ASGARD AND THE GODS: THE TALES AND TRADITIONS OF OUR NORTHERN ANCESTORS
Wodan's Wild Hunt
A complete and popular English account of the religious beliefs and superstitious customs of the old Norsemen, suited to our younger readers, has hitherto been left unwritten. The editor feels sure that our elder children can easily be brought to take a beneficial interest in a subject of such great intrinsic worth to all of us, and has therefore brought out the accompanying book.
Our old ancestors were a hardy, conservative race, and tenaciously held by the treasured relics of their former beliefs and customs long after they had been shattered by the onset of Christianity. They retained their primitive Odinic belief as late as A.D. 800, and we therefore possess it in a very complete state, far more so than any other European system of mythology. We English have to this day inherited this conservative trait of their character, and are still continually in every-day life coming across new and unexpected remnants of our earliest beliefs. Paragraphs in the newspapers, containing reports of police trials, etc., very frequently bring forward new and as yet undiscovered superstitions, which clearly hark back to the once popular and all-extensive faith of the North.
Who would think, for instance, that in the time-old Mayday festivals, we should discover traces of the oldest celebrations of the triumph of the Summer Odin over the Winter Odin, or that through the baby rhymes and nursery sayings of to- ay, we should be able to trace the common creed of a nation of thousands of years ago? To him unused to this kind of research, such things will appear impossible; but we think our book will considerably extend the sceptic’s line of vision, if indeed it does not convert him to an ardent student in the field he has before made light of.
With regard to the translation of the passages quoted from the Old Norse, Icelandic, etc., the original metres, alliterative poems, etc., have been imitated as accurately as possible, though it must be confessed that in one or two places the effect appears somewhat weak and laboured, a result that might have been anticipated, and one which it is hoped the reader will overlook.
With reference to the orthography adopted: in most cases the proper names have been anglicized in form, according to established rules, as far as has been possible. Let us take a few instances:
The Icelandic nominatival r has always been dropped, as in the words Ragnarökr, Thrymr, etc.
In the case of reduplicated letters, the last has been eliminated, unless an alteration in sound would have been thereby occasioned, e.g., Jotun has been adopted instead of Jotunn, Gunlöd instead of Gunnlöd, etc.
W has been throughout used in place of V, since scholars have pretty generally decided that it more nearly represents the original pronunciation than the English V; thus we spell Walhalla, Wiking, Walkyries, etc.
Many words have -heim affixed to them: -heim means abode, dwelling, and is the same word as the English home; as instances, Nifelheim, the dark home; Jotunheim, the home of the Jotuns, giants, etc.
The suffix -gard appended to a word means place (English yard, ward, gard-en), and is found in such words as Asgard, the place of the Ases, the gods; Midgard, the middle place, the earth; Utgard, the out or lower place.
W. S. W. ANSON