Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/426

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4IO Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas.

natural transition from the wise women who helped mothers and told the fortunes of children : from" the existence of human beings with unnatural and uncanny- gifts, goddesses were deduced, who protected mothers and children in the same way. In the story of Norna-Gest, for instance, it is impossible to decide whether the writer thought of the three sisters who prophesied the fate of the child as wise women or as goddesses : probably he himself hardly knew. To infer a goddess of death from a priestess is a less natural process.

In the same way, inconsistent ideas exist as to the state of the dead. In Njdla, Gunnar lives on in the howe ; yet when Hogni is asked by his grandmother why he is taking his father's spear, his reply is " that he may have it to carry to Valhalla, and to bear at the weapon-thing." Hakon the Good {Heimskringld) is laid in a great mound with full armour and best clothes, and " they spoke over his grave in heathen fashion and wished him in Valhalla." Properly, mound-burial belongs to the idea that a hero lives on in the earth, and cremation to the notion of a journey, like Brynhild's Hell-ride. A confusion of ideas exists in the passage in Heimskringla, which states Odin's ordinance that men were to be burnt with their goods, and their ashes cast into the sea or buried : " thus everyone will come to Valhalla with the riches he had with him on the pile, and also enjoy what he himself buried." The notion of a journey only underlies the description of Hake's funeral, in the same source : he was laid wounded on a ship with the dead men and arms ; the ship was taken out to sea and set on fire.

The idea of a dead man's journey to Valhalla in his ship, implied by his burial in it, must have arisen in the Viking age, and seems to be indicated by the contrast with the hell-shoes in Gisla. Vestein had the hell-shoes bound on because he would have to walk to Valhalla ; Thorstein, a year later, was buried in a ship. There seems no obvious