giant  Vafthrudhnir,  the  dwarf 
Alviss  are  so  wise  because  they  have  traversed  all  the  worlds, 
i.e.  have  had  converse  with  all  manner  of  beings.  Alongside 
of  this  latter,  which  is  after  all  the  matter  of  prime  importance, 
we  find  expressions  of  praise  and  admiration  for  the  fair  Midh- 
gardh,  the  world  of  men. 

The  expression  "  nfo  ividhi "  used  in  Voluspa,  2,  seems  to 
designate  the  nine  worlds  as  divisions  of  the  world-tree.  This 
world-tree  bears  various  names.  In  Voluspa,  2,  it  is  called 
mjqtvidhr,  i.e.  the  tree  that  metes  out  the  fate  of  men.  In 
keeping  with  this,  one  of  his  roots  is  located  near  the  fountain 
Urdhr.3  Usually,  however,  it  is  called  Yggdrasil,  but  inasmuch 
as  this  word  is  merely  a  kenning  for  Odhin's  steed  (Sleipnir), 
it  cannot  be  the  name  of  a  tree,  and  Askr  Yggdrasils,  which 
we  find  in  Grimnismdl,  29  and  30,  is  doubtless  the  more  correct 

1  Compare  the  note  of  Gering  on  Vafthrudhnism&l,  43. 
2E.  H.  Meyer,  GM.,  §  250.  3  Voluspa,  19. 


348         THE   RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT   TEUTONS 

designation.  It  is  the  ash  in  which  is  Odhin's  steed  (the 
wind).  The  name  Laeradh,  with  which,  as  is  evident  from 
the  connection,  the  same  world-tree  is  designated  in  Grimnis- 
mdl,  25  and  26,  still  awaits  an  explanation.  A  fourth  name  is 
Mimameidhr  (the  tree  of  Mimir),1  which  indicates  its  close  rela- 
tionship to  Mimir,  one  of  its  roots  being  located  at  Mimir's 
fountain. 

Voluspa,  without  anywhere  giving  a  detailed  description,  tells 
us  incidentally2  that  this  gigantic  tree,  besprinkled  with  dew, 
stands  ever  green  at  the  fountain  of  Urdhr,  that  the  horn  of 
Heimdallr  lies  hidden  under  it,  and  that  it  will  tremble  at 
the  final  catastrophe,  fjqlsvinnsmdl,  13-18  (with  a  lacuna 
between  strophes  15  and  16),  which  are  only  loosely  connected 
with  the  remainder  of  the  poem,  and  which  break  the  conti- 
nuity of  thought,  relate  how  the  tree  Mimameidhr  springs 
from  unknown  roots,  how  destruction  is  impending  over  it, 
and  how  the  cock  Vidhofnir  (identical  with  the  one  which  in 
Voluspa,  43,  summons  to  the  final  conflict  ?)  is  seated  in  its 
boughs  and  causes  the  hostile  forces,  Sinmara  (?)  and  Surtr, 
great  anxiety.  Grimnismdl*  stands  alone  in  the  Eddie  songs 
in  giving  a  detailed  picture  of  Yggdrasil's  ash.  We  are  there 
told  that  the  goat  Heidhrun  bites  from  the  boughs  of  Laeradh, 
and  fills  the  bowls  with  its  milk,  of  which,  according  to  Gylfa- 
ginning,  Chapter  39,  the  Einherjar  drink.  The  hart  Eikthyrnir 
also  bites  from  its  leaves,  and  from  his  horns  water  drips  into 
the  fountain  Hvergelmir,  in  Niflheim,  whence  all  rivers  flow. 

On  their  steeds  the  ^Esir  daily  ride  forth  to  sit  in  judgment  at 
Yggdrasil's  ash. 

Three  roots  stretch  out  in  three  directions  under  Yggdrasil's  ash.  Hel 
dwells  under  one,  the  frost  giants  under  the  other,  the  race  of  men  under 
the  third. 

A  wise  eagle  is  seated  in  the  top  of  the  tree ;  at  its  roots 
gnaws  the  serpent  Nidhhcjggr.  The  squirrel  Ratatoskr  runs 

"LFjolsvinnsm&l,  14.  2  Strophes  19,  27,  47.  3  Strophes  25,  26,  29-35. 


THE    WORLD  349 

up  and  down  the  tree,  and  carries  words  of  strife  from  the 
eagle  down  to  the  serpent.  Besides,  four  harts  gnaw  at  the 
branches  and  countless  serpents  lie  at  the  roots,  so  that  the  tree 
has  greater  hardships  to  bear  than  men  are  aware  of.  With 
some  modifications  the  same  description  is  repeated  in  Gylfagin- 
ning,  Chapters  15,  16,  and  39,  where  the  utter  lack  of  harmony 
between  the  various  elements  of  the  conception  shows  itself 
even  more  clearly.  As  Miillenhoff1  has  remarked,  a  perusal 
of  these  passages  can  leave  in  the  mind  only  the  most  incon- 
gruous ideas  concerning  the  character  of  the  world-tree. 

It  would  be  a  thankless  task  to  attempt  to  analyze  the  Norse 
conception  of  the  world-tree  in  all  its  details  and  to  trace  the 
origin  of  the  separate  features.  While  it  admits  of  no  doubt 
that  some  of  the  latter  represent  genuine  myths,  elsewhere  it  is 
equally  certain  that  the  introduction  of  mere  scaldic  para- 
phrases, poetic  and  symbolic  conceptions,  has  considerably 
modified  the  original  picture.  It  is  quite  unlikely  that  we  are 
to  attribute  any  share  in  this  transformation  to  classical  and 
Christian  influences ;  in  any  case  this  could  apply  to  minor 
points  only.  The  picture  that  is  unfolded  before  our  eyes  is 
that  of  the  world-tree,  under  which  the  gods  hold  thing,  which 
is  sustained  by  Mimir  and  by  Odhin's  pawn  (his  eye),  i.e.  by 
water  and  sun,  in  which  the  wind  rustles,  which  is  continually 
menaced,  and  which  trembles  at  the  end  of  things. 

This  end  of  things  had  long  before  been  announced  and  pre- 
pared, by  the  appearance  of  the  three  Norns  on  IdhavQll,2 
by  the  war  with  the  Vanir,  and  by  the  ^Esir's  violation  of  their 
oaths.3  In  Voluspa  these  myths  constitute  part  of  the  world- 
drama  :  in  the  mouth  of  the  vqlva  they  have  assumed  the  sig- 
nificance that  through  the  guilt  of  the  y£sir  the  golden  age  was 
terminated,  peace  broken,  and  the  end  prepared.  Everything 

l  DA.  V,  103.  2  Voluspa,  8. 

8  Voluspa,  21-26.  No  express  mention  is  made  in  Voluspa  of  the  construction 
of  a  burgh  for  the  ^Esir  by  a  giant  builder. 


350        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

else  is  brought  into  connection  with  this  end  :  the  hiding  of 
the  horn  of  Heimdallr  under  the  tree,1  and  Baldr's  death, 
which  is  the  greatest  calamity  that  could  befall  Walhalla,  for 
although  Loki  is  in  chains,  his  power  is  by  no  means  broken 
forever.2  The  words  that  Odhin  whispers  into  the  ear  of 
Baldr  before  he  is  placed  upon  the  pyre  (  Vafthrudknismd], 
54,  55)  also  refer  to  the  final  catastrophe.  The  connection 
existing  between  these  myths  in  Voluspa  is,  of  course,  the 
work  of  the  poet. 

The    scene    of   the   final    struggle    is  preceded   in  Voluspa, 
36-38,  by  a  sketch  of  the  worlds  that  are  hostile  to  the 


From  the  east  there  flows  through  venomous  dales  a  stream  with  knives 
and  swords.  It  is  called  Slidhr  (the  fearful).3 

There  stood  in  the  north  on  Nidhavcjllir  (Dismalplains)  a  hall  of  gold 
of  the  race  of  Sindri.  Another  stood  on  Okolnir  (Uncold),  the  beer-hall 
of  the  giant,  who  is  called  Brimir. 

A  hall  I  saw  stand  far  from  the  sun,  on  Nastrand.  Its  doors  are  turned 
northward.  Drops  of  venom  fell  in  through  itsluffer:  the  hall  is  entwined 
with  the  backs  of  serpents. 

All  these  worlds  are  the  habitations  of  giants  and  other  enemies 
of  the  JEsir.  Then  follows  a  description  of  the  end  to  come, 
in  part  based  on  popular  belief,  and  in  part  the  creation  of  the 
poet's  fancy.  Foreign  sources  do  not  constitute  a  factor  in 
the  production.  In  a  forest  a  giantess  gives  birth  to  the 
progeny  of  Fenrir,  more  especially  to  that  sun-devouring  wolf, 
who  feeds  on  the  flesh  of  the  slain.4  On  the  hill  of  the  giantess 
sits  the  watchman  Eggther  and  strikes  the  harp,  and  in  each 
of  the  three  worlds,  with  the  giants,  with  the  ^Esir  and  with 
Hel,  a  cock  crows.5 

The  dog  Garm  also  begins  to  bay  loud  before  Gnipahellir,  and  the  chains 
that  hold  the  Fenris-wolf  are  rent  asunder,  and  the  wolf  courses  about.6 

1  Voluspa,  27.  *  Voluspa,  40,  41. 

2  Voluspa,  32-35.  5  Voluspa,  42,  43. 

3  Here  follows  a  lacuna  of  two  lines.  6  Voluspa,  44. 


THE    WORLD  351 

It  is  a  period  of  great  degeneracy  in  the  world  of  men  : 

Brothers  shall  fight  and  slay  one  another,  sisters'  sons  shall  break  the 
bonds  of  kinship.  It  shall  fare  hard  with  the  world  :  great  whoredom,  an 
axe-age,  a  sword-age,  shields  shall  be  cloven,  a  wind-age,  a  wolf-age,  ere 
the  world  sinks  in  ruin.  No  man  shall  spare  the  other.1 

There  is  no  need  of  assuming  that  in  the  depicting  of  this 
scene  Christian  influences  have  been  at  work.  The  touch,  at 
any  rate,  that  the  ties  of  blood  will  be  dissolved,  is  thoroughly 
in  keeping  with  Teutonic  ideas.  In  another  passage  2  floods 
and  snowstorms  announce  the  approaching  end.  Of  this  com- 
motion Voluspa,  46-53,  furnishes  a  description  : 

Mimir's  sons  [i.e.  the  waters]  are  in  motion,  and  the  end  is  drawing  nigh 
at  the  sound  of  the  old  gjallarhorn.  Loud  blows  Heimdallr,  the  horn  is 
raised  aloft,  Odhin  talks  with  the  head  of  Mimir. 

Yggdrasil's  ash  towering  trembles,  the  old  tree  groans,  and  the  giant 
[Loki]  breaks  loose. 


The  yEsir  are  thereupon  attacked  from  three  sides  :  from  the 
east  come  the  giants  with  the  Midhgardh-serpent  ;  from  the 
north  the  ship  manned  by  the  people  from  Hel  and  steered  by 
Loki,  and  also  the  Fenris-wolf  ;  from  the  south  Surtr  and  his 
followers  from  Muspellsheim.  Odhin  engages  in  combat  with 
the  Fenris-wolf,  Freyr  with  Surtr,  Thor  with  the  Midhgardh- 
serpent,  and  all  the  three  gods  fall  in  the  struggle.  There- 
upon, 

The  sun  begins  to  darken,  the  earth  sinks  into  the  sea,  the  bright  stars 
vanish  from  heaven.  Vapor  and  fire  rage,  the  high  flame  licks  the  sky.3 

Among  the  features  that  the  Snorra  Edda  (Gylfaginning, 
Chapter  51)  adds  to  this  scene  is,  first  of  all,  the  Fimbul-winter 
—  three  winters  without  intervening  summer  —  that  precedes 
the  end.  Then  there  is  also  the  ship  Naglfar  (nail-ship),  built 
from  the  nails  of  the  dead,  in  which  Hrymr  makes  his  way 

1  Voluspa,  45.  8  Voluspa,  57. 

2  Voluspa  hin  skamma  in  Hyndluljddh,  44. 


352        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

from  the  land  of  the  giants.  To  the  three  pairs  of  combatants 
a  fourth  has  been  added  :  Tyr  and  the  dog  Garm,  who  kill 
each  other.  Finally,  Gylfaginning  also  carries  out  the  motif  of 
the  vengeance  taken  by  Vidharr  (the  son  of  Odhin)  upon  the 
Fenris-wolf.  Strophe  54  of  Voluspa,  which  also  refers  to  this 
latter  incident,  seems  to  be  spurious. 

But  this  is  after  all  not  the  end  of  things  :  a  new  earth  and 
a  rejuvenated  race  of  gods  arise  from  the  waters  : * 

A  second  time  I  see  the  earth  come  forth  from  the  sea  again,  in  fresh 
verdure.  Cascades  fall,  the  eagle  soars  on  high,  which  in  the  mountains 
preys  on  fish. 

The  gods  meet  on  Idhavcjll,  talk  of  the  mighty  earth-encircler,  and  there 
call  to  mind  the  great  events,  and  the  ancient  runes  of  Fimbultyr. 

There  shall  again  be  found  in  the  grass  the  wonderful  golden  tables 
which  in  days  of  old  they  had  possessed.  .  .  . 

Unsown  the  fields  shall  yield,  all  evil  shall  be  amended,  Baldr  shall 
come.  H^dhr  and  Baldr  inhabit  Hroptr's  fields  of  combat,  the  abode  of 
the  gods  of  battle.  Know  ye  yet  or  what  ? 

Then  can  Hoenir  choose  his  lot-twig  .  .  .  and  the  sons  of  the  brothers 
of  Tveggi  inhabit  the  spacious  Vindheim.  Know  ye  yet  or  what  ? 

A  hall  I  see,  fairer  than  the  sun,  thatched  with  gold,  on  Gimle :  there 
shall  the  hosts  of  the  righteous  dwell,  and  forever  abide  in  bliss. 

The  powerful  one  comes  to  hold  high  judgment,  the  mighty  one  from 
above,  who  rules  over  all.  .  .  . 

The  dark  dragon  comes  flying,  the  glistening  serpent  from  below,  from 
Nidhafj^llir :  in  his  plumage  bears  —  he  flies  o'er  the  plain — Nidhhcjggr 
the  corpses ;  now  he  will  sink  away. 

This  picture  is  supplemented  by  Vafthrudhnismdl,  44-53, 
where  the  giant  Vafthrudhnir  makes  answer  to  the  questions 
that  Odhin,  in  disguise,  propounds  concerning  the  end  of 
things.  Two  human  beings,  Lif  and  Lifthrasir  (i.e.  "  life " 
and  "  desiring  life  "),  survive  the  catastrophe,  by  hiding  in  the 
world-ash.  The  sun  (AlfrQdhull,  elf-ray)  before  being  devoured 
by  Fenrir  has  given  birth  to  a  daughter,  and  three  groups 
of  Norns  protect  the  new  race  of  men.  Of  the  y£sir,  Vidharr 

1  VolusJ>a,  59-66. 


THE    WORLD  353 

and  Vali,  Modhi  and  Magni  alone  remain.  In  Gylfaginning, 
Chapter  53,  these  various  episodes  have  simply  been  combined 
to  form  a  connected  narrative. 

While  the  presence  of  Christian  influences  in  this  escha- 
tology  cannot  be  gainsaid,  it  is  yet  not  a  mere  copy  of  the  apoc- 
alypses. The  expectation  that  the  world  would  be  destroyed,1 
and  even  that  a  restoration  would  follow,  is  not  necessarily  an 
idea  that  was  foreign  to  the  Teutons.  Its  present  elaborated 
form,  however,  belongs  to  the  period  of  ferment  which  pro- 
duced Voluspa?  viz.  the  tenth  century,  when  Christianity  was 
exerting  both  a  direct  and  an  indirect  influence,  thus  giving 
rise  to  these  and  similar  conceptions  of  a  mixed  character. 
The  poet  was  himself  probably  not  entirely  conscious  of  a 
distinction  between  the  pagan  and  the  Christian  elements  enter- 
ing into  his  conceptions,  but  involuntarily  borrowed  various 
Christian  notions.  As  belonging  to  the  latter  class,  we  may 
mention  the  conception  of  the  mighty  one,  who  comes  from 
above  to  pronounce  judgment  (Voluspa,  65),3  and  more  espe- 
cially the  entire  framework  of  the  poem  as  a  world-drama. 
It  is  obvious  that  this  view  is  by  no  means  tantamount  to 
regarding  Voluspa  as  a  deliberate  and  artificial  imitation  of 
Christian  dogmas. 

It  still  remains  to  consider  what  Voluspa  has  to  say  concern- 
ing life  after  death.  Hel  and  Walhalla  have  before  been  dis- 
cussed. To  these  Voluspa,  38  and  39,  adds  a  notion  which 
was  doubtless  originally  foreign  to  Teutonic  paganism,  viz. 
that  of  a  retribution.  In  Nastrand  stands  the  hall  where  no 
sunlight  penetrates,  where  venom  drips  through  the  roof,  where 
the  savage  river  (probably  again  the  Slidhr)  drags  along  per- 
jurers and  murderers,  where  NidhhQggr  sucks  the  corpses  of  the 
dead,  and  the  wolf  rends  men.  Voluspa,  64,  on  the  other  hand, 
pictures  the  life  of  bliss  of  the  hosts  of  the  righteous,  on  Gimle, 

l  See  Musfilli,  p.  130.  2  See  above,  p.  202. 

8  Mullenhoff,  DA.  V,  34,  would  vindicate  Teutonic  origin  for  even  this  feature. 


354        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

after  the  restoration.     Gylfaginning1  has  once  more  juxtaposed 
these  two  sides. 

In  conclusion,  a  passage  from  Saxo  (I,  51)  containing  an 
account  of  a  journey  to  hell  may  find  a  place  here.  King 
Hadding  is  visited  at  mealtime  by  a  woman  bearing,  in  the 
middle  of  the  winter,  a  fresh  green  plant.  She  conducts  him 
to  the  subterranean  world  to  show  him  where  this  plant  grows. 
Along  paths  that  are  worn  smooth,  and  through  mists,  they 
pass  by  richly  attired,  distinguished  men,  and  reach  the  sunny 
fields  where  the  plant  grows.  They  also  see  a  swift  stream 
(the  Slidhr?),  with  a  bridge  leading  across,  and  fallen  warriors 
that  still  continue  the  combat  (Einherjar).  They  finally  arrive 
at  a  wall  over  which  the  woman  throws  the  head  of  a  cock, 
that  is  at  once  restored  to  life.  With  this  the  story  ends.  Of 
retribution  in  the  hereafter  there  is  not  a  single  trace.2 

1  Chapter  52. 

2  In  Miiller  and  Velschow,  Saxo,  II,  Notce  Uberiores,  pp.  64-65,  the  various  parts 
of  this  narrative  are  submitted  to  a  critical  examination. 


CHAPTER  XIX 

WORSHIP  AND   RITES 

I.     TEMPLES  AND  IDOLS 

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  wih  (Norse  vii) 
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.  Tacitus1  repeat- 
edly mentions  sacred  forests  in  which  the  tribes  assembled  and 
worshipped  their  gods 2 ;  the  "  temple  "  of  Nerthus  is  perhaps 
also  identical  with  the  sacred  grove  (castum  nemus)  of  a  few 
lines  previous.  The  sanctuary  of  Tamfana  of  the  Marsi,  that 
Germanicus  razed,3  was  probably  a  building,  although  it  is  not 
inconceivable  that  even  this  was  a  sacred  grove  with  its  enclo- 
sure, 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.4 
In  these  forests  were  kept  the  figures  and  emblems5 — at 
times  representing  animals  —  that  accompanied  the  armies 
into  battle.6  Here  also  the  prisoners  of  war  were  sacrificed 

1  Germania,  Chapters  9,  39,  40,  43.        4  Germania,  Chapter  39. 

2See  above,  pp.  101-102.  5"  Effigies  signaque." 

8  Annals,  I,  51.  6  Germania,  Chapter  7  ;  Histories,  IV,  22. 

355 


356        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

on  altars,  and  their  heads  hung  on  the  trees,  as  we  know  was 
done  with  the  soldiers  of  Varus.1 

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,2  hung  heads  of  wild  beasts. 

When  Grimm  remarks  in  the  same  connection,8  "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  con- 
ception of  trees  as  possessing  a  soul  and  as  constituting  objects 
of  worship.4 

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.5  From  the  centuries  immediately  succeeding  the 

l  Tacitus,  Annals,  I,  61.  2  DM.-*,  p.  63.  3  DM/,  p.  61. 

4  We  have  in  mind  here  the  material  collected  by  Mannhardt  in  Der  Banmktiltus 
der  Germanen.  5See  above,  p.  122. 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  357 

time  of  Tacitus  the  names  of  very  few  temples  have  come 
down  to  us.  From  the  sixth  century  on  we  possess  con- 
siderable 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  biog- 
raphies of  the  missionaries ;  such  existed  on  the  island  of 
Walcheren,  near  the  Bordena,1  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  Coifi  himself 
destroyed.2  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  hun- 
dreds of  images  and  large  treasures,  which  Hakon  Jarl  seized.3 

1  For  the  Bordena  see  von  Richthofen,  Fricsische  Rechtsgeschichte,  II,  100. 

2  See  above,  pp.  151-152.  sjomsvikingasaga,  Chapter  12. 


358        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  times  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  meagre  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  build- 
ings, together  forming  an  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  sacri- 
ficial feast,  and  was  arranged  like  a  common  hall,1  with  the 
hearth-fire  in  the  centre  and  the  seats  arranged  on  the  two 
sides.  Prominent  among  the  latter  was  the  high-seat  for  the 
priest  (gftdvfgi),  with  its  pillars  (gndvegissulur),  which  were 
adorned  with  a  row  of  nails,  and  also  at  times  with  carved 
images  of  the  gods.  The  smaller  building  was  called  the 
afhus  (off-house),  and  contained  the  images  of  the  gods  and 

ipora  representation  of  such  a  hall  see  Dasent,  The  Story  of  Burnt  Njal,  I,  c. 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  359 

the  stallr,  a  sort  of  altar,  on  which  lay  the  ring  that  the 
godhi  put  around  his  arm  at  the  sacrifice.  On  the  stallr  burnt 
also  the  sacred  fire,  and  there  likewise  stood  the  sacrificial 
bowl  (hlautbolli'),  with  its  sacrificial  whisk  (filautteinri),  with 
which  the  priest  sprinkled  the  images  and  at  times  also  the 
walls.  Around  the  temple  was  an  enclosure  {gardhr,  skidh- 
gardhr)  of  about  a  man's  height.  That  the  plan  of  such 
an  Icelandic  temple  is  an  imitation  of  the  architecture  of  a 
Christian  church,  with  its  nave,  choir,  and  apse,  as  Golther1 
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  severe  penalties  were 
attached  to  profanation  of  temples.  "  Whoever  has  broken 
into  a  temple  and  has  taken  any  of  the  sacred  things,  is  con- 
ducted 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."2  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  vium, 
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  Odhinsve  (on  the  island  of 
Funen),  at  Lethra,  and  at  Lund  (from  lundr,  sacred  grove)  in 
Scania,  formerly  belonging  to  Denmark,  are  also  political 
centres.  The  same  is  true  of  Upsala,  in  Sweden,  and  of  the 
Norwegian  temples,  to  be  found  in  each  separate  fylki  (shire). 

IGM.,  p.  602. 

2  Vita  Gregorii  episcopi  Ultrajecti. 


360        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Scholars  have  at  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  (godhordJi), 
each  with  its  own  hofgodhi,  who  also  levied  the  temple  tribute. 
These  thirty-nine  temples  coincided  with  the  religious  organi- 
zation 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 "),1  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  ascertain- 
ing. 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.2  Nor  are  images  mentioned  in  connection  with 
Fosite's  island.  The  vitce  of  Willehad,  Willebrord,  and  Liudger 
repeatedly  refer  to  images,  among  which  the  great  idol  on 
Walcheren,  which  Willebrord  himself  destroyed,  is  to  be  espe- 
cially noted.3  The  earliest  testimony  concerning  an  image  of 
a  Teutonic  divinity  is  that  of  Sozomen,4  who  states  that  the 
Gothic  king  Athanaric  had  an  image  (|oavov)  drawn  about  on 
a  wagon,  commanding  the  people  to  worship  it  and  to  offer  up 

1  Germania,  Chapter  9.  8  Vita  Willebrordi,  Chapter  14. 

2See  above,  pp.  124-125.  4 Historia  Ecclesiastica,  VI,  37. 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  361 

sacrifices  to  it.  When  we  are  told  that  the  Christian  Burgun- 
dian  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  proper1  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  wood2 
—  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 
Samso  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  Hqlgabrudh  and  Irpa,  on  a  wagon, 
all  three  adorned  with  golden  rings.8 

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  in  the 
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  Fcereyinga  Saga, 
we  are  told  how  there  stood  an  image  of  Thorgerdh  in  a 

1  At  Upsala  and  in  Gotland.  ^Njalssaga,  Chapter  87. 

2  Hence  called  trcgodh,  skurdhgodh  (carven  image). 


362        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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.1  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,"2  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  to  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  idea  of 
vitality  present  in  the  image  was  there  from  the  very  beginning. 

1  Tale  of  Thrond  of  Gate,  Chapter  23  in  the  Foereyinga  Saga,  Northern  Library. 

2  The  greater  Olaf  Tryggvasonssaga,  Chapter  173. 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  363 

II.     PRIESTS 

The  earliest  testimony  regarding  Teutonic  priests,  or  rather 
regarding  the  absence  of  priests,  is  to  be  found  in  the  well- 
known  words  of  Caesar : l  "  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  Caesar  is  merely  intent 
upon  drawing  a  contrast  between  the  Teutons  and  the  Gauls, 
the  latter  being  accustomed  to  frequent  sacrifices  and  having 
an  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 
Caesar  and  Tacitus  a  development  took  place  which  would 
account  for  this  difference,  is  a  gratuitous  assumption.  As  a 
solution  of  the  problem,  Seeck 2  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,3  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.  Ingen- 
ious 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  inconceiv- 
able that  the  Gallic  druids  reached,  for  example,  the  Frisians, 
among  whom  priests  also  play  an  important  role. 

1.5.  G.,  vi,  21. 

2O.  Seeck,  Geschichte  des  Untergangs  der  alien  Welt,  I,  210. 

8  Compare  the  priestesses  among  the  Cimbri,  Strabo,  Geografhica,  p.  294. 


364        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

As  is  usual,  the  evidence  of  Tacitus  on  this  point  is  weighty 
but  'fragmentary.  We  learn  to  know  the  priests  more  espe- 
cially 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 
ewart,  "  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  ignominiods  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  1 1  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 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  365 

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  dsega  also  bore  a  priestly  character.1 

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,  with  the  entire  criminal  jurisdiction.2  If  such  had 
been  the  case,  the  public  life  of  the  Teutons  would  practically 
have  borne  a  theocratic  character,  which  is  scarcely  conceivable 
in  the  absence  of  a  fixed  organization  of  the  priesthood.  The 
priests  belonged  most  likely  to  noble  families  and  were  accord- 
ingly of  the  same  rank  and  station  as  the  chiefs.  The  office 
may  even  have  been  a  hereditary  one.  Their  political  func- 
tions, 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,3  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. 


1  So  Miillenhoff,  DA.  IV,  239 ;  von  Richthofen,  Priesische  Rechtsgeschichte,  II, 
456  ff.     Von  Amira  (GGA.  1883,  p.  1066),  on  the  contrary,  denies  this  and,  in 
general,  greatly  restricts  the  juridical  functions  of  the  priest. 

2  This  is  done,  in  an  otherwise  important  study,  by  E.  Ritterling,  Das  Priester- 
thum   bei  den   Germanen   (Historisches    Taschenbuch,  6.  Folge,  Jahrgang,  1888), 
pp.  177-232. 

3  "  Perpetuus,  obnoxius  discriminibus  nullis,  ut  reges." 


366        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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,1  there  presided  a  priest 
bedecked  like  a  woman  (muliebri  ornatu}.  This  latter  prob- 
ably refers  to  the  hairdress.2  Among  the  Lugii  and  the 
Vandals  the  royal  family  was  called  Hazdiggos,  Le.  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  vqlur,  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  meagre.  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." 3 

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  (blbtmadhr,  spdmadhr),  it  nowhere  appears  that  these 
possessed  exclusive  powers  or  prerogatives.  It  is  difficult  to 
estimate  just  what  role  they  played  in  public  and  private  life. 
In  Iceland  the  godhi4  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  func- 
tions, and  retained  the  latter  even  after  the  conversion  to 

1  Germania,  Chapter  43.  SBede,  HE.  II,  13. 

2Mullenhoff,  ZfdA.  X,  556;  XII,  346. 

4  See  G.  W.  Dasent,  The  Story  of  Burnt  Njal,  I,  Introduction,  pp.  xlvi-H; 
K,  Maurer,  Zw  Godemvurde,  ZfdPh.  IV,  127;  Island,  p.  211, 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  367 

Christianity.  The  organization  of  Iceland,  with  its  office  of 
law-speaker,  had  in  any  case  little  of  a  priestly,  theocratic 
character. 

III.     PRAYER  AND  SACRIFICE 

Jacob  Grimm1  was  of  the  opinion  that  prayer  owed  its  origin 
to  sacrifice.  He  distinguishes  three  stages:  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."  2  When  the  magic  runes  are  employed  for  obtain- 
ing victory  Tyr  is  invoked,  while  for  the  safe  delivery  of  a 
woman  in  labor  the  disir  are  called  upon.3 

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  (tiarce) 
on  their  heads,"  and  were  accordingly  called pileati*  Whether 
the  bending  of  the  body  was  meant  to  signify,  as  Grimm5 
thinks,  "  that  the  human  suppliant  presented  and  submitted 
himself  as  a  defenceless  victim  to  the  mighty  god,  his  van- 
quisher," 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. 

i-Kl.  Schr.,  II,  260.  4Jordanes,  DOAG.,  Chapters  5,  II, 

2  Germania,  Chapter  10.       5  DM.4,  p.  25. 

3  SigrdrifumAl,  6,  9. 


"* 


368        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  Hdvamdl, 
1 43  and  1 44 : 

Knowest  thou  how  one  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  Amira1  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.2  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 
known  to  us  by  name. 

For  sacrifice  the  usual  word,  especially  common  in  Old 
Norse,  is  blot.  We  also  find  in  Old  High  German  kelt,  Old 
Saxon  geld.  The  oldest  Teutonic  sacrifice  of  which  we  possess 
a  record  is  that  of  the  Cimbri,  related  by  Strabo.3  Among  the 
women  that  accompanied  the  army  were  soothsaying  priest- 
esses, with  gray  hair,  robed  in  white,  with  an  upper  garment 
of  fine  linen  fastened  '  on  the  shoulder,  wearing  a  girdle  and 
going  barefoot.4  With  drawn  swords  they  advanced  towards 
the  prisoners,  crowned  them  with  wreaths,  and  conducted  them 
to  a  bronze  sacrificial  vessel  which  held  about  twenty  amphorae. 

l  PG.2,  Ill,  214.  2  Grimm,  DRA.  894  ff.  3  Geographica,  p.  294. 

4  On  ritualistic  nakedness,  see  the  important  essay  of  K.  Weinhold,  Zur 
Geschichte  des  heidnischcn  Kitus,  ABA.  1896,  pp.  1-50. 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  369 

One  of  the  priestesses  ascended  a  ladder  and  bending  over 
the  caldron  cut  the  throats  of  the  prisoners.  Some  prophe- 
sied 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  :  (i)  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 ; 1  the  great  sacrifice  with 
which  the  war  between  the  Chatti  and  Hermunduri  was  to 
end ; 2  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 ; 3  the  drowning  of  the  slaves  of  Ner- 
thus.4  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  exuvia,  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  vita  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 

1  Annals,  I,  61.  8  Germania,  Chapter  39. 

2  Annals,  XIII,  57.  4  Gcrmania,  Chapter  40. 


370        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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.1  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."2  Similarly,  the  Vita  Wulframi,  Chap- 
ter 2,  relates  how  the  two  sons  of  a  widow  had  been  desig- 
nated 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  pos- 
sessed an  organized  priesthood.  While  offerings  were  made 
at  stated  times  (certis  diebus),  and  in  the  sacred  places  which 
formed  the  centres  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  crossed.  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 

1  Procopius,  BG.  II,  25. 

2Ennodius,  Vita  Antonii,  p.  382,  quoted  by  Miillenhoff,  Zur  deutschen  Mytholo- 
gie,  ZfdA.  XII,  406. 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  371 

about  in  a  circle  and  by  impious  songs."1  The  sword-dance 
in  honor  of  Tiu  and  the  choral  songs  were  likewise  from  an 
early  time  accompanied  by  sacrifice.2  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.'"3 

There  are  numerous  detached  references  to  heathen  sacri- 
fices 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  evi- 
dence 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  fur- 
thermore 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  blood- 
less, but  in  the  case  of  persons  sacrificed  to  water,  as  was  at 
times  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 

1  From  the  Dialogiies  of  Gregory  in  Waitz,  Scriptores  rerum  Langobardorum, 
p.  524. 

2  Proceeding  from  Tacitus,  Gertnania,  Chapter  24,  and   Sidonius  Apollinaris, 
Carmen,  5,  246,  Miillenhoff  has  treated  this  union  of  dance,  music,  procession,  and 
sacrifice  in  his  essay   Uber  den  Schwerttanz  (1871)  and  in  an  earlier  programm, 
De  antiquissiina  Germanorinn  poesi  chorica  (1847). 

8  Saxo,  HD.  VI,  278  (Elton's  translation,  p.  228).  Concerning  bells,  see  Pfannen- 
schmid,  Germanische  Erntefeste,  pp.  395  ff.,  and  Otte,  Glockenkunde  (1858). 


372        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

"  bloody  eagle  "  (blodliQrri),  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  times  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."1  For 
similar  reasons  the  Swedes  burnt  king  Olaf  Tree-shaver  (tre- 
telgja)  in  his  house  and  "  gave  him  to  Odhin,  offering  him  up 
for  the  plenty  of  the  year."2  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.3  When  king 
Vikarr  and  his  men  were  detained  by  adverse  winds,  the  lot 
designated  the  king  himself  as  the  victim  to  be  offered  up  for 
obtaining  favorable  winds,  and  Starkad  obeys  the  decree  by 
hanging  king  Vikarr  on  a  tree,  and  piercing  him  with  a  spear.4 
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  Hojgabrudh,  and  king  Olaf  Tryggvason 
threatened  that  if  he  was  to  return  to  paganism,  he  would  have 


1  Ynglingasaga  (Heimskringla),  Chapter  18  (Saga  Library,  III,  29). 

2  Ynglingasaga  {Heimskringla),  Chapter  47  (Saga  Library,  III,  66). 

3  Ynglingasaga,  Chapter  29. 
•*  Gautrekssaga,  Chapter  7. 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  373 

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.1  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  sacrificed  their  sons  and 
daughters,  as  the  Historia  Gotlandice  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  (filunn-rodh,  "roller-reddening"), 
a  custom  that  is  parallel  to  that  of  walling  up  a  child  in  the 
foundations  of  a  building.  There  is  no  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  came  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  of  the  temple 
within  and  without,  and  the  men-folk  also  besprinkled  ;  but  the  flesh  was 
to  be  sodden  for  the  feasting  of  men.  Fires  were  to  be  made  in  the  midst 

1  Qlaf  Tryggvasonssaga  (Heimskringla),  Chapter  74  (Saga  Library,  III,  319). 


374        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

of  the  floor  of  the  temple,  with  caldrons  thereover,  and  the  health-cups 
should  be  borne  over  the  fire.  Bat  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  seasons  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  called 
the  cup  of  memory.1 

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  ff/qrvardhssonar,  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  to  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.2 
They  sought  to  ward  off  harmful  influences  and  to  promote 
the  fruitfulness  of  the  soil.  It  is  obvious  that  the  same  cere- 
monies 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  occu- 
pied by  the  need-fires,  which  doubtless  owed  their  existence 
to  the  presence  of  plague  among  the  cattle,  but  gradually  fell 

1  Saga  of  king  Hakon  the  Good  (Heimskringla),  Chapter  16  (Saga  Library,  III, 
165-166). 

2J.  Grimm  had  already  collected  a  considerable  amount  of  material  regarding 
these  customs,  which  was  still  further  increased  by  Mannhardt.  The  more  impor- 
tant recent  works  on  the  subject  are :  H.  Pfannenschmid,  Germanische  Erntefeste 
im  heidnischen  und  christlichen  Cultus,  mit  besonderer  Bczie/ntng  auf  Nieder- 
sachsen,  and  especially  U.  Jahn,  Die  deutschen  OpfcrgebrducJie  bei  Ackerbau  und 
Viehzucht  (1884). 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  375 

together  with  the  St.  John  fires.  We  do  not  venture  to  decide 
whether  this  custom  is  based  solely  on  the  idea  of  the  puri- 
fying 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  turn- 
ing 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  fires  in  the  village  having  previously  been  extin- 
guished. 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  fumi- 
gated, 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. 


376        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  com- 
munity, represent  ancient  pagan  customs  that  persist  among 
the  people.1 

We  shall  here  attempt  to  give  a  sketch  of  such  a  public 
sacrifice,  without  presuming  to  determine  whether  it  actually 
ever  took  place  with  this  degree  of  completeness  in  an  his- 
torical 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  of  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 

!In  what  follows  we  give  a  summary  of  the  Schlussbetrachtung  of  Jahn, 
PP-  323~33°- 


WORSHIP  AND  RITES  377 

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  cows 
thus  exorcised  is,  with  eggs  and  herbs,  prepared  for  the  sacri- 
ficial meal.  The  procession  now  begins.  Leading  the  sacri- 
ficial animals,  bedecked  with  garlands  and  colored  ribbons, 
and  preceded  by  an  image  of  a  god,  the  procession  passes 
through  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, 


378         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

at  the  slaughtering  of  the  sacrificial  animals  people  show  great 
eagerness  to  get  possession  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. 


CHAPTER  XX 
CALENDAR  AND  FESTIVALS 

THE  ancient  Teutons  had  no  religious  calendar,  any  more 
than  they  had  an  organized  priesthood  or  a  fixed  ritual.  They 
did,  however,  have  certain  stated  times  for  coming  together 
and  for  sacrificing.  In  the  later  calendars,  both  the  runic 
calendars  still  found  here  and  there  among  the  peasants,  and 
in  the  popular  and  ecclesiastical  calendars,  we  find  observa- 
tions and  rules  of  the  most  diverse  origin.  Of  these,  Teutonic 
paganism  has  furnished  by  far  the  smaller  share,  later  popular 
customs  and  rules  derived  from  the  Roman  and  Christian  cal- 
endar predominating.  For  all  that,  it  is  worth  the  while  to 
consider  what  may  be  gathered  from  the  division  of  time 
concerning  pagan  ideas  and  customs. 

First  of  all,  it  is  to  be  noted  that  in  the  names  of  the  days 
of  the  week  the  heathen  gods  lived  on  with  such  persistency 
that  no  opposition  on  the  part  of  the  church  was  able  to  dislodge 
them.  In  vain  did  Jonas  Ogmundi  (Jon  Ogmundsson),  bishop 
of  Holum  in  Iceland,  attempt  to  replace  them  by  numerals. 
These  names  themselves  are,  however,  of  comparatively  recent 
origin,  having  been  translated  from  Latin  in  the  fourth  or 
fifth  century.  This  is  clearly  shown  by  the  correspondence 
between  the  Roman  and  Teutonic  gods  for  each  day  of  the 
week,  a  correspondence  which  cannot  be  accidental.  Hence, 
also,  the  Teutonic  Sunday  and  Monday  can  in  no  way  be 
adduced  in  support  of  Caesar's  account  of  the  worship  of  Sol 
and  Luna  by  the  Teutons.  For  the  dies  Saturni  no  corre- 
sponding Teutonic  divinity  suggested  itself.  In  Norse  the 
day  is  called  bath-day  or  wash-day  (Loverdag). 

379 


380        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Old  and  genuinely  Teutonic  is  the  counting,  not  by  days  and 
summers,  but  by  nights  and  winters.  We  cannot,  to  be  sure, 
infer  from  this  with  any  degree  of  certainty  that  they  regarded 
darkness  and  cold  as  "  the  germinating  period  of  warmth  and 
light."  The  year  seems  to  have  been  originally  divided  into 
two  parts,  as  is  indicated  by  various  legal  observances  and 
phrases:  "im  rise  und  im  love,"  "  im  ruwen  und  im  bloten," 
"bi  stro  und  bi  grase  "  (Weistiimer).1  By  taking  into  account 
the  solstices  and  equinoxes  this  division  is  then  extended  to 
four  seasons.  Of  old  the  winter  marked  the  beginning  of  the 
year ;  October  is  called  Winterfylleth  (winter  full  moon)  in 
Bede.  Of  the  ceremonies  observed  at  the  beginning  of  the 
year  there  are  still  some  survivals  in  the  customs  connected 
with  Michaelmas.  We  also  class  under  this  head  that  feast 
lasting  three  days  in  which  the  Saxons  celebrated  their  victo- 
ries.2 In  any  case  far  more  evidence  can  be  adduced  in  sup- 
port of  an  original  division  into  two  than  into  three  seasons, 
notwithstanding  the  fact  that  Tacitus  mentions  hiems,  ver,  and 
aestas? 

A  large  number  of  names  were  in  use  to  indicate  the 
months;  the  glossary  in  Weinhold's  book  enumerates  more 
than  two  hundred.  Ever  since  the  time  of  Charles  the  Great 
the  church  attempted  to  replace  these  indigenous  names  by 
Latin  ones,  at  first  without  success.4  In  the  case  of  some  of 
these  names  the  meaning  is  doubtful,  others  are  perspicuous, 
referring  to  time  and  weather,  pastoral  and  agricultural  pur- 
suits. Only  a  few  have  religious  significance;  among  these 
are  certainly  not  to  be  classed  the  names  of  those  spring  months 
from  which  Bede  deduced  the  goddesses  Hreda  and  Eostre 
(Ostara) .  Folklore  at  times  attributes  a  mythological  significance 

1  Weinhold,  Uber  die  deutsche  Jahrteilung,  p.  16. 
2Widukind,  Res  gestee,  I,  12. 

8  "  Winter,  spring,  and  summer."     Germania,  Chapter  26. 

*  A  number  of  Teutonic  names  of  months  may  be  found  in  Einhard,  Vita  Karoli 
imjteratoris,  Chapter  29,  and  in  Beda,  De  temper um  ratione,  Chapter  13. 


CALENDAR  AND  FESTIVALS  381 

to  these  names  where  we  do  not  recognize  any  such  sur- 
vival of  Teutonic  paganism.  Thus  February  is  called  Sporke 
(Spurkele)1  and  Wiwermond,  the  month  in  which  the  women 
rule,  make  the  weather,  and  strew  out  the  snow.2  Cult  is 
indicated  by  such  names  as  Halegmonad3  (September),  the 
month  of  the  great  harvest  festival  that  brought  the  year  to  a 
close.  Charles  the  Great  transferred  the  name  to  December, 
the  month  that  was  hallowed  by  the  birth  of  the  Saviour. 
Blotmonad  points  to  heathen  sacrifices,  Bryllepsmun  to  the 
bridal  processions  in  November. 

The  connection  of  individual  gods  with  set  periods  of  the 
year  is  extremely  uncertain ;  assigning  definite  months  to  them 
is  entirely  arbitrary.  What  has  direct  reference  to  cult  is,  of 
course,  better  established,  although  the  data  are  meagre.  The 
Tamfana  festival  of  the  Marsi,  during  which  Germanicus  in  a 
star-lit  night  surprised  the  drunken  multitude,4  seems  to  have 
fallen  in  the  beginning  of  winter,  that  of  Nerthus  in  spring. 

Set  times  are  indicated  also  by  the  "  ungebotene  Gerichte,"* 
continuing  down  to  the  Middle  Ages,  which  point  now  to  a 
division  into  three,  and  again  into  two,  seasons.  We  read 
sometimes  of  three  yearly  gatherings,  —  held  on  different  dates 
in  different  localities,  —  at  other  times  of  four,  and  then  again 
of  two  (the  May  thing,  on  Walpurgis,  the  first  of  May,  and  the 
autumn  thing,  at  Martinmas),  or  even  of  one,  as  in  the  case 
of  the  Merovingians,  who  held  a  campus  Martius,  and  the 
Carlovingians,  who  had  a  campus  Majus.  The  Icelandic  all- 
thing  came  in  June.  Distinct  from  these  stated  times  are  the 
expressly  convoked  "gebotene  Gerichte."6 

The  Ynglinga  Saga,  Chapter  8,  as  also  the  later  Olafshelga 

1  See  Grimm,  CDS.*,  p.  64.  8  «  Holy  month." 

2  Another  example,  already  mentioned  on  p.  214  and  taken  from  Jon  Arnason's 
Islenzkar  Thjodhsogur  og  ALfintyri,  may  be  found  in  Liebrecht,  Zur  Volkskunde, 
P-  362-  4  Tacitus,  Annals,  I,  50. 

5 "  Tribunals  not  specially  summoned."  Examples  may  be  found  in  Grimm, 
DRA.,  pp.  821-826.  6  «  Tribunals  specially  summoned." 


382         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

Saga,  Chapters  104  and  112,  mentions  three  annual  sacrifices: 
towards  winter  offerings  were  made  for  a  prosperous  year  (//'/ 
ars~),  in  the  middle  of  the  winter  for  fertility  (til  grbdhrar),  and 
towards  summer  for  victory  (///  sigrs).  We  do  not,  however, 
regard  these  three  divisions  as  representing  three  seasons,  as 
many  scholars  have  done,  for  these  three  sacrifices  all  take 
place  during  the  winter,  at  the  beginning,  the  middle,  and  the 
end.  The  first  probably  came  in  the  early  part  of  October, 
and  the  last  in  April.  That  the  second  one  coincided  with  the 
Yule  festival  is  hardly  likely.  No  mention  is  made  of  special 
gods  to  whom  these  sacrifices  were  made. 

The  great  festival  in  Scandinavia  was  the  Yule  festival.  We 
do  not  regard  it  as  ancient,  or  as  common  to  all  Teutonic 
tribes.  Such  traces  as  are  found  of  it  in  the  folklore  of  the 
other  Teutonic  peoples  are  of  Roman  and  Christian  origin.  It 
is  probable  that  the  festival  is  of  a  relatively  recent  date,  of 
about  the  ninth  century  perhaps,  and  that  the  characteristics 
of  the  festival  of  the  dead  have  been  transferred  to  it.  In  the 
last  century  of  heathenism,  whose  history  we  know  with  some 
detail,  it  was  held  in  high  esteem  by  the  Scandinavians.  At 
first  it  was  perhaps  celebrated  in  October  or  February,  while 
later  on  it  was  merged  with  the  Christian  festival  of  the  nativity. 

From  the  very  beginning  the  time  (seasons)  of  the  year  in 
which  the  Teutonic  festivals  were  held  was  intimately  asso- 
ciated with  the  character  of  the  festival  itself.  At  first  they 
were  concerned  with  the  administration  of  justice  and  the  pur- 
suit of  war ;  under  the  Frankish  kings  the  campi  still  bear  in 
large  measure  the  character  of  military  reviews.  Gradually 
and,  so  far  as  folklore  is  concerned,  entirely,  justice  and  war 
yield  to  the  tillage  of  the  soil  and  the  breeding  of  cattle. 
Their  original  nature,  that  of  a  popular  gathering  and  of  peace- 
ful converse,  such  as  we  find  it  in  the  festival  of  the  Nerthus 
nations,  was  still  retained  in  the  last  period  of  paganism  in 
Iceland,  where  the  autumnal  assemblies  were  characterized  by 


CALENDAR   AND  FESTIVALS  383 

all  manner  of  festivities  and  games,  such  as  ball-play,  for  which 
"  play-halls "  were  erected,  as  we  are  told  in  the  Eyrbyggja 
Saga,  Chapter  43. 

In  the  North  we  also  read  of  great  festivals,  recurring  at 
intervals  of  nine  years.  Thietmar  of  Merseburg  (eleventh 
century)  gives  the  following  account1  of  such  a  festival  among 
the  Danes :  "  There  is  in  those  regions  a  place  by  the  name  of 
Lederun,  the  capital  of  that  kingdom,  in  the  district  which  is 
called  Selon,  where  every  ninth  year,  in  the  month  of  January, 
after  the  time  when  we  celebrate  Epiphany,  all  the  people 
assembled  and  sacrificed  to  their  gods  ninety-nine  men  and 
the  same  number  of  horses,  together  with  dogs  and  cocks,  — 
the  latter  in  default  of  hawks,  —  feeling  assured  that  these 
would  render  them  services  with  the  gods  of  the  lower  world, 
and  appease  the  gods  for  the  crimes  which  they  had  com- 
mitted." The  reasons  which  Thietmar  assigns  for  this  great 
sacrifice  at  Leire  (Lethrd)  in  Seeland  cannot  be  considered 
satisfactory:  prisoners  of  war  —  if  we  may  consider  these  vic- 
tims such  —  and  animals  of  the  chase  (hawks)  are  unheard  of 
as  an  expiatory  sacrifice.  Concerning  the  festival  at  Upsala 
Adam  of  Bremen2  tells  us  that  no  one  was  exempted  from  the 
ceremonies,  king  and  people  alike  sent  their  gifts.  Even  those 
who  had  already  become  Christians  had  to  provide  a  ransom. 
As  to  the  sacrifice  itself :  "  From  every  living  thing  that  is 
male,  nine  heads  are  offered,  with  the  blood  of  which  it  is  cus- 
tomary to  appease  the  gods.  The  bodies  are  hung  up  in  the 
grove  which  adjoins  the  temple."  Each  tree  of  this  grove  is 
considered  sacred  "  on  account  of  the  death  and  the  putrefac- 
tion of  the  victims."  Dogs  and  horses  hung  there  in  the 
midst  of  human  bodies ;  a  Christian  had  counted  seventy-two 
bodies  altogether.  At  this  sacrifice  are  sung  "divers  unseemly 
songs."  From  this  account,  which  is  not  altogether  free  from 

1  Chronicle,  I,  Chapter  9. 

2  Gesta,  IV,  27,28. 


384        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

embellishment,  it  would  appear  that  the  victims  were  hung  up 
on  the  trees,  as  in  the  days  of  Tacitus.  The  victims  were  male 
persons  and  animals,  including,  as  at  Leire,  dogs  and  horses. 
These  later  accounts  of  sacrificial  ceremonies  are  not  lacking, 
therefore,  in  genuine  old  Teutonic  features. 


CHAPTER  XXI 
MAGIC  AND  DIVINATION 

JACOB  GRIMM  begins  his  chapter  on  Magic1  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."2  For  the  same  notions  we  commonly  use  the 
expressions  practising  magic,  witchcraft,  divination,  sooth- 
saying, 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."3  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  known  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 

i  DM.*,  861.  2  DM.*,  867. 

8  See  the  more  recent  discussion  by  Jevons,  The  Science  of  Religion  (Inter- 
national Monthly,  April,  May,  1901). 

38S 


386        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

rule  witchcraft  is  connected  with  a  belief  in  souls.1  Thus  the 
young  Svipdag  learns  from  his  deceased  mother  Groa2  the 
magic  songs  which  are  to  shield  him  from  all  manner  of 
danger.  The  magician  and  the  vcjlva  stand  in  relationship 
with  the  spirits.  At  the  same  time  magic  power  proceeds 
from  the  ^Esir,  Vanir,  giants,3  dwarfs,  and  elves  as  well.  It  is 
a  well-known  fact  that  Odhin  is  preeminently  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  Uhland4  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  Charm5 
the  effect  of  the  incantation  for  the  loosing  of  bonds  seems 
to  be  intimately  connected  with  the  work  of  the  Idisi.  But 
Hdvamdl,  148,  and  Grbgaldr,  10,  mention  incantations  that  pro- 
duce 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  us6  of  a  youth  who 
had  been  picked  up  on  the  field  of  battle  and  been  taken 
prisoner.  All  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  incantation  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 

1  This  connection  was  pointed  out  as  early  as  1830  by  Walter  Scott  in  his  Letters 
on  Demonology  and  Witchcraft.     Among  more  recent  writers  Mogk  and  Finnur 
Jonsson  may  be  mentioned. 

2  Grdgaldr,  6-14.  5See  above,  pp.  127-128. 

3  For  an  imprecation  by  the  giants,  see  Atlam&l,  32. 

4  Schriften,  VI,  253.     '  6  HE.  IV,  22. 


MAGIC  AND  DIVINATION  387 

day,  some  incantations  lose  their  power,  as  may,  for  example, 
be  inferred  from  an  otherwise  somewhat  obscure1  strophe 
(Hdvamdl,  i6o)2: 

Before  Delling's3  doors  the  dwarf  Thjodrerir  sang  his  magic  song: 
strength  he  sang  to  the  ^Esir,  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 
power4  on  certain  swords,  such  as  Tyrfing  in  the  Hervarar 
Saga.  The  names  of  the  ^Esir  and  elves  seem  to  possess 
special  magic  power.5  The  magic  effect  produced  by  partic- 
ular words  is  likewise  seen  in  the  practice  of  erecting  a 
so-called  spite-stake  (nidhstqng).  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.6  The  best  known  example  is  that  of  the  scald 
Egil,7  who  erected  a  nidhstqng  against  king  Eirikr  and  his 
wife,  bearing  the  following  words  :  "  I  here  erect  a  nidhstqng 
and  direct  this  spite  (iiidJi)  against  king  Eirikr  and  queen 
Gunnhild;  I  erect  this  spite  against  the  spirits  (landvcettir) 
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  (land- 
•v&ttir} . 

The  Edda  gives  a  list  of  magic  charms  at  three  various 
times  :  Hdvamdl,  145-163  ;  Grbgaldr,  6-14  ;  Sigrdrifumdl,  6-13. 
In  these  passages  a  number  of  things  are  enumerated  which 

iSee  Uhland,  Sc/iriften,  III,  244;  VI,  238,  and  also  Miillenhoff,  DA.  V,  273,  who 
offers  a  slightly  different  interpretation. 

2  Edition  of  Symons.  3  Delling,  the  father  of  day. 

*See  the  Saga  Book  of  the  Viking  Club,  I,  130,  150. 

ZffdvamAl,  158.     See  also  Krist  Myrop,  Navns  magt  (1887).         .' 

6  Examples  are  cited  by  K.  Maurer,  Bekehrung  des  Norwegischen  Stammes,  II, 
64-65.  1  Egilssaga,  Chapter  57. 


388        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  jour- 
neys 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,1  of  magic  food  and  draughts  of  forgetful- 
ness,  of  magic  hoods  (Tarnkappe)  and  of  hidden  treasures. 
The  same  observation  applies  to  the  practices  condemned  by 
the  Indiculus  Superstitionum  and  the  Homilia  de  Sacrilegiis, 
such  as  philacteries  and  incantations.2 

ConjuringMs  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 
(notes)  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,8  etc.  Halibruna 
in  Jordanes4  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  mys- 
tery in  general,  in  doctrine,  witchcraft,  song,  symbol,  or  letter."5 
The  designation  applies  to  magic  sign  as  well  as  to  magic 
song  (Old  Norse  Ijodh,  spjqll,  galdr).  Thus  the  lists  of  magic 

iSee  K.  Weinhold,  M'drchen  vom  Eselsmenschen  (SBA.  XXIX,  Berlin,  1893). 
2 Indicuhts,-^.,  XII.  &uhland,  Schriften,  VI,  225,  226. 

3  See  Forstemann,  Altdeiitsches  Namenbuch,  I,  1062  f. 
*  DOAG.,  Chapter  24. 


MAGIC  AND  DIVINATION  389 

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,1  in  which  the  sorceress 
Busla  utters  specially  potent  galdrar  (plural  of  galdr,  magic 
song),  to  bewitch  king  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.2  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  (tdlkri)  \  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.3 

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,  Ynglinga- 
saga,  Chapter  7,  and  Lokasenna,  24;  to  Gullveig,  Voluspa,  22. 
The  word  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.4  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.5 

Seidhr  was  practised  on  an  elevated  seat  (seidh-hjallr),  and 
consisted  of  beautiful,  alluring,  majestic  songs,  sung  by  the 

1  Saga  Herraudhs  ok  B6sa,  Chapter  5. 

2  See  Uhland,  Schriften,  VI,  248.  «  Rigsthula,  44-46. 

<  Numerous  examples  are  cited  by  K.  von  Maurer,  Bekehrung  des  Norwegischen 
Stammes,  II,  136  ff. 

6  Saga  of  Harald  Fairhair  (Heimskringla),  Chapter  36. 


390        THE  RELIGION  OF   THE   ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

seidhmadhr  (man)  or  seidhkona  (woman),  or  by  their  attend- 
ants. Thus  the  Orvarodds  Saga1  tells  of  a  vqlva  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  practised  magic  and  soothsaying  were  called 
vqlur  (plural  of  rqlva).  While  the  vQlva,  or  spdkona  (wise 
woman),  is  not  necessarily  a  seidhkona  (setd/ir-woman),  the  dis- 
tinction between  the  two  classes  is  frequently  lost  sight  of,  and 
more  than  one  vQlva  is  also  said  to  be  versed  in  seidhr.  The 
word  "  vqlva,"  derived  from  vqlr  (staff),  signifies  staff-bearer, 
the  name  referring  either  to  the  magic  staff  of  the  vQlva  or  to  the 
staff  with  which  she  wanders  from  place  to  place.2  To  acquire 
her  supernatural  power  the  v^lva  sometimes  for  several  nights 
in  succession  sat  out  in  the  open  air  (spdfqr,  wisdom-faring  ; 
utiseta,  sitting  outside),  where  she  then  received  revelations 
from  Odhin,  or  from  spirits  and  the  dead.  Finnur  Jdnsson 
is  'of  the  opinion  that  such  vqlur,  in  the  character  of  wander- 
ing 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  vojur  are  to  be 
found  in  Iceland  and  Greenland3  as  well :  witness  for  Iceland, 
OddbJQrg  in  the  Viga  Glums  Saga,  Chapter  12,  and  for  Green- 
land, ThorbJQrg,  "the  little  VQlva,"  whose  doings  are  so  pic- 
turesquely 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 

i  Chapter  2.  2  See  Miillenhoff,  DA.  V,  42. 

3  Greenland  derived  its  culture  from  Iceland. 


MAGIC  AND  DIVINATION  391 

of  dearth,  famine,  and  failure  in  the  catch  of  fish,  it  was 
resolved  in  Greenland  that  ThorbJQrg,  "  the  little  vojva,"  should 
be  consulted.  She  was  the  only  one  remaining  of  nine  sisters, 
who  had  all  been  prophetesses.  "  It  was  ThorbJQrg's  custom 
in  the  winters  to  go  to  entertainments,  and  she  was  especially 
sought  after  at  the  homes  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  practising  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  ThorbJ9rg,  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 


392        THE   RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  accom- 
plish 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  says  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."  Thorbjcjrg  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."  Thorbjo/g  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  Thorbjojg 
sat  up  on  the  spell-dais.  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  sub- 
mit 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."  Thorbjo/g  also 
prophesies  a  happy  marriage  and  a  safe  return  to  Iceland  to  Gudrid,  and 
besides  foretells  the  future  of  many  others.1 

We  see  from  this  account  how  much  importance  was  attached 
to  dress  and  even  to  food,  and  also  that  the  vojva  was  herself 
dependent  upon  the  women  that  knew  the  "warlocks"  (vardh- 
lokkur),  to  lure  the  spirits.  Whether  only  soothsaying  is  intended 
here,  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  vqlva  represents  a  remarkable  combination  of 
inward  and  outward  witchcraft.  She  is  herself  prophetess  and 

l  A.  M.  Reeves,  The  Finding  of  Wineland  the  Good  (1890),  pp.  33,  34. 


MAGIC  AND  DIVINATION  393 

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  proper- 
ties, poverty,  and  idleness  turned  women  into  sorceresses,  while  - 
the  last  three  causes  also  turned  shepherds  into  sorcerers,"1 
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  Tacitus2  we  know 
that  the  Teutons  attached  great  importance  to  "  omens  and 
lots."  Ariovistus'  refusal  to  fight3  was  explained  by  the  pris- 
oners on  the  score  of  "  the  custom  which  obtained  among  the 
Teutons  that  the  mothers  should  by  means  of  lots  and  prophe- 
cies 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  aus- 
pices 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  vita  of  the  missionaries,  and  from  the  Norse 
sagas,  but  it  will  be  more  profitable  to  subject  the  passages 
of  Tacitus  to  a  somewhat  closer  scrutiny4  and  to  group  our 
material  around  these. 


1  DM/,  p.  868. 

2  Germania,  Chapter  10. 
8  Caesar,  B.  G.,  I,  50. 

*  See  the  commentary  of  Mullenhoff,  DA.  IV,  pp.  222-233. 


394        THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

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  an  invocation 
of  the  gods,  and  lifting  his  eyes  up  to  heaven,  thrice  takes  up  one  wand  at 
a  time,  and  interprets  the  wands  taken  up  in  accordance  with  the  marks 
previously  made  on  them.  If  they  forbid, .no  further  consultation  concern- 
ing the  same  matter  takes  place  on  that  day  ;  but  if  they  permit,  a  confir- 
mation by  means  of  omens  is  still  required  in  addition.1 

However  simple  this  mode  of  consulting  lots  may  have'  been, 
the  words  of  Tacitus  are  hardly  such  as  not  to  require  com- 
ment. 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  or  father  of  the  family  divined  with  prayer  (ccelum  suspi- 
ciens)  the  will  of  the  gods  must,  therefore,  have  been  something 
else  than  mere  signs  for  yes  and  no,  although  the  answer  was 
in  the  main  positive  or  negative  (permissum  or  prohibitum). 

With  these  bits  of  wood  (surculi)  in  the  account  of  Tacitus 
the  Norse  blbtspdnn  ("sacrifice-chip,"  divining  rod;  plural 
blbtspannir) ,  showing  that  the  lot  was  accompanied  with  sacri- 
fice, 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  indi- 
viduals 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  sign  of  the  cross,  while  the  other  is  unmarked.  Seven 

1  Germania,  Chapter  10. 


MAGIC  AND  DIVINATION  395 

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 
a  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.1 

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  (auspicid)  Tacitus  notes  the  following : 

They  also  know  how  to  consult  the  cries  and  the  flight  of  birds  :  it  is  pecul- 
iar 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  no  other  omen  is  greater 
faith  reposed,  not  only  by  the  people  but  also  by  the  nobility,  for  they 
regard  the  priests  2  as  the  ministers  of  the  gods,  and  the  horses  as  cognizant 
of  the  divine  will.3 

The  cries  and  the  flight  of  birds  were,  therefore,  looked 
upon  as  omens.4  Some  birds,  as  the  swallow,  stork,  and  eagle, 
bode  good  fortune;  others,  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 

1  F.  von  Richthofen,  Friesische  Rechtsgeschichte,  II,  451. 

2  Perhaps  "  themselves  "  (se),  i.e.  the  priests  and  nobles,  is  here  the  better  reading. 
8  Germania,  Chapter  10. 

4  Compare  the  collections  of  folklore,  such  as  J.  M.  E.  Saxley,  Birds  of  Omen 
in  Shetland  (Viking  Club,  October,  1892),  and  L.  A.  J.  W,  Sloet,  De  dieren  in  he( 
germaansche  volksgdoof  en  volksgebruik  (1887). 


396         THE  RELIGION  OF  THE  ANCIENT  TEUTONS 

sacred  procession  were  yoked  to  the  chariot,  as  at  the  proces- 
sion 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  sceptical  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,  chosen  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.1 

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  hblmganga  ("  holm-going  "),  which  one  qould  not  refuse 
to  make  without  being  branded  as  infamous.  Von  Amira  is 
sceptical  towards