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Pre-Christian Religions of the North: Sources

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A mock sacrifice to Óðinn goes wrong when the legendary hero Starkaðr is tricked into killing King Víkarr. Víkarr is accidentally hung from a tree and stabbed when the calf-guts and a reed used by Starkaðr in the mock sacrifice transform into a noose and a spear.


Gautr ch. 7

7. Starkaðr varð at bana Víkari konungi

Víkarr konungr gerðist hermað...

King Víkarr became a great wa...

[status: unverified copy]

[excerpt from] Gautr ch. 7b

7b. Starkaðr varð at bana Víkari konungi

Starkaðr játar þessu. Þá fekk...

Starkaðr agreed, and Hrosshár...

[status: referenced copy]



This account occurs within the longer version of Gautreks saga. The longer version of the saga focuses on the deeds of legendary hero Starkaðr and his relationship with King Víkarr, his companion, which culminates here in the sacrifice scene.


The mock-sacrifice to Óðinn is reminiscent of Óðinn's sacrifice to himself in Hávamál, where he hangs on the world tree Yggdrasil and is pierced by a spear.

There is also similarity between Óðinn's sacrifice and Christ's crucifixion (with the tree as the cross, and spear as the lance).

The saga's description of hanging a human sacrifice from a tree finds parallels in written sources, such as Adam of Bremen's account of sacrifice in Gamla Uppsala, in addition to pictorial representations on the Oseberg Tapestry of people hanging from trees.

(Contributed by Anna Millward.)


Main text: Gautreks saga

Attributes: tree Sacrifice Hanging Sacral kingship Spear Ritual

Named things: Óðinn Starkaðr

Text sections: Gautr ch. 7 Anon Gautr 7bVIII


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