Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/431

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Ctistom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas. 415

way," that men might enquire after their fates. A wise Finn-woman was there, set high and honourably prepared for ; each went up from his place to question her.

That divination should be practised chiefly by women is common and natural, considering their association with the rites of birth and death. Ynglinga Saga recognises the fact, accounting for it in another way: "such weakness and anxiety follows witchcraft, that it was not thought honourable for men to practise it, and therefore priestesses were brought up in the art." The " weakness and anxiety " suggests trances like the Pythia's ; and one such is recorded of the three Finns consulted by Ingimund with reference to colonisation ( Waterdale Saga) : he shut them up for three days, during which " their bodies became rigid, and they sent their souls on the errand."

Revelation by dreams is also common. In some cases the dream is symbolic ; in others (as in the one already mentioned in Viga-Gluvis Saga), dead ancestors appear and make known the future. In Heiniskringla, when Halfdan the Black consulted Thorleif the Wise as to how he should obtain dreams, the latter said that when he wanted revelation by dreams he slept in a pig-stye. This may possibly be a far-off survival of the practice of incabatio ; or the reason may have been that close-air and semi-suffocation produce dreams, as clefts in the rock with mephitic vapours were favourite oracular seats in Greece. The sleep of the sibyl in Thorfinn Karlsefnis Saga is neither trance nor inciibatio ; but the elementary idea was the same. A similar notion underlies the incident recorded in Njdla and in Kristni Saga of the manner in which the change of faith was decided. The decision was entrusted to Thorgeir, who was a pagan. He lay down and drew his cloak over his head and lay all day and night, and another day just as long. A pagan would seek inspiration on the subject according to pagan means of divination ; the heathen party may have stipulated for some such