Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 24

“Upsal’s temple, where the North

Saw Valhal’s halls fair imag’d here on earth.”

Viking Tales of the North (R. B. Anderson). [41]

The first toast at every festival here was drunk in his honour, and, besides the first of May, one day in every week was held sacred to him, and, from his Saxon name, Woden, was called Woden’s day, whence the English word “Wednesday” has been derived. It was customary for the people to assemble at his shrine on festive occasions, to hear the songs of the scalds, who were rewarded for their minstrelsy by the gift of golden bracelets or armlets, which curled up at the ends and were called “Odin’s serpents.”

There are but few remains of ancient Northern art now extant, and although rude statues of Odin were once quite common they have all disappeared, as they were made of wood—a perishable substance, which in the hands of the missionaries, and especially of Olaf the Saint, the Northern iconoclast, was soon reduced to ashes.

“There in the Temple, carved in wood,

The image of great Odin stood.”

Saga of King Olaf (Longfellow).

Odin himself is supposed to have given his people a code of laws whereby to govern their conduct, in a poem called Hávamál, or the High Song, which forms part of the Edda. In this lay he taught the fallibility of man, the necessity for courage, temperance, independence, and truthfulness, respect for old age, hospitality, charity, and contentment, and gave instructions for the burial of the dead.

“At home let a man be cheerful,

And toward a guest liberal;

Of wise conduct he should be,

Of good memory and ready speech;

If much knowledge he desires,

He must often talk on what is good.”

Hávamál (Thorpe’s tr.). [42]


Chapter III: Frigga