Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/410

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394 Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas.

version of the incident of Droplaug's sons and Bersi's

temple, Bersi attributes a storm to the anger of

the gods because Helgi and his brother had gone

solarsinnis (with the sun) round the temple, and

had not announced by law the slaying of Tordyfil.

In Viga-Glum! s Saga, Glum swears " to the As"

(Thor) that he was not there when Thorvald Krok

was slain. In Landnama the form of oath is by

"Frey and NjorS and the almighty As."

These references sufficiently indicate a stage of religious

development corresponding to that represented in Greece

by the Homeric poems. The gods are not yet moral,

but are the guardians of such rules of social order as

are sufficiently fixed to be under their protection ; as in

Homer perjury and injuries done to parents are punished

by divine anger.

The matter-of-fact attitude of the Icelanders to the gods (instance the open disapproval expressed by devotees like Glum and Hrafnkell when they did not receive adequate support from the deities of their special worship) does not necessarily prove that the religion was decaying. Their irreverence, like that of Homer's heroes, is natural to a stage of development in which men have outgrown the blind fears and ignorance of the primitive savage, and have acquired some command over nature, but have not yet attained the more spiritual conceptions repre- sented by Greek tragedy. Norse religion was killed by Christianity before it reached that stage. That it had sufficient vitality to make a struggle for existence is repeatedly witnessed to in the sagas ; for example, in Laxdcela : " There was a change of faith in Norway ; men took to it very unequally ; they said the weather was bad because of the king's new faith " ; and again, when the establishment of the new faith in Iceland was attempted, " many went against it ; it was hard to keep the peace between heathen and Christian." Hjalti, an