Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/424

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4o8 Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas.

hand and the horn with the other, and turned it so that the feet turned up and the neck-bone broke.

2. {Korniak's Saga, 963.) After the holm-gang, Kormak

saw where a bull stood, and killed it.

3. {lb., 964.) Kormak killed the sacrificial bullock

according to custom.

4. {Hev^arviga Saga, 990.) After killing HalH, Vi'ga-

Styrs had two bulls led home, and killed them,

because it was the belief in those days that if it

was so done the prosecution would come to


The origin of the sacrifice may have been propitiation

either of the ghost of the slain enemy or of the spirits

of the underworld, to prevent the ghost from haunting

the spot. Later it must have been done as a mere

convention, losing its original significance, as in the

extracts from Kormak' s Saga it was done though the

other was not killed ; in the earlier instance Kormak

seems to kill the bull as a kind of claim for victory in a

doubtful combat.

When, after the first holm-gang mentioned from Korniak's Saga, Thorvard's wound would not heal, the wise woman Thordis told him to obtain the bull killed by Kormak and pour the blood over " a hill near, where elves dwell, to give them a meal of fresh meat " : a clear case of libation, whether the " elves " be the spirits of the dead, or earth-spirits, or both confused. A survival of a similar rite in Christian dress seems to occur in a Greenland custom {Thorfinn Karlsefnis Saga). When a man died in Greenland, he was usually buried on the spot, in unconsecrated soil, with a stake in the ground over him. When a priest came, the stake was pulled up and holy water poured down the hole.

When Norse religion became systematised, confusion of ideas naturally arose. In Yiiglinga Saga both Odin and Frey are treated as ancestor-kings ; both die, and