Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/411

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Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas. 395

Icelander who preached the new faith, was outlawed for blasphemy.

What looks like a curious tendency to free-thinking appears, however, in Thorstein in the Waterdale (954), who believed in " him who made the sun, whoever he be, for him I think mightiest " ; and in Thorkell Mani, a Lawman of about 970, who adopted " the god who made the sun," and when his death was approaching had him- self carried outside that he might die in the sunlight.

It may seem strange that Odin, the head of the Asgard system, is not named in the sagas as receiving sacrifice, and other omissions, Frigg and Freyja, for example, are equally striking ; though all three names are common enough in the kennings of the poets. Nothing can of course be argued from mere omission, though in the case of Balder it has been used as an argument telling against his divinity. In dealing with Scandinavian religion the argument is especially fallacious : the saga- writers are always economical of detail, and, as they were not writing histories of ritual and mythology, sacrifices would only be mentioned as they happened to relate to the fortunes of the story. Further, the written form of the sagas is not contemporary, and Odin's omission may be accounted for by his becoming, as supreme god and the most highly organised Scandinavian deity, an object of special hostility to missionaries — an argument applied with much force by Mr. Nutt to Irish mythology. A Scandinavian example of this missionary zeal is offered by Saxo's violent attacks on Frigg, to be explained by the strength of her influence as a rival to the Virgin Mary.

In the references to Thor it will be noticed how many of his devotees bear his name as part of theirs, which may be accounted for either by their actual dedication to him, as in the case of Thorstein Thorolfsson, or simply by his popularity.