Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/434

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


41 8 Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas.

makes the Yule sacrifice include all. If the DisablSt were really held in late autumn, it would indicate that the underworld rites did form a part of the Winter-Nights' feast, which is supported by the last-quoted reference if blood-sacrifice is there meant to be contrasted with fire- sacrifice ; and the remembrance toast at Yule further confirms the view that the dead were propitiated in winter, not in spring. The sacrifice to Frey was in the autumn too, and it is natural and usual to find propitia- tion of the dead and sacrifice to gods representing the productive and quickening power, occurring at the same season, when the main object of both was to protect the crops. In Roman religion both were in the spring, in the North in late autumn. The reason may lie in the different circumstances of their agriculture. Another possibility is that a northern winter was such a serious thing, that the Northerners might naturally think of its beginning, when the days are visibly shortening, as the dangerous time.

Sacrifice seems to have been generally of animals in the saga-time, and human sacrifice was only proposed in special emergencies. In the reign of the mythical King Domald {Heifnskringla), when there was famine, " in the first year they sacrificed animals ; in the second year, men ; at last, the king," which is a case of reversion to human sacrifice and at the same time a trace of the " Golden Bough " theory of kingship. The latter receives further support from Heimskringla :

1. {Ynglinga Saga.) The Swedes used to reckon good

or bad crops for or against kings. They said Olaf was sparing in sacrifice, and burnt him in his house as a sacrifice to Odin for the crops.

2. {Hal/dan the Black's Saga.) King Halfdan was

highly regarded because he was most fortunate in good seasons. All the people of Norway wanted to have him buried in their own districts, to ensure