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Eddic Poetry: A Gateway to Late Iron Age Ladies of Law
Anne Irene Riisoy

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 8 (2016): 157–171

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Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 157 Introduction The aim of this article is to show that the legal actions of mythological females within eddic poetry can lend some understanding to how “ladies of law”, real women of high social standing, participated in a legal sphere traditionally ascribed by scholars to men. As an introduction to this study, I will present one of the most famous stories in the Old Norse mythology, which concerns the death of the god Baldr. Baldr’s death is seen as the first in the chain of events that brought about the destruction of the gods at Ragnarǫkr, the end of the gods and the world. When Baldr dreamed that his life was in peril, the gods and goddesses became most worried, and gathered at the thing to discuss this omen (Baldr’s Dreams, stanza 1; Larrington 1996:243, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:277). Baldr’s mother Frigg made everyone and everything, except the seemingly insignificant mistletoe, swear oaths not to harm Baldr. Thereafter, as an entertainment, taking place at the thing, the Æsir were shooting arrows and throwing stones at the supposedly inviolable Baldr. The mischievous god Loki soon learned that the mistletoe had not sworn Frigg’s oath, and he consequently helped the blind Hod to shoot with mistletoe in the direction of Baldr, who fell dead to the ground (Faulkes 1987:48–49, Jónsson 1900:56–57). From a gender perspective, two points are worthy of note: firstly, goddesses attended the thing and deliberated important issues alongside the gods, and secondly, Frigg oversaw the swearing of oaths. Before these aspects are further explored, some comments on the sources I use and how I use them are in order. The majority of the eddic poems, often referred to as the Poetic Edda, are preserved in the manuscript Codex Regius to which an Icelandic scribe copied them down in the 1270s. The eddic poems are notoriously difficult to date. The majority were probably composed during the Viking Age, although linguistic features correlated with material remains indicate that some of the stories they tell may be even older (Fidjestøl 1999, Hedeager 2011:206, Kristjánsson 1997:27–28). Snorri’s Edda, a handbook for aspiring poets written by Snorri Sturluson around 1220, is also relevant. Snorri’s Edda contains excerpts from the eddic poems in addition to information otherwise unknown (Kristjánsson 1997:25–26). Other sources used, which can tie the legal world of the eddic poems to the real world, are the earliest laws of Iceland and Norway, skaldic poetry, and the family sagas (Íslendingasögur). These sources raise the same methodological problem as the eddic poems: since they are preserved in manuscripts of the 13th and 14th centuries, can they tell us anything about pre-Christian society? The Icelandic law Grágás originated before the submission of Iceland to the Norwegian crown in 1262–1264. Here, Peter Foote (1987) detected stray vocabulary and even whole sections that point to Viking Age usage. In addition, the oldest Norwegian laws, the Older Law of the Gulathing (referred to as G) and the Older Law of the Frostathing (referred to as F), which were applied to the southwest and northwest of Norway, respectively, are relevant because the leading families who colonized Iceland from ca. A.D. 870 were mostly descended from these areas. Based on a part-correlation between chronology and stylistic variation in the medieval Norwegian legal language, Rune Røsstad (1997:110–114) found that these laws contain Viking Age regulations. With a reasonable degree of confidence, the skaldic poems, which were composed by named poets in the honor of important individuals, are considered historically reliable. The oldest skaldic verses have a demonstrably archaic language (Myrvoll 2015), and because they were composed in a strict metrical form, they were remembered and preserved fairly accurately (Jesch 2001:15–36, Schulte 2008). Finally, the family sagas describe events that purportedly took place in the 10th and early 11th centuries, and as far as legal matters are concerned, they show some concordance with other early sources of law and legal practice (cf. Riisoy 2016 [this volume]). Eddic Poetry: A Gateway to Late Iron Age Ladies of Law Anne Irene Riisøy* Abstract - This article argues that eddic poetry, where females are described attending assemblies, swearing oaths, receiving compensation, and taking revenge, can provide some insight into the real “ladies of law” of pre-Christian Scandinavia. In Christian times, when “law” was seen to emanate from the male God, considerable changes were introduced. Debating the Thing in the North: The Assembly Project II Journal of the North Atlantic *University College of Southeast Norway, Faculty of Humanities, Sports, and Education, Drammen, Norway; Anne.Irene. Riisoy@hbv.no. 2016 Special Volume 8:157–171 Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 158 “ … Iceland, as in earlier continental societies …”? Very little research on the judicial participation of Old Norse women, whether they are mythological or real, has been undertaken. One reason is probably the underlying assumption that the legal domain belonged exclusively to men. In a study on The Jurisprudence of Agreements in Old Norse Mythology, Maria Kallestrup Laursen (2009:87–99, 102) pointed out that Frigg’s legal role in the story of Baldr’s death is unexpected, because the overseeing of oaths and assembly attendance in the real world belonged to the masculine and public domain, whereas women were in charge inside the threshold. Other scholars expressed similar views. For example, as Michael J. Enright (1996:42–43) stated in his study Lady with a Mead Cup: “In medieval Iceland, as in earlier continental societies, women could not represent themselves in court cases. Neither could they witness, prosecute directly, fight in a duel, or speak at thing assemblies” (cf. Byock 1986, 1988:134–135; Jochens 1995:113,163; Lindow 1997:49, Miller 1990:305). Once a hypothesis has taken hold, it is frequently repeated; in this case, however, I will argue that the legal capacities of women have been oversimplified and underplayed. Furthermore, I find that it is a methodological problem that generalizations covering long periods of time and huge geographical spans are based primarily on Icelandic sources. The first settlers of Iceland soon founded local assemblies modelled on those of their homelands, and they brought with them some concept of law and legal customs (Karlsson 2009, Ólafsson 1987, Riisøy 2014). However, over time certain eras of Icelandic society, and consequently Icelandic law, took a different direction than that of their homelands. Else Mundal (1994:591–596, 2001:242–243) pointed out that in order to get a more nuanced picture of Old Norse women’s position in public life, which included their legal capacities, it is very important to explore the earliest Norwegian laws. Here, women had a relatively strong position. Mundal found that the participation of Norwegian women in legal affairs was more a question of practicality than a matter of principle; for example, a widow could travel to the assembly where she had the same rights and duties as her deceased husband (G 131; Eithun et. al. 1994:102–103, Keyser and Munch 1846:55). If a married man was killed, it was his widow, and not his surviving male relatives, who were responsible of convening a thing at the site of the killing, and decide whether or not a sentence should be passed then and there (G 151; Eithun et. al. 1994:109–110, Keyser and Munch 1846:60). At the assembly where they took census, a woman who owned a farm was expected to be present, and she had to provide a good reason to send a man in her place (F VII 8; Keyser and Munch 1846:199–200). Mundal (2001) suggested that during Iceland’s turbulent period of colonization when women were fewer than men and weaker in public life, women’s status deteriorated. This trend was accelerated by the conversion around the year 1000, which may explain some of the gender discrepancies between Norwegian and Icelandic law. Single events may also have brought about a deterioration of women’s legal position in Iceland, which Eyrbyggja Saga (ch. 38) illustrates. When the chieftain Arnkel was killed ca. A.D. 1000, only one of the many men who attacked Arnkel was outlawed at the assembly. Arnkel’s heirs were all women and they were in charge of prosecuting the case. Arnkel’s daughters were blamed for the lenient punishment of the attackers because they had not prosecuted Arnkel’s killing “with as much energy as might have been expected for such a great man” (Hreinsson [vol. V] 1997:179). Therefore, the leading men of the land decided “that a woman or a young man under the age of sixteen could never prosecute a case of manslaughter, and this has been the law ever since” (Hreinsson [vol. V] 1997:179). Saga and law are in concord. Grágás provided similar information regarding the principal in a case of manslaughter: he should be a man’s son, sixteen winters old or older, freeborn, and a lawful heir (Dennis et. al. 1980:156). The situation in Iceland before these changes were introduced may have been similar to that of Norway, where women, in principle, were not excluded from prosecuting cases and attending assemblies. I will argue that in pre-Christian Scandinavia the traditional gender distinctions were not clear-cut. The eddic poems, which present females who possessed legal knowledge, attended assemblies, swore oaths, received compensations, or took revenge, reflect real women’s lives. The Norns—Who Set Down Laws Let us start with the norns, who ruled the destiny of gods and people, and who were also involved in lawmaking and judgment. According to the Seeress’s Prophecy, the three norns who “set down laws” (þær lǫg lǫgðo) that decided the “fates” (ørlǫg) of people, dwelled in Weird’s well. This well was situated beneath Yggdrasill, the world tree of Old Norse mythology (stanzas 19, 20; Larrington 1996:6, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:5). It should be noted that in the version of the Seeress’s Prophecy preserved in the Hauksbók manuscript from ca. 1300–1325, a version which is otherwise similar to the Codex Regius, Weird’s well is placed in the vicinity of a sal “hall” (Neckel and Kuhn 1983:5 footnote; see also Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 159 and Bek-Pedersen 2011:75, 93; Dronke 1997:74; Faulkes 1987:18). Thus, whether the norns dwelled in a well or a hall, both were situated in proximity to Yggdrasill. Here was also a dómstað, literally a “place of judgment” (Snorri’s Edda; Faulkes 1987:17–19, Jónsson 1900:20–23), which will be further discussed below. The original meaning of the word norn is uncertain, but because the norns pronounced verdicts, this can be connected to the Indo-European root (s)(neer) “murmuring, rumbling” and “turning, winding, drawing together” and the Swedish verb nyrna “secretly communicate” (Bek-Pedersen 2011:190–191). Weird (Urðr) must have been of more consequence than the other norns, as she is most frequently associated with fate and evidence of her is found over a larger part of the Germanic world (Green 1998:284). The term örlǫg is a compound word of which the last element “law” (lǫg) originally may have denoted a collection of fixed rules (Wessén 1965:10). The term lǫg is ancient, as evidenced by the term laguþewa, literally “Law guardian”, found in Scandinavian runic inscriptions older than the 6th century (Herschend 2001:358). Karen Bek-Pedersen argued that ørlǫg can mean ancient or primal (ør) law (lǫg), an interpretation that is clearly legalistic; moreover, whereas humans concern themselves with lǫg, the norns concern themselves with ørlǫg (Bek-Pedersen 2011:170–175). No clear functional distinctions can bee seen between the various groups of supernatural females who were concerned with legal tasks; the norn Skuld for example, was also a valkyrie (Snorri’s Edda; Faulkes 1987:31). Mythological females were also often in possession of legal knowledge, as indicated by the example of the valkyrie Sigrdrifa, who advised against contending with fools at the thing and never to trust the oath of the offspring of an outlaw (Lay of Sigrdrifa, stanzas 24,35; Larrington 1996:170–172; Neckel and Kuhn 1983:194, 196). Also, when the hero Ottar needs to gain knowledge of his ancestors in order to lay claim to his inheritance, he enlists the help of the goddess Freyia. Freyia, on her part, received the necessary information from the giantess Hyndla who recites a number of names from Ottar’s ancestry (Song of Hyndla; Larrington 1996:253–259, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:288–296). This topic will not be further discussed here, but instead developed in future research.1 The conversions of Iceland and Norway took place around A.D. 1000. Mundal (1990b:150) and Bek-Pedersen (2011:91–94) found that skaldic verses composed by contemporary Icelandic poets attest to the strong legal connections of the norns in heathen times, and furthermore, that Christ and God took on the role of the norns. For example, Eilífr Goðrúnarson situated Christ sunnar at Urðar brunni “south at Weird’s well”, and Hallfreðr vandráðaskáld composed a poem where the will of the Christian God replaced the skop norna “the decision of the nornir [Norns]” (Bek-Pedersen 2011:93–94; Jónsson 1912–1915:1B:144, 159 and 1A:152, 169; Mundal 1990b:154, 2013:16). Hallfreðr was one of the court poets of King Olaf Tryggvason (ruled 995–1000), and this stanza may therefore reflect the attitudes towards the norns in Norwegian royal circles during the conversion period (Mundal 2013:16). Because the norns controlled fate, they may have been more important than the gods and goddesses (Mundal 1990a:302–311). The coming of Christianity gave rise to a clash with the pagan pantheon and also with the pagan belief in fate because a belief in the immutable fate was demeaning to the merciful omnipotence of God (Green 1998:381). In Scandinavia, it must have been imperative to disentangle “law” and notions of fate or “primal law” from the pagan religion, and the early Church was particularly fond of the image of Christ in judgement (DuBois 1999:61–62). Hence, in the supernatural legal sphere, male replaced female as God, and Christ ousted the norns. Gendering the Thing In pre-Christian mythology, the thing was located in close proximity to the norns. As we have seen above, the norns dwelled close to a dómstað, a “place of judgment”. This locale was often the thing, and questions that concerned the well-being of the whole community were also discussed here (Riisøy 2013). Therefore, as specified in Table 1, when Baldr dreams that his life was in peril (no. 1) and a giant steals Thor’s hammer (no. 2), the gods and the goddesses came to the thing for deliberation. Thor’s hammer was important because it enabled Thor to strike at whatever he wanted, but in the hands of the giants, they might be strong enough to conquer Asgard, the home of the gods and goddesses. Table 1. Thing attendance: the parties involved, poem and stanzas referenced, and page numbers where found in Neckel and Kuhn 1983 (Old Norse) and Larrington 1996 (translation). No. Who attended the thing Poem, stanza Neckel and Kuhn Larrington 1. Gods and goddesses Baldr’s Dream, 1 277 243 2. Gods and goddesses Thrym’s Poem, 14, 18, 31 113–115 99–101 3. Thor and the gods Grimnir’s Sayings, 29, 30 63 56 Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 160 Grimnir’s Sayings (no. 3) notes that only Thor and the Æsir go to sit as judges at Yggdrasill. Why the goddesses were omitted in this case is hard to explain because, as shown in Table 1, they normally participated too. The goddess Skadi may even have owned or controlled assemblies because she is in possession of véom, often translated as “sanctuaries” (Loki’s Quarrel, stanza 51; Larrington 1996:93, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:106); Old Norse vé could also designate a thing (Brink 2002:106–108, Sundqvist 2002:104). The elusive goddess Syn functioned as a protector of the thing because she was specifically “appointed as a defence at assemblies against matters that she wishes to refute” (Faulkes 1987:30, Jónsson 1900:36). In the Germanic world, she was not alone. The earliest inscriptional evidence of a Germanic thing was made in the 3rd century near Hadrian’s Wall, probably by Frisian mercenaries. The inscription honored the god Mars Thincsus “Thincso”, who in parts of Scandinavia may be similar to Tyr, and the two goddesses, Beda and Fimmilena, protectors of the thing (Birley 1986:77, Brink 2007, Dumézil 1973: 43–44, Green 1998:34–35, Iversen 2013). In pre-Christian Scandinavia, the association of female powers with assemblies is nowhere more pronounced than at the most famous thing of them all, the dísaþing. This was held at Uppsala in central Sweden (Nordberg 2006:153–157). The dísir could refer to goddesses, but also to protective spirits or women, and etymologically dís may lead back to the Vedic goddess Dhisanã, associated with bounty and riches (Bammesberger 2007, Bek-Pedersen 2011:41–48, Gunnell 2000, Näsström 2003:102). A cult was demonstrably attached to the dísir, may included sacrifices held in their honor, and at Uppsala this sacrifice (dísablót) was probably held in conjunction with the dísaþing (Bek-Pedersen 2011:66, Gunnell 2000:130, Näsström 2003:102). This gathering seems to have been determined by the full moon (Näsström 2003:107, Nordberg 2006:156, Ström 1954:53), which agrees well with ancient Germanic practice (see further below). The Swedish Law of Uppland briefly alluded to this thing through terms such as dísaþing, disæþings friþær, “the protection and peace at the dísaþing”, and disæþings dagh, the “day of the dísaþing” (Schlyter 1834:309, 1877:119). That the dísir were still worshipped towards the end of the heathen era can be seen from the byname of the Icelandic poet Thorbiorn dísarskáld, who composed poems around the year 1000 (Faulkes 1987:73–74, 126, 255; Simek 1993:61). The dísaþing at Uppsala probably served as a template for other places of worship and law dedicated to the dísir, which place-names seem to indicate. One of the most frequently cited is Disevid in Östergötland in Sweden (Sundqvist and Vikstrand 2014, who also note other examples). The dísir may even have had a comparable role among the heathen Saxons, and John Henry Clay (2010:318) suggested that Desenberg, in A.D. 1070 referred to as Tesenberg in the chronicle by Lampert of Hersfeld, was a meeting place associated with this class of supernatural females (Holder-Egger 1894:115). Whereas the dísaþing and the dísablót belonged to the dísir, in plural, (Mundal 1990a:312) a handful of sources mention a “hall of the dís” (singular) and this dísarsalur may have belonged to Freyia (Gunnell 2000:135, Näsström 2003:109, Ström 1954:52, Sundqvist 2002:230).2 Freyia, with the byname Vanadís, was probably the ultimate dís (Snorri’s Edda; Faulkes 1987:30), and in the eddic poems, several notable females bear the epithet dís.3 Freyia’s name was also a title meaning “Lady”, as in “female ruler”, and as the Saga of the Ynglings in Heimskringla, written by Snorri Sturlusson, noted: “all women of rank came to be called by her name”, including “everyone who is a mistress over her property” and “one who owns an estate” (ch. 10; Hollander 1964:14, cf. Green 1965:19–55 for a discussion of Freyia and Freyr as designations for rulers). In the Saga of the Ynglings, Freyia also appears as a blótgyðja, which in this context probably means she was acting as a “priestess at the sacrifices” (ch. 4; Hollander 1964:8, Näsström 2003:66). The term blót means sacrifice, and in pre-Christian Scandinavia, sacrifices often took place within a legal context, for example at the thing or an oath swearing (Riisøy 2013, 2016 [this volume]). Therefore, a blótgyðja, both in myth and real life, may have been involved in legal tasks. In pre-Christian Scandinavia, a gyðja, the female equivalent of a goði, was in possession of an office that may have included leadership in regards to religious, political, and legal affairs (Sigurðsson 2011; Sundqvist 2007, 2011). Of interest in this context is also the name Odindisa, which appears in an 11th-century runic inscription from Hassmyra in Västmanland, Sweden. The inscription is a praise poem honoring Odindisa, who probably had a leading public position, both secular and sacred, and who remained faithful to Odin during the conversion period (Gräslund 1999; Sundqvist 2002:79, 2014: 100). In addition to sharing the appellative dís with Freyia, Odindisa was also called hifreya, meaning she was in charge of the household (see hús-freyia in La Farge and Tucker 1992:125 and Fritzner [vol. III] 1973:141), and she may have ruled the larger settlement district, the modern Swedish “bygd” (Jesch 2011; Sundqvist 2002:79, 2007:59).4 In the mythological world, goddesses attended assemblies alongside gods, and this situation is mirrored in the real world. Mundal (1994, 2001) has Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 161 shown that Norwegian women in particular took an active part, and in The Role of Women at the Thing, Alexandra Sanmark (2014) concluded that active assembly participation in the Old Norse world also included women. The sources describe assembly attendance in gender-neutral terminology, for example early Norwegian law used maðr, which means “person” (cf. Venås 1989) and in Orkney, the Isle of Man, and at Birka (Sweden), there were assemblies of the “people” (Sanmark 2014). All the Powers Went to the Rǫkstóla When discussing assemblies in a gender context, the rare term regin and the unique term rǫkstóla (singular rǫkstóll) need to be addressed. In the Seeress’s Prophecy, these two terms appear together in four stanzas (6, 9, 23, 25), all beginning with identical phrasing (Larrington 1996:4, 5, 7; Neckel and Kuhn 1983:2, 6): Þá gengo regin ǫll / á rǫkstóla, ginnheilog goð, / ok um þat gættuz, Then all the Powers went to the thrones of fate, the sacrosanct gods, and considered this: The term regin is neuter plural, and hence comprises the gods and the goddesses. In Old Norse terminology, regin means divine or supernatural sovereignty (Dronke 1997:117, La Farge and Tucker 1992:213). The regin are involved in legal activities, and in the Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani the reginþing designates the great or central thing (La Farge and Tucker 1992:213, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:138). David H. Green (1998:14) stressed the collective aspect of the term regin, as it “denoted a legislative body or an assembly of those wielding power”. As Green and others have pointed out, regin formed part of an early medieval Germanic legal vocabulary. For example, in early Frankish law, a rachimburgi, a compound term where the first element corresponds to regin and the second element burgi or “guarantor”, was “someone assuming responsibility for the proceedings and the decisions of the legal assembly” (see comment on the occurrence of rachimburgi in the early 6th-century Pactus Legis Salicae and the 7th-century Lex Ribvaria by David H. Green in Wood 1998:227). In addition, regin corresponds to Old Gothic ragin “decision reached by a council” or “judgement”, raginon “to be a governor”, and Old Saxon reganioskapu “divine decision, decree of fate” (Dronke 1997:117, Green 1998:13–14, Martin 1972:2). When the regin went to their rǫkstóla in the Seeress’s Prophecy, they were involved in issues or cases that directly or indirectly can be classified as “legal”. Before I further explore the meaning of rǫkstóla, I will briefly look into this legal context. In stanza 6, the regin deliberate the division of time: nótt oc niðiom / nǫfn um gáfo, morgin héto / oc miðian dag, undorn oc aptan, / árom at telia to night and her children they gave names, morning they named and midday, afternoon and evening, to reckon up the years Stanza 6 should be seen as a continuation of the previous stanza 5 where the sun is the “companion of the moon” (sinni mána) still did not know her place in cosmos, literally hvar hon sali átti “where her hall might be”, and the moon still did not know hvat hann megins átti “what power he had” (Larrington 1996:4, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:2). In stanza 6, the regin start to sort out this confusion in order for people to reckon time. Andreas Nordberg pointed out that in pre-Christian times the calendar system was based on a combination of the sun and the moon’s movements in the sky, and the moon’s nickname ártali, “the one who tells us the years”, reflects this system (Vafthrudnir’s Sayings, stanza 23, All-wise’s Sayings, stanza 14; La Farge and Tucker 1992:10–11; Larrington 1996:43, 111; Neckel and Kuhn 1983:48, 126; Nordberg 2006:66–67). In this calendar consisting of twelve lunar months in a year, the calculation was probably based on the phases of the moon, from one new moon to the next, which is reflected in the set expression ný oc nið “waxing and waning moon” (e.g., in Vafthrudnir’s Sayings, stanza 25; La Farge and Tucker 1992:196, Larrington 1996:44, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:49, Nordberg 2006:66–70).5 The gathering of people for festivals, markets, and assemblies was inseparably connected to the reckoning of time (Nordberg 2006:67–68). As early as the first century AD, the Roman politician and historian Tacitus noted that the Germans convened assemblies at fixed dates in addition to ad hoc meetings. The fixed assemblies were held when the moon was either new or full, because they regarded this as the most advantageous time to begin business (Germania 11.1; Rives 2002:81). Green made an interesting connection between the German term for assembly, thing, and Gothic Þeihs, meaning not just “time” but “a time appointed for a particular purpose”. This relationship implies that the Germanic thing recurred at an appointed time, which agrees well with Tacitus’s observation (Green 1998:35). In the mythological world, the reckoning of time was under the control of the regin when they went to their rǫkstóla and acted together as a unit with legal power. A parallel is implied in the real world too. In Iceland, for example, the determination of time and dates was part of the responsibility of the Althing, and the Lawspeaker Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 162 given Freyia as his wife in return. When Freyia refuses, the issue moves into the legal sphere when all the gods and goddesses came to the thing to discuss how to retrieve the hammer (Thrym’s Poem, stanzas 14–31; Larrington 1996:99–101, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:113–115). When the regin experienced a crisis, it was imperative to meet for deliberation and try to find a solution. In the stanzas discussed above, the powers went to their rǫkstóla, which is translated as “thrones of fate” by Caroline Larrington (cf. above and Dronke 1997:8). In the most recent discussion of rǫkstóla, Løkka (2013:23) pointed out that “it is generally agreed that it means the assembly (site)”. However, as the following exposition will show, this interpretation is far from unanimous, although rǫkstóla does seem to have a more explicit legal meaning than “thrones of fate”. The term rǫkstóla (singular rǫkstóll) was a noun, where the element stóll means chair, chiefly as a seat of honor, but also a throne (La Farge and Tucker 1992:249). The term rǫk means fate or destiny (La Farge and Tucker 1992:219) but can also denote authority Dronke (1997:37). Therefore, a rǫkstóll was a chair, to which a person had access to on account of their authority (Fritzner [vol. III] 1973:152). In the Seeress’s Prophecy, the term rǫkstóla is in plural, suggesting that the gods and goddesses all had their own chairs. Several translations encompass the stóla “chairs”, for example thing-seats or “advisorychairs” (modern Norwegian tingseter in Steinsland and Sørensen 1999:10, 11, 16, 17; and råd-stoler Holm-Olsen 1993:17–18, 20), “assembly-seats” (Bellows 1936:5–11), “judgment-seats” (Thorpe 1906:2–5), and chairs of judgement or council seats (La Farge and Tucker 1992:219). A parallel to the differing translations of the rǫkstóll is found in the sphere of the Anglo-Saxons. A literal translation of frumstol, for example, is “first seat”; however, frumstol may also often refer to the “principal dwelling”, i.e., the hall, and even designate a more abstract idea of authority, connected with the person who was entitled to a frumstol (Pollington 2010:85). Here, there is a parallel to Lee M. Hollander’s (1986:3) translation of rǫkstóla, which designated neither a seat nor a place, but a conversation where the gods collectively participated: “Then gathered together / the gods for counsel, / the holy hosts, / and held converse”. The rǫkstóla is, however, most often translated as something to sit on, and in the real world some participants at assemblies, for example, were elevated and singled out because they were allowed to sit. The act of sitting down suggests rest and order, and it marked the occasion as solemn (Bauschatz 1978). Heimskringla tells about a thing held at Uppsala in proclaimed the reckoning of the seasons (calendar) for the coming year at the close of the thing (Davidson 1994:38, Jóhannesson 1969:38–40). Next, in stanza 9, the regin meet to discuss the creation of the dwarves. As noted by Løkka (2010:194–195), the mythological motive in this passage is unclear, but the dwarves may have been created so that they could mine gold for the gods and goddesses. With a legal focus in mind, it is important to point out that the dwarves also forged Draupnir, Odin’s golden ring, which had the ability to multiply itself: Every ninth night, eight new rings “drip” from Draupnir, each one the same size and weight as the original (Snorri’s Edda; Faulkes 1987:96–97). As Christoph Kilger convincingly argued, the mythological ring Draupnir was a prototype for rings, because it symbolized standards and value, and thus represented the principle underlying the weighing of precious metals (Kilger 2008:253–325). In addition, the ring (baugr) was the most sought after object for legal compensation, and oaths were sworn upon a ring (see Riisøy 2016 [this volume]). Therefore, when golden rings were brought into the legal process, justice was divinely sanctioned, and, in the mythological world, the creation of the prototype Draupnir presupposed the creation of the dwarves. In stanza 23, the regin discuss whether tribute should be rendered in particular circumstances. hvárt scyldo æsir / afráð gialda eða scyldo goðin ǫll /gildi eiga whether the Æsir should yield the tribute or whether all the gods should partake in the sacrifices The term afráð means payment, tribute, or heavy penalty, gialda means to repay, requite, and perhaps in this stanza “to pay compensation”, and gildi “compensation” (La Farge and Tucker 1992:4, 84, 85). A more literal translation of this stanza indicate that the regin meet to discuss whether they should pay compensation. This discussion may be interpreted in the context of a preceding stanza (21, which refer to the killing of the woman Gullveig; Løkka 2010:195). This interpretation makes sense, because questions relating to compensation normally followed in the wake of killings (cf. Riisøy 2016 [this volume]). Finally, in stanza 25, the regin try to find out who had promised Freyia to the giants (see comment by Larrington 1996:265). Nanna Løkka (2010:195) pointed out that this episode concerns deceit and disloyalty, although who the deceiver was is not revealed. Also, another eddic story reveals that the giants found Freyia desirable. In this case, a giant steals Thor’s hammer Miollnir and demands to be Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 163 enigmatic term rǫkstóla is exclusively associated with the regin. Here then, we may have an example of the difference between the “language of gods and language of men” (Watkins 1970), though in the Old Norse mythology, “Gods” frequently encompassed the goddesses too. Legal Procedure Legal procedures are methods by which legal rights are enforced. They were the forms, manners, and orders of steps that were applied in order to solve disputes and settle cases. In the eddic poems, episodes describing the swearing of oaths are prominent (cf. Riisøy 2016 [this volume]). When Frigg made everyone swear not to kill her son Baldr, Laursen (2009:87–99, 102) argued that she operated within an essentially feminine and internal sphere, meaning she was in the main acting as a mother trying to protect her son. I disagree with this assessment. In my opinion, Frigg is acting in an external sphere precisely because she was reaching out and extracting oaths from everyone. Also, the goddess Var had an important procedural role when oaths were sworn. Var was in charge of matrimonial oaths because she listens to the oaths that men and women made between each other. In this context, Thor may have been equally important because Thor’s hammer Miollnir is used to sanctify the bride (Thrym’s Poem, stanza 30; Larrington 1996:101, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:115; cf. Snorri’s Edda; Faulkes 1987:30).7 The mythological motive in which Miollnir was used for sanctifying marriages is otherwise unknown. As Table 2 shows, in the six out of seven episodes that describe the swearing of oaths, male mythological characters swore oaths (numbers 1–6); most frequently this was a male to male activity (nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5), but men also swore oaths to a women (no. 6) and Gudrun (no. 7) swore an oath to Atli. Oaths were often taken on various objects, e.g., on weapons, rings, and stones (cf. Riisøy 2016 [this volume]). In the eddic poems, a version of oath swearing occurs that has been characterized as a “poetic curse” (see more in Thorvaldsen 2010, 2011). In two elaborate and colorful speeches, uttered by women, previous oaths were turned against the oath-breakers, and in this process both Gudrun and Sigrun invoked weapons (Second Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani, stanza 32, Lay of Atli, stanza 30; Larrington 1996:138, 214; Neckel and Kuhn 1983:157, 245). No written sources evidence that women swore oaths on rings; however, rings found in female graves from the Iron Age may have served this purpose (Lund Hansen 2001:157–188). The famous Pietroassa gold ring may have been comparable the early 11th century. Here, the three most important personages at the thing were sitting, King Óláf “sat on his throne” (sat … á stóli), and likewise, on the other side of the assembly Earl Rongvald and Thorgný the lawman were also sitting down. However, whereas the closest followers of the king, earl and lawman were also seated, the vast majority of the people assembled at the thing were standing, such that “all around in a circle stood the multitude of farmers” (Óláfs saga Helga, ch. 80; Hollander 1964:318–321). Although a literal translation of rǫkstóla is something to sit on, taking an interpretive leap, it may be possible to infer that it points to a more abstract idea of legal authority (cf. Hollander), or that it means either the thing (cf. Løkka and others), or even a hall with similar judicial functions: “The high gods gathered in council / In their hall of judgement / all the rulers” (Auden and Taylor 1969). The mythology certainly alludes to the hall as a place where judicial activities took place. The god Forseti, whose name means, “chairman of the thing” (Simek 1993:89), administers justice in his hall Glitnir, where he svæfir allar sakir “puts to sleep all quarrels” (Grimnir’s Sayings, stanza 15; Larrington 1996:54, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:60). A translation of sakir as “legal cases” is perfectly possible (Storm and Hertzberg 1895:631–632) and also more germane to the legal sphere. Furthermore, in the real world, judicial activities may have taken place indoors, either in a separate building (hof), where the sacred oath-ring was kept (cf. Riisøy 2016 [this volume]), or in the hall, which is often described as a multi-functional building for politics, religion, and law (Brink 1996, Herschend 1998, Sundqvist 2011:167–172). Snorri’s Edda includes an episode that took place in a hall in Asgard, where the gods and goddesses who were dómendr “judges” took their places in their high seats, hásæti (Faulkes 1987:59, Jónsson 1900:68). Laws and sagas describe the high seat as a place of the utmost sanctity from where authority was exercised and it was clearly also what I would call “a seat of law”, because it was a place from where inheritance was claimed, legal cases summoned, and judgement rendered, and women evidently belonged in the high seat too (Birkeli 1932:44–46, Brink 1996:246–247, Carlsson 1935:76, Rosengren 2007–2008:20–21, Taranger 1913:161–162).6 In the mythological world, the gods and the goddesses (regin) went to their rǫkstóla to deliberate important questions and solve cases. The rǫkstóla were probably “special” seats either at the thing, or in the hall. On such occasions, the act of sitting down elevated the participants and raised the cases that were up for discussion above ordinary affairs. The Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 164 to oath-rings described in the later Old Norse sources (Johnsen 1969, 1972; MacLeod and Mees 2006:173–174; Magoun 1949).8 The Pietroassa ring was probably part of a Gothic temple-treasure (Rodica 2004:71–77) buried in southern Romania sometime in the first half of the 5th century A.D. Linguistic evidence and the archaeological record imply that the Goths migrated from the southern parts of Scandinavia (Kaliff 2001, Strid 2010). The Pietroassa ring bears a runic inscription in the older futhark, which reads Gutanio wíh hailag “Gutanio, sacred, holy” (MacLeod and Mees 2006:173–174, Mees 2002–2003).9 Ingrid Sannes Johnsen (1972) suggested that the inscription should read “the holy [altar] ring of Gothic priestesses, goddesses, or women”. This implies that females were in possession of this ring, and Johnsen has received support for this interpretation (Grønvik 2000:58, MacLeod and Mees 2006:173–174, Mees 2002–2003). Gudrun (no. 7) swore oaths “by the sacred white stone”, and when Sigrun turned Dag’s previous oath (no. 2) into a curse, she invoked the stone of Unn in the process (cf. Riisøy 2016 [this volume]). The “sacred white stones” designated certain phallic stones, which are above all found in southwest Norway. The stones were not unequivocal symbols of male potency because some stones have oval hollows or cup-marks, which may refer to the vulva, representing the female sex (Solberg 1999:104). They are often found in or on graves and burial mounds and close to farms with sacred names, or in the vicinity of medieval churches. In a legal context, it is worthy of note that many of the churches were erected by the ancient thing for the district (Brink 2003:62, Carlie 1999:48, Hedeager 2011:113, Solberg 1999:99–106). One place with a “sacred white stone” is Hauge and Tu in Klepp, in Jæren in southwest Norway. Rich archaeological finds imply that this was a center for judicial, military, and cultic affairs from the Roman Iron Age and through the Late Iron Age (Sundqvist 2014). In addition, a court-yard site (assembly) is also found here. These sites are a typical Norwegian phenomenon, dating to the period A.D. 200–900 (Iversen 2015 [this volume], Olsen 2015). During the Middle Ages, a thing continued to be held at Hauge and Tu. Olof Sundqvist (2014) argued that the aristocratic females buried in the mounds here played an important part in the public cults such as ceremonial feasts and the making of divination rituals. I would like to add judicial activities to this picture, because, as the mythology shows, the white phallic stone may have been connected to female oath-swearing. As shown in Table 3, eddic personae also made pledges. According to Enright, in the Germanic world, women, both real and in myth, were frequently the subjects of pledges made over drink, e.g., Hedin (no. 3), who had chosen a bride with the pledging-cup (Enright 1996:81). The gender roles are not clear-cut, because as specified in Table 3, irrespective of gender, everyone vowed to marry someone they found attractive. Vows were not to be taken lightly, and Brynhild exclaimed that she would later be sorry for her vow to marry Sigurd, because she was already married to Gunnar (no. 1). Hedin too, regretted his words after he pledged to have his brother’s betrothed, Svava (no. 3). Stefán Einarsson (1968), who studied pledges in Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse society, pointed out that it was not unusual that people regretted their vows, but it was shameful not to stand by them. Trial by ordeal, a procedure whereby guilt or innocence of the accused was decided by subjecting them to a test is also evidenced in the eddic poems. Such is the ordeal of the cauldron (Third Lay of Gudrun, stanzas 6–11; Larrington 1996:204, Neckel and Kuhn 1983:233). When Atli’s serving-maid and former mistress Herika accused Gudrun of adultery, both women had to reach down to the bottom of a cauldron to pick up hot stones. Gudrun’s hands were fine, and hence she was acquitted of the charge. Herika’s hands were scalded, and consequently she was drowned in a bog (see below). The underlying idea of this ordeal is that the innocent would not be burnt (Bartlett 1986:2). On the Continent during the Early Middle Ages, ordeals were held in Christian as well as non-Christian contexts, and the Church was probably forced to adapt itself to this procedure Table 2. Swearing oaths: the parties involved, poems and stanzas referenced, and page numbers where found in Neckel and Kuhn 1983 (Old Norse) and Larrington 1996 (translation). Neckel and No. Oath-swearer Poem, stanza Kuhn Larrington 1. Odin: ring-oath Sayings of the High One, 110 34 29 2. King Nadud swore to Volund on weapons and a ship Lay of Volund, 33 122 107 3. Hogni’s son swore to the Volsungs A Second Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani, prologue 154 136 4. Sigurd: swore to a lady, Hogni and to Gunnar Gripir’s Prophecy 46; Fragment of a Poem 171, 198, 149, 174, about Sigurd 2; A Short Poem about Sigurd, 28 211 186 5. Sigurd accepted oaths from brothers A Short Poem about Sigurd, 1 207 182 6. Men violated oaths to Brynhild Brynhild’s Ride to Hell, 5 220 193 7. Gudrun swore to Atli, on a sacred white stone Third Lay of Gudrun, 3 232 203 Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 165 “ring”, which reflects the idea that the ring was the most sought after and honorable item of compensation, and rygr, which means woman and also húsfreya (Fritzner [vol. III] 1973:141). In some situations, compensation would simply not do, and the family took upon itself to ensure that revenge was carried out. Traditionally it has been considered a female task to set in motion revenge through goading (Mundal 1999, 2001), however as Table 5 shows, men also goaded. Often the offended party considered revenge more honorable than compensation, and the “ethics of revenge” is expressed by Regin who goaded Sigurd to kill Fafnir (no. 2): Hátt muno hlæia / Hundings synir, þeir er Eylima / aldrs synioðo, ef meirr tiggia / munar at sækia hringa rauða / enn hefnd fǫður Loudly would the sons of Hunding laugh, they who snatched the life of Eylimi, if the prince had a greater lust to gain red gold than to avenge his father. Similarly, law rooted in pre-Christian society presupposed revenge, and it should be stressed that this expectation was irrespective of gender. The Older Law of the Gulathing states that a person (maðr), whether a man (karl) or woman (kona), had the right to compensation only three times—unless the wrong had been avenged in the meantime (G 186; Eithun et. al. 1994:120, Keyser and Munch 1846:68). In the eddic poems, not only men but also women sought revenge, and as seen in Table 6, Gudrun, above all, stands out (for an overview of Gundrun’s genealogies, see Larrington [1996:xxxiii]). during the Christianization of the Germanic peoples (Nilsson 2001:505). The eddic examples are too few to discern any clear gender divisions regarding involvement in legal procedures; both males and female swore oaths, received oaths, and made pledges. The only eddic example of the ordeal of the cauldron involved women, but it is impossible to draw firm conclusions from one example only. Also, women in the real world, in Norway in particular, were in various ways involved in legal procedure, and examples from laws, sagas, and diplomas from the Viking age to the Middle Ages evidence that they raised cases and gave testimonies (Mundal 1994). From Wrongs to Revenge Compensation was often offered or paid in cases of killings, and as shown in Table 4, compensation normally consisted of a ring (baugr or hringr), but also swords, horses, and unspecified “riches” (auðr) were considered suitable. As specified in Table 4, it was mostly men who offered or paid compensation; the only exception is Queen Grimhild who offered her daughter Gudrun “red rings” (hringa rauða) for the dead prince. Also, in the real world, a woman was entitled by law to receive and pay compensation in rings. Such a person was a so-called “Ring lady” (baugrýgr), whose rights are described in the earliest laws of Norway and Iceland (G 275, F VI 4; Keyser and Munch 1846:275, 184–185; cf. Grágás 113; Dennis et. al. 1980:181; cf. Klos 2007). A baugrýgr was an unmarried woman who had inherited her position as head of the family, with all associated duties, privileges, and rights. Baugrýgr is a compound of baugr Table 4. Offering and paying compensation: the parties involved, item offered, poem and stanzas referenced, and page numbers where found in Neckel and Kuhn 1983 (Old Norse) and Larrington 1996 (translation). Neckel and No. Who offered or paid Receiver Compensation item Poem, stanza Kuhn Larrington 1. Harbard Thor Ring Harbard’s Song, 42 85 75 2. Bragi Loki Sword, horse, ring Loki’s Quarrel, 12 98–99 87 3. Dag Sigrun Rings, farms Second Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani, 35 158 138 4. “the son of Sigmund” Brynhild Rings A Short Poem about Sigurd, 38 213 187 5. Gunnar and Hogni Gudrun Gold Second Lay of Gudrun, 18 227 198 6. Grimhild Gudrun Rings Second Lay of Gudrun, 25 228 199 7. Sigmund’s son The sons of Riches and rings First Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani, 11 131 116 Hunding (demanded) Table 3. Pledges: the parties involved, pledges made, poems and stanzas referenced, and page numbers where found in Neckel and Kuhn 1983 (Old Norse) and Larrington 1996 (translation). Neckel and No. Who made pledge Pledged to marry Poem, stanza Kuhn Larrington 1. Brynhild Sigurd A Short Poem about Sigurd, 6, 7 208 183 2. Sigrdrifa A man who showed no fear Lay of Sigrdrifa, prologue 190 167 3. Hedin Svava Poem of Helgi Hiorvardsson, prologue ,32, 33 147 129 4. Hiorvard Most beautiful of all women Poem of Helgi Hiorvardsson, prologue 140 123 Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 166 Atli killed her brothers, Gunnar and Hogni, Gudrun retaliated (no. 6). First she killed the sons she had with Atli, then she killed Atli, and she finished off by burning down the hall. The eddic poems also mention hangings, which are listed in Table 7. Both trees (tré or vargtré, nos. 1 and 3) and the gallows (gàlga, nos. 2 and 4), an erected instrument, were used. Hanging was an old Germanic punishment, used against thieves in particular (Gade 1985, Ström 1942:115–161), and as Table 7 shows, this punishment was predominantly used for males in the eddic poems. This distinction may be connected to gendered notions about the body, because the male body and male shame was on public display through hanging, whereas it was important to shield the female body (Ekholst 2009:274–275). Concluding Remarks As I have argued here, when Frigg attended the thing and made everyone swear not to harm Baldr, she is not exceptional. Many eddic females, either acting as a group or as individuals, were in various ways involved in the legal sphere. The norns operated as a collective of females who procured primal law, and because they controlled Gudrun incited her sons Hamdir and Sorli to kill Iormunrekk because he had caused the death of Svanhild, Gudrun’s daughter from her first marriage to Sigurd. Iormunrekk, Svanhild’s husband, had let Svanhild be trampled with horses (no. 7). At the time when Gudrun was married to Atli, Herika, one of Atli’s serving-maids, accused Gudrun of adultery. When Herika failed the ordeal, and consequently drowned in a bog, Gudrun felt she had “avenged her wrong” (no. 5). Tacitus (Germania 12.1; Rives 2002:82) noted that the Germans used drowning in a bog as one form of punishment (Ström 1986:231). Many bog-bodies, with a chronological concentration in the Early Iron Age, have been found in northwestern Europe where they have been preserved in wet, oxygen-starved environments (Glob 1965:84, Randsborg 2015:1–22). The bog-bodies have been variously explained as sacrifices, criminals who were punished, outcasts, sorcerers, or legal hostages that were killed in anger over broken treaty arrangements (Randsborg 2015:8). There appears to be no “one-fits-all” explanation, but what is important here is to point out that some bog-bodies may reflect punishments. Folke Ström (1942:178–188) found support for this theory in Old Norse and earlier continental Germanic sources. Gudrun was involved in yet another revenge-episode when her husband Table 6. Revenge: the parties involved, poem and stanzas referenced, and page numbers where found in Neckel and Kuhn 1983 (Old Norse) and Larrington 1996 (translation). No. Executes or plans revenge Poem, stanza Neckel and Kuhn Larrington 1. Vidar, avenges his father Odin Seeress’s Prophecy, 54 13 11 2. Ægir plans revenge on the gods Hymir’s Poem, 3 88 78 3. Volund: rape, killing Lay of Volund, 24–28 121 106 4. Vali: born to avenge Baldr’s death Baldr’s Dreams,10–11, Song of Hyndla, 29 278, 293 244, 257 5. Gudrun, over Herika The Third Lay of Gudrun, 11 233 204 6. Gudrun, over Atli The Lay of Atli 240–247 210–216 7. Gudrun, over Iormunrekk The Lay of Hamdir 269–274 238–242 Table 5. Goading: the parties involved, poem and stanzas referenced, and page numbers where found in Neckel and Kuhn 1983 (Old Norse) and Larrington 1996 (translation). No. Inciter Who was goaded Poem, stanza Neckel and Kuhn Larrington 1. Harbard Princes Harbard’s Song, 24 82 73 2. Regin Sigurd The Lay of Regin, prologue, 15 177 154 3. Brynhild Gunnar A Short Poem about Sigurd, 10 208 183 4. Gunnar and Hogni Their brother A Short Poem about Sigurd, 20, 21 210 185 5. Gudrun Her sons The Lay of Hamdir, 2; The Whetting of Gudrun, 1–3 269, 264 238, 234–235 Table 7. Hangings: the parties involved, poem and stanzas referenced, and page numbers where found in Neckel and Kuhn 1983 (Old Norse) and Larrington 1996 (translation). No. Who Poem, stanza Neckel and Kuhn Larrington 1. Unspecified corpse Sayings of the High One, 157 43 37 2. Threaten men with hanging Greenlandic poem of Atli, 22, 39 251, 253 221, 223 3. Man The Lay of Hamdir, 17 271 240 4. Wishes men hanged The Lay of Hamdir, 21 272 241 Journal of the North Atlantic A.I. Riisøy 2016 Special Volume 8 167 fate, they may have been more powerful than the gods and goddesses. Also, the dísir, attached to the blót and thing held at Uppsala, and other places emulating Uppsala in name and function, must have been important. In heathen mythology, the thing was located in close proximity to the norns, and normally the gods and the goddesses came together to the thing for deliberation. In addition, the goddesses went to the rǫkstóla, whether these were judgement seats, the thing, or the hall, and participated alongside the gods. Snorri’s Edda observes that “no less holy are the Asyniur, nor is their power less” (Faulkes 1987:21), and this comment is probably spot on. Mythological females also took an active part in various forms of legal procedures; they took oaths, received oaths, and made pledges. In the world of the eddic poems, killings and other kinds of wrongdoings frequently took place. Compensation, or the more honorable alternative of revenge, settled various wrongs. In cases where compensation was offered and received, more males than females were involved, but it is important to stress that females were not excluded. Revenge was often set in motion through goading, and although goading has traditionally been seen as a female activity, mythological men also acted as inciters. A comparison with other sources, e.g., the earliest Nordic laws, show that the world of heathen myth was enacted on earth since women attended assemblies, were involved in legal procedure, and were obliged to pay and receive compensation. Women from the upper echelons of Late Iron Age society had various important functions that clearly also extended into the public sphere, and as I have argued here, functions relating to law were not exclusively reserved for men, neither in the mythological nor real worlds. 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Boydell Press, Woodbridge, UK. 481 pp. Endnotes 1Legal Knowledge in Eddic Poetry. What was it, who possessed it, and whom had access to it? presented at the 3rd International St Magnus Conference, Visualising the North, held in the Orkney Islands 14–16 April 2016. This paper will be published at a later date. 2King Athils was at a sacrifice to the Dísir, but when he rode a horse around the hall of the goddess, the horse stumbled and fell, and the king was thrown forward and broke his skull (Saga of Ynglings, ch. 29; Hollander 1964:33–34). This story may reflect an ancient authentic ceremony, and King Athils may have ruled ca. A.D. 575 (Sundqvist 2002:229). Another reference to the dísarsalr “the hall of the Dís” include the Saga of King Heidrek the Wise (Tolkien 1960:7). See also Gunnell (2000) and Näsström (2003:109). 3Sigrun and Brynhild are called dís scioldunga (The Second Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani, stanza 51, Fragment of a Poem about Sigurd, stanza 14; Neckel and Kuhn 1983:161, 200), meaning they were members of the Scyldings, the legendary family from Lejre on the island of Zealand, Denmark (Niles 2007). A parallel is probably Queen Waltheow in the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf (composed A.D. 650–850; Chickering 2006:247–248), who is called ides Helminga and ides Scyldinga (Beowulf, 620, 1165; Chickering 2006:84,116). Women with the byname dís belonged to the uppermost echelons in society, and they may have had cultic functions (Sundqvist 2007:61–62). A female with a dís-name that was also a gyðia is Hlédís, who is listed among Ottar’s ancestors (Song of Hyndla, stanza 13; Neckel and Kuhn 1983:290). 4A transcript of this runic inscription, including translations into English and Swedish are found in Sundqvist (2002:79) and Sundqvist (2007:59). Among Odindisa’s accomplishments, the inscription says that she byi raðr. This expression indicates that she had an important role on the farm and beyond. The verb ráða covers a wide range of types of authority, it may be translated as “to advise, counsel, rule, deal with, take care of, interpret” and by could also be a very broad term, denoting anything from a farm to a larger settlement district (Jesch 2011, Sundqvist 2002:79). 5The expression “waxing and waning moon” is also found in sagas and in the most archaic passages in the provincial laws (Nordberg 2006:68–70), e.g., in a paragraph concerning the buying and selling of slaves (G 57; Keyser and Munch 1846:29) and in a regulation of a similar case in the þiuuæ bollkær (“Section on Theft”) in the Older Law of Västergötland (chapter 19; Schlyter 1827:60). 6High seats are evidenced archaeologically, and Brink (1996:246–247) mentions as an example Högom in Medelpad in Sweden, an Iron Age chieftain’s hall where an elevated base in the middle of the building may have been a high seat. For more examples, see Rosengren (2007–2008). 7The function of Var may still linger. In Swedish vårdtecken, which used to be spelled vahrtekn “a token of Var”, appears in the marriage service in the Swedish Lutheran Church: Som ett vårdtecken giver jag dig denna ring “as a token I give thee this ring” (Näsström 2003:82). 8The items were deliberately chosen, and deposited in pairs, for example two neck-rings of gold and two jugs, and they have therefore been interpreted as a temple-treasure. Around A.D 400, the Goths inhabited the area where the Pietroassa ring was found (Rodica 2004:71–77). 9The Pietroassa ring was stolen and vandalized by a thief in 1875, and the thief’s blade cut through the ring. A photograph taken of the ring was published by the London Arundel Society in 1869, and Mees (2002–2003) made used this picture in his study.