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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

8. Anonymous Poems, Krákumál, 29 [Vol. 8, 775]

[3] frá höllu Herjans ‘from the hall of Herjan <= Óðinn> [= Valhǫll]’: Herjan(n) is listed as one of the names of Óðinn in Þul Óðins 2/5III (see Note to that line), and (by Óðinn himself) in Grí 46/3. Valkyries are referred to as nǫnnur Herjans ‘ladies of Herjan’ in Vsp 30/12 (NK 7). In Guðr I 19/4 (NK 205) the term dís Herjans occurs in the meaning ‘valkyrie’ (see the previous Note), while in Anon (TGT) 12/5III and in HaukrV Ísldr 11/5IV the name occurs in the gen. as the determinant in a helmet-kenning and shield-kenning respectively. The origin of the name is disputed (see Lorenz 1984, 91), but a relationship of some kind with herr ‘host, army’ seems clear, and it is likely that its meaning is ‘leader of a host’. If so, it is an eminently suitable name for Óðinn, given his capacities as god of war and father of gods and men (cf. Turville-Petre 1964, 50-6), and the name Herjafǫðr ‘father of armies’ applied to him in Grí 19/1 (NK 61). AEW, ÍO: Herjann both relate the name to the tradition of Óðinn’s (or Wodan’s) leadership of the Wild Hunt, on which see Simek (1993, 372-3) and Orchard (1997, 182-3) with references.


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