Polish Names from 1165 (or 1065)

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This grant issued by Bolesław IV the Curly on April 11, 1165 in the city of Płock [puotsk] in favor of the Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Mogilno is interesting mostly for the list of Polish place and individual names it features. Rather than translating the whole thing, I’ve highlighted those names below. I’ve ignored obviously non-Slavic names such as: Stepan, Michal, Iohan or Valter.  The text comes from Bielowski’s Great Poland Diplomatic Codex (document number 3).

One other thing: it is possible that the Bolesław was Bolesław II the Bold (or Generous), in which case the document would have to be dated to 1065.

“In nomine sancte et individue Trinitatis amen. Animadvertat hoc testimonium veritas omnis ecclesia religionis, quod ego Boleslaus exempla fidelium sequtus, quatenus cum defecero recipi merear in thabernaculis iustorum, contuli de omnibus ad me pertinentibus ecclesie Mogilnensi sancti Iohannis Ewangeliste transitus omnes per Vyslam de Camen usque ad mare, transitus Navchre in Wyzna et in Macow, et per totam Mazowiam nonum forum, nonum denarium, nonum porcum, nonum poledrum, nonum piscem sum largitus; quod ne quis ulterius irritum faciat, auctoritate omnipotentis Dei sit prohibitus. Et hec sunt nomina castrorum: Grudenczch, Zacroczin, Syrozch cum medio theloneo per fluvium Bug; Ripin, Scechin, Seprch, Nowum Radcez, Oszelzch, Zyremdzco, Cechonow, Stolpsco, Grebezco, Nasylsco, Wyszegrod, Ploczch, Dobrzin, Wlodislaw, Przypusth, Plonzch; in Llonzin decem marcas, in Sbuczimir septem marcas, in Sarnow duas marcas et dimidiam, in Rospir septem marcas. Hec sunt nomina villarum quas contulimus cum omni libertate et iure supradicte ecclesie sancti Iohannis Ewangeliste in Mogilna: Czirwyenzch, Crzechnow, Bolino, Welerych, Tossowo, (2 litt. delet.) .. romnow, Golumbino, ecclesiam sancti Llaurencii in Ploczch. Item in Byelsco ecclesiam sancti Iohannis Babtiste cum ipsa villa prenotata, foro, tabernis, targowe, et cum omni libertate. Ecclesiam sancti Iohannis in Wladislaw. In Culmine nonum forum cum thabernario. Clestitarw, Czechre, Dalachowo, Opathowo, Woyuczino, Ffaleczino, Maczewo, Llubessowo cum medio lacu, Radzencze cum fluvio ex utraque rippa, Czarnothil per medium, Olsze, Bystrzicza, Zabno, Chelpsco, Sedno, Wyeczanowa, Llezno, Sceglino, Domanino, Subino, Bogdanowo, Sczibersco, Czycharowo; ecclesiam sancti Iacobi in Mogilna quam fundavit Sbyluth miles, addens eidem ecclesie hereditatem Bogussino cum consensu amicorum suorum. Item aliam ecclesiam in honore sancti Clementis miles magnus Dobrogostius, addens eidem ecclesie hereditatem Padnyewo cum consensu amicorum suorum, edificavit. Item Paulus et Zemwa fratres dederunt duas villas, Llizecz et Rypin. Item Odolan dedit Socolowo. Item Andreas Gocunowo. Item ego Boleslaus addiciens predictis notum esse volo concambium villarum quod feci cum Mogilnensi abbate Mengosio: villam enim Raniglow all ipso accepi et homini meo Nanzlav petenti contuli; pro qua villam Krzithe cum medio lacu et fluvio per medium, eidem abbati et ecclesie Mogilnensi tradidi. Sed quia hec recompensacio sufficiens esse non videbatur, sortem Curani cum eodem Curano et filiis suis addidi et in nomine virtutis Ihesu Christi confirmavi. Item hec sunt nomina servorum ascripticiorum quos eidem contuli ecclesie cum omni iure: Wigan cum tota consanguinitate sua, Radecz, Sulentha cum cognacione sua, Zavisch, Radith cum cognacione sua, Wolis, Zabor, Radeg, Zandan, Doman, Damamir, Syla, Nesul, Sulim cum fratre suo, Neszda cum cognacione sua, Malsa cum fratribus, Godes cum fratre suo, Calik, Sulimir, Milon, Wesan cum filiis, Poznomir, Czychon, Belen, Sulen cum fratre suo, Cyrneg, Sciza, Zelistrig, Targossa, Gromiss, Zdema cum fratre suo, Pozar, Golandin, Gudes, Gonen, Riben cum fratre, Unimir, Zabos, Radosth, Zemir, Zyra, Vitosch cum fratre suo, Rucanca, Stepan, Sulimir, Wyscan, Domasul cum fratribus suis, Nedamir cum filiis suis, Sdan cum filiis, Przibislav cum filiis suis, Bogdan, Michal, Stanecz cum fratre suo, Rados. Item homicidia tam inter duos ascripticios quam inter duos liberos, vel ex una parte liberi ex alia parte ascripticii villarum supradicte domus, per totum eidem ecclesie cedant. Ne ergo hec nostra liberalis et salubris donacio, ad honorem omnipotentis Dei et sancti Iohannis Ewangeliste ex intimo affectu collata, aliqua temeritate infringatur, sed ut a me et a meis posteris inviolabiliter observetur, presentem litteram precepi mei sigilli munimine et subscripcione testium confirmari. Actum et datum anno Incarnacionis dominice millesimo sexagesimo quinto, tercio Idus Aprilis in Ploczk, presentibus: venerabili patre Allexandro Plocensis ecclesie episcopo, principe milicie Weszborio, Iohanne cancellario, procuratore Troyano; Wysna, Iohanne canonico Plocensis ecclesie, Valtero eiusdem ecclesie canonico et aliis quam pluribus fide dignis et honestis.”

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January 28, 2018

Miracles of Saint Demetrius – Book II

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I. Of the Building of Ships by the Drugoviti, Sagudati, Velegeziti and Others

And so this happened, as they say, during the bishopric of John, may he rest in peace. The nation of the Slavs gathered in a large multitude comprised of the peoples of the Drugoviti [Δρο[υ]γο[υ]βῖται/Δραγοβῖται], Sagudati [Σαγουδάται], Velegeziti [Βελεγεζίται], Vaiuniti [Βαϊουνίται], Verziti [Βερζηται] and others. They were the first to discover a way to build a boat hollowed out of a single trunk. Having so prepared themselves to sail on the seas, they plundered all of Thessally, and the Greek islands of the Cyclades, the entire Achaja and the mainland, a large portion of Illyricum and part of Asia. Most of the towns and provinces they made uninhabited  and they desired to attack the by us afore-mentioned city, beloved of Christ and to plunder it much as they [plundered] the others. On this matter they were of a single mind and having constructed a great number of boats made of a single trunk, they set up camp near the sea; the rest of the swarm besieged the city guarded by God from all sides: the East, the North and the West. They had with them their families as well as their belongings for they planned to settle in the city after its taking…

Hagios Demetrios in the city of Thessaloniki saw Slav action

…The entire nation of the Slavs arrayed themselves for battle so as to make a surprise assault on the walls in unison. Those who stayed by the boats planed to cover the same with bars and hides so as to protect their rowers against stones tossed from the city walls or the blows of the javelin throwers. It is said that the first became leery/afraid by reason of the martyr [that is Saint Demetrius] who did not permit them to come close to the city but instead caused them to have to anchor themselves in that bay which from the ancient times has been called Kellarion and it was there that they pondered how best to effect their goals…

Three days passed in this manner and the Slavic boats sailed at a distance of two miles from the walls and each day assiduously looked for east to take places with the aim of plundering those. On the fourth day, with a great roar, the entire nation attacked the city from all sides: some threw stones using engines they had prepared, others had guided siege towers right up to the walls trying to take and plunder them, others set fires before the gates, yet others hurled projectiles onto the walls like hail. One could then see this strange and wondrous host of weaponry for as a storm cloud cloaks sundays so was did they thicken the air with their arrows and stone missiles.  In this great assault the barbarians, ready to sail and prepared to [finally] attack closed in in their boats on places scouted out earlier: some approached the tower on the western part of the church steps where a small wicket exists, others to the places where no wall stood but rather a palisade defended access as well as a construct built out of hidden beams that were commonly called [tulons?]. These latter attacks believed that they will be able to get into the city that way for they were ignorant of these types of defenses and the former thought that they will be able to break through the wicket gate and through that entrance make it into the city.

Meanwhile, again by reason of the martyr’s intercession, a great disarray arose among the afore-mentioned boats and so it happened that they started running into each other and some even keeled over hurling their occupants into the water.  And so it happened that the one who was submerged would try to save himself by grabbing onto another boat and in doing so would cause those in it to themselves fall into the sea. Finally, the rowers from the remaining boats would use their swords to cut of the hands of those who came close and they would smite each other on the head with swords and wound each other with their javelins and each, occupied in an attempt to rescue his own life, became the enemy of his companion. And those who managed to reach the camouflaged wooden defense contraption fell there into snares and their boats, moving in a great momentum, halted near the shore and it was impossible for them   to yank them free from there. Then the brave citizens of the city headed down while others reinforced the wicket gate through which the enemies intended to enter the city. And so the work of the fighting and Victorious [martyr] was complete.

It was then possible to behold a sea stained red with the barbarian blood of and to hearken back to the drowning of the Egyptians [in the Red Sea]. And presently was the mercy of the Lord revealed. At two in the morning though at first all was still, there suddenly came a calm wind which scattered those barbarians’ boats that were unable to withdraw, some eastwards while others to the West. The sea surrendered many barbarian corpses tossing them onto the shore and underneath the walls. And finally, the guards of the coast issued onto the walls and showed  the barbarians remaining on land the cut off heads of their compatriots. Those boatmen who survived told tales of the great ruin inflicted upon them through the agency of the Victorious [Demetrius] by God. Having achieved nothing, they left in great distress and shame, leaving behind them numerous constructs and much booty…

And the most wondrous and worthy of remembrance of all was that Chatzon, the leader of the Slavs, in accordance with his custom asked an oracle whether he would enter our city guarded by God. And he was given an answer in the affirmative but it was not revealed to him how he would make his entrance. Yet by reason of the answer delivered to him he believed that the augury was favorable, he boldly proceeded on with his plan. But He who turns the seasons and foils enemy arrows delivered him as a prisoner to the citizens of the city through the above mentioned gate.  Some of those who were people of rank and dignity in the city hid him in a house for profits and for unworthy reasons. But even in this case, Holy Providence of the Victorious martyr did not tarry. He kindled courage in some women who then brought him out from the house where he had remained hidden. Dragged through the city he was stoned to death. And thus he found a death commensurate with his evil plans.

II. Of the War Against the Khagan

After the already mentioned large-scale assault by the Slavs, that is by Chatzon and the just and easily achieved ruin that befell them through the intercession of the Victorious, war against us brought them humiliation. They also suffered a significant loss when prisoners taken by them fled to our city, protected by God, and were freed thanks to their guide and redeemer and our protector, Demetrius.  They had reasons to be troubled not just because they lost their captives but also because the latter fled having taken with them a part of the plunder taken by them [the Slavs] during their pillaging. In their great distress they decided, having collected many gifts, to send them via their messengers to the khan of the Avars with the enticement of a promise of great sums of money that they and already looted and those yet to be captured in our city in our city – as they assured him – should he lend them his help. They said that it will be easy for them to take this city, that was as if already meant by fate for him, unable to defend itself as it sat alone among the cities and provinces which had already been made desolate by them. For it is said that it lies in the middle of all this devastation and accepts all those fleeing from the Danube, from Pannonia, Dacia and Dardania, and all the other cities and provinces, and they all gather to it.

The aforesaid khagan of the Avars eagerly trying to fulfill their wish, gathered at his side all the barbarian tribes controlled by him, together with all the Slavs, Bulgars and other peoples all in an innumerable multitude and after the passage of two years he readied an army to battle our city protected by the martyr. He ordered to arm elite riders and to send them with great haste, for he did not know when he would arrive at the city with his army. And these riders captured and, in some cases, even killed those residents who found themselves outside [of the city gates when the riders attacked]. After some time the khagan himself arrived together with his warriors who were bringing various machines and war contraptions in order to destroy our fatherland.

[to come]

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January 26, 2018

The Wends of the Heimskringla

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Here are the mentions of the Slavs that have made their way into the Heimskringla. This comes from a rather ancient translation by Rasmus B. Anderson. The Slav mentions come from the following sagas included in the Heimskringla:

    • Hakon the Good’s Saga
    • Saga of King Harald Grafeld and of Earl Hakon Son of Sigurd
    • King Olaf Trygvason’s Saga
    • Saga of Olaf Haraldson
    • Saga of Magnus the Good
    • Saga of Harald Hardrade
    • Saga of Sigurd the Crusader and his Brothers Eystein and Olaf
    • Saga of Magnus the Blind and of Harald Gille
    • Saga of Sigurd, Inge and Eystein, the Sons of Harald



7 Battle in Eyrarsund (the Sound)

Then Hakon steered southwards with his fleet to seek the vikings, and so on to Sealand. He rowed with two cutters into the Eyrarsund, where he found eleven viking ships, and instantly attacked them. It ended in his gaining the victory, and clearing the viking ships of all their men. So says Guthorm Sindre:—

“Hakon the Brave, whose skill all know
To bend in battle storm the bow,
Rushed o’er the waves to Sealand’s tongue,
His two war-ships with gilt shields hung,
And cleared the decks with his blue sword
That rules the fate of war, on board
Eleven ships of the Vindland men,—
Famous is Hakon’s name since then.”

8 King Hakon’s Expedition to Denmark

Thereafter King Hakon carried war far and wide in Sealand; plundering some, slaying others, taking some prisoners of war, taking ransom from others,—and all without opposition. Then Hakon proceeded along the coast of Skane, pillaging everywhere, levying taxes and ransoms from the country, and killing all vikings, both Danish and Vindish. He then went eastwards to the district of Gautland, marauded there, and took great ransom from the country. So says Guthorm Sindre:—

“Hakon, who midst the battle shock
Stands like a firmly-rooted oak,
Subdued all Sealand with the sword;
From Vindland vikings the sea-bord
Of Scania swept; and, with the shield
Of Odin clad, made Gautland yield
A ransom of the ruddy gold,
Which Hakon to his war-men bold
Gave with free hand, who in his feud
Against the arrow-storm had stood.”

King Hakon returned back in autumn with his army and an immense booty; and remained all the winter (946) in Viken to defend it against the Danes and Gautlanders, if they should attack it.


14 Sigurd Slefa’s Murder

One summer Harald Grayskin with his troops went north to Bjarmaland, where he forayed, and fought a great battle with the inhabitants on the banks of the Vina (Dwina). King Harald gained the victory, killed many people, plundered and wasted and burned far and wide in the land, and made enormous booty. Glum Geirason tells of it thus:—

“I saw the hero Harald chase
With bloody sword Bjarme’s race:
They fly before him through the night,
All by their burning city’s light.
On Dwina’s bank, at Harald’s word,
Arose the storm of spear and sword.
In such a wild war-cruise as this.
Great would he be who could bring peace”

King Sigurd Slefa came to the Herse Klyp’s house. Klyp was a son of Thord, and a grandson of Hordakare, and was a man of power and great family. He was not at home; but his wife Alof gave a good reception to the king, and made a great feast at which there was much drinking. Alof was a daughter of Asbjorn, and sister to Jarnskegge, north in Yrjar. Asbjorn’s brother was called Hreidar, who was father to Styrkar, whose son was Eindride, father of Einar Tambaskielfer. In the night the king went to bed to Alof against her will, and then set out on his journey. The harvest thereafter, King Harald and his brother King Sigurd Slefa went to Vors, and summoned the bondes to a Thing. There the bondes fell on them, and would have killed them, but they escaped and took different roads. King Harald went to Hardanger, but King Sigurd to Alrekstader. Now when the Herse Klyp heard of this, he and his relations assembled to attack the king; and Vemund Volubrjot1 was [116] chief of their troop. Now when they came to the house they attacked the king, and Herse Klyp, it is said, ran him through with his sword and killed him; but instantly Klyp was killed on the spot by Erling Gamle (965).


18 Battle Between Hakon and Ragnfred

Towards spring Earl Hakon ordered out all the men north in the country; and got many people from Halogaland and Naumudal; so that from Bryda to Stad he had men from all the sea-coast. People flocked to him from all the Throndhjem district and from Raumsdal. It was said for certain that he had men from four great districts, and that seven earls followed him, and a matchless number of men. So it is said in the Vellekla:—

“Hakon, defender of the land,
Armed in the North his warrior-band,

To Sogn’s old shore his force he led,
And from all quarters thither sped
War-ships and men and haste was made
By the young god of the sword-blade,
The hero-viking of the wave,
His wide domain from foes to save.
With shining keels seven kings sailed on
To meet this raven-feeding one
When the clash came, the stunning sound
Was heard in Norway’s farthest bound
And sea-borne corpses, floating far,
Brought round the Naze news from the war.”

Earl Hakon sailed then with his fleet southwards around Stad: and when he heard that King Ragnfred with his army had gone towards Sogn, he turned there also with his men to meet him: and there Ragnfred and Hakon met. Hakon came to the land with his ships, marked out a battle-field with hazel branches for King [139] Ragnfred, and took ground for his own men in it. So it is told in the Vellekla:—

“In the fierce batle Ragnfred then
Met the grim foe of Vindland men,
And many a hero of great name
Fell in the sharp sword’s bloody game.
The wielder of fell Narve’s weapon,
The conquering hero, vallant Hakon,
Had laid his war-ships on the strand,
And ranged his warriors on the land.”

There was a great battle: but Earl Hakon, having by far the most people, gained the victory. It took place on the Thinganes, where Sogn and Hordaland meet.

King Rangfred fled to his ships, after 300 of his men had fallen. So it is said in the Vellekla:—

“Sharp was the battle-strife, I ween,—
Deadly and close it must have been,

Before, upon the bloody plain,
Three hundred corpses of the slain

Were stretched for the black raven’s prey,
And when the conquerors took their way
To the sea-shore, they had to tread
O’er piled-up heaps of foemen dead”

After this battle King Ragnfred fled from Norway; but Earl Hakon restored peace to the country, and allowed the great army which had followed him in summer to return home to the north country, and he himself remained in the south that harvest and winter (972).

22 Olaf Trygvason’s Marriage

While Olaf lay at Borgundarholm there came on bad weather, storm, and a heavy sea, so that his ships could not lie there; and he sailed southwards under Vindland, where they found a good harbour. They conducted themselves very peacefully, and remained some time. In Vindland there was then a king called Burizleif, who had three daughters,—Geira, Gunhild, and Astrid. The king’s daughter Geira had the power and government in that part where Olaf and his people landed, and Dixen was the name of the man who most usually advised Queen Geira. Now when they heard that unknown people were come to the country, who were of distinguished appearance, and conducted themselves peaceably, Dixen repaired to them with a message from Queen Geira, inviting the strangers to take up their winter abode with her; for the summer [144] was almost spent, and the weather was severe and stormy. Now when Dixen came to the place he soon saw that the leader was a distinguished man, both from family and personal appearance, and he told Olaf the queen’s invitation with the most kindly message. Olaf willingly accepted the invitation, and went in harvest (982) to Queen Geira. They liked each other exceedingly, and Olaf courted Queen Geira; and it was so settled that Olaf married her the same winter, and was ruler, along with Queen Geira, over her dominions. Halfred Vandredaskald tells of these matters in the lay he composed about King Olaf:—

“Why should the deeds the hero did
In Bornholm and the East he hid?

His deadly weapon Olaf bold
Dyed red: why should not this be told?”

25 Olaf Trygvason’s War Expedition

Olaf Trygvason had been all winter (982) in Vindland, as before related, and went the same winter to the baronies in Vindland which had formerly been under Queen Geira, but had withdrawn themselves from obedience and payment of taxes. There Olaf made war, killed many people, burnt out others, took much property, and laid all of them under subjection to him, and then went back to his castle. Early in spring Olaf rigged out his ships and set off to sea. He sailed to Skane and made a landing. The people of the country assembled, and gave him battle; but King Olaf conquered, and made a great booty. He then sailed eastward to the island of Gotland, where he captured a merchant vessel belonging to the people of Jamtaland. They made a brave defence; but the end of it was that Olaf cleared the deck, killed many of the men, and took all the goods. He had a third [146] battle in Gotland, in which he also gained the victory, and made a great booty. So says Halfred Vandredaskald:—

“The king, so fierce in battle-fray,
First made the Vindland men give way:

The Gotlanders must tremble next,
And Scania’s shores are sorely vexed
By the sharp pelting arrow shower
The hero and his warriors pour,
And then the Jamtaland men must fly,
Scared by his well-known battle-cry.”

26 Otta and Hakon in Battle

The Emperor Otta assembled a great army from Saxland, Frakland, Frisland, and Vindland. King Burizleif followed him with a large army, and in it was his son-in-law, Olaf Trygvason. The emperor had a great body of horsemen, and still greater of foot people, and a great army from Holstein. Harald, the Danish king, sent Earl Hakon with the army of Northmen that followed him southwards to Danavirke, to defend his kingdom on that side. So it is told in the “Vellekla:”—

“Over the foaming salt sea spray
The Norse sea-horses took their way.
Racing across the ocean-plain
Southwards to Denmark’s green domain.
The gallant chief of Hordaland
Sat at the helm with steady hand,
In casque and shield, his men to bring
From Dovre to his friend the king
He steered his war-ships o’er the wave
To help the Danish king to save
Mordalf, who, with a gallant band
Was hastening from the Jutes’ wild land,
Across the forest frontier rude.
With toil and pain through the thick wood
Glad was the Danish king, I trow,
When he saw Hakon’s galley’s prow
The monarch straightway gave command
To Hakon, with a steel-clad band,
To man the Dane-work’s rampart stout,
And keep the foreign foemen out.”

The Emperor Otta came with his army from the south to Danavirke, but Earl Hakon defended the rampart with his men. The Dane-work (Danavirke) was constructed in this way:—Two fjords run into the land, one on each side; and in the farthest bight of these fjords the Danes had made a great wall of stone, turf, and timber, and dug a deep and broad ditch in front of it, and had also built a [147] castle over each gate of it. There was a hard battle there, of which the “Vellekla” speaks:—

“Thick the storm of arrows flew,
Loud was the din, black was the view
Of close array of shield and spear
Of Vind, and Frank, and Saxon there.
But little recked our gallant men:
And loud the cry might be heard then
Of Norway’s brave sea-roving son—
‘On ‘gainst the foe! on! lead us on!’”

Earl Hakon drew up his people in ranks upon all the gate-towers of the wall, but the greater part of them he kept marching along the wall to make a defence wheresoever an attack was threatened. Many of the emperor’s people fell without making any impression on the fortification, so the emperor turned back without farther attempt at an assault on it. So it is said in the “Vellekla”:—

“They who the eagle’s feast provide
In ranked line fought side by side,

‘Gainst lines of war-men under shields
Close packed together on the fields.
Earl Hakon drives by daring deeds
These Saxons to their ocean-steeds,
And the young hero saves from fall
The Danavirke—the people’s wall.”

After this battle Earl Hakon went back to his ships, and intended to sail home to Norway; but he did not get a favourable wind, and lay for some time outside at Limafjord.

29 The Emperor Otta Returns Home

The Emperor Otta went back to his kingdom in the Saxon land, and parted in friendship with the Danish king. It is said that the Emperor Otta stood godfather to Svein, King Harald’s son, and gave him his name; so that he was baptized Otta Svein. King Harald held fast by his Christianity to his dying day.

King Burizleif went to Vindland, and his son-in-law King Olaf went with him. This battle is related also by Halfred Vandredaskald in his song on Olaf:—

“He who through the foaming surges
His white-winged ocean-coursers urges.
Hewed from the Danes, in armour dressed,
The iron bark off mail-clad breast.”

30 Olaf’s Journey From Vindland

Olaf Trygvason was three years in Vindland (982–984) when Geira his queen fell sick, and she died of her illness. Olaf felt his loss so great that he had no pleasure in Vindland after it. He provided himself, therefore, with war-ships, and went out again a plundering, and plundered first in Frisland, next in Saxland, and then all the way to Flæmingjaland (Flanders). So says Halfred Vandredaskald:—

“Olaf’s broad axe of shining steel
For the shy wolf left many a meal.

The ill-shaped Saxon corpses lay
Heaped up, the witch-wife’s horses’ prey
She rides by night – at pools of blood,
Where Frisland men in daylight stood,
Her horses slake their thirst, and fly
On to the field where Flemings he
The raven-friend in Odin’s dress—
Olaf, who foes can well repress,
Left Flemish flesh for many a meal
With his broad axe of shining steel.”

31 King Olaf’s Forays

Thereafter Olaf Trygvason sailed to England, and ravaged wide around in the land. He sailed all the way north to Northumberland, where he plundered; and thence to Scotland, where he marauded far and wide. Then he went to the Hebrides, where he fought some battles; and then southwards to Man, where he also fought. He ravaged far around in Ireland, and thence steered to Bretland, which he laid waste with fire and sword, and all the district called Cumberland. He sailed westward from thence to Valland, and marauded there. When he left the west, intending to sail to England, he came to the islands called the Scilly Isles, lying westward from England in the ocean. Thus tells Halfred Vandredaskald of these events:—

“The brave young king, who ne’er retreats,
The Englishman in England beats.

Death through Northumberland is spread
From battle-axe and broad spearhead.

Through Scotland with his spears he rides.
To Man his glancing ships he guides
Feeding the wolves where’er he came,
The young king drove a bloody game.
The gallant bowmen in the isles
Slew foemen, who lay heaped in piles.
The Irish fled at Olaf’s name—
Fled from a young king seeking fame.
In Bretland, and in Cumberland,
People against him could not stand:
Thick on the fields their corpses lay.
To ravens and howing wolves a prey.”

Olaf Trygvason had been four years on this cruise (985–988), from the time he left Vindland till he came to the Scilly Islands.

38 Harald Gormson’s Death

Svein, King Harald’s son, who afterwards was called Tjuguskeg (forked beard), asked his father King Harald for a part of his kingdom; but now, as before, Harald would not listen to dividing the Danish dominions, and giving him a kingdom. Svein collected ships of war, and gave out that he was going on a viking cruise; but [158] when all his men were assembled, and the Jomsborg viking Palnatoke had come to his assistance he ran into Sealand to Isafjord, where his father had been for some time with his ships ready to proceed on an expedition. Svein instantly gave battle, and the combat was severe. So many people flew to assist King Harald, that Svein was overpowered by numbers, and fled. But King Harald received a wound which ended in his death: and Svein was chosen King of Denmark. At this time Sigvalde was earl over Jomsborg in Vindland. He was a son of King Strutharald, who had ruled over Skane. Heming, and Thorkel the Tall, were Sigvalde’s brothers. Bue the Thick from Bornholm, and Sigurd his brother, were also chiefs among the Jomsborg vikings: and also Vagn, a son of Ake and Thorgunna, and a sister’s son of Bue and Sigurd. Earl Sigvalde had taken King Svein prisoner, and carried him to Vindland, to Jomsborg, where he had forced him to make peace with Burizleif, the king of the Vinds, and to take him as the peace-maker between them. Earl Sigvalde was married to Astrid, a daughter of King Burizleif; and told King Svein that if he did not accept of his terms, he would deliver him into the hands of the Vinds. The king knew that they would torture him to death, and therefore agreed to accept the earl’s mediation. The earl delivered this judgment between them—that King Svein should marry Gunhild, King Burizleif’s daughter; and King Burizleif again Thyre, a daughter of Harald, and King Svein’s sister; but that each party should retain their own dominions, and there should be peace between the countries. Then King Svein [159] returned home to Denmark with his wife Gunhild. Their sons were Harald and Knut (Canute) the Great. At that time the Danes threatened much to bring an army into Norway against Earl Hakon.

39 Vow of the Jomsborg Vikings

King Svein made a magnificent feast, to which he invited all the chiefs in his dominions; for he would give the succession-feast, or the heir-ship-ale, after his father Harald. A short time before, Strutharald in Skane, and Vesete in Bornholm, father to Bue the Thick and to Sigurd, had died; and King Svein sent word to the Jomsborg vikings that Earl Sigvalde and Bue, and their brothers, should come to him, and drink the funeral-ale for their fathers in the same feast the king was giving. The Jomsborg vikings came to the festival with their bravest men, forty ships of them from Vindland, and twenty ships from Skane. Great was the multitude of people assembled. The first day of the feast, before King Svein went up into his father’s high-seat, he drank the bowl to his father’s memory, and made the solemn vow, that before three winters were past he would go over with his army to England, and either kill King Adalrad (Ethelred), or chase him out of the country. This heir-ship bowl all who were at the feast drank. Thereafter for the chiefs of the Jomsborg vikings was filled and drunk the largest horn to be found, and of the strongest drink. When that bowl was emptied, all men drank Christ’s health; and again the fullest measure and the strongest drink were handed to the Jomsborg vikings. [160] The third bowl was to the memory of Saint Michael, which was drunk by all. Thereafter Earl Sigvalde emptied a remembrance bowl to his father’s honour, and made the solemn vow, that before three winters came to an end he would go to Norway, and either kill Earl Hakon, or chase him out of the country. Thereupon Thorkel the Tall, his brother, made a solemn vow to follow his brother Sigvalde to Norway, and not flinch from the battle so long as Sigvalde would fight there. Then Bue the Thick vowed to follow them to Norway, and not flinch so long as the other Jomsborg vikings fought. At last Vagn Akason vowed that he would go with them to Norway, and not return until he had slain Thorkel Leira, and gone to bed to his daughter Ingebjorg without her friends’ consent. Many other chiefs made solemn vows about different things. Thus was the heir-ship-ale drunk that day, but the next morning, when the Jomsborg vikings had selpt off their drink, they thought they had spoken more than enough. They held a meeting to consult how they should proceed with their undertaking, and they determined to fit out as speedily as possible for the expedition; and without delay ships and men-at-arms were prepared, and the news spread quickly.

96 Earl Eirik, the Son of Hakon

Earl Eirik, the son of Earl Hakon, and his brothers, with many other valiant men their relations, had left the country after Earl Hakon’s fall. Earl Eirik went eastwards to Svithjod, to Olaf, the Swedish king, and he and his people were well received. King Olaf gave the earl peace and freedom in the land, and great fiefs; so that he could support himself and his men well. Thord Kolbein-son speaks of this in the verses before given. Many people who fled from the country on account of King Olaf Trygvason came out of Norway to Earl Eirik; and the earl resolved to fit out ships and go a-cruising, in order to [222] get property for himself and his people. First he steered to Gotland, and lay there long in summer watching for merchant vessels sailing towards the land, or for vikings. Sometimes he landed and ravaged all round upon the sea-coasts. So it is told in the “Banda-drapa:”—

“Eirik, as we have lately heard,
Has waked the song of shield and sword,—
Has waked the slumbering storm of shields
Upon the vikings’ water-fields:
From Gotland’s lonely shore has gone
Far up the land, and battles won;
And o’er the sea his name is spread.
To friends a shield, to foes a dread.”

Afterwards Earl Eirik sailed south to Vindland, and at Stauren found some viking ships, and gave them battle. Eirik gained the victory, and slew the vikings. So it is told in the “Banda-drapa:”

“Earl Eirik, he who stoutly wields
The battle-axe in storm of shields,
With his long ships surprised the foe
At Stauren, and their strength laid low.
Many a corpse floats round the shore;
The strand with dead is studded o’er;
The raven tears their sea-bleached skins—
The land thrives well when Eirik wins.”

98 King Svein’s Marriage

The Danish king, Svein Tjuguskeg, was married to Gunhild, a daughter of Burizleif, king of the Vinds. But in the times we have just been speaking of it happened that Queen Gunhild fell sick and died. Soon after King Svein married Sigrid the Haughty, a daughter of Skoglar-toste, and mother of the Swedish king Olaf; and by means of this relationship there was great friendship between the kings and Earl Eirik, Hakon’s son.

99 King Burizleif’s Marriage

Burizleif, the king of the Vinds, complained to his [224] relation Earl Sigvalde, that the agreement was broken which Sigvalde had made between King Svein and King Burizleif, by which Burizleif was to get in marriage Thyre, Harald’s daughter, a sister of King Svein: but that marriage had not proceeded, for Thyre had given a positive no to the proposal to marry her to an old and heathen king. “Now,” said King Burizleif to Earl Sigvalde, “I must have the promise fulfilled.” And he told Earl Sigvalde to go to Denmark, and bring him Thyre as his queen. Earl Sigvalde loses no time, but goes to King Svein of Denmark; explains to him the case; and brings it so far by his persuasion, that the king delivered his sister Thyre into his hands. With her went some female attendants, and her foster-father, by name Ozur Agason, a man of great power, and some other people. In the agreement between the king and the earl, it was settled that Thyre should have in property the possessions which Queen Gunhild had enjoyed in Vindland, besides other great properties as bride-gifts. Thyre wept sorely, and went very unwillingly. When the earl came to Vindland, Burizleif held his wedding with Queen Thyre, and received her in marriage; but as long as she was among heathens she would neither eat nor drink with them, and this lasted for seven days.

100 Olaf Gets Thyre in Marriage

It happened one night that Queen Thyre and Ozur ran away in the dark, and into the woods, and, to be short in our story, came at last to Denmark. But here Thyre did not dare to remain, knowing that if her brother King [225] Svein heard of her, he would send her back directly to Vindland. She went on, therefore, secretly to Norway, and never stayed her journey until she fell in with King Olaf, by whom she was kindly received. Thyre related to the king her sorrows, and entreated his advice in her need, and protection in his kingdom. Thyre was a well-spoken woman, and the king had pleasure in her conversation. He saw she was a handsome woman, and it came into his mind that she would be a good match; so he turns the conversation that way, and asks if she will marry him. Now, as she saw that her situation was such that she could not help herself, and considered what a luck it was for her to marry so celebrated a man, she bade him to dispose himself of her hand and fate; and, after nearer conversation, King Olaf took Thyre in marriage. This wedding was held in harvest after the king returned from Halogaland (999), and King Olaf and Queen Thyre remained all winter (1000) at Nidaros.

The following spring Queen Thyre complained often to King Olaf, and wept bitterly over it, that she who had so great property in Vindland had no goods or possessions here in the country that were suitable for a queen; and sometimes she would entreat the king with fine words to get her property restored to her, and saying that King Burizleif was so great a friend of King Olaf that he would not deny King Olaf anything if they were to meet. But when King Olaf’s friends heard of such speeches, they dissuaded him from any such expedition. It is related that the king one day early in spring was walking in the street, and met a man in the market with many, and, for [226] that early season, remarkably large angelica roots. The king took a great stalk of the angelica in his hand, and went home to Queen Thyre’s lodging. Thyre sat in her room weeping as the king came in. The king said, “See here, queen, is a great angelica stalk, which I give thee.” She threw it away, and said, “A greater present Harald Gormson gave to my mother; and he was not afraid to go out of the land and take his own. That was shown when he came here to Norway, and laid waste the greater part of the land, and seized on all the scat and revenues; and thou darest not go across the Danish dominions for this brother of mine, King Svein.” As she spoke thus, King Olaf sprang up, and answered with a loud oath, “Never did I fear thy brother King Svein; and if we meet he shall give way before me!”

106 Olaf Sends Expedition to Vindland

King Olaf proceeded in summer with his ships and men southwards along the land (and past Stad. With him were Queen Thyre and Ingebjorg, Trygve’s daughter, the king’s sister). Many of his friends also joined him, and other persons of consequence who had prepared themselves to travel with the king. The first man among these was his brother-in-law, Erling Skjalgson, who had with him a large ship of thirty benches of rowers, and which was in every respect well equipt. His brothers-in-law Hyrning and Thorgeir also joined him, each of whom for himself steered a large vessel; and many other powerful men besides followed him. (With all this war-force he sailed southwards along the land; but when he came south as far as Rogaland he stopped there, for [232] Erling Skjalgson had prepared for him a splendid feast at Sole. There Earl Ragnvald, Ulf’s son, from Gautland, came to meet the king, and to settle the business which had been proposed in winter in the messages between them, namely, the marriage with Ingebjorg the king’s sister. Olaf received him kindly; and when the matter came to be spoken of, the king said he would keep his word, and marry his sister Ingebjorg to him, provided he would accept the true faith, and make all his subjects he ruled over in his land be baptized. The earl agreed to this, and he and all his followers were baptized. Now was the feast enlarged that Erling had prepared, for the earl held his wedding there with Ingebjorg the king’s sister. King Olaf had now married off all his sisters. The earl, with Ingebjorg, set out on his way home; and the king sent learned men with him to baptize the people in Gautland, and to teach them the right faith and morals. The king and the earl parted in the greatest friendship.)

107 Olaf’s Expedition to Vindland

(After his sister Ingebjorg’s wedding, the king made ready in all haste to leave the country with his army, which was both great and made up of fine men.) When he left the land and sailed southwards he had sixty ships of war, with which he sailed past Denmark, and in through the Sound, and on to Vindland. He appointed a meeting with King Burizleif; and when the kings met, they spoke about the property which King Olaf demanded, and the conference went off peaceably, as a good account was given of the properties which King Olaf thought [233] himself entitled to there. He passed here much of the summer, and found many of his old friends.

108 Conspiracy Against King Olaf

The Danish king, Svein Tjuguskeg, was married, as before related, to Sigrid the Haughty. Sigrid was King Olaf Trygvason’s greatest enemy; the cause of which, as before said, was that King Olaf had broken off with her, and had struck her in the face. She urged King Svein much to give battle to King Olaf Trygvason; saying that he had reason enough, as Olaf had married his sister Thyre without his leave, “and that your predecessors would not have submitted to.” Such persuasions Sigrid had often in her mouth; and at last she brought it so far that Svein resolved firmly on doing so. Early in spring King Svein sent messengers eastward into Svithjod, to his son-in-law Olaf, the Swedish king, and to Earl Eirik; and informed them that King Olaf of Norway was levying men for an expedition, and intended in summer to go to Vindland. To this news the Danish king added an invitation to the Swedish king and Earl Eirik to meet King Svein with an army, so that all together they might make an attack on King Olaf Trygvason. The Swedish king and Earl Eirik were ready enough for this, and immediately assembled a great fleet and an army through all Svithjod, with which they sailed southwards to Denmark, and arrived there after King Olaf Trgyvason had sailed to the eastward. Haldor the Unchristian tells of this in his lay on Earl Eirik:—

“The king-subduer raised a host
Of warriors on the Swedish coast.

The brave went southwards to the fight,
Who love the sword-storm’s gleaming light;
The brave, who fill the wild wolf’s mouth,
Followed bold Eirik to the south;
The brave, who sport in blood—each one
With the bold earl to sea is gone.”

The Swedish king and Earl Eirik sailed to meet the Danish king, and they had all, when together, an immense force.

109 Earl Sigvalde’s Treacherous Plans

At the same time that King Svein sent a message to Svithjod for an army, he sent Earl Sigvalde to Vindland to spy out King Olaf Trygvason’s proceedings, and to bring it about by cunning devices that King Svein and King Olaf should fall in with each other. So Sigvalde sets out to go to Vindland. First, he came to Jomsborg, and then he sought out King Olaf Trygvason. There was much friendship in their conversation, and the earl got himself into great favour with the king. Astrid, the Earl’s wife, King Burizleif’s daughter, was a great friend of King Olaf Trygvason, particularly on acount of the connection which had been between them when Olaf was married to her sister Geira. Earl Sigvalde was a prudent, ready-minded man; and as he had got a voice in King Olaf’s council, he put him off much from sailing homewards, finding various reasons for delay. Olaf’s people were in the highest degree dissatisfied with this; for the men were anxious to get home, and they lay ready to sail, waiting only for a wind. At last Earl Sigvalde got a secret message from Denmark that the Swedish king’s army was arrived from the east, and that Earl Eirik’s also was ready; and that all these chiefs had [235] resolved to sail eastwards to Vindland, and wait for King Olaf at an island which is called Svold. They also desired the earl to contrive matters so that they should meet King Olaf there.

110 King Olaf’s Voyage From Vindland

There came first a flying report to Vindland that the Danish king, Svein, had fitted out an army; and it was soon whispered that he intended to attack King Olaf. But Earl Sigvalde says to King Olaf, “It never can be King Svein’s intention to venture with the Danish force alone, to give battle to thee with such a powerful army; but if thou hast any suspicion that evil is on foot, I will follow thee with my force (at that time is was considered a great matter to have Jomsborg vikings with an army), and I will give thee eleven well-manned ships.” The king accepted this offer; and as the light breeze of wind that came was favourable, he ordered the ships to get under weigh, and the war-horns to sound the departure. The sails were hoisted; and all the small vessels, sailing fastest, got out to sea before the others. The earl, who sailed nearest to the king’s ship, called to those on board to tell the king to sail in his keel-track: “For I know where the water is deepest between the islands and in the sounds, and these large ships require the deepest.” Then the earl sailed first with his eleven ships, and the king followed with his large ships, also eleven in number; but the whole of the rest of the fleet sailed out to sea. Now when Earl Sigvalde came sailng close under the island Svold, a skiff rowed out to inform the earl that the Danish [236] king’s army was lying in the harbour before them. Then the earl ordered the sails of his vessels to be struck, and they rowed in under the island. Haldor the Unchristian says:—

“From out the south bold Trytgve’s son
With one-and-seventy ships came on,
To dye his sword in bloody fight,

Against the Danish foeman’s might.
But the false earl the king betrayed;
And treacherous Sigvalde, it is said,
Deserted from King Olaf’s fleet,
And basely fled, the Danes to meet.”

It is said here that King Olaf and Earl Sigvalde had seventy sail of vessels and one more, when they sailed from the south.

122 Report Among the People

Earl Sigvalde, as before related, came from Vindland, in company with King Olaf, with ten ships; but the eleventh ship was manned with the men of Astrid, the king’s daughter, the wife of Earl Sigvalde. Now when King Olaf sprang overboard, the whole army raised a shout of victory; and then Earl Sigvalde and his men put their oars in the water and rowed towards the battle. Haldor the Unchristian tells of it thus:—

“Then first the Vindland vessels came
Into the fight with little fame;

The fight still lingered on the wave,
Tho’ hope was gone with Olaf brave.
War, like a full-fed ravenous beast,
Still oped her grim jaws for the feast.
The few who stood now quickly fled,
When the shout told—‘Olaf is dead!’”

But the Vindland cutter, in which Astrid’s men were, rowed back to Vindland; and the report went immediately abroad and was told by many, that King Olaf had cast off his coat-of-mail under water, and had swum, diving under the long-ships, until he came to the Vindland cutter, and that Astrid’s men had conveyed him to Vindland: and many tales have been made since about the adventures of Olaf the king. Halfred speaks thus about it:—

“Does Olaf live? or is he dead?
Has he the hungry ravens fed?
I scarcely know what I should say,
For many tell the tale each way.
This I can say, nor fear to lie,
That he was wounded grievously—
So wounded in this bloody strife,
He scarce could come away with life.”

But however this may have been, King Olaf Trygvason never came back again to his kingdom of Norway. Halfred Vandredaskald speaks also thus about it:—

“The witness who reports this thing
Of Trygvason, our gallant king,
Once served the king, and truth should tell,
For Olaf hated lies like hell.
If Olaf ‘scaped from this sword-thing,
Worse fate, I fear, befel our king
Than people guess, or e’er can know,
For he was hemm’d in by the foe.
From the far east some news is rife
Of king sore wounded saving life;
His death, too sure, leaves me no care
For cobweb rumours in the air.
It never was the will of fate
That Olaf from such perilous strait
Should ‘scape with life! this truth may grieve—
‘What people wish they soon believe.’”


89 Of the Swedish King’s Children

This Swedish king, Olaf Eirikson, had first a concubine who was called Edla, a daughter of an earl of Vindland, who had been captured in war, and therefore was called the king’s slave-girl. Their children were Emund, Astrid, Holmfrid…. They had, besides, a son, who was born the day before St. Jacob’s-day. When the boy was to be christened the bishop called him Jacob, which the Swedes did not like, as there never had been a Swedish king called Jacob. All King Olaf’s children were handsome in appearance, and clever from childhood. The queen was proud, and did not behave well towards her step-children; therefore the king sent his son [367] Emund to Vindland, to be fostered by his mother’s relations, where he for a long time neglected his Christianity. The king’s daughter, Astrid, was brought up in West Gautland, in the house of a worthy man called Egil. She was a very lovely girl: her words came well into her conversation; she was merry, but modest, and very generous. When she was grown up she was often in her father’s house, and every man thought well of her. King Olaf was haughty and harsh in his speech. He took very ill the uproar and clamour the country people had raised against him at the Upsala Thing, as they had threatened him with violence, for which he laid the chief blame on Earl Ragnvald. He made no preparation for the bridal, according to the agreement to marry his daughter Ingegerd to Olaf the king of Norway, and to meet him on the borders for that purpose. As the summer advanced many of his men were anxious to know what the king’s intentions were; whether to keep to the agreement with King Olaf, or break his word, and with it the peace of the country. But no one was so bold as to ask the king, although they complained of it to Ingegerd, and besought her to find out what the king intended. She replied, “I have no inclination to speak to the king again about the matters between him and King Olaf; for he answered me ill enough once before when I brought forward Olaf’s name.” In the meantime Ingegerd, the king’s daughter, took it to heart, became melancholy and sorrowful, and yet very curious to know what the king intended. She had much suspicion that he would not keep his word and promise to King Olaf; [368] for he appeared quite enraged whenever Olaf the Thick’s name was in any way mentioned.

96 History of the Lagman Emund

There was a man called Emund of Skara, who was lagman of West Gautland, and was a man of great understanding and eloquence, and of high birth, great connection, and very wealthy; but was considered deceitful, and not to be trusted. He was the most powerful man in West Gautland after the earl was gone. The same spring (1019) that Earl Ragnvald left Gautland the Gautland people held a Thing among themselves, and often expressed their anxiety to each other about what the Swedish king might do. They heard he was incensed because they had rather held in friendship with the king of Norway than striven against him; and he was also enraged against those who had attended his daughter Astrid to Norway. Some proposed to seek help and support from the king of Norway, and to offer him their services; others dissuaded from this measure, as West Gautland had no strength to oppose to the Swedes. “And the king of Norway,” said they, “is far from us, the chief strength of his country very distant; and therefore let us first send men to the Swedish king to attempt to come to some reconciliation with him. If that fail, we can still turn to the king of Norway.” Then the bondes asked Emund [380] to undertake this mission, to which he agreed; and he proceeded with thirty men to East Gautland, where there were many of his relations and friends, who received him hospitably. He conversed there with the most prudent men about this difficult business; and they were all unanimous on one point,—that the king’s treatment of them was against law and reason. From thence Emund went into Svithjod, and conversed with many men of consequence, who all expressed themselves in the same way. Emund continued his journey thus, until one day, towards evening, he arrived at Upsala, where he and his retinue took a good lodging, and stayed there all night. The next day Emund waited upon the king, who was just then sitting in the Thing surrounded by many people. Emund went before him, bent his knee, and saluted him. The king looked at him, saluted him, and asked him what news he brought.

Emund replies, “There is little news among us Gautlanders; but it appears to us a piece of remarkable news that the proud, stupid Atte, in Vermaland, whom we look upon as a great sportsman, went up to the forest in winter with his snow-shoes and his bow. After he had got as many furs in the mountains as filled his hand-sledge so full that he could scarcely drag it, he returned home from the woods. But on the way he saw a squirrel in the trees, and shot at it, but did not hit; at which he was so angry, that he left the sledge to run after the squirrel: but still the squirrel sprang where the wood was thickest, sometimes among the roots of the trees, sometimes in the branches, sometimes among the arms that stretch from [381] tree to tree. When Atte shot at it the arrows flew too high or too low, and the squirrel never jumped so that Atte could get a fair aim at him. He was so eager upon this chase that he ran the whole day after the squirrel, and yet could not get hold of it. It was now getting dark; so he threw himself down upon the snow, as he was wont, and lay there all night in a heavy snow-storm. Next day Atte got up to look after his sledge, but never did he find it again; and so he returned home. And this is the only news, king, I have to tell.”

The king says, “This is news of but little importance, if it be all thou hast to tell.”

Emund replies, “Lately something happened which may well be called news. Gaute Tofason went with five war-ships out of the Gaut river, and when he was lying at the Eikrey Isles there came five large Danish merchant-ships there. Gaute and his men immediately took four of the great vessels, and made a great booty without the loss of a man; but the fifth vessel slipped out to sea, and sailed away. Gaute gave chase with one ship, and at first came nearer to them; but as the wind increased, the Danes got away. Then Gaute wanted to turn back; but a storm came on so that he lost his ship at Hlesey, with all the goods, and the greater part of his crew. In the meantime his people were waiting for him at the Eikrey Isles; but the Danes came over in fifteen merchant-ships, killed them all, and took all the booty they had made. So but little luck had they with their greed of plunder.”

The king replied, “That is great news, and worth being told; but what now is thy errand here?”

Emund replies, “I travel, sire, to obtain your judgment in a difficult case, in which our law and the Upsala law do not agree.”

The king asks, “What is thy appeal case?”

Emund replies, “There were two noble-born men of equal birth, but unequal in property and disposition. They quarrelled about some land, and did each other much damage; but most was done to him who was the more powerful of the two. This quarrel, however, was settled, and judged of at a General Thing; and the judgment was, that the most powerful should pay a compensation. But at the first payment, instead of paying a goose, he paid a gosling; for an old swine he paid a sucking pig; and for a mark of stamped gold only a half-mark, and for the other half-mark nothing but clay and dirt; and, moreover, threatened, in the most violent way, the people whom he forced to receive such goods in payment. Now, sire, what is your judgment?”

The king replies, “He shall pay the full equivalent whom the judgment ordered to do so, and that faithfully; and further, threefold to his king: and if payment be not made within a year and a day, he shall be cut off from all his property, his goods confiscated, and half go the king’s house, and half to the other party.”

Emund took witnesses to this judgment among the most considerable of the men who were present, according to the laws which were held in the Upsala Thing. He then saluted the king, and went his way; and other men brought their cases before the king, and he sat late in the day upon the cases of the people. Now when [383] the king came to table, he asked where Lagman Emund was. It was answered, he was home at his lodgings. “Then,” said the king, “go after him, and tell him to be my guest to-day.” Thereafter the dishes were borne in; then came the musicians with harps, fiddles, and musical instruments; and lastly, the cup-bearers. The king was particularly merry, and had many great people at table with him, so that he thought little of Emund. The king drank the whole day, and slept all the night after; but in the morning the king awoke, and recollected what Emund had said the day before: and when he had put on his clothes, he let his wise men be summoned to him; for he had always twelve of the wisest men who sat in judgment with him, and treated the more difficult cases; and that was no easy business, for the king was ill-pleased if the judgment was not according to justice, and yet it was of no use to contradict him. In this meeting the king ordered Lagman Emund to be called before them. The messenger returned, and said, “Sire, Lagman Emund rode away yesterday as soon as he had dined.” “Then,” said the king, “tell me, ye good chiefs, what may have been the meaning of that law-case which Emund laid before us yesterday?”

They replied, “You must have considered it yourself, if you think there was any other meaning under it than what he said.”

The king replied, “By the two noble-born men whom he spoke of, who were at variance, and of whom one was more powerful than the other, and who did each other damage, he must have meant us and Olaf the Thick.”

They answered, “It is, sire, as you say.”

The king— “Our case was judged at the Upsala Thing. But what was his meaning when he said that bad payment was made; namely, a gosling for a goose, a pig for a swine, and clay and dirt for half of the money instead of gold?”

Arnvid the Blind replied, “Sire, red gold and clay are things very unlike; but the difference is still greater between king and slave. You promised Olaf the Thick your daughter Ingegerd, who, in all branches of her descent, is born of kings, and of the Upland Swedish race of kings, which is the most noble in the North; for it is traced up to the gods themselves. But now Olaf has got Astrid; and although she is a king’s child, her mother was but a slave-woman, and, besides, of Vindish race. Great difference, indeed, must there be between these kings, when the one takes thankfully such a match; and now it is evident, as might be expected, that no Northman is to be placed by the side of the Upsala kings. Let us all give thanks that it has so turned out; for the gods have long protected their descendants, although many now neglect this faith.”

There were three brothers:—Arnvid the Blind, who had a great understanding, but was so weak-sighted that he was scarcely fit for war; the second was Thorvid the Stammerer, who could not utter two words together at one time, but was remarkably bold and courageous; the third was Freyvid the Deaf, who was hard of hearing. All these brothers were rich and powerful men, of noble birth, great wisdom, and all very dear to the king.

Then said King Olaf, “What means that which Emund said about Atte the Dull?”

None made any reply, but the one looked at the other.

“Speak freely,” said the king.

Then said Thorvid the Stammerer, “Atte—quarrelsome—greedy—jealous—deceitful—dull.”

Then said the king, “To whom are these words of reproach and mockery applied?”

Freyvid the Deaf replied, “We will speak more clearly if we have your permission.”

The king— “Speak freely, Freyvid, what you will.”

Freyvid took up the word, and spoke. “My brother Thorvid, who is considered to be the wisest of us brothers, holds the words ‘quarrelsome, greedy, jealous, dull,’ to be one and the same thing; for it applies to him who is weary of peace, longs for small things without attaining them, while he lets great and useful things pass away as they came. I am deaf; yet so loud have many spoken out, that I can perceive that all men, both great and small, take it ill that you have not kept your promise to the king of Norway; and, worse than that, that you broke the decision of the community as it was delivered at Upsala Thing. You need not fear either the king of Norway, or the king of Denmark, or any other, so long as the Swedish army will follow you: but if the people of the country unanimously turn against you, we, your friends, see no counsel that can be of advantage to you.”

The king asks. “Who is the chief who dares to betray the country and me?”

Freyvid replies, “All Swedes desire to have the ancient [386] laws, and their full rights. Look but here, sire, how many chiefs are sitting in council with you. I think, in truth, we are but six whom you call your councillors: all the others, so far as I know, have ridden forth through the districts to hold Things with the people; and we will not conceal it from you, that the message-token has gone forth to assemble a Retribution-thing.1 All of us brothers have been invited to take part in the decisions of this council, but none of us will bear the name of traitor to the sovereign; for that our father never was.”

Then the king said, “What council shall we take in this dangerous affair that is in our hands? Good chiefs give me council, that I may keep my kingdom, and the heritage of my forefathers; for I cannot enter into strife against the whole Swedish force.”

Arnvid the Blind replies, “Sire, it is my advice that you ride down to Aros with such men as will follow you; take your ship there, and go out into the Mæler lake; summon all people to meet you; proceed no longer with haughtiness, but promise every man the law and rights of old established in the country; keep back in this way the message-token, for it cannot as yet, in so short a time, have travelled far through the land. Send, then, those of your men in whom you have the most confidence to those who have this business on hand, and try if this uproar can be appeased.”

The king says that he will adopt this advice. “I will,” says he, “that ye brothers undertake this business; for I trust to you the most among my men.”

Thorvid the Stammerer said, “I remain behind. Let Jacob, your son, go with them, for that is necessary.”

Then said Freyvid, “Let us do as Thorvid says: he will not leave you, and I and Arnvid must travel.”

This counsel was followed. Olaf went to his ships, and set out into the Mælar lake, and many people came to him. The brothers Arnvid and Freyvid rode out to Ullaraker, and had with them the king’s son Jacob; but they kept it a secret that he was there. The brothers observed that there was a great concourse and war-gathering, for the bondes held the Thing night and day. When Arnvid and Freyvid met their relations and friends, they said they would join with the people; and many agreed to leave the management of the business in the hands of the brothers. But all, as one man, declared they would no longer have King Olaf over them, and no longer suffer his unlawful proceedings, and over-weening pride which would not listen to any man’s remonstrances, even when the great chiefs spoke the truth to him. When Freyvid observed the heat of the people, he saw in what a bad situation the king’s cause was. He summoned the chiefs of the land to a meeting with him, and addressed them thus:—“It appears to me, that if we are to depose Olaf Eirikson from his kingdom, we Swedes of the Uplands should be the leading men in it; for so it has always been, that the counsel which the Upland chiefs have resolved among themselves has always been followed by the men of the rest of the country. Our forefathers did not need to take advice from the West Gautlanders about the government of the Swedes. Now we will not be so degencrate [388] as to need Emund to give us counsel; but let us, friends and relations, unite ourselves for the purpose of coming to a determination.” All agreed to this, and thought it was well said. Thereafter the people joined this union which the Upland chiefs made among themselves, and Freyvid and Arnvid were chiefs of the whole assemblage. When Emund heard this he suspected how the matter would end, and went to both the brothers to have a conversation with them. Then Freyvid asked Emund, “Who, in your opinion, should we take for king, in case Olaf Eirikson’s days are at an end?”

Emund— “He whom we think best suited to it, whether he be of the race of chiefs or not.”

Freyvid answers, “We Uplanders will not, in our time, have the kingdom go out of the old race of our ancestors, which has given us kings for a long course of generations, so long as we have so good a choice as now. King Olaf has two sons, one of whom we will choose for king, although there is a great difference between them. The one is noble-born, and of Swedish race on both sides; the other is a slave-woman’s son, and of Vindish race on the mother’s side.”

This decision was received with loud applause, and all would have Jacob for king.

Then said Emund, “Ye Upland Swedes have the power this time to determinate the matter; but I will tell you what will happen:—some of those who now will listen to nothing but that the kingdom remain in the old race will live to see the day when they will wish the kingdom in another race, as being of more advantage.”

Thereupon the brothers Freyvid and Arnvid led the king’s son Jacob into the Thing, and saluted him with the title of king; and the Swedes gave him the name of Onund, which he afterwards retained as long as he lived. He was then ten or twelve years old. Thereafter King Onund took a court, and chose chiefs to be around him; and they had as many attendants in their suite as were thought necessary, so that he gave the whole assemblage of bondes leave to return home. After that ambassadors went between the two kings; and at last they had a meeting, and came to an agreement. Olaf was to remain king over the country as long as he lived; but should hold peace and be reconciled with King Olaf of Norway, and also with all who had taken part in this business. Onund should also be king, and have a part of the land, such as the father and son should agree upon; but should be bound to support the bondes in case King Olaf did anything which the bondes would not suffer.

252 Of the Beginning of King Svein Alfifason’s Government

Svein, a son of King Canute, and of Alfifa, a daughter of Earl Alfrin, had been appointed to govern Jomsborg in Vindland. There came a message to him from his father King Canute, that he should come to Denmark; and likewise that afterwards he should proceed to Norway, and take that kingdom under his charge, and assume, at the same time, the title of king of Norway. Svein repaired to Denmark, and took many people with him from thence, and also Earl Harald and many other people of consequence attended him. Thorarin Loftunga speaks of this in the song he composed about King Svein, called the Glelogn song:—

“‘Tis told by fame,
How grandly came
The Danes to tend
Their young king Svein
Grandest was he,
That all could see;
Then, one by one,
Each following man
More splendour wore
Than him before”

Then Svein proceeded to Norway, and his mother Alfifa was with him; and he was taken to be king at every Law-thing in the country. He had already come as far as Viken at the time the battle was fought at Stiklestad, and King Olaf fell. Svein continued his journey until he came north, in autumn, to the Throndhjem country; and there, as elsewhere, he was received as king.


24 Svein Ulfson Created an Earl

One day, as King Magnus sat in his high-seat and many people were around him, Svein Ulfson sat upon a footstool before the king. The king then made a speech:—“Be it known to you, chiefs, and the people in general, that I have taken the following resolution. Here is a distinguished man, both for family and for his own merits, Svein Ulfson, who has entered into my service, and given me promise of fidelity. Now, as ye know, the Danes have this summer become my men, so that when I am absent from the country it is without a head; and it is not unknown to you how it is ravaged by the people of Vindland, Kurland, and others from the Baltic, as well as by Saxons. Therefore I promised them a chief who could defend and rule their land; and I know no man better fitted, in all respects, for this than Svein Ulfson, who is of birth to be chief of the country. I will therefore make him my earl, and give him the government of my Danish dominions while I am in Norway; just as King Canute the Great set his father, Earl Ulf, over Denmark while he was in England.”

Then Einar Tambaskelfer said, “Too great an earl—too great an earl, my foster-son!”

The king replied in a passion, “Ye have a poor opinion [673] of my judgment, I think. Some consider that ye are too great earls, and others that ye are fit for nothing.”

Then the king stood up, took a sword, and girt it on the earl’s loins, and took a shield and fastened it on his shoulders, put a helmet upon his head, and gave him the title of earl, with the same fiefs in Denmark which his father Earl Ulf had formerly held. Afterwards a shrine was brought forth containing holy relics, and Svein laid his hand hereon, and swore the oath of fidelity to King Magnus; upon which the king led the earl to the high-seat by his side. So says Thiodolf:—

‘“Twas at the Gaut river’s shore,
With hand on shrine Svein Ulfson swore.
King Magnus first said o’er the oath,
With which Svein Ulfson pledged his troth.
The vows by Svein solemnly giver,
On holy bones of saints in heaven,
To Magnus seemed both fair and fast:
He found they were too fair to last.”

Earl Svein went thereafter to Denmark, and the whole nation received him well. He established a court about him, and soon became a great man. In winter (1043), he went much about the country, and made friends among the powerful chiefs; and, indeed, he was beloved by all the people of the land.

25 King Magnus’s Foray

King Magnus proceeded northward to Norway with his fleet, and wintered there; but when the spring set in (1043) he gathered a large force, with which he sailed south to Denmark, having heard the news from Vindland that the Vindland people in Jomsborg had withdrawn from their submission to him. The Danish kings had formerly had a very large earldom there, and they first founded [674] Jomsborg; and now the place was become a very strong fortress. When King Magnus heard of this, he ordered a large fleet and army to be levied in Denmark, and sailed in summer to Vindland with all his forces, which made a very large army altogether. Arnor, the earls’ skald, tells of it thus:—

“Now in this strophe, royal youth!
I tell no more than the plain truth.
Thy armed outfit from the strand
Left many a keel-trace on the sand,
And never did a king before
So many ships to any shore
Lead on, as thou to Vindland’s isle:
The Vindland men in fright recoil.”

Now when King Magnus came to Vindland he attacked Jomsborg, and soon took the fortress, killing many people, burning and destroying both in the town and in the country all around, and making the greatest havoc. So says Arnor, the earl’s skald:

“The robbers, hemmed ‘twixt death and fire,
Knew not how to escape thy ire:
O’er Jomsborg castle’s highest towers
Thy wrath the whirlwind-fire pours.
The heathen on his false gods calls,
And trembles even in their halls;
And by the light from its own flame
The king this viking-hold o’ercame.”

Many people in Vindland submitted to King Magnus, but many more got out of the way and fled. King Magnus returned to Denmark, and prepared to take his winter abode there, and sent away the Danish, and also a great many of the Norwegian people he had brought with him.

27 Of King Magnus’s Military Force

King Magnus heard this news, and at the same time that the people of Vindland had a large force on foot. He summoned people therefore to come to him, and drew together a great army in Jutland. Otto, also, the Duke of Brunsvik, who had married Ulfhild, King Olaf the Saint’s daughter, and the sister of King Magnus, came to him with a great troop. The Danish chiefs pressed King Magnus to advance against the Vindland army, and not allow pagans to march over and lay waste the country; so it was resolved that the king with his army should proceed south to Heidaby. While King Magnus lay at Skotborg river, on Hlyrskog Heath, he got intelligence concerning [676] the Vindland army, and that it was so numerous it could not be counted; whereas King Magnus had so few, that there seemed no chance for him but to fly. The king, however, determined on fighting, if there was any possibility of gaining the victory; but the most dissuaded him from venturing on an engagement, and all, as one man, said that the Vindland people had undoubtedly a prodigious force. Duke Otto, however, pressed much to go to battle. Then the king ordered the whole army to be gathered by the war trumpets into battle array, and ordered all the men to arm, and to lie down for the night under their shields; for he was told the enemy’s army had come to the neighbourhood. The king was very thoughtful; for he was vexed that he should be obliged to fly, which fate he had never experienced before. He slept but little all night, and chanted his prayers.

28 Of King Olaf’s Miracle

The following day was Michaelmas eve. Towards dawn the king slumbered, and dreamt that his father, King Olaf the Saint, appeared to him, and said, “Art thou so melancholy and afraid, because the Vindland people come against thee with a great army? Be not afraid of heathens, although they be many; for I shall be with thee in the battle. Prepare, therefore, to give battle to the Vindlanders, when thou hearest my trumpet.” When the king awoke he told his dream to his men, and the day was then dawning. At that moment all the people heard a ringing of bells in the air; and those among King Magnus’s men who had been in Nidaros thought that it was the [677] ringing of the bell called Glod, which King Olaf had presented to the church of Saint Clement in the town of Nidaros.

29 Battle of Hlyrskog Heath

Then King Magnus stood up, and ordered the war trumpets to sound, and at that moment the Vindland army advanced from the south across the river against him; on which the whole of the king’s army stood up, and advanced against the heathens. King Magnus threw off from him his coat of ring-mail, and had a red silk shirt outside over his clothes, and had in his hands the battle-axe called Hel1, which had belonged to King Olaf. King Magnus ran on before all his men to the enemy’s army, and instantly hewed down with both hands every man who came against him. So says Arnor, the earls’ skald:—

“His armour on the ground be flung
His broad axe round his head he swung;
And Norway’s king strode on in might,
Through ringing swords, to the wild fight.
His broad axe Hel with both hands wielding,
Shields, helms, and skulls before it yielding,
He seemed with Fate the world to share,
And life or death to deal out there.”

This battle was not very long; for the king’s men were very fiery, and where they came the Vindland men fell as thick as tangles heaped up by the waves on the strand. They who stood behind betook themselves to flight, and were hewed down like cattle at a slaughter. The king himself drove the fugitives eastward over the heath, and people fell all over the moor. So says Thiodolf:—

“And foremost he pursued,
And the flying foe down hewed;
An eagle’s feast each stroke,
As the Vindland helms he broke.
He drove them o’er the heath,
And they fly from bloody death;
But the moor, a mile or more,
With the dead was studded o’er.”

It is a common saying, that there never was so great a slaughter of men in the northern lands, since the time of Christianity, as took place among the Vindland people on Hlyrskog’s Heath. On the other side, not many of King Magnus’s people were killed, although many were wounded. After the battle the king ordered the wounds of his men to be bound; but there were not so many doctors in the army as were necessary, so the king himself went round, and felt the hands of those he thought best suited for the business; and when he had thus stroked their palms he named twelve men, who, he thought, had the softest hands, and told them to bind the wounds of the people; and although none of them had ever tried it before, they all became afterwards the best of doctors. There were two Iceland men among them; the one was Thorkil, a son of Geire, from Lyngar; the other was Atle, father of Bard Svarte of Selardal, from whom many good doctors are descended. After this battle, the report of the miracle which King Olaf the Saint had worked was spread widely through the country; and it was the common saying of the people, that no man could venture to fight against King Magnus Olafson, for his father Saint Olaf stood so near to him that his enemies, on that account, never could do him harm.

36 Of King Magnus’s Battles

King Magnus remained in Denmark all that winter (1046), and sat in peace. He had held many battles, and had gained the victory in all. So says Od Kikinaskald:—

“Fore Michaelmas was struck the blow
That laid the Vindland vikings low;
And people learned with joy to hear
The clang of arms, and leaders’ cheer.
Short before Yule fell out the day,
Southward of Aros, where the fray.
Though not enough the foe to quell.
Was of the bloodiest men can tell.”

And Arnor says:—

“Olaf’s avenger who can sing?
The skald cannot o’ertake the king.
Who makes the war-bird daily drain
The corpse-blood of his foemen slain.
Four battles won within a year,—
Breaker of shields! with sword and spear,
And hand to hand, exalt thy fame
Above the kings of greatest name.”

King Magnus had three battles with Svein Ulfson. So says Thiodolf:—

“To our brave Throndhjem sovereign’s praise
The skald may all his skaldcraft raise;
For fortune, and for daring deed.
His song will not the truth exceed.
After three battles to regain
What was his own, unjustly ta’en,
Unjustly kept, and dues denied,
He levied dues in red-blood dyed.”


50 Hakon’s Journey to Denmark

Hakon then went out of the country with a well-manned [741] ship. When he came to Denmark he went immediately to his relative, King Svein, who received him honourably and gave him great fiefs. Hakon became King Svein’s commander of the coast defence against the vikings,—the Vindland people, Kurland people, and others from the East countries.—who infested the Danish dominions; and he lay out with his ships of war both winter and summer.


39 King Olaf’s Miracle with a Prisoner

The heathens took prisoner a young man of Danish family and carried him to Vindland, where he was in fetters along with other prisoners. In the day-time he was alone in irons, without a guard; but at night a peasant’s son was beside him in the chain, that he might not escape from them. This poor man never got sleep or rest from vexation and sorrow, and considered in many ways what could help him; for he had a great dread of slavery, and was pining with hunger and torture. He could not again [899]expect to be ransomed by his friends, as they had already restored him twice from heathen lands with their own money; and he well knew that it would be difficult and expensive for them to submit a third time to this burden. It is well with the man who does not undergo so much in the world as this man knew he had suffered. He saw but one way; and that was to get off and escape if he could. He resolved upon this in the night-time, killed the peasant, and cut his foot off after killing him: and set off to the forest with the chain upon his leg. Now when the people knew this, soon after daylight in the morning, they pursued him with two dogs accustomed to trace any one who escaped, and to find him in the forest however carefully he might be concealed. They got him into their hands and beat him, and did him all kinds of mischief; and dragging him home, left barely alive, and showed him no mercy. They tortured him severely; put him in a dark room, in which there lay already sixteen Chistian men; and bound him both with iron and other tyings, as fast as they could. Then he began to think that the misery and pain he had endured before were but shadows to his present sufferings. He saw no man before his eyes in this prison who would beg for mercy for him; no one had compassion on his wretchedness, except the Christian men who lay bound with him, who sorrowed with him, and bemoaned his fate together with their own misfortunes and helplessness. One day they advised him to make a vow to the holy King Olaf, to devote himself to some office in his sacred house, if he, by God’s compassion and Saint Olaf’s prayers could get away from this prison. He gladly [900] agreed to this, and made a vow and prepared himself for the situation they mentioned to him. The night after he thought in his sleep that he saw a man, not tall, standing at his side, who spoke to him thus, “Here, thou wretched man, why dost thou not get up?”

He replied, “Sir, who are you?”

“I am King Olaf, on whom thou hast called.”

“Oh, my good lord! gladly would I raise myself; but I lie bound with iron and with chains on my legs, and also the other men who lie here.”

Thereupon the king accosts him with the words, “Stand up at once and be not afraid; for thou art loose.”

He awoke immediately, and told his comrades what had appeared to him in his dream. They told him to stand up, and try if it was true. He stood up, and observed that he was loose. Now said his fellow-prisoners, this would help him but little, for the door was locked both on the inside and on the outside. Then an old man who sat there in a deplorable condition put in his word, and told him not to doubt the mercy of the man who had loosened his chains: “For he has wrought this miracle on thee that thou shouldst enjoy his mercy, and hereafter be free, without suffering more misery and torture. Make haste, then, and seek the door; and if thou are able to slip out, thou art saved.”

He did so, found the door open, slipped out, and away to the forest. As soon as the Vindland people were aware of this they set loose the dogs, and pursued him in great haste; and the poor man lay hid, and saw well where they were following him. But now the hounds lost the trace [901] when they came nearer, and all the eyes that sought him were struck with a blindness, so that nobody could find him, although he lay before their feet; and they all returned home, vexed that they could not find him. King Olaf did not permit this man’s destruction after he had reached the forest, and restored him also to his health and hearing; for they had so long tortured and beaten him that he had become deaf. At last he came on board of a ship, with two other Christian men who had been long afflicted in that country. All of them worked zealously in this vessel, and so had a successful flight. Then he repaired to the holy man’s house, strong and fit to bear arms. Now he was vexed at his vow, went from his promise to the holy king, ran away one day, and came in the evening to a bonde who gave him lodging for God’s sake. Then in the night he saw three girls coming to him; and handsome and nobly dressed were they. They spoke to him directly, and sharply reprimanded him for having been so bold as to run from the good king who had shown so much compassion to him, first in freeing him from his irons, and then from the prison; and yet he had deserted the mild master into whose service he had entered. Then he awoke full of terror, got up early, and told the house-father his dream. The good man had nothing so earnest in life as to send him back to the holy place. This miracle was first written down by a man who himself saw the man, and the marks of the chains upon his body.


10 The Rise of War in Konungahella

Thirteen loaded merchant ships made ready to leave the town, intending to proceed to Bergen; but eleven of them were lost, men and goods, and all that was in them; the twelfth was lost also, but the people were saved, although the cargo went to the bottom. At that time the priest Lopt went north to Bergen, with all that belonged to him, and arrived safely. The merchant vessels were [919] lost on Saint Lawrence eve (August 10). The Danish king Eirik and the Archbishop Assur, both sent notice to Konungahella to keep watch on their town; and said the Vindland people had a great force on foot with which they made war far around on Christian people, and usually gained the victory. But the townspeople attended very little to this warning, were indifferent, and forgot more and more the dreadful omens the longer it was since they happened. On the holy Saint Lawrence day, while the words of high mass were spoken, came to the Vindland king Rettibur to Konungahella with 550 Vindland cutters, and in each cutter were forty-four men and two horses. The king’s sister’s son Dunimiz, and Unibur, a chief who ruled over many people, were with him. These two chiefs rowed at once, with a part of their troops, up the east arm of the Gaut river past Hising Isle, and thus came down to the town; but a part of the fleet lay in the western arm, and came so to the town. They made fast their ships at the piles, and landed their horses, and rode over the height of Bratsas, and from thence up around the town. Einar, a relation of priest Andres, brought these tidings up to the Castle church; for there the whole inhabitants of the town were gathered to hear high mass. Einar came just as the priest Andres was holding his discourse; and he told the people that an army was sailing up against the town with a great number of ships of war, and that some people were riding over Bratsas. Many said it must be the Danish king Eirik, and from him they might expect peace. The people ran down into the town to their properties, armed [920] themselves, and went down upon the piers, whence they immediately saw there was an enemy and an immense army. Nine East-country trading vessels belonging to the merchants were afloat in the river at the piers. The Vindland people first directed their course toward these and fought with the merchants, who armed themselves, and defended themselves long, well, and manfully. There was a hard battle, and resistance, before the merchant vessels were cleared of their men; and in this conflict the Vindland people lost 150 of their ships, with all the men on board. When the battle was sharpest the townsmen stood upon the piers, and shot at the heathens. But when the fight slackened the burgesses fled up to the town, and from thence into the castle: and the men took with them all their valuable articles, and such goods as they could carry. Solveig and her daughters, with two other women, went on shore, when the Vindlanders took possession of the merchant vessels. Now the Vindlanders landed, and mustered their men, and discovered their loss. Some of them went up into the town, some on board the merchant ships, and took all the goods they pleased; and then they set fire to the town, and burnt it and the ships. They hastened then with all their army to assault the castle.

11 The Second Battle

King Rettibur made an offer to those who were in the castle that they should go out, and he would give them their lives, weapons, clothes, silver, and gold: but all exclaimed against it, and went out on the fortification: some shot, some threw stones, some sharp stakes. It [921] was a great battle, in which many fell on both sides, but by far the most of the Vindlanders. Solveig came up to a large farm called Solbjorg, and brought the news. A message war-token was there split, and sent out to Skurbagar, where there happened to be a joint ale-drinking feast, and many men were assembled. A bonde called Olver Miklimun (Mickle Mouth) was there, who immediately sprang up, took helmet and shield, and a great axe in his hand, and said. “Stand up, brave lads, and take your weapons. Let us go help the townspeople; for it would appear shameful to every man who heard of it, if we sit here sipping our ale, while good men in the town are losing their lives by our neglect.”

Many made an objection, and said they would only be losing their own lives, without being of any assistance to the townspeople.

Then said Olver, “Although all of you should hold back, I will go alone; and one or two heathens, at any rate, shall fall before I fall.”

He ran down to the town, and a few men after him to see what he would do, and also whether they could assist him in any way. When he came near the castle, and the heathens saw him, they sent out eight men fully armed against him; and when they met, the heathen men ran and surrounded him on all sides. Olver lifted his axe, and struck behind him with the extreme point of it, hitting the neck of the man who was coming up behind him, so that his throat and jawbone were cut through, and he fell dead backwards. Then he heaved his axe forwards, and struck the next man in the head, and clove him [922]down to the shoulders. He then fought with the others, and killed two of them; but was much wounded himself. The four who remained took to flight, but Olver ran after them. There was a ditch before them, and two of the heathens jumped into it, and Olver killed them both; but he stuck fast himself in the ditch, so that two of the eight heathens escaped. The men who had followed Olver took him up, and brought him back to Skurbagar, where his wounds were bound and healed; and it was the talk of the people, that no single man had ever made such a bloody onset. Two lendermen, Sigurd Gyrdson, a brother of Philip, and Sigard, came with 600 men to Skurbagar; on which Sigurd turned back with 400 men. He was but little respected afterwards, and soon died. Sigard, on the other hand, proceeded with 200 men towards the town; and they gave battle to the heathens, and were all slain. While the Vindlanders were storming the castle, their king and his chiefs were out of the battle. At one place there was a man among the Vindlanders shooting with a bow, and killing a man for every arrow; and two men stood before him, and covered him with their shields. Then Sæmund Husfreyja said to his son Asmund, that they should both shoot together at this bowman. “But I will shoot at the man who holds the shield before him.” He did so, and he knocked the shield down a little before the man; and in the same instant Asmund shot between the shields, and the arrow hit the bowman in the forehead, so that it came out at his neck, and he fell down dead. When the Vindlanders saw it they howled like dogs, or like wolves. Then King Rettibur [923] called to them that he would give them safety and life, but they refused terms. The heathens again made a hard assault. One of the heathens in particular fought so bravely, and ventured so near, that he came quite up to the castle-gate, and pierced the man who stood outside the gate with his sword; and although they used both arrows and stones against him, and he had neither shield nor helmet, nothing could touch him, for he was so skilled in witchcraft that weapon could not wound him. Then priest Andres took consecrated fire; blew upon it; cut tinder in pieces, and laid it on the fire; and then laid the tinder on the arrow-point, and gave it to Asmund. He shot this arrow at the warlock; and the shaft hit so well that it did its business, and the man of witchcraft fell dead. Then the heathens crowded together as before, howling and whining dreadfully; and all gathered about their king, on which the Christians believed that they were holding a council about retreating. The interpreters, who understood the Vindland tongue, heard the chief Unibur make the following speech: “These people are brave, and it is difficult to make anything of them; and even if we took all the goods in their town, we might willingly give as much more that we had never come here, so great has been our loss of men and chiefs. Early in the day, when we began to assault the castle, they defended themselves first with arrows and spears; then they fought against us with stones; and now with sticks and staves, as against dogs. I see from this that they are in want of weapons and means of defense; so we shall make one more hard assault, and try their [924] strength.” It was as he said, that they now fought with stakes; because, in the first assault, they had imprudently used up all their missile weapons and stones; and now when the Christians saw the number of their stakes diminishing, they clave each stake in two. The heathens now made a very hot attack, and rested themselves between whiles, and on both sides they were exhausted. During a rest the Vindland king Rettibur again offered terms, and that they should retain the weapons, clothes, and silver they could carry out of the castle. Sæmund Husfreyja had fallen, and the men who remained gave the counsel to deliver up the castle and themselves into the power of the heathens; but it was a foolish counsel; for the heathens did not keep their promises, but took all people, men, women, and children, and killed all of them who were wounded or young, or could not easily be carried with them. They took all the goods that were in the castle; went into the Cross church, and plundered it of all its ornaments. The priest Andres gave King Rettibur a silver-mounted gilt sceptre, and to his sister’s son Dunimiz he gave a gold ring. They supposed from this that he was a man of great importance in the town, and held him in higher respect than the others. They took away with them the holy cross, and also the tables which stood before the altar, which Sigurd had got made in the Greek country, and had brought home himself. These they took, and laid flat down on the steps before the altar. Then the heathens went out of the church. Rettibur said. “This house has been adorned with great zeal for the God to whom it is dedicated; but, methinks, [925] He has shown little regard for the town or house: so I see their God has been angry at those who defended them.” King Rettibur gave the priest Andres the church, the shrine, the holy cross, the Bible, the altar-book, and four clerks (prisoners); but the heathens burnt the Castle church, and all the houses that were in the castle. As the fire they had set to the church went out twice, they hewed the church down, and then it burnt like other houses. Then the heathens went to their ships with the booty; but when they mustered their people and saw their loss, they made prisoners of all the people, and divided them among the vessels. Now priest Andres went on board the king’s ship with the holy cross, and there came a great terror over the heathens on account of the portentous circumstance which took place in the king’s ship; namely, it became so hot that all thought they were going to be burnt up. The king ordered the interpreter to ask the priest why this happened. He replied, that the Almighty God on whom the Christians believed, sent them a proof of His anger, that they who would not believe in their Creator presumed to lay hands on the emblem of His suffering; and that there lay so much power in the cross, that such, and even clearer miracles, happened to heathen men who had taken the cross in their hands. The king had the priest put into the ship’s boat, and the priest Andres carried the holy cross in his grasp. They led the boat along past the ship’s bow, and then along the side of the next ship, and then shoved it with a boat-hook in beside the pier. Then Andres went with the cross by night to Solbjorg, [926] in rain and dreadful weather; but brought it in good preservation. King Rettibur, and the men he had remaining, went home to Vindland, and many of the people who were taken at Konungahella were long afterwards in slavery in Vindland; and those who were ransomed and came back to Norway to their udal lands and properties, throve worse than before their capture. The merchant town of Konungahella has never since risen to the importance it was of before this event.


5 Of Sigurd Slembidjakn

Sigurd Slembidjakn came that summer from the West sea to Norway, where he heard of his relation King Magnus’s unlucky expedition; so he expected no welcome in Norway, but sailed south, outside the rocks, past the land, and set over to Denmark, and went into the Sound. He fell in with some Vindland cutters south of the islands, gave them battle, and gained the victory. He cleared eight ships, killing many of the men, and he hanged the others.

He also had a battle off the Island Mon with the Vindland men, and gained a victory. He then sailed from the south and came to the eastern arm of the Gaut river, and took three ships of the fleet of Thorer Hvinantorde, and Olaf, the son of Harald Kesia, who was Sigurd’s own sister’s son; for Ragnhild, the mother of Olaf, was a daughter of King Magnus Barefoot. He drove Olaf up the country.

Thjostolf was at this time in Konungahella, and had collected people to defend the country, and Sigurd steered thither with his fleet. They shot at each other, but he could not effect a landing; and, on both sides, many were killed and many wounded. Ulfhedin Saxolfson, Sigurd’s forecastle man, fell there. He was an Icelander, [943] from the north quarter. Sigurd continued his course northwards to Viken and plundered far and wide around. Now when Sigurd lay in a harbour called Portyrja on Limgard’s coast, and watched the ships going to or coming from Viken to plunder them, the Tunsberg men collected an armed force against him, and came unexpectedly upon them while Sigurd and his men were on shore dividing their booty. Some of the men came down from the land, but some of the other party laid themselves with their ships right across the harbour outside of them. Sigurd ran up into his ship, and rowed out against them. Vatnorm’s ship was the nearest, and he let his ship fall behind the line, and Sigurd rowed clear past, and thus escaped with one ship and the loss of many men. This verse was made upon Vatnorm: —

“The water serpent, people say,
From Portyrja slipped away.”

24 Miracle of King Olaf

In the time of Harald Gille’s sons, it happened that a man called Haldor fell into the hands of the Vindland people, who took him and mutilated him, cut open his neck, took out the tongue through the opening, and cut out his tongue root. He afterwards sought out the holy King Olaf, fixed his mind entirely on the holy man, and weeping besought King Olaf to restore his speech and health. Thereupon he immediately recovered his speech by the good king’s compassion, went immediately into his service for all his life, and became an excellent trustworthy man. This miracle took place a fortnight before [966]the last Olafsmas, upon the day that Cardinal Nikolas set foot on the land of Norway.

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January 26, 2018

Auguries, Sorceries and Superstitions in the Medieval Manuscripts of the Jagiellonian Library

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The following is a translation of an article by Maria Kowalczyk (aka Maria Kowalczykówna, a senior librarian of the Jagiellonian Library’s manuscript department), “Auguries, Sorceries and Superstitions in the Medieval Manuscripts of the Jagiellonian Library” (Wróżby, czary i zabobony w średniowiecznych rękopisach Biblioteki Jagiellonskiej) . It is an interesting compilation of the author’s notes that she scribbled down while working the manuscript department of the library.  It originally came out in 1979 but it went largely unnoticed until Leszek Kolankiewicz cited the article in his book Dziady (“Forefathers’ Eve”) as proof that Alexander Brueckner’s view of the Polish Pantheon as presented by Jan Długosz was in fact wrong.

Kowalczyk, namely, came across a sermon by Lucas of Great Koźmin (Łukasz z Wielkiego Koźmina) from 1405 or so which predated Długosz by about than 50 years and which predated any other source for Polish paganism.  It was obvious that Brueckner had not been aware of the existence of this source when he wrote his critique of Długosz’ interpretation of pagan Poland’s religion. So here we had proof that Długosz neither made it all up nor did he misinterpret things as Brueckner claimed (though, interestingly, Kowalczyk did not seem to understand that what she found sent Brueckner’s already-strained interpretation down the tubes). The excerpts from that sermon are here and the full sermon here.

One interesting aspect to this is that even the small fragment cited by Kowalczyk seems slightly different from the sermon from other manuscripts.  One notable exception is that the sermon mentions the God list three times but in Kowalczyk’s version based on MS BJ 1446, the list appears twice or, more precisely, the first time the idols are mentioned in the other manuscripts their names are absent in Kowalczyk’s citation. Similarly, there is a reference to Bacchus in the other manuscripts but in the Kowalczyk version the name Bacchus is absent.  Assuming that these differences are actually born out in the manuscript and Kowalczyk did not make a mistake it seems that the manuscripts differ (and there are also other differences in the text just looking at her short fragment) and that the copyist decided not to mention the names the first time around.  Why then he mentioned the list the second and third time it appears is, of course, puzzling.

Another mention is that of Quia which Kowalczyk seems to believe is in the BJ manuscript but which does not appear appear in at least some of the other manuscripts.

Without further ado, here is the article that sparked a minor renaissance in Polish pagan studies. All the numbered notes are the Kowalczyk’s – mine are only the asterisk notes. For the name Stanisław I use Stanisuav throughout to better help with the pronunciation.

In the medieval manuscripts of the Jagiellonian Library there survived a number of texts discussing various manners of auguries, sorceries and superstitions.  The most notable of those are four sermons by Stanisław [Stanisuav] of Skalbmierz [or Skarbmierz so aka Stanisław ze Skarbimierza], a professor of canon law at Krakow University (d 1431).  One of these he dedicated almost entirely to the study of various superstitions, that is the sermon Magistris non inclinavi aurem meam (Proverbs 5, 13), which sermon has survived in  a number of manuscripts as part of the sermon collection by the same author entitled De sapienta Dei [1].  In this sermon the author notes that despite the fact that many people go to church, it is not by any means certain that they follow the Catholic faith in accordance with the teachings of the Church.  For they commit many transgressions against the faith, which transgressions the preacher lists in a detailed manner.  This is the most extensive known sermon about magic sorceries – of which the author list about fifty different types.

Skalbmierz coat of arms

Though not as thoroughly, Stanisuav also mentions the matter of superstitions and transgressions against the faith in his sermon Hic venit [2].

In this sermon the author undertakes a dialogue with a superstitious interlocutor with the latter asserting that he cannot be comitting a sin if – while engaging in his superstitious rites – he also utters Catholic words and prayers and even employs holy objects.  The preacher eventually asks rhetorically, how should this person then explain the various superstitions such as incomprehensible and laughable spells, the calling of the wolf, offerings and writings (pictura verborum).

In turn the third sermon Domine Deus rex celestis Deus Pater omnipotent is found in a collection of sermons by Stanisuav of Skalbmierz called Super Gloriam [in excelsis]  [3].  While speaking of the various false gods that a Christian may fall prey to worshipping, he mentioned and described a series of superstitious practices.

Finally, only  a brief mention of such matters can be found in the sermon Et in unum dominum nostrum Ihesum Christum cilium Dei unigenitum in the series Super Credo [4].

[1] MS BJ 193, 118v-121v and other manuscripts, in which are found the sermons De sapienta Dei.
[2] MS BJ 191, 16v-20r.
[3] MS BJ 191, v. 170r-172v.
[4] MS BJ 190, 18r-20r.

All these collections of Stanisuav of Skalbmierz’ sermons existed already around the year 1415 [*note: for example, Super Gloriam was written during his stay in Prague in the 1390s as per Zawadzki].  However, other sermons of his were written at various other times.  Some had been prepared already at the end of the 14th century.

In the second part of his “Medieval Sermons” in the chapter entitled “Superstitions of the Polish People in the 15th century” [5] Alexander Brueckner published large fragments of four anonymous sermons, which had been in the keeping of the National Library in Warsaw up until World War II.  An examination of these sermons (originally kept at the Holy Cross monastery [6]) allowed me to conclude that, other than a few omissions and minor additions, they were largely taken from the sermons of Stanisuav of Skalbmierz.

Also a large fragment of Stanisuav’s sermon entitled Magistris non inclinavi had been added to the confessional materials contained in MS BJ 2540 from the first half of the 15th century [7]. Among contemplations on the topic of mortal sins is found chapter devoted to auguries and superstitions [8].  Therein are found the fragments taken from Stanisuav [9].  It is also worth noting that in that document there is found a Polish gloss “booze spor”, a name of a disease which was treated by measuring the sick man or animal with a thread [10].

Because the various superstitions listed by Stanisuav of Skalbmierz had already been discussed by Alexander Brueckner, I will only summarize them directing the reader to the above mentioned discussion of Brueckner’s and the fragments published in it.  First of all the various magics, superstitions and auguries were the province of women.  These so-called “vetules” popped up in towns and villages.  Many of the superstitious practices became part of the regular liturgical year cycle for they were associated with Christmas, Candlemas [Feast of the Presentation/Purification or Święto Matki Boskiej Gromnicznej], the Holy Week, Saint John’s Eve, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, etc. They played the greatest role at Christmas.  The entire Christmas Eve was spent on festivities, playing dice, and inviting as guests those people who were considered lucky in the belief that they would bring luck [to the household].  Fire was not shared with the neighbors.  Also on Saint John’s Eve, people kept watch among entertainments and dances and superstitious practices.   Women and girls danced and played on Saturday nights.  On Holy (Maundy) Thursday, they did not wash the dishes after dinner so that the dead souls could have a meal.  Also for these souls did they toss out the leftovers.

[5] A. Brueckner, Kazania średniowieczne [Medieval Sermons], part 2, Rozprawy Wydziału Filologicznego AU, XXIV, 1895, pages 318[really 317]-347. [*note: Brueckner issued his Medieval Sermons series in three parts that were part of AU volumes 23 and 24 (or series II volume 9 and 10); these also contain other interesting publications like Władysław Nehring’s Kazania Gnieźnienskie and Brueckner’s Drobne zabytki języka polskiego XV wieku: pieśni]
[6] Warszawa, MS BN Lat. IQ 24, which manuscript was destroyed in World War II.
[7] The work begins Qui bene presunt presbiteri duplici honore habeantur digni (1 Timothy 5, 17) Do. X, cap. V, Ecce ego. Recipiunt enim in hac vita honorem reverencie… Sunt autem specialiter quatuor propter que sacerdotes sunt honorandi… The topic agrees with the summa De doctrina sacerdotali of Richard Wetherset but the proper incipit is different. Compare M. W. Bloomfield, “A Preliminary List of Incipits of Latin Works on the Virtues and Vices”, ‘Traditio’ XI, 1955, number 758.

[8] It begins Sors est ars divinandi, qui nunquam in bono accipitur…, MS BJ 2540, 228v.
[9] Peccant omnes illi qui contra dolorem oculorum per totam noctem a die Nativitatis Iohannis Bapitiste vigilant… X… Et multa talia supersticiosa et diversa et errores superseminati sunt, quod nec omnes de mundo magistrorum possent eos describere, in the same work, 232r-233r.
[10] Quandam infirmitatem vocant vulgariter b o z e  s p o r, in the same work, 232v.

Various priest-blessed objects were also used in superstitious ways – such as large wax candles [gromnice], Easter palms, fire, and especially blessed wax and water that had been blessed by the priests on Holy Saturday and herbs that had been blessed by the priests on the day of the Feat of the Assumption of Mary [Matki Boskiej Zielnej which means the Herb/Green Mother of God day].

Some superstitions and sorceries were intended to divine the future or assure prosperity.  One would read [the future] from the dripping of waxed candles, salt or herbs that had been blessed on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary or figure out the what coming across a hare or a wolf would portend.

The superstitions related to the various important events in a human life: birth, marriage, funerals.  For example, returning home from a funeral one would leave some ash at the home’s doorstep.  It was also the case that people would commission the dying to take care of their matters (after they crossed over).  The superstitions also translated into various activities.  For example, one would not set out any journey on a Monday.  Superstitions were also introduced when starting on the  building of a dwelling.

Superstitions were also associated with the various trades.  The farmers and gardeners who were dependent on the vagaries of nature were also especially prone to them.  From the blooming branches one would divine whether one’s livestock would multiply; one would not hold barehanded the rod or twig which was given at New Year’s – then used to drive the cattle out come springtime.  At the Feast of the Presentation [Purification or Gromniczna] one would walk around the house and the stables holding the candles [i.e., the gromnice]; then one would use fire to brand the cattle hair with the sign of the cross. When the farmers when out till the soil, they would tie an object to the horns of an ox and sprinkle ash that had been blessed by the priest on Ash Wednesday so that the wheel treads (of the wheeled plough). At Easter morning they would go around the field with a cross and the knife that had been used to cut meat at Easter was also used to cut cereal stalks so that the weeds would not grow amongst such crops. They would add something to the cereal so as to protect against rust [!]. They would invite the wolf to a feast so that he would not eat the sheep and they would not name the wolf at Christmas.  They would pour milk from a cow that had just birthed a calf behind them [for good luck?]; and they would refuse to sell milk or dairy products after sunset.

The innkeepers used all kinds of secret practices to ensure that they receive a lot of orders for beer. When buying a horse you were not supposed to use a bare hand to grab its bridle. Also contracts were agreed upon only while wearing gloves.  Hunters and fishermen would use all kinds of superstitions such as incense to help the sucres of an [upcoming] hunt.

However, the most magics and superstitions were practiced as part of the medical arts. Since there were relatively few actual doctors and medical advice was expensive, people turned towards the local old women who cured people using herbs, conjurations and magic.  It was believed that the inscription Lutum fecit Dominus ex sputa (John 8, 9) written during the reading of the Gospel at the fourth Sunday of Lent (Quadragesima Sunday or Invocavit Sunday after Ash Wednesday) can be used to treat eye ailments. It was also a belief that keeping watch on Saint John’s Eve (summer solstice) would avert eye disease.  That night people also wrapped the artemisia plant around their heads so as to prevent headaches throughout the year.  Garlic was attached to garlands and sashes.  Also some sort of small wooden boards would be attached to the brow with signs or writing.  Drawn lines, inscrutable words, signs, made with chalk or by other means were supposed to help with toothaches.

To cure various fevers, as soon as it was discovered that someone was suffering from it, some people would use a sort of a hand “manubrium” uttering words and making motions.  Others wrote words on an apple or wafers and gave these to the sick to eat.  There were also those who, fearful of falling ill with a fever, would not let anyone speak the word fever in their presence.  Another illness (unclear which one) which was called in Polish “miara” [measure] people tried to cure by measuring a person and his head with a thread.  That illness or a similar one, people also tried to cure by stomping on something.

Against ghosts [or anxiety?], people would pour molten lead or wax onto water.  Once this solidified they tied it on a child or on a sick person.  It was undesirable to drink while holding a light [candle] in one’s hand so as not to fall into an incurable illness. For this reason too one would not sit down on the door step.  For reasons unknown, one would chew on Easter wax and eat the [willow blooming] catkins from Easter palms.

One would pray during the new moon, kneeling and fasting even.  One would walk towards the sun to get rid of sickness.  Or would stick a nail in a tree.  Walking barefoot was believed to have medicinal qualities.  To read charms/bewitchments one would use elderberries.  While administering medicine one would pray “our Father, Credo.”  One would make a picture representing death and would walk it out in a procession out of the village.  In medicine one would take into account unlucky days, the so called “dies egypciaci.”

One would not let horses and cattle drink water in which hands (nogcie) had been washed so that they would not become stick with an eye disease (which was also called nogiec [hence the perceived connection]).  To treat this disease as well as uraz one would use farcical enchantments [?].  To treat household animals one used fire that had been blessed on Holy Saturday. Herbs blessed during the Feast of the Assumption were used to treat cattle and to shoe away demons by sticking them onto the house and in the cowshed.  One would place a [piece of paper with?] the name of Saint Luke written on it since his symbol is an ox.  In the conclusion of his sermon Magistris non inclinavi Stanisuav of Skalbmierz says that one writer is unable to write down all the superstitions especially since they always multiply as new ones arise constantly.

Of course, Stanisuav, being a cleric, saw all these practices from his own religious vantage point.  Therefore, to fight such superstitions he used primarily theological arguments.  He asserted that those who attach incomprehensible caracteres to sick people, receive blessings from old women [as opposed to priests], and those who believe that diseases and human ailments may be cured, create a false god; in his opinion, they wound the faith, steal from Christ, flee from the light. He warned that one should not worship either the Sun or the Moon for veneration is owed only to God who created them.  In the sermon Hic venit Saint john is made to address his audience to ask whether he who came as a witness of truth is to be seen the same as those who try to find salvation in various [ritualistic] writings, apocrypha, signs, plants, wax, lead, wood, stones, carvings, empty words, inane blessings, curses.  Stanisuav also appealed to common sense.  He encouraged his listeners to hearken more to doctors than to old women.  He said, for example, that the sheep will be better protected from the wolf by being closely guarded rather than by avoiding the uttering of the wolf’s name. He tried to convince that a sickness is best driven away not by using a thread but by applying medicine [whatever that “medicine” may have been]. He ridiculed those who would scribble down various words and signs which were understood by no one and those who would take as blessed that which had not been and is not blessed.

It is not easy to determine how much of the writing of Stanisuav from Skalbmierz is original since we still know very little about his models.  While it is true that there is a treatise by the Silesian Nicholas from Jawor De superstitionibus, which is known from various XVth century copies but Stanisuav’s sermons do not appear to have made any textual borrowings from that treatise [11].  However, already Zofia Kozłowska-Budkowa drew attention to the influence of Czech preachers [12].  In their sermons too does the problem of sorcery and superstition appear sharply. What’s more, one can see that Stanisuav’s sermons are dependent on those.

MS. 1396 (written at Plock in the year 1414 it originated from the library of the Plock preacher Jacob of Piotrkow) contains a synodal sermon Sacerdotes contempserunt written by the Czech preacher John Milicz from Kromieryz – from which we learn that not only the common people but also priests, especially clergymen took part in various superstitious practices. In agreement with local women and sometimes in exchange for money, during their first [?] masses they put on belts (or straps/girdles) which were then later used in superstitious practices (of unclear type); during the gospels being read they would write various words on communal wafers, laurel leaves and cards designed to counteract fevers or other diseases such as Ihesus autem transiens etc. or the already mentioned Lutum fecit Dominus ex sputa. On Palm Sunday during the reading of the Passion they would cut out the aforementioned crosses.  They created amulets (“ligature“), which were then worn by superstitious, illiterate people. Therefore, the preacher [John] concludes that those priests who engaged in such practices or who permit that others do so, are not priests of Christ but of Baal or Belial [13].

The same [John] Milicz in a sermon for the feast of Saints Simon and Jude [Judas Thaddaeus] entitled Principes apostolorum (a part of the compilation known as Abortivus) raises the issue of superstitions. In MS. BJ 1645 a glossator observes at this juncture: Nota been contra incantatrices et incredulous [14].

[11] See A. Franz, Der Magister Nicolaus Magni de Jawor, Freiburg 1898. It also could not have been taken from Katalog magi Rudolfa, pub. E. Karwot, Prace Etnologiczne, v. 4, Wrocław 1955 and the rev. G. Labuda, “Studia Źródłoznawcze” III, 1958, p. 314.
[12] Z. Budkowa, Sermones Sapientiales Stanisława ze Skalbmierza, “Sprawozdania Polskiej Akademii Umiejętności” LIII, 1952, p. 395. See also Largum sero Marcina z Holeszowa, MS BJ 1400, p. 337-353.
[13] Sunt et alii sacerdotes vel clerici, qui sacramentis abutuntur in suis vel mulierum coniuracionibus, incantacionibus, sortilegiis. Sunt qui in missis suis novis vel primis amorem mulierum vel precio vel pecunia conducti cingunt se cingulis ad supersticiones faciendas. Sunt qui scribunt contra febres vel infirmitates super hostia, super lauri baca, super cedula, vel scribunt illud Ihesus autem transiens etc. vel Lutum fecit Dominus ex sputo etc. quando ewangelium legitur ac si illa verba evangelii non valerent alio tempore scripta, quam cum evangelium legitur, quia hoc est supersticiosum, quod tempore illi creditur, vel incidunt cruce infra passionis leccionem in in die Palmarum vel ligaturas faciunt… Hi sacerdotes Domini sed Baal, non Christi sed Belial. Vertunt enim letanias sanctorum in invocaciones demonum, Ioviniani sunt non Christiani…, MS BJ 1396, 273v.
[14] Ad hoc eciam pertinent omnes ligature et remedia, que eciam medicorum disciplina condempnat sive in verbis sive in caracteribus sive in quibuscumque rebus suspendendis vel ligandis vel solvendis, vel qui credit in occursum lupi, leporis vel hominis, vel qui sperat in inicia fori, vel contractus… quidam adorant lunam et murmurant in novilunio, pecunias ut augmententur. Quidam observant dies egipciacos… Quidam contra febres vel dolorem dencium, capitis vel oculorum in pomo vel lauri baca, in plumbo in hostia, sive qui scribunt Lutum fecit ex sputo Dominus sive Ihesus autem transiens etc. infra evangelium, incidunt cruces infra passionem que ideo supersticiosa sunt… Coniurant quidam serpentes… Caveatis quibus sanare homines vel peccora quandoque conantur, quia ut plurimum admiscent aliqua ut mensurare hominem vel pecus vel spuere vel insufflare vel police tangere vel cereo digito et non alio quidquam ad hoc pertinens facere et talia in vestris ecclesiis facere prohibetis… Quidam eciam per artem notoriam scienciam nituntur aquirere… Quidam in sacramentis de crismate et oleo faciunt sortilegia. Caveant ne sint irregulares…, MS BJ 1645, 153v, compare too MS BJ 1175, 327v.

A student of Stanisuav from Skalbmierz, Lucas from Great Koźmin, a professor of theology at Cracow University, who died in 1412, speaks against superstitions and magics  in several sermons contained in his postilla. While discussing the text of the evangelical pericope regarding the wedding at Cana [where Jesus turned water into wine, resulting in mass inebriation and several “angry drunk” incidents], he mentioned that, in his time, “old wives,” witches and fortune tellers were being invited to weddings so as to foretell the future [presumably of the married couple] [15].

Koźmin coat of arms – Prussian version

In his sermon for the second Sunday of Lent, while discussing the story of the Canaanite woman [Matthew 15.22 or Greek, Mark 7.24], who’d asked Christ to cure her daughter who was tormented by Satan [demon really], upbraids women of his own time, saying that they, instead, engage with the devil when they medicate themselves and their children by incantations and amulets [nawąz, presumably from wiązać referring to tying of plants in some sort of a wreath?] [16]. Therefore, [according to Lucas] Jesus said to the Canaanite “Woman, great is your faith!” but to those other women [Lucas’ contemporaries], he would have said [according to Lucas]: “Great are your incantations and great are your magics.” Lucas also speaks of old women, alewives who gave themselves to superstitions, in his sermon for the Assumption of Mary [17].

An interesting detail found itself in Lucas’ sermon for the Green Week/Pentecost regarding Si quis diligit me ([Anyone who loves me] John 14.23). He mentions in this sermon namely relics of a pagan past, disappearing then under the influence of the Christian preachers; these dances and parties, during which were uttered the names of alleged pagan Gods: Lada, Yassa, Nia [18]. This same was repeated about fifty years later by Jan Długosz [19].

[15] MS BJ 1446, 167v, compare J. Wolny, Materiały do historii wagantów w Polsce średniowiecznej, “Biuletyn Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej” XIX, 1969, page 80.
[16] …non ad Deum sed magis ad dyabolum, scilicet ad artem eius puta ad incantaciones, ad sortilegia vetularumque ligaturas, que eciam libri medicorum condempnant, recurrunt, et tunc cum faciunt voluntatem dyaboli ipso cessante vexare estimant incantaciones illas vel illa sortilegia seu ligaturas ipsos vel ipsorum filios filiasve dixerim sanare… autem mulieribus posset dici o mulier magna est luxuria tua, magna est incantacio tua, magna est ars sortilega tua. MS BJ 1446, 199v, 203v.
[17] Same at 257v,

[18] Hoc deberent advertere hodie in choreis vel in alibi in spectaculis nephanda loquentes, in cordibus immunda meditantes, clamantes et nominantes ydolorum nomina, [] et attendere an possit referri ad Deum Patrem. Certe non. Venit ad summum bonum, nisi quod bonum. Non enim festa libere [] quales proh dolor celebrant ex remanenciis rituum execrabilium paganorum, quales fuerunt predecessores nostri, pervenire poterint ad aures, nisi ad ulciscendum, sicuti ascenderat clamor Sodomorum et Gomorrorum.  Nam in hoc festo liberi fiebant turpes  denudacione et alia turpia, que dicit Apostolus eciam non nominare gracia domini Dei. Tamem talia iam auctis predicatoribus, cessantur et in multis locis cessaverunt…. Non est aliud nomen sub celo in quo oportet nos salvos fieri. Non enim salvatur in hoc nomine Lado, Yasa, Quia, Nia, sed in nomine Ihesus Christus… Non Lada, non Yassa, non Nia, que sunt nomina alias ydolorum in Polonia hic cultorum, ut quedam cronice testantur ipsorum Polonorum… Same at 268v-269r.
[19] See B. Ulanowski, Kilka uwag o statutach synodów diecezyalnych krakowskich, Archiwum Komisji Historycznej V, Kraków 1888. page 27; Ioannes Dlugossius, Annales seu Cronicae incliti Poloniae, v. 1, Varsaviae 1964, page 106; Brueckner, same as above pages 10-11; the same, Encyklopedia staropolska, v. II, Warszawa, Kraków 1937, page 181, where he states that these are not names of pagan Gods.   

In MS BJ 1619 from the year 1407, containing a large number of sermons with Polish glosses (which also contains the oldest version of the Bogurodzica [mother of God, Polish hymn]), in the sermon regarding Nupcie fact sunt  there is a [description of] superstitions related to marriage (such as entering the house with the right foot first) [20].

The archdeacon of Gniezno, Peter Wolfram (died 1428), owned a manuscript which contained a sermon to the clergy entitled Ierusalem, Ierusalem, que occidis prophets (Matthew 23.37) of unknown authorship, in which he upbraided those [amongst the clergy?] who continued using superstitious practices [21].  The Sermo de S. Mathia regarding Surgens Petrus (Book of Acts of the Apostles 15.7) in MS BJ 2513 from the first quarter of the 15th century discusses auguries/ fortune telling (the manuscript also preserves the sermon of Marcin of Holeszow) [22].

Also Jacob of Piotrków, a preacher from Płock (d. 1447), talked on Palm Sunday about superstitions connected with the Holy Week; we know this because on the backside of a letter he personally wrote down directives in this matter, that is, an injunction against swallowing [willow blooming] catkins, against the preparation of crosses, against the placing of bread underneath the cross, against the strewing of ash, and against abuses [of what kind ?] with the [holy?] fire and holy water on Holy Saturday [23].

From a recommendation written by Kasper Rockenberg, the later decretist [Decretum Gratiani], at the occasion of the awarding of the bachelor of arts degrees at Cracow University, we learn of another superstitious practice. We find out that Kasper suffered from a fever but was able to get rid of it when, on the advice of one of the university masters, he transferred the said fever pursuant to a notarized deed – and without a right of repurchase – to the Jew Zacharias [24].

During Lent, pastors would read to their congregants the so-called prohibitions a communion paschal, so that they would know which sins would prevent them from being admitted to the Holy Communion during Easter. The registers [of such sins] have survived in several fifteenth century codices of the Jagiellonian Library. Among others, mortal sins included the practice of magic and superstitions, sometimes just being mentioned in general form, for example Item incantatricibus [25]. But we also find more detailed descriptions:

[20] MS BJ 1619, 96v.
[21] Sed heu nonnulli faciunt qui per vanas benedicciones per fatuas aplicaciones rerum quarumlibet querunt faustum vel procurant fieri infaustum… Taceo de illis, qui tempora observant et rebus sacramentalibus abuntur, querentes inde faustum ceram fundentes vel plumbum, MS BJ 2459, 207v-208r.
[22] MS BJ 2513, 358v.
[23] Dicendum in die Palmarum. Ne abuntantur ramis gluciendo, cruces parando. Item de pane posito sub cruce. Item de audicione passionis. Item de cremacione ignis feria quarta. Item de cieccione pulveris postea. Item ut feria 5 ieiunietur. Item ne igne et aqua consecratis errent. Item de pane benedicendo. Addition BJ 225/70, compare M. Kowalczyk, E Belczrzowa, F. Wysocka, Glosy polskie Jakuba z Piotrkowa i innych autorów w rękopisach Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej, “Biuletyn Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej” XXIII, 1973, page 86.
[24] MS BJ 2459, 263v-264r, M. Kowalczyk, Krakowskie mowy uniwersyteckie pierwszej połowy XV w., Kraków 1970, page 94. [my note: Kasper came from a local German town family so whether this practice could be Polish or German we can’t tell.  One wonders who could sue under the deed if Rockenberg had instead died – Zacharias who would not have gotten the desired (?) fever or the relatives of Rockenberg!? If there was a payment made for this “transfer” who paid whom?].
[25] MS BJ 1619. 55r.

Item omnes divinatores, incantatores, vel incantatrices… Item omnes benedicentes oculos, caput, dentes seu quascumque infirmates in hominibus et in animalibus, alia mala contra Deum facientes non admittantur. Item omnes demones pro furtis vel pro perditis coniurantes. Item omnes betheniam fugantes vel fodientes.

Magic figures also on the list of sins whose absolution was reserved for the bishop:

Ad episcopum mittuntur… maiores sorciarii maxime qui baptizant ymagines et qui ymolant demonibus [26].

During a bishop’s episcopal visitation, investigations were conducted to determine whether there were any witches in the parish. In MS BJ 399, which belonged to the afore-mentioned Jacob of Piotrkow, there are queries put together in connection with such a visitation; several of those have to do with magic and superstitions. Specifically, this a fragment from the third book of Decretum [or Decretorum libri viginti] by Burchard [the bishop] of Worms [De aeclesiis (“on the congregations”)]. In the same codex is found also initial fragments from the nineteenth book of Decretum [De paenitentia (“on penitence,” or “Corrector Burchardi”)]. Those fragments appear under the name Corrector et medicus. Therein, a large part of the text is devoted to matters of interest to us [27]. Since codex BJ 399 had been copied in 1420, we can infer that these texts which had been written at the beginning of the 11th century were still relevant in the territories of Poland [in the 15th century].

In 1888 B. Ulanowski [28] published a questionnaire from MS BJ 143 related to an episcopal visitation of the Włocławek diocese dated to, probably, the 14th century. By means of this questionnaire the clergy also investigated magic and superstitions. A similar text has been preserved in MS BJ 2415 from 1415, which belonged to a doctor decretorum [of decrees] of Cracow University, Nicholas Spiczmeri [Nicolai Spiczmeri].  It contains the following question:

Item an sunt aliqui sacrilegi, incantatores vel divinatores cum invocacione demonum, aut aliorum nominum, aut aliquas supersticiones facientes et servantes [29].

It is also worth noting that such investigations were also undertaken to see if a parish did not harbor Wycliffites or Hussites. Also in the chapter discussing usury, there is a Polish gloss “wplath” [30].

The rather plentifully preserved in the Jagiellonian Library manuals for confessors also discussed auguries, magics and superstitions. Unfortunately, although there exist editions of confessional summas [31], it is difficult to establish, at least for now, their authorship or even to determine whether any of them were written in the territories of Poland. MS BJ 2213 from about 1450, contains the Tractatulus multum utilis pro confessionibus which features a small Polish insert:

[26] MS BJ 2397, 283v, 279v.
[27] See edition PL 140, 573-579, 949-962.
[28] B. Ulanowski,  Modus inquirendi super statu ecclesie generalis z pierwszej połowy XV stulecia, Archiwum Komisji Historycznej V, Kraków 1888, page 228.
[29] MS BJ 2415, 232v.
[30] Item an aliqui mutant pecunias super usuris vulgariter w p l a t h…, in the same.
[31] P. Michaud-Quantin, Sommes de casuistique et manuels de confession au moyen âge, Montreal 1962.

Prosta, pocorna spowyecz ma bycz, czysta y vyerna, czasta, odthcrita, rostropna y dobrowolna, srmyeszlyva, czala, tayemna, rychla, placzacza, moczna, poszluszna y tesz nasza zaluyącza [32].

Among the sins committed by means of an affirmative act there are listed the following:

Sortilegys, auguriis aut divinacionibus intendere. Karacteres, scripturas, in plumbo aut in aliquo alio coligaturas plumbi fusi vel cere vel alicuius alterius non medicionalis differe atque in his contra preceptum Domini et ecclesie spem ponere [33].

In the short instruction which begins with the words Sacerdos, qui debet confessions recipere…, in the codex BJ 2403 there features the following query:

Si corpus Domini servasti in ore tuo vel posuisti ipsum in aliquo loco indigno propter incantaciones faciendas…[34]

The above-mentioned MS BJ 2397 from 1418, attached to which has been preserved the will of Mikolaj Wisliczka also contains short texts dealing with confession. One of them begins with the words Post modem querat de denim preceptis and contains the following question in the part dealing with the sins violating the First Commandment:

Querat ergo utrum experimenta vel incantaciones vel coniuraciones pro mulieribus vel sortilegis pro rebus inveniendis fecerit vel auguria servaverit vel divinaciones vel demones consulerit.

As regards the Third Commandment, the confessor was supposed to ask the following:

…si in festis ad ducendas choreas vel spectacula ad videnda exivit vel sicut est consvetudo in aliquibus partibus in vigiliis sanctorum et in ecclesiis cantilenas luxuriosas cantare. Quod grave peccatum est.

In the notes towards the end of the codex there is a copy from some kind of a penitential regarding superstitions involved in taking Communion:

De mulieribus, que corpus Domini tenent in ore et osculantur viros suos. Sorciarie, que corpus Domini in ore retinent et cum ipso osculantur amasios suos, ut eos habeant coniuges omnibus diebus sue vite peniteant… Similiter ille qui crismate meleficia procuraverit penitendus est ad arbitrium sacerdoties vel de aliis sacramentis… Omnes srciarie graviter sunt penitende tanquam ligate comunicacione generali [35].

In the confessional manual contained in MS BJ 2540, to which has been attached a fragment of a sermon by Stanisuav of Skalbmierz, we find a chapter beginning with the words Sors est dedicated to discussing auguries and magic. The matter of wearing amulets is discussed and, among others, the following question is raised:

[32] MS BJ 2213, 194r.
[33] Same, 199r.
[34] MS BJ 2403, 169v.
[35] MS BJ 2397, 277v-278r, 281v.

Utrum cartle et alligature circa collum infirmorum contentes verba evengelica aut versus psalterii vel alia divina verba suspendere circa collum sit peccatum?

Another chapter, entitled De imaginibus. quasi facing astronomi discusses the pictures/drawings that were being made by astrologers [36]. In turn, the Casus penitenciales secundum iura which is contained in MS BJ 2151, dated from the first quarter of the fifteenth century, sets out atonements for various mortal sins. Among other things what is discussed there includes instances of soothsaying and magic: “qui videt in astrolabio” as well as “sortilegus” [37]. Another source is the fourteenth century Determinaciones diversorum casuum by Stephan of Rudnice (who was the vicar general of Ernest of Pardubice) in MS BJ 2220 which also touches upon magic and superstitions; perhaps this was a source of some of the discussion by Stanisuav of Skalbmierz [38].

The short Questiones vulgares de apparition mortuorum (MS BJ 2121 from the fourteenth century) contains matters regarding magic, for example, Posse vel non posse anima, que ex hac vita migravit, magicis carminibus evocari et vivorum apparere aspectibus… An sit aliqua virtus in caracteribus [39]. 

In the anonymous Questiones de Eucharista in codex BJ 1395 from about 1430, which belonged to the theologian Paul of Pyskowice, there is the matter of Utrum divinatoribus, sortilegus et carminatricibus debeat dari corpus Christi. Et videtur quod sic [40].

It is known that in the fifteenth century Cracow’s scholarly circles, people concerned themselves not just with astrology but also with magic.  For example, in the 1410 letter by the queen Anna of Cilli [second wife of Wladyslaw Jagiello] to the Pope, we have described an otherwise unknown Nicholas who is supposed to have engaged in secret practices [41]. During the 1428-1429 trial of the royal astrologer, Henry the Czech, it was revealed that both crystal gazing and black magic were practiced in Cracow [42].

Because the line between that which was permitted by the Church, that is between black and white magic, such matters were subject to heavy debate also at Cracow University. In MS BJ 2070 from the second quarter of the fifteenth century, the following matter has been preserved: Utrum futurorum divinacio, ex genere duo illicita, in alliquo casu sive eius specie determinata ab ecclesia, licite sit tolleranda. Quod questio sit vera… [43] which was, perhaps, written by or under the direction of Thomas Strzemplinski, a professor of decrees, later theology and, eventually, a bishop of Cracow. The author cites Augustine, Isidore, Thomas Aquinas, William of Paris, the Decretum [and] the Summa [de casibus poenitentiae] of [Saint] Raymond of Penyafort.    The author also discusses different types of fortune telling and magic. He seeks to prove that the “carminatores” [spell chanters], if they incant against diseases without connection to any demons, do not commit mortal sins. Nevertheless, he concludes that the practice should be prohibited since the permitted spells are often mixed up with the forbidden. Naturally, he stresses that one should never summon demons although it is permissible to bind them in the Name of the Lord so that they would not harm the people.

[36] MS BJ 2540, 228v-233r.
[37] MS BJ 2151, 264r.
[38] MS BJ 2220, 21r; ed. R Zeleny, The Quaestiunculae of Stephan of Roudnice, “Appolinaris”, 38, 1965, pages 236-283, 372-405.
[39] MS BJ 2121, 44r, 48.
[40] MS BJ 1395, 288r, see Z. Włodek, Paweł z Pyskowic, Materiały is Studia Zakładu Historii Filozofii Starożytnej i Średniowiecznej V, page 154. 
[41] J. Zathey, Per la storia dell’ ambiente magico-astrologico a Cracovia nel Quattrocento, in Magia, astrologia e religione nel Rinascimento, Convegno polacco-italiano (Varsavia: 25-27 settembre 1972), Warszawa 1974 (Accademia Polacca delle Scienze […]. Conferenze, fasc. 65), pages 99-109; also see R. Ganszyniec, Pas magiczny, Archiwum Tow. Naukowego we Lwowie, Dział I. v. I, number 6, Lwów 1922; Modlitewnik Władysława Warneńczyka w zbiorach Biblioteki Bodlejańskiej, edited L. Bernacki, R. Gaszyniec, W Podlacha, Kraków 1928, page 72 and others. 
[42] A. Birkenmajer, Sprawa magistra Henryka Czecha, “Collectanea Theologica” XVII, 1936, pages 210 and others.

De carminatoribus vel eciam carminatricibus qui carminant infirmos vel pueros vel alia aliqua circa ipsos faciunt eciam est dicendum secundum Wilhelmum, quod si nichil supersticiosum dicunt aut docent aut faciunt… non credo, quod peccent mortaliter… Sed credo, quod prohibendi sunt viri et mulieres a talibus, quia multa inutilia et supersticiosa solent admiscere nisi forte sit sacerdos, religiosus et discretus aut eciam laycus sive vir sive mulier excellentis vite et probate discrecionis, que fusa oracione licite super infirmum non super pomum vel pirum aut cingulum aut similia super infirmantes manus imponat iuxta illud Marci ultimo [16, 18] Super egros manus inponent et bene habebunt. Nec sunt hee persone prohibende a talibus nisi forte timeatur, quod ad exemplum illorum et indiscreti et supersticiosi carminatores sibi abusum usurpent… Sic eciam si portentur reliquie ad fiduciam Dei et sanctorum non erit illicitun. Si aut circa hoc attendatur aliqua aliud vanum puta quod vas sit triangulare vel aliquid huiusmodi… supersticiosum erit… [44]

From this Church questionnaire we learn details about auguries/prophesizing [and] amulets which in Old Polish were called nawęzy [singular nawąz]. To fight off disease, the above-mentioned notes were written down and attached onto the human or on an animal. Of course, all these practices were condemned [by the Church] for religious reasons:

Ad supersticionem pertinent omnes ligature atque remedia que medicorum disciplina condempnat sive in precacionibus sive in quibusdam notis, quos caracteres vocant, sive in quibuscumque rebus suspendendis atque alligandis que miciori nomine phisicam? vocant, ut quasi non supersticionem implicare…

Sive qui attendunt sompnalia scirpta et falso Danielis nomine intitulata et sortes, que dicuntur sanctorum apostolorum, auguria avium aut aliqua pro domo facienda aut coniugio complendo aut in colleccionibus herbarum carmina dicunt aut pitaciola pro quavis infirmitate scripta super homines aut animalia ponunt, preter Symbolum et Oracionem Dominicam… Qui autem talibus credunt aut ad eorum domum euntes, aut suis domibus introducunt et interrogant, sciant se fidem Christianam et baptismum prevaricasse et paganum ac apostatam et retro abeuntem et Dei inimicum iram Dei graviter in eternum incurisse nisi ecclesiastica penitencia enendatus Deo reconcilietur [45]. 

We learn too that these co-called “caracteres” contained Hebrew angel names, unintelligible for most.  Nevertheless, it was feared that something may have snuck in there that was forbidden by the Church:

[43] MS BJ 2070, 150r-181r.
[44] Same, 160r-160v.
[45] Same, 155r, 167r.

…nunc multi aliqua nomina hebrayca angelorum confingunt et alligant, que noni ntelligentibus metuenda videntur. Est ecuam cavendum ne aliquid falsitatis contineant… deinde 20 cavendum est ne cum verbis sacris contineantur ibi aliqua vana puta caracteres inscripti preter signum crucis… [46]

How these 14th century signs looked like we can see in the fragments attached to MS BJ 1309. Here there are mentioned angels standing super gradum VII and there is a listing of the signs which you were supposed to write [or etch] onto a silver plate/plaque to protect against ghosts as the damaged text informs us:

…scribe angelos supradictos cum karakteribus istis in tabula argentea et porta supra pectus tuum et non timeas [47].

In MS BJ 551, dating from the 14th century, there was added at the beginning of the 15th a list of a number of magical customs: the welcoming of the new moon, that is kneeling, recitation of transcribed prayers [48] and other practices. When engaging in such practices, it was noted, one must have at the beginning declared/decided to remain in the Catholic faith. The codes also contains other magical practices, for example, a recipe for a love potion.  Some of these have been entirely blotted out with ink.

In those days another popular belief was in the magical power of stones. Such belief reached into antiquity. Even the Catholic Church engaged in the practice of blessing stones. In theological works of the period we find discussions of the symbolism of stones, especially the precious ones. Medieval doctors also utilized stones as medicines. In the Jagiellonian Library manuscripts there are a number of treatises de lapidibus [“Regarding Stones”]. An interesting anonymous treatise has been preserved in MS BJ 778 [49], which belonged to Jacob of Dobra, a professor of medicine at Cracow University [d. 1447]. The Incipit [the beginning] of his Abesten lapis latine dictum, qui in Greco Odolfanus dicitur, Fetularinus perisces in Caldeo nuncupatur… does not appear in the library’s catalogues/inventory. The treatise is, however, undoubtedly largely a compilation of other sources.  There appear in it fragments taken from Aristotle, Saint Albert the Great [bishop of Cologne], Matthaeus Silvaticus [or Mattheus Sylvaticus] and others but there are also interesting annexes dealing with German controlled lands of the Mark Brandenburg. This treatise was compiled sometime around 1300 since Přemysl Otakar II [king of Bohemia] (died 1278) is mentioned in it as dead, his son Wenceslaus II Přemyslid (1275-1305) as being king of Bohemia and Henry [III] the margrave of Meissen/Misnia (died in 1288) as also dead. The author in alphabetic order describes about 100 minerals and other stones. Included is an external description of the stone, locations where it could be found, its properties, what it is useful for, how to wear/carry it and what it should be framed/set in. For example, a diamond (adamas) when attached onto the left side of the body restrains anger, and increases wealth. It should be set in gold, silver or an alloy of these metals (electrum).

[46] Same, 159v.
[47] MS BJ 1309, Ir-Iv See also R. Bugaj, Nauki tajemne w Polsce w dobie odrodzenia, Wrocław 1976.
[48] In novilunio cum primo perspexeris lunam flexis genibus dic hunc versum Illumina domine vultum tuum super nos et fac hoc, quam diu vixeris. Et tunc vade domum ad cameram tuam devoveno, quod nunquam peririum voluntarie volueris facere et quod in fide katholica semper volueris perseverare et dic aliquias oraciones… MS BJ 551, 109v.
[49] MS BJ 778, 200r-210r.

When discussing the properties of beryllium, asserts that one of its alloys/types is possessed by frogs/toads. At this point he introduces a fable, heard allegedly in Styria [Steiermark] about the Czech king Otakar II. When he and his army entered Hungary and the soldiers were resting, a giant toad (the size of a dog) was to have run through the camp who probably held such a stone for no one attacked it.

In this treatise  there are mentioned numerous places primarily located in Germany in which one is able to find these stones. For example, the author states that jacint may be found in the Saale [Solawa] which in Franconia [Franken] is called Christian but when it enters Saxony is called pagan. The treatise mentions a scientist by the name Ulderic who worked in the area of Goslar. A part of the treatise (dealing with love) has been blurred out.  When discussing magnesium, the treatise mentions a chamber near Freiburg in Meissen/Misnia.  In one part of chamber one could hear what was being discussed in the other.

After discussing the last (alphabetically) stone (zigrutes), the author moves on to the art of making amulets and different ways of attaching stones [50], something that he largely lifted from Albert the Great.

To conclude this review of the Jagiellonian Library manuscripts containing materials dealing with auguries, sorceries, superstitions and magic, I would like to stress that this is hardly a result of a systematically undertaken inquiry but only a compilation of notes taken [by me] while working in the manuscript department of the Jagiellonian University. Therefore, this review can hardly be seen as complete. Nevertheless, this inquiry confirms that magic, auguries and superstitions were widely spread in Polish lands in the 15th century.

Moreover, these materials demand an edition by specialists, ethnographers, especially since often older (even 11th century) non-Polish texts or fragments [51] were being being copied in the 14th and 15th centuries.  Especially the sermon of Stanisuav of Skalbmierz Magistris non inclinavi aurem meam, which, shortly, is supposed to appear in print together with the entire collection De sapienta Dei, deserves this kind of an edition and printing in Polish.

[50] Perhaps the gold-plated dragon tongue mentioned in a court record served as this kind of an amulet. Offic. Crac. 15, page 426.
[51] The fragment …qui credunt de nocturnis temporibus equitare cum Dyana et Herodiade… which appears in Stanisuav of Skalbmierz sermon [enttiled] Domine Deus rex celestis is present in  Burchard’s [the bishop of Worms’] Decretum [or Decretorum libri viginti] as well as in a number of above discussed texts in MSS BJ 2121, 48; 2070, 152v. 

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January 26, 2018

Rashi on Ballynia

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The Book of Nahum is the seventh book of the 12 minor prophets (a portion of Nevi’im Aharonim) of the Hebrew Bible.  He wrote towards the end of the 7th century B.C.

Its chapter 1 begins as follows:

1 The harsh prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

א מַשָּׂ֖א נִֽינְוֵ֑ה סֵ֧פֶר חֲז֛וֹן נַח֖וּם הָֽאֶלְקֹשִֽׁי

This refers to Nineveh, the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire until its fall about the year 612 B.C. when, after a period of civil war, it was eventually destroyed by the Neo-Assyrians’ former subjects (Babylonians, Medes, Chaldeans, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians). The Neo-Assyrians (911-612 B.C.) were the successors to the Old Assyrian Empire (circa 2025-1378 B.C.) and the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365-1050 B.C.).  They spoke Akkadian but Aramaic was also in usage.  Anyway they conquered a lot of places and one of those was Israel. The Israelites (and others) did not like being taken over and one of them – Nahum – wrote of the downfall of Nineveh (though it is suspected that he wrote his “prophesy” after the actual downfall).

Now, this is what the Bible Gateway website has to say about the term “Elkoshite” mentioned to describe Nahum:

ELKOSH, ELKOSHITE ĕl’ kŏsh, īt (אֶלְקֹשִֽׁי). A term used to identify Nahum the prophet (Nah 1:1). It prob. refers to a place, but if so, the place is unknown. Several possible locations have been proposed: 1. A site in Galilee called Elcesi. Jerome thought this was the site. 2. A site in Mesopotamia N of Mosul near the Tigris River. Nestorius was the first to suggest this site. A so-called “tomb of Nahum” is found at Elqush N of Mosul. 3. A site in S Judah, prob. Beit Jibrin between Jerusalem and Gaza. This supposition has the merit of Nahum’s apparently having been from Judah. 4. The most apparent site, but one doubted by most scholars, is כְּפַר נַחוּם i.e. Capernaum, the village of Nahum. This is the village on the N shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus taught frequently in His earthly ministry. It must be emphasized that there is no real evidence for any of these sites. Perhaps the site is yet to be discovered, if indeed a geographical site is intended.”


Anyways… quite some time later you had Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040 – 1105) aka Rashi, a rabbi in France (born in Troyes, Champagne) write a commentary on (among other writings) Nahum the Elkoshite and his book.  Of course, he, like others,before and after him did not know where Elkosh was but he, like others, tried to interpret this name based on his own then current knowledge.  That knowledge apparently included knowledge of a kingdom in the East of Europe and a city in it – the Polish Olkusz.

The following comes from that commentary:

“Chapter 1

‘1 The harsh prophecy concerning Nineveh

Heb. מַשָׂא . The burden of the cup of the curse [which was] to be given Nineveh to drink.

‘The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite’

חזון is vowelized with a “kamatz” (חָזוֹן) since it is not in the construct state, and it is unlike “ חֲזוֹן יִשַׁעְיָהוּ ,” the vision of Isaiah, which is vowelized with a “hataf pattah.” This is its meaning: A book of vision has already been written concerning it [Nineveh], the prophecy of Jonah son of Amittai; and now, again, Nahum the Elkoshite prophesied this harsh prophecy over it. Elkosh is the name of his [Nahum’s] city. And so did Jonathan paraphrase: In early times, Jonah son of Amittai prophesied concerning it, and they repented of their sins, and when they continued to sin, Nahum of the house of Elkosh prophesied further concerning them.

‘the Elkoshite’

That city is in the province of Ballynia, which is in the state of Eretz Israel, although it is outside the Holy Land. Proof of the matter is that there is gold, silver, and salt dust near it because the Dead Sea, which is near Eretz Israel, goes there under the earth. In this state they do not crown a king the son of a king [i.e., the throne is not hereditary]; and they are of the seed of Judah. [Sod Mesharim]”


“Ballynia” refers to – probably – Poland.  What Rashi was doing was trying to figure out where Elkosh was and, knowing of Olkusz in “Ballynia”, he came up with that as the place for his ancient Nahum.

Now, Olkusz supposedly has a German etymology (it lies near Katowice) and its rise is tied to German colonization of Silesia.  Officially, the name appears first only in the 13th century (after the Mongol invasions when local rulers were trying to repopulate Silesia including by bringing German colonists in).  Its names are listed as: Lcuhs (1257), Hilcus (1262), Helcus (1301), Ylcus (1314), Elcus (1409), Olkusch (1462).

If Rashi was right then Olkusz’s place in history can be pushed up some 200 years back.  Moreover, we get a mention of Poland and the fantastic assertions that:

  • the Dead Sea extends – underground – all the way to Poland, and that
  • its nonhereditary rulers (which at that time was most certainly not the case – although perhaps Rashi meant that the crown was not hereditary – because the Empire was actively against that), and that
  • its rulers were from the tribe of Judah.

As to the last claim, what is interesting in this is that the Poles had a counterpart in the East – in Kiev and Ukraine there was a tribe of the “Eastern” Polanie.  They were tributary to the Jewish Khazars and then, after, perhaps, a brief period of independence became conquered by the Rus.  A half century later, the Polish state emerges.  While some have posited Mieszko or rather his ancestors as Vikings and others as refugees from Great Moravia, a more plausible scenario involves Poles (or people we today would call Ukrainians) fleeing the Vikings from the East and establishing their own state in the West, that is in Poland. Compare, for example, Gnezdovo in the lands conquered by the Rus with the Polish capital of Gniezno – both meaning “nest”.

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December 25, 2017

The Slavs of al-Ṭabarī

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Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (839 – 923) was a Persian scholar writing in Arabic. His History (History of the Prophets and Kings) is a multi-volume work which, in vol. 31 (“The War Between Brothers”) describing the events of 808 – 814 mentions Slavs.  The work is written in poetic form so the historical significance of these mentions appears debatable.  Nevertheless, the reference is to actual historical events – the battles between the succesors of the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid, his sons al-Amin (aka Muhammad ibn Harun al-Rashid) and al-Ma’mun (aka Abū Jaʿfar Abdullāh al-Maʾmūn ibn Hārūn al-Rashīd) as well as al-Qasim (aka Al-Qasim ibn Harun al-Rashid). Apparently, their father decided that al-Amin would succeed him but that al-Ma’mun would have sovereignty over Khurasan and, that, afterwards, al-Ma’mun would take over. Al-Ma’miun also got himself a large portion of the Baghdad army. Al-Qasim could not alter this.  After Al-Ma’mun it was to be al-Quasim although al-Ma’mun could replace him as successor. 

The below relates to events taking place after the death of al-Rashid in 809 when al-Amin was supposed to take over but soon fell out with al-Ma’mun who won their civil war in 813. Al-Amin was killed (head was placed on the Anbar Gate in Baghdad) and al-Qasim (who had already been arrested by al-Amin) was deposed (only?). 

The mention below is to al-Jaradiyyah – the Slav guards of al-Amin – and to Slavs. Note that there were apparently two guard units – the Slavic “white” one (named after locust or falcon species) and an Abyssynian “black” one (named after ravens – the al-Ghurabiyyah). 

Here are those mentions in the translation by Michael Fishbein (from the SUNY edition).  The notes are his and he is also the source of much of the background given above. 

The Byzantine embassy of John the Grammarian in 829 to al-Ma’mun (left) from the Emperor Theophilos (right)

Details and Results of the Siege of Baghdad (812 – 813)

“…At Zandaward and al-Yasiriyah,
      and on the two river banks, where the ferries have ceased,
At the mills and Upper al-Khayzuraniyyah,
whose bridges were lofty,
And at the Palace of ‘Abduyah, there is a lesson and guidance
      for every soul whose inner thoughts have become pure.
Where are their guards, and where is their guardian?
Where is he upon whom benefits were bestowed, and where is their bestower?
Where are their eunuchs and their servants?
Where are their inhabitants and their builder?
Where are the Slavic al-Jaradiyyah* guards gone,
and the Abyssinians, with their pendulous lips?
The army disperses from its parades;
its lean [horses] run there at random –
Carrying men from Sind and India, Slavs,
and Nubians with whom Berbers have been mixed –
Like birds in flights, they have been sent forth to no avail,

  their fair-skinned troops preceding their blacks.
Where are the virgin gazelles in the garden
      of the kingdom – the young ones who walked so gracefully?
Where are their comforts and their pleasures?”

*note – “The Jaradiyyah corps of guards may have been given this name in reference to the pale color of the locust (jarad) or to a species of falcon (saqr al-jarad or al-jaradi). See ed. Leiden, Glossarium, CLXII; also the explanation given below.”

Some Aspects of the Conduct and Mode of Life of the Deposed Muhammad bin Harun (813 – 814)

“According to Humayd bin Sa’id, who said: After he became ruler andter al-Ma’mun wrote to him and gave him his allegiance, Muhammad sought out eunuchs and purchased them, spending inordinately on them. He appointed them to [attend on] his private quarters by night and by day, his provisions of food and drink, and his decisions commanding or forbidding. Some he enrolled into a special unit [fard] that he named “al-Jaradiyyah,” and other, Abyssinians, he enrolled into a special unit which he name “al-Ghurabiyyah.”* He forsook both free women and slave girls, so that they were sent await. Concerning this, a certain poet said:

O you who stay long at your residence in Tus,
far from your family, who cannot be ransomed by [other] lives:
You have left behind a husband for the eunuchs –
someone who has endured the bad luck of Basus from them!
As for Nawfal, he is a person of importance.
What a companion Badr is!”

*note – “Cf. the reference to the two groups in the poem quoted above, where the Jaradiyyah are identified as Saqalib, or Slavs, and the accompanying note, explaining the possible origin of the name. “Ghurabiyyah” is derived from the word of raven, ghurab, with reference to their black skins. See Abbott, Two Queens of Baghdad, 210 – 211. On fard, troops not on the regular muster roll and paid contractually, see ed. Leiden, Glossarium, CDI; also Baladhuri, Futuh, glossarium, s.v.”

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December 11, 2017

Time of the Aestii

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I have left the Aestii description in Wulfstan out of the posts thus far but think it worth including it now.  To give a prior mention of the Aestii, I also include the small piece from Tacitus’ Germania as well as from Cassiodorus, Jordanes and, for completeness, Einhard and Widsith. An interesting aspect of this seems to be that it is “Witland” that belongs to the Aestii and also that the Aestii are apparently quite skilled cremationists – much as the Slavs were, suggesting that this method of burial was not limited to Slavs in that part of Europe. Also the Aestii, like the Redarii appear to have worshipped boars.

The location of Aestii on this ultra precise turn of the millennium map

Note too that neither Pliny nor Ptolemy nor Strabo mention the Aestii.  This is not surprising as to Pliny and Strabo. As to Ptolemy, I suspect that the same people might be hiding under other names.

Tacitus Germania
Chapter 45

Beyond the Suiones is another sea, sluggish and almost  motionless, which, we may certainly infer, girdles and surrounds the world, from the fact that the last radiance of the setting sun lingers on till sunrise, with a brightness sufficient to dim the light of the stars. Even the very sound of his rising, as popular belief adds, may be heard, and the forms of gods and the glory round his head may be seen. Only thus far (and here rumour seems truth) does the world extend.

At this point the Suevic sea, on its eastern shore, washes the tribes of the Æstii, whose rites and fashions and style of dress are those of the Suevi, while their language is more like the British. They worship the mother of the gods, and wear as a religious symbol the device of a wild boar. This serves as armour, and as a universal defence, rendering the votary of the goddess safe even amidst enemies. They often use clubs, iron weapons but seldom. They are more patient in cultivating corn and other produce than might be expected from the general indolence of the Germans. But they also search the deep, and are the only people who gather amber (which they call “glesum”), in the shallows, and also on the shore itself. Barbarians as they are they have not investigated or discovered what natural cause or process produces it. Nay, it even lay amid the sea’s other refuse, till our luxury gave it a name. To them it is utterly useless; they gather it in its raw state, bring it to us in shapeless lumps, and marvel at the price which they receive. It is however a juice from trees, as you may infer from the fact that there are often seen shining through it, reptiles, and even winged insects, which, having become entangled in the fluid, are gradually enclosed in the substance as it hardens. I am therefore inclined to think that the islands and countries of the West, like the remote recesses of the East, where frankincense and balsam exude, contain fruitful woods and groves; that these productions, acted on by the near rays of the sun, glide in a liquid state into the adjacent sea, and are thrown up by the force of storms on the opposite shores. If you test the composition of amber by applying fire, it burns like pinewood, and sends forth a rich and fragrant flame; it is soon softened into something like pitch or resin.

Closely bordering on the Suiones are the tribes of the Sitones, which, resembling them in all else, differ only in being ruled by a woman. So low have they fallen, not merely from freedom, but even from slavery itself. Here Suevia ends.

Cassiodorus Variae
Book V, 2
King Theodoric to the Haesti

It is gratifying to us to know that you have heard of our fame, and have sent ambassadors who have passed through so many strange nations to seek our friendship. We have received the amber which you have sent us. You say that you gather this lightest of all substances from the shores of ocean, but now it comes thither you know not. But as an author named Cornelius informs us, it is gathered in the innermost islands of the ocean, being formed originally of the juice of a tree (whence its name succinum), and gradually hardened by the heat of the sun. Thus it becomes an exuded metal, a transparent softness, sometimes blushing with the color of saffron, sometimes glowing with flame-like clearness. Then, gliding down to the margin of sea, and further purified by the rolling of the tides, it is at length transported to your shores to be cast upon them. We have thought it better to point this out to you, lest you should imagine that your supposed secrets have escaped our knowledge. We sent you some presents by our ambassadors, and shall be glad to receive further visits from you by the road which you have thus opened up, and to show you future favours.

Jordanes’ Getica
Chapter 5

The abode of the Sclaveni extends from the city of Noviodunum and the lake called Mursianus to the Danaster, and northward as far as the Vistula. They have swamps and forests for their cities. The Antes, who are the bravest of these peoples dwelling in the curve of the sea of Pontus, spread from the Danaster to the Danaper, rivers that are many days’ journey apart.  But on the shore of Ocean, where the floods of the river Vistula empty from three mouths, the Vidivarii dwell, a people gathered out of various tribes. Beyond them the Aesti, a subject race, likewise hold the shore of Ocean. To the south dwell the Acatziri, a very brave tribe ignorant of agriculture, who subsist on their flocks and by hunting.  Farther away and above the Sea of Pontus are the abodes of the Bulgares, well known from the wrongs done to them by reason of our oppression.

Chapter 23

These people, as we started to say at the beginning of our account or catalogue of nations, though off-shoots from one stock, have now three names, that is, Venethi, Antes and Sclaveni. Though they now rage in war far and wide, in punishment for our sins, yet at that time they were all obedient to Hermanaric’s commands. This ruler also subdued by his wisdom and might the race of the Aesti, who dwell on the farthest shore of the German Ocean, and ruled all the nations of Scythia and Germany by his own prowess alone.

Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne
Chapter 12

A certain gulf [i.e., the Baltic] with an unknown length and a width no more than a hundred miles wide and in many places [much] narrower runs from the western ocean towards the east. Many peoples live around this sea.  In fact, the Danes and the Swedes, whom we call Northmen, live along the northern shore [of the sea].  The Slavs, Aisti and other peoples live along the southern shore.  The Welatabi were the most prominent of these peoples and it was against them that the  king now took up war.  He beat them and brought them under his control in the one and only campaign he personally waged [against them], that from that point on they never thought of refusing to obey his commands.


and with Amothings.      With East-Thuringians I was
and with Eols [?] and with Isti      and Idumings.
And I was with Ermanaric      all the time,
there me Goth king      goods gave/with goods benefitted me/did well for me;

ond Mofdingum      ond ongend Myrgingum,
ond mid Amothingum.      Mid Eastþyringum ic wæs
ond mid Eolum ond mid Istum      ond Idumingum.
Ond ic wæs mid Eormanrice      ealle þrage,
þær me Gotena cyning      gode dohte; and Mofdings      and against Myrgings

Alfred’s Orosius’ Wulfstan
Chapter 20

. . . And then we had Bornholm to port, where the people have their own king. Then after Bornholm we had on our port side the lands which are called  Blekinge, Möre, Øland and Gotland, and these lands belong to the Swedes. Wendland was to starboard the whole of the way to the mouth of the Vistula. This Vistula is a very large river which separates Witland and Wendland. Witland belongs to the Este. The Vistula flows out of Wendland into Estmere which is at least fifteen miles wide. The Ilfing flows into Estmere from the lake on the shore of which Truso stands, and they flow together into Estmere, the Ilfing west from Estland and the Vistula north from Wendland. Then the Vistula deprives the Ilfing of its name for the estuary is known as the Vistula estuary and flows from Estmere northwest into the sea. This Estland is very large and has many fortified settlements, and in each of these there is a king. There is a great deal of honey and fishing. The king and the most powerful men drink mare’s milk, the poor men and the slaves drink mead. There is very much strife among them. There is no ale brewed among the Este but there is plenty of mead.

. . . And Þonne æfter Burgendalande wæron us þas land, þa synd hatene ærest Blecingaeg, and Meore, and Eowland, and Gotland on bæcbord; and þas land hyrað to Sweon. And Weonodland wæs us ealne weg on steorbord oð Wislemuðan. Seo Wisle is swyðe mycel ea, and hio tolið Witland and Weonodland; and þæt Witland belimpeð to Estum; and seo Wisle lið ut of Weonodlande, and lið in Estmere; and se Estmere is huru fiftene mila brad. Þonne cymeð Ilfing eastan in Estmere of ðæm mere ðe Truso standeð in staðe, and cumað ut samod in Estmere, Ilfing eastan of Estlande, and Wisle suðan of Winodlande, and þonne benimð Wisle Ilfing hire naman, and ligeð of þæm mere west and norð on sæ; for ðy hit man hæt Wislemuða. Þæt Estland is swyðe mycel, and þær bið swyðe manig burh, and on ælcere byrig bið cynincg. And þær bið swyðe mycel hunig and fiscað; and se cyning and þa ricostan men drincað myran meolc, and þa unspedigan and þa þeowan drincað medo. Þær bið swyðe mycel gewinn betweonan him. And ne bið ðær nænig ealo gebrowen mid Estum, ac þær bið medo genoh.

Chapter 21

There is a custom among the Este that after a man’s death he lies indoors uncremated among his relatives and friends for a month, sometimes two. The kings and other high- ranking men remain uncremated sometimes for half a year – the more wealth they have the longer they lie above ground in their houses. All the time that the corpse lies indoors it is the custom for there to be drinking and gambling until the day on which they cremate it.

And þær is mid Estum ðeaw, þonne þær bið man dead, þæt he lið inne unforbærned mid his magum and freondum monað, ge hwilum twegen; and þa kyningas, and þa oðre heahðungene men, swa micle lencg swa hi maran speda habbað, hwilum healf gear þæt hi beoð unforbærned, and licgað bufan eorðan on hyra husum. And ealle þa hwile þe þæt lic bið inne, þær sceal beon gedrync and plega, oð ðone dæg þe hi hine forbærnað.

Chapter 22

On the very day on which they intend to carry the dead man to the pyre, they divide his property – whatever is left of it after drinking and gambling – into five or six portions, sometimes more, depending on how much there is. They place the biggest portion about a mile from the settlement, then the second, then the third, until it is all distributed within the mile,  so that the smallest portion is closest to the place where the dead man lies. All the men who have the swiftest horses in the country are assembled at a point about five or six miles from the property, and then they all gallop towards it. The man who has the fastest horse comes to the first portion (which is also the largest) and then one after the other until it has all been taken. He has the smallest portion who reaches from his ride the one nearest to the settlement. Then each of them then rides on his way with the property and is allowed to keep it all. For this reason good horses are extremely valuable there. When the man’s treasures have all been spent in this way, then he is carried out and burned up with his weapons and clothes. They use up most of the dead man’s wealth with what they spend during the long period of his lying in the house, and with what they put by the wayside which strangers ride up to and take.

Þonne þy ylcan dæg þe hi hine to þæm ade beran wyllað, þonne todælað hi his feoh, þæt þær to lafe bið æfter þæm gedrynce and þæm plegan, on fif oððe syx, hwylum on ma, swa swa þæs feos andefn bið. Alecgað hit ðonne forhwæga on anre mile þone mæstan dæl fram þæm tune, þonne oðerne, ðonne þæne þriddan, oþþe hyt eall aled bið on þære anre mile; and sceall beon se læsta dæl nyhst þæm tune ðe se deada man on lið. Ðonne sceolon beon gesamnode ealle ða menn ðe swyftoste hors habbað on þæm lande, forhwæga on fif milum oððe on syx milum fram þæm feo. Þonne ærnað hy ealle toweard þæm feo; ðonne cymeð se man se þæt swiftoste hors hafað to þæm ærestan dæle and to þæm mæstan, and swa ælc æfter oðrum, oþ hit bið eall genumen; and se nimð þone læstan dæl se nyhst þæm tune þæt feoh geærneð. And þonne rideð ælc hys weges mid ðan feo, and hyt motan habban eall; and for ðy þær beoð þa swiftan hors ungefoge dyre. And þonne hys gestreon beoð þus eall aspended, þonne byrð man hine ut, and forbærneð mid his wæpnum and hrægle. And swiðost ealle hys speda hy forspendað mid þan langan legere þæs deadan mannes inne, and þæs þe hy be þæm wegum alecgað, þe ða fremdan to ærnað, and nimað.

Chapter 23

It is the custom among the Este that the men of each tribe are cremated, and if one bone is found not completely burned, heavy compensation must be paid. There is a tribe among the Este that knows how to cause cold, and this is why the dead men there lie so long and do not rot, because they keep them cold. If two containers are put out full of beer or water, they can cause one of the two to be frozen overwhether it is summer or winter.

And þæt is mid Estum þeaw þæt þær sceal ælces geðeodes man beon forbærned; and gyf þar man an ban findeð unforbærned, hi hit sceolan miclum gebetan. And þær is mid Estum an mægð þæt hi magon cyle gewyrcan; and þy þær licgað þa deadan men swa lange and ne fuliað, þæt hy wyrcað þone cyle hine on. And þeah man asette twegen fætels full ealað oððe wæteres, hy gedoð þæt oþer bið oferfroren, sam hit sy sumor sam winter.

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December 5, 2017


Published Post author

Having looked at Jachna, let’s look at other river names in Germany.  Here is the Jeetzel:

Looking at the Deutsches Gewässernamenbuch it seems the river is German.  Specifically, the author, Albrecht Greule, claims that the root is the Old West German:

  • osa ‘in heftige Bewegung setzen’ meaning that is “to set about in rapid motion.”

This, in and of itself, should be interesting.  Why?  Because that is the Polish and Slavic word for a wasp:

Indeed, this should also be of interest to some readers since at least Brueckner thought that the word changed as follows having had a “w” upfront:

  • *wopsa > *opsa > *osa

The proof of this is supposed to be the Lithuanian wapsa and the German Wespe as, of course, also the English wasp or latin vespa.

(The insertion (or retention?) of the frontal “w” is present in northwest Slavic languages.  Thus, the Polish jaszczurka which also used to exist in the form jeszczerzyca becomes wieszczerzyca in Kashubian and wiestarica in Polabian).

In any event, the Jetzel flows, as Greule himself notes, through the so-called Wendland.  The Wendland refers to the Wends meaning Slavs.  The name itself was first used at the beginning of the 18th century.  This was because, at the time, there still lived Slavs in the area and a local priest took an interest in their customs, beliefs and language.   Note that this Wendland is west of the Elbe. 

Note too that the entire area to the northeast, labeled Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the above picture was Slavic as well.  As a few points of interest, the Elde, in Slavic was Leda (same as Elbe or really Alba vs Laba) and note too Neu Kaliss (first mentioned in 1431) which is yet another Kalisz type name in Slavic lands (if you had any doubts about Ptolemy’s Calissia being Slavic).

But back to the Jeetzel which is also visible flowing through the Wendland. Greule lists the following names for it in the following years:

  • Jesne (1014)
  • ultra Yesnam (1258)
  • vltra Yesnam (1268)
  • Yhesene (1303)
  • iuxta Gysnam (1339)
  • Gisne, Gysne (1341)
  • Gysna (1344)
  • by der Iesne (1362)
  • Jetze (1392)
  • an der Yetze (1452)
  • in de Jetzen (1531)
  • Jetza (1652)
  • Jeetzel (1702)

There is also a town nearby in Kreis Lüchow and Greule shows its name’s historic development too – obviously the two are relate:

  • Yesne (1330 or 1352)
  • to Getzene (1360)
  • to Yesne (1360)
  • to dem Iesne (1360)
  • to Jesene (1368)

All this is great record keeping.

Given the Wendland connection and the obvious Slavic etymology:

you would think that the matter of the name of Jeetzel would be easy for Greule to resolve.

To be sure you understand this, remember that jasny is a masculine adjectival ending.  For a river name which is necessarily feminine in Slavic (rzeka/reka), the adjective ending would be -a as in jasna.

But what happens next is strange.

Greule observes that there are other place names/towns with such names, states that their etymology is Middle Low German and decides that, therefore, the above must be German too in the form Jesene, Jesne!  The root is a reconstructed (of course) *jesa-/*jeso.

Let’s see how that reasoning holds up.

What are those other town names?

  • Niedernjesa and Obernjesa
    • Gese (1022 or 12th century)
    • Gese (1142)
    • Yese (1196)
  • Jesuborn
    • geseborn (1368)
    • Yesebirn (circa 1450)
    • Jheseborn (1465)

You can see these town and their relation to the Jeetzel of Wendland on this map.  Jeetzel in Wendland is in the Northeast.  Niedernjesa and Obernjesa in the middle and in the south, near Goettingen lies Jesuborn.

The problem with these other names is that – were they Slavic – they would indicate Slavic presence far to the West of where it is permitted by official historiography.  Since the names of these places exhibit a similar development and, therefore, etymology and since these other names “cannot” be Slavic, the obvious answer as to the origin of Jeetzel is also that it is not Slavic.

But this is only true so long as we desperately defend the assumption that Slavs could not have lived in Niedernjesa/Obernjesa and at Jesuborn.  Is that assumption defendable though?

Niedernjesa and Obernjesa

What about Niedernjesa and Obernjesa? The lower and upper Jesa were once one.  The name appears in annals as Gese/Jese/Iese/Jese in the years 1022, 1100, 1142, 1168, 1189, 1197 and 1269. In 1269, for the first time we have in Minori Jese presumably referring to the “minor” or maybe “lower” Jesa.

According to Die Ortsnamen des Landkreises Göttingen which was put out by, among others, Juergen Udolph of the Slavic hydronymy fame, the origin of the name Jesa is not entirely clear. The supposition is that the name goes back to jesan (gären, schäumen meaning “to boil” or “to gush” or “to simmer”) which may have been replaced by the word Leine which, the writers, guess could have been even older.

Well, the Jesas are located near a river and the river’s name – Leine – appears old.  In the old documents several versions of the name appear – most often Loine, Legine, Leine but also Laina.  The Polish version of the name is Lejna. The obvious Slavic etymology would be from “lac” that is “to pour”.  Beyond that the name appears in three other contexts.  There is a Leine which is a tributary of the Helme and then of the Solawa (that is the Thuringian Saale).  That one appears first as Lina.  Then there is Leine which is in Sachsen Anchalt.  Finally, further East  you have the Leine that is a tributary of the Mulde.  This last one Greule thinks may (but not necessarily) have been of Sorb origin (certainly all the associated towns appear Slavic).  The first mention of this Leine is in 1185 as fluvius Lynaw.

What about town names?  Most of the town names around the Jesas appear German.  But you also have some oddities such as:

  • Bovenden (Bowenden)
  • Weende (Wenden)
  • Weenderode
  • Potzwenden

In Gottingen itself which is the main town in the area, as last as the 15th century one of the gates was called Wender-Thor since right next to it there apparently was an old Slavic village: antiqua villa [?] Wendensis. There apparently was a Wenderwald near Ziegel-Huette and a river Wenda and even a Wender-Spring fountains.  In Heilgenstadt there was even a Windischgasse.  The other nearby river – Garde (earlier Garthe) – reminds one of the Slavic gardina.

Check out too the Urkundenbuch der Stadt Göttingen and Dietrich Denecke’s Göttingen: Von den Anfängen bis zum Ende des Dreissigjährigen Krieges:

There is a town nearby called Grone which, I confess, brings to mind the Slavic grono (as in wino-grono) meaning roughly “a bunch”.  It is true that Gronau is another place name in Germany but to be honest that name appears in the area on the Dutch border where such suspicious names as Vreden, Borken, Velen, Reken, Gescher pop up.

In any event, according to Wilhelm Boguslawski, in the 18th century, between Grone and Lauenstein, there were discovered 52 funerary urns suggesting a pagan ritual similar to the one that the Slavs used in historic times. Boguslawski’s claim is based on the Descriptio salae principatus Calenbergici locorumque adjacentium by Daniel Eberhard Baring from 1744.

Of course, all of this could be nothing and yet, I think there is enough here for a deeper investigation of the topic.

For more in Polish see pages 244-266 of volume 4 of Boguslawski’s Dzieje słowiańszczyzny północno-zachodniej do połowy XIII wieku (“The History of North Western Slavic Lands Through the First Half of the 13th Century”).


As regards Jesuborn, a Slavic etymology is more than possible.  The town lies between Pennewitz (clearly Slavic) and Gehren (which spelling is identical to Gehren in the East Sorb country which was a German rendering of Thietmar’s urbs quaedam Jarina).  Just to the east is Ilmenau (compare with Lake Ilmen?) which seems to have been founded by Slavic Sorbs.  So Jesuborn is quite easily a Slavic name – at least as regards the prefix.

Officially, the name is (first mention in 1368 as das dorf czu deme geseborn) to be derived from the “Indogermanic” (!) word jesen, which, as alleged above, meant “to boil” or “to gush” or “to simmer”.  That is the name refers, as per the above, to the “springs” that surface there.

This is not impossible as indicated by the Slavic jazda, jechac/jechat and so forth.  But the Slavic etymology is more likely for two reasons.  First, there are two Slavic etymologies – that of “bright” or “light” being the second.  And, moreover, the Slavic word forms exist today whereas the Indogermanic  Indoeuropean etymologies have to be reconstructed.  The same word “jasion” or “jesion” is the name of the ash tree in Slavic todayJezioro/ozero means “lake” to this day and so forth. Compare this too to the Persian rulers Yazdegerds – supposedly meaning “made by God” with “Yaz” being the Persian name for God – this too indicates a connection to Jassa – perhaps through the Slavic way of worshipping fast moving streams.

Incidentally, it is more than curious that the Slavic jazda should have the same suffix as the Persian Mazda or that the suffix -t should be similar to the Old Indian -ti.

Of course, Born is a bit of a problem here unless one wants to look at Borna as a Dalmatian/Croatian name (the placenames Borna appear principally in Saxony – if you don’t count India). In any event, it may well be that “Jesu” comes from one language but “born” from another – that is, “born” being Germanic.


All in all there does not seem to be a reason to assume that Jeetzel/Jesna does not have a Slavic etymology.  Whether or not the same is the case with Niedern- and Obernjesa and with Jesuborn is another matter.  However, even here a Slavic etymology seems a reasonable possibility.

Incidentally, the idea that there was a Germanic word jesan and that it meant “to simmer” and so forth, seems to have come from Karl Brugmann and later Jan Pieter Marie Laurens de Vries (altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch and Nederlands Etymologisch Woordenboek).

De Vries had a bit of a checked past but I don’t think he was overall biased.  I just doubt he knew much about Slavic languages – I will only note that the word jaga there is derived from “hunt” (jagen) which, I suppose means that Baba Yaga was an evil huntress. A similar view is expressed by Pokorny but is hardly the only one.  Here is Alois Walde in his Lateinisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (in a slightly different context): 

Note too the Old Indian “-ti” suffix in “yasati, yasyati” which is similar to the Slavic “-t” ending or -ć in Polish .

The Sprachgeschichte: ein Handbuch zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und ihrer Erforschung (edited by Werner Besch) suggests that the Jeetzel was a Slavic name but that it was formed from a prior Germanic name:

This is indeed possible but is hardly necessary since Jasna would refer to a bright, light river.

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December 4, 2017

Etwas stimmt nicht

Published Post author

The Polish capital’s name is Warszawa.  No one suggested that this name is German.  And yet, why not?

Take a look at the river Warsbach.  As early as 633 it was referred to as Warspach:

ad meridianam plagam super Warspach, et inde ad Bodemlosestompha

Even if the above is a forgery, it is probably a forgery of no later than the 10th century.  In any event, the river to this day is called Warsbach.  But if you have a Warsbach then why not a Warsaha or Warsawa? After all, isn’t -awa supposed to be the (reconstructed) German suffix meaning “water”?

What is the official explanation of Warsaw’s name?  It supposedly comes from the name of:

  • a knight named Warsz
  • the Czech family of Warszowcy (or, in Czech, Vršovci) who fled from Bohemia to Poland in the 12th century – you can read all about them in the Czech Chronicle of Cosmas

But even if this were true, it just pushes the question further and deeper: who were these Warszowcy? Who was Warsz?  Or rather, why was he called Warsz?

Incidentally, the Polish “sz” represents the “sh” sound and, not surprisingly, the river Warsbach has also been spelled (and therefore pronounced) Warschbach (the German “sch” corresponds to the Polish “sz” and the English “sh”).

So where is Warsbach or Warschbach? Right here:

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December 1, 2017


Published Post author

An interesting mention of Eastern Europe is found in the First Riustring Codex (De Eerste Riustringer Codex) aka the Asegabook, first published by Wybren Jan Buma and Wilhelm Ebel in 1961. In the R1 manuscript we have the following statement:

(you can see the following collections for more Oudfriese Taal-en Rechtsbronnen and Altfriesische Rechtsquellen, Texte und Übersetzungen).

“vnder sine tidon warth Rvszlond and Pulenera lond [or Polenera lond] and Vngeron bikerd.”

which is basically:

“in his [Otto III’s] time/rule were Russia {that is today’s Ukraine), Poland and Hungary converted [to Christianity].”

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November 29, 2017