THE mariner sailing in the Baltic, as he skirts the shores of Gotland,
sees on a promontory of that island several large cairns and mounds
overlooking the sea, and the country that surrounds them. This
promontory was the burial place of a family of great Vikings and rulers
who held sway over the whole island a few centuries before and after our
era. Among the most conspicuous cairns two are pointed out to the
stranger, those of Hjorvard and his son Ivar, the hero of the present

The events of which I am going to speak to you relate to them, and to
what happened during their lives, towards the latter end of the third
and the beginning of the fourth century, between the years A.D. 270 and
320, or about sixteen hundred years ago.

Hjorvard, “the wide spreading,” so called on account of the widely
extended maritime expeditions he had undertaken, was one of the most
renowned Vikings of his time. In all his expeditions he had been
successful and always victorious in his battles. The Roman fleets had
never dared to attack him as he sailed with his numerous ships along the
coasts of their wide empire to make war upon the different countries
over which they held dominion.

Hjorvard’s ancestors, by the side of whom he now lies buried, had been
great warriors and sea-faring men like himself. They had sailed from the
Baltic to the Caspian Sea, by the present Gulf of Finland, and also
westward, along the coast of Friesland, Gaul, Britain, and as far south
as the Mediterranean. The ships used by them in their river expeditions
or along the coast during the summer months were unlike those of the
Romans, and were much admired by them. Even in the first century the
Romans feared these men of the north on account of the great fleets they
possessed, and placed them as living on the most northern shores of the
sea, in the very ocean itself. They called them Sueones; and all they
knew of their country was what these Sueones told them about it, for the
Baltic was an unknown sea to the Romans.

Hjorvard was of high lineage, for he was descended from Odin, and he
belonged to that branch of the family of Odin called Ynglingar, which
ruled over Svithjod, a realm that embraced a great part of the present

Sigrlin, his wife, was a very handsome woman, and possessed all the
accomplishments belonging to women of her high rank. She was also of
Odin’s kin; was a direct descendant of Skjöld (the Norse word for
shield), one of the sons of Odin, from whom the Skjöldungar are
descended. The Skjöldungar ruled over that part of the land which to-day
is called Denmark, but which was then called Gotland. Her father was
called Halfdan, and resided at Hleidra, not far from where Copenhagen
stands to-day, and was one of the great rulers of the north.

Not far from the cairns and mounds just mentioned was Dampstadir, the
head “by,” or burg, the residence of Hjorvard and of the rulers of
Gotland. From this place a long panorama of coast and land could be
seen, and the eye lost itself in the dim horizon of the sea. There
Hjorvard lived in great splendor. The buildings which made up Dampstadir
were among the finest of the northern lands; they were of different
sizes and varied architecture, and, like all the structures of those
days in the north, were entirely of wood. They were roofed with
shingles, heavily tarred, their dark color contrasting pleasantly with
that of the log walls of the houses.

All the numerous buildings formed a vast quadrangle, enclosing a large
plot of grass called “tun,” or town. From the centre of the square the
sight was extremely beautiful and picturesque, for there were not two
buildings of the same appearance or size. Some were finer than others,
of course, but all were quaint; from their roofs and sides, gargoyles,
representing heads of horses or dragons and other wild beasts, stuck out
boldly into the air from every side, or looked, with heads inclined
downward, towards the ground. There were a few houses with towers,
called lofts; in these towers were a number of sleeping-rooms, and from
their tops, in time of war, a sharp lookout was kept for the enemy’s
vessels. Many buildings were also used as store-houses.

Before the doors of many houses were porches, ornamented with carvings,
while others had belfries and dark piazzas with ladder-like stairs
leading to them, their weather-beaten walls of hard logs seeming to defy
the ravages of time, for many of them, at that time even, dated
centuries back. Some were specially for the use of the women members of
the family of Hjorvard and for their household, for it was customary for
women to have their “skemmas,” or bowers, all to themselves. There they
received their friends and spent their time in sewing and embroidering.
There were several festive halls for every-day use. During the winter
long fires ran along the centre of these, the smoke escaping through
openings in the roof, which openings could be closed when necessary.
Along the walls ran long benches, and tables were set in front of them.
The light came in through windows; instead of glass, the transparent
membrane enclosing the new-born calf was stretched over what were called
the light-holes.

The every-day life of Hjorvard was very simple. At the principal, or day
meal, Sigrlin sat on the left hand of her husband, the seats next to
this, on both sides, being the most dignified for men and women, while
the farthest ones, near the door, were the least so. The most high-born,
oldest, and wisest man—for it was the custom for rulers to have wise men
with them who knew the ancient examples and customs of their
forefathers—sat on the northern high seat, called the lower high seat,
opposite that of Hjorvard, on whose right hand were women, the men being
on his left. It was also the custom for chiefs to carry the ale over the
fire, and drink to the man opposite the high seat, and it was thought to
be a great honor to be toasted by the host.

The most imposing and striking of all the structures along that enormous
square was the great banqueting hall; of all the buildings, this was the
one in which the chiefs and rulers took the greatest pride, for it was
there that they received their most honored guests and gave their most
splendid feasts. The banqueting hall at Dampstadir was ranked the sixth
for beauty and grandeur in the land of the Vikings, and was very old.
Two superb doors at the two ends led into the interior. The door-ways,
or jambs, of these were of solid oak, about two and a half feet wide,
and several inches thick; these were adorned with beautiful carvings,
representing scenes belonging to the religious history of the race, and
varying greatly in depth, so as to give a fine artistic effect of light
and shade. The doors themselves were of solid oak also, and were
ornamented with intricate designs made with flat iron bands, of
exquisite beauty, and perfect gems of art. A massive gold knocker
adorned each door. By one door the women entered, by the other the men.

The inside of this banqueting hall was a sight not to be soon forgotten.
The first artists and wood-carvers of the North had been employed, and
had shown wonderful skill in the elaboration and grouping of their
designs—the scenes represented including many of the deeds and
expeditions of Hjorvard’s ancestors. The carvings were considered so
beautiful that even the finest tapestry was not hung over them, and the
wood itself had become richly dark during the centuries that had elapsed
since the hall had been built. All along the walls hung shields of
variegated designs and bright colors, ornamented with gold and silver,
overlapping each other, and, of course, adding much to the gorgeousness
of the spectacle.

As was customary, this hall had been built east and west, the long walls
running north and south; along the latter were the benches for the
guests, and just in the middle of them were the two high seats, facing
each other. The most important bench ran along the northern walls, and
there the great high seat, the more honored of the two, stood facing the
sun. It was for the master of the house; and to be placed on the high
seat opposite was the greatest honor that could be shown to any guest,
consequently this seat was always assigned to the most prominent men.
The nearer the places on the benches assigned to any one were to the
high seat, the greater the honor; the places farther away, near the
door, being the lowest. These two high seats were beautifully carved,
with arms on both sides, and two pillars which were both painted and
ornamented with carving representing historical subjects.

The weapons of Hjorvard hung above his high seat—his “sax,” or
single-edged sword, his best double-edged sword, also his shield, his
“brynja,” or chain-armor, and helmet of gold. His double-edged sword,
called “Hrotti,” was a magnificent weapon. The hilt was all ornamented
with gold, and so was the scabbard; the blade was of most exquisite
damascened workmanship. This sword was in its sheath, which was wrapped
with bands called “peace bands”—for there was profound peace over the
land at the time we are speaking of—and no one but Hjorvard could
unloose them, for these were holy, and it was only when war had been
declared that it could be done.

Mementos of the expeditions of Hjorvard and of his forefathers were
scattered here and there, treasured as heirlooms. Along the walls hung
several Roman swords with Latin inscriptions upon them, which had been
in the family for two hundred years. There were Roman statuettes, bronze
vessels, and various other bronze objects, and a collection of Roman
coins of every emperor from the time of Augustus, the first Roman
emperor, to the time of Hjorvard. Among the gems of art were lovely
Grecian cups, bowls, and drinking horns of glass, some of the glass cups
and bowls adorned with charming paintings representing rural scenes,
with wild beasts, lions, bulls, birds of variegated colors, and even men
boxing with boxing gloves, all looking as fresh as the day they were

At the foot of Dampstadir was a beautiful land-locked bay where the
ships of Hjorvard lay at anchor, while on its shores were numerous
sheds, under which stood many of the ships which were thus protected
from the weather; there were also building yards, where busy carpenters
were always at work constructing or repairing vessels.

The finest ships to be seen there were the “drekis,” or dragon-ships.
These were the largest and most formidable of all warships, and derived
their names from the fact that their prows and sterns were ornamented
with the head or tail of one or more dragons. Some were covered with
sheets of solid gold, which gave a superb appearance to the ships,
especially when the sun shone upon their sides. Many of these drekis
could carry a crew of from five hundred to seven hundred men.

Besides the dragon-ships there were other war-vessels called “skeids,”
“snekkjas,” “skutas,” “buzas,” “karfi,” “ask,” and also many provision
ships which followed the fleets on their expeditions. The skeid was a
formidable war-vessel, almost equal in power to the dragon-ships, a very
fast sailer, which carried two hundred and forty men or more. The
snekkja was a smaller ship of the same general description. The skutta
was a smaller craft still, which could be manœuvred very quickly. It was
generally used for boarding other ships, the upper part of its gunwale
being so built that warriors could more easily leap upon other vessels.
All these vessels, small or large, had only one mast.

Among these ships could be seen some of the old-fashioned type which has
been described by Tacitus, with no mast, and entirely propelled by oars;
they were very sharp pointed at both ends, much like the whale-boats of
to-day, about eighty feet long, and in the widest part ten or eleven
feet broad, with fifteen or sixteen benches about three feet apart.
These boats were propelled by thirty or thirty-two oars, varying
somewhat in length, and of an average of about twelve feet. Two men, and
sometimes three, pulled each oar, and a man with a shield protected the
oarsmen on each outer side. The thole-pins were fastened to the gunwales
with “bast” ropes, and were adorned with graceful carved designs, no two
being alike. On the side, at the stern, was the rudder, resembling a
large, broad oar. They were so shaped that they could be rowed in either
direction. At the time of which we are speaking, this model of naval
architecture was fast going out of fashion, and sailing vessels
exclusively were coming into general use. All the vessels were of oak,
“clinch-built;” that is, the planks overlapped each other, and were made
fast together by large iron bolts.

* * * * *

The island of Gotland, over which Hjorvard ruled, had a very dense
population, and was, on account of its size and geographical position, a
great emporium of commerce, and with its war and trading ships occupied
at this time about the same position as the England of our days. Its
inhabitants were wealthy, and traded extensively, as their fathers had
done, with provinces of Rome, with Greece, and the countries round the
Caspian, the Black, and the Mediterranean Seas. From such distant lands
as these they brought superb bronze vessels, exquisite glass vases,
velvets and silks, beautiful objects of leather, embroidered gold and
silver textile material for dress, and many other costly objects which
the rich prized very highly, as well as wine.

AT the period of which I write, the land of the Vikings embraced the
islands of the Baltic and those of the small and the great “Belt”
leading into that sea, the country known to-day as Scandinavia, which
embraces the large peninsula of Sweden and Norway, and the small
peninsula of Jutland. The whole land was virtually surrounded by sea.
Great fortifications had been built on the southern peninsula of Jutland
between the two fjords which enter it from opposite sides, so that no
incursion could take place from the land to the south.

The large islands, especially, were seats of great maritime power and
wealth. All the tribes were of a common origin and kindred; they had the
same customs and religion, practised the same burial rites,
intermarried, and spoke the same language which was called the Norranean

These Vikings, as we have seen, were quite isolated from Central and
Western Europe, and formed a world of their own, having much intercourse
with the country forming the present Russia. Between them and Rome stood
the inaccessible swamps and forests of Germania, inhabited by wild and
barbaric tribes. Great, indeed, was the contrast that existed between
the Vikings and the tribes of Germania. All these tribes called
themselves Norsemen, or Northmen; they were intensely warlike, and had
been sea-faring people from immemorial time. The deeds done on the sea
in by-gone ages could only be seen or remembered by graves made
venerable by the centuries that had passed over them, or by the large
tracings deeply engraved upon the rocks, seen to this day, representing
sea-fights, raids, and invasions. Like the hieroglyphics of Egypt, they
were the mementos of a great past, forever forgotten.

The Norsemen of our period used only weapons of iron; those of bronze
had been given up centuries before, but they were proud of that former
civilization, and boasted that at that remote time no one excelled their
ancestors in the art of manufacturing arms of bronze—a boast that has
not been made vain to this day.

Long even before the time of Hjorvard the country was unable to support
its population, and the people had in consequence become more and more
aggressive towards the inhabitants of countries to the west of them as
years passed away. Through their voyages during the preceding
generations and during their own times, they had become thoroughly
acquainted with the countries and rivers of Friesland, Gaul, Britain,
and other countries, and had been seeking new homes there. Their fleets
swarmed over every sea, and no country was exempt from their attacks.
Year after year, an innumerable, irresistible, and apparently
inexhaustible host, they poured over Western Europe, and had become
complete masters of the sea. Fleet after fleet returned home laden with
Roman spoils of all kinds.

These expeditions were undertaken by chiefs living in very different
regions of the country, and the people flocked with their ships from
every part of the land, to enroll themselves under their standards, when
they announced that they were ready to make war on the Roman world. The
ever victorious Norsemen called themselves the chosen people of the
gods, the loved ones of Odin, and considering themselves the chosen,
they never tried to convert other nations; like the Jews of old, they
despised every other religion. Wherever they obtained a foothold, they
held the land and people under an iron sway. Death had no terror for
them; Valhalla, where Odin dwelt, was to be their future abode. They
believed also in Frey, Njord, Thor, Freya, and in other gods and

There were many conditions of men in the great Viking’s land; different
grades of society built up the social structure. The whole country was
divided into “herads,” forming separate realms; some had a much larger
tract of territory than others, and were more powerful. Most of the
estates composing them were inherited by laws of primogeniture or
entail. Over each herad ruled a Hersir, which was the highest hereditary
dignity in the land. The title of Drott, “Lord,” or High Priest, which
had come down from Odin’s time, had disappeared and given place to that
of Hersir; the name of king was yet unknown. Each herad had a
head-temple where the yearly sacrifices for all the people were made.

The Hersir was the head of the community. He was the leader in war, and
the administrator of justice. He was the high priest in regard to
worship, and as such took care of the temple, and superintended the
sacrifices and other religious ceremonies. He held the farms and estates
belonging to the temple in trust, received a temple tax from every man
for its maintenance and that of the sacrifices. He presided over the
general assembly of the herad, called Thing, which took place several
times during the year. Through his position he acquired great wealth,
and owned many landed estates at home and in the countries he or his
forefathers had subjugated. He distributed among his warriors and scalds
costly things and much gold. He stirred up war, reddened the fields of
battle, overthrew his enemies, in order to rule over more lands and
personal property.

The Hersir’s wife was generally of Odin’s kin, and their children were
wrapped in silk and the finest of linen; their descendants were the
highest in the land.

Their sons broke horses, bent shields, smoothed shafts, shook ashen
spears, rowed and sailed ships, were believed to be able to write magic
runes to save the lives of men; to blunt the edges of weapons and calm
the sea by spells; to understand the language of birds; to quench fire,
read minds, allay sorrows, and to have the strength and energy of eight
men. Their chief occupation was to go to war and fell the enemy. Their
hair was fair, their cheeks bright and healthy, and their eyes as keen
as those of a young snake.

The Hersir’s daughters were slender-fingered, their hands and arms were
soft, their hearts lighter and their necks whiter than pure snow. They
were fair and gentle, endowed with all the accomplishments belonging to
high-born women; when they married they were clad in white bridal linen,
according to the custom of high-born people, and walked under a bridal

Next in rank to the Hersir were the Haulds, the highest class of
dwellers in the land. They lived on the estates that had descended to
them for generations. As a body of men, they were the power of the land,
and no Hersir could ever rule without their consent.

Their sons, as they grew up, learned how to handle the shield, bend the
elm, or make bows, shaft the arrow, throw the spear, ride horses, set on
the hounds, brandish the sword, practise swimming, to write runes, play
chess, wrestle, and be foremost in all athletic games. They had the same
education as the Hersir’s children; their daughters were dressed in
white, also, when they married.

After the Hauld came another class of land owners, the Bondi, whose
estates were also entailed. These people throve well on the land, broke
oxen, made ploughs, timbered houses, made barns and carts, and drove the
plough. Their daughters carried keys hanging at their side, and helped
their mothers. When they married, they too were allowed to wear white,
like the daughters of Hersirs and Haulds, to set up a household, and
sleep under linen bed-clothes; they divided wealth with their husbands.

There was another class of freemen who rented lands, for they had no
estate. The doors of the houses of these were always ajar; there was a
fire in the middle of the floor; a lumpy loaf, heavy and thick,
hand-mixed, was on the trencher; broth in a bowl, and veal, considered
the choicest of dainties, were often seen on the table.

A poorer class of freemen existed. Their doors were also always ajar;
husband and wife were always busy with their work; his beard was
trimmed, his hair lay on his forehead, his shirt was tight. His wife
twirled a distaff, stretched out her arms, and made cloth. She wore a
head-dress on her head, to show that she was no longer a maiden; a
kerchief on her neck, and brooches fastening the folds of the dress on
the shoulders.

Then came the slave, distinct from all, dressed always in thick, white
woollen stuff, with his hair cropped close, in contrast to the long hair
worn by the freeman. Such was his badge of servitude. He was always of
foreign birth or origin. He had been captured in war, or bought at a
market-place or at a fair in distant lands, and generations of slavery
had degraded him; nevertheless he also throve well in the land, but the
wrinkled skin and crooked knuckles, the thick fingers, the ugly face,
the bent back, the long heels, told the tale of his slavery and of that
of his forefathers. His life was passed in trying to learn how much he
could endure and bear; his time was employed in binding bark or bast, in
making loads, and in carrying these the live-long day. His wife came
home in the evening, weary of standing up all day. Scars were on the
soles of her feet, her arms were sunburnt, her appearance told of her
bondage. After she had come in, she sat down on the middle of the
household bench, and her son sat at her side. Husband and wife lived
happily with their children; when these grew up, they laid the fences,
tended swine, herded goats, cut wood, or dug peat. Such were the classes
that made up the population of that great and powerful Viking land.

THERE was no nobler or bolder heart than that of Hjorvard. He had begun
his life of warfare when fifteen years old. Many in the land said that
the renown he had gained was the result of folly and hardihood; others
thought that he enjoyed his life in doing deeds of honor. He had won
fame, and travelled through nine different countries.

Like all the great Hersirs, he had with him twelve champions who formed
his body-guard, and had come from every part of the Northern lands; some
from the shores of present Norway, others from the islands of the
Baltic, and two from Svithjod. The bravest men wanted to serve him, for
he was lucky in war, a genial and convivial leader, and most generous
with his gold.

All the champions of Hjorvard were berserks, and to be considered the
foremost champion was the ambition of every warrior. To attain this
proud position was no easy task among so many men in the land who were
equally brave and perfectly reckless of their lives, and who were
thoroughly skilled in the handling of weapons, and all kinds of athletic
games. After such a reputation had been acquired, the champion had
either to challenge or be challenged by those who were envious of him,
or thought themselves more than his equal; and these contests, or trials
of strength and skill, generally took place before a large assembly of
people. The champions of Hjorvard in time of peace often went round the
country and challenged men specially famous for their prowess.

Berserks despised chain-armor and all weapons of defence such as shields
and helmets. They often even fought without clothing, and could lash
themselves into such a state of frenzy that they lost all control over
themselves. Often this fury, or berserk rage, came upon them without
cause and seized them suddenly, when they would bite their weapons,
gnash their teeth, wrestle with trees and rocks, and become reckless of
every danger. When in sight of their foes they rushed to the attack with
an indescribable fury, and when in conflict with other berserks the
fight was deadly. When the berserk fury seized them at home, they would
go out, through fear of fighting with their friends, and wrestle with
rocks and trees.

Hjorvard had made very stringent rules for his champions and warriors.
No man could come under his standard who feared death or uttered words
of fright when in danger, or groaned when he received the worst wounds
in battle. Nor could these wounds themselves be dressed until the day
after they had been received. No man was allowed to have a sword longer
than two feet. The swords and saxes of Hjorvard’s men were heavier than
those of others, so that when they struck a blow it might be most

It was always the custom of Hjorvard to lie with his ships before
promontories so that these might be seen by every one. On none of his
vessels were tents put up to protect him or his men from the weather.
They never reefed a sail during a storm, and he had never more than one
hundred and twenty champions on board of his own ship.

He had the honor of chivalry; he bade his warriors not to break men’s
spirit by putting them in fetters, nor to do any harm to any man’s wife,
and ordered that every maid should be bought with dowry and with the
consent of her father, and that women and their children should not be

Victory always followed him, so that great champions and berserks of the
land flocked to his standards when he undertook a warlike expedition.
Led by him, they felt sure of victory in advance. No man less than
eighteen years old or more than fifty could follow him in warfare. All
his warriors had to have strength enough to lift a large stone that
stood near his residence. The chiefs who resided in Gotland owed him
allegiance, and all were his kinsmen, and all those under him had, by
law, to furnish him a certain number of ships and warriors when needed.

During his life he had subdued several chiefs on the southern shores of
the Baltic, and those paid him tribute willingly, for he was not
grasping, and used his power with moderation; but all had to submit once
to the humiliating ceremony of letting him put his foot on their necks
in acknowledgment of being his vassals.

* * * * *

Though Hjorvard and Sigrlin had been married a certain number of years,
no child had been born to them, so the Hersir of Gotland made up his
mind to go to Svithjod, the most powerful realm of the Viking lands, and
to Upsalir, the most sacred of all the places of the north, to consult
the gods and see if he could learn the decrees of fate.

Hjorvard assembled a large fleet, and after bidding farewell to Sigrlin,
who accompanied him to his ship, he sailed directly for the fjord at the
head of which is Lake Malar. The wind was good, and the second day they
came in sight of land. Here fortified towers and catapults in sight of
each other guarded the narrow arm of the sea on both sides, whence a
storm of missiles could be thrown on the vessels of an invading host,
and in war times chains were laid across there, preventing the sudden
ascent of ships. As the moon shone brightly that night, they continued
their voyage. Borne on by a strong and favorable breeze, in due course
of time they came to the narrowest part pf the fjord, called to-day
Waxholm. The men shouted as they sailed past the fortifications, viewing
which, they said to each other, “No wonder that Upsalir is impregnable.”
But the white peace shields were at the mastheads, for there had been
peace between Gotland and Svithjod for many a year.

As the fleet approached Lake Malar the wind became very light, and the
crews had to take to their oars. Three men were on each; these pulled
the oars so hard that their bodies seemed at times to be bent in two.
Farther on, they came to the head of the fjord, and sailed amidst the
several islands which are in the river, and upon which to-day a great
part of Stockholm is built. That place was also fortified; numerous
catapults defended the channels between the islands. Then they entered
the lake, a large sheet of water about seventy miles long, dotted with
fourteen hundred islands, whose banks were covered with superb forests
of oak of gigantic size, and after a pleasant journey reached Upsalir.
Hjorvard was received with much honor by Yngvi, his kinsman, the ruler
of Svithjod, who descended from Odin in direct line, and there was great
feasting during his stay.

Many of the dwellings and buildings of Upsalir dated from the time of
Frey, the successor of Odin. The temple itself was believed to have been
built by Frey. It was of the greatest magnificence and size, and the
most sacred building in the Norselands. From its fantastic and
overlapping roof, gargoyles stretched forth in every direction, or
looked down upon the sacred grounds of the temple, and the worshippers
that came to sacrifice. A gallery ran around the temple, supported by
pillars. The temple was built of enormous red fir trees, and its walls
had withstood the blasts of centuries. The walls, ceilings, and pillars
inside were entirely sheathed with red gold, likewise the altar upon
which the holy fire was always burning. The Hersir of Svithjod alone
could remain seated during the religious ceremony attending the
sacrifice. All the others had to stand until they partook of the flesh
of the sacrificed animals.

The door of the temple was round-arched, and a masterpiece of carving,
representing Odin offering a sacrifice. On each of its pillars stood a
beautiful carved cat. The door itself was ornamented with iron work,
with a solid knocker of gold in the centre. Not far from the door
outside was the holy spring in which the men sacrificed to Odin were
thrown. For a long distance the lands surrounding the temple were
sacred. No temple could vie with the temple at Upsalir, none received
more yearly taxes and offerings for its sacrifices and maintenance;
large estates belonged to it, and its revenues were very great. People
came from every part of the Viking lands to assist in its sacrifices,
which were the largest in the North, and on important occasions chiefs
met there from all their realms to sacrifice to the gods and learn the
decrees of fate.

After his arrival Hjorvard made a great sacrifice. Black oxen and the
finest horses had been fattened for this special occasion. The walls of
the temple, inside and outside, were reddened with the blood of the
sacrificed animals, and the Hersirs and all the people who were present
were also sprinkled with the blood. The gods were invoked, and then the
holy chips that had been dipped in the sacrificed blood were thrown into
the air. The answer came that Sigrlin would bear a son in about a year;
then with great joy he sailed for Dampstadir to announce to his wife
what the chips had foretold.

* * * * *

After his return he remained at home, waiting for the event which had
been predicted by the casting of the sacrificing chips. He spent his
time surveying his large estates, and watched over very carefully the
building of a great number of ships; he often superintended the work in
the fields, for he was a good husbandman; and to amuse himself, he made
several fine damascened swords. He paid special attention to the
fisheries and seal catching, for these were splendid schools for future
seamen; or he played chess—the squares of his chess-board were of gold
or of silver—or hunted with his hawks.

ABOUT fourteen months after the return of Hjorvard from Upsalir, towards
the year 275, a great event took place at Dampstadir, which filled the
hearts of Hjorvard and Sigrlin with joy. The sacrifice which Hjorvard
had made to the gods in Upsalir to stop the sterility of his wife had
been accepted, and Sigrlin gave birth to a son. While this happened,
Hjorvard was in the great banqueting hall, entertaining some of his
kinsmen who had come to see him, and was then listening to a poet who
was singing the heroic deeds of the ancestors of the race. Messengers
were sent to him to apprise him of his good fortune.

Present at the birth of the child were Oddrun, the married sister of
Hjorvard, and several other high-born women, and others who lived at or
near Dampstadir, and also the female servants; for it was the law of the
land that women had to be witnesses of the birth of a child, and none of
those who were present could leave the place until they had seen the
babe on the breast of his mother. According to custom, the infant was
laid on the floor to wait for the arrival of his father.

After Hjorvard had entered the room, the new-born child was put into his
lap, and he covered him with the folds of one of the corners of his
cloak; doing this he acknowledged the legitimacy of his offspring. Then
he looked at his child intently, to judge of his appearance,
proportions, luck, and temper. After a thoughtful examination, and
satisfying himself that the new-born offspring was well-shaped, he
decided that he should live and not be exposed. This custom was similar
to that of the Spartans—the father was the only judge to decide if the
new-born babe was to live or not.

Then took place the most important and sacred ceremony of “name
fastening,” equivalent to baptism, or pouring or sprinkling water upon
the child, a holy custom which had come down from the remotest time, and
was lost in the mist of ages. A vessel filled with water was brought in,
and Hjorvard poured water upon the child, and said in a loud voice, so
that the people should hear him: “Ivar shall the boy be named after his
grandfather; he will of Odin’s family the foremost man be called; he
will fight many battles, and be much like his mother, and be called his
father’s son, for he will wage war from early age, and wander far and
wide.” After this ceremony, the life of Ivar, like that of all other
men, was sacred; his father had not the power to expose him or to take
his life, and if he did it would be murder.

Hjorvard gave first, as a “name fastening,” a sprig of garlic as a
symbol that as the garlic stood high among the grass, so would little
Ivar stand among men. Then he placed by his side a double-edged sword
and a sax, a coat of mail, a shield and a helmet of silver; these had
been made specially beforehand, in case the expected new-born infant
should be a boy, and hence came the common saying that high-born infants
were born with weapons. He also gave him two large landed estates, one
called Ringstadir and the other Hightun. Every animal born on Hjorvard’s
numerous farms on the day of the birth of little Ivar was to belong to
him, with the increase thereof, according to ancient custom.

The champions and warriors of Hjorvard said that good years were in
store for them, as little Ivar would become in time a mighty warrior
who, like his father and forefathers, would lead them to victory, as he
had the piercing, snake-like eyes of the Ynglingars.

During the night which followed the ceremony of name fastening, the
utmost silence reigned in the house where little Ivar and his mother
slept. No one spoke; the utmost darkness prevailed there, for no lights
were burning. The three Nornir, Urd “the Past,” Verdandi “the Present,”
and Skuld “the Future,” were expected to come, and forecast the life of
Ivar that night.

These three genii shaped, or foreordained, the life of every human being
at his birth; their decrees were final, and the gods had no power to
undo what they predestined. They carved on wood tablets the laws for the
children of men. According to the belief of the Norsemen, they were an
inseparable triad, or trinity, who, though independent of each other,
ruled as one the destinies of man. They were the representatives of all
life—the past, the present, and the future.

Urd was most majestic in appearance; her long, flowing hair was as white
as the purest snow. The wisdom of the past lighted up her beautiful
countenance. Her dreamy eyes looked back on the countless ages of the
past. She remembered all that had happened since the time of
Ginnungagap, or Great Void, before the worlds had been created, and
beheld the successive changes that were taking place. From that time
change was constant; no ripple of the sea was as it was an instant
before, for every moment witnessed new transformations. Nothing is as it
was, and nothing will be as it has been. And Urd’s contented mind told
her that all that happened in the immensity and evolution of time was
for the best.

Verdandi looked fondly upon Urd, for the present could not exist without
the past. She was most beautiful; her long, golden chestnut hair, dyed
by countless years in the rays of the sun, typified the ripening of
life, of time, of seasons. Her face reflected the beauty and the
loveliness of the world in which Ivar’s father and mother lived. She saw
what was constantly happening in the world—the storms, the wars, the
joys, the pestilences. Once in a while an expression of sadness passed
over her countenance, for the woes and sorrows that befell men were
brought upon them by themselves, and not by the Nornir.

Skuld was resplendent in beauty and freshness. Butterflies always
surrounded her, for she typified immortality. She held in one of her
hands the thread of life of every human being. Her garment shone like a
silvery cloud; from her long, flowing hair sprang rays of light, more
brilliant than those of the sun, sending their radiance all over the
world. With unbounded joy she looked into the future and into
immortality. Hope she gave to all the children of men, and hid from
their sight the breakers ahead, which wreck so many lives. With one hand
she was ready to snap asunder the thread of life, which measured the
number of days or hours allotted by the Nornir to every human being that
came into the world.

The three Nornir lived in a large hall under the great ash tree,
“Yggdrasil,” where the gods give their judgments every day. The ash is
the largest and best of trees; it stands ever green; its branches spread
all over the world, and reach up over the heaven; three roots of the
tree hold it up, and spread very widely. Under one of the roots is the
well in which wisdom and intellect are hidden.

* * * * *

Towards midnight, when every one was profoundly asleep, and deep silence
reigned in the house, Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld, according to the belief
of the Norse people, came to forecast the fate of little Ivar. They bade
him become the most valiant of chiefs, and the best of rulers. They
unravelled the golden threads of fate they held, and fastened them in
the midst of the heavens; in the east and in the west they hid their
ends, and foretold that Ivar should hold land between them; but Skuld
flung one thread on northern roads, and bade it to hold forever. This
fore-shadowed that he would never conquer any country north of Gotland.
And it came to pass that the great dream of his life to extend his
dominions north was never realized. They bade that he should understand
the language of birds; and then they departed from the house to forecast
other lives that were coming into the world.