Pre-Christian Religions of the North: Sources

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Freyr's wagon (Gunnars þáttr helmings)

Freyr's wagon (Gunnars þáttr helmings)

Status:in progress
Summary:

A wooden idol of Freyr is worshipped so much in Sweden that it is thought to be alive. Gunnarr helmingr pulls the Freyr-idol and Freyr's wife around in a wagon to bless crops and attend feasts. During the journey, Gunnarr turns back to the 'true faith', and expels the spirit from the wooden idol. Gunnarr attends a feast in the guise of Freyr, and forbids sacrifice or ritual slaughter of animals. Freyr's wife becomes pregnant and a good harvest follows.

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Contributor:Anna Millward (under the supervision of Terry Gunnell)
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Text:

Ǫgm chapter 1

1.

Gunnar gerði svo og komst hann til skógar og varð eigi fundinn. Fór hann síðan austur um fjall og um Upplönd, allt huldu höfði. Létti hann sinni ferð eigi fyrr en hann kom fram austur í Svíþjóð.

Þar voru blót stór í þann tíma og hafði Freyr þar verið mest blótaður lengi og svo var mjög magnað líkneski Freyrs að fjandinn mælti við menn úr skurðgoðinu og Frey var fengin til þjónustu kona ung og fríð sýnum. Var það átrúnaður landsmanna að Freyr væri lifandi sem sýndist í sumu lagi og ætluðu að hann mundi þurfa að eiga hjúskaparfar við konu sína. Skyldi hún mest ráða með Frey fyrir hofstaðnum og öllu því er þar lá til.

Gunnar helmingur kom þar fram um síðir og bað konu Freyrs hjálpa sér og beiddi að hún mundi hann láta þar vera. Hún leit við honum og spurði hver hann væri. Hann kveðst vera brautingi einn lítils háttar og útlendur.

Hún mælti: "Eigi muntu vera í alla staði gæfumaður því að Freyr lítur eigi vinaraugum til þín. Nú hvíl þig hér fyrst þrjár nætur og vita þá hversu Frey þóknist til þín."

Gunnar svarar: "Miklu þykir mér betra að þiggja þína hjálp og hollustu en Freyrs."

Gunnar var glaður og skemmtanarmaður mikill. En er þrjár nætur voru liðnar spurði Gunnar konu Freyrs hversu þá skyldi vera um þarvist hans.

"Eigi veit eg það gjörla," sagði hún, "þú ert maður félaus og kann þó vera að þú sért góðra manna og væri mér um það meira að veita þér nokkura ásjá. En Frey er lítið um þig og uggi eg að hans reiði liggi á. Nú ver þú hér hálfan mánuð og sjáum þá hvað í gerist."

Gunnar mælti: "Svo skiptir hér til sem eg mundi kjósa að Freyr hatar mig en þú hjálpar mér því að eg ætla hann eigi meðalfjanda vera."

Gunnar þóknaðist mönnum því betur sem hann hafði þar lengur verið fyrir skemmtan sína og annan vaskleik. Kom hann enn að máli við konu Freyrs og spurði um sína hagi.

Hún svarar: "Vel líkar mönnum til þín og þykir mér ráð að þú sért hér í vetur og farir á veislur með okkur Frey þá er hann skal gera mönnum árbót. En þó er honum illa við þig."

Gunnar þakkaði henni vel.

Líður nú að þeirri stundu er þau búast heiman og skyldu þau Freyr og kona hans sitja í vagni en þjónustumenn þeirra skyldu ganga fyrir. Þau áttu langt að fara yfir fjallveg nokkurn. Þá gerði að þeim hríð mikla. Gerðist þá færðin þung en Gunnar var til ætlaður að fylgja vagninum og leiða eykinn. En um síðir kom svo að allt fólkið dreif frá þeim svo að Gunnar einn varð eftir og þau Freyr í vagninum. Tók Gunnar þá að mæðast mjög er hann gekk fyrir og leiddi eykinn. Og er svo hafði farið um stund þá gefur hann upp fyrirgönguna og sest í vagninn en lætur eykinn ráða leiðinni.

Litlu síðar mælti hún til Gunnars: "Dugi þú enn og leið hestinn ella mun Freyr standa að þér."

Hann gerir svo um hríð.

En er hann mæddist enn mjög mælti hann: "Til mun eg nú hætta að taka í móti Frey ef hann ræður á mig."

Freyr réðst þá úr vagninum og taka þeir fang og verður Gunnar mjög aflvani. Hann sér að eigi mun svo búið duga. Hugsar hann þá fyrir sér ef hann getur yfirkomið þenna fjanda og verði honum auðið að koma aftur til Noregs að hann skal hverfa aftur til réttrar trúar og sættast við Ólaf konung ef hann vill við honum taka. Og þegar eftir þessa hugsan tekur Freyr að hrata fyrir honum og því næst fellur hann. Hleypur þá úr líkneskinu sá fjandi er þar hafði í leynst og var þá tréstokkur einn tómur eftir. Braut hann það allt í sundur. Síðan gerði hann konunni tvo kosti, að hann mun hlaupa frá henni og leita fyrir sér ella skal hún segja er þau koma til byggða að hann sé Freyr. Hún kvaðst það vilja gjarna segja heldur. Fór hann þá í búnað skurðgoðsins.

En veðrið tók að birta. Komu þau um síðir til veislu þeirrar er þeim var búin. Var þar fyrir mart þeirra manna er þeim skyldu fylgt hafa. Þótti fólkinu nú mikils um vert hversu Freyr sýndi mátt sinn er hann skyldi komast til byggða með konu sína í veðri slíku þar sem allir menn höfðu hlaupið frá þeim og það með að hann mátti nú ganga með öðrum mönnum og át og drakk sem aðrir menn.

Fóru þau að veislum um veturinn. Var Freyr jafnan fátalaður við aðra menn en konu sína og eigi vill hann láta kvikvendi sæfa fyrir sér sem fyrr og engi blót vill hann þiggja og engar fórnir eða offur utan gull og silfurklæði góð eða aðrar gersemar.

En er stundir líða fram þykjast menn finna að kona Freyrs er með barni. Það verður mönnum allágætt og þótti Svíum nú allvænt um þenna guð sinn. Var og veðrátta blíð og allir hlutir svo árvænir að engi maður mundi slíkt. Spyrjast þessi tíðindi víða um lönd hversu blótguð Svía er máttugur.

[www.snerpa.is]

Gunnar did so, reached the forest and couldn’t be found. Afterwards he went eastwards over the mountains through Oppland, hiding all the way; he didn’t break his journey until he got all the way east into Sweden.

Great heathen sacrifices were held there at that time, and for a long while Freyr had been the god who was worshipped most there – and so much power had been gained by Freyr’s statue that the devil used to speak to people out of the mouth of the idol, and a young and beautiful woman had been obtained to serve Freyr. It was the faith of the local people that Freyr was alive, as seemed to some extent to be the case, and they thought he would need to have a sexual relationship with his wife; along with Freyr she was to have complete control over the temple settlement and all that belonged to it. Gunnar Half and Half (helmingr) finally got as far as there and asked Freyr’s wife to help him, suggesting that she might let him stay there. She looked him over and asked who he was. He said that he was a travelling man of low degree and from a foreign land. She said: “You can’t be an altogether fortunate man, for Freyr does not look with a friendly eye on you. Now rest here for three nights at first, and then we’ll see how Freyr takes to you.”

Gunnar replied: “I’d much rather accept your help and protection than Freyr’s.” Gunnar was entertaining and a great storyteller. But when three nights had passed, Gunnar asked Freyr’s wife what was to happen then about his staying there.

“I don’t know for certain,” she said. “You’re destitute, yet it may be that you’re of good family all the same, and for that reason I would like to give you some help; but Freyr has little use for you, and I fear he would be angry. Now stay here a fortnight, and then we’ll see what happens.”

Gunnar said: “So far it’s turning out just as I would have chosen, that Freyr hates me but you are helping me, because I think he’s a real devil and a half.”

Gunnar got on with people better the longer he stayed there, because of his entertaining conversation and other excellent qualities. Once more he came to speak with Freyr’s wife and asked about his position. She answered: “People have taken a liking to you, and I think it would be a good idea for you to stay here over the winter and go to the feasts with Freyr and me when he goes to ensure good crops for the people – yet he dislikes you.” Gunnar thanked her cordially.

Now it came to the time that they set out from home, and Freyr and his wife were to sit in a cart while their retainers walked in front. They had far to go over some mountain tracks. Then a great blizzard of snow came upon them; the journey became difficult, but Gunnar was ordered to go with the cart and lead the carthorse. But at last it came to the point that the whole force drifted away from them, so that only Gunnar was left, with Freyr and his wife in the cart. Then Gunnar began to get very tired as he was leading the carthorse; and when that had gone on for a while, he gave up leading and sat down in the cart, allowing the beast to choose its own way. A little later she said to Gunnar: “Make another effort and lead the horse, or else Freyr will attack you.” He did so for a bit, but when he became very tired once again, he said: “Now I’ll risk having to stand up to Freyr if he comes at me.” Then Freyr got out of the cart and they began to wrestle, and Gunnar was much too weak. He saw that this would never do. Then he thought to himself that if he could manage to overcome this demon and it was granted to him to get back to Norway, then he would turn back to the true faith and be reconciled with King Ólafr if he was willing to accept him. And immediately after this thought Freyr began to reel before him, and next he fell. Then the devil which had been hidden in the idol went rushing out of it, and only a hollow log of wood was left – and he broke that to pieces. Afterwards he gave the woman two choices – either he would abandon her and look out for himself, or else she was to say when they came to settled country that he was Freyr. She said she would much rather say that. Then he put on the clothes of the idol, and the weather began to clear.

At last they came to the feast which had been prepared for them; many of the men who ought to have come with them were present. Now it seemed to the people an omen of great importance that Freyr had shown his power by bringing himself into settled lands with his wife in such weather that everyone had fled from them, and what was more, that he could now walk with other men, and ate and drank like other people. They went round to feasts throughout the winter. Freyr was always very silent with other people. But it did happen that he wouldn’t allow living beasts to be slaughtered before him as before, and would accept no sacrifice and no oblations or offerings except gold and silver, good clothing or other precious things. But when some time had passed, it became clear that Freyr’s wife was pregnant. That was taken to be excellent, and the Swedes were now delighted with this god of theirs; the weather too was mild, and all the crops so promising that nobody could remember the like. This news of how powerful the heathen god of the Swedes was spread far and wide through the world.

[status: unverified copy]

 
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