[From P.M.C. Kermode "Traces of Norse Mythology", 1904]
ODIN'S BOOTY. THEFT OF THE HOLY MEAD. (¼ actual size.)
My first illustration 1 (fig. 1, p. 16) is from the handsome cross on the steps at Michael Church gates. The inscription recites that " Joalf, son of Thorulf the Red, raised this cross after Fritha, his mother." On one face, above the head of the cross, we find the figures of two birds flying-an eagle chasing a falcon; referring, I suggest, to Odin's adventure in the recovery of the Holy Mead-the Soma-draught, source of Inspiration and Poetry.
Once, in order to commemorate a treaty between the Anses and the Vanir, a being was formed by them in the shape of a man called Quasi, who was so wise there was nothing he could not unfold. Certain Dwarves -Fealar and Galar-treacherously slew him and let his blood run into a kettle or cauldron-Odrearer (spirit raiser)-and two cups-Soma and Bodn. They mixed honey with it, and so brewed the sacred drink-origin of Poetry and of Wisdom. Long afterwards these Dwarves by way of sport, drowned a Giant named Gilling by upsetting a boat, and afterwards let fall a millstone on the head of his wife because, they said, " her shrieking was most horrible to hear! " When their son, Suftung, heard these tidings, he caught the Dwarves and set them on a reef the tide ran over. Then, for weregild, they offered the precious mead, which was accepted, and the Giants kept it for ages in the centre of a mountain. At last, Odin, under the name of Balework, in order to procure the precious drink, took service under the Giant Baugi, Suftung's brother, asking only for one draught of the mead as his wage. At the end of the term they sought Suftung, who denied them even a drop. So Odin gave Baugi an auger, and told him to bore through the hill, and so he did. Then Balework turned himself into a serpent and crept through, but Baugi treacherously stabbed at him with the auger, missing him, however. Now Gundfled, Suftung's daughter, kept the mead in the centre of the hill. Odin made friends and persuaded her to let him have three draughts of it. He drank it all up, and, returning to the surface took on him his falcon's coat and flew away as hard as he could. But Suftung spied him and, taking his eagle skin, flew after him. When the Anses saw Odin coming, they set vessels out in the court, and, as soon as he got to Asgard he threw up the mead into the vessels. So Poesy is called Odin's booty or find, his drink or gift.
1In describing the carvings, I feel bound to follow the usual custom of speaking of " right " and " left," as viewed by the spectator, not as it really is on the stone. I think it wrong, but to do otherwise in a small pamphlet dealing only with local sculptures would but cause needless confusion !
We are now able, by means of the old Norse Mythology, to explain a strange figure on an uninscribed fragment from Jurby. To understand it aright we must bear in mind that Odin is ever eager to bring the greatest champions to Valhall to share in the joyous lives of the gods, and to be ready at the great Day of Doom to sally forth with them and do battle with the monsters and the demons. We must remember, too, that it is by hanging a man is dedicated to Odin.
At the left of the lower part of the shaft of a cross we see a man with a pole over his shoulder, from the end of which a smaller being is hanging 1(pl. I).
Now there is in the Norse heroic Sagas an old story of the sacrifice of King Wiker by Starkad, Odin's fosterson, who marked him with the spear, and dedicated him to Odin.t But, as Professor Sophus Bugge points out,2 the motives from the Volsunga Saga are those most frequently represented on the Manks stones, and it seems altogether more likely that the reference here is to Randver, Jormanrek's son, whom Odin, under the guise of Bikke, the evil counsellor, persuaded his aged father to sacrifice by hanging, as related in the " Prose Edda, Gudninarhvot."
There are other instances of Odin's intervention to secure the death of heroes, and so bring them to Valhalla. That it is meant for Odin is confirmed by the fact that it has a bird's head, and Arnhofbi (Eagle-headed) is one of Odin's names.
The bearded figure above in a long robe, armed with a trident, may possibly be intended for the aged Jormanrek. On the other side of the cross Valhall is signified by the figures of the Boar and the sacred Hart-
" Eikthyrnir the hart is called that stands o'er Odin's hall, and bites from Lærad's branches;
from his horns fall drops into Hvirgelmir, whence all waters rise."-Grimnis-mal.
Above is the Boar Saehrimner, food of the heroes in Valhall, who hunt and slay and feast upon him, and afterwards Thor waves his hammer over the bones and restores him to life. An interesting point to us is that the Boar is of Celtic origin. The great Irish Sea-god, after whom our island is supposed to be named-Mannu-owned the pig which was killed and eaten and again restored to life!
Above the Boar we see remains of a design which may be intended for a shield, as suggested by Dr. S. Bugge, representing the shield-panelling of Valhall.
On the other face of the stone (pl. II.) is a curious circular design of agglomerated flat pellets within a border of step-pattern Can this be a reference to the roof of golden shields?
1 In a paper on Saga Illustrations on Manks Monuments, Viking Club Saga Book, 1895-6, I took this to be the capture of Loki, but the above seems a more likely explanation.
2 Gautreks S., ch. 7-" Corp. Poet. Bor.", I, 466-7.
3 Nordiske Runeindskifter, &c., Saertryk af Aarb. for Nord Oldkynd og Hist., 1899, P. 253
Two fragments of a cross at Michael (pl. III.) erected by Grim to Rumund (Hrómund), give us a view of Odin in Valhall, and of the sports and pastimes there of the champions, Einherja.
At the right of the shaft of the cross, on one face (fig. i), is the figure of a man with a long spear in his right hand, his left on the hilt of a short, pointed sword, and clothed in a kirtle or tunic; he is bird-headed. Above is the figure of a Wolf, and the smaller fragment shows the forepaws of another similar figure above it. This is undoubtedly Odin with his spear Gungnir, accompanied by his wolves Geri and Freki.
Below may be seen a large fish-the great Fish in the stream which runs through Valhalla.
At the other side (left) of the shaft is the figure of a Boar (Saerhimner), who affords the champions sport by day and food at night. Above are two bird-headed figures, one feet uppermost, having in his hand a pointed sword, the other in the act of sheathing his. These represent the noted champions, bird-headed as being now one with the gods, the grim delights of battle being greater than the pleasures of the chase. The one, head down, has been slain, but will rise at even to banquet with his victor and the gods and fight again another day.
But what is this figure immediately under the head of the cross? Long-robed, his hands clasping in front of him a crutch-headed or tau-shaped Staff, under his left arm a Book, around his head a Nimbus of peculiar design, with fringes, as in the case of the Christ on Grim's cross, Michael, and upon one of the Virgin Mary on Roolwer's cross, Maughold. Like these also it bears three small crosslets, reminding one of the nimbus in the Book of Kells. This, I think, is intended for Christ, [? S. Michael to whom also the church when the cross was set up, was at that time dedicated] and signifies that now He and not Odin is King of Heaven, the material joys of which are depicted at either side of the Tree of Life, Odin's steed, Christ's palfry!
A very beautiful cross at the Church gates, Michael (pl. V.), erected by Mal-Lomchon to Malworrey, his foster-mother, daughter of Dugald and wife of Athisl, bears the figure of a Harper seated, and approached by a long-robed figure offering a drinking horn. Significance lies in the fact that the harp was unknown among the Norsemen until their intercourse with the Irish. There is, however, a lost story of Viking age concerning a Harper, known only by one or two references, as, for example, in Voluspa--" There Eggtheow the gladsome, the Giantesses Harper, sat on a mound tuning his Harp ! " By that time, therefore, not only was the instrument known to the Scandinavians, but they themselves became players, " Eggtheow the Gladsome "-what a charm lies in the epithet-being a Scandinavian name. And, if they enjoyed the harp at their earthly feasts we may be sure they would expect their heroes to be entertained by it in Valhall.
Here, then, to the right of the cross, just below the circle, we have a figure of Eggtheow the gladsome.
The long-robed figure is one of the Valkyrie offering welcome to the musician as she would to a great hero.
[? Bragi, son of Odin and in later Viking lays, god of poetry and inspiration]
A remarkable uninscribed stone at Kirk Bride, never yet figured nor fully described (pl. VI.), exhibits a wealth of mythological carvings equal to that on the shield given by Thorleif the Wise to Thiodwolf.
On one face (fig. 1), below the head of the cross, on the right, is the figure of a man resting on his spear. It is almost obliterated, but can still be traced, and is probably intended for Odin.
On the other face (fig. 2), below the circle, on the left, the figure with a spear, having a raven or other bird behind it, might be taken for Odin also, but it is attacking a stag, and there is no story of Odin and a stag, nor would there be, for that beast was not introduced into Scandinavia till the sixteenth century.
Below the first figure (fig. 1), separated by a panel of plaitwork, we find human forms among the feet of horses. This, I think, must be intended for the trampling to death of Swanhild beneath the hoofs of Jormanrek's horses; a deed suggested to the Gothic king by Odin in his capacity of Bikke, the evil counsellor, on the ground of her sympathy with his enemies the Huns-" For he was moved to wrath by the treacherous desertion of her husband "-(A lost Jormanrek lay). In the lay known as Gudrun's " Chain of Woe," we read:-" She was like a glorious sunbeam in my bower. I endowed her with gold and goodly raiment or ever I married her into Gothland. That was the hardest of all my sorrows when they trod Swanhild's fair hair in the dust under the hoofs of the horses."
On the other face of the stone (fig. 2) we find a reference to one of Thor's most famous adventures.1 The slayer of giants and monsters was destined in the end to meet with the dread dragon Jormungandr ; he tried to anticipate matters, and we are told that once upon a time he went in the guise of a young man to the house of the Giant Hymi, where he tarried as guest for the night. At dawn Hymi made ready to go a-fishing, and Thor would go too. He asked what they should have for bait, but the giant, who did not want him, answered surlily that he might go look for bait for himself. Thor noticed on the hillside Hymi's herd of oxen; he went up to the biggest, a coal-black one called Himinbriotr (Heavenly Bull), " wrung " off its head and ran back to the strand. The giant had then shoved off his skiff, but Thor got on board and began to row. At last the giant, who had thought to tire and frighten him by the distance they would pull, himself objected to go further, as, he said, they were already in mid-ocean and were likely to be over the Midgardsorm. Then, we are told, " the sturdy Hymi kept pulling up whales, two at once, on his hook." Thor baited his angle with the ox's head and cast it overboard. The God-abhorred Serpent gulped down the bait, and tugged so hard that both Thor's fists were dashed against the gunwale. Then he put forth his god's strength and hauled with such force that he drove both his feet through the bottom of the boat. He grasped his hammer, but the giant, quaking with fear, fumbled at his fishing knife and cut the line. Back sank the dragon into the deep. Thor flung his Hammer after him, then, with his fist, tumbled Hymi overboard, and waded to land.
In our figure, below the circle on the right, we see Thor, bearded, with his strength-belt on, carrying in one hand the ox-head, and hastening with great strides to reach the strand before the giant will have put off.
On the fragment of a stone at Gosforth, Cumberland,2 of the same period, and carved by the same people, we have the figure of a boat with the Giant hauling in the whales, and Thor in the stern casting his line. On another we see Thor with his two feet dashed through the bottom of the boat.
Hymi was the first of the Hrimthursar, or Giants, formed by the heat from Muspell meeting the rime of Ginnünga gap. Another adventure of Thor's with him is related in Hymiskvidar as one with the last, but, in the " Prose Edda " (Gylfi's Mocking) that is treated as a separate incident, as indeed it must have been. This is the recovery of the Caldron, a myth derived possibly from the Celtic one of Cüchulainn (the Sun Hero) and the Caldron of Mider, King of Falga (the Isle of Man). (" Celtic Heathendom," 261, 476.)
The giant Eager, a sea-god (Oceanos), set Thor the task of procuring the famous Caldron, which was a mile deep, promising if he did so to make a Brew for the gods. None of the blessed gods knew how this could be accomplished, but Tew offered to accompany Thor and try what could be done. They came to Hymi's Hall, at the end of Heaven; the giantess hid them behind the pillar. Then Hymi came home from hunting. He looked towards them and the pillar flew asunder, the beam broke in twain, and the caldrons which were set upon it came down, and all except one broke. Then the giant challenged them to break the caldron. Thor dashed it at the pillars, but in vain; but the giantess whispered to throw it at Hymi's skull, which was harder even than the caldron; so he sprang up and hurled it at his head, and it was cracked all across. As a last task the giant required him to carry the caldron out of his court. Tew tried twice, but could not lift it, but Thor clapped it on his head and the chains rattled about his heels. " So he came to the Gods Thing bringing the Caldron that Hymi had owned."
Now we see, in front of Thor (fig. 1), and above another strange-looking giant, a very curious figure which must have some meaning. I suggest that it is meant to represent this Caldron.
Just below it is a monstrous figure, arms a-kimbo, legs outspread. This may well be the Lord of the Giants, Rungnir, of whom we read in Thiodwolf's " Shield Song " and in the " Edda." Once, having been allowed by Odin to enter Asgard, and treated with hospitality, he grew boastful, and-an unheard of thing-challenged Thor to combat! A date being fixed, and a battle-place (Rock garth) pitched, Rungnir took up his position. He was very huge, his head was of stone-his heart also was of hard stone-pointed into three horns. He stood with his great stone shield set before him, and, for weapon, had a hone, which he bore on his shoulders. Thor's arrival is finely described. He came down " in a ring of flame " ; the heavens thundered beneath him; " the earth was rent asunder as the goats drew the chariot-god on to his tryst with Rungnir." Thor's man Delvr ran before, and, seeing the giant's safe position, gave him to understand that Thor had seen him and was going down into the earth to come up against him from below. Thereupon Rungnir thrust the shield under his feet and stood upon it, and took hold of the hone with both hands. Thor cast his hammer at him from afar; Rungnir threw the hone, which met the hammer in its flight and broke asunder, one half falling to earth, whence come all rocks of hone, the other crashing into Thor's head, so that he fell forward. But the Hammer broke Rungnir's skull into little bits, and he fell over Thor, so that his foot lay athwart his neck.
Here, then, we may see Rungnir, Lord of the Giants, standing on his shield awaiting Thor's attack.
The figure just above-a bearded man, belted, attacking a serpent, is undoubtedly intended for Thor, who at Ragnarók slays Jórmungandr, the Midgardsorm. He retreats, nine steps, when he is so overcome by the venomous fumes from the monster that he himself succumbs. The step-pattern border of the slab on one face ends ingeniously in the head of a great Serpent, evidently another figure of Jórmungand ; it is close by Thor with the Ox head, an anticipation of his further adventures!
At the feet of Thor, between the coils of the Serpent and the Giant, is a small figure, intended probably for the dwarf Lit, which at Balder's funeral, when Thor stood up and hallowed the pyre with his Hammer, ran before him, but "Thor spurned at him with his foot and dashed him into the fire, and he was burnt."
[? Main, infant son of Thor - But none of the gods was able to release him, his infant son Main, came running up and easily threw the giant's foot from off his neck]
Among numerous other Dwarves we are told of four at the cardinal points of the compass, which support the firmament (Hymi's skull) at the four corners, namely, Austri, Vestri, Nordri, and Sudri. Two of these may be seen on this face of the stone, one on either side above the head of the cross, the curved border of the stone suggesting the firmament.3
On the other face of the stone (fig. 2) their places are taken by figures of a Cock, which, though an early Christian symbol of the Resurrection, appears on our Manks monuments only on Scandinavian pieces, and may have reference to the cock Gollin-Kambi (Gold-comb)."The cock Gold-comb is crowing to the Arises, waking the warriors of the Father of Hosts. Another cock, Sooty-red, crows under the earth in the halls of Hell." (" Sh. Volu-spa," 122-5.)
Just below the figure of Thor in the fishing adventure is that of a large bird-possibly the Eagle which dwells in the branches of Ygg-drasil. The tree itself would be suggested by the line of " vertebral " pattern down the middle of the stone.
Lastly, in a panel below, at the right corner, we find two great hounds or wolves; doubtless Garm [Hati, Garm on skoll] , who at Ragnar6k is to swallow the moon, and that otherAthat takes the sun." Fiercely bays Garm before the cave of the rock, the chain - shall snap and the Wolf range free." (" Volu-spa," II.)
1 Hymis-kvida, 70.
2 " Crosses, 3c., in the Diocese of Carlisle." Rev. W. S. Calverley, p. 168.
3 So on a Hog-backed stone at Heysham. See "Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society," Vol. V., Pl. VI., and Vol. IX., Pl. IX., X., XI. Note also the use of the Chevron as on the Bride Stone !
Before taking leave of the Giants I submit an illustration (pl. VII.) which puzzled me much. A cross-slab at Michael has on one face, and above the right arm of the cross, the figure of a man and a great bird. At first I thought of Loki seized by the giant Thiazzi in eagle form in the story of the Rape of Idwyn,1 but as was pointed out to me at the time by Dr. York Powell, the man is not holding on either to a stick or to the bird, but seems rather to be attacked by it. I think now there can be little doubt it refers to the fall of some hero unknown, such, for example, as Ottar the Doughty, of whom we read in " Ynlinga-Tal," 93-96: " Ottarr the Doughty fell by the weapons of the Danes, under the talons of the Eagle, when the war-vulture spurned him, the reason-endowed, with its brute carrion feet at Wendle."
Is not this Hrae-svelgr? As in Vafthruðnis-mal-" Hræ-svelgr (Carrion-gulper) is he called, a giant in eagle's shape, that sits at the end of heaven; from under his wings the wind that blows over all men is said to come." So in the Edda (Gylfi's, mocking). And in "Volu-spa' " But the Eagle screams. Pale-beak tear corpses."
The other face of this stone is shown on pl. IV.
* Saga Book, 1895-6.
A fragment at Jurby (pl. VIII.) shows on one face, above the right arm of the cross, a figure of a Man in a tunic with a row of large buttons; in his left hand a short, pointed sword, his right holding to his mouth a long Alpine horn (Lur). On his head is a curious helmet, above the horn a flying raven.
Evidently this is intended for Heimdall, Warder of the Gods, who is stationed at the foot of the rainbow Bif-rost,, "quaking bridge," leading from earth to Asgard. At Ragnarók he summons the gods to the last great battle by a blast on the Giallar horn, which rings through all the nine worlds:-
Loud Loud blows Heimdall, his horn is up-lift."
The Raven flies before him carrying the tidings to Odin. On the other face (pl. IX.), in like position, is a female figure, dog-headed, with long, braided hair. As suggested by Professor S. Bugge, this may be the Sibyl Hyndla, " little Hound," who prophesies of Heimdall and of Ragnarok.
Lastly (pl. X.), I show a very interesting little piece from Andreas. Unfortunately, like so many others, it is but a fragment.
One face (fig. 1) bears, below the right arm of the cross, a figure of a Man with a Spear attacked by a Wolf ; above his shoulder a Raven.
Undoubtedly this is Odin,1 who meets the monstrous Fenri Wolf in the dreadful Day of Doom, of which we are told by the Sybils in " Volu-spa " : - ` The Ash of the Steed of the Hanged One shall quiver, and there shall be no part of heaven and earth that shall not then tremble for fear. The Anses shall put on their harness, and all the host of the Elect (Einherjarnir), and go forth to the field. Odin shall ride first with his golden helm and his fair mail-coat, and his spear that is called Gungnir (Tusker). He shall challenge the Wolf Fenri. . . . The Wolf shall swallow Odin, and that shall be his bane." Then she relates how " straightway Widar (the silent) shall dash forward and rend the Wolf's jaws asunder, and that shall be its death. . . . Thereupon Swart shall cast fire over the earth and burn the whole World. And every living thing shall suffer death . . . and the Powers shall perish! "
Not only have we here the end of Odin but the end of the old gods, of the old beliefs! Turn we now to the other face of the stone (fig. a), and what do we behold?
"Then there shall come One yet mightier;
Though Him I dare not name."
So far the Sibyl; and, our Sculptor figures a Man, belted, in his right hand a Cross, in his left a Book. He treads upon adders and knotted worms. In front is a Fish, without doubt the Christian symbol-iXBvs. Christ has overcome the powers of Evil, and He now reigns in Odin's stead !
1 Odin on Sleipner, the Wolf, Heimdall, and Widar rending the Wolf's jaws appear on the Gosforth Cross, that wonderful monument, the deciphering of which, by Mr. Calverley, led the Rev. G. F. Browne, lecturing at Cambridge in November, 1882, to remark-" It is not too much to say that this year has seen a revelation of the language of these stones, which no one had dreamed of before."
Bemrose & Sons, Ltd., Printers, London, Watford, and Derby.