Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/435

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


Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas. 419

good crops. At last his body was divided into

four parts, which were buried in Ringerige, Rau-

marige, Westfold, and Hedemark : a mixture of

the local cult of a hero's tomb with king-sacrifice

to induce fertility.

In connexion with this point must be noticed the

anxiety of the people that the Christian King Hakon

should offer sacrifice for peace and a good year, as his

fathers used to do.

Another mythical king, On, in Ynglinga Saga, sacrificed his sons to Odin for long life, apparently that he might have the years they had not lived.

In Iceland, the saga-writers state {Eyrbyggja) that in their day " the doom-ring is still seen where men were doomed to sacrifice, and Thor's stone, on which men were broken for sacrifice." Before the end of the first half of the tenth century, that is to say, within a few years of the completion of the settlement, it was no longer customary, for it is mentioned in the Waterdale Saga (about 936) as a matter of hearsay only : " Thorolf Heljarskin had sacrificial dens, and people thought he sacrificed both men and cattle." As late as 970 we find a proposal to revive it in a special emergency ; in an unusually hard winter, the Reykdale priest proposed that men should vow to give to the temple, expose children, and kill old men. Askell objected, and though many opposed him, carried the day, and all who were reason- able thought he spoke well.

The test of paganism on the establishment of Christianity in the year 1000 was the eating of horseflesh. According to the account in Njala, it was forbidden, together with idolatry and the exposure of children, while sacrifice was to be allowed in private, though a man was subject to outlawry if the matter became known. Kristni Saga says the eating of horseflesh was allowed at first. Yet the custom is very seldom mentioned, and that only