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It is an incontestable fact that there are abundant proofs of the worship of Wödan among the continental Teutons 95). But, of course, his being venerated in Germany does not exclude his worship in Scandinavia. Now the evidence of his being more a continental than a Scandinavian deity seemed to be corroborated by some singular facts which could be explained as indications of the rather small importance of Othin in the original religion of the Northern peoples. The study of the place-names containing the name of a heathen god, has led to the result that the name of Othin is very seldom found in topographical names of Western Scandinavia. The Icelandic tradition is remarkably bare of any indication of an actual worship of him. More evidence has come forth with regard to Sweden and Denmark; Adam of Bremen tells us that in the famous temple of Upsala a statue of Othin was erected and the sanctuary of Odense (= Oðinsvé) proves by its name the worship of this god in the Danish islands.

Even as a god of runic art which is so remarkable a characteristic of the Old-Norse Othin, he seems to have been an usurper of the fame which belonged properly to other deities. On the bracteates we often find a couple of runes which according to Sophus Bugge possibly denote the old war-god Týr 96), but we never meet with the name of Othin. Even in the runic inscriptions on tombstones the name of Othin is never found whilst that of Thór occurs in a couple of these monuments 97).

We seem to be justified in surmising that the cult of Othin has come from the South, establishing itself firmly in Denmark and being readily accepted by the Swedes [45] who, however, worshipped as their chief god Freyr. The German scholar F. R. Schröder 98) is of opinion that the cult of Othin has spread to the North in connection with the art of runic writing and he thinks that it was the people of the Herules who carried this current of civilisation to the North 99). Karl Helm goes even so far as to say 1oo) that the principal gods of the Scandinavians viz. Týr, Thór, Othin and the Vanir have all been introduced into the pantheon of the Northern peoples as a result of cultural influences from different parts of Europe. But religious conceptions and the cult of gods do not travel so easily as coins, utensils and ornaments 101).

What conclusive force have the arguments produced in favour of this hypothesis that Othin is a late intruder upon the domain of the Scandinavian religion or at any rate that a great many of his most interesting qualities are a later accretion as the result of foreign influence? I am of course quite prepared to admit that the importance of Othin in the Scandinavian pantheon increased in the course of so many ages and that he may have been a rather obscure god in the beginning. Some scholars have put forth the view that it was only the development of Othin to the chief god of the Old-Norse pantheon, with his extraordinary mental and spiritual qualities, that should be attributed to this foreign influence. But then this more primitive Scandinavian god must have borne the same name Óðr or Óðinn, for if he had not, it would be impossible for us to arrive at any idea about his original significance. A god who misses the most characteristic qualities of Othin and who has not even his name, is a conception too vague to lend itself to discussion.

If, however, this more primitive deity has already been called Óðr (or perhaps Othin) then we may be fairly sure that one of his prominent characteristics was the fury or mental excitement, which is intimately connected with his [46] intellectual quality as shown by the Old-Norse traditions 102). So, though his importance in the religious representations of the Viking Age or in the mythological speculations may have increased considerably, yet his character was, as far back as we can show, the same, and his later complicated figure was the result of a natural development from this original conception.

To account for the remarkable fact that there are so very few place-names and even personal names containing the name of Othin, I wish to draw the attention to a side of this divinity which I have not yet mentioned. The oath which had to be taken before entering a law-suit at the Icelandic allthing was pronounced in the name of Freyr, Njord and “hinn allmátki Ass” 103). To the question which god is meant by this circumlocution, the answer is generally that it is Thor, because he is invoked whenever a private or public ceremony is celebrated. It is, however, more probable that it is Othin.

Generally oaths are placed under the awful protection of the Lord of Death 104); for such a solemn affirmation usually has the form of a self-curse, by which the oath-taker gives himself into the power of the god of the dead should he be a perjurer. Moreover at the great sacrifices in Norway three cups were drunk in honour of three different gods viz. Othin as the first and then Njord and Freyr 105). This in my opinion tends to prove that the allmighty Áss of the oath is no other than Othin. Why should the genial protector of mankind, Thor, if he were meant in this formula, be invoked as though it were dangerous to pronounce his real name? This fear on the other hand is very natural with regard to Othin. Then the oath formula proves the great importance of Othin in the social institutions of the Scandinavians. A remarkable feature is the fear to use his name; this can account for the almost total absence of proper names containing it as [47] one of the elements. But then we may ask: is the Áss, occurring in numerous names, as Ásvaldr, Ásgeirr, Ásbjçrn, Ásmundr etc. not really the same as Othin, who in this disguise may enter into proper-names 106)?

Othin is the principal Áss. In the curious magical stanza, which Egill pronounces when laying his curse upon the Norwegian king Eiríkr, he invokes besides Freyr and Njörðr the landáss, who in the light of what we have said above can be none other than Othin. If this be the case then we may expect to learn something more about his original character, when we know what is meant by the word áss. In the mythological poetry of the Viking Age it is a name for the gods in general — sometimes Freyr and Njord however are treated separately as Vanir.

But this was not the original meaning of the name. An Icelandic saga tells about a man who is venerated after his death as Bárðr Snæfellsáss; surely here the word means something more simple and primitive: i. e. the dead ancestor who has become an object of veneration. This is, moreover, corroborated by the belief of the Goths, which Jordanes 107) mentions: “Gothi proceres suos quorum quasi fortuna vincebant, non puros homines, sed semideos id est Ansis vocaverunt” 1o8). Godlike beings, not yet gods, that was the' original meaning and the etymology which connects the word áss or óss, in its older Scandinavian form *ansuR with the same root as Lat. anima, Gr. anemos, Skr. aniti, Goth usanan, strengthens this conclusion.

12. Conceptions of the spirits of the dead

So áas surely means the spirit of a dead man but at the same time as an object of veneration 109). It is not those miserable ghosts roaming about restlessly in the wailing storms of the winter, but the protector and benefactor of [48] the family who is buried in the neighbourhood of the dwelling, which the descendants continue to inhabit. In the course of many generations he gathers here the deceased members of his clan and in a wider scope the glorious chieftain of a tribe becomes after his death the venerated protector of the people, such as the king Oláfr Geirstaðaálfr according to the Norwegian tradition 110).

This is one side of the relation between the living and the dead; the other is that of awe and fear. Othin as the lord of Walhall is the god of the dead warriors who have fallen on the battlefield and are assembled in a subterranean cave where they are often supposed to continue their fierce struggle. Still Walhall seems to me a specialized form of a more general conception: the Germanic peoples knew a realm of death, which they called hell, whither all people were believed to descend after death.

Here again, as we find so often in the religious beliefs of primitive as well as of civilized peoples, different conceptions, which seem to exclude one another, are current at the same time. The dead are gathered in a common underworld, the warriors fallen in battle dwell in a cave or a mountain in the neighbourhood of the battlefield, the members of the family live on in their grave-mound, drowned men go down to the bottom of the sea. The conception of the god of death may be coloured by these various beliefs; he is at the same time the ruler of the underworld, the deified ancestor of the clan, the ghostly leader of the wandering spirits.

Besides these conceptions, there lingered on into the last days of heathendom other beliefs of an even more primitive nature. The spirits of the dead manifest themselves also in the shape of animals; so we hear about the eagle Hræsvelgr, and the infernal dog Garmr, about ravens and wolves as particularly connected with Othin and of very great importance: the horse. Modern popular belief [49] still knows a great deal about the hell-horse; in heathen times the horse of Othin played a prominent part in the myths of this deity.

If it may be accepted as a general rule that theriomorphic divinities are older than anthropomorphic gods and that the latter in many instances are developed from the former than we could infer that the conception of Othin with his horse was a later form of the much more primitive idea of a death-spirit in the shape of a horse 111). Still this view 112) is in my opinion not in accordance with the facts and only the result of the adaptation of general principles of comparative religion to the facts of the mythological traditions of the Teutonic peoples; I think it much more probable that the conceptions of the horse of death and of an anthropomorphic death-spirit have existed at the same time and naturally in the course of many ages have been combined.

In my opinion the character of Othin is much too complicated to exhaust its meaning by the simple formula of an original death-spirit; there are some peculiar facts in the traditions about him which point rather in the direction of a divine creator of the universe, a conception we meet with in several primitive religions. But as this belongs to quite a different order of things from that I am discussing in this paper, I will limit myself to this provisional remark, the more so as I hope to treat of this question elsewhere at full length.

13. The relation between Wöd and Othin

I have now paved the way for a discussion of the relation between the pagan god Othin and his namesake in modern popular traditions. The god Othin, in his older form Óðr, is of so high an antiquity, that it is altogether impossible to arrive at a period within the limits of his-[50]tory, when he did not exist. Especially in Denmark we have no reason whatever to assume that in the beginning of our era his cult was either unknown or hardly developed and that it first came to a noteworthy development through the influence of tribes along the Lower Rhine. I agree with Chadwick who makes the following statement 113): “Moreover we can hardly doubt that Woden, the god who gives victory and treasure and who rewards his votaries with a future life spent in fighting and feasting, was the deity par excellence of the Migration period; especially among the Angli whose princes claimed to he descended from him”.

If, however, in the fourth and fifth centuries the Germanic tribes who invaded Great Britain already venerated Wodan in such a highly developed form, the continental stock in Jutland whence they started must have known him as no less a complicated deity. So we are obliged to conclude that since highest antiquity the Germanic peoples have known the idea of a corn-spirit, to which the last sheaf was dedicated, as well as the conception of the god Othin. But we may safely contend that they belong to two different spheres of religious representations and that in the case of the harvest-sacrifice the figure of Wodan or Othin is of a relatively late origin. Neither as lord of the dead spirits in their ghostly form of the Wild Hunt, nor as a god of fertility, does Othin belong to the agrarian customs of the last sheaf.

The way, however, in which the connection of this divinity with these rites has come about is not clear and many possibilities may be taken into consideration, the more so, because we do not know when the connection took place. It may have been already in heathen times, it may also have been after the coming of Christianity and as the result of the unfavourable conception of Othin as an infernal demon. [51]

So if some straws of grass are left to the horse of Othin, this may have been connected with Othin in many different ways. The grass or the corn-sheaf, left on the field disappeared in the course of winter; it was eaten by the birds, the mice, the rabbits or other wild animals. So the spiritual beings to whom this sacrifice was made, accepted it: if the corn-spirit was supposed to be a horse, as it is still now-a-days in different parts of Germany, England and France 114), then it lay near at hand to think, that these last blades of grass or stalks of corn not only represented the vegetation-spirit in its horse-shape, but that they were at the same time an offering to the horse.

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