Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/442

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426 Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas.

In the majority of these cases the spells are magic pure and simple, with no suggestion of origin in religious rites of any kind. The exception is the passage which is most certainly authentic, that from Kormak's Saga. The frustration of a spell by interference or observation is illustrated by this passage and by Ljot's spell in the Waterdale ; apparently also by a corrupt passage in Hoensa-Thoris Saga: Thorbjorn wishes to cause Herstein's cattle to come safely out of the outhouses on the burnt farm, and tells him, " Be silent if thou canst^ whatever happens." That danger attached to observation by an outsider is suggested by an incident in Laxdcela, where Kari is killed through looking out while Kotkell is conducting spells.

It will be seen that as regards religion the material is not extensive ; but this fact proves, if it proves anything, exactly the opposite of what several Norse scholars try to make it prove. Just because two gods only are named in the sagas as receiving sacrifice, the argument from omission is worthless. If no sacrifice to Odin, Freyja, Frigg, is ever recorded in the sagas, no one is justified in assuming, as Dr. Bugge for example does, that because Balder is never mentioned in the sagas, therefore he was not an ancient god. The records of Scandinavian paganism are the very reverse of the Roman, where myth is scanty, and custom and ritual abundant. The Scandinavians had only three great feasts in the year, where the Romans had as many in a month. Thus the saga material confirms Caesar's reference to the religion of the Germans, " neque student sacrificiis ; " and the small number of recorded sacrifices rests not on the decay of paganism before the establish- ment of Christianity, nor altogether on its suppression afterwards, but on a natural race distinction.

L. Winifred Faraday.