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Pre-Christian Religions of the North: Sources

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In a deadlock between King Haraldr and King Heiðrekr, Heiðrekr's son is declared highest-born youth in the land, so is chosen as a sacrifice. With the advice of his father King Höfund, however, Heiðrekr attacks King Haraldr and dedicates the slain to Óðinn. Heiðrekr thus succeeds in providing a sacrifice whilst avoiding the death of his son.


Heiðr ch. 7

7. Heiðrekr náði öllu ríkinu

Í þann tíma kom hallæri m...

At that time there came so gr...

[status: referenced copy]



This narrative episode occurs within the wider narrative of the legendary saga Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks.


blótspánn, 'sacrificial (divining) chip': the casting of chips or twigs in divination is often mentioned in Norse literature and several times by Roman authors; cf. especially Tacitus, Germania ch. 10, who describes how the pieces of wood were marked with certain signs and cast onto a cloth, after which the soothsayer would pick them up and make prediction from them. There was an intimate connection between sacrifice and divination (hlaut'sacrificial blood' and hlutr 'lot' are related words), and it seems likely that the twigs of sortilege were dipped in the blood of the victims. The question is discussed by J. de Vries, Altgerm. Religion. I § 21 I, II § 116.

dísir may be defined as female guardian spirits, associated with a man from his birth, and appearing especially before a battle or at the time of death; the conception is not clearly distinct from that of the fylgju-konur. The manuscripts R, U and H all agree here in the singular dísar, which is remarkable, though not unique; it is conceivable that the temple of a goddess is meant (cf. Vanadis as a name of Freyja, Snorra Edda. 38).

(Contributed by Anna Millward.)


Main text: Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks

Attributes: battle Sacrifice Hanging Sacral kingship Sacrificial chip Blót Dís casting lots

Named things: Óðinn

Text sections: Heiðr ch. 7


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