Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/413

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas. 397

were not among the Olympians, though Poseidon is intro- duced as the brother of Zeus ; they had something of the vagueness and mystery of the sea, and were not readily brought within a system. An oath by " Ran and the Regin " is given in Olkofra Thattr.

11. Hero-worship and Underworld Deities.

That spirits connected with rites for the dead were worshipped among the Scandinavians down to the very close of the pagan time, is clear from the sagas, although the evidences are not abundant. The question is closely bound up with the subject of burial customs ; these I shall give in their turn, but in the meantime a general summary of the practice and belief may be given here.

It is clear that primitive ideas of continued existence in the howe remained in full force right down to Christian times. This assertion rests on the following :

1. Burial in commanding positions {e.g. headlands).

2. Placing treasure, ships, tools, weapons, slaves, in the

burial mound.

3. The belief that the dead man was affected by the

outward condition of his howe.

4. The belief that men " died into the fell."

5. The extremely prevalent belief in ghosts ; that is,

in the continued activity of the dead, which is not always malignant : Klaufi helps his friends to avenge him {Svarfdcela, 960); Thorgunna comes back and prepares meals, and no one suffers from them {Eyrbyggja, 993).

6. The appearance in dreams of dead kindred. Where these ideas exist, we should expect to find traces

of local hero-cults, and of the propitiation of underworld divinities.

The belief in certain supernatural beings closely con- nected with the individual man living and dead, appears in the sagas in the form of female spirits who follow