Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/436

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420 Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas.

casually. This is to be expected : the more customary a practice is, the less is it likely to be specially recorded.

1. Heimskringla. That the king should partake of the

sacrificial horseflesh in some form or other, is the one point on which Hakon the Good's subjects refused to give way.

2. (/<^.) In the account given of the temple ritual, it

is said that the blood " of cattle as well as horses " was sprinkled on the walls and the people, and the flesh then eaten.

3. {Eyrbyggja, early tenth century.) Thorbjorn Digri

had many stud horses, and used to choose a horse to be slaughtered in the autumn.

4. {Reykdcela, 970.) It is proposed that there be a

horse-fight at Mdnahjalli at midsummer ; Thorkell Geirason of SkarS had a grey horse with a different coloured mane, and he and his father always gave a horse for slaughter, but had no mind for horse- fighting. The exact significance of the horse is a matter of question. We may compare the Roman Equiria in February, and the sacrifice of the " October horse " on the Ides of October, and the dripping of the blood on the sacred hearth. Mannhardt identifies the horse with the vegetation spirit, and it is evident from the scanty material in the sagas that it in some way represented a principle of life. It was sacrificed in the autumn and at Yule, at both of which festivals there were agricultural rites.

The favourite Icelandic sport of the horse-fight was most probably connected with the festivals. The quota- tion from Reykdala suggests that some practice may have existed of sacrificing the winner, which would account for the reluctance of the Skar6 chiefs to let their horses fight.