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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Anon (FoGT) 2III

[All]: The helmingr refers to the power of the Holy Spirit over men (see following Note). Its likely reference is to the feast of Pentecost or Whitsunday (OIcel. hvítasunnudagr), when the Holy Spirit descended from heaven upon the Apostles (Acts II), after which they were able to begin their mission of baptising people into the Christian faith. This seems to be the point of the helmingr’s statement that ‘at that time’ (i.e. Pentecost) the Holy Spirit gained a great advantage for men (the possibility of salvation) with pure water, i.e. the water of baptism. It was customary in the medieval Church for many catechumens to be baptised at Pentecost in imitation of the events described in Acts, and that is why in a number of Western European languages (West Scandinavian and English in particular; cf. AEW: hvítadagr, hvítasunnudagr) the feast of Pentecost is called ‘White Sunday’, because those about to be baptised wore white garments. SnE 1848-87, III, 154, FoGT 1884, 241 and FoGT 2004, 88 all quote a passage from Isidore of Seville (Isidore, Etym. 7.9.16) which refers to the Holy Spirit as digitus dei ‘the finger of God’, but is otherwise not close to the text of this helmingr.


  1. Bibliography
  2. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  3. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  4. FoGT 1884 = Björn Magnússon Ólsen, ed. 1884. Den tredje og fjærde grammatiske afhandling i Snorres Edda tilligemed de grammatiske afhandlingers prolog og to andre tillæg. SUGNL 12. Copenhagen: Knudtzon.
  5. FoGT 2004 = Longo, Michele, ed. [2004]. ‘Il Quarto Trattato Grammaticale Islandese: Testo, Traduzione e Commento’. Dottorato di Ricerca in ‘Linguistica Sincronica e Diacronica’ (XV Ciclo). Palermo: Università degli Studi di Palermo, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia.


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